March 24, 2018

Fishing Heating Up In Island Park

lunkerFirst it was crowds in the thousands for Labor Day, then the power company called for increased stream flows in the Henry’s Fork, all of which led to pretty weak fishing in the river for the last month or two. But temperatures have cooled off, the crowds have gone home, the stream flows are about back to what you’d expect for this time of year and the fishing is really getting good.

And it’s not just the river that’s hot right now. It seems like the fish in the Henry’s Lake are sensing that there’s about to be several feet of ice form, and they’re eating everything you throw at them. That’s especially true for the brookies over by the hatchery, but it’s still good over on the south side by the cliffs as well. Actually, Henry’s is hot no matter where you fish.

Island Park Reservoir is also good right now. Down by Trudes (and the rest of the West end, for that matter) have been really good for both trolling and bait. There have been some lunkers coming out of Island Park Reservoir in the last few weeks so don’t put that boat away just yet.

If you like fishing, this is the time to fish Island Park. No crowds, no overcrowded boat ramps and parking lots, no fly fishermen elbow to elbow in the river. This is the time. So get your gear back out and get up here. Winter’s on the way — no question about that. We’re having snow almost every day. But there’s still plenty of time to catch some late season fish. See you out there!

Fishing Slows Down

fly-oneThe fishing has slowed down quite a bit over the last few days. (Actually the fishing is as good as it ever was, but the catching hasn’t been that hot.) With daytime highs near 80 degrees for a couple of weeks now, and with thousands of people fishing over the holiday weekend, things aren’t what they were a few weeks ago.

But never fear. The best fishing (and catching) of the year doesn’t even start for three to four weeks yet. October and November are the great months for the Henry’s Fork. That’s true in the lakes too, as temps drop and the fish start feeding in earnest again. So whatever you do, don’t put that fly rod away yet. The best fishing of the year is coming up.

See you on the river!

Don't Let The "Elitists" Scare You Off

wormI was in the store the other day where a loud and boisterous conversation was going on. These were fishermen. True blue, through and through fishermen, extolling the virtues of the only true method of catching fish — fly fishing. It seems that anyone who might deign to use “worms” (this guy said “worm” like a nine year old little girl who’s been asked to eat one) is somehow inferior to the fishing elite.

“We don’t even use the “W” word,” one guy said. “We just call it garden hackle.” I figured any true elitist who’d gone to the trouble to give worms such a fly-fishing-sounding name must have kept a few on hand for the days (and there are many of them, aren’t there? Admit it!) where the fish don’t seem interested in artificial bugs.

Well, here’s the deal. If you want to fish in Island Park with worms, there’s a place for you too. We don’t discriminate in here (well, some of us don’t.) You won’t need expert advice on what the hatch is, where the fish are biting, etc., etc., etc. The fish are biting everywhere on worms — all day, every day. You don’t have to go to one of the big outfitters either to get just the right bug. You can get worms at any gas station.

And lest the fly fishers among you take exception to this post, remember that worms are the original “organic” way to fish. Nothing artificial. No preservatives. No nylon. No brightly colored string. Just pure, unadulterated fruit of the earth. It doesn’t get any more natural or any purer than that. Worms have been the bait of choice (along with grasshoppers, beetles, etc.) for thousands of years.

And there’s a reason: it works.

Friday Fishing Report

madison-riverWell, the fishing has been great and the fishing has been poor, depending on where you were fishing. Box Canyon is still hot, with the water levels low, it’s better to wade than float, but the fishing is very good there.

Down in Harriman things have cooled off until we get the next hatch. I talked to two guys this week who fished Harriman for six hours without catching anything. At the same time, there was another guy fishing the box who caught 35 fish in the same amount of time.

So it’s a little spotty.


Fall River is low, low low. If you love to fish Fall River, now’s the time. They’re doing well on the upper stretches from Cave Falls down to Squirrel. Lower stretches are spotty right now.

The lakes have been good. Fishermen are catching bigger fish right now than they have been, although the numbers are still low. From what I can tell, those who know how to fish the reservoirs are doing well. Those who don’t are finding out what doesn’t work.

Farther afield, the Madison has been hot from up in the canyon to a little below the mouth of the canyon. Water levels have dropped there as well, although not quite as dramatically.

So bring your rod and reel and get up here. Summer will soon be over and you’ll wonder why you didn’t fish more?

I Think I Like Ketchin'

brookieI was taking a therapeutic float down the river the other day when I came upon a fisherman. In the time it took to float by, we had a conversation that set me to thinking.

“How’s the fishing?” I asked as I approached.

“Great,” he replied simply.

“How many do you have today?” I asked.

“None,” he said. “Ain’t had a bite all day.”

“If you haven’t gotten a bite all day, how can the fishing be great?” I pressed, obviously confused.

“You asked about fishin’, not ketchin’,” he said with a characteristic curtness. “Fishin’s great. The ketchin’ ain’t worth a sh**.”

As I floated away, I thought, you know, I’m not really into fishing. I’m more into catching. The other thing that crossed my mind was that you don’t ever get the right answer if you don’t ask the right question. You think you have the right answer, but you may well not, if the question was wrong.

So for me, the new question is going to be, “How’s the catching?” Because frankly, I’m not in it for the fishing.

Too Much Water For Good Fishing?

south-forkI never knew it was possible to have too much water for fishing. After all, fish live in water. What’s the problem? It seems that the real problem is when water rushes down the river like it did down the South Fork of the Snake River from Palisades to Idaho Falls, it can change the underwater topography forever.

The South Fork is a premier trout stream. It has long been considered, along with the Henry’s (or North) Fork to be the best trout water in the country. People come from all around the world to fish here. But many who have traditionally fished the South Fork are changing to the North Fork this year because of the extremely high water coming out of Palisades. It will be interesting to see what happens to the South Fork fishery as water levels recede and things sort themselves out.

Fishing continues to be extremely hot in Island Park for now. Box canyon has been very good, as has coffee pot, Harriman, and from the confluence of Warm River down to the Ashton Dam. Water is WAY down from what it was even two weeks ago. Fall River is also good, especially the upper parts of the river. Water levels are down and it is flowing crystal clear.

Even the area around Macks Inn is good. Not only are the fisherman bringing out stringers of fish, I took my dog swimming on a deserted stretch of river below Macks Inn yesterday and we could see fish everywhere. Mosquitoes are largely gone it’s much more pleasant to be outside. If you’ve been waiting for things to get good before you come, wait no more!

The Blind Leading The Blind?

trouthunterIf you come to Island Park for the first time and you act as your own fishing guide, that’s who you are and what you’re doing — the blind leading the blind. There is spectacular fishing to be had in Island Park. Some of the best blue ribbon trout waters in the country flow right through the middle of Island Park. But that doesn’t mean every stretch is blue ribbon — or even that every stretch that is normally good is good this week.


If you’re going to learn the waters here, the fastest way to do so is with a guide. I’ve heard people say, “Oh, it’s so expensive.” My question to them is, how expensive is it if you come here from timbuktu and never catch a decent fish? On the other hand, what is it worth to you to know that you’ll have a great time on the short vacation time you have? You spent thousands of dollars to come and stay here, doesn’t it make sense to do everything you can to ensure you have a great time while you’re here? You don’t need a guide every day you’re here, by any means, but you do need someone to show you the ropes the first time or two if you’re really going to maximize your time in Island Park.

While there are a lot of great guides on the lakes and rivers of Island Park, when I need to make a recommendation to someone I care about I have them call our friends at Trouthunter ( They are honest, knowledgeable, friendly and they know the river. Fishing is who they are. They don’t take it casually and they don’t settle for anything but your success and enjoyment. If you want to learn the river from the best, give trout hunters a call at 208-558-9900. They’ll get you off on the right foot to your vacation in Island Park.

Fishing Good, In Spite Of The Rain

brook-troutRain has continued in Island Park at a rate residents cannot believe. In fact, there has been talk around Macks Inn of beginning construction on an ark. We’ll keep you updated on that. But even with unprecedented rain, fishing is good.

Water flows in the Henry’s Fork have stabilized and there is no water coming over the spillway at the dam. Even with the rain, the water is really quite clear and there are dry fly hatches in process. We just finished a salmon fly hatch and a Dunn hatch is in progress. Fishing in Harriman has been fast and furious with PMD’s for the last week or so, and the hatch is moving up the river. This week should see PMD’s doing well in Box Canyon. The Madison, up in nearby Montana is also very hot right now.

The lakes have been spotty. While the rivers are running clear, the rain is affecting the clarity on the lakes. There have been stories of some great fish coming out of both Henry’s and Island Park, but it seems to be hit or miss. I saw photos of a four pound brookie that was taken on Henry’s last week. It is a spectacular specimen that was taken near the hatchery (while everyone else was over on the south side under the cliffs.)

If you like fishing with dry flies, don’t wait. Fishing is great and the rain is expected to clear for the rest of this week (after like 18 straight days of rain.) A little time on the river should chase away all that ails you. We look forward to seeing you out on the river!

Fishing Opener Good In Some Areas, Great In Others

flyfish-riverFishing was absolutely fabulous for some and just okay for others. Henry’s has been very hot since the opener, but Island Park reservoir has been a little slower (not super slow, just not as good as Henry’s.) There has been a ton of water coming down the Henry’s Fork, with water cascading over the spillway at Island Park Reservoir, but there has still been some good fishing. There is a salmon fly hatch coming up the river from the valley, and things are hot where the hatch is occurring. As of this past weekend it was hot from Sheep Falls up to about Hatchery Ford.

For more information on current fishing conditions, contact our friends at Trout Hunter in Last Chance by clicking on

Good product and long expiration date; arrived quickly. . Any trustworthy pharmacy will insist on a prescription from a health care provider who has seen you in person.

Bamboo Fly Rods

bamboo-fly-rodPurists will tell you there’s nothing like a bamboo fly rod.  The action, the feel, the finesse a bamboo rod provides are unmatched by anything synthetic.  So why don’t more people use them?

There are several reasons.  First, they’re expensive.  You will pay $500 to $2,000 (or more) for a new, hand-made bamboo fly rod.  Used ones will fetch even more (although some used ones in poor condition can be had for less.)

They require more care.  You have to treat this tool like the thoroughbred it is.  You can’t just toss it in the back of the truck and go bouncing off down the road.  As a natural material, bamboo is subject to changes in humidity and temperature.   So you must give a bamboo rod a little extra TLC.

Finally, they’re harder to come by.  Because of the expense and care bamboo fly rods require, they aren’t available just anywhere.  You can’t go to Wal-Mart and find on on the shelf.  You have to go to a reputable shop and buy from someone who knows.  Like buying any fine piece of equipment, it’s best to find a salesman who uses bamboo and knows how to sell it.  Getting the right rod is much more important with bamboo than with synthetics.

If you’re the kind of fisherman who believes that fishing is something much more than just a way to “waste” a couple of hours, you owe it to yourself to try a bamboo rod.  Just be sure, before you do, that you have some money saved up.  Because once you try bamboo, whatever you’re using now is going to seem pretty inferior.

Ensuring A Future For Henry's Lake Fishing

fishing-006One important function of wildlife biologists is to ensure that there are sufficient game and fish in our state.  Idaho wildlife biologists and dedicated volunteers spent the day today doing just that at the Henry’s Lake Fish Hatchery.

Volunteers gathered with wildlife biologists early this morning to catch spawning cutthroat trout and milk the females of their precious eggs.  The males were then milked to fertilize those eggs and the roe was placed in the hatchery to set up.

Biologists said the vast majority of the fingerlings would be returned to Henry’s Lake to grow into game for fishermen.  Were it not for this heroic effort each year, Henry’s Lake would have long since been barren of fish.  That’s because left to reproduce on their own in a wild setting, the mortality rate on hatchlings would never provide sufficient quantities of fish for the future.

Our thanks to local wildlife biologists for the photo, and for doing this great work for all of us.  And an especially big thank you from those of us who fish in Henry’s Lake and those of us who make our livings here in Island Park.

Stream Flow Resource

flyfish-floatWe spent some time this morning with the good folks down at Trout Hunter in Last Chance talking about all things fishing.  These guys are into it!  If you’re looking for current information on what’s happening on the Henry’s Fork or the Madison, these guys are the guys to talk to.  They’ve already started guiding fishermen and are looking forward to a busy season.  If you’ve been thinking of a guided float trip, better schedule now, as dates are filling fast.

One of the things manager Rich Paini showed us was the stream flow section on their website (yes it takes a few seconds to load, just be patient!)  This not only shows what the current flow rates are on Henry’s Fork and the Madison, they show historical data as well.  If you’re one of those people who has to check the stream flows every day (and I suspect you are) then you have to go to and check out the stream flow info.  To save you the trouble, you can go direct to the stream flow info by clicking here.

In Spring A Young Man's Heart Turns To . . .

fliesWith temperatures well above freezing for the last couple of weeks, the locals are starting to think spring may not be far off.  And you know what they say:  when springtime comes, a young man’s heart turns to . . . well, fishing of course.  The locals have been fishing Montana’s Madison River all winter, and things have really heated up lately.

In this part of the world we fly fish.  We don’t use worms, or salmon eggs, or cheese, or peanut butter.  This is purist country.  We use flies.  And most of those are lovingly hand-crafted, hand-tied masterpieces from the bench of the fisherman.  Flies are tied all winter and casted all summer.  We use feathers from Teal wings, from ducks harvested here in Island Park.  We use the guard hairs from deer and elk (also harvested locally.)  We are very nearly a self-sustaining economy when it comes to our fishing and hunting.  We recycle, reuse, and redistribute our resources, the fruits of one pursuit feeding the needs of another.

They say if you haven’t fly fished the Henry’s Fork, you haven’t fly fished.  These are blue ribbon trout waters, and there are none better in the world.  Fishing (open year round on selected waters in Montana) will open here in Idaho around Memorial Day.  So you’ve still got a couple of months to prepare.  My advice to you:  get tying.  You know you can’t afford $2 a piece for store-bought flies that may not be as good as what you can do yourself.  And summer will be here before you know it.