Monday, June 16, 2008

The Ranch Trip

There is a lot more to fishing than just catching fish. If you can't enjoy fishing without catching then usually you will quickly loose interest in the sport. After fishing trips I sometimes tell my wife that "the fishing was great, but the catching wasn't". It is definitely better when you can have a great day on the water and catch lots of fish, but the overall fishing experience is what counts. The experience of being on the road at dawn and anticipating the day of fishing is always invigorating. Not to mention that the best trout fishing areas in the world are oftentimes smack dab in the middle of the most beautiful country God has created. Add to all of this great company and a good old fishin' trip can't be beat.

My wife's family has a house on a small plot of land up in the Teton Valley in Idaho that they call "The Ranch". The first day was not great fishing weather (although any weather is technically good fishing weather) and we ended up not wetting a line the first day there. The next day was going to be the much anticipated trip to Henry's Lake with Jim, David, and Greg (my wife's father and two of her brothers). We woke up early the second day to a breathtaking view.

We were on the road before six o' clock and about a half hour into our trip I realized that I had forgotten my fins for my float tube back at the ranch. We started discussing the options of where to find some float tube fins in the area. As we went through Ashton we only saw one fly shop which was not open yet. We got into Island Park (I think it was Island Park) and they had two big fly shops but they seemed to cater to the moving water crowd since the Henry's Fork is a stone throw away and thus they had no float tube accessories. I was desperate to find some fins and was determined to not let the Henry's Lake trip go to waste. Let me quickly back up and tell you that during the ride out there one of the spinning rods was poking over my right shoulder and was annoying me every time I looked out the window to my right. It would just brush my face so I guess I was not bothered enough to move it out of the way. So right when we are checking one last fly shop in that area I happened to quickly look to my right and somehow the end of the rod shoots straight up my nose. It hurt pretty bad and all of a sudden blood starting dripping out of my nose at a steady rate. Luckily someone ran into a gas station and grabbed some napkins for me. The bleeding stopped and we started laughing at the freak accident, it really was hilarious. We checked one more spot but it was closed so we decided we would just head to the lake and hope that the boat rental place had some fins. As we arrived at the lake we saw glassy water all across the lake. The scenery was spectacular.

We headed into the boat rental shop and by some miracle they had a pair of fins, one pair to be exact. Jim rented a boat for himself and Greg while David and I were going to head out on our tubes. Jim and Greg launched the boat and David and I launched our tubes out of the dock area. We started trolling our flies up the shoreline and we each had a good hit within the first several minutes. Then it went really dead besides snagging logs on the bottom. We started switching flies trying to figure things out to no avail. After a couple hours David spotted some structure right beneath him that had fish stacked all over the place.

We thought we had it made but still could not get any hits. Some midges had been hatching previously and I tried trailing a midge off of our leeches/buggers with no luck. At this point though there were a lot of bugs coming off the water. We saw two fish rise but that was it. It was enough for me to try a dry for a few casts but I soon switched to a floating line with an indicator with a large midge beneath since we had seen some big ones coming off. David located where the fish were stacked and I put my cast right over them. After I got a good cast into the right area I had a fish on...finally! I was surprised how hard it fought as it ended up being only about 18 inches.

I say only 18 inches because Henry's Lake hybrids can run up to 15 pounds or so. That would be an incredible fight! Anyway, luck would run out on us very soon. Just after I landed my fish the wind kicked in immediately. We thought it would be ok but after taking a quick bathroom stop on the shoreline the water was churning pretty bad. Jim and Greg came over and we hopped in the boat. We trolled our flies and worms the rest of time with no luck at all. Greg had a big fish on before our rendezvous with the boat but it broke him off. After trolling up and back the shoreline in the boat we decided to call it a day at Henry's Lake and try to hit some moving water. We ended up trying the Henry's Lake outlet. David and I spotted a pod of big suckers but I thought I saw a trout in the mix. There had to be a few trout in the pod and we supposed a big sucker would be fun to fight on our fly rods if we managed to hook one. David confirmed the presence of some trout as he landed a nice little cutthroat.

Shortly after this I hooked into a nice sized sucker that put up a great fight. He was a good looking specimen in a disgusting kind of way.

We could not seem to hook up with anything after this so we headed back to the ranch. It was a great day fishing, but the catching was lacking somewhat which was a little disappointing since the potential for great fishing (good numbers of large fish) was running through our minds for the past several months. Sometimes when you get skunked or have a very low catch rate you tend to shy away from a particular body of water in search of better fishing elsewhere. This was definitely not the case for me when it comes to Henry's Lake. If the wind had remained calm I am confident that we would have caught a lot of fish since we located them and figured out the way to fish to them. An even stronger motivation for going back is the fact that David was able to see a lot of very large fish cruising right beneath us. He estimated some of the fish going easily over 25 inches. I have been doing a little more research and found out at least one thing we did wrong which was arrive too late. Come to find out the wind always picks up each day by noon so it is best to be on the water around 5:30 a.m. I also want to get a book by Henry's Lake master Bill Schiess called "How to Fish Henry's Lake". He tells exactly what to do for each time of the year, etc. Don't worry Henry, we will be coming back soon!

The next day we tried the Henry's Fork river below Ashton reservoir and managed to catch only a dinky brown. It was very windy which suppressed any sort of hatch from developing. If we had more time to figure it out we could have probably got into some fish. We fished for a few hours then called it a day there. Overall, the beauty of eastern Idaho was soothing to the soul and it was sad to leave such beautiful country. I can't wait to get back up and spend a few more days sampling the trout filled waters north of Utah.

Lionel Prichard and the Hanks brothers