Outdoor Idaho

On the Henry's Fork

Reflections on the Henry's Fork


"...it was pure delight to be where the land lifted in peaks and plunged in canyons, and to sniff air thin, spray-cooled, full of pine and spruce smells, and to be so close-seeming to the improbable indigo sky. I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter to foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; its roar shook both the earth and me.

When the sun dropped over the rim the shadows chilled sharply; evening lingered until foam on water was ghostly and luminous in the near-dark. Alders caught in the current sawed like things alive, and the noise was louder. It was rare and comforting to waken late and hear the undiminished shouting of the water in the night. And at sunup it was still there, powerful and incessant, with the slant sun tangled in its rainbow spray, the grass blue with wetness, and the air heady as ether and scented with campfire smoke.

By such a river it is impossible to believe that one will ever be tired or old. Every sense applauds it. Taste it, feel its chill on the teeth: it is purity absolute. Watch its racing current, its steady renewal of force: it is transient and eternal. And listen again to its sounds: get far enough away so that the noise of falling tons of water does not stun the ears, and hear how much is going on underneath -- a whole symphony of smaller sounds, hiss and splash and gurgle, the small talk of side channels, the whisper of blown and scattered spray gathering itself and beginning to flow again, secret and irresistible, among the wet rocks."

THE HENRY'S FORK, by Charles E. Brooks.
"In 1978, Mike Lawson caught a 22 1/2-inch rainbow in Box Canyon that weighted 7 1/2 pounds. In most rivers that fish would have weighted three or four. I have seen ten pounders here barely twenty-six inches long. All the very large trout here are relatively young fish for their size. They have the small heads, deep bodies, and thick backs of healthy young fish. But these fish I have seen are grossly fat fish, deep and thick, with the belly of a sumo wrestler. And they are as strong as they are large."

"When paradise-seeking sportsmen found this God-given, natural haven they jubilantly rejoiced because they also found trout fishing and game hunting beyond their wildest expectations. Consequently, the word went out like wildfire about the sportsman's paradise that existed in Island Park."

ROLAND HARRIMAN, (on the donation of Harriman Ranch to the State of Idaho), from Idaho for the Curious by Cort Conley.
"Because we all felt such lasting gratitude for our many years of a full life at the Railroad Ranch and because we just could not face the prospect of its becoming nothing more than an uncontrolled real estate development with hot dog stands and cheap honky tonks and because we could foresee the necessity for preserving such property for the enjoyment of future generations."


HENRYS LAKE, by Bill Schiess.
"For years the words "Henrys Lake" have been magical for anglers searching for trophy trout to hang on the wall. One of Idaho's most popular lakes for both locals and residents, Henrys Lake offers top-quality trophy fishing for several species of trout."

HENRY'S FORK, by Jim McCue.
"By whatever standard you choose, Henrys Fork of the Snake River is the finest trout stream within the borders of the United States!"

FLY FISHER'S GUIDE TO IDAHO, by Ken Retallic and Rocky Barker:
"Attempting to catch one of the Railroad Ranch's well-educated trout can lead to one of the purest lessons in frustration possible. On days when you connect, the Henry's Fork delivers one of life's most exhilarating experiences.

Elsewhere this multi-faceted river is much more forgiving. You still have to do your homework, but if you learn to catch trout here, you can catch fish anywhere. It is the epitome of what fly fishing is all about."

ORIGINS OF THE HAIR-WINGED FLY, from Fly-tying by William Bayard Sturgis
"A few words regarding the origin of the hair-winged fly should be of interest. Quoting from a memorandum by the Honourable Carter H. Harrison, formerly mayor of Chicago and now the Collector of Internal Revenue, his account reads as follows:

"In September of 1901, I was camping with friends on the Big Springs branch of the Snake River in Idaho...

For years, I had tied my own flies. In my outfit was a large hook which, from time to time when fishing for muskellonges, I had lashed to wood to make a gaff. The night before breaking camp, we were in the ranch library, reading and gossiping, when Mr. (A.S.) Trude left the room. A queer notion came into my head. I got out the big hook. A red spaniel was lying on the rug. I clipped a bunch of hair from his flank. The rug was roughly woven, with a lot of red worsted in it. I clipped enough to tie a body on the hook. On impulse, I tied the dog-hair as a wing and fashioned over it a sort of hackle of red squirrel-hair. When Mr. Trude returned, I got up on the table and, in a flapdoodle speech, thanked him for his invariable kindness during the days we had spent on his place, ending with the statement that, to show our appreciation, I had tied a small fly for his use in future fishing and further to honour him, I had named the fly the "A.S. Trude!"

Looking it over, the thing looked so darned good that I got out regular fly-tying material and tied two flies on No. 4 hooks, one with a red yarn body wrapped with silver tinsel, using squirrel tail hair for the wing and a red rooster hackle tied over it, the other unchanged except for green yarn supplanting the red.

The next morning, when Edw. B. Ellicott and I set out to fish the Buffalo some miles above the Trude Ranch ... we took turn and turn about fishing the creek. Ellicott would fish two bends following me; catching up, he would go ahead two bends with me following. At each bend there was a deep hole and in the clear crystal water we could see large cutthroat trout lazily waving tails at the bottom. To our offerings, scant attention was paid. Once, when Ellicott passed me, I remembered the Trude fly, put on the red-bodies sample; when I caught up with him I had 5 large trout in the creel. He saw them, learned the fly I had used and offered $5.00 for it -- begged me to sell! I gave him the green-bodied Trude.

That evening at the ranch, we emptied two creels, large ones, too; the creels and the side and back pockets of our hunting coats were all filled to overflowing."

Thus was born the A.S. Trude fly, the forerunner of all hair-wing flies of today, and an outstanding contribution to the art of angling."

The Deseret Evening News Sept 17, 1884.
A Strange Country, Geyserland.
"OF ALL THE LOVELY SPOTS to invite the tourist to linger in, none ever seemed so inviting as this one to me. The smooth glassy river swarms with the finest trout; the screech of the wild fowl and the luxuriance of the natural growth of grass and timber; game of the wilder sort, such as elk, bear and deer, roam over the mountains near by. The log hut is embellished with the skins of grizzlies, elk and other animals. This is a good spot to let your own camping outfit have a rest and try the repast served up by Mrs. Bassett in the dinner tent. Trout and venison are the staples, and so stint. Travelers seem to gain wonderful appetites when they reach this place.

One of the attractions here is CATCHING OF TROUT with the spear. A fire of pitch pine wood is placed on an elevated grating in the bow of a fist boat. The light attracts the fish and the nimble operator spears the finny beauties with barbed spears. The night before I arrived there Mister Rea caught 1,002 fish in one night. The lot weighed nearly 1,500 pounds. These are shipped to Butte, Pocatello and other points on the Utah Northern, and must prove very remunerative to the parties interested."

Wonder-land Illustrated, 1893.
"(Henrys Lake) is five miles in length by three in breadth, and its waters abound in salmon-trout, and other fine varieties of the finny tribes. The marshy flats surrounding furnish a breeding-place and habitation for myriads of water-fowl; and ducks of many varieties, geese, gray and white swan, pelican, crane, and cormorant can be here killed almost without limit. Mr. Gilman Sawtelle, an old and well-known hunter and trapper, is the proprietor of this beautiful place, and has built a substantial and commodious house of accommodation for the convenience of tourists. He has been here since 1866, living almost wholly by the capture of fish and game and their sale in the Virginia City market. His annual "catch" of trout is nearly forty thousand fish, and the number of elk, deer, antelope, moose, and bear slaughtered will reach nearly four hundred head yearly."

Gordon's Retreat by Esther Benning, from Incredible Idaho, 1973.
"(Harry Gordon) found his little creek near Henry's Lake and fished thru the ice most of the winter, selling his catch for 5 cents a pound. `Some days we caught a thousand apiece. I made $15.00 the first day. I plan to haul my own fish and make big money.'

In July 1891, he wrote about the fun he had `playing with the bears at Yellowstone Lake, frightening the dudes who climb the trees to escape the bears I rope. They don't know that bears can climb. Can you believe there were forty-five tourists here this weekend?' he asked."

"... we daily discovered new and spectacular sights; statuesque bull moose standing in Silver Lake, nonchalantly feasting on weeds; elegant trumpeter swans gliding across the water with their cygnets; a porcupine waddling over a downed log; huge osprey circling overhead, watching and shrieking as we approached too close to their nests; pelicans sitting expectantly on snags in Henry's Fork waiting for fish; sleek muskrat and tail-slapping beaver; startled mule deer gracefully springing out of sight; weasels slinking along tree trunks, ever curious and watchful. All of this in a park which is also blessed with a spectacular vista of the jagged Tetons; the clear, shallow, relaxing flow of Henry's Fork; an abundance of wildflowers which bloom all spring and summer; and the ever present sandhill cranes, beautiful to watch and even more enjoyable because of their loud, rattling warbling call. Even the ordinary at Harriman State Park can be extraordinarily peaceful and relaxing: a new born colt learning to walk; a herd of healthy white-faced steers suddenly coming into view through a morning fog; the rustic beauty of miles of jack pine fences; friendly marmots performing on the lawn."