On morning of the second day Greg and I were both wide awake and geared up to hit the road before our alarms went off. It was early but we were already as jittery as a couple kids that just left an all you can eat sugar buffet. Today we were headed out to some water that we had known about for a couple years but had just not found the opportunity to fish yet. I like to think that I am in decent shape but you can’t prep for altitude and it had my head spinning on day one. As we would be back at altitude and be hiking farther today I was hoping that my body had adjusted a bit overnight. I will deal with near migraine level headaches if needed to fish these waters but prefer it be pain free if possible!
For anyone, and especially a Midwestern flatlander, a drive through the Wyoming foothills and then up in to the mountains is simply breathtaking. This drive was certainly no slouch and spectacular as expected. The anticipation rises around each blind corner as the views seemingly get better and better. Taking an hour to go a couple miles is way better when creeping along a mountain two track than when stuck on a city outer belt. With the windows down we crept along in silence soaking in the sounds and smells of the canyon. We careful picked our way around sharp rocks and deadfalls, until we rounded the last bend and parked to gear up. From here we walk. Up.
After getting through a gate and scrambling over a fence ladder we walked…and walked…up..always up. After about 45 minutes on the trail had finally made it as far as we were going to this time and the view was surreal.
In the dry mountain air you can see seemingly forever, or at least until a mountain gets in the way. From the high point of the trail we slowly and carefully picked our way down towards the water to start the fishing at a promising looking pool. As we stood on an outcropping above to look down in to the waters we could see plenty of fish sliding around in the depths of the crystal blue water, including one that had us shaking a bit before we even strung up.
The water was classic mountain freestone…fast and clear. It was pocket water heaven. Even the smallest pocket was enough current break in this brutal water for trout to take refuge. Long drifts were possible (with diligent mending) in the slow pools but the majority of the fishing was done with quick and short drifts to backpack sized targets. Lots of roll casting, being sure to cover all water before moving, was the name of the game as they could be anywhere and spooking one at your feet would temporarily shut down the fishing for as far as that fish would run…luckily not usually more than to the next micro pocket though!
Much of the day was spent fishing Chubbies or something similarly bouyant to stretch a possible drift just a little longer. Surprisingly a good portion of the fish did not come on the first cast in to a spot but required multiple drifts through before they would come out for a look. Many times we were screaming in our heads for the fish to take before the fly was sucked out of the strike window...sometimes that worked and other times the fly went shooting downstream and the fish sank back to it's hidey hole.
The lack of fish pictures today was not from a lack of fish being caught, in fact I landed browns, rainbows, cuttbows, and a brookie! Frankly though I was in total awe of the surroundings. More than once I caught myself staring off in a daze, while other times I just did not feel it was a good idea to pull the camera out of the protective SmithFly Roll Top to risk a shot. Sometimes though the scenery alone was worth the risk.
Something's got to be in there...right....?
Greg and I fish very well together. Rather than split up we always stick together to share the laughs provided by the fish or the constant jawing. Since that is how we normally fish these canyon situations are perfect for us as really only one person can fish forward at a time or you spook out the pools. As the day progressed we fished our way back towards the car so that we kept getting closer rather than forcing a longer walk out as we were on a bit of a timetable. It was not the normal upstream approach but the water was moving fast enough that the broken surface hid our movements from the fish. With the rest of the weeks clients coming in that night we had to make sure to be on the road to meet them for dinner.
As we got to the end of the day we found a spot that was begging to be hit. There was a long stretch of bank to bank heavy flow through broken rocks for 50 yards ending about ten yards behind Greg in this shot. When I say ending there I mean it as that wood in the picture is hanging over a 20 foot waterfall! On the far bank there was a car sized rock close to the bank that blocked the flow perfectly for a gentle bucket tight up to a rock ledge overhang. It was one of those spots that there was no question held something. It was a nasty presentation requiring a 45 foot roll cast with an aerial mend to pile in some slack. Greg's first attempt was a bit short and fired out over the falls before he could collect his line. The next few were right on target though; placed right at the top of the slick with nearly the entire leader piled allowing for maybe a 2-3 second drift before dragging out. After a couple casts with six eye intently staring at the fly we were rewarded with the sight of a solid fish rising from the depths. Time slowed down and I swear the fish was in quicksand as it rose and closed it's mouth...where the fly had been only moments before being dragged out. Crap. After some collective groans and a minute to rest it Greg fired in another home run shot. Again the fish rose under the fly but this time inhaled it! Greg set and then somehow turned it's head away from the falls to keep it up top and fought it over to our side of the river. Awesome fish from an awesome spot.
We worked out way downstream and cherry picked a few more likely spots but were up against the clock by then. As bad as we wanted to keep going we had to hit the road and be presentable for our clients that were in the air at that point. After hitting one last spot just up from the car we piled in and hit the road. Back in town we got checked in to the hotel then headed down to meet the guys for the traditional first night feast at the Winchester Steakhouse. Everyone was all smiles to be there and excited despite being tired from the road. Much entertainment came from one of the guys confusion about what oysters were ordered and ate...let's just say we had a ball of a time with that one the whole rest of the trip.
As dinner was served the combination of food coma and travel weariness set in and the conversation slowed a bit. We finished up and headed back to the hotel to try and get some sleep. The morning would come quickly...