Pat Gaffney of TroutHunter lives the fly fishing dream as he guides the world renowned Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. Gaffney recently sat down to take on some questions for the Venturing Angler:
Why do you guide where you do?
I guide for TroutHunter for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because the Henry’s Fork is, in my opinion, the premier trout stream in the continental United States. From its source at Big Springs to its confluence with the South Fork, the Henry’s Fork is like 10 different rivers in one, and offers a large variety of water types and angling scenarios. Also, since my arrival in 2007, while some of the people have come and gone, the family atmosphere that Rich Paini and Jon Stiehl have created has remained constant. These guys, and the guides with whom I work are more like brothers than co-workers.
What is your favorite fish specie?
My favorite fish specie has to be the rainbow trout, and even more specifically, the rainbow trout which inhabit the Harriman Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork. They can be quite large, are extremely difficult to fool, and once hooked up, fight harder than any trout I’ve ever caught anyplace else.
What is your favorite thing about guiding?
My favorite thing about guiding is being able to share my passion with others. Seeing the joy on the face of a happy client whom has just landed his or her first fish, or biggest fish, is contagious. I fish everyday vicariously through my clients, and guiding allows me to be on the water for more than 150 days per season. I’m pretty sure my office is better than most!
What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
4. In eleven years of guiding, there have been many memorable days. Some filled with big fish, some memorable for other reasons….the weather, the one that got away, the personalities, etc. However, above all of them is my memory of a trip with a guy named J.R. from Dallas, Texas. It was memorable because it was his second day fly fishing ever, and miraculously we were together able to land a 26.5″ rainbow on the Ranch (despite J.R. reeling the wrong way for a portion of the fight)!! That fish is still the largest I’ve ever seen on the Ranch.
What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
There is a nesting pair of osprey in the Box Canyon section of the Henry’s Fork that have “figured it out,” so to speak. These one or two birds will fly from treetop to treetop as the drift boats pass, and as anglers hook fish, the osprey will begin to circle. When the fish has tired, the osprey will dive and quite often take the fish right off the client’s fly. The reaction of the client is often hilarious!
What makes your guide service great?
Again, I go back to the variety of water types available to our clients. The Henry’s Fork literally has something for anglers of every ability level. Whether a beginner trying to catch their first fish, an intermediate angler looking for numbers, or a one big fish trout hunter, the Hank has you covered. Combine that variety with the passion of our guides, the convenience of our lodge, bar n grill, and fly shop, and you’ve got a fantastic outfitter in a fabulous location.
If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
If I only had one day off all year there’s no question that I would fish the Harriman Ranch during the green, brown, or gray drake hatches looking for that one rainbow trout of a lifetime to take my dry fly.
What are your favorite three flies?
While of course it’s impossible to just pick three flies on the Henry’s Fork where the selectivity of the trout require precise imitations of each stage of each insect, I’ll do my best. First and foremost, is the hopperbeetleantcicada. It is a dry fly that I designed to be a little of this and a little of that. It is visible, buoyant, and effective. Secondly, I would never be on the water without the House of Harrop cdc rusty spinner (spent and upright) in various sizes. Third, I always have a large selection of zebra midges in a variety of sizes and colors. Whenever nymphing is the call of the day, from the Box Canyon to Cardiac Canyon to below Ashton and Chester dams, the zebra takes care of business.
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
In 2007, my first year guiding, I did a 2 boat trip on the Madison River in Montana. My friend Brad Miller had twin brothers. I had their sons. When we left the ramp it was a gorgeous 75 degrees without a cloud in the sky. By lunchtime the skies had darkened and the temperature had dropped to about 50 degrees. Soon, it began raining and hailing. I got out my down sweater and rain jacket from under my rower’s seat, only to realize that my clients hadn’t brought rain gear. I gave one jacket to each boy, and froze my ass off the rest of the day while thinking about all the gear sitting in my closet. I now carry a dry bag full of gear on every trip, having vowed that day will never repeat itself.
Do you have any other passions?
My wife and I have two wonderful daughters, and any chance I get I spend time with them in the outdoors fishing, hiking, or just playing at a park. I cherish my time with the three of them.
Disclosure: TroutHunter is in a professional relationship with the Fly Fishing Guide Directory and the Venturing Angler. Though potentially benefiting from this relationship, we do not post what we do not believe to be true. To read more, click here.