HF – What a Morning!

It was a cold winter day in January 1988 when Mike Braghini walked into a meager fly fishing department at the Jack Dennis Outdoor Shop in Jackson, Wyoming. As with any Rocky Mountain fly shop those days, there was very little inventory during the cold winter months. Furthermore, every one of these fly shops had a guy behind the counter tying flies. I happened to be that guy.

Mike just moved to town. He’d left the east coast to start a new life with heavy emphasis on fishing. I should have asked him today if he was fly fishing back then. I can’t remember that far back. But what I do remember is that he helped that work day go fast because he spent about five hours chatting. He went on to spend many a day visiting the shop soaking me for information about every fishing detail one could think of about his new home. Mike went on to join our fly shop staff for awhile before becoming a highly skilled electrician and a phenomenal fly fisherman. And he’s been a good friend for 25 years.

Mike and I had a pretty fun evening at the TroutHunter last night. Yet that didn’t stop us from being on the upper Henry’s Fork around Last Chance, Idaho before 7:30 AM. We mulled that 25 years as friends thing over a number of times as we drank coffee and waited for the first big fish to rise. We found it hard to believe that we’re both approaching 50. We joked about getting this old when were in our twenties but never thought it would happen. Well, time flies and here we are. The good news is we’re still hitting the bars of Last Chance, camping on the ground by the river and fishing together on the Henry’s Fork – just like we were back in the summer of 1988. In fact, I’m proud to say I think we’re still fishing bums.

Before 8 a couple of huge rainbows swirled just below the surface. When we were in our twenties we both would have dropped the coffees to make the cast. Now we observe. We never cast at a feeding fish until we study the situation. A little observation and you can often see what the fish is feeding on and pick up on the feeding pattern. How often is the fish rising? Is he moving around? Important things like that. There was no rush. These were happy rainbows and as long as they were unmolested they would continue feeding. And continue they did until finally Mike went into action.

I watched patiently. The fact that neither trout broke the surface made it evident that the trout were feeding on emergers. Mike wisely put on a Pale Morning Dun emerger. I watched his pursuit for about ten minutes then went on to find my own quarry.

We probably won’t have more than five mornings all summer as nice as today. There was no wind and the temperature was about 70º. That’s rare up on the Henry’s early in the morning. As I slowly stalked fish along the bank I watched all the animals and birds enjoy the start to the day as much as I. In particular was this short tailed weasel that was hunting voles and gophers. We have plenty of weasels around but you rarely see them. I was lucky to enjoy him from as close as a few feet for fifteen minutes.

I never found a fish downstream so I made my way back up to where the fish were. Sure enough, Mike was standing and battling a nice fish. “This is number two”, he said. You need to take the next one”. I made my way to him and clicked a few pics and then he showed me his set up. He had a small dry and below it about 12 inches was a small nymph. It was one of his custom ties so I won’t disclose his secret. But I did reach in his box and take one.

Mike took a break and I moved into his spot and patiently waited. He caught the two we saw but I knew there were plenty more around. Sure enough, about twenty feet upstream a trout swirled. I crawled into perfect position and three casts later I was hooked up.

Upper Henry’s Fork rainbows are known for several things. They are big. They fight hard and jump like crazy. And they normally outsmart even the best fly fishers. Today the later was not true. Mike and I have had many fishless days on the Henry’s and could tell you of at least a dozen trout we could never crack the code on over the last 25 years. So today was payback. We landed five great fish before 10 AM. At 10 AM, the wind started, more anglers appeared and the trout stopped feeding. Mike and I called it a day. And what a day it was!

2 Responses to “HF – What a Morning!”

  1. Erik Moncada June 7, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Looks like a great day on the water. Now to take on Silver Creek.

  2. Urocyon June 8, 2011 at 2:53 am #

    Nice blog post Jeff, nice photos too. And as a mammalogist, I always like good photos of rarely seen mammals. Nice weasel! Pat

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