Fish of the Month: Year Three

Photo of Rainbow Trout.

Each of the last two years at this time, I have reported on the resurrection of “fish of the month,” a tradition that Henry’s Fork Anglers guide Tom Grimes and I started many years ago. The goal is to catch at least one wild trout every month of the year, on a fly, in our local Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming waters. My longest fish-of-the-month streak lasted 55 months, from July 2004 through January 2009. On December 4, I added month 36 to the current streak.

Statistics

  • Catch: 79 Rainbow Trout, 37 Brown Trout, 10 Mountain Whitefish, 4 cutthroat-rainbow hybrids, 3 Cutthroat Trout, and 1 sucker (fair-hooked on a weighted  rubberlegs)
  • Hours fished: 58
  • Catch rate: 2.31 fish/hr
  • Smallest fish: 4-inch Rainbow Trout on a Hemingway Caddis, April 22
  • Largest fish: 23-inch Brown Trout on a Parachute Adams, July 5
  • Additional time on the river: 14 hours of rowing the boat so others could enjoy our local fishing, plus 47 hours of research and restoration field work
  • Time spent on the Henry’s Fork and tributaries this year for work and fishing combined: 99 hours
  • Number of hours spent in water- and fisheries-management meetings, helping to ensure that we all continue to have the opportunity to catch a fish every month in the upper Snake River basin: 103
  • Fishing-to-meeting ratio: 0.56

2017 Brought Optimal Water Conditions

The general challenge in catching a fish every month, of course, is hoping that the fish and the weather cooperate on days when I actually have time to go fishing. Because 2017 turned out to be above average in precipitation and streamflow (see my blog post reviewing water-year 2017), many winter days were cloudy and wet, which generally means warmer temperatures and good fishing. Spring weather was often cloudy, providing excellent conditions for mayfly hatches, and fall was optimal—cooler than average in late September and early October, followed by many weeks of warmer-than-average weather. This had the effect of creating an autumn fishing season—with nearly constant temperatures in the 40s and 50s—that lasted from September 15 until December 4. In fact, temperature on November 26 was warmer than the average temperature during the last two weeks of September!  The only challenging conditions occurred between mid-July and mid-September, when the weather was even hotter than it was in 2016. Fortunately, the effects of above-average snowpack last winter kept optimal flows in all river reaches throughout the summer. All in all, fishing was consistently good all year, which made fish-of-the-month much easier in 2017 than it was in 2016.

40th Year on the Henry’s Fork

I first fished the Henry’s Fork on July 26, 1977, at age 14. Upon recommendation of Bob Kelly, who guided for Mike Lawson at the time, our annual family camping vacation brought us to the Henry’s Fork. We camped at Buffalo Campground and fished various reaches of the Henry’s Fork and its tributaries for a week. My dad and I fished the evening of July 26 at Osborne Bridge, which was the first of many evenings over the next decade that I spent looking south at the Teton Range bathed in evening light. So, on July 26, 2017, I celebrated that anniversary by walking upstream from Osborne Bridge to the Third Channel. The weather forecast for that day called for cloudy conditions with showers, so I opted for a mid-afternoon outing, hoping for a thunderstorm that would bring an afternoon hatch. Unfortunately, the showers didn’t materialize that day—at least not where I was—and I ended up doing quite a bit of walking without spotting any rising fish. In the early evening I tried some of the favorite spots of my youth in Box Canyon, again with no fish to show for the effort. Because I was determined to catch at least one fish on that anniversary, I fished the last hour of daylight at one of my most reliable spots on Fall River—just 5 minutes from my house—and caught a few rainbows and whitefish.

Rather than wax philosophical in this blog, I’ll just provide you with the 40-year retrospective speech I gave at HFF’s annual member receptions in Salt Lake City and Boise last spring. Click here for the Salt Lake City version of that speech.

With that, I’ll leave you with some photos from my 2017 fish-of-the-month campaign.

Photo of Henry's Fork-Warm River confluence in snow.

January afternoon at confluence of Henry's Fork and Warm River.

Photo of Rainbow Trout.

Nice Rainbow Trout from Henry's Fork near Stone Bridge, January 22.

Photo of Brown Trout.

Brown Trout from Henry's Fork near Stone Bridge, February 4.

Photo of Henry's Fork near St. Anthony.

Henry's Fork near St. Anthony, March 4.

Photo of Brown Trout

Brown Trout from Henry's Fork downstream of St. Anthony, March 4.

Photo of Rainbow Trout.

Fat Rainbow Trout caught during the first big caddis hatch of the season, Henry's Fork near Ashton, April 23.

Photo of thunderstorm over river.

Thunderstorm over Henry's Fork near Parker, June 26.

Photo of Rob with Brown Trout.

Brandon got this photo of me with a Brown Trout taken on a #14 Adams on the lower Henry's Fork, June 26.

Photo of river in Harriman State Park.

Third Channel in Harriman State Park, July 26.

Photo of Rainbow Trout.

Rainbow Trout from Fall River, fat on 'hoppers, September 24.

Photo of river.

Water-year 2017 ended exactly as at began, with rain showers. Henry's Fork near St. Anthony, September 30.

Photo of hybrid trout.

Cutthroat-Rainbow hybrid trout from Fall River, November 26.

Photo of drift boat in snow.

Season ends.