worldcast anglers

A lack of integrity on the South Fork.

This is Part I of III. At the time of this writing Part II has not yet been written, but Part III has been, in case you dismissed it last week. (Editor’s Note: Since this article was first published, Part II has also been published)

This is not a jet.

We departed Seattle on a DeHavilland Bombardier. I only mention the type of plane because a UA reader by the name of “Wade” commented on a recent post, proclaiming surprise that we were not flying on a Horizon/Alaska jet from Sea-Tac to Boise. No, Wade—it was indeed a turbo prop as evidenced by the photo above. The pleasant, one-hour flight sure beat what would otherwise have been an 8-9 hour drive. Our limo picked us up at the airport and whisked us away on the next leg of our journey: A 6 hour drive to Victor, ID.

Air travel, limousines…livin’ large! Actually it wasn’t quite a limo that greeted us at the airport—it was one of Marck’s daughters who attends Boise State, and we commandeered her car for the rest of our trip. It was amazing that we got 4 guys and all their gear into the 1999 Nissan Maxima for the uneventful drive across Idaho. There’s not a lot between Boise and Victor worth mentioning anyway, except for Silver Creek—which we would visit on the last leg of our fishing journey (Part III). But I’m getting ahead of myself by mentioning Silver Creek. Or am I getting behind? It’s so confusing to write outside of chronological order…George Lucas did so with his Star Wars trilogy and it worked for him, so why not? Sorry, where were we?

The Ranger Limo…

Victor served as our base camp from which we would fish the South and Henry’s Forks of the Snake River over the next two days. Actually “base camp” may be a bit misleading because we were hardly camping. In fact, we stayed in the lavish accommodations at Teton Springs Lodge. Now, before you start judging us harshly for being high-brow traveling anglers, take note: Morris had won a couple nights’ free stay at the Lodge in a raffle a year before at the Casting 4 A Cure event held in the same location. So while we were poshly pampered, we did so for less than what we typically pay at the Ho Hum in West Yellowstone.  Anyway, we were here to fish—not marvel at our accommodations. A bed is merely a place to sleep. If there’s a shower, that’s a bonus but not necessarily a requirement.

I think this means “UA is Number Four!”

We met with our guides, Hope Strong and Zach Barrett, at the Worldcast Anglers shop at 8 am. It was determined that we’d be fishing section 4 (Byington to Lorenzo), so off we went. I presented Hope with an Unaccomplished Angler hat and the request that if he didn’t want to wear it, would he at least pose for a photo? Off came his other hat and on went the UA Trucker, where it remained all day long except for twice when it blew off in the w#nd. Hope retrieved it both times with an urgency that suggested he had developed a strong fondness for the hat. That, or he just wanted the protection from the sun.

The OJ Simpson guide mobile.

After a 45 minute drive in Hope’s road-weary early 90’s era Ford Bronco, we were on the water by 9 AM. Mostly clear skies and calm air welcomed us as we commenced our float. It wouldn’t rain, but the w#nd would become problematic during the afternoon. I’d fished two other sections of the South Fork two years prior so this wasn’t completely new water to me, and our angling antics were pretty much what I expected: nymphing a variety of droppers under a “turd” (Pat’s rubber legs). Sometimes a 3-nymph setup, AKA “tangles.” Other times we hopelessly fished streamers in water that begged for it but seemed devoid of fish. We hoped hoppers would rise a fish and yet they yielded nothing. Lest you should think that we got skunked, we did catch fish, though catching was far from red-hot. To make things more interesting we had an inter-boat contest going for the categories of first fish, biggest fish, smallest fish and most fish. Morris and Marck comprised Team Dishonesty; Jimmy and I represented Team Integrity (yes, Jimmy drew the short stick and was paired with the short angler).

Team Dishonesty.

It’s a given that Marck always catches the most fish, and while there is no way to know for sure how many he caught, it’s a safe assumption that he won that category. However, Jimmy was first on the board with a beautiful, heavily-spotted and respectable brown. There’s no refuting that because I was there to confirm it.

Jimmy’s first fish.

Morris probably won the biggest fish with his heavily spotted beauty of a rainbow, the proof being in the pudding (or, rather, the photo):

Morris and the big fish.

Throughout the day our boat had a handful of 16-18 inch browns. Had there been a category for doubles we’d have won that, too. Or at least Jimmy would have, as I offered very little when it came to categorized catching. I know with extreme certainty that Team Dishonesty did not have any doubles:

Jimmy’s double: brown on brown

My best trout was a monster brown until it was brought to the net to reveal its much smaller size. I’d been deceived: A belly-hooked fish will do that to an angler. I’d hoped for a photo but it was tossed back into the river before I could ready my camera. I’m pretty sure it would have still won biggest fish.

My Trophy Brown

Barring a photo as evidence of the would-be winning brown, my next best fish was a fine Snake River Whitefish. It should count for something—certainly largest native species, right?

Whitefish on the worm.

As indicated earlier, the contest results could never be accurately tallied due to dishonest accounting from the other boat. All that is known for certain is that both boats landed fish—not an overabundance, if there is such a thing, and certainly less than we’d hoped—but it was a fine day of angling under mostly sunny, warm skies. It threatened, but we managed to avoid thunderstorms which was particularly good fortune for Morris, who’d accidentally knowingly left his waders back home. And nobody enjoys waving a 9 foot graphite stick in the air when electricity abounds.

W#nd blows.

The one thing we could have done without was the w#nd, which blew. It always blows, but it really blows when it blows when you’re fly fishing. Nothing much you can do about that but angle on, which we did.  A still photo cannot  properly capture the drama of bending cottonwoods, billowing shirts, and fly lines blown off course, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. You can trust me: I was a member of Team Integrity, remember?

We got off the water at 6 and made our way back to Victor for some exceptional BBQ at Scratch. After a good soak in the hot tub (another nicety missing at the Ho Hum) we hit the hay at a respectable hour. We contemplated hitting the golf course ponds with some mouse patterns under the 3/4 moon, but decided we’d save our energy for the next day. After all, we’d need to bring our angling A games to the Henry’s Fork, so a good night’s rest was in order.

At least Team Integrity slept well that night. A clear conscience will allow for that.

Team Integrity.

Good Will Fishing, Day One

The honorable William Dewey (damn him anyway)

We pick up where we left off last week

As we bounced along the lengthy dirt road to our launch point we were mildly reminded of the festivities the night before, which is to say that I was glad we didn’t stay up any later than we did. Day One of the “friendly competition” had Team Olive fishing the canyon section known as #3: Cottonwood to Byington. And with guide Will Dewey of Worldcast Anglers responsible for the oars and for keeping an honest record of the fish we caught, we had our work cut out for us. To clarify, I do not mean to suggest that Will was incapable of doing his job, which was to navigate the river safely and put us on fish—he proved worthy of that. But he also proved to be a man of integrity, and we were incapable of buying a little “leeway” when sizing our fish and totaling the overall catch. Turns out he was is an Eagle Scout, as was am I, but he’s much younger and the oath we each took as Scouts remains a lot fresher in his mind than in mine.

We had about 12 river miles to cover on this first day, and though we were on the water by around 9 AM, we were not alone.  As one might imagine with 22 teams spread out over 4 sections of river, there would be company (albeit good company) and it would be difficult to fish untouched water.  I was glad to be stationed in the back of the boat where there’s no pressure to perform, whereas Marck occupied the cat bird seat up front where he would earn his keep (and redeem himself from the ass-kicking he took on the Bitterroot two days earlier). I started out the day with a hopper and a dropper while Marck worked the surface with two dries: something big and something small.

Marck scores one for Team Olive

Throughout the day we would hear lots of grasshoppers in the grass, but hopper patterns didn’t rise any fish. Most surface takes were on PMD patterns, and we saw a few of the creme-colored mayflies coming off at times throughout the day, but nothing that would amount to a hatch.  The South Fork has a very good number of both trout and Whitefish per mile, and when you’re nymphing you’re going to catch big trout and lots of Whitefish. Or at least the latter, in my experience.  In my defense, these were all fair hooked: in the mouth. And they were some of the biggest Whities I’ve ever caught…photo-worthy Whities, they were. We didn’t get a lot of photos of fish (trout or otherwise) on the first day, which might partially be due to the fact that we didn’t catch many photo-worthy trout (since when is a 16 inch trout not worth a photo?!). Will is obviously accustomed to much larger trout, and an auto focus cameras proved too slow to capture a photo before most were tossed back.

Hey, that was a "Yakima 18"—I wanted a photo!

Late in the afternoon we were working a small back eddy when Marck’s rod bent like the front bumper of the Fish Taco hitting a deer.  There were no ensuing head shakes or spunky little attempts to slip the hook. This fish just put its head down and stayed put. And then it tangled itself up on some sunken branches. And the broken end of Marck’s 5X tippet returned to the boat. It would have been nice to have gotten a look at whatever leviathan had just stolen more of Will’s flies. My bet was that it was a huge brown, although we’ll forever be left to wonder. Either upset by the loss of yet more flies or the fact that this fish might have won the tournament for Team Olive (and therefore secured a place in the Casting 4 A Cure Guide Hall of Fame for Will), our guide was clearly upset. He may have shed a tear, or he may in fact have had something in his eye, as he alleged.

Will has something in his eye, and a gesture for Marck.

We fished out the remainder of the day without any remarkable fish to note, although I’d like to reiterate that a 16 inch trout is gangbusters from where Team Olive hails.  And 16 inch trout are what we posted as our 4 biggest fish of the day: 3 cutts and one rainbow. We caught a total of 21 trout, which wasn’t too shabby considering we weren’t really there just to catch fish.

That evening back at the Teton Lodge we talked shop with the other anglers. Interestingly everyone seemed to gather near the scoreboard where we they casually glanced, pretending not to care, as totals for the day were entered into the columns. Neither Marck nor I hardly noticed as the results of Day One were totaled up and one of the teams posted unbelievable numbers: 57 total trout caught?! Riiiight, I’m just so sure, Team Sage/Rio 😉

 

Not every guide was an Eagle Scout, apparently.

We feasted on a an exceptional Mexican buffet for dinner, followed by a few more cold beers from The Cooler That Was Never Empty before turning in at the shamefully early hour of 10PM. Some of the heartier younger folks stayed up into the wee hours, but Team Olive needed to make sure we brought our A Game in the morning. There were bigger fish to catch than just 16 inch fingerlings.

 

Jump straight to Day Two by clicking here.