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October is Magical

Nov 18, 2014 | Mike Lawson

About a month ago I told my wife that we would almost certainly pay for the great weather had through October. The temperatures were at least 10 ° above normal and the fishing was fantastic. My prophecy has come to pass. As I write looking across a snow field I see slush ice flowing down the river where we were fishing in our shirtsleeves only two weeks ago. Most of our country is now in the grip of this Arctic blast that has held on for almost two weeks. At least I can honestly say that I spent as much time as I could on the water before this record cold snap arrived.

The Fun Farm In November 2014

I was born the day before October which could be one reason it is my favorite month of the year. It’s a magical month when the leaves turn to gold, migratory birds begin to flock, elk are in the peak of the rut, and rivers beckon. I’ve been lucky enough to have a profession only dreams are made of but there is still work to be done. Unfortunately much of it is office work which continues to pile up because I find it impossible to stay indoors.

I started October in the rowing seat of my drift boat.  I took some longtime customers who were staying at Henry’s Fork Lodge to float the Upper Henry’s Fork below Big Springs. I’ve always enjoyed guiding customers even though the demands of my job limit me to only a few trips each season. I don’t take requests and I only guide when we don’t have any other guides available but I relish the chance to go when the opportunity presents itself.

Dick Farman fights a big rainbow/hybrid on the Upper Henry's Fork

The Upper Henry’s Fork is a very interesting piece of water. During the summer months it gets covered up with recreational floaters in canoes, paddle boats, tubes and other craft. Along with that motors are legal on this part of the river and you’ll likely encounter a V-bottomed boat powering up the river. It’s definitely not a place to take a guided fishing trip in the summer but after Labor Day, when most of the tourists go home, things start to change.

While there are a few decent resident trout in this part of the river, most of the best fish are migratory. They come upstream from the Island Park Reservoir or drop down through Henry’s Lake Outlet. They start showing up in September but the peak of it is in October and November.

This big rainbow/hybrid likely migrated into the Upper Henry's Fork from the reservoir below

The first day of October Dick Farman fished streamers most of the day. He hooked up with a number of good fish. The largest was a rainbow/hybrid that could have gone 5 lbs. Another impressive fish was a fat brook trout in spawning colors that I measured at 16 inches. October 2 I fished with Jim Altman who elected to use a dry/dropper rigged with a Chubby Chernobyl on top with a Two-Bit Hooker as a dropper.  Jim didn’t land any five pounders but he caught lots of nice trout up to 19”, most of them taking the dry.

The second week of October a small group of us left for BC in search of steelhead. What we got was lots of rain. You can read all about it on my October 14th blog. Even though it was fun I could hardly wait to get back.

Chris Lawson battles a large brown trout near St. Anthony

Unfortunately WORK had piled up in my absence which kept me in the office for a few days. I did as little of it as possible in between frequent trips to the river just a few hundred yards from my house. The fishing was incredible, fantastic, superb…….. Whenever there was even a hint of cloud cover the surface sprang alive with Blue Winged Olives and rising trout. If it was bright and sunny I used a dry/dropper catching plenty of fish on both the dry and the nymph. In between I fished streamers. I like dry flies best but it’s hard to beat the tug with a streamer.

I floated the river below St. Anthony with my son Chris. Even though it was bright and sunny we fished streamers all day. There were nice fish where they should have been as well as a few places they shouldn’t. We caught almost all browns, many of them in bright spawning colors.

Rick Lawson admires a nice rainbow from the Lower Teton River near St. Anthony

Even though my brother Rick is ten years younger, we have fished together whenever we could. We’ve really enjoyed reconnecting on the water we fished as kids, especially the Teton River. We grew up in Sugar City which is between the north and south forks of the Teton. I’ve always loved this river but I have not focused on it much until this year when we finally acquired a legal permit to guide there. Now it provides a splendid excuse to fish in the name of relearning the water. We hit the Teton a lot right up until this nasty weather rolled in.

In October you can have the Harriman Ranch all to yourself

One disadvantage of great fishing close to my home in St. Anthony was I didn’t fish more distant waters as much as I should. In order to fish the Madison in Montana or Yellowstone Park I had to drive past Ashton and Island Park. In order to fish the South Fork of the Snake I had to drive past the Teton. In order to fish Henry’s Lake I had to drive past the Ranch. It’s always been a tradition to fish the Ranch on my birthday but I didn’t, mostly because it was windy and because of other interruptions. I made up for it later in October with a great day with Blue Winged Olives.

October is a great time to land a husky brown like this one

One of the most incredible things about October was that we basically had the river all to ourselves. It’s amazing that we have to turn potential guide clients away in June and July while October is still relatively insignificant as far as guiding is concerned. You who are reading this who fished with us this past October know what I’m saying.

October is magical!