South Fork of the Snake - Idaho

Lunch Spot on the River

By Jeff Fields

I just got back from three days of fishing bliss. On Thursday, July 11th three companions, Shawn, Ron and his son Eric, and myself left for Jackson Hole, WY. Shawn was coming from Orlando and the airlines got his flight arrangements a little messed up. After a couple of hours of arguing with them he finally was on his way and made it into Jackson, 4 hours late. We gathered up our stuff, got our car and drove over the mountains to Driggs, ID. For those of you that have not made it to Jackson Hole, before you die, you must make the trip. When I hear the words, "Purple Mountains Majesty" the Tetons are what I think of. They are the most beautiful mountains in the US.

Teton Mountains

Now back to Driggs. It is a neat little town - voted the best town in the US to raise a family - small, clean and inexpensive to stay in. After checking into our hotel we found a great restaurant for dinner. For such a small town, what a great find it was. Our meal was superb and we talked anxiously about the trip we were going to embark upon the next day. We were off for an overnight trip on the South Fork of the Snake River. Three of us had taken this trip 4 years ago and we were wondering if it was going to be a disappointment, since the first trip was one of the best we had ever taken. Well, we would see. We finished dinner and went back to the hotel to get some sleep.

Our plan had been to get up and go to breakfast at 7 am. I just could not sleep. I was up at 5 and had everyone else up by 6. We had breakfast and were at the flyshop to meet our guides 30 minutes before we were supposed to be there. Our guides Kasey Collins and Bill Pew from in Wilson, WY showed up, we got our gear together and were off to the river. We arrived at the put-in of the South Fork of the Snake and everything was perfect. The sun was shinning, water level was great and I saw three big salmon flies in the air. Before we got into the boat the four of us decided to make a little wager on the trip. Boat against boat on first fish, most fish, and biggest fish. Now usually I am not a betting man on fishing trips, but it just seemed right this time. Boats got launched, gear piled in and off we went.

First Cut Caught

It was not long, three cast to be exact, and I was into the first fish, a 19-inch cutthroat. What a way to start. After a quick fight we released the fish and continued down the river. The fishing continued too, at least for me. My partner in the boat, Shawn, was having a little problem hooking the fish. He is a great saltwater fisherman, and he just could not get away from the habit of strip-striking the fish. He kept pulling the fly out of the fish's mouth. Now don't get me wrong, he was catching fish, just not as many as he was missing.

Shawn trying to get another fish About 11 o'clock we stopped on a gravel bar to check and see if the PMD's were starting to show and if the fish were stacked up to feed on them. They were there, and since Shawn had not gotten that many yet, I gave him the side where the big ones were staged. Along this one little drop off, no more then 20 feet wide, there had to be at least 15 fish working. And I do not mean small fish. Most were in the 16 to 18 inch range with one huge fish in there. Shawn began working the fish and he stuck every one of them in the next three hours. You noticed I said stuck. In keeping with his bad luck, he did not land a single one. He either missed them, broke off, or in the case of the biggest one. . .a true 22 + inch green backed rainbow…had him on and then lost him when the guide tried to net him and the fish ran and broke off.

Getting ready to catch that big rainbow

I on the other hand, was fishing the other side along the gravel ledge. The fish were not as big over here, only 14-16 inches (isn't that a shame). I was floating a PMD Sparkle Dun over them with little luck. After watching the fish work for a little while, I figured the fish were taking emergers. I tied on a small Copper John dropper and proceeded to catch the next 3 fish on 3 consecutive casts. By the time I was done, I had caught 12 fish from that bar and lost count on how many I missed. What a time. We decided that we had been there long enough and went downstream to meet Ron and Eric and see how they were doing. Their fishing had been great also, even though the heat of the day was getting to all of us. The temps were getting close to 100. Shawn decided the best way to cool down was with a quick dip. Now he was a lot braver then I was, after all the water temps were a cool 56 degrees. After some lunch we were off again.

Eric Pounds the Banks We continued to pound the banks of the river, and the fish continued to be cooperative. We got to our campsite by about 6 o'clock and Shawn and I had compiled an incredible tally for the day. I had caught 35 fish ranging from 14 - 20 inches with most being in the 16 to 18 inch range. Shawn had ended up with 15. Not to bad. We did not get the big fish of the day, that went to Eric with a beautiful 22" Brownie.

Now let me tell you a little about the camp. To give you a little flavor as to what it is like, it is called the South Fork Hilton. As you walk up the hill, the first thing you see is the cook tent and eating area.

South Fork Hilton

Natural Beer Cooler

They have a great chef who stays in camp so your food is being prepared when you show up. For refreshments, you walk down a short trail to where a natural spring boils out of the hillside and forms a perfect little pool there to keep the beer and wine nice and cool. We drank a couple of brews to wet our whistles, cleaned up and then sat down to a dinner of Pan Seared Duck Breast with Porcini Mushrooms and Grilled Vegetables. It so happened that this night was also Shawn's birthday, and the cook even had a dutch oven cooked cake with candles. We ate, drank 2 bottles of wine and then sat around the fire talking and looking at the most incredible display of stars that I have seen in a long time. Before long, we were all too tired to stay up any longer. We went to our tents and off to sleep. The next morning we woke to the smell of bacon cooking, coffee brewing and the singing of birds. After another great meal, we were off to the river again.

Shawn with a nice Brown

This day did not measure up to the day before. Now don't get me wrong, we caught fish, but just not like the day before. Shawn and I both caught 10, but we missed quite a few.

The day was made when Shawn got a 22" Brown. This was the fish that made his trip. This day was hotter then the day before, 104 F. when we got off the river, and the bugs were just not as thick on the second day of the float.

Shawn's 22 inch Brown I have to tell you though; I was beat by the time the trip was over. We got back to town, got showers and off to dinner again. Seems that on trips like this you are always eating. All of us were in bed by 10 and we had to be up in the morning for another trip.

It is amazing what a nights sleep in a good bed can do for you. The night before, I was not sure I wanted to fish again. But by 6 am, I was up and ready to go. This morning we decided that we did not want a big breakfast. Instead we headed into Victor, ID to the Victor Emporium. This is a great little shop with absolutely the best milkshakes you have ever had. We all wanted to try their Huckleberry Shakes and we were not disappointed. When we finished, we were back to the flyshop to meet up with our new guides. We met Mitch and Jim and got ready to head off to a small river that is not fished by many anglers. Now I know some of you would like to know the name, but this is a small river and probably cannot handle a lot of pressure. I am sure you can understand my reluctance to name it with all that read this site. As we floated this river, it is narrow enough that I would work one side as Shawn worked the other.

Starting Point on Un-named River

Jeff and 22 inch Cutthroat

Fish just kept coming up to my fly, out of the pocket water, from just off the banks, and from behind the boulders that were below the water. And I do not mean just any fish. One this day I got 25 fish of which the smallest was about 16 inches and the largest being close to 24 inches. Now that is what I call a stream. Shawn on the other had continued to have his bad luck from the days before. I think he missed 30 fish before he finally caught one.

By the end of the day, he made a good comeback and ended up with probably 10 fish, all of them of a size that would make any one jealous. The day ended with one of the most beautiful floats I have ever been on and another winning day of first fish, most fish and biggest fish.

What a three days of fishing.

To finish up our trip, Monday we used for a 'play tourist' day. We took a drive from Driggs up to the Henry's Fork, then up into Yellowstone National Park and out the Southern Entrance into the Teton National Park. As I said in the beginning of this story, what a beautiful place. This was a great ending to great trip. If you ever get a chance, make it to Idaho and the South Fork of the Snake. And if you are lucky, you may even find the small secret stream and catch a 24-inch Cutthroat with the color of gold. ~ JF (Grizz)

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