In a place where the four seasons are probably as distinct as anywhere on the planet, October in Island Park was amazing.
In the fly fishing business it is the last month of full operation, but I do not remember a more abrupt ending than in 2016. Perhaps it was because we enjoyed some of the best fishing of the year on the Henry’s Fork that I was not quite ready to leave the mountain or because I still had hunting tags left to fill. Another explanation could be the good times experienced with friends from both near and far away that created more than a little foot dragging as moving day drew near.
The precipitation that arrived with October and dominated the weather from start to finish was in stark contrast with the previous five months of unusually hot, dry, and windy conditions.
On days without rain or snow, it seemed that each morning would arrive with a hard frost that draped a heavy mist over the Henry’s Fork that might not burn away until mid-morning. And though most sunny days were quite pleasant, I do not recall a time when a jacket was not in order for any outdoor activity.
As is common in the fall, Henry’s Lake becomes a distraction as the big cuttys, brookies, and cut-bows go on the prowl. Most points of convenient access become gathering spots for largely recognizable fishermen that cannot resist a chance for some of the largest trout of the year. But it is also a social occasion that brings friends together for a few final days before many will scatter for the winter.
More than half the days of October could be described as near perfect for the hardy little mayflies that seem to thrive in cool, damp weather, although some were excessive on both counts. But heavy rain and occasional snow could not dampen the spirits of those who actually hope for this kind of weather.
If there is such a thing as too many flies on the water it was seen in October on the Henry’s Fork. Blanket hatches of Baetis in sizes 18 through 24 have never been more prominent than in the month just past, and there were plenty of dry fly hungry devotees of the Henry’s Fork on hand to satisfy their lust.
It was an international affair on many days with foreign visitors being nearly equal in number to the locals. In the last two weeks of October alone I shared the company of friends from Japan, Sweden, Norway, and France.
While excellent fishing was understandably dominant in the minds of most that were fortunate enough to be here, something even stronger lay beneath the pleasure of the moment.
Pressured by draught conditions through much of the year, the Henry’s Fork is in drastic need of what October has delivered. Precipitation mostly in the form of rain may exceed three hundred percent of normal, and the snow pack is beginning to build on the higher peaks.
Like other great rivers in the Rocky Mountain west, the Henry’s Fork is in need of healing that can only begin with abundant snowfall through the coming winter. The generous precipitation of October is a good start and a hopeful indication of a shifting toward a more favorable weather pattern moving forward.