June 25, 2013
My annual Henry’s Fork Marathon took place today. Granny and I and friends left the Last Chance parking lot before 8 AM and fished our way through the Harriman Ranch all the way to the Osborne Bridge and back. This is a distance of about eight miles of walking and wading. If you’re fishing hard, you don’t make it back to the parking lot till about 10 PM. Though it’s not the longest day of the year, it’s definitely the longest fishing day of the year.
Granny and I have been doing this marathon fishing day every year since 1986. Those first ten or so years we had no name for the event, we were simply taking advantage of our longest day off from work. After awhile friends joined in and the great day officially became an annual tradition and acquired the name Marathon. A fifteen hour fishing day without stopping equals a marathon in any sport.
With so many years you can imagine all the different experiences. As for the fishing there have been extremely poor years and extremely fantastic years. In 2010 everyone was completely skunked as far as a big fish. That was my first Marathon blank. I was beaten and I still can’t believe that in fifteen hours I couldn’t catch one quality Henry’s Fork rainbow. In 2011 I took revenge and that Marathon was one of the best Henry’s Fork Ranch days of my life.
Each year brings different weather and different people. When fishing and weather is good several years in a row, the group of Marathoners gets big. But after one difficult year like 2012, where the wind blew horrendously from 9 AM till 9 PM, the crowd drops dramatically. The weak, the beginners and those who need to catch lots of fish can’t mentally chance the risk of another brutal Ranch day. It’s sad because for Granny and I the Marathon isn’t all about the fishing, its enjoyable time spent with friends who love to fish as much as we do. For us when fishing stinks like it did last year and several Marathons for that matter, this allows more time sitting on the bank chatting with my friends with beers and cigars. I guess not many of us think this way because today there were a mere four of us.
Results from today’s Marathon won’t draw a crowd for next year either. 2013 will go down as a tough one. The weather was near perfect. We had only a few windy spells with light rain showers and very little sun. Conditions favored thick hatches to entice hungry rising fish. But what seemed ideal didn’t pan out at all. Hatches were sporadic, and during the short windows when hatches were steady, the big fish only made the occasional rise to them. Today entailed lots of walking, plenty of anticipation and very little casting.
For the first time ever, at least I think, Granny and I never made a single cast the entire walk to Osborne Bridge. The flies remained hooked to the rod the entire morning and most of the afternoon. Granny caught a small riser just for the sake of casting at around 4 PM because she felt the need. I cast to my first decent fish at 5:30 and landed the hard pulling 15 incher with a sigh of relief. There would be no repeat of 2010.
The green drake hatch trickled all day. We waited and waited for them to explode and bring up the fish but they never did. Then the brown drakes took flight at 6 PM. Things seemed hopeful but few to none of the huge mayflies hit the water. You knew it was a tough day on the Ranch; the normally crowded fishery was empty of anglers except for the four of us Marathoners by 7 PM.
When you have the Ranch to yourself you can always muster up some fish. Granny wisely said the heck with big fish and went on a small fish catching rampage. She had a blast. Meanwhile I finally spotted a monster that rose once. I got him to eat but bent my hook on the set!
Granny headed for the car at 8 PM. I crossed to the far side of the Henry’s Fork just above the area we refer to as the islands. I found a high spot and popped a Sierra Nevada to watch the cloud formations pass where the sun would normally set. It was darker than it should be. I was taking in my day when I heard a whoosh. My head spun wildly to a current line coming off a rock near me and sure enough there were rings from a rise. I stared then watched a huge rainbow rise again. I couldn’t see what he ate but without any hesitation, without getting up, I flicked out a short cast with my parachute olive hares ear (a superb green drake imitation). The fly drifted no more than an inch and the rainbow slurped it.
An ensuing battle took place with numerous cart wheeling leaps. Those all took place as I tried to balance my freshly opened beer in a tuft of grass. Once that crisis was solved I fought the big rainbow to some shallows below me where I clicked this pic and let him go. Despite how dark it was this pic shows the size of this beast. What a great ending to the 2013 Marathon!
After my beer it was 9:30 and drizzling. There was a unique half rainbow to the north that continuously changed to give me a show as I walked back to the parking lot. Oh, I found one more bank feeder along the way as well but he didn’t cooperate before spooking from a muskrat. I officially got back to the car at 9:50 PM. Another Marathon in the books.
The Henry’s Fork Marathon is an event I hope I can continue all my life. It’s undoubtedly my favorite day of the year. The Ranch has plenty of room so if you ever get a wild hair and want to join the walk please do. Everyone is welcome. The Marathon almost always takes place on the Tuesday after the Solstice. 2014 will be June 24th. I hope to see you there.