#42: Idaho Weather Slows us Down
After a last night in Washington State, we pointed the minivan towards Glacier National Park where we entered from the east side and were immediately greeted by some snow, a bunch of elk, and a massive moose that sat in the middle of the road and looked our van up and down, unimpressed, before slowly walking away. We hiked to a beautiful waterfall, and drove through as much of the park as the snow allowed us to. We then decided to head South that night, with the eventual destination of the Sawtooth Wilderness area in Central Idaho.
Soon after we left the park the snow picked up significantly, which made van driving on the dirt roads in Northern Montana very difficult, and turned the three hour drive to Helena, Montana into nearly a six hour trip. We drove the rest of the way to Idaho the next day, and fished at Boundary Creek. We saw a bunch of fish, but almost all of them could be clearly identified as Rainbow Trout in the clear water, not the Cutthroats we were after.
I managed to catch one of these fish, which turned out to be a unique kind of Rainbow trout called a Red Band Rainbow Trout, one that I had not heard of before.
We drove down and spent the night outside the mountains in the direction of Boise, and set out again the next morning. After stopping at a fly shop in the area, we decided to head as deep into the mountains as we could get in search of these trout, as the runoff was even worse than it had been in Montana, and most of the creeks were washed out with too much water.
We spent the day fishing different creeks way up in the mountains, and saw many herds of Pronghorn Antelope, a species that neither of us had seen in the wild before. Also called Prairie Antelope. Also not actually Antelope. We didn't manage any fish that day though, or even see any in the seething water. We decided to try over in the direction of the Wyoming border, hoping that the snow melt was not impacting the fishing as much over there. We spent the day fishing in the mountains on the west side of the Teton Valley, but everywhere we tried was nearly impossible to fish, as the creeks were just overflowing with water. We went back down into the valley and tried to fish the Snake river for a bit until it got dark. No luck.
The next day, we went and had breakfast with Debbie Birch, a cousin of one of my dad's friends, and we were shown around the area by Leon Birch, who grew up in the area and had owned bison and cattle there for many years. He was very familiar with the fishing in the area, and showed us a couple spots we could try, as well as mentioning the Teton river on the other side of the mountains. We thanked him and went to the Teton that afternoon, before high winds pushed us to try Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, which was much more sheltered, running right through a canyon. I had a good sized rainbow trout on, but it spit the hook, and we talked with a local angler who said the rainbows far outnumbered the cutthroat. We kept it up until it got too dark, and then drove down towards the town of Saint Anthony, where Debbie was kind enough to offer us a room at the hotel she worked at.
The next morning we set out in the direction of West Yellowstone, an area where Leon had shown us a couple spots, and then stopped in at a fly shop to ask for some extra help. We were told we could try to fish the outlet creek of Henry’s Lake. This was perfect, as we had been working against the conditions due to rain and snowmelt, and now we finally had a spot where the flow of water was controlled due to a dam. We started wading up towards the dam, and saw some good sized fish, but in isolated pockets. After about an hour, we turned a corner and stumbled across a pool full of 12+ inch long Cutthroats! We definitely did not expect in a creek that small. They were cruising around in the deep pool, eating bugs off the surface. Several more were sitting in the rapids below the pool. I threw in a cast and very quickly got a bite and had the fish netted soon after, and it was not long before one of the fish in the rapids came to check out the still water and Daniel caught it. We did not have a very long trip back to the car, and decided to drive to Wyoming and through Yellowstone National park that afternoon.
Finally success! We did not mind driving around Idaho though - beautiful state with so much to see.