No Other Boats & No Ice in the Guides

It’s a special time of year. I’m not quite tired of the snow. I’m not yet sick of the sun not rising until 8 AM. So far I can even handle darkness at 5 PM. Temps aren’t too cold and because it’s mid November, and I enjoy the fact that trout have normally crowded rivers all to themselves – almost that is. Actually it’s that time of year when trout spend time with me and “gurus” Tom Montgomery and Paul Bruun on the South Fork of the Snake.


It was snowing sideways when I left the house at 9 AM today to meet up with friends Paul and Tom. They left from Jackson, Wyoming towing Paul’s South Fork Skiff. After a slick drive we met at the Husky boat ramp and floated down to the Spring Creek Bridge. Despite snowy roads for each of us we met and launched with ease.

The temperature was a surprisingly warm 40º. Warm enough to row without gloves. By now the falling snow tapered off but the cloud cover was thick. It never got bright and in fact all day long it looked like the last hour of daylight – even at noon. There was a stiff breeze at our start. The wind was blowing straight downstream but after an hour or so on the water that wind stopped and the day was balmy.

Fishing was outstanding. Paul took the oars to begin. I was ready to rock with my three streamer rig (I plan to explain this soon) and three casts into the day I landed a strong 15” rainbow. Tom was up front rigging his rod. I undid my bow and three casts later I landed a 16” brown trout. This was going to be a heck of a day.

The brown trout ate my middle fly. This always takes a little extra care to avoid tangling my long level 0X three fly leader. Once I took all my precautions I tossed my flies overboard and went to cast. I wasn’t quite tight and the point fly of my loosely flying set up caught Paul about a ½ inch from his eyeball. Because it was so dark, Paul wasn’t wearing his sunglasses, however luckily he had on his normal clear prescription glasses. As always, my fly was barbless and although scary for a minute, no harm was done. Cigar time.

From there on out I tightened up my casts. I took a little crap from the “gurus” but went on to continue to tear up the fish. Tom was in the action by now too and immediately caught a lengthy colorful cutthroat.


A lot of snow melted today. After the last storm there was over a foot of snow at valley level but by afternoon the south facing banks of the South Fork were clear of snow. Red squirrels and birds were digging around enjoying a good feed knowing the opportunity to forage on snowless ground won’t last long. We had a few bugs on the water but nothing like the midge hatch last week. Often times, even though you might expect great hatches because it was warm out, the rush of melting snow drops the river water temperature and actually slows down the hatch. Today was definitely the case of that.

Other than a few whitetail deer along the banks the only wildlife we saw were the birds and squirrels. But the trout seemed happy as can be. We experienced one slow period for less than an hour but overall we caught fish throughout the day. Species were an even mix of browns, rainbows and cutthroats. Tom even snuck in a whitefish, not the usual catch on a streamer but this time of year you get about one a day.

We were in no rush to get off the river. It wasn’t exactly a summer night, but the way we were dressed we were just as warm as on a summer night. So warm that we took our time and fished right into the dark. Once we got Paul’s boat loaded on the trailer we took the time to suck down a cold one at the ramp before taking off. During the time we decided we’ll try to do this again on Monday. I’m leaving with a group for the Amazon on Thursday so it all depends on whether I’m packed for the jungle or not. This is the trip I had to reschedule from last March.

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