Introduction: Since starting our lower 48 program last year (2020) at The Fly Shop®, I wanted to get over to visit Teton Valley Lodge in person in order to see the fishery and better represent the lodge. Teton Valley Lodge has been around for 102 years and I have heard so many great things about the place that when I had an opportunity to host a trip there in September, I jumped at the chance. I rounded up some friends to go hit the Henry’s Fork, Teton and South Fork of the Snake for a week of action packed fly fishing.
Wednesday, September 1
I flew out of Redding at 7:30 am. Not the best schedule but one that didn’t arrive in Idaho falls too late. I met my fishing partner, Mike in Denver and we arrived at Idaho falls around 5:30 pm. Idaho Falls airport is small, easy to navigate and get around in and we grabbed our bags and headed out front to meet Bob, the Transportation manager, and loaded into the van for the 1 hour and 15 minute drive to the lodge. After a couple stops, we made it to the lodge around 7:30 pm, just in time for dinner. I met the rest of the group and everybody was excited about the week ahead of us and the fishing to come. Dinner was excellent! Prime rib with roasted carrots and a baked potato with some sort of mustard topping and horseradish sauce. Everynight there is a charcuterie tray, appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. The group was anxious to get the plan for tomorrow. Brian Berry (owner TVL) sits with each table and really likes talking to the guests and figuring out their thoughts for the next day. He really enjoys this and is very personable and can get caught up in the stories. We finally got him over to our table, we got set up for the next day’s fishing and headed to bed.
Thursday, September 2
Breakfast is buffet style and is served from 7:30 – 8:30 am and is usually some kind of egg dish, bacon, sausage, potatoes, cereal, fruit and some fresh baked pastries. There is a “build your own lunch” table with cardboard lunch boxes and a variety of sandwiches/salads, fruit, chips, cookies, jerky, etc. to take with you and give to your guide when you head out for the day. I think this is a great idea as you get exactly what you want for lunch and there is less waste. The guides typically meet you by 9:00 am either at your cabin or right in front of the tackle shop, stock up with your preferred drink for the day and head out to the river.. Brian is also so willing to accommodate special requests, leaving early, fishing longer, whatever you want to do to make your day better.
I think what makes the area so special is the variety of water nearby. Brian let me know they have 35 options to float from the lodge. The only downside to this is unless you are fishing right out front on the Teton, the drive times are typically 45 minutes to – 1 hour and 15 minutes, so you do spend some time in the truck getting to and from the rivers. All of our days, we had more than enough time on the water.
We had Jacob, a first year guide from North Carolina and we were hitting the Canyon of the South Fork of the Snake. We were fishing dry/droppers for most of the day, but we did some indicator/nymph off and on throughout the day. There was a mutant stonefly that hatched in the evenings, so we were using a big foam dry fly with Princes, PT variants, Rainbow Warriors and some other nymphs rigged up below. We had a nice day fishing and got a mix of brown, rainbows and whitefish. We each got a good number of fish to keep it interesting, but we still had to work for them. We both landed a couple of 17-18” fish. Long drive back and we didn’t get back to the Lodge until close to 8. Chicken Curry for Dinner. A little spicy, but delicious.
Friday, September 3
We fished Bear Gulch, on the Henry’s Fork with Adam, a first year guide from Wyoming. This float is below Mesa Falls and the guide has to push the boat down a wide trail ¼ mile to the river. It is steep and not for everybody, but the easier of the two boat drag/ hike downs. The other being the upper narrows on the Teton River. It was a drive and a process to get the boat down, so we weren’t fishing until around noon. Beautiful float! Very rugged canyon section. We saw one boat at the bottom as we were walking down and never saw anybody after that except at the takeout where there were some anglers walk and wade fishing. We fished a dry/dropper most of the day. Lots of action and tons of fish, mostly little guys 8-12” and a few bigger fish in the 15-16” range. After landing plenty of fish, I put a streamer on for the last hour or so. I got 3 fish in 4 casts and ended up landing 8-10, with many other takes and follows, both browns and rainbows. These were all bigger fish. Adam worked very hard dragging the boat around and was a great guy. Right at the end of the float we saw a big black bear down by the water and we got to watch him power up a hill that was so steep, but he made it look easy getting to the top. We took out about 6:30 pm right where the Warm River joins the Henry’s Fork. Home late again, just before 8.
Saturday, September 4
We floated the middle narrows of the Teton River. I wanted to do the upper narrows, but I guess it is a much tougher, steeper and a longer hike down than Bear Gulch and Mike (my fishing partner) had a rough time getting down the hill at Bear Gulch. The middle narrows float involved no hiking, so we decided on this one. We had Tim from Wyoming and this is his 3rd year guiding. He was a very interesting guy. He has a double Masters degree and is going to school for his doctorate and he loves data. He assesses the skill level of all his anglers and records on a scale from 1-10. He has 4 clickers and he keeps track of fish to the net, tangles, whitefish and sometimes hooked fish for the day. He tracks water temps twice a day as well and enters it into a giant spreadsheet. This is his personal information and he shared it with us because I asked a lot of questions. I thought it was interesting.
We had to portage a few sections as it was too dangerous to run with guests. This was a beautiful section of river with crystal clear, aquarium-like water and high canyon walls. The float is right around 8 miles and they rarely see anybody here as they have a private boat access at around the 8 mile mark and so all other lodges would need to float 12-13 miles in order to get out and this is a lot for this section of the Teton. TVL breaks it into two days and a couple in the group fished the section below us the same day and had some really good fishing as well. It was unbelievable cutthroat fishing. Lots of fish landed and many more missed and lost. We fished either hopper/dropper or double hopper. They were very willing to come up for the hopper, but were definitely selective on what they were eating. Tim has a favorite that was working best, although he changed us up so many times throughout the day, and was always looking for a better fly. We ended up landing 56 fish, we knew this only because he recorded it, and like I said we lost and missed a bunch more. Mike had a double on his dry/dropper, but they were both big and didn’t stay on. We landed a couple fish that were 18-19”. A solid overall day, with lots of fish. We arrived back at the lodge very late, 8:20 pm or so. We had an Asparagus beef tart for an app, house salad, Ribeye with potatoes au gratin and broccoli and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Yummy.
Sunday, September 5
Brian put us on the Lower South Fork, the very bottom section. LoLo. This is where almost all of the big fish this year were caught. They had a high water year and the trees and water really scoured the bottom of the river and there were lots of big fish landed on worms. We caught a bunch the day before, so we wanted to look for a big fish. We had Taylor, who guided for 10 years, went and worked in the real world and made some money for 5 years hauling oil and came back and decided to get back into guiding. He has been back for the last 5 years. He is a great guy, who loves fishing and elk hunting and you could tell he has been doing it a long time. We nymphed at first with a rubber leg and two worms. We each got a few fish and one 18-19” fish each. Mike switched over to dry dropper and I decided to fish streamers. I told Taylor I would fish around Mike as we worked down. Mike got a few on the dry/dropper rig and I had a bunch of interest in the streamer, but only landed a couple of fish. Most missed it or followed it, but I didn’t hook them. The last two hours or so, I put on a big baitfish pattern that had some amazing action and we agreed not to let each other change it. It was fun hunting for a big fish and even though we didn’t get a monster, we had a great day and it was nice to fish some open water in a bigger boat after fishing the tight canyons in the small raft for the last two days. We were off the river at a reasonable time and we were home by 7:30 pm. It was actually nice to get back in the evening to rest a little before Dinner. We had a Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin, that was in my opinion, the best meal of the week.
Monday September 6,
Mike took off after breakfast and I was a solo angler so I finally got to the front of the boat. I wanted to do some flat water hunting which the Teton in front of the lodge is known for, but I think there were some other people doing it, so Brian said I should check out the Upper Henry’s Fork. I had Michael who is in his 8th year guiding at TVL. He was a great guy, into hunting, any kind of fishing, both spin and fly fishing. We did a combination of hunting big fish in the upper flats and a canyon section of bouldery pocket water below. We did Wood road 16 to Hatchery ford. The first couple of miles we were hunting for a big fish on a big ant pattern. I ended up having 4 come up for my fly, pulled up early on a couple and only landed one. It was a very nice Rainbow, probably around 22” and fat. Once the water started dropping and there was more pocket water, Michael said this is the numbers game and typically you can land 20-30 smaller fish with a dry/dropper or a nymph set up, with a few big fish mixed in. I had caught plenty of fish on nymphs and after picking up a half dozen on the dropper, I asked if we could streamer fish. He said he never had great luck on streamers through this section, but was willing to try. This section is all rainbows as there are no browns above the 2 Mesa falls. It started out slow, but after he changed me to a black sculpzilla, I started to really get into them and most were bigger fish. I landed 4-5 18-19” fish and lost a few more along with some smaller ones. I also had lots of fish following and missing my fly and it was great action and a lot of fun. Michael said the day changed his opinion of streamer fishing on that section. It was 4:30 pm and I told him I was pretty content about our day on the river, and was ready to head out if he was. We had another mile or so to float and by the time we took out, and drove back, we were back at the lodge at 7:00 pm, plenty of time to relax, get a shower and get ready for dinner. We had another steak, this time with rice, broccoli and a shelf mushroom. 4 steaks in 6 nights, but no complaints here, it was delicious and I enjoyed every bite.
Tuesday September 7
I was scheduled to meet Bob at 8:10 am for our drive over to Idaho Falls. I was over for breakfast at 7:30 am and had eggs benedict, which was delicious. I went to the Tackle shop, paid for my shuttle and tipped the staff, packed up and we were on our way to Idaho Falls. Once we got there, around 9:45 am, I checked my bag and it was the shortest security check I have ever seen. There was no line, I walked up, put my bag through the scanner and was in the terminal, 5 minutes. Flight home was smooth and I was landing in Redding at 8:30 pm.
Teton Valley lodge is a great operation that has been around for 102 years and they have something for everyone. With over 35 floats, you can go and hunt big fish, or go after numbers or both. You can hit a remote canyon, where you will see almost no anglers or hit the South Fork, big open classic western drift boat fly fishing. Pocket water, flat water, streamers, dries, and of course nymph fishing.
Brian and Joselle are completely hands on and are always there to see how your day was and are serving dinners and wine and cleaning rooms. They are the heart and soul of the operation.
I was impressed with how few anglers I saw. Idaho limits the number of Outfitters on each section of river, so it is never too crowded. This doesn’t limit private anglers, but I never felt like there were too many people on any of the sections. Most of the sections, we didn’t see another angler. TVL has been so innovative and not afraid to fish some of the more difficult sections of the rivers. Just thinking of the process of setting up some of these floats originally and the process of getting them done, is pretty amazing. Whoever thought about dragging rafts ½ mile down a mountain in order to float, was obviously all about the fishing. They are a real deal fly fishing lodge, where fishing is first and foremost, but they also provide great food, accommodations and experience to go along with it.
One thing to keep in mind is TVL is a bigger operation, they can take up to 40 guests, so it isn’t a small intimate lodge. They doubled the dining room and added a beautiful deck overlooking the Teton River this past year.
Just recently, Brian had one of his long-time guests finalize a purchase of 600+ acres on the other side of the Teton river from the lodge and the land was put into a permanent conservation easement. This means it will never be developed, which will preserve the river/view from the lodge for eternity. Great news for TVL. And they also use this 600 acres for their planted pheasant and chukar hunts. It is a win/win for them.
They have their hands in so many things. They are starting a winter season at the lodge, where guests will stay at the lodge and eat meals there and TVL will set them up with either skiing, snowmobiling, photography or other winter activities. In the winters, Brian and the guides build fiberglass drift boats (Let-M-Run Drift Boats) as well as frames for raft packages that they sell. These are the rafts/frames they use at the Lodge for some of the canyon floats. This keeps some of his guides busy all winter, while keeping them on the payroll. He is all about taking care of his guides. It is unique out west that he has a full time crew of guides that work specifically for the lodge. He has a great guide crew. Tom has been guiding at the Lodge for 40+ years. Chris and Taylor have around 15+ years of experience. Michael is in his 8th year. I think this a great Lodge and they have it dialed in. It would be hard to come here and not have a great time.
Please feel free to give me a call (800) 669-3474 or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to learn more about Teton Valley Lodge.
All the best fishing,