Brightness in a Dark Year

It has been widely noted that pandemic restricted urban dwellers targeted the outdoors for relief in 2020. Here on the Henry’s Fork, we were on the receiving end of a sizable invasion of pressured people searching for some semblance of freedom and well-being.

Though limited to citizens of the United States, the volume of new faces on the Henry’s Fork came as a surprise for local outfitters like TroutHunter, which was all but deserted until late May when state borders reopened and non-residents were allowed to purchase a fishing license. From that point through much of September the river stayed as active as most can remember, and the business community thrived.

For locals, the year began on a very positive note with another winter of life preserving flows from Island Park Reservoir and a sturdy population of trout.

With temperatures milder than usual, highly satisfying midge fishing began in late February on the lower Henry’s Fork then progressed upstream to the Last Chance area by mid-March. We could not know that life as usual would end as tight restrictions related to the corona virus were abruptly put into effect at that time.

For those more dependent upon freedom for travel and social interaction this was, and continues to be a very trying time. However, it was the river and its generosity that served to preserve a stabilizing level of security through that time of uncertainty.

For members of the Henry’s Fork community, a sense of both physical and mental safety was derived from the ability to lose one’s self in shielding activities that provided insulation from many of the perils relating to the virus. This was a separating factor for those given a constancy of refuge and those for whom access to the sanctuary of open space was only temporary. Most notable of those deprived of the nurturing energy of Yellowstone country were international visitors who typically comprise a sizable portion of traffic into that region.

While negatives will survive in memories of 2020, they are far outweighed by the positives of a year when fishing on the Henry’s Fork provided welcome distraction from the joy suppressing events of a troubled time.

With reliable hatches and mostly favorable conditions of water and weather, the river was a source of brightness in a dark year for all with the good fortune of wading its healing flow.

Looking forward into a new year, there is justifiable reason for optimism as news of a Covid-19 vaccine brings hope for deliverance from the fear and confinement of the sinister virus. Contributing to a positive outlook are the factors most relevant to the continued health of the Henry’s Fork and its aquatic community.

With snow piling into the high country, a reservoir at eighty percent of capacity, and winter flows again forecast to be favorable to trout survival, the prospect for 2021 gives the appearance of great possibility for the return of a widespread ability for a fly fisher from any nation to become lost in the soothing magic of this incomparable gift to mankind.