Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wyoming 2013 - Day Three

It was hard to believe, but after a year of looking forward to this trip we were already down to the last day.  Greg and I decided that for the final day we wanted to get as far off the grid as possible.  The morning came and our friend Kelly picked us up at the hotel, then we were quickly on the road.  After a bit we got off the main road and headed towards the mountains...and kept going...and going...

I am pretty sure that by the time we stopped we were as far off the grid as one can get in the lower United States for a day trip.  We were hours from the nearest real road and still had some hiking to do...it was perfect.  As we geared up at the car I was looking around and still wondering where the water was that we would be chasing trout around in.  We decided to have a quick bite to eat before hiking in and Kelly let us know "It's just up and over that saddle".  DOH!

We started to hike in by picking our way through the now very dry aroyos that when wet must just rip downhill.  Between the vegitation that was well armed to keep creatures away from it (read thorns, spikes,and burrs) and the elevation Greg and I both were hoping that the adrenaline and anticipatino would not wear off before we got the mile or so to the top...the walk down would be a snap.

After making it through the aroyos we had a ways to go up and over some scrub covered hills and then suddenly we were at the top and looking down in to a trout eden carved in to the mountains.

We picked our way down towards the water, being careful to avoid injury of any kind since it would suck to get this far and have to turn back.  As we made the final descent down towards the water you could feel the air temps being regulated by the cool water and the bubbling sound drew us in.

We scurried down the last slope and over a car sized boulder to be greeted with this pool as the first piece of water we would see for the day.  Today was my turn to go first and I was stoked to get a fly in the water as this was another one of those spots you just KNOW deep down (for you Dennis Leary guys this feeling was deep below the sub-cockles) that there was a fish just waiting to destroy whatever came by.  It would be a challenge to cast as the scrub grew in so close to, and even over, the water.  I pulled line off the reel and made the first cast well short just to get the feel for the water and get enough line to load the rod and reach the target...the soft seam at the base of the boulder.  The second cast I fired right on target and did not even have enough time to mentally congratulate myself on the placement as buttery lightning streaked out and nailed the fly just after splash down!

After a spirited fight in the fast water I slid this mean brown in to the net.  Smiles and high fives all around...awesome start to the day!

With that fish on the books we proceeded to swap through the lineup as we bouldered our way up the small water.  While the fish were willing to eat it was still surprisingly technical wade in to position and then get a drift good enough to pull the bigger fish out of their hiding spots.

It was great to have Kelly along with us again today.  He knew that Greg and I both would be carrying 9' sticks so he brought along a lighter and shorter rod for those really tight spots.

This pool was the deepest of the whole stretch that we fished... deep enough that I could likely stand under the rock on the right without hitting my head.  The water was so deep and clear that the big boys in this pool were at a distinct advantage.  We did get a few 10-12" fish to hand here but the big fish came out only once; he came from under the rock on the left to slash at a very slowly drifted fly and retreat to his hole not to be seen again.

We worked our way up in to the canyon very slowly as we presented flies to each side of each rock, and to each eddy, seam, or depression.  It took remarkably little break in the current or slight increase in depth  to create holding water for these hard fighting fish.

Buttery goodness and feisty spotted rainbows kept us busy.

As you can see the casting required an acute awareness of the surroundings as any errant backcast was guaranteed to hang up.  This was small water fishing at it's best and we felt right at home picking apart the narrow boulder filled flows.

We were all in on the act and I am not sure the smiles ever left our faces.

This fish was my most memorable of the day.  He was hanging out, completely invisible in four inches of water, between two boulders that were two feet apart.  I had atleast a dozen well drifted flies within three feet of this fish that went untouched...I carefully hit each seam and break leaving just the middle left.  As I sized up another cast Greg told me "It's time for the field goal...split those uprights", so I did.  A few seconds in to the drift the fly seemed to simply disappear without even the slightest ripple so I set to some nice weight on the line.  "See.  I told you homie", Greg said laughing.

As the sun was getting ever closer to the canyon wall we knew that our trip was coming to and end and wanted the get Greg in to one more of his beloved browns.  He worked throgh some really tight quarters and was able to make one of those seeing-eye type roll casts in to the impossible spot to get in to this fish.  Honestly it is a crappy shot of the fish but one of my favorite shots of Greg as there is nothing but a smile to be had.  What a day.

We finished of the trip with a few more fish in the last hundred feet or so, with the nicest fish being this brown.  We wanted to keep on going but knew that we had to start back out to get out while there was still light...wouldn't want to try and make this hike in the dark.  We took in one last look up the box canyon and started our way back towards the car.  About a hour and a half later we were back on the back bumper pulling off our wading shoes to end what had been another awesome trip.  There was not a lot of conversation as we slowly wound our way back across the open countryside towards our small pocket of civilization...we were just looking around and soaking as much in as we could since it will be a bit before we see it again.
I was so busy while we were there, and since I have been back, that I did not even have a chance to look through the pictures on the camera before cleaning up each day to be shared.  I get goosebumps looking back at what we did and look forward to making the trip again...something that I now know will happen in 347 days.  Yup, we already have July 12-14 set aside for the return trip in 2014!  If you are interested in tagging along give Greg Senyo a call (419.466.9382) and he can fill you in on the details as long as there are open spots available.  This is a trip that I plan to make every year I am physically able...truly a special spot.

-mike schmidt

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wyoming 2013 - Day Two

Day two of the trip saw us up and on the road early as we were headed to fish some water that I had not yet seen, but was told was spectacular. The closer we got it became apparent that I had not been oversold...the views on the way in were stunning!
After winding our way back in to the foothills for some time we came around one final turn and the valley floor spread out before us revealing a thin ribbon of water splitting it down the middle.  One amazing thing about this valley was that the river had eroded right down an ancient fault line where two disctinct rock types had long ago collided.  The resulting split left pale white rock for one canyon wall and brilliant red rock on the opposing wall...something I had previously only read about in Geology classes.

We geared up riverside and started our walk in to see a man about some troutskis.

Once we had wandered upstream a bit we made our way under a copse of trees and popped out right next to a perfect trout lie.  There was a gently sweeping bend in the river where the riffle ran down in to a plunge deep plunge pool at the base of a massive slab of rock, with a gentle back eddy, before falling off down in to the next pool. 

Greg was up first again and I could not take my eyes off of the water as this was one of those spots that, deep down in your gut, you just KNOW will give up fish.  Greg's first drift unbelievably made it through the pool unmolested.  His second cast, however, was a foot farther and the water absolutely exploded as the biggest fish we would see the whole trip came out of the depths and demolished his fly.  There was some extra line on the water so Greg set hard and the hook hit paydirt.  This was a big and now very pisssed off fish that had the 5WT Radian bent right through the cork...until it didn't.  After a few seconds of savage fighting the rod went slack...it had straightened out the hook and left us with our jaws in our laps.  While it was not the desired outcome it was one hell of a way to start off the day! 

We were playing baseball so Greg sat to re-tie while both Clark and myself landed a couple smaller fish in quick succession getting us back to Greg's turn.  He made a few casts high up in to the back eddy on the far bank and, after throwing a heavy slack loop to stall the fly for a second, hooked up and landed this very solid brown.  On the board with a nice fish we moved on upstream and worked each inch of water to be sure we did not pass by the hiding spot of one of the finned ninjas...

As we made our way slowly along I found that my eyes were looking up as often as in to the water.  The cliffs were a site to see and we had swallows and magpies working the water and keeping us company.

Each time we thought that there had to be a featureless stretch coming we would come upon another pool, cutbank, depression, or boulder...it was a seemingly endless supply of habitat and every rock covered with insect life.  Every spot that looked like it should hold fish seemed to do exactly that; if we did not hook one then we saw one slash or spook.

Our guide this day was the owner of the outfitter and good friend Clark.  We made sure he got in on the baseball rotation and it was a pleasure to watch him work the water.  Clark picked apart every seam...

...and was rewarded with some very nice fish!

As I was cleaning up the pictures from day two for this post it struck me that, though we caught more fish than we could count, we had not taken all that many pictures of fish but rather were more taken with the scenery.

We caught mostly browns and rainbows on the day, but there were a few cuttbows around as well. 

On the way in for the morning fishing we passed by a sweeping bend and, rather than walk the inside edge, crossed above the bend and walked well up the slope to have a good view down in to the water.  This particular spot had a cold spring that flowed forming a slender peninsula, and dumped in to the main stream in a small back eddy.  From our high vantage point we spotted what looked like a female rainbow that was every bit of 20+", and stuck around for a few minutes to watch her.  She was sliding around nymphing and lazily rising to take the occasional bug off the surface.  We mentally marked the spot for when we were headed back through.

After lunch we fished for a bit before getting downstream of that spot and Clark suggested that he and I cross well downstream of it and get slowly back up to our high vantage point to see if she was still there...and she was.  We talked abot it and figured Clark would stay in place to spot, while I slowly made my way down to the peninsula to try and get a shot at this fish.

I made it down the slope and out onto the peninsula without stepping in the spring as I didn't want to stir it up and give her warning that I was on my way.  I slowly crept forward as far as I dared and then got down on my hands and knees to get a few feet closer.

Clark and I had talked and decided that a beetle would be the fly to try so once I was in position I started peeling off line and picturing the 35 foot cast from my knees in to the dinner plate sized eddy right at the tip of the grass peninsula.  Just as I was about to cast Clark yelled down that it was moving on caddis so I backed off, clipped the beetle, and secured a sz14 elk hair caddis. 

With the new fly on I waited until the fish was pointed the right direction and fired in a cast that was about a foot left and short of the current seam, so between the grass and lack of current the fly stalled out inches from shore.  Clark yelled down that the fish saw it, was on it, moved in tto take a look and then sank back down not happy with what it saw.  I waited until the fish slid out in to the current seam before popping the fly back to me and regrouping for another shot. 

Since we know the fish saw and rejected the last fly I clipped it and went smaller...down to a sz18 X2 Caddis. I again waited until the fish presented an opportunity to cast without spooking it and this cast was again on the mark.  The fly landed just outside of my view so it was squarely in the eddy and visible to the fish.  Clark again excitedly called out the play by play as the fish again investigated and again rejected the fly.

We then decided that perhaps it had not been taking caddis but rather small beetles so I got set up with a little foam bug.  Just before casting though Clark called down that she was now actively nymphing...this fish was being a real bastard.  I cut off the beetle and decided to drop a sz18 bead headed caddis off a larger caddis.  With the rig ready I waited for the fish to give me a casting window and as she drifted just under the current seam I made my cast.  The cast rolled out perfectly and a little tuck at the end dropped the nymph and indi-caddis right at the top of the back eddy.  I slowly took up slack as the fly inched back towards me and Clark confirmed the fish was interested...then swimming towards it...then I struck hard as he yelled down that she took it right as the last inch of line I could see told me the same thing.  One strip set and I felt some serious weight on the line for an instant before the water exploded towards me and the fish came out to eye level, nearly beaching herself on the grass, before sliding back down in to the water.  My heart was pumping so hard that it took me a second to realize that no amount of slack I was frantically trying to regain would bring me back tight as the small barbless hook came loose during the tarpon like explosion and head shake.     fuck...

This brief look of disappointment and disbelief quickly turned to smiles and laughter.  I did not get to hold her in my hand but we had fooled that smart old trout.  Not one that I will soon forget!

Recap...hands and knees, five flies, three casts, thirty minutes, fooled fish, unforgettable LDR.  Pure awesomeness!

Shortly after that we were joking around and calling out spots that would likely yield fish.  Greg was on the stick and Clark stayed high on the outside bluff to get a few shots for us.  We saw some noce depth change so Greg made a long cast in.

A few drifts through and it seemed that perhaps there was not the fish that we expected in that slot, but then almost as an afterthought a fish lazily rose and sucked down his hopper so gently that we nearly missed it.  Game on.

The fish put up a good fight but Greg ws able to bring him over and gently slide him in to the outstretched net.

The fish played nice in the water but was a bit camera shy...

Oh well...on to the next awesome looking spot!  While we were very comfortable with 5X in most places, these jams were a good test of our knots and fighting capabilities.  When the fish came out and hammered on our flies here we had little time to try and turn them otherwise they would beeline back to the safety of the gnarly wood piles and surely break us off.

The fishing in this spot had been phenomenal for us all day.  This beautiful brown was representative of the average fish for us on the day, being in the 14-15" range, and we had those shots at the bigger fish that will continue to haunt me for some time.

One parting glance back as we were walking our way back out.  this is a spot that I will get back to for sure.

Dinner on day two the last few years has found us heading out to the ranch for a great meal, and then hanging around the ranch bar for a few beverages and some stories.

After a few beers and a glass of wine with dinner I was feeling pretty good.  I headed over to the car to swap out the camera lens for a few shots and as I stood there I was hearing a weird whistling sound.  It was almost as if Tinkerbell was flying about...but I hadn't had that much to drink so what was going on?  I peered around the door and down at the slope in front of the car and was shocked to see there were a few feeders with three different species of hummingbird zipping around all over the place!
As I gathered myself I was able to spot the three varieties there; green with red throated Broad Tails, brown with bright scarlet throated Rufous, and the mini-sized Calliope.  It was really amazing to see that there were about three dozen birds whipping about and visibly draining the feeders!  I grabbed the camera and stood there shooting birds for twenty minutes or so before heading back in.
One important point of buiness on the night was for Greg to add a SAO sticker to the sticker fridge.  Again this year I did not have any ACF stickers with me, so I guess that I will have to go back...
Our visit to the ranch coinsided with an employee party on the riverside deck so it was a lively affair.  One of the guys, Hunter, had collected spring water from a local spring and grains from just over in to Montana to brew a fantstic beer for the night.  It was one of the most tasty home brews that I have ever had.  It was actually flat due to a mishap in the final stages of brewing so it was more like a cask beer...but delicious none the less.  I was perfectly happy to have mine and enjoy the taste without the bubbles rather than use the remedy of some of the newly-21 in attendance that carbonated theirs by pouring in some PBR.  I can only imagine how they felt the next morning.

We had a long day of spectacular fishing and followed it up with fantastic food, beer, and fish stories...pretty hard day to beat.  It would have been fun to hang out and relax at the ranch bar but there was one day of fishing left so we called the night relatively early, before it was technically the next day anyways, and headed back to get some sleep.  Morning would come quick and we needed rest as Greg and I were set to spend one of the most physically demanding day on the water I have experienced in a while.

Day three post to come in a few days...

-mike schmidt

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wyoming 2013 - Day One

Living here in Ohio I do not have mountains to greet me everywhere I look nor do I have what anyone would refer to as an abundance of wild trout out my back door...or any. About a week ago, after the long wait from last summer, the time had finally come to head back out west to Wyoming to chase around fish in one of the most amazing settings possible.  Needless to say, it is a trip that I look forward to all year. 

The days leading up to the trip seemed to draw out the closer it got but finally Thursday afternoon came and it was time to hit the road.  I lit up the first of many fine cigars on the trip as I headed north to meet up with Greg Senyo.  The plan was to crash out early at his house, to get ready for the long travel day, but instead we put down a fair number of Yuengs and tied flies for far too long.  Instead of getting a good nights rest we got more of a short nap in before heading to Detroit Metro and jumping on a plane headed west.

We made it in to Sheridan, via Denver, in good time and got right through to the car.  As it turns out they were unaware that to keep the sprinkler water outside of the vehicle would require the windows to be closed...so after closing said windows and drying off the front we hit the road and were in Buffalo in no time.  After dropping by the Sports Lure to load up on the local fly favorites we had a great dinner at the Winchester Steakhouse and then called it early since the morning would come soon.

Breakfast was knocked out early and then we met up with our outfitters and hit the road.  After about an hour and a half we made it to our river for day one, which was nestled way back in the canyons.  It was hard to contain our excitement as we geared up and started the walk in...this was my favorite river from last years trip so expectations were high.

I was fishing with Greg and for the first day our guide was our good friend Kelly.  As we got in to the first run to be fished I backed off to grab the camera and had Greg jump in first.  As much as I love this river I think he digs it even more and I was not about to take the first shot from him.  To start off he was so excited to be there that he seemed to shake visibly and the first few casts melted away any lingering stress.  It was great to be back.

Once Greg worked through the first run I jumped in to fish the tailout from the next pool and that run.   Just a few casts in and a bolt of lightning came flying out from a cut to demolish my elkhair and CDC caddis.  On the board!  Of course the picture had to be taken regardless of size...one does not want to risk upsetting the fish gods by not properly recording the first fish of any day!

This particular stretch of water varied from being able to touch grass on both sides with outstretched arms out to about 20 feet.   In the more narrow sections the scrub and willows, which grew right to the bank, were a welcome break from the wind but forced some precise casting.

Greg put up the first respectable fish of the trip with this gorgeous brown trout.  These things hit like a freight train and fight like crazy.

The water was gin clear and in the pools any misstep would send water waves out which would put the fish down.  they are wild fish and lightly pressured, but they were not stupid...they know how to survive.  Each spot that looks like it should hold a fish did, but to get in to the good ones required stealthy movement and well offered bugs.

If you could get a few good drifts through promising water though then the fish were out to eat! 

As we worked pool to pool together it was a blast to be able to sit back and watch how the others would aproach and work the water.  It was almost as much fun to watch the other guys perfect presentation fool the fish as it was to do so yourself...

...almost.  Of course it was still great to tag in and get your shot at the next holding water!

This was the kind of wood filled chute that held enough fish for us to rotate through and each get in to some before moving on.  One other thing that is a blast about playing baseball on the river is that push to get the better cast in to the more difficult spot with others watching.  Sure we hung up plenty and the other would jump in to finish it out, but when you made that perfect cast in to that impossible spot with an audience and made the heckling turn to ooohhs and ahhhs....priceless!

There was sexy water everywhere we looked...it was tough to concentrate on one spot when the next spot looked just as good.  I hooked what was likely the biggest fish of the day in the slackwater off the edge of the log in the lower right.  It hammered the first cast in with a violent explosion of water but after a short run around a rock edge and the log the hook lost hold...doh...

Kelly was spot on as always.  It is great to be able to spend the day on the water with a good friend like him that just happens to also be a first rate guide. 

Even with the fishing as amazing as it was the scenery made it tough to concentrate at times. 

Tight casting and deep undercuts were the name of the game.  Slowly moving in to a good position and then working the pool throughouly without moving produced some great fish.  Many times the best drift would pull the fly back under the cut bank for a few seconds before emerging farther downstream.  What was really cool was when that happened and then you set based on the sound of the trout sucking down the bug while totally out of site and then trying to get them out before they wrapped you around a bunch of crap.  It was awesome!

One thing that becomes quickly apparent is that the browns are all colored spectacularly here.  They all take on the richest electric butter yellow coloring I have seen anywhere.

I fished the Orvis Helios2 rod on this trip and it was the perfect stick for me.  It had enough ass to make the wind a non factor and roll casting a snap, but the sensitivity and feel to protect the tippet and keep things fun. 

After a full day on the water we made the long walk back across the meadows to the car.  We got in to browns, rainbows, and cuttbows...as well as some brownbows and cuttbrowns on the foam orgymidges.
On the drive back we stopped at the saddle to take a few shots out over the valley floor, and frankly the pictures do not do it justice.  There is just no way to convey the unbelievable scale of what you can see from that vantage point.

Just one day on Wyoming trout water and all the stress had melted away.  The ride back was a mix of excited stories about fish landed and missed, along with long periods of silence as I was the only one awake and driving the car.  Once back we had a quick dinner and then I grabbed a sixer of Fat Tire (can't not have some while I am there) and we geared up in the room for day two.  As we drifted off we all joked that there was no way it could get any better, but I was smiling an chuckling knowing that was not the case as the next day would also be amazing.

The shots from day two should be cleaned up in the next few days and posted.  It was a new stretch of water for me that I was told was spectacular, and they were not wrong.

-mike schmidt