Friday, August 29, 2008

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008.....Official Day Six

After a great night's sleep we had a big breakfast at the lodge, and packed our lunches, then rode to upper Hoback Canyon an hour and 15 minutes away. Munsey Wheby Jr, Gregg and Ken Williamson fished the lower section of canyon and Munsey caught 20-30 fish (several good fish including one fish that was 18-19" and several that were in the 14-15" range all cutts). Gregg caught 25-30 fish (several 10-12" and one 18" beast and a few 15" too), Ken caught 20-25 fish (several 10-12 inchers and one 15-16" cutt), Pat caught about a dozen (several 10-12 " fish and a couple 14-15" and one 17" w/great colors), Gary caught 6 fish ( one 14" and raised several large ones but missed them), Munsey Sr (caught 4 fish, all cutts). This part of the Hoback is little known- - -almost unknown for the most part, and it takes some effort getting to. The guys remarked about how they found it hard to believe such a small stream could have the large fish it has. In some places you could almost jump across it and it harbors some 20" cutties. Most of the fish were caught on PMX dries, a Jeff's Redneck Caddis (the big fish hammered this fly), and a few were caught on a Copper John Dropper size 16. We caught lots of fish, saw antelope on the way in and a large herd of buffalo on the way out. In the distance we could see the growing "New Fork Fire." We rode back as the sun set on yet another day in this angling paradise. Tomorrow is our final day, and a float on the Snake River is what we'll do.

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008....Official Day Five....The New Fork Fire

When I fished the Green River on Friday 8/22/08 one day ahead of our group I noticed a couple of small smoke plumes that appeared to be a small forest fire. In two days of high winds and dry weather the flames were fanned so much that the fire is now a widespread thing. It has been named the "New Fork Fire" by the locals, as it is right on one of the best trout streams in Wyoming, the New Fork River. The fire has burned thousands of acres and still rages on. In the photo the coverage of the fire has more than tripled in size from only a few days ago. If it continues we'll likely see this one on the national news as it is very close to threatening some homes and ranches that are nearby. We noticed the thick air, the smoky haze covering the valley. At night, you could see the "glow" of the fire from miles away on our deck. Fires are a part of the process but it sure feels scary knowing two mountain ridges less than 10 miles away separate you from a raging fire.

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008....Official Day Five

We rose early, it was below freezing! We had a big breakfast at the Village Inn, then we were off to the Green River, and more specifically the lodge we had reserved, the DC Bar Guest Ranch's Wind River Lodge. When we arrived, we quickly hopped out and unloaded, packed up our fishing gear and lunches, and headed down to Green. It was very windy, to put it mildly. It was also chilly (20-25F degree drop in temp from when I fished the Green on Thursday of last week), and near 40mph wind with gusts to 50 .....tough casting conditions to say the least. We fished at the beginning of the Bridger Teton Forest, Pat caught 7 or 8 a few rainbows, several whitefish, Gary (3 Rainbows, had a large brown on, 3 whitefish), Munsey Jr (caught a dozen to fifteen with some plump rainbows, a couple of large ones where we ended), Munsey Sr caught a couple rainbows, Gregg(caught 15-20 fish, 1 near 20" brown and several rainbows) , Ken caught 10 fish, several rainbows, and broke off a good one later in the day on a dry. Where we finished up there were fish rising, Gary nailed a rising rainbow, Pat a brown, and Gary had a large fish splash his dry. Since it started to turn even cooler and the wind never laid down we packed it in and headed home. Last week when I drove down to Cora I saw what appeared to be a forest fire, and sure enough it was. The "New Fork" fire (the New Fork is a famous trout stream also) in a couple of days would turn into a large forest fire- - - -so much so that the whole valley had tons of smoke and haze. Many thousands of acres were charred and still more are burning as I write this. The fire is uncontained at present. A tough day but everyone still caught some fish....and some did quite well considering the conditions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008.....Official Days Two, Three, and Four

After a great dinner at Merry Piglets Mexican grill on Main Street in Jackson Hole, we got some rest and then were up bright and early on Sunday. We headed to the Virginian (the best breakfast eats in town!) and had a hearty breakfast, then we headed north to Turpin Meadow in Buffalo Valley to meet up with our backcountry guide Josh Roth. Josh and his trail hand Gil would accompany us into the backcountry seven miles on horseback. We saddled up, the guys packed our gear, and soon we were off. It took us two hours by horse to reach camp, we passed several breathtaking views of the Buffalo Fork of the Snake, some of which we were riding a trail that was about 1000 - 1500 ft above the river and STRAIGHT DOWN. I have fished in mountain areas most of my life and have seen some great scenery but this ranked right at the top.
It was quite dry and dusty on the way in, Josh had packed us lunches and water and we ate when we reached camp. Then it was unpacking the gear, grabbing the fishing gear, and we all geared up and headed off for the river. We were in one of the most beautiful meadows you could imagine, ready to fish the famed Soda Fork of the Buffalo. We would soon find out why the stream received so many great accolades......because it was loaded with large cutthroats who gobble size 8 and 10 dry flies with reckless abandon. Several of the guys caught double digits, when we all met back up at camp I always like to find out how everyone did, there were sheepish grins on nearly every face. Several guys caught some really nice fish, Gregg Williamson and Munsey Wheby both caught fish of almost 20inches long. Both of them caught several large fish, all of them cutthroats. All together there were probably 50-60 fish caught all together....the majority of them 14-18 inch cutties. And the river was like a winding, serpentine like blue/green snake, winding its was through an alpine meadow lined with firs, willows, and tall grasses. Simply stated, it was a jewel of a trout stream. And devoid of any sign of other fisherman....not one single footprint anywhere.

After fishing, we returned to camp where Josh had prepared a dinner of fajitas made with Elk, peppers, and seasoning, it was so tasty we all wanted to lick our plates. We also had a salad, and finished it off with a golden cake with chocolate frosting that Josh prepared over the open was incredible. After the cake, we all sat by the fire for a while telling stories and recounting the day's incredible fishing. Then each of us one by one retreated to our tents for a good nights sleep under an incredibly clear, blue, and starry Wyoming night sky.

We started Monday with an awesome breakfast, Josh made a great casserole dish with potatoes, cheese, eggs, and bacon, and cowboy coffee (my favorite)....everyone raved over it and constantly remarked about how good it was. After breakfast, we packed our gear and Josh and Gil loaded up the gear and our lunches . Soon we were off to fish what everyone after today would call the "Dream stream".....the North Fork of the Buffalo. And a dream stream it was. Munsey, Pat Burney, Gregg Williamson, Ken Williamson, Gary Lee, and Munsey Sr.- - all of them caught tons of fish, some up to 20" - -Gregg's monster cutthroat was the largest of the day. The fish smashed a dry fly, Gregg was quite excited about it. I worked with Gary most of the day as the fishing was slow for him the first day..... not so on this day. Gary caught several nice cutthroats including one beautiful 18" fish, plus a ton of brookies, and what was a slow day the day before ended up being a 60 fish day for Gary- - and "most fish" honors for Gary on the day. I must say Josh took us to one of his "backcountry jewels", and I must say if I designed a perfect trout fishing stream for dry fly fishing it would look a whole lot like this one. Deep, blue-green bends, foam lines, undercuts, overhanging willows, you name it....the perfect dry fly fishing stream. I don't think I am exaggerating in saying the guys caught somewhere between 100 and 150 fish, a combination of cutthroats and brookies, and the most of the being on big dry flies....Schroeders parachute hopper (I keep "preaching" about the merits of that fly- -and go thing that the guys loaded up on them too ), yellow PMX's, Dave's Hoppers, Adams Parachutes, Various caddis in a light color. They simply killed dry flies today. Gary caught a double, a pair of brookies, something I have never personally had happen out west when guiding someone. I'll be posting a picture of those fish when we return home at the end of the month.

With the sun starting to fall, we packed it in, packed up the horses, and headed back for camp. Josh wanted to get us back before it started getting dark/dusk as grizzlies frequent this area and they commonly walk the horse trails and paths during low light periods. We made it back to camp, unpacked our stuff, and sat by the fire while Josh and Gil got dinner going. We had some large marinated pork chops (awesome!) , cowboy potatoes, salad, and a peach cobbler that Josh whipped up and cooked over the fire. Pretty impressive to have those types of dishes and especially desserts like that out in the wilderness. And was it tasty .....incredibly delicious would be the best way to describe it. After dinner and sitting by the fire we all turned in in hopes of getting a good night's sleep.

We got up early, had French toast and sausage by the campfire, then geared up for a few hours fishing before we had to pack up and begin the ride out of the backcountry. It was extremely windy, like a weather system was moving in, and the wind blew 40mph sustained at times and gusts even higher than that. The guys caught maybe a half dozen of cutthroats, maybe 8 or 10 whitefish, but definitely more difficult fishing with the weather. Also, it was early and cutties don't always come up during the cool morning hours. We all came back to the camp, ate our lunch, and headed out 2hrs on horseback back to the trailhead where our cars were.

We all thanked Josh and Gil, loaded our gear into the cars and back off to Jackson were were. It took us a little over an hour but we made it back and checked into our rooms. After unpacking and doing some laundry, we were off to have dinnner and then back to get some rest and get ready for our jaunt down to Cora, Wyoming on Thursday to fish the Green River and also the upper Hoback Peak canyon. It should be great fun.....the adventure continues....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wyoming Sampler Trip 2008 ....Official Day One

I met Gregg Williamson on Friday night, Gregg's flight had arrived at 8:30pm and I picked him up at the airport. Gregg and I got up early and fished the famous Flat Creek on the Elk Preserve- --man was it tough. Two fish follows and that was it. Of course, we only fished for probably an hour. At least the one of the cutthroats that gave a look was a really good one. (photo above: Munsey Wheby, Jr. releases a nice dry fly caught Snake R Cutthroat, Granite Creek, Hoback Canyon, Wyoming).

After fishing, Gregg and I headed back to the airport and picked up the other guys. Dr. Pat Burney, Dr. Munsey Wheby, Munsey Wheby, Jr., Dr. Gary Lee, and Gregg's brother Ken Williamson from San Diego. We got everyone, went up to Schwabacher Landing to let them get a picture of the Grand Teton Range, then we headed to High Country Flies and then to ORVIS Jackson Hole to get everyone a fishing license. I had placed a call to our friends at Cache Creek Inn where we were staying and they worked it out so we could check in early (1:00 as opposed to 4:00pm)...which ultimately meant that we could get our stuff unloaded and off and fishing in probably an hour and a half afterward. And that's what we did. We unloaded our stuff and packed our fishing gear, and hopped in the vehicles and headed south out of Jackson. Since no one had had lunch we stopped at McDonalds on the way out of town, then we were off.

We drove south through Hoback Canyon and arrived to find no one fishing Granite Creek, a jewel of a native cutthroat stream. We got in and several guys caught a fish on their first cast. We used an assortment of Schroeder parachute hoppers (the best all purpose late summer fly in the West in my opinion), PMX's, Jeff's Rubberleg Caddis, and also a dry/dropper combo utilizing a small Prince nymph. In any case, the fish were on. Munsey Wheby caught the first nice fish I saw, a 13" cutthroat. The guys individually caught anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen fish apiece, about 40-50 fish between everyone. Gregg Williamson had the largest fish of the afternoon, a gorgeous 18" cutthroat that inhaled Gregg's parachute hopper.
With light fading fast we decided to hit the Hoback on the way home. The guys tallied another dozen fish or so, with Gregg's brother Ken- -on his first fly fishing trip- - -caught 7 cutthroats and had one very nice one on that came unhooked. All in all it was a good afternoon, although there were times the wind was howling at 30-40mph. But it didn't stop the fish from feeding. We packed it in and headed back to Jackson, and had a nice dinner at Merry Piglets- - -a fantastic Tex/Mex restaurant.
We are all quite excited as we will be getting up early tomorrow morning, having a hearty breakfast, then we'll be heading north up to Turpin Meadows just north of Moran Junction and just Southwest of Yellowstone National Park. From the Turpin Meadows trailhead we'll ride horseback 2 hours into the backcountry, and 7-8 miles from any development or roads. The only ways in are by horse or foot......and cell phones don't work here at all!
At first it was counting the its counting the hours.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Truly Native......Truly Special

Its Friday Aug 22, 2008, I left Jackson Hole at 5:30 en route to Bondurant, then to the upper Hoback Canyon Wilderness area. It was chilly, at least when you are used to 90's. It was 34F when I stepped out of the van and suited up.

I had passed a small group of antelope and two moose on the way in. And this is a bear area, and I was fishing with the feeling I was being was eerie with no other anglers one around. I finished rigging up and fished through a couple of runs until I came to a nice willow lined corner run or hole, it had some decent depth to it. The first cast with a parachute hopper and a nice cutthroat came up and munched it. Four more cast to the same run, four more cutties. And all of them decent fish. Little did I know that it was hopper time and that the next three hours would be filled with 20-25 native Snake River finespotted Cutthroats.

The Snake River fine spot is indigenous to the Snake River and its tributaries. That is, it is a true native to the area and has always been here. They are a genetically different subspecies, and the Jackson Hole area and neighboring waters hold good numbers of them. Simply put, it is native trout angling at its finest. It is known for a ravenous appetite and willingness to feed on top....and the latter is does indeed! When it comes down to it, if the conditions are stable what you have is the best dry fly opportunity you'll ever get.

Where the Buffalo Roam...

After landing yesterday in Jackson Hole I took the road away from the airport to Kelly, and along the way saw the usual scene here.....grassland or savanna with a Grand Teton backdrop, with the grassland dotted with a herd of bison. It is a wild place for sure....

One of the things I have always loved about Jackson Hole, Wyoming is its beauty, whether water, land, the creatures therein- - -there's just something that stirs my soul about this place. And its always been that way, since my first trip here in the mid 90's.

I stopped to check out these bison, and they snorted, stared, and then posed as I snapped off a few shots of them before they decided to move on. There must have been thirty of them or more. They just continued to eat while I moved along so I could try some fishing on the Gros Ventre before darkness came.

I was thinking while I was driving about how often really incredible stuff - - -like seeing these beasts- - -suddenly become part of a fishing trip. And that's another reason I love what I do

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mountains of Flies, For The Mountains of Wyoming!

One of my favorite things is getting ready for a trip, and usually the last two weeks before a departure for a Western trip I am consumed with last minute details. One of those details is filling the boxes with some great patterns. This year is no different, and no less than fifty or sixty dozen worth the last few days before this year's Wyoming trip.
One of the things I usually polish up on is tying efficiency and speed. I mean I need to be able to crank out as many flies as possible as quickly as possible - - -not only for the "guide's box" but also for several customers too. One thing is for sure, when it comes to flies I go crazy- - -that is crazy in tying lots of different patterns in hopes of having a full box of "cutthroat chocolates" for the trip.
Another thing is for sure too. That is no matter how many flies you tie or buy there'll always be one "gotta have it" fly that no one was expecting. And that's what makes fishing fishing- - - -and tying tying.
Well, enough typing for me.....back to work and see if I can crank out a few more dozen before the day is through.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Counting the Days...

Its August again, and other than summer fishing around our area it always means its time to head to Wyoming. On August 21 I'll be heading out to do a weeklong trip with six great guys. Its a dream trip in many ways- -I mean these guys are fantastic-both as clients and friends, and I can't wait to experience the wonder of this part of the West. Every time out is just as exciting as the first time almost 20 years ago.

There's something about getting ready for the trip that is just as exciting as the trip itself. Some of it is the planning- -which I enjoy. For some it is the talking up the trip, yet some its the anticipation of a week in paradise that never comes soon enough- -but one thing is for sure no matter which one you enjoy its all fun.

We'll be doing a horseback trip into the wilds of Wyoming near the headwaters of the Snake River. We'll be lake fishing at 10000ft and fishing the Soda Fork of the Buffalo--the headwaters of the Snake River that has its origins at the edge of the wilderness area of Yellowstone National Park. Add to that some wade fishing on the world renowned Green River, the Hoback, the Greys, and a float down the Snake as our finale- -it all adds up to a great time. I can't wait......10 days and counting

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Life is Good....

I was sitting here this weekend reflecting on how great a summer it has been and working on building a website with my dear friend Anthony Hipps, and later tying some flies that Anthony had shared with me. I also thought of in two weeks how I'd be hopping on a plane and heading out to Wyoming for two weeks. All in all right now life is good. Not to say there aren't some challenges here and there, but all in all things are better than I deserve for sure. I praise God for that, its all his grace.

Then I thought that is really the way it is here in our country. I mean when it comes down to it we have it pretty good. Most of us live in a nice home. We have a vehicle, maybe several. We don't worry about where the next meal is coming from. We can sleep at night without fear that an intruder is going to break in and invade our home. Simply put, if we have the above things that effectively puts us in the upper 5% of the world's population. And, things aren't as bad in our country as the media would have us believe.

And then there's fishing. In North Carolina, we have access within hours of everything from brook trout to blue marlin - - -everything from the expanse of the gulfstream to wild trout streams you could straddle. All in all we have it pretty good. 4000 miles of designated trout water and probably as much more that is not designated. We have some of the best saltwater and estuary fishing anywhere, our Outer Banks are world renowned for the surf fishing you can enjoy there. In the Piedmont we are 1.5 to 2hrs from what many consider (and I agree) is the best smallmouth fishery in the county - - -the New River. The Piedmont is laced with everything from slow, meandering sand bottomed creeks and streams to ponds to large reservoirs-- - some of which have been host to some well known bass fishing tournament circuits- - even the Bassmaster Classic. And, as if that's not enough, we are bordered by Tennessee to the west, home to the South Holston and Watauga River tailwaters -- - two streams that rival any in the country on a good day - - -and the SoHo which many believe is the best trout stream in the South and maybe top 2 or 3 in the East- - to which I also agree. And then there's the Jocassee Gorges area in South Carolina (very rugged), the mountains of north Georgia, the commonwealth of Virginia - - - with its hundreds of fishing opportunities. Simply put we are in a fisherman's paradise. With all of that said I'd say life is pretty good......pretty good indeed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What goes into a new Fly.......

"Do you tie your own flies?".....a customer asked just recently. "Yes, I do" I replied. "In fact, its one of the most enjoyable aspects of fly fishing to me, and the best part of it all is when you design a fly of your own and go through the sometimes days, weeks, or even months of tweaking it to get it right", I continued as I contemplated briefly how I had just done this with a few new sulphur patterns for the demanding hatches of the Tennessee and Virginia tailwater rivers.

I was sharing a great day with client Dr. Bose Ravenel of High Point, NC. "The interesting thing too is that its tied with shipping foam, yarn, a pinch of fur and a duck feather, and is really very simple" I stated. "But best of all the fish love it" I said after that, and this day they indeed did. I watched as Dr. Ravenel hooked fish after fish with it, and on a stretch of river that is known for its great hatches and numbers of fish but also for how difficult it can be to get those fish to take a fly. But today was different, and the fish seemed to love the fly. And it had been that way all summer long with this pattern. The fly seemed to hit on something, and the continued success with it earned it a permanent spot in my guided trip fly box. I couldn't help feeling good about it and feel guilty as I watched Dr. Ravenel hook up several times on good fish with this fly when guys above us and below us weren't hooking up like he was.

I must say that one very satisfying aspect of the tying part of what I do is figuring out what makes a fly work or tick. And often the side that customers don't get a peek at is all the personal R&D (research and development is what I call it) that goes into it, plus many late nights here and there tweaking the fly to get it right. And often I have maybe a hundred hours or more in tweaking and developing a fly.

One other aspect is that when I test a fly I already know where to take it to give it a real test. I don't fish it in riffles or fast water or totally base my judgements on the merits of a fly by fishing it in that type of water, I choose places /water types where I know the fish will be selective and where I know from experience more and likely they will be very difficult to catch. That way I know for sure the fly has merit.

One last thing is that I give a few to my fly fishing guide, fishing bums, and fishing friends whom I know will give it a real test and give me an honest opinion of it with no sugar coating. That input is critical and can reveal the weaknesses of a pattern really quickly. Often they offer input into changing certain materials or aspects of it. All in all its a pretty good deal. I get good info, they get a new fly pattern.

So there it is on the design of a fly. It is late summer and I have accumulated some "experimentals" to get out on the water and try. Wonder if my wife will see through my need to do some "R&D" fishing with them.............and I might hear what I sometimes do ...."Are you sure you aren't just going fishing?" she'd which I reply....."yep, Honey, looks like you caught me again." But it was worth a try....Good fishing to you til next time