Monday, April 19, 2010

Fly Fishing The South Fork

Tyler, Corey and I went on a fly fishing trip this last Saturday to the south fork Snake River, below Palisades Dam. We started fishing at 9 am and got back to the Explorer at 9:30 pm. It was a LONG day, but fun.

Corey just started fly fishing this last year. He got a rod, reel, etc., for his birthday this last February. I wanted to get him out to fish with it and christen the rod properly, with lots of action. He used it a month ago and hooked a few nice trout, but never did land them. So I hoped the fabled south fork would be just the ticket.

The south fork can be an amazing river to fish. I have stood in one place for over an hour, landing white fish on every cast. I could literally see over a hundred fish feeding in the riffle at my feet. I've had other amazing days on the river catching trout by the arm loads, and I have friends that have experienced days that put mine to shame. I wanted my kids to experience that kind of success with their fly rods, and so we planned the trip.

The day was beautiful, sunny and then overcast, calm, then a light wind that built to a gusty breeze, some snow fell, then a little rain. The river was low and clear, perfect water conditions for fly fishing. You just couldn't ask for a more beautiful spring day to fish. It's just too bad the fish didn't realize it was supposed to be a magical day! We did okay, catching quite a few fish, but it wasn't a numbers day, it WAS a white fish day, to say the least. We found some trout, but everyone we talked to (drifting by in boats) had a slow day as well. Lots of white fish, but the trout weren't to be found!

Corey hooked quite a few fish nymphing with his new rod, but never did land one. It is an eagle claw, $20 Wal-mart rod. Not your best equipment for sure. I figured it would be a good starter rod, but it's action is slow and the rod is fairly unforgiving for a young angler; it actually fished pretty good for me. I traded rods with him in the afternoon and he immediately cast better and hooked two fish, landing both. One was a cutthroat trout of around 14-15 inches, the other a nice white fish. The higher end rods are much more forgiving for young fly fisherman that don't have a great casting stroke yet.

Corey's 1st Nymphed Trout

Around 7 pm we started back for the car, hoping to hit the better holes on the way back and maybe pick up a few more fish. I cut across the dry beds of the river checking out the side channels that will be full in a few weeks when they start to release water for irrigation in the Idaho potato fields. I was just wanting to see what was in them, and I found a small gold mine; spawning fish.

We worked them for an hour, hooking 3 or so and then putting them "down". The red they made was over 8 feet long and a few of the fish were quite respectable. It was a blast watching my kids sneak in on them, cast a small glo-bug into the mass of bodies and hook up!

We never did land one, and when the action died we followed the channel out to the main fork, finding other pods of fish. Tyler worked an egg expertly, especially for a 13 year old kid, with a hand twist retrieve, while I watched from the cut bank above, calling out fish locations to him and his brother. Tyler hooked two bruisers that pulled free after a short fight. The commotion spooked the small pod of fish pretty good, so we moved on down the channel where I found a large pod of trout and white fish. They were hanging out in deeper part of the channel, 100 yards from the main flow of the Snake. The kids pestered them until almost dark with out hooking up. I finally joined the circus, hooking 4 fish in around 15 minutes, from that pod. They took the egg so gently, you really had to be on your toes and watch the line to "see" the take.

Corey landed the first fish for me, a 15 inch cutthroat. Then Tyler did battle with a 20 inch brown that I hooked. It took him a few minutes to land it; lots of big runs and some good head shaking. I hooked two more cutts (one might have been a hybrid cutbow) that Corey landed. We got home at around 11 pm and pigged out on hamburgers with lots of jalapenos and fried onions, and then potato and pasta salads on the side. We went straight to bed after our midnight snack! It was a great day!

This is Corey's attempt at the spawners.

After losing his fly, Corey watched while Tyler gave it a go. No one landed one, but it was fun to watch them sneak in, cast, blunder, cast again, hook-up, lose the fish and then look at me like I was supposed to fix things!