A Long Fall

That November is generally a winter month on the Henry’s Fork is supported by the fact that our annual move from Island Park to St. Anthony will always take place before the arrival of the eleventh month. 

In 2016, however, November provided far more suitable days for fishing than October, if sunshine and warm temperatures are the measuring stick.

With only a handful of days as the exception, a light jacket would satisfy the comfort requirement from mid-morning through late afternoon on the lower Fork. While these conditions do not play favorably for Baetis and midge hatches, wishing for clouds and cooler temperatures can be difficult when one remembers that winter can arrive overnight and the river could be icebound on the following day. 

Fortunately, I am thoroughly entertained by the pursuit of big brown trout in the fall and throwing a streamer is not an unpleasant way to spend time on the water. 

I can say the same about pulling a string of nymphs on Henry’s Lake when ice over is delayed well beyond what is typically expected. 

The pleasure of both methods and locations is distinctly enhanced by the absence of wind and frozen guides. Of course, the action could be faster and the trout larger in less pleasant conditions, but that is not always most important. In fact, fishing can be just an afterthought when I am sitting on the water on a late November day with the sun on my face. It was that way on the last Saturday of the month, and snow began to fall on Sunday.


The bonus days of Blue Bird weather through most of November were certainly savored by we who remain on the Henry’s Fork year round. However, a better scenario would have been an early arrival of winter, when the well-being of the river is considered. 

December arrived in exactly the way it should with strong storms in the forecast and the hope for a winter that will deliver the relief that is needed by nearly all waters in the Rocky Mountain west. 

The passing of Brad Smith in November brought sadness to the entire Henry’s Fork community.

Fishermen who knew Brad will remember him as a consummate angler and fly tyer who knew and loved the Henry’s Fork as well and as much as anyone. 

Others may have known him as a civic minded leader in the town of Island Park or a talented writer and publisher. 

Everyone, however, knew Brad from the Grubstake, which he and his wife, Dione operated together for nearly four decades. A mom and pop operation in every sense of the description, this quaint market and deli has been a popular fixture in the community for as long as most locals can remember. 

Whether along the river or at the store, Brad will be missed by countless friends who will remember that, above all else, he was a really funny guy.

Rest in peace old friend