The colors of fish and Fall
Half of the Firehole Rangers made a quick trip to one of our favorite Idaho panhandle rivers recently. We’ve always fished this river in July, which is considered prime time, but never before this year have we fished it in late September. We were eager to see what this favorite place is like in the Fall, and expectations were cautiously high. The weather didn’t look favorable a week before the trip, but the forecast improved gradually as the departure day approached. Still, the weather cannot be trusted in the mountains that divide Montana and Idaho—we’ve learned that much. The past two years, we’ve had trip-ending rain that blew out camp, and the river. In July. We were hoping that would not be the case this time. Almost without fail, the catching is exceptional in July (until the rain puts the fish down). We knew the river would be lower in the Fall, but we hoped the fish would still be willing.
Here’s a nutshell recount for those who don’t have the attention span to read my typically rather lengthy Drivel®:
- As we pulled into the campground a young cow moose jumped off the road and ran into the woods.
- It rained during the night on Friday.
- In the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning we heard an elk bugling as it walked down the road next to camp. Then, it bugled as it walked back the other direction. One does not hear elk bugling in July. Ah, Fall.
- It did not rain the rest of the weekend.
- Saturday it was a cool day in the mid to upper 50’s. The fishing was slow. Fish were tight to the bank. I caught 2 fish all day. Jimmy caught 3, or 4. Morris did considerably better.
- The fish were all tight to the bank, and were mostly 16-18″ and very healthy. Only a couple fish were 12 inches. My net came in handy.
- We saw what must have been the same cow moose we’d seen near camp the day before. She was a couple miles upstream. We would not see her again.
- We had the river entirely to ourselves until just before we reached our terminus point, where we ran into two other anglermen.
- Late in the day I sat down on a particular flat rock at the “Bull Trout Hole“. When I sat down, apparently I knocked my net—attached to my pack via magnetic connection—loose. I did not realize this until we were on the trail back to camp that evening. Damnit. Unless another anglerman picked up the net, it would be there tomorrow, and we saw only one other anglerman in that vicinity—chances are he would not see the net. I rationalized that it should be there the next day.
- Morris prepared our supper that night: spaghetti with sausage meatballs.
- As we sat around the fire on Saturday night there were a gazillion stars overhead.
- It got cold Saturday night. I expected frost to be on the ground Sunday morning.
- Late during the night Jimmy heard what sounded like a herd of elk stampeding up the river—in the river. More bugling ensued.
- On Sunday morning there was no frost on the ground. Despite remaining clear all night, it had warmed up.
- Idaho takes pride in its outdoor recreational facilities. The “outhouse” at our campground is very clean and attended by employees that take pride in their work.
- On Sunday morning we each took advantage of the outhouse. 3 times each. Must’ve been the meatballs.
- The weather warmed up on Sunday, into the 70’s. At one point it was almost warm enough to complain about being too warm. We did not complain.
- The bugs were popping in the warm weather and fish were feeding in the seams and moving to flies. October caddis, black ants, mahoganies…most fish weren’t too finicky. Some were very picky.
- I caught 4-5 fish on Sunday. Jimmy caught a fish or two more than that. Morris caught considerably more although it was all on his word because he moved downstream ahead of us around midday and we never saw him again until we returned to camp that evening. All the fish, save for a couple, were large and vibrantly colored, like the foliage lining the river.
- When I got to The Bull Trout Hole, my net was not there. But a uniquely marked rock cairn indicated that Morris had discovered my net and picked it up. At least I hoped that’s what the cairn indicated.
- We had the entire river to ourselves on Sunday.
- A gazillion stars shone that night as we sat around the last fire of the season.
- On Sunday morning we broke camp and drove home, wishing we had at least one more day to fish.
- 2 days driving: 881 miles
- 2 days fishing: 15 miles hiking/fishing
- A great trip to end the trout season
And now some photos:
Next up, a trip to a vastly different Idaho river to not catch steelhead.