By Mike Lawson
Jake Wells usually does our fishing report but he is off chasing bonefish in the Bahamas while Chris and I are left here to man the business. We’ll get caught up on our days off when the turkeys are gobbling in early May.
I’ve been trying to stay away from the river because I had rotator cuff surgery a month ago and the doctor won’t give me the okay to fish until at least the middle of April. It is almost impossible to resist the temptation when I see lots of nice trout feeding on Baetis and midges. It is especially hard when the weather is just right, like it was yesterday with light wind and the temperature in the upper 50's. It’s better to stay away from the river.
After working in my office all morning I decided to work on a culvert that will give us much better boat access to the lower part of our property while the rancher who leases my pasture decided to burn some grass and cattails. I was so focused on the ditch work that I didn’t notice the smoke was more than just grass. The fire made it to the cottonwood trees just below our house. Sheralee and I spent the next two hours trying to contain it. I wasn’t much help with a right arm out of action. We went to bed worrying what the morning would bring. This morning we woke up to a blizzard. Go figure! That’s the way it is in the spring in Henry’s Fork Country.
This time of year it is important to utilize the resources on our web site. There is a definite correlation with the weather, stream flows,and fishing conditions with any given stretch of water. For example, the current flow at the Island Park Dam through Box Canyon is 550 CFS compared to a normal year of 350 CFS. At Ashton the flow is 2060 CFS, about 65% more than the average flow of 1250 CFS. The flow at the gage above Saint Anthony is 2770 CFS compared to a normal of 1,500 CFS for this date. The stream flows are usually higher on the lower river when the air temperature is warm. Cloudy weather usually produces better dry fly fishing.
The week ahead should provide some great fishing opportunities on the Henry’s Fork. Even though it is snowing and blowing today, the 10 day weather forecast is for highs in the 60's to lower 50's later in the week. Showers are predicted towards the end of the week with cloudy weather. That’s the time I’d really like to be on the water.
The Baetis hatches are solid and will continue into early May. As the weather warms one of my favorite hatches of the season – the American Grannom or “Mothers Day Caddis” will get going. At the same time our Western March Brown (Rhithrogena morrisoni) also kicks into gear. The combination of these aquatic insects often produce some of the finest dry fly fishing of the entire year on the Henry’s Fork and other local waters.
The Upper Henry’s Fork
The Henry’s Fork above highway 20 at Mack’s Inn is a sleeper this time of year. During the fishing season this part of the river is stocked with "wind up rainbows". This is the second year it has been open year-round with catch-and-release regulations during the off-season. Many hardcore fly anglers write it off because it is a tourist magnet during the summer months for canoes, tubes, and a wide variety of other floating apparatuses. Yet this section of water is an important spawning waterway for large rainbows up from Island Park Reservoir. There are also some nice wild trout that move out of hiding in the spring. The big problem is access until the snow melts. There have been good hatches of midges and Baetis with plenty of action near the bridge at Mack’s Inn. If the fish aren’t rising try glo-bugs or zebra midge nymphs.
There is still too much snow to drive in to the boat launch below the dam at the Box Canyon. However, the snow is going fast and it won’t be long until the access is open. You can get to some good water if you have a snow machine, snow shoes, or skis. Use the normal Box Canyon flies including egg patterns, zebra midge nymphs, leeches, and sculpins. There have been good fish feeding in the flat water at Last Chance on Baetis and midges. Streamers can also score big if the fish aren’t up on the surface. The Harriman Park is closed until June 15th. The access to most of the water below the ranch is difficult unless you have a cabin at Pinehaven.
Warm River to Ashton
The boating accesses are open on this stretch. There is also plenty of good wading access. Use egg patterns, zebra midge nymphs, rubberlegs, leeches and streamers. There are also some good places to fish the Baetis hatches, especially the section from the highway 20 bridge to the county boat landing downstream.
The stretch from the Ashton Dam to the Vernon Bridge is closed until the general fishing season opens on May 26th. Fishing has been very productive from the Vernon Bridge to the Chester Dam. Look for Baetis hatches at mid-day. Be prepared with some size 16 Hemingway Caddis, Olive EZ Caddis, and olive caddis emergers. I’ve seen a few caddis near my home on the river and it won’t take many warm days to get this going. It might take longer to start seeing good numbers of caddisflies and March Browns with stream flows higher than normal. Sometimes the water gets pretty dirty below Chester from the effects of Fall River if the weather gets real warm. Otherwise, the fishing stays good down to Saint Anthony and below. Sometimes I like to focus on the water below Saint Anthony. The dry fly fishing isn’t as productive as the water upstream but there are some big browns that will chase streamers.
Not many anglers focus on the Buffalo, Warm River, and Fall River. Yet these smaller waters can be very productive this time of year. Most of the upper reaches of these streams are still snow bound but they should open up soon with warm weather and a slightly below normal snowpack. I fished Fall River before my shoulder surgery about a mile upstream from the highway 20 bridge and caught some very nice fish on zebra midge nymphs. Lower Warm River can be very productive with midges and Baetis. Remember, these streams were not open year round until last year with catch-and-release regulations during the off-season.
South Fork of the Snake
Fishing has been good on the South Fork but stream flows have been inconsistent as the BOR has started releases from Palisades Dam to make room for the spring runoff. For example, the flow at Irwin jumped from 5000 CFS up to 10,000 CFS today. Keep an eye on the stream flow page on our web site to make sure the flows have been consistent for a few days.
Most of the river within reasonable range of Henry’s Fork Anglers is closed to fishing until May 19th. The river is open to fishing between Hebgen and Quake Lake. It can get crowded but the fishing is usually very good. Use egg patterns, zebra midge nymphs, and rubberleg nymphs.
Yellowstone National Park
Fishing is closed until May 26, 2012.