Peninsula Fly Fishers

Box Canyon's Gift

by J. C. Poulton

J.C. in drift boat holding brown trout on the Henry's Fork with houses on the bank.

Lightning flashed across the sky behind the dam back behind us, dark clouds gathered there, too. It looked ominous and threatened our day in the Box Canyon section of the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, but the storm never materialized; the day proved to be fantastic. Fish rose for our dry flies. The trout, mostly browns, but also a smattering of rainbows, cooperated in every way. They were not huge; they ran in the sixteen to twenty-two inch range; they were plump and feisty. When hooked, they ran downstream; sometimes upstream in the middle of the current; it seemed to give them more energy. There were times when I could see my line at a right angle to where the fish was. It reminded me of Mexico.

The Box Canyon section on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River in southeastern Idaho is a tailwater fishery. Its water is piped from the bottom of Island Park Reservoir at a cool 45°–50°undefinednot a good place for wet wading. Down near the town of Island Park, I have seen a few fishermen wading wet. The river drops over a thousand feet in less than four miles; you definitely need a guide for that secton of the river. Our guide for the day was Bob Brooks, an expert on the Box Canyon. (He lives in Mammoth during the winter months.) Bob spent more time out of the boat than in, holding the boat against the current so we were able to cast to more fish, in ripples and long seams. We enjoyed some wonderful moments in God's holiest of places.

Indicators were the method for the day because it was near impossible to see a dry in the white water that we had all day long. Large antron rug yarn indicators did the trickundefinedeasy to see in the white water. Bead-head stonefly nymphs, size fourteen and sixteen, was one deadly combination. We lost as many fish as we caught. We had to just let the fish runundefinednot a time to try to control the fish, just let them run. We eventually got the line back, but in that initial run we just let them go. Each single fish landed was exhilarating.

While lunching beside the river in the shade of a large pine tree with a light breeze keeping the temperature pleasant, we watched an elk come for water and a bald eagle watched us from a branch near the top of a dead tree, looking for a small tidbit for his lunch.

We emerged in the late afternoon onto a long section of slow water. Summer cabins dot the bank in this section. It was in this final section of the day, dead drifting the long, wide, and deep holes, that I hooked the most beautiful fish of the whole trip. It cut across the current, went upstream, turned, cut back across the current, then headed for the Ranch section of the river farther downstream, beyond our boat takeout. I thought sure I was going to lose that fish. Fish with 6x tippet and you expect to lose fish, but I must have been doing all the right things; the line played out, zinging off the reel and up through the guides. Three times that fish was brought toward the boat and three times he was off when he saw any shadow in the water. On the fourth approach he was tired enough so that our guide, Bob, was able to pick him up for a picture. People along the river bank cheered as the fish was cradled for pictures. It was over twenty-four inches long and we guessed that it weighed about six and a half pounds; very nice for a brown trout. We had fought each other for over fifteen minutes, so I was anxious to get pictures quickly and get the brown back in the water to revive. It was great fun.

I thought of a nice hot shower and a scotch on the rocks. A perfect ending to a perfect dayundefinedand my birthday, to boot.

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