Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Henry's Fork: Days Four and Five

The morning of the fourth day found us sharing the water with a pair of swans.

They were nervous about our proximity, calling to let us know of their displeasure. The honks increased in frequency and intensity until they took off to find some privacy. They created an unforgettable image as they passed by. These are the moments that make this place more than just the fish.

We waited for the hatch to signal the beginning of the day's fishing. A brief shower pattered on our hats.

Then the bugs came. This is my favorite time on the river.

I made my way to the grassy bank and fished to the waves of risers that came and went. I got lots of near misses and brief hookups before catching another fine healthy rainbow who couldn't resist a cinnamon ant.

We took breaks, sitting in the comfortable "recliners" the banks provide. It's a time to repair leaders and tippets, go through fly boxes searching for inspiration, and watch the river flow by around your boots.

As the sun went down I was still fishing the backlit grassy bank. You could call it a fruitless obsession with one spot in the entire river, or devotion to the place that gives you the strongest feeling of fishiness and sense of possibility.

Meanwhile, you should know, John was ranging far and wide and each time we would meet up he would give me his catch report. He was fishing rings around me. Many 12 to 16 inchers and a handful of fish at the 18 inch mark. He would often catch them in places I had just fished. Once as he was wading back to the bank he flipped his fly out right into the mouth of a good 16 inch fish.He hadn't seen any sign of it; he just happened to throw the fly to the right spot at the right time.

As we headed for the car I knew my work was cut out for me.

On the morning of the fifth day I waded over to the island in the back channel and crossed over it to the back back channel. We have often fished along the front of the island, but in some years long ago the back of the island held what we were looking for.

Right back here is the magic place where I caught my first 20 inch Henry's Fork rainbow. And it wasn't the only one I caught here. They were holding under stationary weed mats, and would delicately sip in a cinnamon ant drifted along the edge. Once my fly sank under the mat and when I began to pull it in to recast I found myself in a tug of war with another big old rainbow. Once after I had lost the last cinnamon ant I had on me I saw a big heavy rise bloom just out there in mid-channel. I pulled out my fly box, selected an Adams dry, and clipped it into an ant shape with my nippers. I showed it to that fish and he took it. Another 20+ fish.

This year I was alone with my memories. There were no fish or rises to be seen. I still fished my way down that shoreline paying close attention to the blowdowns, but to no avail.

On this day I did some ranging myself and covered some new water.

New water for me, that is. John had already been there and he was still outfishing me.

Then something happened that would cause us concern for the rest of the trip: the wind started blowing early in the day, around 10 or 11 o'clock instead of holding off until 1 or 2 o'clock. It made the conditions more challenging. I still have a soft hackle stuck in the back of my jacket. And I'm still glad it wasn't stuck in my ear.

We headed back to the cabin early hoping for better conditions the next morning.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Henry's Fork: Days 1 - 3

We're home safe and sound and the trip to the Henry's Fork is now a memory--and lots of photos. Time to be processing those.

What we call the Back Channel was our primary destination on the river. We'd get there early so John could walk the banks on his never-ending mission to scout for the rises of big fish.

Like clockwork the Tricos would pop and festoon the shoreline. In addition, Callibaetis were soon swooping up and down over the water, and a few Mahogany duns showed. We were especially happy to see some cinnamon ants on the water that first morning. Sometimes referred to as "trout candy" they are usually a harbinger of very good fishing.

Once the bugs showed up it was time to wade out to meet the fish who were meeting the duns on the water. Many smaller fish were constantly active, so you had to look hard to discern the heavier rises in their midst.

I tended to haunt this grassy bank where I have had success in the past.

That's where I found this lovely fish on our first full day on the water. It seemed like such a promising beginning. It simply popped up within easy casting range and happily took the cinnamon ant I offered.

Incidentally, my brother the wildlife biologist and all-around naturalist, identified the growth on that bank as sedge, not grass. So we tried calling it the "Sedge Edge" for awhile, but I soon reverted to the somehow more pleasing "Grassy Bank."  

This is where we would cross over to the island that forms the Back Channel. It's a historic site for us, the first place we laid eyes on the Henry's Fork and entered its salubrious waters. And it's the place we met "Miss Missouri," a young and comely woman from Missouri fly fishing the Henry's Fork back when female fly fishers were rare. We sometimes call it the Miss Missouri Pool in her honor. It was a prime location in those early days. I remember evenings when big fish would smack a caddis dun over along that far bank and quickly outstrip the reel in a breakneck run. We checked it carefully with each crossing for signs that it may have returned to its former glory. Not yet.

On the third day we went to another favorite spot, the Last Chance stretch downstream from the famous observation deck. John loved to prowl the banks for "bank sippers," large hungry fish rising steadily in one prime food-producing spot. He found some to cast to but did not find a hook up.

I looked but did not find any so took opportunities to become a "bank sipper" myself.

We spent the morning there on that third day then went back over to the Back Channel.

Later we came back to the Last Chance stretch, this time upriver from the observation deck. We might be in the city limits of Last Chance there.

All these locations have good memories of good fishing. One afternoon three years ago after a blizzard PMD hatch I found a fish actively rising in the riffle behind this rock. It was one of those big fish you sometimes find methodically mopping up after the chaos of the hatch is over. I hooked him and he was a heavy fish. He quickly bested me. This time the riffle was empty.

We stayed until the sun went down.

I caught a handful of "pleeps" on a swung soft hackle.

We were alert for a caddis hatch but were at the wrong place apparently. So we spoke the mantra of early fishing trips fully believing in its conjuring power: "Maybe tomorrow."

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Let the Best Man Win

I'm in Idaho with my brother John. We're going to fish the Henry's Fork for ten days. We got here yesterday afternoon. By the time we were all settled in there was still time to get on the water.

This was my first fish this trip. Not so big but it's the first trout I've caught since moving to Indiana.

There were lots of  fish this size eager to chase a fly.

We fished until the sun went down in a blaze of glory.

This morning we went to one of our favorite spots on the river. There were multiple hatches going on throughout the day--pmd's, tricos, callibaetis, and cinnamon ants--and enough fish working to keep us busy and happy.

This was my best fish of the day, a fifteen incher.

But my brother landed an eighteen incher. Let the best man win.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

"Blur" by H. L. Hix

Turns out lots of lines prove blurry I once thought sharp.
Some blur from further away, some from closer in.
Plant/animal, for instance. On which side, and why,
the sessile polyps, corals and sea anemones?
Same problem saying why my self must be internal.

Where do I see those finches glinting at the feeder?
To experience the is-ness of what is,
I’d need to locate the here-ness of what’s here.
Or be located by it. Or share location with it.
There’s a line I want to blur: between my senses

and my self. And another: between my senses
and the world. That anemone looks more like a lily
than an appaloosa. Looks, and acts. I feel that fizz
of finches sparkle on my tongue, the back of my throat.
I don’t say these words until I hear them. My voice

visits. Is visitation. I would choose the role
of visitor over visited, if I got to choose.
Those finches trill and warble in sequences of phrases.
I can tell there’s pattern, but not what the pattern is.
I can say I hear them (I do hear them) in my sleep,

but I can’t say what that means. Their twitters and chirps
start early, before I wake. I can say they chatter all day
(they do), when I’m hearing them and when I’m not,
but I can’t say how I know that. The back of my hand
always feels as if it’s just been lightly touched.

What a Beauty

It's bright and sunny at Yellowwood. For a change.

I will fish the dam at dark, so I start at the south end kicking past the spillway and the new "No Swimming" sign where people still swim.

I drift a fly behind me along the sunlit dam. All is quiet. I hope it wakes up with the coming of darkness.

I've brought something to fortify me along the way. The label inspires me.

There are still a few late bloomers among the shoreline weeds. They inspire me, too. I like to think I'm a late bloomer.

I kick down the west side then fish my way back toward the dam.

I pick up a few bluegill as I go.

Horse flies have been buzzing me on these late summer trips. They often hit the rod for some reason and then fly on. This one knocked himself silly and did a tailspin into the lake. Survival of the fittest.

The moon joins me.

I have on a stimulator tied to imitate the big white mayflies. I used bleached deer hair, and it was old. I get an enthusiastic take from a teen bass, and I think I might be in for some fun. But he near swallowed the fly whole and by the time I can extract it with the hemostats it's ruined. The bass leaves a trail of bleached deer hair as it swims away. Back to the drawing board.

I go to a backup battle tested muddler and catch some bluegill and a crappie along the dam. No bass.

But it's a beautiful summer night and the moon sheds its silver light on the righteous and unrighteous alike. I try a moon photo and forget to turn off the flash and it reveals the mist rising all over the lake.

There. That's better. What a beauty.