In the woods: A detour from Abilene turns into delight

As I ate wind and spitting rain Sunday at the South Fork of the Snake River’s Lorenzo boat ramp, my wife asked if I’d heard of the “Abilene principle.”

Also called the “Abilene paradox,” it the phenomenon where a group of people decide collectively to do something, although individually they want no part of it. Basically put, somebody says, “Let’s go to Abilene” and everybody says, “OK.” Upon their return, they all admit they only went because the others wanted to.

Some historians believe Watergate can be explained by the Abilene principle. Savvy business leaders preach against it.

Until I returned to a computer Monday, I thought it was something Margaret made up to get out of the float trip. Sorry to doubt you, sweetheart.

Our plan was to float to Menan, but the rain, wind — and a discussion of Abilene — changed our minds. It was the best decision we could’ve made and led to a memorable day in the most unlikely of places.

But let me back up.

Margaret has wanted to float all year, but something — children, work, weather — has always jumped in the way. Sunday was our day until a smattering of rain joined the steady breeze.

“We can go another day,” Margaret said. I agreed but decided we’d take the long way home and ended up east of Heise on a non-decrepit stretch of water. I planned to run the dog and eat our lunch, but rising trout immediately interrupted.

Fish after fish slurped mayflies off the surface. I’d never thought of stopping there to fish, but the flat was was so alive I forgot my hunger and set about to catch two fish.

Two became four; four became eight and before you could say Abilene I’d forgotten I was on a pseudo-date.

Fortunately, I have the best wife ever. Did I mention that — at one point — she untangled my line from cattails so I could continue fishing without leaving the water?

We stayed until the sun came out, which effectively stopped the hatch.

As we drove home, I briefly wondered if the fishing was better downstream of Lorenzo.

I abandoned that thought.

Thank God for Abilene.

• • • • • •

I again implore people — specifically novice boaters — to stay away from the lower South Fork.

For the second time this summer, the lower river has killed a boater, this time a kayaker, who was floating with his wife and friends when they got caught by a large sweeper.

The river between Twin Bridges and Lorenzo is a dangerous place because the channels are forever shifting and there randomly placed logjams and downed trees.

If you insist on heading to the lower river, it is critical to keep your head up and be ready to move away from trouble around every bend.

• • • • • •

To my hardcore readers — all six of you — I apologize for last week’s litany of errors.

For some reason, I completely butchered the outdoor calendar last week.

Thinking Friday was Aug. 30, I put in the calendar that the hunting seasons opened for moose, goat, sheep, bear, lion, forest grouse and archery elk. The only problem was that Friday was Aug. 29 and I accidentally opened a plethora of seasons a day early.


As expected Fish and Game officials were none too pleased about me the hunting seasons. As is policy, I wrote a correction and put it in Saturday’s paper.

Unfortunately, that is where things went completely sideways because I inadvertently said that the dove season opened Aug. 30 and not Sept. 1.

So I was left in the horrific position of writing a correction for a correction.

Double doh.

• • • • • •

Fishing on the South Fork of the Snake River continues to be good to great.

August’s cloudy and rainy weather helped to keep water temperatures down, which fueled strong bug hatches. Specifically, the PMD hatches have been great this summer.

• • • • • •

If you aren’t interested in floating the South Fork, the Henry’s Fork should be good in the coming days as water temperatures fall and trout start feeding more aggressively.

Harriman State Park can be good this time of year with hoppers and ants.

The lower river should get better as the days get shorter.

• • • • • •

Another early September option is small streams around the region. Big Elk Creek, for example, can be very good when the flavs hatch. The best time to fish it is late morning and early afternoon after the water has warmed a bit.

• • • • • •

Another September fishing choice is Henry’s Lake.

As the water starts to cool, brook trout are pulled to creek mouths by the urge to spawn. Big brookies concentrate in big numbers and the fishing can be quite good.

The best time to fish is at daybreak or dusk.

• • • • • •

As for hunting, the reports from the woods are sparse.

The archery elk hunt started Saturday, but there have been no reports of talkative elk. Elk will become more active as the days get shorter and the nights get colder.

• • • • • •

I heard conflicting reports on forest grouse.

One hunter said he shot his limit early Saturday, and allowed that he could have shot my limit too.

Another hunter said there aren’t any grouse in Idaho.

In my experience, those two reports sum up forest grouse hunting perfectly: feast or famine.

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