Tag Archives: Elkhorn

Wyoming on the Fly

There are very few opportunities to completely disengage from the day to day grind of life. Living in a wireless world allows for convenient connecting from almost anywhere at any time. Hyper-multitasking is now a requirement if you want to survive in an ultracompetitive business climate. Unfortunately, there are times when emails, voice mails and text messages become unwelcome distractions. When this feeling arises, it is time for me to fish.

Over the last five years, the end of March seems to signal my personal breaking point. The desire to escape in to a river has become a necessity if sanity is to remain a life objective. Since moving west in 2009, I make an annual journey to the North Platte River in Wyoming in order to maintain my equilibrium. The weather is always unpredictable, but the fish are big and aggressive.

Weeks before departing, I begin a ritual of unnecessary acquisitions in order to effectively prepare for the adventure. I make triplicate tackle purchases because there is a profound fear of being without the key equipment at the wrong time. While I consciously realize that most of the money I spend is unnecessary, I cannot seem to stop clicking “PayPal” after nightly “fly fishing” web searches.

The five hour drive to the river feels as though we have been teleported to Wyoming from Colorado. All available fishing reports exclaimed how prolific the action had been. We arrived just after lunch on March 26th, and quickly scrambled to get our equipment prepared for an afternoon of stalking native rainbows. After some preliminary scouting, we positioned ourselves in the tailwaters closest to the dam. Our research indicated that the fish were feeding on ample food churned up by the nightly flushes. To that point, my nymphing rig contained a purple San Juan worm as the lead fly, and a red rock worm as the trailing bait. The water was 40 degrees cold, but the air temperature was in the high 50s. A warm spring sun became visible as soon as we entered the water. This allowed us to more easily locate fish in the three to four feet of quickly moving water. Chad was the first to hook up, then Bud followed by me. The action was consistent, with 17” to 19” fish caught every fifth or sixth drift. The bows are stout in the Platte, and their strength is really felt with every inch of growth. As the sun disappeared over the horizon, a chilly 15 mph wind became more noticeable, so we ended a successful first day.

Unlike prior years, both AT&T and Verizon wireless signals were non-existent in our area, so our ability to communicate was severely marginalized. This was a unique “issue” that I actually embraced. Instead of checking voice messages, and executing web searches, we spent time talking about the events of the day over dinner. Sleeping is not an issue after a day spent on the river. A pleasant exhaustion sets in quickly after a big meal and a scotch or two.

However infrequent, when fishing becomes my sole focus, my brain becomes enveloped in the task at hand. Every movement has a purpose, and is executed with an underlying strategy in mind. While I maintain a heightened intensity, there is not the accompanied stress. I begin to appreciate the moment rather than constantly reliving the past. Mistakes are made, but do not define the gratification associated with my quest. Happiness is not derived from a monetary gain or retail purchase. Instead, my satisfaction arises from hooking and then landing a fish that I deceived.

On the third day, my friend Paul and I were fortunate to team with a great guide on a float trip down the Platte. Slade Fedore is a Wyoming native, and a master of the waters where he grew up fishing. He comes across confident, but not cocky. It does not take long to realize that he derives his satisfaction in his client’s success. To that point, he worked hard to put us on a lot of fish. Paul and I must have had twenty five double hook ups throughout the day. We were also able to witness a heard of antelope scurry from river’s edge, a bald eagle evade an angry seagull and sand hill cranes battling geese for their spot on an isolated island. We even passed two late season hunters working their GSPs on an evasive pheasant. One hundred and fifty fish later, our right arms told us to pack up and head back to town. It was a perfect Wyoming weather day so we grabbed a few Budweiser’s and a cigar. Sitting outside our cabin, we reminisced about what unfolded just hours before. Make no mistake; I will fish with Slade Fedore again.

The rivers started to fill up with anglers on Friday. The Reef attracts people from around the world, and the spring represents a great time of the year to fish. Even with a bit more pressure, plenty of big trout regularly hammered pegged eggs and rock worms. The morning produced larger fish, while the afternoon seemed to yield an infinite number of strikes.

Saturday morning was a bit somber as it meant the last morning of the trip. Inclement weather has started to move into the area, and it became cold quickly. Even so, I got up early in order to attempt to tie into a cagy North Platte monster. While I absolutely caught my share of 19” fish, the 25” bow evaded my concerted efforts.

Every spring I will travel to Wyoming in order to conduct personal therapy in the North Platte. It is cheaper than a psychiatrist, and the pictures are better. This trip is not about fishing; it is revitalization of my soul. I value every second on the water, and begin to dream about coming back as I depart.

Equipment Utilized

Comments

William Joseph Confluence Pack

Awesome pack. All critical equipment is easily accessible.

William Joseph Conduit Bag

Fantastic bag that you can pack all of your tackle in (even reels).

William Joseph Odyssey Travel Bag

Plenty of room for weeks of travel.

William Joseph Drynamic Waders

Very comfortable, accessible pockets and at a great price.

William Joseph Runoff Jacket

Perfect on a perfect day….not warm enough when the sun is not out.

Under Armour Cold Gear Compression (top & bottom)

Would not fish in the fall, winter or spring without them.

Under Armour Hitch Heavy Boot Socks

Toes were chilly in the 40 degree water, but I never had to exit the river.

Orvis River Guard Easy-On Brogue Wader Boots

Perfect wader boot. Easy on and off. Grips tightly to slippery rocks.

Simms Windstopper Hat

Windstopper technology helps, but I need a warmer lid next year.

Elkhorn T2 Reel

Have not had an issue in four years.

Brodin Ghost Series Frying Pan Net

Expensive but really nice – secure it well as you don’t want to lose it.

Orvis Mirage Fluorocarbon Tippet (3x)

Stayed strong throughout the entire trip – not one break off.

Maui Jim Seawall Sunglasses

Polarized with spring hinges for my big head – perfect.

Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service

HIGHLY recommend Slade Fedore ([email protected])

GoPro Hero2 – Click on the links

http://youtu.be/pCUfmC8tH3k http://youtu.be/C3F_q2pgucI

 

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25 to the Net

My friend Mike gave me a call early in the week, and asked me to fish with him on Sunday. The President’s Day holiday meant that my son’s sports would end on Saturday, so Sunday was wide open. Given both of our evening commitments, the options were limited to ninety minutes from home base. That means The South Platte River near Deckers, and The Arkansas, are the closest bodies of water that can be accessed. I had not fished since early fall, so I was excited at the opportunity to unwind in a river. Winter fly fishing in Colorado tail waters is special. The opportunity to hook up in February is such a unique experience for a native New Englander. A twelve month season allows anglers to escape at their convenience. If you can withstand the variable weather conditions, there are big fish to be had.

I don’t need an alarm when hunting or fishing is the activity of the upcoming day. To that point, I jumped out of bed at 5 am to prepare to pursue native rainbows. Mike, Luke, Tim and I arrived at the river at about 7:45 am. There were a few other vehicles in the parking lot, but those fishermen had taken a route away from our favorite holes. All of our rods were already rigged, so once the waders and jackets were on, we hurried to the prime spots. During my ten minute dash, I spotted a bald eagle at the very top of a tree; we were both searching for the same quarry.

I picked a section of the river where I have had past success. The fish gather at the end of a thirty foot long shallow riffle that drops quickly into four feet of water moving at 55 CFS (Cubic Feet Per Second). Sporadic cloud cover prohibited me from seeing fish, but I knew the rainbows would be moving into the area as the day warmed. My flies of choice were a #18 flashback pheasant tail on top with a Mike Duerr #20 Yong’s Special as the trailing bait. I tie the flies together with Orvis Mirage Fluorocarbon 5x tippet and use a single Dinsmores BB to get to the required depth.

Trees line the shoreline, so lengthy roll casts are the only safe way to reach my intended targets. Ten drifts did not result in a strike, so I changed positions as well as increased the space between my Thingamabobber and the pheasant tail. As the rig reached the end of its drift, the line stopped and I set the hook. The fished moved quickly up the water column, and spit the hook. Disappointed, I restarted the process to see if I could entice another hit. My friends moved into the spot, and positioned themselves around the large pool. As the first bug hatch of the morning unfolded, everyone began to hook up. Disappointedly, I struggled to keep the larger fish on once the fight began. One big bow actually broke me off at the leader. Once I composed myself, I changed patterns. My Yong’s Special was still my trailer fly, but I put a tangerine soft milk egg on top. Eventually, I started to get in a groove, and my confidence improved as fish were brought to the net.

It was pretty cool to see my neighbor, Luke, take his first fish on a fly. He was a natural nympher, hooking up many times throughout the day. Fly fishing is not an easy sport; technique is almost as important as experience. Luke has neither, yet his production was that of a wily veteran. His success was lauded by the group.

As 2 pm approached, Mike and Tim suggested that we make our way home. I gave the final “last cast” call and flipped my flies upstream. After an initial mend, I achieved the appropriate float. As my indicator neared the end of the run, it went under with force. I raised my right wrist to set the hook, and the fish screamed down river. A ten minute fight ensued, and concluded when a kind stranger netted the brightly colored male trout. He congratulated me for catching “the largest fish” he had seen taken from the river, and we released the rainbow back to the pool.

On our way back to Parker, we stopped to have a couple of beers and reminisce about our success. A warm February day on the water is time well spent.

 

Equipment Employed

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