Today my friend Gary Eckman and I floated the entire South Fork Canyon. Gary has been on the blog many times the last couple years. Gary is the founder of the “Good Times” One Fly Team and generously sponsors me to be on it. Every July we start floating at least a day a week together to try out some new flies that we might use in the upcoming two day contest that takes place on the Snake River in Wyoming and the South Fork in Idaho. We always get hooked on a couple new fun patterns but in the end, I usually fish a Pale Morning Dun on the South Fork and a streamer of some sort on the Snake.
The South Fork is running 13,500 cfs out of the Palisades Dam. This is high yet very fishable. Personally my favorite level on the South Fork is when it’s around 9,000 cfs. Anglers often wonder why a river could be running high when it’s a low water year and the reason is that farmers downstream need water more desperately so the water gets sent to them in higher volume.
Gary and I pushed off from the Conant Boat Ramp at about 8 AM to begin our 26 mile float. Normally this would be an astronomical amount of miles to take on in a day but at 13,500, as long as you don’t fish every inch of banks, it’s only slightly longer than a normal day. Fishing started slow. Gary stripped streamers for a half hour while I rowed then I twitched some oversized ant patterns. Neither of us saw much more than one sturdy brown trout that took my fly as he was facing downstream. I set but pulled the fly from him. Next fly in line to try was a small dry so I put on an olive haze parachute. Within five minutes I was pulling some nice cutthroats off grassy edges close to the bank. It would turn out this would be our best fly today.
The day was hot and we both rowed and fished hard. Even with the help of heavy moving water, two guys and the whole South Fork Canyon, it wears you out. The big fish of the day was a brown trout of about 21 inches that slipped out from under a grassy inside turn and ate the small dry. It was a sight when he ate as his huge nose and jaw broke the surface and closed on my small dry in less than 8 inches deep water. This is one of the bigger browns I’ve caught on the South Fork in a few years. We pulled the boat from the Byington Boat Ramp at around 5 PM and I concluded that if tomorrow were the Jackson Hole One Fly I’d fish a small PMD pattern while Gary would go with the streamer. Gary is almost 72 so he has trouble seeing the small dries so in his case a streamer would be the best choice.