Henry’s Fork

Idaho is one of those states we’d heard a lot about, but had never fished prior to going on our River Ramble adventure.  We’d heard the legendary stories about two of the most technical rivers on the list, the Henry’s Fork of the Snake and Silver Creek.  Our good friend Tim Smith had for years tried to get us to come fish with him on the South Fork of the Snake.  All three of these famous trout streams are of course, in the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s Top 100 Trout Streams book, so off we went to Idaho.

Our first stop took us over the high mountain pass between Montana and Idaho and into our campground in Picabo, ID.  Great little RV campsite but even better little store in town that served as the gas station, post office, store, great grill and a first rate fly shop to boot!  After setting up camp we drove to the Silver Creek Preserve to see where we’d be fishing the next day.  Scenery was gorgeous as sunset approached but as a bonus, we saw a bull moose munching on branches along the creek.

The next morning we met Carl Evenson, Silver Creek Outfitters, at the Silver Creek Preserve Visitors Center, got wadered up and headed down to fish Silver Creek.  Silver Creek is a meandering spring creek that is gin clear and you have to use your stealth powers to get near big fish;  they spook and run at the slightest sound or shadow on the water.  We saw some massive fish but were only able to land a few small browns and a beautiful rainbow during our day with Carl.  We did however stumble upon that bull moose again by accident.  We all jumped when we noticed him just lying on the bank about 20’ from a 2 foot brown trout lazily feeding near the same bank.   Overall, we got a “Silver Creek Schooling“.

It wasn’t only fishing that made our time on Silver Creek special.  We took a day to visit Craters of the Moon National Park.  It was spectacular and eerie at the same time.  If you’re ever passing through this area, this is a must see.  We also made a stop in the little town of Arco which has the distinction of being the first US city lit entirely by nuclear energy.   Dinner one evening in nearby Ketchum, a bustling ski town in winter and outdoor enthusiasts mecca in summer, took us to Sawtooth Brewery for some burgers and brews.

After fishing Silver Creek, we made it to the famed Henry’s Fork of the Snake River and Island Park, ID, which boasts the “longest main street” in America.  To try and paint a picture with words of what that means, imagine about 17 miles of road (US 26) running through tall evergreens and at every point along the road a feeder road comes in, leading to fishable water.  A few times when these feeder roads come in, you’ll find a gas station, and finally at one point a few gas stations and even more fly shops appear at the infamous Harriman Ranch section of the river.  One of the most famed of those fly shops is TroutHunter.

We had the pleasure of meeting up with TJ Powell, a guide for TroutHunter, and fishing the Henry’s Fork below the falls.  TJ put us on fish with great regularity and we had an awesome float.  Later, we joined our good friends, Sue Doss and Dud Lutton for dinner at the TroutHunter Lodge and then fished the river just below the dam with their dog, Solomon.  We had a blast and we can’t wait to go back again to fish with “Trouthunter TJ Powell“.

Finally, our trip took us to see Tim and fish the South Fork of the Snake.  Tim’s description of the fishery and his persistence in getting us to come fish it were spot on!  We’d driven the road that parallels the river many times before but had never gone down to the river.  When we put in with Tim and started downstream, this whole incredible vista was revealed…. beautiful bluffs, soaring eagles, runs and pools full of cutthroat trout and even this small little backwater area that was like walking into a room with air conditioning.  We had the most amazing day fishing with Tim on the “SF Snake” and will be coming back soon to fish it again.  If you’re in this area to fish, be sure to stop by the Lodge at Palisades Creek and say “hi”.

The three streams were all amazing and deserving of being in the TU Top 100 book.  However, we heard a lot of rumblings about the Teton River so we’re sure to follow up there as well on our next trip back to Idyllic Idaho.

For years, we’d heard from our son-in-law, Chris Drake, of the difficulty in fishing the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River near Island Park, ID.   How the fish all had Ph.D.’s and were easily spooked.  How perfect presentations and drifts were essential to catching fish.  Well, we saw these clear, flat waters outside the TroutHunter fly shop in Island Park, ID, but decided our best bet fishing was in sections where there was a little more current and structure that would lend itself to having better luck.

We’d also heard about the local charm of Island Park, ID.   According to wikipedia, “the city was incorporated by owners of the many lodges and resorts along U.S. Route 20 in 1947, primarily to circumvent Idaho’s liquor laws that prohibited the sale of liquor outside of city limits.  It is only 500 feet wide in most locations and, at 33 miles (53 km), claims to have the longest “Main Street” in the world.”  TroutHunter’s fly shop, lodge and restaurant/bar are one of the highlights along the route.  We were fortunate to have booked our guide from the shop and to have met friends for dinner at the restaurant/bar. More on that in another post!

We met our guide, TJ Powell, at the TroutHunter fly shop on a cold, crisp October morning and headed off for a section of the river nearer Aston, ID.  When we put in, we knew it was going to be a  great day because we immediately came upon fish.  They weren’t the giants that inhabited the Railyard section of the Henry’s Fork, but beautiful wild trout that fought like crazy.

We had a blast fishing with TJ and hope you enjoy his “Guide Talk” video about fishing on the Henry’s Fork.