Words by René Harrop. Photos by Bonnie Harrop.
It has been many years since the stream of visitors to the Henry’s Fork would generally be ended by Labor Day weekend. Today, rather than having the entire fall season to ourselves, we residents must accept that September will be nearly as busy as any month of the year, and if the weather is even remotely favorable there will be competition for the best water through much of October.
By November hollow eyed fly shop owners and staff are more than ready for relief from the daily details of getting dozens of urgent customers to the water, whether in the company of a guide or fishing on their own.
For weary river guides that may have upwards of 150 days on the water over a 6 month period, there will finally be time for personal fishing and getting reacquainted with wives, children and other neglected relationships that may not remember who they are.
With the potential for severe weather not withstanding November is a perfect month of recovery for those deprived of summer freedom by the nature of their profession.
With remnants of fall Baetis hatches bolstered by late season midge activity, dry fly fishing of the most satisfying kind can be enjoyed with minimal disturbance throughout the entire length of the river. With water made gentle by lower flows, the excitement of a 20 inch rainbow rising exclusively to size 20 or smaller insects can send the pulse of even the most seasoned professional to a precarious level.
Aided by those same water conditions, access to the more rugged stretches like Box Canyon and much of the lower river favors the wading angler who may be looking for something truly special. Pulling a big streamer in November may not yield great numbers but this method accounts for some of the largest rainbows and browns to be landed in the entire year.
Prior to early November, the more productive areas of Henry’s Lake can resemble a combat zone when cooler weather ignites this amazing still water fishery. Even wading the edges near the mouth of a tributary or underwater spring can produce an experience not possible until the crowds are gone.
Although November can feature clear skies and comfortable temperatures, there will always be days when winter conditions prevail. But raw weather unsuited for fishing can be ideal for activating waterfowl movement or providing tracking snow for those who hunt elk with a muzzle loading rifle.
Cutting firewood and other pre-winter chores that may have been neglected earlier in the fall are not considered unpleasant tasks for those who appreciate the lifestyle in this part of the world.
Not to be forgotten during the late autumn interlude are the tireless staff of fishing lodges like TroutHunter. Cooks, bartenders, servers and others in this end of the business deserve and enjoy the freedom of November as much as anyone.
This calming period of recharge will last only until the necessary ingredient for winter sports has arrived in earnest. Generally by mid-December the peace and quiet will be shattered by the roar of snowmobiles as the area fills with fun seekers of a different sort. Combined with cross country skiers, snowmobilers are the driving force behind the winter economy of Henry’s Fork country, and many in the fishing community will turn their talents toward this contrasting and temporary way of earning a living.
Throughout history, making a home in this remote and rugged country has never been an easy proposition. With only a few exceptions, providing services to visitors is the only way of remaining in an environment that many outsiders would consider distinctly hostile. It is this perception, however, that prevents an alteration of the characteristics that make this place so special.
The quiet season is mainly reserved for a relative handful of local individuals that see beyond financial wealth as a measure of prosperity choosing instead to just be happy.