June 6, 2018 Henry's Fork (around Ashton) Dry Fly Fishing Report: 78°/Overcast then sun/Mild breeze downriver

Posted by Nate at 8:00 PM on Wednesday, Jun 6th, 2018

Day 14

There are many challenges to a rising fish on the Henry’s Fork. The targets appear mostly in the center of the river around structure (boulders and high-growing moss beds). The currents are broken down into macros and micros each moving in a different direction and speed. A big fish will rise in place maybe a half dozen times then totally disappear. Many of the hatch flats are 200-plus yards long and my lethal range is only 90 feet. When you have the good fortune of being in range, the fish will only eat a perfectly drifted drag-free fly. The current is so quick that the fly must be exactly in his feeding trough. Add to that, the fish are always on the move side to side. It’s rare to hook a fish on the first cast and many hookups take 6-12 casts. Next problem: If the line goes directly over a big fish, he removes himself from the field. Add all of these factors together and here’s what it takes to succeed:

  • You must perform an exaggerated air-mended cast that lands the line in an L-shape. Then with a popping action of the rod you feed line down through the eyes. This will control drag through the drift.
  •  Land the fly well above the target so the fish has a maximum window to see the fly.
  • Set the hook in the opposite direction the fish eats it. If the fish eats straight upriver set right or left, never straight up.
  • All rising fish should be targeted below you because these fish are always hesitant when you cast up over them.
  •  If the fish is in the center current behind structure (a large boulder), you must wade out far enough to make a reach cast that lands the line on the same plane as the fish.
  •  Have the right fly. Even in the fastest current, these big fish recognize two things: A bad drift and the wrong fly. I’ve been lucky here—the predominant bug is a caddis and our Olive Brown Emperor Caddis #18 is the perfect mimic.
  • Don’t be discouraged and move off point if a fish doesn’t eat the fly on the first or second cast. I’ve casted to a single fish 20 times then hit the sweet spot and hook the fish.
  •  When a fish eats your fly at the end of an 80-foot drift, set the hook immediately. The initiation of the hookset will register at the hook in a time delay. If you’re late, the fish will have already spit the hook out.
  • Finally when you hook a fish below you in fast current, immediately turn and wade toward shore. You will not bring a fish back up to you on a Size 18 hook. Once you’re in shallower water, wade quickly downward to a point the fish is straight out. Drop the rod tip upstream and reel as much line in as possible. When the fish is above you, change the rod angle to straight up and force him to the surface. When at the surface, scoop him into the net.

Now if you get this all right, you’ll hook and land a lot of fish on the Henry’s. I rarely see a fisherman hook a fish in the middle of the river.

Morning Shift

I took the daylight show downriver today with a hike into Seeley’s. I arrive at my chosen hatch flat around 7 AM. There are some caddis on the water and an occasional rise across the flat. I move in under a short bluff line in the shade and hunt the field. The water out front matches the bluff line with a lot of huge sunken boulders. There are a lot of misdirected currents, boils, and swirls. On the inside edge of one of the boulders I mark a good fish. I walk to a point slightly above the fish and from memory, make a cast where I thought he fed. I get lucky and on the first cast, the fish sucks my Emperor Caddis off the surface. I set the hook and follow the fish downriver to a small eddy. We fight it out and I slide a gorgeous 19-inch brownie into the net.

I release the fish and walk the shoreline back up to my posting position. From this vantage point I can hunt both upriver and down. I’m looking downriver and boom! Two real big fish rise together only 25 feet away and down. This is a golden opportunity on close-range fish. I wade out in current a few feet and drop a reach cast in their trough. The fly floats perfectly over their strike zone with no response. I make multiple casts with the same result. Neither of these fish ever rose again and they never engaged the hook. I’m not sure what the hell I did wrong, but I spooked the fish. That hurt really bad.

I pick up a few smaller fish then wade the river and walk up to the head of the run. There’s a fast riffle that comes in there with a scattering of underwater boulders. I sit on the grass bank watching a riseless run. Just below me 10 feet off the shore is a boulder with its head above the surface. On the outside edge of the boulder I see the head of a nice fish break the surface. It’s another easy target. I move out in current with the fish 30 feet below me. I drop a short cast, adjust trajectory, and then watch the caddis float. Right at the strike zone a big head appears and false takes my fly. I wait a couple of minutes and recast the fly. The fish boils under the offering and totally quits playing. I’ve blown opportunity on three big fish and it’s not even 8 AM.

I snuggle back in the grass line and hunt. Fifteen minutes passes and I mark another nice fish about 20 feet below where I’d seen the last one. I move out and shoot a cast. The fly is on target and bingo! A big head appears but this time he ate the fly. After a long battle in heavy current, the fish finds the net. It’s an 18½-inch brownie, well-fed and golden.

I move back to hunt mode and the hatch flat shuts down with no rising fish anywhere on the field. It’s an overcast morning and I start to notice both flavs and PMDs on the water in small numbers. The fish respond with an occasional one-and-done rise. In the center of the run around a cluster of sunken rocks, several fish rise. They don’t repeat but I move down to casting range; I’m ready when they do. I hit target on a couple of fish that refuse my caddis so I flip flies to a Flav Searcher #16. It was the right fly but there’s a shortage of rises.

I slowly move downward with the big fish always out of range and not staying on the surface. In succession I land a 15-inch brownie, a 14-inch rainbow, and a 15-inch rainbow. I finish the morning without a clean shot at a big fish.

Flies that Caught Fish:

#18 Olive Brown Emperor Caddis

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