Henry's Fork Report - June 15, 2023 - Railroad Ranch Opener

Henry's Fork Report - June 15, 2023 - Railroad Ranch Opener

Henry’s Fork Streamflows

Island Park Dam:  813 cfs

Ashton Dam:  2060 cfs

St. Anthony:  3370 cfs

Fall River:  2510 cfs

It’s Happy New Year on the Henry’s Fork starting Thursday, June 15th, with the much-awaited opener on one of the most legendary pieces of flywater in the world, the Railroad Ranch.  This incredible section of the Henry’s Fork that flows through Harriman State Park is not only an iconic piece of flywater, but a beautiful reminder of how lucky we are to have our State and National Parks, the generosity and hard work of those who made them possible, the privilege we have to be able to cast a fly in these places, and to be a steward of these incredible places in our own lifetimes. 

The Henry’s Fork is generally in great shape, water-wise, at this time.  We have good flows from top to bottom, and there is still a little snow in those hills to melt and keep things flowing.  Bugs are hatching, birds are singing, fish are biting, and thunderstorms are occasionally booming.  Weather continues to be variable, favorable more often than not, but it seems that every day has a storm cell that moves through 20-50% of the visible sky.  If you can stay on the fringes, fishing can be great, if you’re in the thick of it you’ll need a puffy layer and a rain jacket you can depend on, and if you dodge it all together, you might find yourself wishing for some cloud cover to bring around an extra heavy hatch of mayflies.  Being prepared and enjoying the drama the day provides are two things to keep in mind that will help to ensure a successful day on the water out there.

Box Canyon

With flows hovering around 800-850 cfs, the Box is at a terrific fishing and floating flow.  You can make a day of it or enjoy a quick run for a few hour session if that’s all the time you have.  The river is pretty easily read at this flow and there’s enough water for trout to remain spread out, so target the water that suits your rig of choice, there is opportunity for those who seek it.  Indicator nymphing rigs are providing the most consistent action, and at these flows be prepared to use a BB split shot in some water and remove it for others.  Takes are subtle, so be prepared to set the hook at the slightest of hints of movement for more hookups; this is the most often underestimated piece of the nymphing process, and with this year’s lower fish count in the Box, opportunities will be fewer, so make them count!  If the day is tough, reign in those long casts and keep them short, angling with a keen eye for takes and a proactive mentality about hook sets.  Fly selections remain relatively unchanged for the moment:  PTs 14-18, Caddis pupa 14-16, we’ve been liking a soft hackle Hare’s Ear or a good old-fashioned Hare and Copper, your favorite perdigons 14-18 (Olive Hot Spot, Frenchies, Napoleon Jigs, Jake’s Soft Hackle to name a few), Zebra Midges in red, black and brown 14-18, and don’t ditch the stonefly nymphs yet, they’re always worth a try when you’re in aggressive water or moving quickly. We like the standard Rubberlegs Nymph, 101 Stone, and the Two Bit Golden.  Be on the lookout for cloudy weather to bring about more mayfly imitations and have some caddis ready for when the sun is peeking.  There are still a few stonefliy adults around, so have some dry fly versions of goldens and salmonflies on hand as well.

Railroad Ranch

We’re all looking forward to taking a stroll down into the very heart and soul of flyfishing this week along the fabled waters of the Ranch.  Cool and cloudy weather should provide decent mayfly activity out there, with spinner falls on calm mornings and emergences through the afternoons.  Caddis will be present as well. Though the Ranch opener is synonymous with Green Drakes this year’s slight delay in hatches is likely to push that back just a bit, but we will all be prepared for them should they suddenly appear.  There are microclimates of activity throughout the State Park and one never knows what they might encounter when wandering.  That said, we expect to see PMDs 14-16, Baetis aren’t out of the question 16-18, and Caddis 14-18.  Hoping more than expecting to see Green Drakes 10-12, Flavs 12-14, and the occasional beetle or flying ant varietal but all should be present by next week’s report.  Be prepared with spent/spinner versions of the above as well as emergers and adult versions and plenty of 4-5X tippet. 

Remember that anglers from all over the globe come to fish the Ranch, and the opening day can be as much a social affair for some as it can be a dedicated angling endeavor for others.  This is one of the great gatherings in the culture of fly anglers, when the fishing is slow take the time to say hello and get to know someone who just might become a new friend out there.  This is a great way to learn from others’ experiences during the day or week, and open your eyes to other perspectives as well as fly patterns.  Also keep in mind that some of those anglers who are lying in the grass are patiently waiting for something in particular to happen in the water in front of them.  A large part of the angling experience for many on the Ranch is the observation that takes place prior to setting foot in the water, this is often considered a hunt for trout.  If you see a fish working and someone appears to be watching it but not fishing to it, don’t assume they aren’t planning on doing so.  A friendly hello is usually enough to break the ice sufficiently in order to present your intentions and ensure you aren’t infringing on another angler’s experience.    

Canyon Country

The canyons have been providing anglers with access to rafts with some good fun this last week and will likely continue to do so in the coming weeks.  Flows are at good levels for floating and the lingering presence of salmonflies, increasing presence of golden stones, as well as good hatches of caddis and PMDs should keep the trout biting down there for a while.  Dry/Dropper rigs are our typical choice here, but don’t be afraid to stop the boat in a safe place and work some water more thoroughly with indicator nymph rigs, these flows require a deeper presentation at times.  Streamers are also a good bet here, we like small but heavy ones that penetrate the water and sink quickly, best fished on floating lines. 

Warm River to Ashton

This section just experienced a spike of water from a recent rain event and is likely to pulse with events in the future.  A heavy rainfall can put things off color, but that shouldn’t last more than a day when it happens.  Good insect activity can be found here and fishing is fun with a variety of approaches:  Dry Fly, Dry/Dropper, Indicator Nymphing, and Streamers can all provide good opportunity here.  PMDs, Caddis, Golden Stones, Green Drakes, and Flavs can and are all on the menu at times in this reach, so keep an eye on the water for clues to success.  This section has been providing quality angling for the past weeks and will continue to be a good bet for the coming ones.

Below Ashton Dam

We are coming into the annual “Parade of Hatches” on the lower river and expect to see good dry fly angling this week with PMDs, Caddis, Golden Stones, Western Olive Stones, Green Drakes and Flavs all coming into play.  Anglers will do well to come with fly boxes prepared with versions of caddis and mayflies in adult, spent/spinner, emergent, and nymph forms.  Leaders and tippet in 3-5X, depending on your fly of choice.  We have a great spinner selection at the shop along with plenty of unique flies that have been working well for us these past years, swing on in and check out our Henry’s Fork fly bin for some inspiration. 

These lower sections of the Henry’s Fork are each unique and have different hatches happening at any given time.  Lots of good angling to be found down here, and there are plenty of anglers down there seeking it out, the “Parade of Boats” will be in full effect these next two weeks.  If boating, respect others at the boat ramp, on the water, and wade fishermen in the river, doing your best to not float over the top of the water they’re fishing.  If wading, understand that boaters don’t always have lots of room to move in crowded waterways, if you can motion or call out to them in a friendly manner and communicate to them the best way to avoid your fishing, that can be helpful.  Sometimes it is to sneak right behind you between you and the bank, for example.  Remember that everyone is getting frustrated on the most crowded days, keeping it friendly and courteous goes a long way out there.

These are great days to dress in layers, you’ll not want to venture too far without a rain jacket, puffy layer, beanie hat, drinking water, and insect repellent.  Get out there and good luck!

THE Henry's Fork

The Henry's Fork Foundation is the only organization whose sole purpose is to conserve, protect, and restore the unique fisheries, wildlife, and aesthetic qualities of the Henry's Fork and its watershed.

ranch tactics

with jonathan heames

the Legendary

Railroad Ranch

A mere mention of the storied Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork conjures images of expansive flats with large rainbow trout sipping away on the surface.  It's technical waters, and sophisticated fish have earned the reputation of PHD level dry fly fishing. Countless innovations in flies, and techniques have been spawned here, and few places will test an anglers ability more absolutely. Simply put, it is one of the most iconic pieces of trout water on Earth. 

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