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Spring is Here!

Mar 19, 2016 | Mike Lawson Rainbow_Close.jpg

Back in the day when I was young there wasn’t a Saturday in February or March that I didn’t saddle up and go fishing, no matter what the weather. I never gave much thought to the weather other than to bundle up more if it was cold. I’ll admit, today I don’t have the mettle of my youth. Yet when I start seeing bare ground again the call of the water pulls harder.

I’ve had some great days the past few weeks. I never turn down an invitation to fish with our guides. I jumped at the opportunity when Tyler Treece and Andy Jenkins invited me to float from the confluence with the Henry’s Lake Outlet down the Upper Henry’s Fork to Mack’s Inn. The adventure alone is worth the trip. We hooked Tyler’s skiff up to the back of a snowmobile and towed it across the snow until we got to the river. We saw a lot more nice fish than we caught but we still managed to hook up some good fish. I think part of the problem was low, clear water on a bright sunny day. It was hard to get close to the fish without spooking them. We caught most of our fish on nymphs and a few on streamers. There were also fish feeding on midges which gave us a dry fly option. There were also good sized mayflies (size 16 – big for this time of year). All in all it was a memorable trip.


We’ve also had a couple of good days close to home on the Henry’s Fork. I’m fortunate enough to live only a few hundred yards from the Henry’s Fork. Last week Tom Doxey, joined me for a few hours on the water. We didn’t find any dry fly activity but we had plenty of action using a double nymph rig with an indicator. I used a black Rubberlegs with a Two Bit Hooker as a dropper. Tom had his best action with a tandem of smaller nymphs.


Another great option is the Madison River near Reynolds Pass. This was always a great option in the years gone by. I enjoyed a lot of later winter / early spring days fishing with my family. My sons Shaun and Chris were catching nice trout there when they were barely old enough to hold up a fly rod. I’m not sure of the politics but later on that part of the Madison closed to fishing from Quake Lake down McAtee Bridge. That changed this year when this part of the Madison was again opened to year round fishing. Again, I’m not sure what prompts these kinds of changes in regulations but I for one am glad to see the change. There is no reason to shut down public opportunity without justifiable biological data.


Todd Lanning and I hit that water last week. We had good midge fishing until it got cold and windy. After that we caught nice trout using a double nymph rig. Snow limited our access options. There was a day when I didn’t let a couple of feet of snow slow me down. I’m waiting for the access to the 3 Dollar Bridge to open and I’ll be back on the Madison.


Another fishing regulation that at one time seemed to make sense was to close fishing on the Henry’s Fork from the Ashton Dam downstream to the Vernon Bridge. That happened back in the early 1970s when the limit was six trout of any size. Most anglers used bait and made every effort possible to bring home a limit of big rainbows. Over the following four decades the focus of the angling public changed dramatically. The bag limit was reduced to 2 trout. Today anglers rarely use bait with the intent to keep trout. Over on the South Fork the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has done everything they can to encourage anglers to kill rainbow, even going so far as to put a bounty on them but for the most part anglers haven’t cooperated. The mindset of today’s angler is not on filling the freezer. For that reason the stretch from the Ashton Dam to Vernon Bridge and the section from the south boundary of the Harriman Park downstream to Riverside Campground were again opened to year round fishing on January 1st.


The new rules on the Madison River in Montana and the Henry’s Fork in Idaho have greatly simplified the regulations. Now the only exception to year round fishing is the Harriman State Park which opens on June 15th. This regulation will not change because, like fly fishing only, the fishing calendar is dictated by the Harriman Gift Agreement. It’s important to check the regulations carefully because some of these areas are open to catch and release fishing only.

I had planned to focus on the Teton River today. Unfortunately I woke up with a bad head/chest cold and I’m staying indoors to write this blog and to watch college basketball. However, as soon as I’m back in shape I’m going to hit the Teton. Tomorrow is the first day of spring. I can’t think of a better place to really appreciate spring than living in St. Anthony.