RV Trip West Journal: Henry's Lake and The Fly Fishing Lesson

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Lovely Henry's Lake in Idaho very close to West Yellowstone, Montanta. West Yellowstone is the busiest entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The state park nestled in the southeast corner of Henry’s Lake is a serene setting for a camping trip, a premier spot for fishing, or a quieter home base for visiting Yellowstone and the surrounding attractions in Idaho. Beautiful clear open water set in the mountains give this alpine lake a stunning setting.

As we traveled down highway 20 we could see the huge lake looming and marveled at its blue color. We had heard that because of its location with three mountain passes surrounding it, the winds could whip up suddenly and fiercely. Boaters were warned to keep an eye on the weather, and campers warned to watch their tents and awnings! The sudden wind has destroyed a lot of RV awnings according to the park rangers.

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But we found Henry's Lake State Park to be a lovely spot to sit and enjoy the view of lake and mountains surrounding us. The breeze was pretty consistent, and we only used our awning on a very sunny, calm afternoon for a few hours. It wasn't long before the wind chastened us to roll up that awning! By then, the shade from the small trees on our site gave us plenty of shade.

The sites are along the edge of the lake. Some are paved and have full hookups and some are little more than a gravel pad with electrical hookups and a shared water faucet. Leveling was a challenge. Our first site was so tipped toward the lake that it used all of two sets of leveling bricks and still we weren't level. We finally asked the host if there might be another more level site available. After some discussion, we found one at the lake's edge that was more level (we only had to use three bricks), and had a stunning view of the lake. Our concession was to share a water faucet with three other campsites. A small price to pay for stellar views of the lake and mountains!

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We chose Henry's Lake State Park for its location, price, and setting. We knew it was a fifteen minute drive to West Yellowstone and away from the crowded - and more expensive - RV parks. But it s location also gave us the chance to explore some of Idaho's natural marvels like Mesa Falls, Big Springs, and the Snake River.

All of these locations played large in a movie I had seen a dozen times, "The Rocky Mountain Fly Highway" - a collection of blue ribbon trout fishing locations reknowned for their high water quality and plentiful fish. The scenery was so spectacular in the movie that I had to see the places for myself. So w hen planning this trip to Yellowstone I tried to route our drive along US 20 - the Fly HIghway - and I was not disappointed.

The towering mountains, sparkling rivers and intense, blue lakes make this stretch of road quite spectacular. A few steep and winding roads keep you on your toes, but the destination was well worth it.

The movie and a visit to a custom fly rod maker in Blue Ridge. Georgia had piqued my interest in fly fishing this year. So much so that I decided to find a guide who could teach me the basics. I just wanted to give it a go - to try it and experience the excitement of fly fishing. I just wasn’t sure how to go about finding a guide. One morning, while Jim was talking with a fellow camper, he mentioned that I wanted to find someone to teach me to fly fish. The gentleman mentioned a local guide who gave demonstrations for free every Sunday night - Jacklins Fly Shop in West Yellowstone.

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Jacklin, hmm that name rings a bell. Wait, Bob Jacklin?! That's the guide featured in the "Rocky Mountain Fly Highway"! And he has a shop here, and he gives demonstrations? I couldn't believe it. Jim and I went into West Yellowstone the next morning for breakfast and found Bob Jacklins shop. Inside, the young man at the counter asked if he could help us and I mentioned I wanted to learn to fly fish. Jim added, that we wanted to meet Bob Jacklin. The young man smiled and said, “he's here if you'd like me to get him”.

Bob came to the counter and smiled as we told him he was famous! He remembered the movie and said it was a good project. Then we talked a little about learning to fly fish. "It's not easy" he said, "Some days you fish all day and don't catch anything!. One of my guides can take you out fishing for half or whole day and get you started”. He pointed to a price sheet on the counter and we swallowed hard. Half-day was $450 and a whole day was $550. Everything was included - the guide, the boat, all the equipment- even lunch. Not an unreasonable price, but more than our trip buget would allow.

He saw our sticker shock and offered, "Well, if you like, I give free casting lessons on Sunday nights. Why don't you start with that." Relieved, we agreed to meet on Sunday for the casting lesson. But before we left the shop we bought a fly-tying video made by Bob (he is also known for his artistry and skill at fly-tying ). and a couple of shirts with his shop's logo embroidered on them. Even if we didn't get to actually fly fish, we had a great story and a souvenir.

We had to rearrange our travel schedule a bit to be in West Yellowstone on Sunday. We had planned to leave on Friday for Idaho Falls to have new tires installed on the RV and then continue on to Salt Lake City. But we managed to adjust our route to make it all work out. We would be back on Sunday in time for a casting lesson.

Sunday morning came and we packed up the RV to get back in time for the lesson but not before we hit the grocery store to re-stock (Idaho Falls was our big city stop this week!). Our last task was to find a car wash large enough to accommodate the RV. A couple of misses and then we found "Mr. Soapy" - they have very tall garages to accommodate the RV’s 10’6” height. Just seven dollars in quarters later, a month of travel melted away under the suds and spray!

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Now, back to West Yellowstone for a fly fishing lesson! We found our campsite at Henry's Lake State Park and made a quick dinner before moving on to West Yellowstone. It had already been an action packed day and the best was yet to come.

The little town of West Yellowstone was bustling and we stopped by the Montana visitors center to pick up a few guides for future reference. This spot is where Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho all come together. A mile one way or the other will put you in any of the three states. Officially, Yellowstone is in Wyoming, but the north and west entrances to the park are in Montana. Idaho is just a hop, skip and jump from the border, so Henry's Lake State Park was the perfect place to stay away from the crowded RV campgrounds around the Park's entrances.

We stopped by Jacklin's Fly Shop to check on the lesson and the guide told us to walk over to a pavillion behind the police station. There we found a large grassy field and Bob Jacklin and a friend laying out hula hoops and setting up fly rods for each person as they arrived.

The lesson began with Bob explaining several different types of casts. He demonstrated each one - how to do it and how not to do it. Then he set us to work trying our hand at emulating him. It was a lot more challenging than I expected, but Jim and I cast line after line trying to get the fly into the hula hoop on the ground before us. Success was intermittent but Bob's steady instruction encouraged us to keep at it.

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By the end of the one hour lesson, my wrist and hands hurt from too tight a hold on the grip. But I managed to hit that hula hoop enough times to "hook" me. This will not be my last episode with a fly rod in hand!. Jim did great, easily landing the fly in the hoop time after time. One correction from Bob and he was set.

We walked back the RV talking about the lessons and how much we had to learn. This was going to take some practice. Jim reminded me that we can fly fish at home in Blue Ridge - plenty of streams and rivers there to accommodate our new sport. And a handful of good fishing guides to help us hone our casting skills.

The drive back to camp was quiet and the sky was turning pastel colors. We rarely arrive in camp after sunset, and turning into the state park’s driveway we were met with sunset over the mountains, reflecting in the lake. A great end to a really fun day. Let's do it again soon!