Salomone: Going Back to School
Part one of a two-part series on attending the School of Trout
Vail Valley Anglers
You have been fly-fishing for years. Competent in any situation but have not quite reached Master status. You’ve taken guided trips from Vail Valley Anglers. You’ve spent time with a guide focusing on elevating your game. How do you continue to grow? You go back to school — the School of Trout that is.
Todd Tanner owner and instructor at the world-famous School of Trout (SOT) held on the banks of the Henry’s Fork in Idaho has addressed a niche market in the fly-fishing industry. SOT offers Basic and Advanced Fly Fishing Schools for small groups of students — usually no more than 10 or 12 — led by an assembly of the best instructors found anywhere, such as Rosenbauer, Juracek, Deeter and others. The classes vary in length from 5 days to a week of instruction.
The class I am registered to attend is an Advanced Dry Fly course. The focus will be to elevate dry fly-fishing skills. Attention to micro drag, line management and specialized casting under the watchful eye of the SOT instructors will improve your time on the water. The trout on the Henry’s Fork are highly educated, too — specialized instructors with fins, so to speak.
Gear for the week centers around the most popular weights for dry fly-fishing, 4 and 5 wt rods. I have packed a couple of old 9-foot favorites in 5wt and two 4wts: one 9 feet and the other 7 ½ feet. I love the soft touch associated with fiberglass. As a result, I have packed one fiberglass rod — the 7 ½-foot one — for some technical dry fly action. The 9-foot rods will work well for the line management and presentation skills dry fly angling requires.
Terminal gear recommendations center around light tippets and long leaders. 6X is the norm for fooling the highly educated trout that swim about the Harriman Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork. Long leaders increase the distance where trout detect danger. When trout see the large diameter fly line on the surface, they immediately get spooked. Often brightly colored and with a diameter that casts a shadowy silhouette, floating fly lines get noticed by keen fish eyes.
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Flies for this fertile fishery cover a wide variety, from minuscule mayflies to huge hoppers. Caddis are present in August, but the focus on terrestrial fly patterns has me packing a large box of grasshoppers and another box for beetles and ants. Honey ants live along the Henry’s Fork, and some inevitably end up in the water, where the larger-than-normal trout devour their distended bodies. Not a pattern you find in most shops, I plan on buying local when I arrive in Idaho for this fly.
Chironomids, midges and tricos fill out the smaller end of fly choices. It’s with these small flies, size 18-22, where I plan to focus my efforts with the master instructors. The Henry’s Fork is essentially a large spring creek with cool seeps in the river bottom that contribute to the weed growth, large trout development and a broad spectrum of insects for forage — an environment I do not get to experience often and water that will help me elevate my angling.
Next week, I will have part two of this Going Back to School column. The Advanced Dry Fly course should be very impressive. With the world-class fly-fishing the Henry’s Fork is fabled for and instructors of the highest caliber, I anticipate the week with Todd Tanner and the School of Trout to be a stellar fly-fishing experience. Good food, stunning scenery and focused attention to dry fly angling instruction — ladies and gentlemen, class is about to start.