Trip Report The "Garnet Sands" River: A tale of three rivers

So, with travel restrictions loosening into the summer, my friend Bob and I planned a road trip into Idaho and Montana. We would fish three rivers in 10 days (later extended by a day). In the face of Covid-19 cases rising in both Idaho and Montana, we would be social-distancing and wearing masks when around others, regardless of the local regulations or behavior of others. While the nexus of these trips is trout fishing, the trips involve so much more: re-engaging with a friend, immersion (sometimes literally) into the natural world, disrupting the routine. The trip was great, the fishing was very good, and the wildflowers and wildlife were superb.

I will call our first stop, “The Garnet Sands River”, a river that I have fished for a few days in mid-summer for the last 15 years or so. The river has had a commercial garnet mine and patches of garnet-colored sands are found along its banks.
GarnettSandsP7150248.jpg

The late, wet spring and some summer rains had kept the area lush and green, albeit at the cost of increasing the number and depth of the potholes on the road along the river. And the wildflowers, such as paintbrush, lupine, elephant’s head lousewort, Jeffries shooting stars, stonecrop, and mock orange, were abundant.
JeffriesShootingStar_7130062.jpg

Lupine_7130076.jpg

MockOrangeP7150291.jpg

Except for the occasional deer, this river is not known for its wildlife but the wildflowers do attract abundant butterflies, including western tiger swallowtails, Oregon swallowtails, greenish-blue butterfly, and California tortoiseshell.

OregonAndTigerSwallowtailsP7150332.jpg
OregonSwallowtailP7150324.jpg
GreenishBlueButterflyPlebejussaepiolusP7150329.jpg
CaliforniaTortoiseshellNymphaliscalifornica_7150277.jpg

Now, this is a cutthroat river and cutts are always willing to at least look at a promising dry fly offering, even in the absence of an insect hatch, bless their opportunistic hearts. We fished a stretch that my friends call the “Guide Hole” on two days.
GuideHoleP7150253.jpg

While there were some golden stones and caddis around, the fish were more focused on pale morning duns (PMDs). On the first day, a biot-bodied PMD parachute was effective. The fishing was slower on our second visit until I waded halfway across the fast riffle that leads into the pool and dropped some casts in a shallow, but calm pocket tight against the far bank. In three successive casts, I hooked a 15” (?), 14”, and 13” fish. They had set up into this quiet water to have the first shot at any drifting food. After hooking, I could lead them into the pool while I waded across the riffle to the left bank. The fish were easier to fight and net in this calm water. After a few pictures, I sent each on its way.
Cutt1A_7150241.jpg
Cutt2A_7140181.jpg
Cutt3CP7140193.jpg
This river really comes alive in the evening. There is often a “Magic Hour” at dusk where the biggest fish drop into easy feeding lies and eagerly take naturals (and artificial flies) in the surface film. When it is on, you are casting to consistently rising fish. They aren’t pushovers but they will look at your fly. Of course, this is also when you snap off your fly or make a mess of your leader and have to try to retie everything in the gloaming...
Cutt2AP7150340.jpg


We spent two evenings at the “Joad Hole”. A fast chute of standing waves penetrates deep into this pool, extending into deeper water.
JoadHoleP7150313.jpg
During the “Magic Hour” (and sometimes outside of the “Magic Hour”), the bigger cutts in this pool will move from their typical holding position under the chute to take a dry fly drifted just in the quiet water adjacent to the chute. Persistence and a PMD dropped repeatedly into the spot provided strikes from several nice cutts. When it is hot, it is amazing, such as three 13”+ cutts in three consecutive casts.
MeFightingTroutJoadHoleP7150038.jpg
A fun river. I’ll be back again.
Steve
 

Matt B

...
WFF Premium
I love fishing the magic hour in that country. If you stretch it out into Can’t See, you can often scrape out 2 solid hours of amazing fishing. Follow that with fireside beers and whiskey, man that’s livin’. Reasonable people could probably make it on that alone, but inevitably I will get up and head to the river at 10 or 10:30 the next morning.
Thanks for the report. Glad you had a good trip!
 

dwntwnbrwn

New Member
Just spent the past two days on this river. Had an amazing trip and caught a ton of fish on EHC, Purple Haze, and Rubber legs.
 

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SinglehandJay

Misanthropist
So, with travel restrictions loosening into the summer, my friend Bob and I planned a road trip into Idaho and Montana. We would fish three rivers in 10 days (later extended by a day). In the face of Covid-19 cases rising in both Idaho and Montana, we would be social-distancing and wearing masks when around others, regardless of the local regulations or behavior of others. While the nexus of these trips is trout fishing, the trips involve so much more: re-engaging with a friend, immersion (sometimes literally) into the natural world, disrupting the routine. The trip was great, the fishing was very good, and the wildflowers and wildlife were superb.

I will call our first stop, “The Garnet Sands River”, a river that I have fished for a few days in mid-summer for the last 15 years or so. The river has had a commercial garnet mine and patches of garnet-colored sands are found along its banks.
View attachment 249707

The late, wet spring and some summer rains had kept the area lush and green, albeit at the cost of increasing the number and depth of the potholes on the road along the river. And the wildflowers, such as paintbrush, lupine, elephant’s head lousewort, Jeffries shooting stars, stonecrop, and mock orange, were abundant.
View attachment 249709

View attachment 249710

View attachment 249711

Except for the occasional deer, this river is not known for its wildlife but the wildflowers do attract abundant butterflies, including western tiger swallowtails, Oregon swallowtails, greenish-blue butterfly, and California tortoiseshell.

View attachment 249712
View attachment 249713
View attachment 249714
View attachment 249715

Now, this is a cutthroat river and cutts are always willing to at least look at a promising dry fly offering, even in the absence of an insect hatch, bless their opportunistic hearts. We fished a stretch that my friends call the “Guide Hole” on two days.
View attachment 249716

While there were some golden stones and caddis around, the fish were more focused on pale morning duns (PMDs). On the first day, a biot-bodied PMD parachute was effective. The fishing was slower on our second visit until I waded halfway across the fast riffle that leads into the pool and dropped some casts in a shallow, but calm pocket tight against the far bank. In three successive casts, I hooked a 15” (?), 14”, and 13” fish. They had set up into this quiet water to have the first shot at any drifting food. After hooking, I could lead them into the pool while I waded across the riffle to the left bank. The fish were easier to fight and net in this calm water. After a few pictures, I sent each on its way.
View attachment 249717
View attachment 249718
View attachment 249721
This river really comes alive in the evening. There is often a “Magic Hour” at dusk where the biggest fish drop into easy feeding lies and eagerly take naturals (and artificial flies) in the surface film. When it is on, you are casting to consistently rising fish. They aren’t pushovers but they will look at your fly. Of course, this is also when you snap off your fly or make a mess of your leader and have to try to retie everything in the gloaming...
View attachment 249719


We spent two evenings at the “Joad Hole”. A fast chute of standing waves penetrates deep into this pool, extending into deeper water.
View attachment 249722
During the “Magic Hour” (and sometimes outside of the “Magic Hour”), the bigger cutts in this pool will move from their typical holding position under the chute to take a dry fly drifted just in the quiet water adjacent to the chute. Persistence and a PMD dropped repeatedly into the spot provided strikes from several nice cutts. When it is hot, it is amazing, such as three 13”+ cutts in three consecutive casts.
View attachment 249720
A fun river. I’ll be back again.
Steve
Fly fishing has taken me to an incredible amount of beautiful places. The garnet sands river if it's the same as the one I fished is the place that had the most beautiful of everything that grabs our sense's from the skies and trees to the water and the rocks beneath. Great report.
 

DrHare

The Coho King
So, with travel restrictions loosening into the summer, my friend Bob and I planned a road trip into Idaho and Montana. We would fish three rivers in 10 days (later extended by a day). In the face of Covid-19 cases rising in both Idaho and Montana, we would be social-distancing and wearing masks when around others, regardless of the local regulations or behavior of others. While the nexus of these trips is trout fishing, the trips involve so much more: re-engaging with a friend, immersion (sometimes literally) into the natural world, disrupting the routine. The trip was great, the fishing was very good, and the wildflowers and wildlife were superb.

I will call our first stop, “The Garnet Sands River”, a river that I have fished for a few days in mid-summer for the last 15 years or so. The river has had a commercial garnet mine and patches of garnet-colored sands are found along its banks.
View attachment 249707

The late, wet spring and some summer rains had kept the area lush and green, albeit at the cost of increasing the number and depth of the potholes on the road along the river. And the wildflowers, such as paintbrush, lupine, elephant’s head lousewort, Jeffries shooting stars, stonecrop, and mock orange, were abundant.
View attachment 249709

View attachment 249710

View attachment 249711

Except for the occasional deer, this river is not known for its wildlife but the wildflowers do attract abundant butterflies, including western tiger swallowtails, Oregon swallowtails, greenish-blue butterfly, and California tortoiseshell.

View attachment 249712
View attachment 249713
View attachment 249714
View attachment 249715

Now, this is a cutthroat river and cutts are always willing to at least look at a promising dry fly offering, even in the absence of an insect hatch, bless their opportunistic hearts. We fished a stretch that my friends call the “Guide Hole” on two days.
View attachment 249716

While there were some golden stones and caddis around, the fish were more focused on pale morning duns (PMDs). On the first day, a biot-bodied PMD parachute was effective. The fishing was slower on our second visit until I waded halfway across the fast riffle that leads into the pool and dropped some casts in a shallow, but calm pocket tight against the far bank. In three successive casts, I hooked a 15” (?), 14”, and 13” fish. They had set up into this quiet water to have the first shot at any drifting food. After hooking, I could lead them into the pool while I waded across the riffle to the left bank. The fish were easier to fight and net in this calm water. After a few pictures, I sent each on its way.
View attachment 249717
View attachment 249718
View attachment 249721
This river really comes alive in the evening. There is often a “Magic Hour” at dusk where the biggest fish drop into easy feeding lies and eagerly take naturals (and artificial flies) in the surface film. When it is on, you are casting to consistently rising fish. They aren’t pushovers but they will look at your fly. Of course, this is also when you snap off your fly or make a mess of your leader and have to try to retie everything in the gloaming...
View attachment 249719


We spent two evenings at the “Joad Hole”. A fast chute of standing waves penetrates deep into this pool, extending into deeper water.
View attachment 249722
During the “Magic Hour” (and sometimes outside of the “Magic Hour”), the bigger cutts in this pool will move from their typical holding position under the chute to take a dry fly drifted just in the quiet water adjacent to the chute. Persistence and a PMD dropped repeatedly into the spot provided strikes from several nice cutts. When it is hot, it is amazing, such as three 13”+ cutts in three consecutive casts.
View attachment 249720
A fun river. I’ll be back again.
Steve
Well, if the admin would fix the membership bug and allow Ranger Bob access, we could have another descriptive writer. Nice story and love the nature picks Dr Steve.
 

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