The human mind is an amazing thing. With it we have accomplished spectacular feats; extremely complex problem solving, pushed bodies to then past their perceived limits and time travel. Yes…time travel. With my mind I am able, albeit unwillingly, to turn the minutes leading to an anticipated trip into days and then once there seemingly turn days into minutes.
My most recent time travelling experience revolved around my yearly return to the Bighorn region of Wyoming. As with previous years the lead up to the trip seemed to take forever but the day finally came and I still somehow found myself scrambling to get my gear together. With the car packed I pointed the car north and headed towards Greg Senyo’s place to crash for a few hours before heading to the airport in the morning. The first leg of the journey was uneventful as we breezed through security and got to our gate with an hour to spare. The stay in Denver was not nearly so smooth. I will not bore you with details except to say that a brief scheduled layover turned in to a walking tour of all three terminals followed by over seven hours at the ass end of A terminal waiting. We were literally minutes from renting a car to drive the remaining six hours to Sheridan when we finally boarded the last leg of the flight. Greg and I got in to Wyoming late enough that we decided to nix the planned afternoon fishing session in favor of relaxing and catching up with some guide buddies who were nice enough to let us couch crash the first few nights. Over a few beers we caught up on stories missed over the year before the conversation turned serious; where should we fish in the morning? It did not take long for us to settle on a spot and as we started to think about crashing a crazy storm rolled over the mountains and started hammering us with sideways rain and bone shaking thunder. Not usually something I worry too much about but we were staying on the second floor of a log building…the second oldest building in the state…
Thankfully we survived the night and the morning came quickly. We rolled downstairs to the shop/bar/gathering place and put down some breakfast sammies and got our gear together. Greg and I had no plans except to fish to our fill and get back sometime that night. The night before we had talked it over and settled on where we were heading as it was filthy with cutties and was a place neither had yet been. The drive was spectacular in a way that only switchback roads can be. It took us nearly an hour more to get there than it should have as we kept pulling off at each possible place to soak in the view.
Eventually we got to elevation and saw the river, or rather the half mile wide valley filled with willows that had the river running through it…somewhere in there. It is a public place so we expected to see people but were surprised to see there were multiple cars at every turn off on a Thursday morning! We drove the whole length of the valley and then came back to the spot we decided was the most promising and got geared up. Walking in to the river there was spooky in the same way that a unfamiliar forest at night or walking through six foot tiger grass at Katmai…not specifically dangerous but definitely a spot that the hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.
It was a long bushwhack in that rewarded us instantly as a nice cuttie bolted from the first bank where we wet our boots. Cutthroat have a reputation of being the dull edge of the knife but we found them to be relatively selective here. That’s not to say that we didn’t catch them eventually on just about everything we tried, but small beetles and ants outfished everything else four or five to one. This gorgeous little guy was the first fish of the trip. Stalking up that first bank I switched off of the small foam hopper I came in with and switched over to a small caddis after watching some come off accompanied by splashy rises. One close cast was all it took to seal the deal.
This is the first fish of the trip on the Orvis Superfine fiberglass rod. This 4wt stick was the perfect tool for the water we fished this trip!
I did start the day fishing my Carlin bamboo rod. When the wind was down this was a fun rod to fish, and fighting a fish on a rod that bends all the way through the cork is always a blast. This was the best fish on this rod for the trip and put it to the test. I was able to turn him and get him upstream from his rootball home to start the fight and then enjoy the tug of war through a big hole. The coloring on these cutts was awesome.
The previously mentioned bettle pattern that crushed it. Greg was the one that cracked this code when he tied on this small sz16 Crow beetle. I believe he hit six fish in the first eight casts out of a deep and shaded run. It was filthy!
At about 7 or so the mosquitos woke up and made their presence known. We decided that nine hours of stalking these gorgeous fish was enough for day one and headed back to the car. Truth be told the jetlag caught up to me and I was ready a little earlier but the fishing was just too good to pass up. Once we got back to the car there were a couple guys gearing up in the lot so we BS'd with them for a bit. Greg showed his usual Midwestern hospitality and gave the guys a couple of the beetles that had worked so well for us before we pulled out and turned the car towards the couches. I hope those guys had as great a time as we did.
Eventually we got back to the shop and kicked back for some people watching. A few beers in a comfy chair just feet from a river is perhaps the best way to relax. While we were there our good friend Cole came in and let us know that he had the next day off and was going to spend it chasing fish around with us. After a short discussion we settled on another spot that neither Greg or I had been to. Honestly the 'conversation' was more of a single question.
Greg: "Hey man, how about RiverX tomorrow?"
Cole: "Yeah, we can do that.". (**editorial note: there ws a brief twinge in the corner of his eye as he wondered who got drunk and told us about it)
Greg and me at the same time: "Sweet!"
After a full day on the river I do not even remember hitting the pillow...I was out before impact. Good thing to as we would need every bit of sleep for the hiking on Day Two...
One final piece of business to address here is river names, or rather the lack of them. I will not be specifically naming any water that we fished over the course of the trip. Some of the water we fished on the trip was private so knowing would do you no good and other places were public but not 'my spots' so not my place to pass them along even if I wanted to. If you know the places from the pictures then you are a lucky person that knows the awe I had the whole time I was there.