A Gift in Disguise

Even hardened residents of Island Park will admit to a much colder fall season than is common in the high country.

With physical comfort as the main casualty, snow, cold, and wind became persistent features of weather that only occasional gave way to sunshine and pleasant temperatures from late September through the month of October.

Known always for their resourcefulness, local river guides showed uncommon determination in overcoming obstacles not characteristically encountered during the first month or so of official fall. Most impressive was a willingness and ability to get it done on days that can begin with the thermometer showing -10 degrees and even lower.

A good illustration of professional determination occurred on a day in early October when the boat launch at Henry’s Lake was frozen solid. While boring a hole and fishing through the ice might have been a more practical solution, a cooperating team of guides chose a different route of solving the problem. With oars as their only tools, a half dozen stalwart men chipped through a sixty-foot stretch of ice to reach open water beyond the end of the docks. The hour’s work before a line was ever cast was accepted as a cost of doing business when the alternative was a day of lost guide wages.

While numerous other examples of heroic effort and sacrifice can be cited, it must be noted that the effects of less than ideal conditions were not all negative.

Though often concentrated into only a few hours each day, hatches of fall Baetis mayflies seemed to thrive in weather that kept most anglers indoors. Even on days of heavy snowfall or temperatures that failed to reach the freezing point, those willing to brave the elements were frequently treated to some of the best dry fly fishing of the year. This applies particularly to the fly only water of Harriman Ranch where summer hatches were not nearly as strong.

Granted, there were bright, pleasant October days when a light jacket covered any need for additional warmth and the glory of fall on the Henry’s Fork was on full display. However, these were also times when the hatches were a bit sparse and the availability of rising trout was proportionately reduced. It is with this point in mind that we are reminded that weather disruptive to human comfort can be a gift in disguise to a fly fisher when productive time on the water is what matters most.