Legends of the Henry's Fork

Bing Lempke (1917 - 1991)

A memorial on the banks of the Henry’s Fork pays tribute to Bing Lempke. Bing’s first fly-fishing trip was in 1929 with some flies gifted to him from a gentleman in his hometown of Idaho Falls. Lempke caught 26 fish that day and was hooked on fly fishing.

His profession was pipefitter, but his avocation was as an artist of extended body flies and a fly fisherman of the first order. His masterpiece was the extended body Green Drake with vivid yellow thread segments and a peacock-hurl egg sack. He often said that the Green Drake hatch cost him three good jobs as he couldn’t elude the whispering call of the Henry’s Fork every June.

He was chosen as the Federation of Fly Fishers' 1988 Buszek award winner for his contributions to the sport of fly-fishing and fly tying. Today an award in his honor is given out to the Western Rocky Mountain Federation of Fly Fishers youth that best exhibits outstanding skills and sharing of that skill with others. He was a life-long companion of Rene Harrop, whose artistic work graces Bing’s memorial at the Last Chance parking site. He will be forever remembered and appreciated and even more so when the mayflies of spring lift off.

Ernest Schwiebert (1930 - 2005)

If there was only one article in all of angling literature that could be credited with sparking the fame and mystic of the Henry’s Fork, it would be Ernie Schwiebert’s Sports Afield article of 1975: The Best Dry Fly River in America—The Henry's Fork.

Ernie was one of the great outdoor writers and illustrators of the twentieth century. His first published work on fly fishing, Matching the Hatch, was done at the age of 24. He was a founding member of Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers. He was a world-class, gifted architect who aided in the engineering designs of projects throughout the world. The side benefit of his travel, was the opportunity to fish great rivers and streams from Bavaria to Argentina.

Whether it was his articles in Fly Fisherman magazine or his literary two volume masterpiece Trout, the Henry’s Fork was always a centerpiece. His theme was straightforward. If you wanted to catch big, smart trout then there was one river on which you had to prove yourself—the Henry’s Fork of the Snake in Idaho.

Charles Brooks (1921 - 1986)

Charles E. Brooks started fly fishing and tying flies at the age of nine. He retired in 1964 as a Major in the Air Force Reserve and moved to West Yellowstone, Montana where he fly fished extensively throughout the greater Yellowstone region, and in particular, the Henry's Fork. In doing so, his regional expertise led to original flies, research, and fishing articles that remain classics. He authored six books including: Larger Trout for the Western Fly Fisherman (1970), The Trout and the Stream (1974), Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout (1976), The Living River (1979), and Fishing Yellowstone Waters (1984).

Andre Puyans (1935 - 2005)

Andy started his fly fishing life in the East, tying flies at the age of nine and eventually under the watchful eye of fly tying legends Darbees, Dettes, Art Flick and Ray Bergman. Andy eventually made his way to California to run the Abercrombie and Fitch office in San Francisco in 1958. He was also a founder and president of California's Trout Unlimited chapter and a TU national director.

Andy’s original fly patterns include the famous A.P. Nymph series and the loop-wing dry fly designs. In 1977, he was the recipient of the Federation of Fly Fishers' Buz Buszek Memorial Fly Tying Award—the highest honor bestowed by the Federation for talent and sharing of that talent.

Andy made his final home in Idaho, next to his most beloved waters on the banks of the famed Henry’s Fork. He ran a fly fishing school based just north of Pond’s Lodge from which he shared his passion of fly tying, fly casting and stalking the world-renowned trout of the Yellowstone region. Andy taught thousands of students over his lifetime who are forever better fisherman and people having known Andre Puyans. 

Gary LaFontaine (1946 - 2002)

A gifted writer, fly tier, fisherman, and conservationist, Gary was raised in Connecticut where he caught his first fish on a fly at age eight. At the age of 15 he published his first fly fishing article. He attended school at the University of Montana, then returned to Connecticut for a short period. In 1973 he returned to Montana where he was a psychologist working with the children of prisoners in the Montana State Prison system, and later as a fishing guide.

He received national acclaim with his breakthrough work Caddisflies. Many of his primary findings were based on intensive observations completed on the Henry’s Fork. This book gave anglers the most comprehensive look ever undertaken to understand this prolific group of insects that dominate the diet of trout on the Henry’s Fork. However, Gary also provided radical insights and never-before-used techniques for fishing and tying the caddis fly with his antron-based caddis series.

Gary also collaborated with other noted anglers like Mike Lawson, producing a steady stream of magazine articles, pocket guides, audiotape guides to Henry’s Fork and neighboring rivers, and videos on fly tying and fly fishing about, or involving, the Henry’s Fork. Gary was named Angler of the Year by Fly Rod & Reel magazine in 1996.

Read more about Gary LaFontaine in A Letter from Mike Lawson.