One September morning I asked my wife if she would like to make a drive to Idaho and fish the Henry’s fork and the South Fork of the Snake River.
One September morning I asked my wife if she would like to make a drive to Idaho and fish the Henry's fork and the South Fork of the Snake River. To my surprise Sherill looked at me and said, "when are we leaving?" The next day , I called Matt Hyde of Hyde Drift Boats to see how he and his family were doing and to get a fishing report. I also wanted to ask if they could fix a nasty ding in my drift boat, which happened on the Madison River earlier in May of this year.
The green light was on for both questions. Within a few days, my wife Sherill and I were on I-80 west. We arrived in Idaho to find the weather spectacular. It was sunny with temperatures in the 75 to 85 degree range. All the rivers were low and clear and fishing very well. Sherill and I drifted The Henry's Fork and the south fork of the Snake River with great success. We netted many browns, rainbows, cutthroats and the hybrid cutbows. Along the south fork of The Snake River, we seen bull and cow moose with a bald eagle hear and there. One evening we were listening to the news and heard they were calling for foul weather in Yellowstone National Park.
The decision was made to go to the park and fish for Hebgen Lake run brown trout on the Madison. We went through the west Yellowstone Entrance and made a left onto the gravel road leading to the river so we could check Baker's Hole and Barns Pools. There were fishermen at the pools but most of them were standing on the banks of the river watching the pools. I talked to a few locals and they told me there were only a couple large browns caught. The big browns didn't start to enter the river yet because the weather was to warm and the water to low. So I set on a bench along the river and entered a conversation on fishing, when the weather changed dramatically. Dark clouds blew in over the mountains and it started to sleet and rain. This was my calling card because I knew what was going to happen from past experiences on the Madison. I jumped in my truck with my wife and headed to the main road and up the river. We drove a little past seven mile bridge and turned into the first pull-off. I grabbed my binoculars while getting out of my truck and started to glass the far grassy bank.
I seen no activity so I drove to the next pull off. The weather changed to all snow flurries. Immediately I started glassing the far bank. My eyes found baetis so thick along the bank with rainbow trout gluttonizing themselves, it was time to go fishing. While I was putting on my gear, I was also looking at the water to plan a path to the far bank and the proper approach to catch these trout. By the time I reached, the far bank, the snow turned back to a light drizzle and the baetis hatch got stronger. With the current of the river and the light breeze the baetis were being forced along the bank. The rainbows just kept feeding and feeding. Picking the right approach before casting paid off. I caught seven trout from this pod before the trout went off of their feeding. I went back across the river, I got into my truck and drove to the next pull off. The weather changed again to snow and sleet. When getting out of my truck, at this pull off, I didn't need my binoculars because I could see and hear the trout feeding on baetis. The approach taken to cast for these trout was a little more difficult because there were so many trout feeding, they were from the bank to the center of the river.
I walked maybe a hundred yards along the bank down stream to cross the river. While crossing the river, I studied the hydraulics of the river and the rises of the trout. My theory was the larger trout were closer to the bank and the smaller trout to the center of the river. Please do not take this to be written in granite. I was going by the rises of the trout and the current of the river. The snow and sleet kept coming down, with the Madison blanketed with Baetis. Being in position for the first cast and some of the most classic dry fly fishing found in the world, it began. Catching one rainbow and then another and another. These trout are truly wild and very strong and with the currents of the Madison the rainbows strength is magnified twenty five times. The rainbow will leap from the water and make torpedo like runs. With the bottom of the Madison being of rock, gravel and weed beds you are dancing to keep up with these trout. Looking for the next trout to cast to I saw one that just illuminated with colors. Saying to myself this trout must be caught. I made three cast before I got his timing right.
On the fourth cast he was hooked and netted but gave a strong and spectacular fight. His colors were so brilliant I had to get a photo. Yelling to my wife on the other side of the river to get the camera, I started to wade across holding my net and the trout in the water. While wading to my wife I'm looking into the water so I don't step in a hole and being overwhelmed by the number of Baetis on the surface of the water. Looking ahead I notice some strong rippled current water but it was wadeable. Then I notice several trout rising in the ripples. One trout stands out because his rises are very subdued and the others very splashy. A feeling comes over me that this trout is a large old boy. So I decided to try to catch him. Now, I have one trout in my net that I am holding in the water so my wife can take a picture when I get to shore. I put my rod under my left arm to strip line from the reel for false casting to dry the fly. Realizing then, just how am I going to do this with the trout rising wright in front of me. I decided to bend backwards as far as possible while still holding the trout in the water. I would make my false cast strait up and down river.
On the last stroke up river I added a half circle in my rod tip and flipped the fly strait out in front of me with the fly landing perfectly in his feeding lane. I watched the fly floating up and down on the ripply water. The fly entered the trouts window of view and he made a very subdued rise. I slowly lifted my rod with the line becoming tight and the hook was set. This slow old boy turned into a rocket, with his strength and the current of the Madison my backing was going through the tip of my rod. I was truly dancing towards shore so Sherill could take a picture of the trout in my net. My wife accomplished taking the picture and I left the trout go unharmed. Now, for the one on my rod who had many feet of backing off the reel it ended up to be quite a dance. The trout in my net was a little over sixteen inches with brilliant colors. The one on my rod was so close to nineteen inches I just called it the nineteen inch trout that made me dance. After netting this trout the cloud cover broke and the sun came out. The Madison River turned into a meek and quiet piece of water. For those hours of fishing, I netted twentyfour rainbows and lost count of the ones I missed. I only used two flies that day both were BWO impressions. The next day inclement weather came back to the moutains of Yellowstone Park. That day was better than this one. The good Lord gave America some of the most fertile rivers in the world. We must respect them and take care of them.
Keep our rivers clean and cold and
Michael W. Snody
Custom Fly Tier