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Wednesday was a travel day for us, back to Salt Lake City from Island Park. With flights leaving out of SLC Thursday morning I thought it best to stay there the night before. It also provided a good opportunity that night to meet up with friends from high school who now live in Salt Lake. Instead of heading down Hwy 20 to I-15 at Idaho Falls though we took a more circuitous route which would take us through Teton Valley, on the west side of the Tetons, and put us in prime cutthroat territory. So, much like day one, I found us a roadside stream where we could fish and hopefully bag another species.

We started off our trip with a stop at Trouthunter to load up on flies before the trip home. One thing I loved about the Yellowstone area was that there is no shortage of fly shops. Good fly shops too and Trouthunter, which was right down the road, might be the best.

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Our next stop was Mesa Falls. This is definitely a must-see attraction for the area. The park surrounding the falls is a top notch facility and the falls themselves are very impressive. A short trail will take you right next to the falls and you can really feel the energy in the water and the chill in the air.

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From one of Idaho’s scenic byways to another we then headed to Teton Valley to get a view of the Tetons from the west. According to our guide Derek while in the area we had to stop at the Victor Emporium for huckleberry milkshakes. When milkshakes are involved you don’t have to tell me twice, so we had to stop. I was curious about huckleberries anyway since it seemed people from Idaho were more obsessed with huckleberries than potatoes. They’re pretty darn good too, like little blueberries, they go great in a milkshake.  What Derek didn’t mention was that the Emporium was also a fly shop! Thinking about it now, the Victor Emporium may have supplanted Trouthunter as the best fly shop for the Yellowstone area because milkshakes and flies go together like peanut butter and jelly.

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Once we left Teton Valley and entered into the Snake River watershed it was time to find our feeder stream to fish. The creek was relatively flat, bordered by willows and had deeper sections where there were beaver dams. Fishing a hopper, it didn’t take long to for my fly to get that familiar bump from the smaller trout. Soon enough I hooked up with a little bigger cutthroat and had my first Snake River Finespotted Cutt.

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After catching a few cutthroat I let Dad take the lead on the creek and I tried to help Mom get a fish. I think fishing these smaller creeks with regular tackle is actually tougher than fly fishing, but Mom refused to use my fly rod. She got a few follows at her spinner, fish just wouldn’t commit to it though. Dad ended up bringing one to hand, but it flopped out before we could get a picture, but I was glad he caught one.

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After a couple hours of fishing we hopped back in the car to make it back to SLC in time to meet my friends. They had the four of us over for dinner and really went out of the way laying out a nice spread and making us welcome. It was really awesome seeing my friends Eric and Sterling again, I was kind of bummed I didn’t get to make it to my 10 year reunion, so this was a good consolation.

A good bit of planning was involved in this trip and it was worth it because it ended up being a ton of fun. We saw so many new, awesome things, it’s hard to sum it all up. I felt we needed to do something big before having our baby in November and this was perfect. I’m already itching to go back out there, but next time I want to go after the Cutt Slam, hopefully I can find a fishing buddy that is up for the challenge.

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One last note, I forgot to mention the cabin we stayed at in Last Chance was Kim and Mary’s Cabin. We really enjoyed staying here, it suited our needs very well. It is in the Last Chance area of Island Park, there is access to the Henry’s Fork right down the street and you have three fly shops within a mile. The cabin still looks brand new, it is in great shape, we were very comfortable there. Kim and Mary are phenomenal owners who will make sure that your stay in the area is all that it could be.

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On Tuesday we let the girls do their thing while Dad and I went on a guided trip down the Henry’s Fork. It was pretty nice to devote a full day to fishing. Our guide was Derek Hobbs with Trouthunter and at his suggestion we hit two different sections of the river; Box Canyon before lunch and a section downstream of Railroad Ranch after.

The Henry’s Fork was an interesting river, the two sections we fished were just a few miles apart, but they were totally different from each other. Clarity was excellent at both spots as the river was loaded with submerged vegetation. With that much salad the river was also loaded with trout food. Cased caddis covered the rocks and tricos were pretty thick as we showed up to the launch in the morning. Dad started catching fish almost right away while I was still working the kinks out.

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Once I finally got a fish to the boat I began catching them pretty regularly, though they weren’t much on size.

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Fishing ended up being pretty good for me on 8-12″ rainbows throughout the Box. Dad was able to get into the bigger fish and from the back of the boat no less. He caught a couple of stud whitefish and pretty much all the bigger rainbows we had on the day.

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I landed some whitefish of my own (a new species for both of us) though, like the rainbows, they weren’t very big. I finally managed to get a respectable rainbow toward the end of our float through the Box. We didn’t catch any monsters through Box Canyon but we did catch a bunch of trout, which is exactly what Derek told us would happen. I did briefly hook into a fish that surprised me, it was much bigger than what we had been catching, but it wasn’t on very long.

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After lunch we picked up and headed down the road. Derek told us this was where our big fish might come. The Henry’s Fork flattened out in this section and the current slowed down big time. The submerged veg was much thicker down here as well, it was matted up in spots where the river was real shallow.

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The water here was even clearer than in the Box and the fishing was tougher. As we floated downstream we saw the fish we were after. And sure enough they were bigger here than in the Box. Pods of trout would move out of the way of the boat as we floated by them. It was both exciting and frustrating to see, knowing you’re floating that big hopper right over these fish and watching none of them take it was a test of patience. I think I had one or two that came to inspect it, one swirled under, the other I missed the set. Toward the end of the float the current picked up and the river fished more like the Box. I ended up catching a few more small rainbows to get rid of the skunk on this section before we reached the take out.

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What a challenging stretch of water, I couldn’t imagine a more polar opposite for Box Canyon than that section downstream of the Ranch. We went from easy to slim pickings in just a short drive down Hwy 20 (which has to be the longest main street in the country, the city of Island Park is huge!). The Henry’s Fork was a beautiful river though and I can see why it has been written about and fawned over by nearly every fisherman that has the pleasure to fish it. It seems to be a virtual fish factory, what a resource. Derek was a great guide who made every effort to put us on fish, especially in the afternoon. I could tell he wanted us to get one of those big boys bad, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

The girls ended up back in the Park while we were fishing as the boardwalk at Grand Prismatic Spring had opened up. We didn’t get to see it in person, but at least they did. Before heading back to the cabin they shopped in West Yellowstone and did a little driving around Island Park. Mom was really excited to find an aspen with her name carved in it. It’s a sign I tell you!

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That evening we had dinner at the cabin then went outside to sit and enjoy our last cool night in Idaho (the weather was awesome the entire trip) before we had to head back to the heat and humidity of the South. As we sat outside I noticed something dark in the distance of the backyard. It looked like a cardboard cutout it was so dark, but once it moved there was no doubting it was a moose! It was very timid, not like the moose we saw near Jackson. Soon enough we saw why, it had a young calf with it. What a great way to end our stay in Island Park.

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We were back in Yellowstone Monday to do more exploring. Having never been to this part of the country we were more than happy to play tourist. So after a nice breakfast at the Trouthunter Lodge we were back on the road to the Park.

We started the day with a stroll around the Norris Geyser Basin (though we did stop at Gibbon Falls on the way).

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We didn’t hang around too long as we were a little “geysered” out from the day before (probably not good when in Yellowstone). We were really looking forward to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone so we made our way eastward toward Canyon.

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The view of the Canyon and Lower Falls from Artist’s Point was spectacular. It truly was one of the most amazing sights on the trip – maybe even my favorite spot in the Park. I’m a sucker for canyons and waterfalls. So many colors on the walls of the canyon that don’t really stand out in iPhone photos. This was probably the first trip that I really wished I had a DSLR.

We left Canyon and headed north to Tower, our plan was to loop around back to Mammoth. There was so much construction around the Tower area that we just stayed in the car and passed through. We got up close and personal with a buffalo who was ambling down the road. Later in the day we saw one that wasn’t providing any passing room in the opposite lane, which made for the perfect buffalo road block.

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If Yellowstone had a capital, Mammoth would be it. It wasn’t as busy as Old Faithful, but it definitely had the most buildings. I liked the small town feel of it. Minerva Terrace was pretty cool, I couldn’t help but think of the back splash in my kitchen though as I gazed upon all that travertine.

Pizza and a pitcher of Moose Drool at the Wild West Pizzeria was just what the doctor ordered as we left the Park for the day. We did about as much as we could with 2.5 days in Yellowstone and it was a lot of fun. A lot of driving too(that Park is huge!), but fun none the less.