Two months ago I made plans with friends Joe Koehly of Yeti and Peter Vandergrift of Costa Sunglasses to go bang up the carp of Blackfoot Reservoir today. You need good weather to fly fish for carp and naturally our annual equinox storm made a direct hit delivering 40° highs with rain and snow. I switched our plans to the Ranch on the Henry’s Fork where these conditions often bring out blanket Blue Wing Olive hatches.
Peter cancelled so it was me, Joe and a photographer friend of his, Nick Kelley, of Outside Magazine. Nick came along entirely to take photos for Yeti. We arrived last night and enjoyed dinner and beers in the Trout Hunter. The fellas got a room and I slept in the back of the Explorer.
We entered the Ranch at 9 AM this morning. It was cold and dreary. We walked all the way to the islands and back, killing four hours. Joe and I each cast to a pair of nice fish. I stung and lost both of mine and Joe lost one of his. This all happened before 1 PM then the Ranch went dead.
At noon ice cold rain began to fall. Despite all my warm clothes under my raingear this was the kind of day where the cold made its way into your core regardless. At 2:20 PM all three of us were shivering and we made our way out of the Ranch. Once to the cars I insisted we take a peek off the platform at Last Chance – just in case there was something happening.
There was something happening alright. The rain was turning to snow but the blanket Blue Wing hatch I was hoping for started. The Henry’s Fork came alive and within thirty minutes there were big fish to try for. I hooked and landed the first one I cast too. He was a decent 18” rainbow but before Nick was able to click a single photo the pretty fish slipped from my cold hands. My motor skills were leaving me fast as the temperature dropped.
Meanwhile Joe was set up on a fish. I know the fish and his location is micro drag central. I’ve been beaten by fish at that rock before. But it builds character and tough fish like that one is what the Henry’s Fork is all about.
The next fish I found was in a similar spot. It turns out there were two. Both were sipping Blue Wings. They were a beautiful sight to watch. My drift went drag free for only about a foot even by casting directly over their heads from a mere 15 feet downstream of them. I was persistent dropping my tiny Thorax Blue Wing over them repetitively.
At least 20 minutes went by with my continuous casting without fooling either rainbow. I didn’t change flies because I was certain I couldn’t with the cold and bad light. My fly looked right anyhow and I knew it was more of a timing thing. There were millions of bugs and the fish were letting plenty of naturals go past. Finally, to the surprise of both Nick and I, the fish sipped my fly and I went tight!
This particular fish was old and tired. While he made one quick but short run, that was about it. He literally rolled over and came to my hands. He was a warrior. He was long 19” or more but skinny and ugly. He’d been around. One side had an old osprey talon hole and his mouth had signs of being hooked with barbed flies. Nick shot a few pics but I never lifted the fish from the water. He required tender loving care for sure.
That last fish was all I could take. My hands were numb and I was sick of shivering. Joe had given up on his difficult to catch fish and the three of us packed it up. It was actually perfect timing at nearly 6 PM.
That’s likely it for me fishing this week. I’m back on the road starting Monday. I’ll be speaking to eight clubs throughout Southern California. Check out my schedule to see if I’m in your area. And of course, my Winston’s are packed for a little fishing off the beach. This trip my target species is the infamous corbina, but there should also be surf perch and shovelnose sharks to catch. Go Cubs!