Rather than choices, it is shrinking daylight hours and weather that limit outdoor activity as another season comes to a close.
A sunset that travels noticeably south along Thurman Ridge lengthens the evening shadows over Harriman Ranch as autumn days end more than three hours earlier than the summer peak. It is well past 7: 00 A.M. before the glow of dawn begins to show in the east over Yellowstone and the most consistent feature of any day from late October forward is a frost at dawn.
There will be morning ice along the river’s edge on even the warmest day and it is generally at least noon before any hatching activity can be realistically expected on the Henry’s Fork. A sunny day with no wind and comfortable temperature will likely be reserved for fishing Henry’s Lake or one of the other notable still waters close by, but they become something of a rare commodity as the days tick by into November.
Snow is more likely than rain this time of year in the high country and if not too severe, some of the best dry fly fishing can be found on a snowy day. Like other remnants of a fading season, Baetis mayflies and midges will continue to bring trout to the surface until daily temperatures fail to exceed the freezing mark.
Residents who remain in Island Park will almost invariably put the most prohibitive weather days to use by gathering firewood or hunting waterfowl that are pushed into the area by advancing storms. Some will actually celebrate the arrival of tracking snow that can assist elk and deer hunters in laying in a winter’s supply of meat.
Most distinctive in this mountain community is a sense of quiet solitude as the landscape transitions into the longest season and, for a brief period, it is owned by those who live here.
By December, winter will be in full effect and Island Park seems almost instantly to become the exclusive domain of snowmobilers, and the quiet time comes to an end. Until then, nearly everyone found on the water or going about any other activity will be recognized as a local and though relatively few in number, they are special people.