Dates: August 6-12th 2011
Destination: Trouthunter Lodge in Last Chance, Idaho
Purpose: To celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary and fish a part of the country that has been on Chris’ wish list
- Grandma Annette and Grandpa Joe came all the way from Pittsburgh to babysit the girls
- Our expectations were blown away on this trip. The guiding service, lodge and food were exceptional for being in a town that has a population of only 215.
- We witnessed some pretty extreme and frequent weather changes.
- Really got to experience small town living in the week we were there.
- Learned that the drink of choice at the bar was the Jagerbomb (Jagermeister & Red Bull).
- The fishing was amazing thanks to the beautiful waters of the Snake River and our very capable guides.
- Learned that Chris and I really liked each other :). It’s amazing what being away from life’s “noise” does to you!
- First time I’ve ever said that “I could live here” on vacation.
Day 1: Loaded up the VW and drove 800 miles east to Last Chance, Idaho. Stopped in Boise to have lunch at a burger joint called Hawkins (not that exciting). It took us 12 hours to get to our destination.
Day 2: Got up at 7am, had breakfast at the lodge (which was really good), by 8am we met our guide at the fly shop and planned where we were going to fish that day (this is pretty much what we did each morning). Today our guide was Travis Rydberg, really cool guy from Montana, has been guiding for 12 years, has some pretty crazy stories. This day we went to Hebgen Lake and there we each caught some big brown trout. These trout were crazy beautiful with large humps on it head similar to salmon. It was fun watching them porpoise across the lake sipping whatever insect was on the water. The technique used for fishing at Hebgen is similar to saltwater fishing. You pretty much spot your fish, predict which direction it is heading, cast a few feet in front of it and wait. Flies that worked: “Slater” & the “Callibaetis Cripple”. After the morning on Hebgen we headed to the Madison River to float down the “50 Mile Riffle”. I have to say that this float was quite uneventful. We arrived back to home base around 8pm and had a late dinner at the lodge restaurant.
Day 3: Today we meet our new guide Phil Sgamma, a transplant from Buffalo, NY, now living part time in Island Park, ID and Bozemen Mt. It was a sunny, beautiful morning to wet wade on the Madison River at the “3 Dollar Bridge”. Again, the Madison was uneventful. After two days of fishing the Madison we were quite anxious to hit the Henry’s Fork, for ’tis the reason we came out here. We headed to “Box Canyon” a beautiful stretch on the Henry’s Fork where we drifted down the river with Phil’s Clackacraft drift boat and fished the pocket water. This is where Chris hailed as the “Whitefish King”.
Day 4: Today is the day we go to Mesa Falls and fish “Cardiac Canyon”. When we get there Phil shows us where we are heading, and that is down, down, down to the river. I don’t know how high we were when we start our descent to the Falls, but it was steep. We fished some pocket water near the Falls, but the best part of the day was rafting down “Cardiac Canyon”. To get the raft down to the river, it has to be slid down the “Boat Slide” which is basically a carved out dirt path on the side of a canyon that leads straight into the river. Our awesome guide, Phil, got the raft down there with only a gash on the bottom of his raft to spare :). This part of the river was ours to fish, between two canyons, it was near heaven. BEST DAY EVER!
Day 5: Happy 10 year anniversary to us! We fished “The Ranch” today. A much more mellow stretch of water compared to the day before. But this is what anglers from all the world come to experience. Knee level water throughout where you hunt down your fish and an anglers smarts and skill are necessary. We put in at the lower Harriman Ranch at Osborne Bridge. The fishing was slow at first, a lot of inactivity, but in the afternoon we switched to a hopper & dropper cocktail and had some success landing a couple 17″-19″ rainbows. At one point we had a “double” (it’s when both partners simultaneously have a fish on), a sign that Chris and I are “fly-fishing soul mates” (wink, wink). We were saddened that this day marked our last day with our great guide, Phil, whom we nicknamed “the professor” because of his precision guiding and knowledge of the geology that surrounded us.
Day 6: At this point, I’m fried both physically and mentally for fishing. I’m not sure I can fish another day, but our new guide John Lewis and a float down the upper portion of the Ranch, proved me wrong. I was exhausted, but how can you not throw a fly out there while floating on the beautiful waters of the Henry’s Fork? How can??? Not??? We put in at Last Chance above the Trouthunter lodge and took out at Osborn Bridge. Fishing was very slow, we threw out the hopper & dropper again, no one was home. But the highlight of the day was being in the middle of an ant hatch. The fish were rising, but it sure was a challenge keeping your fly drift free and moving naturally. We rose a couple, but that was about it, still worth the experience though. After that episode, we kept moving on with our guide making sure we got to the fishing prime fishing holes first. See, we left the boat ramp with 2 other boats and were basically floating side by side. So it was first come first serve. The wind picked up and we finished early. This evening we went to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner at the Henry’s Fork Lodge. This place is known for its restaurant flying in fresh fish each day. The food was excellent, 5 star quality…who would have thought in the middle of nowhere? And who knew that the owner, Nelson Ishiyama, has one of the largest bamboo rod collection? We’ll be back for sure.
On our last night at the resort Chris and I had nothing better to do than to hang out at the bar and little did we know that we sat down right next to professional fly-tyer, author, painter, guide, and founder of the lodge, Rene Harrop. I nudged Chris into going back to our room to get our copy of his book signed. We chatted a little before he signed the book and when he found out that we were there for our 10 year anniversary, he signed the book to us in that way. Mr. Harrop did not disappoint, neither did the nightlife in Last Chance, ID. Into the night from the lodge bar we watched the locals trickle in…the fishing guides, then the fly-shop staff, restaurant chef and staff from the neighboring lodge Henry’s Fork Lodge, a bachelor’s party, Yellowstone park scientist. Our new friend and guide, Travis, was introducing us to all these people as they joined us at the bar. They all greeted us very warmly. There were a few rounds of Jagerbombs consumed. I wasn’t about to have one, but I did want to taste it, so one of the fishing guide’s wife, super sweet scientist at Yellowstone, let me have a sip of hers, twice! At that point I felt like one of them, like I lived in the town of population 215, and I LOVED it. Visitors were also at the bar and Chris and I talked to them like we owned the place (n0t sure if the confidence was from the warmth of people around us or the beverages)! Oh well! After hours of Jagerbombs, talking to the locals about bears, fish, the fruit cocktail/mystery meat chicken salad/brownie ball lunches, cheating girlfriends, competitive old fishing dudes, we’ve had our fill of this small town charm to last us until we return (which will be soon).
Day 7: Chris and I both felt bittersweet about leaving. We miss our girls like crazy, but we’ll miss the “chill” of being at the Henry’s Fork. We drove back home another 12 hours to arrive to a spotless home with sleeping children, grandparents to greet us and even a marionberry pie on the stove. What a great way to end a magical week!