wide shot of fishing dift boat navigating the snake river

Fishing the South Fork of the Snake River.

The 35th annual Jackson Hole One Fly event will take place this Saturday and Sunday with scores of anglers double-checking their knots before making that first cast.

Contestants come from across the United States and distant lands, such as Argentina, New Zealand and England. Entrance fees and donations go toward helping conservation projects locally and throughout the West.

“It's mainly to have a good time and get a lot of people together in the industry or around the world,” said Dirk Burgard, a fishing guide with Natural Retreat South Fork Lodge who has the duty of organizing guides for the contestants. “Eastern Idaho and Jackson (Wyo.) are pretty well known for fishing and fly fishing. That's why they do it in this area.”

Many of the awards and trophies for the contest are arraigned by Jimmy’s All-Season Anglers in Idaho Falls.

Each day of the event, competitors choose the fly they will fish with that day. If they lose their fly, the contest is over for them. Anglers compete with teams of four. The six longest fish for each angler are counted for the score each day.

“Hopefully your other three teammates that are fishing somewhere else on the South Fork do well; they tally all four of your scores for the daily total,” Burgard said.

Choosing your fly for the day is a bit of science and art. Past winning flies have been every possible concoction, tiny mayflies to giant streamers to ant imitations or wooly buggers.

“I have contestants who want to know what the weather is doing, what’s the water level, is it going to be sunny or cloudy?” Burgard said. “The weather governs how you fish, kind of. With certain temperatures you have, different flies are going to hatch.”

Burgard said contestants wake in the morning “trying to guess what the day is going to be like so they know what kind of fly to fish.”

He said this time of year, many anglers cast terrestrial fly imitations.

At the end of the day, competitors gather for dinners and awards as the results are tallied and posted.

Since 1993, the event has raised and funded $2.3 million for trout-specific conservation projects primarily in the tributaries and main stem of the Yellowstone and Snake River basins.

The Jackson Hole One Fly teams are mostly repeat contestants but the event tries to pick at least one new team each year. Teams are selected in October for the next year's event. Last year, the event was canceled because of the pandemic.

The stretches of river fished during the contest include the South Fork of the Snake River through Jackson Hole and the river below Palisades Dam all the way to Byington take out.

“It really varies but a lot of people think the Idaho side is better,” Burgard said.

To learn more about the One Fly event, go online to jacksonholeonefly.org.

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