The famous Jackson Hole Wyoming One Fly Contest takes place this year on September 9 – 12. The One Fly is a friendly competition originally designed to extend the fishing business season of Jackson Hole for fishing guides and fly shops. Since the fly fishing boom of the 90’s that’s no longer the purpose of this fun event because anglers hire guides and buy flies year round anyway. What the One Fly does best now is raise money to improve fisheries nationwide.
In any event, it costs a lot of money to enter a four angler team and for that reason few fishing bums like me get to participate as an angler. However last year, Gary Eckman, the Captain of “Good Times” Team and a customer of mine when I worked at the Jack Dennis Sports fly shop, generously invited me on his team at not cost to me. To prepare, we fished together nearly every Friday and became great friends. Luckily, our team did well and I’m glad to say Gary is having me back this year.
Today was our first Friday fishing day of the season. We planned to start back in early July. That was before Gary nearly died of a blood clot after a surgery. He was very fortunate to survive and after six days in intensive care and two weeks in the hospital, today was one of his first days out. It was a special day to say the least.
We went to the South Fork of the Snake River here in Idaho. I’m not a big fan of the South Fork during summer months because of the enormous amount of boat traffic. You will undoubtedly see at least twenty other boats no matter what stretch you fish. But, like all crowded rivers, the South Fork is crowded for a reason – the fishing is spectacular and today was no exception.
Gary picked me up at my house at 8:30 am and we were on our way. It’s a short twenty-five mile drive from my house to the Irwin Slide boat launch. We were drifting down the South Fork before 9:30. Today was warm but by no means sunny. We’ve had thunderstorms nearly every day this week and this morning the sky threatened to deliver the first storm early.
Normally I streamer fish on the South Fork. That’s because it’s usually October or November. In the summertime the best fishing results come by staking out one of the huge riffles the South Fork is famous for and waiting for the Pale Morning Dun hatch to start. Once the hatch starts you can spend hours fishing dry flies to rising cutthroats, rainbows and browns. Today we got in the boat and rowed directly to one of Gary’s favorite riffles. Lucky for us, the only one there was a moose so we shared the place and kicked back and waited for the hatch.
Even when there’s not at hatch, if you watch the shallows closely on the South Fork you’ll see fish. As I gazed into the riffle I quickly spotted two nice cutthroats swerving side to side, obviously feeding on nymphs. After watching them for about ten minutes I tied on an ant pattern to a 12’ 4X Rio leader and made some casts. The two trout ignored my fly but then a rainbow I didn’t see lifted half way to the surface as if to give my fly an inspection. While most anglers continue to cast in such a situation, I like to make the trout wait before he sees my fly again. I don’t want is for the fish to get another good look right away and also, South Fork trout don’t see huge numbers of ants drifting downstream. Two ants drifting by in a row could make any trout very suspicious. So, I relaxed about five minutes then cast again. Immediately the rainbow came up and ate the ant. He was a decent bow of about 16”.
Gary and I caught fish steadily from that point on. I even accidentally snatched a mammoth dragon fly from the air during a false cast. Because of the warm temperatures and overcast skies (we had one thunderstorm) the PMD’s hatched like crazy. I fished one of Vladi’s CDC mayflies he designed for fishing his waters in Poland. It’s a fly pattern South Fork trout haven’t seen and therefore it fooled them all day long. In that first riffle alone I landed a dozen or so cutthroats from 13” to 18”’s along with two of the fattest rainbows I’ve seen this season.
Our day was superb to say the least. The large number of boats and fellow anglers didn’t get to me at all. In fact, we ran into many of my friends that guide the South Fork every day. Most I haven’t seen since the season got busy so that added to an already great day. I guess summer on the South Fork aint so bad after all and I hope to get back next week. Late tonight one of my best friends, Derek Mitchell arrives in town and during coffee in the morning we will plan a two day fishing trip that will begin tomorrow. We are thinking somewhere in the Yellowstone backcountry.