Earlier this Fall I made plans with my buddy Joe and his friend Nick to go to Idaho and bang up the carp of Blackfoot Reservoir. Good weather is needed to fly fish for carp and naturally, our annual equinox storm made a direct hit on our schedule.
Highs of 40° with rain and snow often bring out blanket Blue Wing Olive hatches, so I adjusted our plans to the Ranch on the Henry’s Fork. Tough fish are what Henry’s Fork is all about, so we prepared ourselves for a character-building day.
The fellas got a room and I slept in the back of the Explorer the night before. We entered the Ranch at 9 AM, cold and dreary. We killed four hours walking all the way to the islands and back, we each cast to a pair of nice fish. I stung and lost both of mine and Joe lost one of his. This all happened before 1 PM then the Ranch went dead.
At noon ice cold rain began to fall. Despite all my warm clothes under my rain gear this was the kind of day where the cold made its way into your core. At 2:20 PM all three of us were shivering and we made our way out of the Ranch. Once to the cars I insisted we take a peek off the platform at Last Chance – just in case there was something happening.
There was something happening alright. The rain was turning to snow but the blanket Blue Wing hatch I was hoping for started. The Henry’s Fork came alive. Within thirty minutes there were big fish to try for. I hooked and landed the first one I cast to. He was a decent 18” rainbow but he slipped from my cold hands before we could take a photo. My motor skills were leaving me fast as the temperature dropped.
We spotted two fish in micro-drag central, both sipping Blue Wings. They were beautiful to watch. My drift went drag free for only about a foot even by casting directly over their heads from a mere 15 feet downstream of them. I was persistent dropping my tiny Thorax Blue Wing over them repetitively.
At least 20 minutes went by with my continuous casting without fooling either rainbow. I didn’t change flies because I was certain I couldn’t with cold fingers and bad light. There were millions of bugs and the fish were letting plenty of naturals go past, so I knew it was timing. Finally, the fish sipped my fly and I went tight!
This particular fish was old and tired. While he made one quick but short run, that was about it. He rolled over and came to my hands. He was a warrior. He was long - 19” or more - but skinny and ugly. He’d been around. One side had an old osprey talon hole and his mouth had signs of being hooked with barbed flies. I never lifted the fish from the water. He required tender loving care for sure.
That last fish was all I could take. My hands were numb and I was sick of shivering. My buddy had given up on his difficult to catch fish and we all packed it up. It was perfect timing at nearly 6 PM.