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 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 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


  1. Looks like an absolute blast, Mike - can't wait to see what day 3 holds.

  2. Do I need to say : I want to go to Wyoming .....