THE BROWN DRAKE HATCH THAT DOESN’T EXIST

My first book, Heaven on Earth: Stories of Fly Fishing, Fun & Faith as originally written was much longer than the final form. There were numerous stories that I loved that were cut out for various reasons. To help promote my book and to give you the flavor of my writing style, I thought I would share some of the stories that were trimmed from the book.

The Sixth Chapter, entitled, “Judge Righteous Judgment,” is about the Summer of 2000 that I worked as a law clerk in Bannock County, Idaho and regularly fished the Portneuf River in Southeastern Idaho. At one time, the Portneuf River was a phenomenal fishery with abundant acquatic food, including the Giant Stone Fly. The native fish of the Portneuf is the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, which grew huge with all the copious table fare in the river. In this chapter, I described the the unfortunate denigration and siltation of the river brought on by poor agricultural practices in the area, but also how, despite man’s worst efforts, the tenacious river still has some good fishing.

With that introduction, here is one of my favorite passages that was cut from the final book:

. . . . Unfortunately, because of the smothering siltation of the Portneuf, we have already lost the large stoneflies that once abounded. I can only imagine how great the fishing was with those big bugs around. Notwithstanding, there are some pockets of the river where there is still a good diversity of aquatic bugs. In Snake River Country, Bruce Staples described these few treasured areas:

“Perhaps the best place to see what the Portneuf once had to offer is in the meadows above Pebble Creek. Here in some of the riffles, runs and slow meanders where the substrate is not smothered in silt there is a rich variety of aquatic insects including several species each of caddisflies and mayflies. A few species of small stoneflies, leeches, fresh water shrimp, craneflies and midges are also present. There is cover underneath overhangs and below rocks and ledges. There is also depth for added cover and cooling. But these areas are isolated by large tracts where siltation has smothered all.”

The springs [on the Portneuf River] that I have previously mentioned are one such oasis. More than once, after netting fish, I observed fresh water shrimp, or “scuds” as I call them, tangled in the material of the net. This explained the chubby fish I regularly caught there as scuds are an excellent food source.

Believe it or not, one late evening as the sun descended into the west, I witnessed something that really caught my attention. That night, I had been fishing with pheasant tail nymphs because the wary fish were not rising to the various hatching bugs or my dry flies. However, just as the sun began to sink behind the Portneuf Mountain Range, I observed some huge mayflies begin to sporadically hatch and the fish immediately took notice and began to feed with reckless abandon. The mayflies, which were about an inch tall, were the biggest that I had ever seen at that time. In the quickly fading light, I would have given anything to see well enough to tie on a big dry fly. Nevertheless, the pheasant tail that I had on was not a bad choice as it sufficiently represented the surfacing nymphs. To catch fish, I simply located a fish slurping in the huge duns, cast my nymph upstream of the fish, and let it run through his lie. In the last embers of the sun, my fluorescent orange indicator glowed and I could easily see its hesitation as big fish repeatedly pounced on my fly. After landing a few good fish, I was driven off of the water by the enveloping darkness, but a fire burned within my soul for this special place.

Sometime after this awesome evening, I figured out, based upon the timing of the hatch (i.e. in the late evenings in June) and the immense size of the bugs, that I had experienced a bona fide brown drake hatch that evening on the Portneuf. Since then, I have many times personally observed fishermen flock to this hatch on better known waters like Silver Creek and the Henry’s Fork. Yet on the Portneuf, I was, once again all by myself.

Later that summer, I stopped by All Seasons Angler in Pocatello for some fly tying materials and spoke with Roger Thompson, who was the manager at the time, but who now is the proprietor of Portneuf River Outfitters. In other words, he is the authority on fly fishing the Portneuf River, if there is such a thing. Roger asked me how the fishing had been and I responded that it had been great. I then told him about the brown drake hatch I had fished on the upper Portneuf (without telling him exactly where I was) and he looked at me as if I was crazy.

“I’ve never seen a brown drake on the Portneuf,” he responded.

I did not want to argue the point, but I know what I saw.

It was extremely hard for me to cut this passage out, but that’s part of the process of publishing a book. I may be the only one in the world who believes there is (or once was) a brown drake hatch on the Portneuf, but to this day, almost 12 years later, I maintain that I fished a brown drake hatch on the Upper Portneuf and it was phenomenal! Save the Portneuf, my river, my friend!

If you like what you read, check out my book at: http://heavenonearthbook.com/.

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