October 1-4, 2022
Photos by Joe unless otherwise noted
Stillwater trout fly fishing can produce some of the largest trophy trout anywhere! Though fly presentations can vary substantially from the tiniest of chironomids to large, floppy, traveling sedges, my personal preference is “rope” size leader stripping a streamer! I’ll settle for one exceptional size trout for the day over double numbers of modest size trout. Two feet or longer is the size class I am after, anything less is a “dink”. Henrys Lake in eastern Idaho is no exception.
This year I was privileged to receive an invite with a group of five other Washington fly anglers to the famous, Henrys Lake. It is my first time to visit and fly fish this beautiful place arranged during the first week of October. The yellow-orange colored aspen decorated the lake and the “pop” of shotguns sounded off to waterfowl harvest that expressed fall has started.
The 12-hour drive the day before doesn’t seem to affect us as we leave at dawn for the lake. We arrive to the lake only to find it very turbid, apparent from the fall turnover phenomena. The group leader remarks he’s never seen the lake this way in previous years. Paul further remarks it was not the norm as clear water was expected. Previously, he explained to me the joys of clear conditions that afford the nearshore weed beds giving up spectacular fishing in the open pockets with opportunities to sight fish. However, we were at the challenge of fly fishing a cloudy lake! I was stunned by the large groves of weed beds too!
I have to admit, I’m generally not a large group kind of angler, but the group coordinator’s efforts of bringing it all together was excellent and the company was nothing short of a blast! With three boats, anglers rotate boats each day to become acquainted bringing a new chapter to fly fishing experiences. Of course if your boat was into fish, you let the other boats know about it, and if you caught the most, half the fun was keeping score of the catch rate just to rub it in a little bit (aahhh, the virtue of cell phones). Cocktail hour and dinner recall the moments of the day; more ribbing, with smiles and laughter. After comparing notes, some tackle changes are made to hopefully up the catch for the next day. I’m reminded of good sports with a sense of humor who generously help each other with sharing patterns, fly lines, etc., to make a trip like this a wonderful memory!
On this trip, the fly fishing was blind fishing at best with the use of sonar to find open pockets. Yes, it was that turbid! The fish were spread out and some quite a distance, sometimes hundreds of yards from shore! I was very surprised how shallow the lake is as we typically fished in 9-12 feet of water quite a ways from the shoreline.
However, according to my cohorts, who fished Henrys before, the catching was nothing like previous years with numbers of +20 fish per day. On this trip, with two anglers per boat, 6 to 8 trout was a good day. Throw in gorgeous, chuncky cutts and hybrids and it took some of the sting away. All in all, you either found the fish, or went bite-less. Lots of casting and moving was the norm. When the fish were located, it was game on with the beautiful Yellowstone cutthroat trout or the “hybrids” (Yellowstone cutthroat cross with a rainbow trout).
Also in the mixed catch were the occasional, nice size brook trout. We also caught decent numbers of cutthroats and hybrid trout over 20 inches! The lake is well known to produce large hybrids into double digit, pounds! On the day we last fished or very close thereof, a local female angler landed a new catch and release record hybrid that taped out at 36 inches long! Estimated weight was 17-20 pounds! Dang! It’s always my luck a giant trout like this is caught right when I am also fishing the same lake! None the less, a fish of this magnitude clearly illustrates the potential the lake has for rearing trophy trout! I’LL BE BAUK.
Pattern wise, there was not a single fly that consistently produced the most strikes. Between the six of us using a gamut of offerings, the only hint of a favorable fly was a bugger tied black n purple or black n blue. I was told the hot color last year was claret, but not this year. I even put some time in with an olive scud (as advised to me) and only managed 3 trout but one of the biggest came on that fly. Other flies caught fish too; midges, balanced leeches, boobie, Pyramid popcorn beetle (in black and purple) and one late evening we did very well with #10 white buggers! Heck, I even tried a 5 inch streamer and managed one small cutthroat. This time, catching is more of a matter in keeping your fly in the water than anything else! We also fish various types of sinking lines or a floater but a type III sinking line seemed the best fit using a fairly fast, short strip retrieve to provoke a strike because it sure didn’t seem they were all that hungry!
Tight lines in your fly fishing pursuits,
Fly Fishing Outlet: Drift Fly Shop, Island Park, Idaho, (208) 558-0152