Paul Snyder's blog

A Henry's Fork unicorn

An ode to an ant
Photo: Rich Paini

"Pretty frustrating, isn’t it?"

Those were the four words Rich said to me ten minutes before it happened. It was a breezy, gray afternoon on Wood Road. It felt like rain and it certainly would before dark.

"Fish further up the road," I’d been advised. "Those fish can be caught."

The Gallatin Valley. Prime grizzly country.

Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series. If you haven't already read part I, please do so here.

The Trip (Continued)

July 10 – At last it was time to get to Livingston for real. I had a happy hour appointment at the Mint Bar with a dear friend, a room at the Murray Hotel, and enormous lust for dinner at the 2nd Street Bistro. First: a stop in Paradise Valley to wet a line in the Yellowstone River.

The water was still off color, but fishable. In the heat of the day between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m., I managed a slew of small rainbows, but nothing to write home about. My snobbish dry fly tendencies kept me from the biggies, but that was just fine. I was fishing a small dropper with it, but that wasn’t doing the trick, either.

The Murray and the 2nd Street Bistro didn’t disappoint. For the budget-minded, the Murray Bar offers up fantastic pizzas prepared in the 2nd Street Bistro kitchen.

Middle fork of the Salmon River near Ketchum, Idaho.

For more than 10 years now, I have travelled to eastern Idaho and south-central Montana chasing trout on the fly. It all started when I was exploring a relationship with Grand Targhee Resort and their music festivals. After receiving an invite to attend the Grand Targhee Bluegrass festival in 2003, it immediately occurred to me that I would be amongst some of the finest trout fishing in the lower 48. I needed to build in some time on the water.

Fast-forward one decade and the annual trip has burgeoned from six days to twelve. This year, for the first time, I decided to trade out the bluegrass festival at Targhee (the second weekend in August) in exchange for three more days on the water and a significantly different trout menu: namely, salmon flies.

What follows from this point on is detailed report on this year's trip. Planning these types of excursions, and especially trying to do so economically, can be a challenge. The goal of these trip reports, beyond that of my sharing my trip experience with others, is to provide a blow-by-blow look at the planning and execution. The hope is that, for those of you that are endeavoring the plan a similar trip for yourselves, these trip reports will serve as a helpful resource.

This could be you.

While most North American trout anglers are starting to bundle up, slinging streamers and squeezing in the last floats of the year, the Kiwis are celebrating the opening of trout season. “Brown trout rivers” opened October 1st, though rivers where rainbows are prolific are still a bit longer closed due to spawning.

More than 10,000 miles from Atlanta (okay, so it’s really 8,580 miles to Queenstown as the extended range model crow flies), all of my Kiwi angler friends are urging on summer and stuffing their fly boxes with hare and coppers, bead head pheasant tails, Dore’s Mr. Glisters, big #10 triple-hackle bushy-as-Hell dries and cicada patterns that can take double figure fish on top, and whatever else tends to take trout that live literally in their back yards.

Camped at Palisades on the Madison River.

Lists. Some people thrive on making lists. I can appreciate the satisfaction that comes with checking off items on “to-do” lists as well. But most of the time, once all of the items are ticked off, the list goes away.

This is not the case with trip checklists. I can barely recall where I keep these things (currently in a tattered high school style composition book – and floating around in folders on a computer I can never seem to find). They also differ widely from trip to trip, location to location.

So in the interest of a virtual archive that may just be helpful to you, here’s my checklist for 12 days in eastern and central Idaho and southwestern Montana, July 3rd – 16th. I plan to spend five or six nights in comfortable accommodations and the balance of the nights camping. (I mean Larry Keel is playing at Trouthunter in Island Park, Id., on July 4th for goodness sake – I’ve got to go and stay there, right? And if you’re in the area and not planning to spend a night at the Murray Hotel in Livingston, Mt., you’re doing it wrong.)

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