Fall Hunting on Henry’s

There is something bordering on sinister when a half dozen top Henry’s fork guides are joined by still water master Gareth Jones from Wales and one of Japan’s most aggressive and effective anglers, Masa Katsumata for a four day assault on a single body of water. But this was the picture in late October on one of the world’s most renowned still water fisheries.

Located near the Continental Divide in eastern Idaho, Henry’s lake is the headwater for the equally famous Henry’s Fork of the Snake. Though at times fickle, Henry’s Lake is known for its heavy population of especially large cutthroat, brook trout, and cutt bow hybrids. Hungry for some personal fishing and weary of squinting at tiny Baetis and Midges, the staff members of TroutHunter were also anticipating the opportunity to learn from one of Europe’s most accomplished authorities on still water trout. A Henry’s Fork regular despite its distance from his homeland, Masa was even more pumped up than usual for his first shot at the lake known as Henry. While Masa and Gareth had shared numerous days on various waters around the world, this would be Masa’s first opportunity to watch Gareth apply his specialized still water strategies.

There are times when the lake gets hot and everyone seems to be catching fish. This is how things began on the first day on Henry’s when the weather was reasonably comfortable and the trout unusually charitable. Whether fishing from a boat in open water or wading the edges, fishing was fast and furious with no one from the group landing fewer than twenty fish ranging from eighteen to twenty four inches in size.

Limited by a stiff breeze on the second day, boat fishing gave way to wading the shallows along sheltered stretches of the shoreline. Despite this limitation, the catch rate was at least equal to the previous day or even higher. Double hookups were common and Masa stayed busy running from angler to angler with his camera. Leeches, Scuds, and big Chironomids fished on slow intermediate lines were the fly order of the day, and no single pattern seemed outstanding. Though outdistanced to some extent by our Welsh friend, we locals were beginning to think we might be something close to Gareth’s equal, at least on this particular lake. That would change abruptly, however, on the third day.

With more than one hangover following the season end party at TroutHunter Bar and Grill the night before, the group arrived at the lake to find twenty feet of ice rimming the edge. While essentially calm, the temperature was at least twenty degrees colder than during the first two days. As if iced guides and numb fingers were not complication enough, the fish seemed to have developed lock jaw overnight. And it was then that Gareth’s still water skills truly began to shine.

While no one went fishless, takes became few and far between for the locals who continued to apply the same techniques that had produced so well during the carnage of the previous two days. However, pride eventually gave way to practicality as Gareth demonstrated clear superiority in dealing with the radical change in weather and trout behavior. Generous to a fault, Gareth shared his personally tied flies and helpful tips that allowed everyone to improve upon their initial results. By days end, we had accumulated a respectable tally, especially when you consider that we saw no one outside our group land a single fish that day.

Temperatures improved on the final day but a pesky wind again kept us
mostly confined to wading the shoreline. Unfortunately, however, the fish failed to return to the voracious feeding activity that made the first two days so exciting. With a new set of problems to face due to an unfavorable wind direction and discolored water we again turned to Gareth for solutions. Fly adjustment and depth changes soon had us back into business although the catch rate continued to be comparatively low. On the bright side, however, the day produced two big hybrids of more than five pounds and a real giant was lost early that morning before wind forced the boats from open water. The average size improved as well with only a few fish smaller than twenty inches taken.

The vagaries of autumn weather in the high country were manifested by a fierce blizzard overnight but fortunately the roads were clear by noon the following day when Gareth and Masa were scheduled to depart for home. Though their respective flights exceeded 5,000 miles, I’m sure they both carried smiles along with fond memories of a very special lake for the entire distance.