Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Rainbows of Eagle Ridge Ranch

Sheridan Creek

My first day in Idaho I had mentally penciled in the Henry's Fork as the place to fish. I had my camp site reserved and was fantasizing about hiking far from the beaten path to find water that had less pressure and large, less discriminating fish. Of course, I didn't foresee my buddy Chris Hunt offering a real bed at his place and an opportunity to fish some water for choice Rainbows with two friends, Greg McReynolds and Tom Reed.

Sheridan Creek runs off the flanks of Taylor Mountain near Island Park, Idaho, meanders across the valley floor for miles before emptying into Island Park Reservoir. Most of the land it crosses is privately owned and while there are ways to access the river from public lands and road crossings access through private land is the most convenient. That's where Eagle Ridge Ranch comes in.

An average denizen of Sheridan Creek. (Photo: Chris Hunt)
Eagle Ridge Ranch is located is Island Park just off the beaten path. It is comprised of 90,000 acres and is a working cattle ranch. Of course, all that pasture has some sweet trout streams running through it. The ranch has a lodge (four bedrooms) and four cabins for rent and accommodations include access to streams and lakes on the property. There's also the opportunity to canoe the ponds, do some horseback riding and participate in other ranch activities.

We had made special arrangements to do some fishing and you should contact the ranch directly if you're interested in doing so. We came for the fishing; specifically fishing for trophy rainbows in Sheridan Lake. Of course, there's also Sheridan Creek, a pretty meadow creek, that caught our eye and was where we started our day.

By the time I got down to the water, Chris and Greg were both into fine rainbows. Chris was using a small fiberglass rod and it lacked the backbone to muscle the fish in any way so part of the joy of seeing him catch this fish was to watch him dance along the bank and through the riffles trying to stay connected. Fortunately, Chris is light on his feet and he managed to complete the dance and land the beast. Those fish proved to be the largest that we caught though everyone got into more modest sized bows and Chris managed to catch a beauty of a Brookie.

A delicate ballerina.
One of the things that you have to contend with when fishing a ranch are the fences. The location we chose seemed to be some sort of nexus between many fields and there was a maze of barbed wire fences that needed to be navigated. At one point I hooked a fish in an alley between two fences and he promptly fled downstream. Unable to cross the fence that spanned the stream, I had to literally drag the fish back upstream under the wire. Fortunately, the tippet held.

Chris' eddy rainbow
A highlight of the afternoon was sight fishing to a pod of bows in large eddy that formed off to the side of a bend. Chris was fishing the main channel when Greg and I came over the rise. The eddy was still and weedy and didn't look like much until the sun came out from behind the clouds. We both saw the shadows of several large fish slowly circling. Redirected, it took Chris a few casts to get the fly in the right place. With a twitch and a short strip, Greg and I got to watch a hefty bow surge and strike Chris' hopper.

We never made it to the lake to fish for the trophy bows. By the time we got around to going over to the lake the day was waning and the wind was up. We had foolishly passed on the option to bring along a battery for the boats on the pond and rowing in the wind wasn't appealing. Besides, our hunger had built. And we were thirsty. Again.

We drove into town and had a burger and a few beers. While the desire to linger was there, we all had ground to cover. Tom needed to get back home and Greg and Chris had a long ride ahead of them. I had an appointment with a campground in the park and needed to get to West Yellowstone before the shops closed down.

As I drove north, I passed the turn off for Sheridan Creek. I looked long and hard down that dusty dirt path. Fortunately, I was temporarily sated and continued north setting up my tent just before a storm rolled through. As the front passed the air chilled and I took a coffee and cigar to the banks of the Madison River to enjoy the last of the sunset. Even with storied water before me I couldn't help but reflect on Sheridan Lake and the rainbows we never saw.

For a video of what it's like to fish on the lake, check out Marc Crapo's Eagle Ridge Adventure Video

Prettier places are hard to come by. (Photo: Chris Hunt)


  1. Steve, The images are so crisp. Love the big sky.



    1. While the fishing is good, I often find myself staring off at the horizon. Back here in the east, we have such limited vistas on account of all the trees. Out there the sky and earth stretch out forever and the blue hurts your eyes.

  2. Excellent. You shouldn't get out more.

    1. Still savoring the memories. And a nice head cold. Sunday on the Housy perhaps.