Today was Friday on the South Fork of the Snake River with Gary and Cooper Eckman. Cooper is the 14 year old fly fisherman and son of Gary that I introduced last Friday. He loves to fish and I enjoy watching him in action. This week Cooper showed up with a plan – he was going to throw streamers in search of a “River Monster”.
Prior to today, Cooper only dabbled in streamer fishing. He’s already a very competent dry fly angler. He can feed a big bushy dry fly down a grassy bank and he can present a tiny Pale Morning Dun pattern to a selective cutthroat on a riffle with the best of them. But he knows that fishing a streamer is its own art. He also knows that larger trout are often times more likely to prey upon small fish rather than tiny insects. That’s how they get big. So in turn, if he’s going to get that River Monster, he needs to learn how to fish streamers effectively.
A good place to catch trout on streamers is the canyon of the South Fork. This is a 26 mile stretch of water that can be broken down into two stretches, the Upper Canyon and the Lower Canyon. No matter what section you do, it’s an awful car and trailer abusing shuttle because part of it is a fifteen mile washboard dirt road to a place called Cottonwood. If you do the whole canyon you avoid the washboard dirt road altogether and shuttle drivers simply move your car down the highway and there’s little fear of your car and trailer being tortured. In order to do the entire canyon you must do a two day overnight trip, bring a motor or row your butt off a portion of the day. We opted to do the whole canyon and row our butts off a portion of the day.
That meant an early start to the day. Fridays are a tough one for me because Thursday nights are “Music on Main” in Victor Idaho. It’s a heck of an outdoor concert at the park only a rocks throw from our house. We do “Music on Main” whether we like it or not, fortunately we love it.
The boys picked me up at 7:20 am and we were launching at 8 sharp. I grabbed the oars and while Gary and Cooper got rigged up I pushed us downstream. I rowed for about 90 minutes or to a landmark known as “Hole in the Wall”. “Hole in the Wall” is just that, a huge hole or cave high up on a rocky cliff. It’s about a third of the way down through the entire canyon. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place and one of the most beautiful floats. Like fishing in Grand Teton National Park the other day, it’s hard to watch your fly and not just stare at the scenery.
It’s tough to row past good looking water. I know Cooper and Gary were ready to fish five minutes into our long row. But everyone just kicked back and enjoyed the scenery and wildlife. Cooper made a cast on occasion just to check if we were there yet. When we started, we were all ready for it. I watch with anticipation as Cooper made his first few casts. To start, Cooper was casting his two streamers like a dry fly. However after a little coaching he put a little more authority into his cast and put the flies where they needed to be; now we just needed a fish.
We easily went a mile without seeing a single fish. Cooper started second guessing the streamer like any 14 year old kid would. I kept saying fish it through this bank. Then the next bank would look good and I’d suggest he do it again. Finally Cooper was ready for a break. But there was one bush he just had to throw his flies too. I promised him this would be the last one he had to cast too. And sure enough, he hooked up to his biggest fish of the day.
Cooper landed a fat cuttbow. It was his River Monster and boy was he satisfied. We took a few photos and then as you can imagine, the streamers were back in the water most of the remainder of the day. Sure Cooper threw dry flies on occasion, but for the most part he stuck to the streamer. Cooper can fish a streamer superbly after one day in the South Fork Canyon. He ended up with several cutthroats and even a nice brown. We finished up our long float at about 7 pm. As always we had a great time.