Camping at Last Chance on the Henry’s Fork wasn’t the most popular idea amongst the friends that Granny and I were meeting up with Friday night. Nighttime temperatures were predicted to drop to an agonizing 3º. But the friends included Evan Schwanfelder, a past fly shop employee of mine that none of us have seen in a long time. As many know, such get-togethers lead to a few beers and good times. Camping at Last Chance, right next to the TroutHunter Bar, requires no driving. We simply had to deal with the cold.
Sleeping out actually wasn’t that bad. Perhaps because our window of sleep was short, from 2 AM until 8 AM. Maybe we couldn’t feel the cold due to the antifreeze we drank in celebration. Regardless, we survived the possible hazards of the night and we awoke excited to fish the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’sFork.
After a greasy breakfast, we found ourselves entering the Ranch at 10. This sounds late but realize sunrise is at 8:15 these days, and at 10 it was a whopping 30º. Even worse, we had a north wind breathing down our backs.
The beginning of the day was flat out freezing. Amazingly however, after a ½ hour jaunt down into the Ranch from the Last Chance parking lot we found an actively rising rainbow. Actually there were at least two – a big dude with a smaller friend I refer to as a body guard. What I mean by “body guard” is that you present your fly to the big guy and the smaller trout beats the big fish to it. You hook the smaller trout which in turn spooks the larger fish. Our group kicked back and watched as young James attempted them but after a few minutes of casts both fish stopped rising.
Granny and I kicked back while the boys moved deeper into the Ranch. Those first two trout started rising again and I picked off the 14” body guard, spooking away the big guy for good. Then we too moved deeper in the Ranch all the way to Bonefish Flats. When we got there the temperatures raised to at least the mid 40ºs and the wind was nonexistent. There were no fish rising so it was beer time. Once again we kicked back and took in the amazing fall day.
At 1 PM the hatch started. At 1:05 there were so many baetis and mahogany duns on the water that the rainbows of the Ranch erupted. Every where you looked there were rising fish. It was as if someone flipped the switch. Hatches like this always create instant insanity. Anglers charge the water and start casting to the nearest riser. But in the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’s Forkyou shouldn’t fish this way. First, finish your beer. You can catch small trout in almost any river. I watch the rises and identify the big trout from the smaller ones. Call me crazy, but unless I’m sure they’re over 17” I don’t try for them.
Once we have a nice fish picked out Granny and I finish our beers and move in. My eyes aren’t what they used to be so today I fished a size 18 Thorax Blue Wing pattern. The actual baetis on the water were more like 24’s. But if you match them exactly your fly blends in with all the naturals and sometimes the fish never find your imitation. My slightly larger fly usually entices interest and today it did. Between 2 and 5 I landed four outstanding Henry’s Fork bows each around 18”. Had I fished harder I’d of easily doubled that total but between each fish I sat back on the bank with Granny and friends to take it all in. Another beer or a stogie with old friends is at least equal to catching another.
Today was a magical fall day on the Fork. I hope there’s many more to come. I worry about this however. Each year my friends get older and each year they get busier. Fewer and fewer show up for these short adventures. I’m guilty of getting busier too but I fight it. I’m thinking I could excel in my art. Perhaps I could start my own fly shop or some sort of business. But not now, I think I’ll fight it some more and try to milk this fall (life) for every inch of fishing I can get.