Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wyoming RoadTrip Part 2...Stoneflies , Cutthroats and Blood-Sucking Mosquitos

Friday found most folks moving a little slower than normal , for obvious reasons. Everyone was still up and stirring at a respectable hour of the morning but it took a few extra cups of coffee to jumpstart the brain functions that were put on hold by the previous evenings festivities.
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We sat around and divvied up spots for the day , discussing game plans and who was fishing with who until the motivation of actually fishing finally kicked in. With the surrounding rivers now clearing up and getting back to normal levels we had our choice of waters and decided to spend our second day on the river that ran below camp. While the water was still off-color down where we were at , we'd been told that up higher on the drainage the water was still clear and fishable.
After a quick breakfast consisting of a granola bar and a diet pepsi , Kevin and I headed upriver about thirty miles to the section we intended to focus our efforts on today. The headwaters of this particular river start out in Yellowstone and we had no desire to deal with the vacationing crowds we were witness to in a steady parade of RV's down the highway so we started fishing a few miles downstream of the park.
This river runs through a valley that more closely resembled my pre-concieved ideas about what Wyoming would look like.
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The river was considerably smaller up here and we began our day catching a few small brookies and cutts on hopper patterns.
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Moving downstream the waters grew , as did the fish themselves. Before long the brookies were replaced with rainbows and cutthroats that wouldn't think twice about making those same small brook trout their next meal of the day.
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I'm not going to tell you that all of the fish we caught were big , they weren't , in some places of the country I suppose none of the fish we caught would be considered big. That being said , for a couple of midwestern guys the sight of a 16" cutt slamming a size #6 stonefly as it touches down on the waters surface is pure nirvana.
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Even the smaller fish put on a good show , jumping and fighting harder than anything I've had the pleasure of playing with on my home waters. The fact that these fish spend a good part of their time in the lake fattening up and then move into the river where they are constantly dealing with strong currents simply makes these fish total studs!
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The previous day I'd caught my first Yellowstone Cutthroat and another first was chalked up today , the mountain whitefish. I'm fully aware of what most trout fishermen think of the whitefish but I was totally stoked to catch several of them out of some of the deeper holes. A whitefish eating your nymph may not be nearly as exciting as a cutthroat on a dry , but they do put up a pretty dogged battle for their size.
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We worked our way downstream throughout the day , catching fish out of pretty much every hole that looked like it should hold one. By the end of the second day of fishing I was beginning to realize that this roadtrip was going to ruin me for awhile once I got back home. I truly love many of my homewaters around the Ozarks , but in comparison to these Wyoming waters , there just is no comparison.
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Pretty much the whole gang had showed by the time we got back to camp that evening. The rest of the night was spent making more introductions , talking fishing and just generally having a hell of a good time. The only part of the evening we could have done without was the incessant attack of the numerous Wyoming mosquitos! We tried every brand of bug spray we could round up but in the end the only answer was to build a big ass fire and stand as close to the smoke and flames as possible. I'm pretty sure I left a pint of blood in Wyoming by the end of the trip.
Saturday morning dawned another beautiful day as the sun peaked over the surrounding mountains.
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After knocking the cobwebs out of our heads with some coffee and a bacon sandwich , plans were again made for the days fishing. After a little discussion we had a gameplan to work with , Kevin and I were going to head over to a stream about an hour away with Jeff and Sam and try our luck with some small stream cutts. This place is a little off the beaten path and requires a bit of a backcountry drive to reach but the scenery and resulting fishing make it all worthwhile.
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After arriving we geared up and hit the trail heading upstream , the plan being to hike up as far as we intended to fish and then work our way back down to the trucks.
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A beautiful stream in a big , wild valley that just happens to be full of hungry Yellowstone Cutthroat. It just doesn't get much better than that!
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These fish were a little smaller on average than the fish in the bigger rivers but they made up for it with their aggressiveness to slam a dryfly. It only took about 10 minutes on the water to realize that a dropper was unneccessary , a few big foam stoneflys and some 3x tippet were all the tools required to be successful here.
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We worked our way downstream , taking turns being the point guy as we moved along hitting all of the likely looking spots. Everyone was catching fish , several times I would look up or downstream and see more than one rod bent over around me.
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It's hard to beat spending a day sharing a special location such as this with several close friends. I would guess that we were on the water for about six hours before we came back into view of the felt like 45 minutes! I'm pretty sure no one was ready for the day to end at that point but we still had a long drive back to camp and that cooler full of refreshments was sounding pretty good again by this time.
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Normally I'm a dawn to dusk fisherman , hell I've had guys practically have to drag me off the river before! I have to admit though that a big part of what made this trip special was meeting new friends and spending time each evening sharing stories and good times. The fishing was spectacular for sure , but the social gathering at the end of the day was definitely looked forward to each night. Good friends + Good fishing = Great times!!
Sunday was the last day for most of the guys before heading back in whatever direction home was. Kevin and I hung around camp saying good-byes and making future fishing plans with our new friends as tents were taken down and vehicles packed up for the day. We were only halfway through our trip and looking forward to what the rest of the week held for us instead of thinking about the trip home. One of our new friends , Sam , planned to fish for most of the day before heading back home so we invited him to join us until he had to leave. After camp cleared out for the most part we loaded up and hit the road for the next valley over and a new body of water. It's amazing how one area can look so much different than another , even though only a few miles may separate them. This drainage looked more like something I can picture in Alaska than Wyoming.
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Lots of braids and glacial colored water snaking down through a huge valley , I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I first laid eyes on it.
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We'd been told that this drainage held Browns , Cutts , Rainbows and Brookies...a veritable smorgasbord of goodness just waiting to be sampled! After gearing up and making a plan we started the mile hike which would bring us to the section of water running through the national forest that we intended to fish. The views from this valley are just magnificent in all directions and I would have been happy just to spend the day enjoying the scenery.
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Of course anyone who knows me at all will tell you that's not exactly true , I've been known to have a hard time putting down the flyrod when I'm in close proximity to a body of water. That "one last cast" can often take hours.
When we reached the river the three of us spread out and began working our way upstream. In the first half hour or so I landed a cutthroat , a brown , a brookie and a whitefish all out of the same head of a big pool.
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I'd seen both Kevin and Sam with their rods bent as well during that time and can almost assure you that their smile was as big as mine. We continued to stick fish regularly as we made our way upriver , thinking the whole time that the fishing would only get better the farther we got from the trailhead.
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We had just taken a short break from the action and were getting set to move on when we realized we had some company in the way of other fly fishermen. As much as we wanted to stay in front of this group (four guys) it just wasn't gonna happen , they were on horses. To our dismay they rode right past us and then started staggering themselves out for the next 1/2 mile above us. We cussed them of course , called them lazy horse riding city fuks that probably couldn't walk twenty yards from the trailhead without getting winded. The real kicker was that they started fishing within sight of us , hell they could have ridden another mile up the drainage and gave us some room to continue fishing upstream and we would have been happy. Luckily for them we were feeling generous on this day and decided to just turn around and start fishing back downstream instead of yanking them off their horses and holding their heads underwater! As it turned out their were probably just as many willing fish back downstream as where we were headed , but then again we'll never know. We continued to catch fish until around 3:00 when Sam decided he'd better hit the road.
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Kevin and I fished for another hour maybe and then we started the hike back to the truck for the hour drive back to camp. As we were loading up gear in the parking lot we both decided that this would be our destination for our last day in Wyoming , it just seemed too perfect of a place not to return again before leaving.
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That evening was the first time that we didn't have a big group of guys with us at camp , just the antelope and the magpies (and those damn mosquitos!).
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We had a quiet , laidback evening for the first time since we had arrived. A BBQ brisket sandwich and a couple side dishes made up the evenings dinner.
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Afterwards we kicked back with a cigar and a cold beverage to end the day perfectly. Two more days left to take in the scenery and acquaint ourselves with the locals before the adventure comes to an end...
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  1. It's kind of hard to beat that.
    Agreed those trout a meat eaters and that brookie is prime meat.

    1. Thanks Alan...It was one of those special trips that you don't forget for awhile.

  2. All the scenery and trout pics remind me of my own blog, if you don't mind me saying = de ja vu! Looks like you had great fun. And that's the reason that I am hanging around Yellowstone country.

    1. You're a lucky man!! You've got some beautiful country in your backyard and some fantastic fishing to match it.
      I'm jealous!!

  3. Absolutely gorgeous scenery to fish in man. Heaven is right, and those are some nice looking fish as well. I am hoping to get out west to fish in a few weeks. Will be my first time. Seeing those mountains is making me anxious.

    1. You'll love it for just can't beat the West for scenery and beautiful waters full of beautiful fish.

  4. I'm pretty sure if you put out an invitation next year you would have a whole lot of new friends to travel along with you. Count me among the crowd. Great post my friend.

    1. Thanks Howard...I think you and I would get along just swell on a fishing trip. I'd venture to say that we wouldn't even have to wet a line to enjoy ourselves , just sit on the river bank with a good cigar and tell stories!

  5. Good for you!!! I love whitefish, caught them with my boys and I with great delight, some very large, dogged fish. That stream you fished I caught a grayling in once, I hear they come from the high lakes above. As far as the horseback crowd, you handled that better than I would have. Great report!


    1. Thanks Gregg...We almost drove up to one of those lakes and tried for some small grayling but we just ran out of time. Maybe next year!

  6. sure is pretty country! love the sunburst glinting off that fish. :)

  7. TexWisGirl..There was definitely some pretty country but alot of Wyoming was also some of the most barren land I've seen anywhere. Nothing taller than a fencepost for as far as the eye could see!
    Every once in a while even someone with my photography skills gets lucky!!

  8. Amazing scenery and fish! I'm glad you didn't let the arses on horseback ruin your day and you fished on. Sounds like you had an amazing second day! Glad you caught a variety of western trout!