Granny and I are just home from our holiest fly fishing weekend of the year, the opener of the Harriman Ranch section on the Henry’s Fork. For those unfamiliar with the Ranch of the Henry’s Fork, this is considered the finest and most sacred dry fly fishery in the world. It opens on June 15 every year and many of the worlds best dry fly anglers converge upon the river on this day. Best of all its only fifty miles from our house!
Normally opening days are something I try to avoid because I hate crowds, but the Ranch opener is different from all others. First of all, it is difficult to catch fish on the Ranch; therefore, it’s rarely crowded. Second, it’s a place where I can always count on seeing many of my long time friends. Some of whom I see often and others that I see only in June when the Henry’s Fork fishes its best.
This year did not disappoint. Granny and I arrived to the Last Chance parking lot around 8 pm Monday night. Sure enough campers and minivans surrounded by occupied lounge chairs we strewn everywhere. Grills were smoking and cocktail hour was in full swing under one of our first warm sunny evenings of the year. We couldn’t wait to park the truck, dig beers out of the cooler and get out our own chairs.
Our first stop was to visit with longtime Fork anglers Victor and Sandy Colvard and their crew. My first Ranch opener was 1982, but Victor and Sandy have been doing it a lot longer than that. They have a really cool old camper and it’s always the hangout for many of the true Henry’s Fork veterans. Many of these anglers have not missed a Ranch opener since the early 70’s! Sandy and Victor are like hosts at home. Victor always makes sure you have a drink and Sandy has a table loaded with chips and salsa. This year she really surprised us when she served the entire gang an incredible dinner right there in the lot!
We had a great visit but when the sun set the mosquitoes got hungry. The Colvards and their friends were ready to call it a night, however Granny and I and some of the younger generation of Fork anglers decided it was time to head to the Ranch Opener party at the Trout Hunter. The Trout Hunter bar, restaurant, fly shop and guide service throws a heck of a party including an excellent live band, beer specials and a pig roast on the banks of the river. The place was absolutely packed and the fun was flowing. Everyone was celebrating at full thrust. Once again we met up with many friends and you guessed it, we closed the place. Like many party attendees, we parked our rig right by the party in advance and Granny and I climbed in the back of the truck to get a few hours of sleep before sunrise. It was a struggle, but we got up by 7 and got a good Trout Hunter breakfast in us for the long day of fishing ahead.
Although there are several places to access the Ranch, I prefer to walk in from the Last Chance parking lot on opening day. Most my friends do the same and we basically spend the day fishing together. You could walk from here downstream all day and still be in the Ranch. There are miles of water to fish and if the hatch is good, plenty of rising fish to go around. I never stop walking. It’s not uncommon for me to cover five miles in a day in the Ranch and next week when I get serious, I’ll top ten.. I hunt down the biggest fish and visit with friends as I come upon them. Yesterday when fishing was slow I ran into several friends and we sat on a high bank and relaxed and caught up for at least an hour. That’s truly what the opener is all about.
Even though I fished hard from 8 am until 7 pm, fishing was superb for only about ten minutes. I know that may sound ridiculous, but that’s the Ranch. It was around 10 am when an excellent hatch of Pale Morning Duns and March Browns got the fish in a frenzy. Granny and I were about a mile in and I spotted the first nose of a riser. As I observed him, seeing if he was a worthy target, several other rainbows began to rise. Within minutes there were two decent fish in our sight and a handful of little guys. Granny and I each took after one of the larger fish and I was fortunate to hookup on my second cast. The great thing about these fish is that they put up a tremendous battle. They nearly always get acrobatic and make some pretty drag-testing runs. My fish did all the above before I brought him to hand. It was great to be back on the Fork again.
Unfortunately our ten minutes of greatness ended abruptly when a strong wind started from the south. This wind would never let up all day and delivered continuous thunderheads and rain. Although the hatches continued to trickle off, most of the bugs got literally blown off the water. Granny headed in at about noon while I stayed out all day. I managed a few casts to rising fish amongst white caps but all I could catch were a few dinks. Nonetheless, it was a great day just being back on the Fork.
We would love to have spent today on the Fork. Granny and I camped again last night and were awoken several times to the sound of heavy rain bouncing off the roof of our Explorer. It was drizzling when we got up at around 7 and I know the hatches will be pouring off for at least another ten minutes. Ha! However, we have a long list of errands to do in preparation for summer.
I will be returning solo on Friday afternoon to camp and fish the evening hatch. Saturday is Henry’s Fork day, a fantastic fundraiser put on by the Henry’s Fork Foundation. I have never been to one before because I did not have weekends off for the last 23 years. Now self employed, I’m taking it off. One can never have enough of the Henry’s Fork in June.