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Personal Highlights of 2017-Part I

Dec 29, 2017 | Mike Lawson Mike_Playing_Trout.jpg

My 2017 fishing began on January 22 on New Zealand’s North Island. My good friend Simon Dickie invited Sheralee and I to camp and fish with him in the backcountry. I hadn’t fished on the North Island for quite some time. We had a wonderful time, caught some big fish, experienced some beautiful country and most importantly we enjoyed Simon Dickie. We received news of his passing on December 22. The world lost a true fly fishing icon and we lost a dear friend.


The following two weeks of our trip were marred by cool, wet weather. It had been raining for about a month rendering many of the rivers we planned to fish virtually unfishable. Thanks to my friend David Lambroughton we were able to find some decent fishing. Our most eventful day was a trek across a large lake and hike up a wonderful river with friends Kelli and Robert Dotson. By coincidence we found they were in the area. The fishing was very good, in fact it was a little too good. Sheralee and Kelli walked back to the lake to meet our scheduled water-taxi pickup. Unfortunately Robert and I got sidetracked trying to catch a very difficult big brown. We lost track of time and got back about 2 hours late, just in time to cancel the rescue helicopter that had been sent to find us. Words cannot describe how our wives felt about this except to say they were not happy with us. By the way, the brown was a touch over 7-1/2 lbs.


We got back to Idaho in mid-February, just in time to experience some great pre-runoff fishing on the Henry’s Fork, Madison and Teton Rivers. Normally this time of year produces some of our best dry fly fishing and it didn’t disappoint. We also had some superb streamer fishing. We had great Baetis fishing from mid-March through April and our caddis fishing was fantastic.


I always find myself back on a plane in early April. This year was no exception other than instead of heading for the Florida Keys I went to Texas. I met my friend Bill Crabtree who took me to his ranch near Muenster where I hunted turkeys for a couple of days. After that we headed south and hooked up with longtime friend Barry Austin. Barry owns a ranch south of Dallas with flooded gravel pits that are loaded with big bass. Great fun, lots of big bass and great friends.


Back home the big question was when to expect the salmonfly hatch. I hit it dead on predicting the big bugs would show at the Vernon Bridge on May 20th. That is exactly what happened. The fishing was crowded, perhaps more crowded that usual. This was partly due to great fishing but also the fact that about every other river in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming was blown out from heavy runoff. I had some great fishing by waiting until late in the day and wading, casting big bugs up under the brush where most of the floaters couldn’t reach. I was also lucky enough to get invited to share a boat with Mark Rockefeller.

We took two boats down the slide at Cardiac Canyon. Mark and Chris fished with Alex Kohn. My nephew Brady Lawson manned the camera while I fished with Paul Hoelscher. We caught some nice fish on dry salmonfly patterns and we got some good footage. Check out the Cardiac Salmonfly video on our website.


The opening day of the Ranch was good by most accounts. For personal reasons I avoid the Ranch until mid-July but there was great fishing on the Lower Henry’s Fork where I spent a lot of quality time. Later in the month I was privileged to join our former manager Jamie Greene for a day on the lower river with Curt Barker. Jamie’s father, Jim Greene had Curt booked for a few days to fish a few days with his son but he had to cancel at the last minute. It was great catching up with Jamie. He is a good man who I greatly respect. He had a large part in making our business what it is today. We also caught some big browns.


Later in July my son Chris organized a fun day with three of our guides. Bob Lamm, Smitty, and Curt Barker have been guiding here for well over 30 years. In fact Curt and Bob have been here 40 years. Unfortunately they are always busy and virtually never have a chance to fish together. Chris and I booked them for a day under the false names Yolonda Squatpump and Dr. James Grossweiner. We managed to pull it off in complete secrecy and they didn’t have a clue who their clients were for the day. We couldn’t have had more fun as they paced around the shop and chatted with each other about what was going on. We didn’t let on what was happening until well after all of the other guides had left for the day. You should have seen their faces when they found out that their clients were Chris and me. We felt like they had more than earned a paid day off. It was really a pleasure rowing them down the Teton River. They caught some nice fish. This day was definitely one of the highlights of the summer.


As soon as my self-imposed restriction to not fish the Ranch until after July 15th ended I was in the Whorehouse Pool casting to big rising rainbows feeding on Flavs. I’ve fished this water for 60 years now and, for my own style of fishing, I think it was better than I’ve ever seen it. There was a time when there were more fish but they were almost all “cookie cutter” seventeen inch rainbows. Now some of them look like steelhead. I didn’t land any of the monsters but I saw some giant trout. Mick Mickelson, who I know doesn’t use a rubber tape measure, reported several trout landed last summer in excess of 24 inches. I saw a number of trout that big and even hooked up with a couple but just wasn’t fortunate enough to close the deal. No matter, it is always such a special time when I come back to my favorite water after the June crowds are gone. I hit the Ranch on a regular basis until the winds of November chased me away. I would have fished there more if not for the beckoning of the Upper Teton. The fishing there is very much like the Ranch. What a treasure to have two of the finest spring creeks in the world only a short distance from my home!