Troy here to tell the story of Grant's good-looking rainbow above (nicknamed "Phatipus") and about the rest of our trip.
Grant and I left the thanksgiving wind-down around 6 pm Thursday (strategically avoiding a good chunk of clean-up) and made the 3 hour drive to Tiffany's house in Rigby, Idaho. Tiffany and Jason were up in Salmon with Jason's family, so we had the place to ourselves (thanks guys). We slept great and were up at 6 a.m. Friday morning to hit the fish. First, though, we had a big breakfast at "Me and Stan's" diner there in Rigby. Grammar obviously is not so good at Me and Stan's, but the food was solid.
Our expectations for the day were humble enough. Do a little exploring on the South Fork of the Snake and hopefully not go away empty-handed. It is a big river, and without any experience there to speak of, we knew we needed to keep our eyes open and gather information where we could. So we pulled over at the first sign of potential help: an old-timer gearing up at around 7:30 a.m. at one of the many turn-outs. We chatted with him for a minute. He said that it was real simple. Commodity patterns, like pheasant tails and prince nymphs, were the order of the day this time of year. Easy enough, right? Oh, but you have to find the fish. He suggested a turn-out a bit down the road with some fast runs and deep pools. "It will be obvious enough what to do when you get there," he said. We thanked him and jeeped our way down the gravel road.
Unfortunately, the spot he directed us to was taken, but no problem. The thing about this river is the abundance of gold medal water. So we kept driving. We found a promising looking enough place and went out to wet our lines. But the air was chilly (33 degrees) and it was misty and the fish were definitely not awake. On top of that, we were spending a lot of time with tangled lines. The only action we saw was hooking into a white-fish, and (momentarily) a solitary rainbow. Patience boys.
Things finally warmed up a bit (ok, 35 degrees, but it was enough), and the mist lifted. We ended up driving as far as this road would take us, and got out and trudged beside the river until we found another good-looking spot. We knew things were turning up when we spotted fish actually rising periodically on this chilly day. Excitedly, we put our lines in the water and started catching fish. The technique that worked the best turned out to be just "walking the dog" down the bank (i.e., walking along with the current to give our flies a good long drift). We would hook into a fish almost every time this way. Most were fine-looking 14-15 inch browns of the type shown in the pictures below, with an intermittent rainbow. And of course Grant's big, fat bow, which really made us work. I went to a dry fly at one point with much less success, but did have a take on a tiny brown baetis emerger, and can still feel in my fingers the rod vibrating from the fly bouncing around in the mouth of that nice brown before it popped out. Argh!
We wrapped up our day as the sun went behind the mountains, and we hiked back for the long drive ahead of us. I was surprised as we drove along the river to see fish rising like crazy in the last bit of light of the day. Not what I would have expected this time of year, but it was nice to see. And reason enough to go back!