Twas a late blurry night at the TroutHunter on the banks of the Henry’s Fork celebrating my 50th. I wasn’t alone. More than twenty held it down till the bitter end of 2 AM. You would suspect a quiet morning today but instead we got up because of a drastic change in weather. The temps came down and it was raining. These are ideal conditions for blanket Blue-Winged Olive hatches in October.
I won’t lie and tell you we jumped from bed. But everyone was at breakfast by 8 and after heaps of coffee for some and mimosas for others, we wadered up under the awning in front of TroutHunter to hide from the rain. By 10 AM we found ourselves walking into the Ranch much earlier than yesterday. There were less of us. Several friends had to fly or drive long distances to return home for work tomorrow and shockingly some went home to bed.
Those here were ready for action. I felt especially ready. I always catch a fish on my birthday and today I had high hopes for a lunker Ranch rainbow. How cool would that be – catch a donkey on my 50th? But things would start slow and things would end slow.
The dream hatch never happened. Seriously, today’s weather normally brings on the bugs. They came, but they came at around 4 PM and lasted only an hour. And it wasn’t the “blanket hatch”. Prior to the hatch there were some sporadic feeding fish and I had my chances. I cast intensely at three pigs. The first, a mover, I chased up and down a 100yd stretch of river through coots and weeds for an hour. He was in a mere foot or less of water so he had to move to find his food. These shallow water cruisers are the toughest of all. I’m not sure I ever drifted my fly over him before he finally quit. Defeated, I returned to the bank.
On the bank I relaxed with Mike LaSota (Mike fished Dubai and Sudan with me in April), Derek Mitchell (friend of 25 years and many trips together) and Mark Johnston (friend from Iowa). All arrived Thursday and have been hanging through this fun event. The rain dropped and the Ranch light was surreal. Derek, Mark and I sipped a beer and smoked the last cigars of the trip.
My second chance was at a brute nestled in a weedy nook. The only way I could get my fly to him was to drift it over a smaller rainbow (we call these small trout bodyguards) first. The bodyguard ate my fly on the first cast. I held back the hook set but naturally I stuck him anyhow and he jumped and ran spooking the big fella. At least I got that birthday fish.
The last fish was the biggest and nine times out of ten, a Henry’s Fork rainbow feeding like this is a guarantee. But not today. I’ll blame the wild week and utter exhaustion. I’m not 100% sure but it appeared the giant sipped my fly twice and my set was off both times because I was looking at a natural BWO instead of my fly. Oh these fifty year old eyes are starting already!
At 5:30 there were still some fish up. But I had one more thing on my birthday agenda – be sitting at the TroutHunter bar for first pitch of Game 2 Cubs vs Mets. I reeled it in and marched for TroutHunter and had a beer in hand and a basket of scrumptious chicken wings with Granny for first pitch. Unfortunately, like me failing to get a monster on the Ranch, the Cubs would fail to take the game in New York adding a bit of stress for Tuesday at Wrigley. Where were the birthday gods today?
The last four days have been some of the most enjoyable of the year. Yes if you read the day by day accounts the fishing has been tough – no doubt about it. But surviving half a century and celebrating it with such great friends is irreplaceable. I’d go fishless ever birthday to hang with these guys in such a magnificent place.
Believe it or not we hit it again tonight. We’re addicted to hanging out and talking about old times and making new ones. In the morning everyone returns home except my college buddies. They’re fishing Box Canyon. I’ll take Granny back to Victor so she can head back to work. I’ll catch up in my office then I suspect there will be even one more night in Victor before I start resting up for the 60th.
Time to kick off the second half. . . . 100 years here I come!