Every year its a blast to take a group of customers to Teton Country near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Usually its a blast, and I always try to make it a memorable experience for everyone, but somehow every year its seems to get better and better. Sure the fishing is part of it, but everything, the scenery, the unbelievable food (both in town and in the backcountry), the fellowship, sometimes it just leaves you thinking ".....man this is incredible." And for me every trip seems better and better, and the excitement of every trip is just like the first. You get to see first hand that God created some mighty awesome scenery, stuff that leaves you with no other words but ".....Wow."
I departed on Thursday Aug 20th and my plan was to arrive in the evening, usually I get there and try to get things situated- - - rooms, food, final plans with my outfitter, etc., and sometimes a quick drive and "try" on the streams we'll be fishing so the fishing conditions and my assessment are 'first hand' and not second hand from some weeks or months old internet fishing report or even hearsay. Seeing and doing with your own eyes is the best way. That was my plan.....so much for my plan.
We were an hour and a half late departing Greensboro due to thunderstorms, and we finally got off the ground only to arrive about two hours late in Atlanta, and missing my connection to Denver which meant I'd also be missing my connection from Denver to Jackson,WY. Oh well, it wasn't all bad. I met a really nice guy Joel Coykendall, Sr Vice President of Northmarq Capital of Jacksonville, FL. We had great conversation, both on business, politics, outdoors, fly fishing, my flyfishing business and his Investment business, and also discovered that his mother lives in Boone, NC in a retirement community. Its a small world..............
I arrived in Atlanta, Joel and I saw each other again at the Delta phone counter, both of us trying to get new flights to our destination. With the time, I saw that my day was over, so much for doing anything I'd planned to do. And my bags and tackle....? Well, they ended up in Denver on the plane as they never were able to switch my bags to the last flight I just barely eeked onto to Jackson, Wyoming. While waiting for the flight I got something to eat, and noticed all the soldiers from Fort Benning, GA. It didn't take long to realize these guys were headed for Afghanistan. Made me think of how thankful we should be of them and their commitment to protect us.... which is what they are doing over there......despite the mainstream media's (yes NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times - that names most of the culprit) inability to report the truth about all of that. But I thanked one of them and bought his meal, and thought to myself "these guys get little affirmation because of the spin job the media has put on our war effort over there." So to all the service guys thank you for protecting us.
I did manage to get a direct late flight to Jackson from Atlanta, and ended up on the ground at around 10:00pm in Jackson Hole. My bags and tackle never made it, so it looked like Jeff would be making a return trip to the airport to get the bags when they arrived on Friday at noon or after. Several of the guys arrived at different times, Pat Burney arrived on Thursday, Mikael Tedeborg and Mike and Steve Lalumondier all arrived on Friday, and Bob Manning on Saturday. One by one I got up with them, and once we all connected we headed off to drop bags off at our lodging and then downtown to get some food and everyone a fishing license. After that we headed off to the Hoback Canyon, the upper portion, and caught quite a few cutthroats on dry flies, some up to 15-16", and then headed back to town. We had dinner at Mountain High Pizza Pie and enjoyed some very unique Pizzas from one of Jackson's best places.
On Sunday, we arose to gray, drizzly and chilly weather......I mean really chilly given what we'd come from. It was in the mid 40's, that's chilly to Eastern flatlanders like us. We had a hearty breakfast at the Virginian Restaurant, one of the best breakfasts in Jackson, and after loading up on some great food we headed south to fish the Greys River near Alpine, Wyoming. We fished the section above Murphy Creek, the fly fishing only section. It was slow because of the weather change. We only saw a few fish rise, then some significant rain set in.....and it got nasty. We caught a couple of fish, had a streamside lunch, then decided to head north to hit another stream. We headed to upper Granite meadows near Granite Hot Springs to the upper Part of Granite Creek, a wonderful small cutthroat stream. Within minutes we were into fish, and we caught a good many nice cutthroats, some up to 16-17", along with several whitefish too. It rained on and off the whole time. We went up to one last stretch of the stream, and it was there that the mother of all thunderstorms pounded us. It was like a wall cloud crawling over the mountain ridge above us, it moved fast (like 40-50mph), and winds of 60mph plus and driving rain- - - -it rained buckets. The last two guys made it back to the van just in time to avoid the worst-- - then it came. It rained cats and dogs, and with that we decided to head back and get cleaned up and have dinner. After all, we had managed to make a decent day out of it with some good fishing on Granite Creek. We ended up having dinner at Sidewinder's, and a few of us had the famous Chicken Fried steak.......man was it delicious.
On Monday, we got up to cool temperatures (low to mid 30's) and headed over to one of my favorite places, Bubba's, it was outstanding. The guys raved over the food and I heard many great comments about how good it was.......I mean it is great stuff and if you are in Jackson you have to eat breakfast there. To our right was a guy who had moved to Jackson from Marietta, GA and was telling us about Jackson and how it was for him to move there. He mentioned that he'd moved out 10 years ago and how much he loved it now. Having breakfast with him was Frank Simms, the gentleman /fly fisherman who started the Simms Fly Fishing Company from the ground up. A very reserved, quiet gray haired gentleman who looked like he was very much enjoying life. Given how Simms has grown and what he must have been paid for the company I guess he probably would be smiling. But it was neat to know who he was. After breakfast we headed off to fish the Gros Ventre, Crystal Creek, and Gros Ventre canyon. We caught some fish, some on dries - -Mikael Tedeborg had the best fish, a 16" cuttie, but overall the weather was "iffy" and the fishing was slow compared to what it can be. We still caught some fish, fished in a known grizzly area (exciting!), and since we were heading into the backcountry on Tuesday we decided to quit early and go back to town to get dinner and pack our stuff for the backcountry part of the trip. We ended up having dinner at The Bunnery and then headed back to our rooms to pack.
On Tuesday, we rose early and headed up to get a hearty breakfast at The Bunnery. We then headed north on 191 to Moran Junction, then right toward Buffalo Valley on the upper Snake/Buffalo River system. We met Josh Roth, and Scott Leeper his helper, at the overflow parking area at the Turpin Meadows trailhead. There we got our stuff out, put it on the tarp, and watched the guys pack it on horses for the ride in. I and the guys were excited, heading on horseback 10-12 miles in and fishing from there is a treat these days, talk about getting away from it all- - - this is it. Once we got to camp and got unpacked, we suited up and headed down to the river, the Soda Fork of the Buffalo, where we caught quite a few cutthroats and whitefish, a handful of the cutthroats measured 17-19", and all of them caught on dry flies, Schroeder hoppers in Tan size 12 just as I had prescribed during our pretrip preparations. We returned to the campsite on the Soda Fork to a dinner of Elk Fajitas, Cheese, Crackers, Elk Sausage, salad, and homemade Pecan Pie, all prepared in Dutch oven style over an open fire by our camp guide Josh Roth. Believe me, Josh can cook and his magic puts a smile on everyone's faces. After dinner we gabbed around the campfire for a bit and then one by one we all turned into our tents for the night.
On Wednesday, we got up early and had coffee by the campfire, the early morning silence was shattered by the sound of three sandhill cranes doing what they do- -squawking like a raptor- - it was neat to feel so close to the real wild side of this magnificent country. After a spectacular sunrise, we had a fabulous cowboy casserole with eggs, bacon, potatoes, Eggs, and cantaloupe and some outstanding Josh Roth cowboy coffee. After breakfast, we geared up for a ride over to the North Fork, my favorite Wyoming trout stream, for it is full of undercut banks, foam lines, deep bends, flatwater, and rising fish.....and it looks like a trout stream I would design if I were to design one. It is magnificent, and loaded with cutthroats and brookies, some of the former 20" or over. We caught some nice fish, some of the cutties up to 18", lost some good ones too, and also tons of brookies up to 12" . Two of the guys caught 30 each in one spot, to end the day, and Pat Burney had a first ever - a double, that is a rod in each hand and a fish on each one, and another first ever, a 'Triple double' with Mikael Tedeborg beside of him with a fish on as well. Three rods, three fish on, amazing..... We finished up fishing and packed our stuff back on the horses, and headed back to camp and rode in to the wonderful smell of a Chicken Curry dish Josh had prepared for us. Josh's wife Jay Jay is Indian, so he is well versed in spicy dishes, and man this one was out of this world. We had Chicken Curry over rice, Salad, corn on the cob, rolls, and a homemade German chocolate cake, all cooked Dutch oven style over an open fire....delicious. We spent some time talking about the day's fishing by the fire, and talked about other stuff too, and then turned in. Everyone was so tired from a full day that sleeping was not a problem.......
On Thurday we awoke to another wonderful breakfast, some of the stuff the guys demanded a recipe for it was so good, one of those things was the bread and sausage gravy. We had a breakfast of homemade bread, Josh's sausage gravy, Eggs, and fresh cantaloupe. It was outstanding, and I think we all fought over the leftovers. Josh is lucky we didn't lick the dutch ovens clean...it was that good. We started our day with a 7 mile ride up to Divide Lake, a blue green jewel tucked away in the shadow of Joy Mountain, and up around 9600 ft. The ride was spectacular, and we spent the morning casting to rising and cruising cutthroats, some of them up to 18-19", and several of the guys caught up to a half dozen or 7 of them before they turned off. We caught them on dry flies, stripping wooly buggers, hand twist retrieving Copper Johns deep, you name it. We caught them all ways and it was great. Added to it was the fact that half of the time you could see the fish before they smashed your fly. And man was the water deep.....like a few hundred feet deep only 50ft from shore. It was literally blue green. We quit about lunch time, ate lunch, saddled up, and headed down to the lower North Fork to end the day. We found some good fishing there too, everyone caught fish and I had the pleasure of watching Steve Lalumondier catch a nice cuttie that was rising and was being terribly selective....we put a Jeff's South Holston CDC emerger on him.....bang, that was the end of that. The score Steve 1, 18inch cutthroat 0. Well done, and best of all i got a great video clip of Steve fighting him (below). After fishing we headed back to the horses, suited down, packed up, and headed back to camp. We rode in to the smell of big T-Bone steaks (a real steak, a Wyoming slab of beef!), Josh had started dinner and was grilling those big steaks over the fire. The smell after a long day on the trail and water was great..... We had a great dinner of Steak, Cowboy potatoes, homemade Cornbread, and Peach Cobbler. Again, what Josh can do with a dutch oven over a fire is truly incredible....and incredibly good as well. After dinner and a short campfire sit, we all turned in to our tents for some shuteye.
On Friday morning we got up and had another wonderful breakfast, our last in the backcountry. It was kind of sad that our backcountry experience was coming to a close. We enjoyed a breakfast of French Toast, danishes, Link Sausage, and fresh cantaloupe and fruit and it was outstanding as well. We all packed our gear up, and Josh and Scott broke down camp while several of us went down to the Soda Fork for a little last hurrah fishing. I walked down with the guys, Pat and Mikael went way upstream, I stayed downstream with Bob Manning. He caught several large whitefish and also an 18 inch trout that we believe might have been a lake trout from its markings and color pattern. I'll be sending the info regarding the catch to Wyoming Wildlife to see if they can determine/confirm that it is that. It was strange, but I guess if you are going to catch a strange one let it be large! The other guys caught a fish or two, we headed back up to the campsite and unsuited so Josh could pack our gear up for the ride out. We all grabbed our lunches and headed to our horses. With packing complete, we saddled up for the 2 hr ride out. It was great, but everyone I am sure was both tired, sort of down that the trip was coming to a close, but very much looking forward to a nice room, bed, and did I say SHOWER after several days in the backcountry. I am sure we all looked like a bunch of dirty rascals, unshaven and rough to be sure, but we would soon take care of that once we got back into town.
We got back to the trailhead and the cars, and as the guys unpacked our stuff off the horses we one by one took our bags to the vehicles. We thanked Scott and Josh, and I told Josh "see you next year" and we were off. We stopped by several areas on the way back to town so the guys could get some nice shots of the Grand Tetons and the Snake River, several places that are well known and magazine famous for their photogenic beauty. Once we took a few pics we headed back to town and to our rooms. Everyone was able to unwind a little and also take what I would say was one of the best showers or our lives.....I had to quickly unpack and repack some of our bags which I took to FedeX to have shipped home. I came back to Cache Creek Lodge where we were staying and some of the guys walked into town to do some shopping, looking around, etc, pickup something for their families, etc. We planned on doing dinner at 7:45 at one of the places we always hit, usually on the last night, that is Merry Piglets Mexican Grill. It is mexican and tex mex food to die for! After a nice meal, we all returned to the Cache Creek to pack for the trip home.
We got up early Saturday morning, 400am to be exact, and packed our stuff into the vehicle and headed off to the airport as they were recommending everyone arrive 2hrs before flights due to the construction area around the airport and the fact that Saturday morning is a very busy time at Jackson airport. We got to the airport, and all of us were to board flights for home. I left at 7am, all the other guys 7:58 or 8:00am. Mike was the last to leave, he got to sleep in and had to fly out at 10am. I flew to Salt Lake City, UT, had a three hour layover, what a nice airport it is!!! I then flew to Atlanta, had another 3 hour layover, and then arrived home to Greensboro a little before 9pm. My beautiful bride was in the baggage claim was there to meet me, I hugged and kissed her and I'll tell you as much fun as the guys were and as great as Wyoming is this is home. And I was glad to be back! And missed Wyoming too, its such a great place.
Already starting to plan next years trip..............we have a spot for you- - - join us!