Henry's Fork

It only took forty years, but I finally did it.  I drove to Island Park, Idaho and, instead of just looking at the water, I wet my line in the storied Henry's Fork.  Known for tremendous insect hatches, it's regarded as some of the finest dry fly water in existence.  It's a spring creek, a very big one at that.   A hundred yards wide in many places.  Size wise, it's quite a change from the Paradise Valley spring creeks that I'm accustomed to fishing.

I started off by getting a day pass to access Harriman State Park (available at park headquarters). Then, wanting to fish the middle section of the ranch, I backtracked and parked at the appropriate access point along the highway. From there, a pleasant mile long morning walk along an old ranch road led me to the fabled waters. It was quite a sight.

A trico on the Henry's Fork, Idaho.

Bugs were starting to hatch when I walked up to the stream.  I can't say that it was a huge hatch though.  A few clouds of tricos, some blue-winged olives, a very few mahogany duns, and likely some other stuff that I missed. Unfortunately, the fish were missing in action. So, I broke out my latest toy, a one gallon sized paint strainer that slid handily over my landing net. I got the idea from the boys at Gink and Gasoline.  Other than a few BWO duns, all I got in the screen were some midge pupa.

I hung out for an hour or so before I finally noticed a rise. Then nothing.  Minutes later, another. Then nothing, again. Not exactly a feeding frenzy.

More time passed. Finally, a fish rose a few times.  Funny thing.  It wasn't stationary.  It was feeding while moving gradually upstream.  Then it stopped surfacing.  Frustrating.

I finally found a bank sipper. On hands and knees I crawled closer.  Then, crouched, I tried to make a sidewise presentation.  The fish just turned and swam off.  He came back about ten minutes later.  Again, same results.  As far as I can tell, it must have caught light glinting off of my fly line.  Holy crow.  Talk about tough fish.

I read recently that anglers don't come to the Henry's Fork to catch fish, they come to the Henry's Fork to find out if they're good enough to catch fish.  I couldn't even get my fly in the water.

I was beginning to relegate myself to the "not good enough" category.  Well, at least it was a pretty locale and I could take pictures, instead.

But, I continued to wait patiently for another fish to rise.  Eventually, one did, then another, nearer.  I cast.  The nearer fish took pity and ate the beetle.

So, I could say that I came to the Henry's Fork and found out that, at least, I was lucky enough to catch....a fish.  My net never got wet after that.  The fish quit rising altogether.

Henry's Fork rainbow trout.

So, I spent the afternoon exploring the ranch.  I drove to the parking area at ranch view.  I walked a few trails and checked out the historic buildings at the ranch headquarters where I stretched out in the shade of a big spruce on the lawn.  I then walked up to the "millionaire's pool."  Now, mid-afternoon, the wind had picked up and was blowing steadily upriver, rippling the surface.  If there was a hatch, any rising fish would have been tough to spot.  So, sufficiently barbecued by the bright sunshine, and with my eye's shot from squinting at the surface of the river through sunglasses, I called it good for the day.

I have to admit that it's a very scenic spot.  No wonder so many pictures have appeared in the various fishing magazines.

Bridge over Henry's Fork, Railroad Ranch, Idaho.

Upstream view of Henry's fork from Ranchview.

Next time I go back, I'll be eager to see if I'm good (lucky) enough to catch two fish!


  1. Les, You did better on the Fork than I did when I fished there in August (a tough time) some years back. Good going. Next time make sure you check out the interesting Big Springs where the big fish hang, and the box canyon, too. Thanks for your story and my trip down memory lane.

    1. Thanks Walt, I hope to give it another try in the next few weeks. If I do, I'll post a few pictures. The Big Spring is an interesting place. There's a historic cabin there that I want to check out. And then, Box Canyon beckons too.

      My understanding is that the Henry's Fork is a cruel mistress. Granted my experience is one day of fishing. But, the few fish that I saw were pretty cagey. They get pounded all summer long by a lot of accomplished anglers. I have a feeling that few of them "stack the fish like cordwood."

      Best regards!

  2. Lester
    Another beautiful area you were fishing, I'm wondering if you could have got a trout to take your dry at daylight or late evening? Enjoyed the post!

    1. Ah, the old hit 'em under the cover of darkness trick. Good idea Bill, glad you enjoyed the post. I was driving along the Madison at daybreak, early evening too for that matter. I hope to spend a night or two camping in the Henry's Fork area one of these years. Then, I'll be able to fish early and late, and nap in between.

  3. Hey Les:
    Enjoyed the post on the HFork. Great pics of a beautiful place and wonderful flat water. You caught a fish inspite of little activity...that's an accomplishment! One year I'm going to book off a chunk of time and just wander around Last Chance. I've only been on HFork for one day but enjoyed the whole place.Thanks for post on such a special place.
    robert garnier

  4. Bob, I think a guy could spend a whole lot of days, or, like some, a lifetime just wandering around the Henry's Fork country trying to figure it out. Thanks for stopping by.


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking time to comment.