The Path Less Traveled

A few weeks ago I received an exciting invitation to go on a backcountry fishing trip with my friend Brent from Uprising Fly Fishing.  All of us spent the weeks leading up to the trip in great anticipation of what we might catch.  The location was fabled to have large lake trout and trophy browns that would readily chase down a well placed streamer in shallow water.  Like most places that are worth talking about, a little bit of work would be required to get there.  When your mind is so caught up on catching what could quite possibly be the fish of a lifetime, all logical thought processes seem to disappear.  For example, instead of thinking about resting so you have the energy to hike 14 miles, you pull an all-nighter tying up some new patterns that you think might work for lake trout.  The logical thinker would go to bed but the obsessed angler sticks to the vise until it’s go time.  Chris, Brent, and I were scheduled to meet up at 4:30 AM so we would have plenty of time to make the hike in.  Despite the blue bird skies that have been the norm this entire year, we received a warm welcome with one of the wettest days I have ever experienced in my life.  Rain, sleet, and high winds would be the norm for 90% of the day.  I quickly reminded myself why I was there and the weather didn’t seem so bad anymore.  A couple hours later we made it to our destination and got to fishing.  It was neat to look into the crystal clear water and see schools of lakers swimming together.  Most of the year, these fish are in the depths of the lake, nowhere to be seen.  I decided to tie on one of my new creations and went to work.  It didn’t take long to hook into my first laker on the fly.  I was really caught off guard by what a strong fish they are.  The fish we caught were only small fry.  I can only imagine hooking into a monster.  Unfortunately, the streamer only produced one fish.  We all made the switch over to eggs and proceeded to catch a few more fish.  The mack fishing started to slow down a little so we decided to explore some more of the river and went in search of some browns.

My First Mack on the Fly

Chris and his First Laker (Note the Torrential Downpour Taking Place)

The brown trout fishing started out slow to say the least.  They were extremely skittish and not interested in anything we had to offer.  I tried a small streamer and eggs, while Chris and Brent stuck to the bigger articulated streamers.  Eventually Chris decided to tie on his Magic Dragon Pattern and that did the trick.  We walked down a good ways until we stopped seeing any fish and decided to fish our way back upriver.  Chris continued to catch a few more nice browns and during this time, the sun decided to come out, the wind died, and we were all able to warm up a little.

Chris and his First Brown of the Day

An Awesome Underwater Shot From Brent

Chris With Another Dandy Brown – Check out Those Teeth!

We eventually made it back up to where we had first started and I had yet to land a brown.  I had multiple chances and just wasn’t able to capitalize on any of the opportunities.  In fact, shortly after Chris hooked his first brown of the day, I had the same fish hit my fly three time!  I just couldn’t connect with him.  The first area we had fished was in the shadow of the trees and full of whitecaps and I figured the fish would be way less skittish.  My first cast in I missed what felt like a great fish.  I hurried and punched out another cast in the 30 mph+ winds and whitecaps and was able to connect with a fish this time.  I was expecting it to be another laker but upon closer inspection it was a beautiful brown.  I had accomplished both of my goals for the day and was pretty dang excited to have finally have landed a brown.

My First Brown of the Day

Another Shot of the Same Brown

We only had a short time left before it was time to head out so I hurried and threw out again.  A couple minutest later I hooked into my second brown of the day.  It was another beautifully colored male that made all the efforts of the day worth it.  Brent was still downstream from us so I hollered for him to come up and explained that the browns had moved into the hole and were hitting like crazy.  He threw out a few casts and was able to hook into another nice brown.  It was a hoot watching the browns crash up in to the waves to hammer our flies.  It was as if a switch had flipped that said “feeding time!”  We all missed a few more fish and then the fishing eventually slowed down again.  We didn’t want to be hiking out in the dark and decided it was probably best to hit the trail.

My Second Brown of the Trip

Brent with his Brown Trout

About ten minutes into the hike out, we realized we had taken a wrong fork in the trail.  We quickly turned around and made it back to the main trail.  Throughout the day, we heard and saw massive trees crack in half and fall to the ground.  Nature can be very brutal.  The wind caused many of the massive trees to snap in half like twigs.  As we made our way up the trail, it became evident than many trees had fallen along the trail that had not been there earlier in the day.  One tree was balanced in such a way that I have no idea how it was still standing.  I’d have taken a picture but I didn’t want to be anywhere near it, for fear it would fall over.  As we hiked back towards civilization, I reflected on how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  People travel from all over the world to come and visit in what could be considered my “backyard”, so to speak.  Fly fishing is all about the experience for me.  If I wanted to catch brown trout, I could just go to the Henry’s Fork or the South Fork of the Snake.  I love both of those rivers but there is something about being in the middle of nowhere that is hard to describe.  We didn’t find any of the fabled Ten-Pound browns or monster lakers, but we all agreed we’d go back again in a heartbeat.  Spending a day on the path less traveled is exactly what it is all about and encompasses everything I love about fly fishing.

The Setting Sun on the Hike Out

Warm Fronts

Sometime last week I said that I was done night fishing for the year unless a good warm front came through.  Well, earlier in the week we had a warm spell and night fishing was back on my mind.  My buddy Gabe was coming up from Utah for the weekend and I thought to myself, what better way to get  the weekend started than a little night fishing.  I had planned on hitting our usual spot but decided to try elsewhere when Chris showed me another potentially awesome location.  Chris and I scouted it out earlier in the day and found the water looking just as awesome as expected.  We only threw a few casts because both of us had places to be.  We did each land a fish, which was a good sign for the trip back.  Chris wasn’t able to make it last night, but we were both pumped to see what beasts would come out to play once the sun went down.

Gabe rolled in to Rexburg around 9:30 PM.  We got rigged up and wadered up at my apartment and headed off to the river.  In case anyone was wondering, walking through a thicket of bushes in the dark is a rather intimidating experience, especially when the area is known to be thick with moose.  Despite my scouting of the trail earlier in the day, it took us twice as long to get to the location, but we finally made it there around 11:00 PM.  The fishing was a little bit slow at first, as it usually is when fishing a new spot.  My first set up wasn’t getting any love so I switched to a new pattern I had tied up the day before.  It was nearly pitch black so I decided the bigger and darker profiled fly would be easier for the fish to see in the water.  A few casts later and I had hooked into my first fish of the night.

At first, I could not really tell how big the fish was.  He ran pretty good for a while and then he rocketed straight out of the water.  That’s the first time I’ve ever had a 20″+ brown jump out of the water.  They usually dive straight for the bottom of the river.  Anyhow,  I could tell by the splash that it was going to be a big fish.  I searched around for him with my headlamp and was able to catch my first glimpse.  I started hollering like a mad man for Gabe to come over and to bring his net with him.  The fish made few more runs and  eventually tired out and I was able to land him.  After a little celebration and snapping a few pictures we sent the big guy on his way.

My Biggest Brown Trout To-Date

Quite the Kype!

My happy bucket was more than full after landing the fish.  We kept fishing the run for a little while longer but thought it’d be best to head downriver a while and let the hole rest.  In the process of searching for the fish with my headlamp, I spooked a whole lot of other browns.  They aren’t too fond of the headlamp shining in the water.  We fished the lower end of the run for quite some time without much luck.  Gabe had a couple of hits but they were short striking the fly.  45- minutes had gone by and we figured we could head back up the best part of the run again.  A few minutes later, Gabe hooked into his first fish of the night.

Gabe’s Brown Trout

We continued fishing for another hour or so but didn’t have any more luck.  There is one thing that I attribute to us catching any fish and that is the use of a stinger hook on the flies we were fishing.  Both fish were barely hooked in the corner of the mouth by the stinger hook alone.  This means that the fish were really short striking tonight.  Stinger hooks are a great way to eliminate the problems you get with short strikes.  The fishing never did turn fast and furious but we were both able to catch a fish.  Night time is when the big boys really come out to play.  This past warm front was enough to get me out again and I’ve decided I’ll probably keep night fishing until it is too cold to do so.


It’s always fun catching a fish that you are not expecting to catch.  I had this happen a couple times in the past few days.  The first was on a river that generally pumps out loads of 12″-14″ bows’ and just as many whitefish.  First surprise was a 12″ or so little cuttie.  It was a beautiful little fish and definitely and unexpected catch.  Second surprise was a chunky bow that was showing off some beautiful colors and a mini kype.

Pretty Colors

Surprise number three happened this evening.  I went out to a stretch of water that holds a healthy population of brown trout in hopes of hooking into a big guy.  I caught plenty of browns but none of them were over 16″.  I headed down to another run that has been productive before in the past and got to swinging.  The top end of the run was a little slow but as I continued working my way down things started to pick up.  I felt a couple short taps so I gave the fly a quick twitch and that was enough to get the fish to commit.

Surprise Chunky Bow’ From Tonight

The chunky bow’ put on a good show and was definitely a bit of a surprise.  I continued working my way downstream in hopes of catching a big brown but it wasn’t meant to be tonight.  No complaining from me though, I’ve been lucky to catch some great fish this year.  I’ve had my fair share of surprise catches this year and it’s always nice to land something you aren’t expecting to.