July 28, 2012 SF Snake River Dry Fly Fishing Report

Posted by Nate at 1:22 PM on Saturday, Jul 28th, 2012

We didn’t get home from Hebgen Lake the previous day until 1AM. We launched the boat on the South Fork about 9 AM, still a bit groggy from the day before. I would admit when Steve and I fish together, we do it hard and nonstop.

I worked the edges of the river with a combination of big and small bugs and had no takers. We pulled in on a riffle and wade fished for a few hours. Steve caught one nice rainbow on a dropper and I caught a couple smaller fish on an Adams Caddis. As we were getting ready to go, I decided to take a few casts to big, fast water and see what was happening way out in the river. The river was running a bunch of water—something around 14,000cfs. You would not have thought fish would be working in the super-fast water. On my second cast a very large fish came out of nowhere and ate my caddis. I hooked him and he plunged deep into the heavy current and began head shaking. On about the third powerful head shake, he kicked my fly and became the third large fish I’d lost in a row going back to the day before, but that fish gave us the key to success the rest of the day. The big fish were patrolling a zone way out in hard current.

Steve had seen a salmonfly while we were fishing the riffle and I’d seen a couple of golden stones, so I tied on a Salmon Fly #4 before we launched the boat again. On the first cast below the boat I hook another pretty nice fish on the Salmon Fly and promptly lost him just outside of netting range. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to land a fish again. It was an encouraging sign on the Salmon Fly, but that was the last fish we hooked as we fished the edges for the next couple of miles.

We pulled in on a side channel and wade fished, but the water was a bit fast and I didn’t have any feeding fish to target. Steve worked a riffle that dumped into a slow-moving slough. There was a pod of fish feeding in the swirling water coming into the run. He landed one nice fish and couldn’t quite reach the rest of them that were working further down the swirl. We floated over them and had a few targets, but the water was so boily, that the fish were hard to serve to.

We moved on to another big, fast-moving riffle in the late afternoon called the Meat Hole. When I say riffle, I really mean a small rapid. I remembered the big riffle where I had fished earlier in the day and immediately I started casting to deep, hard-moving water. I’d tied on a PMD Searcher because there was a moderate PMD hatch that came off during the day. I had no sooner started when a large fish rose about 20 feet straight out from me. I moved upriver to get the perfect angle and served the bug. On the second cast he roared up and ate the Searcher. After a feisty battle, a beautiful 17-inch heavy rainbow was in the net. Then Steve catches two medium-sized cutties and the big riffle really started popping with big fish banging caddis at the surface.

I changed flies to an Green Adams Caddis #14 and set up in front of a large submerged boulder in the center of the river. A giant fish rose 10 feet beside the boulder and I hit him with the caddis. Nothing. I cast again, nothing. In really fast water you might have to cast to one fish numerous times until he sees it. On about the tenth cast the fish exploded on the caddis. I put the hook in him. He launched into the air and tore out to deep water around the submerged boulder then straight downstream and jumped again. He was in my backing and absolutely gone as I was chasing far behind.  At one point I looked at my backing and there was only a tiny bit of line left. I picked up the pace as the fish roared on. Luckily he stopped before leaving the riffle and I got my backing in to the point I had a small amount of dry fly line on the reel. Then the fish lunged down over the riffle into a new hole and I was in my backing again. The new hole had calmer current and I finally landed the fish in the grass along the soft edge. In 50 years of dry fly fishing, that’s the closest I’ve ever come to a fish spooling me. There he was laying on his side with my caddis pinned to the side of his mouth. It was an absolute hog fish about 22 inches long, thick and heavy. Across his side was over six inches and the fish probably weighed 5 lbs. or more. I revived him a long time and watched him slowly swim away. Wow!

I finally made it back to Steve and I no sooner arrive when he hooks a monster brown trout that I eventually helped him land because neither of us had a net; they were back in the boat. It was another giant fish with some serious girth and weight. We had a few more opportunities on the riffle to hook fish, but neither Steve nor I could get them to the bank. At 8 p.m. we had to reluctantly leave the riffle, but wow was that fun fishing.

I tied on a Black Gold Stimulator Size 10 and we began floating again. We had to push hard to make it to the take out before dark, but I immediately went maniac on fish. The fish were everywhere. If I casted to the bank, I hooked a fish. If I casted in fast riffle, I hooked a fish. If I casted to a back eddy, I hooked a fish and we were continuously seeing giant sprays of water where the fish were banging caddis. There were all species in the net--brownies, rainbows, and cutties. It didn’t end until I hooked the last fish about 50 yards above the take out. We couldn’t even figure out how many fish got hooked on that final hour run until dark. It was a wild finish to another awesome day on the South Fork Snake River.

Flies that Caught Fish:

#10/#8 Black Gold
#14 Peacock Adams Caddis
#14 Black Get Her Done Caddis
#10 Tan Stimulator
#4 Salmonfly

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