The Thomas boys picked me up at the house at 8 AM and we beelined for the Fork. Norm needed a license so we got that at Henry’s Fork Anglers then picked up some famous Grub Stake sandwiches and a six pack to load in the backpacks. When we pulled in the Last Chance parking lot I was taken that there were more cars in the lot than on the opener. The reason being, most rivers in our area are at flood level and completely unfishable. The most reputable, the South Fork of the Snake is at an amazing 24,000 cfs. Many anglers are in the area to fish the South Fork because they made their plans months ago never expecting such an amazing runoff. Needles tot say; everyone is scurrying around the Yellowstone area in search of fishable water.
I peered down into the Ranch and there was hardly any room for another three dudes. Wanting this to be a cool experience for Norm and Keifer, I came up with an emergency plan. I decided we’d fish Last Chance just above the Ranch so we parked in front of TroutHunter where you may remember less than two weeks ago I nailed five nice fish here in less than an hour.
We wadered up and as we did I pointed a few small rising trout to Keifer and explained some of my personal tactics to catching fish here. One that I mentioned was that I rarely cast to small fish here. Mainly because it takes time away from hunting for the big fish the Henry’s Fork is famous for. But in Keifer case I advised practicing on a few so he’d be ready when a big fish showed up.
We walked and fished from about 11 till 3 without much happening. There were plenty of bugs on the water and lots of dinks rising, but only the odd one time rise from big fish. It was hard to get set up to seriously pursue a big boy. Late in the afternoon I finally spotted a steady rising big fish and I got into position. On about the third cast with a PMD the fish ate and I set but nothing. I didn’t even knick the fish so I made my usual several immediate casts back at him but he must have figured out his mistake before making it again. As I patiently waited in hopes he would rise again, another decent fish rose about 20 feet below me. The second time this sipper rose I waded to him while false casting. With no time to waste I fed my PMD down his lane and he ate. I didn’t miss this time and after few screaming runs I landed a gorgeous 18” rainbow.
Keifer watched my entire pursuit and catch of this fish. He’s eager to learn and this event just may have put him into gear as a future regular of the Upper Henry’s Fork. Afterwards, as we were relaxing on the bank Keifer spotted his own big fish. Now it was time for me to watch him. Within ten minutes he had his fish spinning in the air attached to his rod. Unfortunately the large bow came unbuttoned shortly into the fight. It turns out it was a rare breaking of the hook. You don’t see that too often. Keifer was hugely disappointed and I did my best just to convince him that getting these smart fish to eat is an honor in its own.
Then, the big fish I missed earlier started to rise again. I was going to succeed this time. I put on a very special beetle tied by my good friend Mick Hall of Eildon, Australia. I’ve never seen a beetle anything like this one and therefore it’s extremely effective on the Henry’s Fork. In fact, over the years I’ve settled scores with many clever fish that snubbed me earlier in a day. I waded out and on my first cast he sucked the Australian snack in. This time I stuck him and he went absolutely nuts, starting with a jump that almost took me out!
Keifer started hooting and hollering like a mad man behind me. My fish scorched my Ross drag heading downstream. I stayed tight and chased after him. Customers of the TroutHunter hotel rooms stood on their porches and watched. Thank goodness for 3X tippet, something most Henry’s anglers are afraid to use, I was able to put the screws to this big fish and brought him to the bank. The rainbow was an easy 20 inches. Then, like a rookie fish holder, as I lifted the fish so Keifer could snap a picture, the rainbow squirted out of my hands into the river and took off like a lightning bolt. I’m not doing so well with my “hero” shots lately!
Keifer and I hooked about all the fish we were going to in this spot, so we walked upstream a few hundred yards and got comfy on the bank to watch for some new contestants. Norm, who had been downstream all afternoon, soon joined us. To our surprise, a nice fish rose on the bank not more than 10 feet in front of us – a true gift from the fish gods. Keifer looked at me as if I just threw a rock in there and I laughed and told him to cast. He did and after several casts Keifer had his ant stuck in the rainbows upper lip.
Like all Henry’s Fork rainbows, this fish took off and smoked Keifer downstream. While a marmot watched from the safety of his rock, I grabbed the camera and Norm followed Keifer with the net. A few minutes later we were photographing Keifers first classic rainbow of the Fork. A moment that none of us will ever forget.
Not enough young anglers fall in love with the art of wade fishing for huge rainbows of the Upper Henry’s Fork. It seems that float fishing has become the only way to fish. In a sense I like that. Perhaps when I’m an old geezer I’ll have the Ranch and Last Chance area entirely to myself. But that wouldn’t be good. The fish would be easy to catch and I’d be bored. And who would care for the river? Who would run the Henry’s Fork Foundation?
Let’s just hope that while float fishing isn’t happening on the South Fork, more anglers will fall in love with wade fishing Last Chance and the Harriman Ranch. If they could just have a day like Keifer did I think it would all work out. Keifer is hooked!