Fishing Idaho’s Upper Teton River

Fishing Idaho’s Upper Teton River in October can be a perfect 70-degree sunny day or a blizzard. In the last few years, I have experienced both.

Upper Teton Weather

FFI Certified Casting Instructor Tom Dempsey and I have been caught in the latter a few years ago. It was an interesting dilemma for be surrounded by rising fish but struggling to tie on a dry fly with numb, frozen fingers. Proudly, we did not leave the fish until the weather deteriorated into blizzard conditions.

This recent early October day was the opposite.
FFI CI Chuck Iossi and I had the opportunity to fish the Teton on one of those perfect autumn days. The time of year has the added benefit of absent paddle boarders, canoes, and rafts. In fact, we saw more moose than people.

The insects most often encountered this time of year include Tricos, Gray Drakes, Mahogany, BWOs, and October Caddis.

While I handled the oars, Chuck caught the majority of the fish using a Purple Haze dry fly or a Mahogany emerger. We caught about 30 mid- range size Rainbow, Brook, and Cutthroat trout. Casts were to specific targeted rising trout using 12-14 foot leaders of 5-6x. All casts were made from a sitting position. A drag-free drift was important because this portion of the Teton fishes like a crystal-clear slow-moving spring creek. The fish have plenty of time to examine the imitation but if presented properly these fish readily take a dry fly.

When fishing from a drift boat, my advice is to cast while seated if possible. I am certain you will have more stealth, and catch more fish.

Dino Frangos
FFI Master Casting Instructor

The Bighorn River and Jack Dennis

When an opportunity arose to fly fish an iconic Western water with a legendary guide I could not pass. The Bighorn River and Jack Dennis represent the ultimate fly-fishing experience. Both demand your A-game fly fishing skills with tight loops, pinpoint accuracy, and landing 20+ inch trout.

To set the stage I want to start with Jack Dennis. Jack moved to Jackson, WY at a young age. Over the ensuing decades Jack’s reputation grew with his eponymous fly shop, designer of flies, author, TV personality, and guide to politicians and celebrities. Now in his seventies, Jack is finally slowing down to enjoy grandchildren and limiting himself to summer guiding the New Fork River in Pinedale, WY and the Bighorn River in Thermopolis, WY.

This trip centered where the Wind River exits the canyon of the Wind River Indian Reservation and becomes the Bighorn. This meeting place is called the Wedding of the Waters. One of only a few examples where a river changes names in midstream.

This portion of the Bighorn is home to large Brown, Rainbow, and Cutthroat trout. During the summer months these fish see a good number of anglers and can be very spooky and selective. I fished with Jack in late September and there were only a few anglers. I saw a few fishermen wading in a large riffle near the top of the Bighorn, but by far a drift boat was chosen.

During my 2 1/2 days of fishing, targeting specific rising fish was our approach. Accuracy and a drag-free drift were paramount. If one or the other was lacking there was no chance to catch that fish. Typically, I had only one cast at each fish if the fish was holding in place. If the cast was long the fish “blew-up” and was gone. To improve chances of hooking a fish, casts were either cross-stream or upstream. Both methods minimized drag but the fly needed to be within a few feet of the fish. No chance with a downstream presentation. My casts ranged from twenty to sixty feet using 5x tippet on a 4 or 5 weight rod. Trico spinners and a small Parawulff (a Jack Dennis design) dry fly were the most effective patterns.

The fish takes were explosive. These large fish basically self-set the hook. The biggest challenge I had was avoiding an immediate snapped tippet if I did not raise the rod tip fast and high enough. The fish immediately dive into the weed beds below. I must admit I had my share of break-offs.

Fly fishing the Bighorn River is worth a trip to challenge your fly-fishing skills. Combine fishing with a visit Jackson, WY and Yellowstone, a scenic 4-hour drive away.

Doc Frangos
FFI MCI Fly Casting Instructor

Jack Dennis Catch