Current Fishing Report:
Friday October 20, 2017

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  The most current trips and blogs can be found in the Fall/Winter- September 2013 to March 2014

Tired of overly optimistic (i.e. blow'in smoke up the ole wahzoo!) fishing reports? You won't find that here. Just the honest truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Fishing Conditions: Fall is here!

Fall fishing has been slow! Pictures of what the fishing was from just a couple years ago at this time!

 

 Lower Shoshone   Flows are finally dropping to winter levels. There is about three feet of visibility. Fished on the 5th and I caught a few small browns! Glad to see some of those tough little guys made it. There's not many but if there was a chance to get out of the current like around the deeper holes you can find a few fish. They were chasing buggers with a sow trailer. Bwo's were hatching but no risers. Fished again on the 15th and got a monster brown about 15".Also, there are a few rainbows below the fish hatchery that may have escaped. Need some massive stocking of this river.

The Shoshone Canyon . High and slow. Needs to be restocked.

Corbett  The river here is now stocked with little snake river cutts. There are a few browns left anywhere they could get out of the current but very few.

Willwood  High and slow. Needs to be restocked.

Newton lakes Cooler weather should get the fish into the feeding mood soon.  Rainbows are finally coming out of the deep water to feed. Some don't look to be in to good a shape to be going into the winter. Got to hot in there this summer. Browns finally started showing up on the 4th. A lot of them I saw are snakey. The fishery is in as poor shape as I've ever seen it. West Newton is all dinks this year.

Luce and Hogan Luce is cooling and the fish are feeding. Hogan is all dinks this year.

Sunshine Both reservoirs are  fishing fair.  This lake is getting hammered this year and the fish are showing the wear and tear.

North Fork  Season is over here now.

Greybull   Clear and still a bit high.

South Fork . Browns should be looking to spawn very soon.

Clarks Fork The river is clear. Fishing slow . We won't be fishing the Lower Clarks Fork any more due to lack of fish.

North Tongue Season is pretty much over up here.

Wind River, Bighorn River, and Canyon Flows are back up to 2500. Had a decent couple days this weekend in the canyon. Caught all stocked rainbows 15" to 20". You can tell they are stockers by the clipped anal fins. They were probably stocked at the end of August and are now feeding well in the river and putting on weight. With the doubling of the flows they were all pushed to the edges and anywhere they could get out of the current. Stripping buggers did the job. Didn't see any sign of browns but did catch 3 walleye. Saw the GAF stocking more rainbows in the state park. Good to see them getting some fish back in there quickly. I'm pretty sure now the river took a more serious hit from the high water than I expected. Tons of bugs hatching and not that many fish up on them. Fishing good anywhere below where they've been stocking now.

Yellowstone Park  West side is the place to try till the park closes.

Bighorn River Fort Smith.  The flows are 4000 cfs.  . Caddis and trico hatches have slowed. Bobber fishing is the most productive. Streamers early and late. Still lots of salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

October 18th

Wyoming votes Yes to Allow more Feces!

A True Backdoor Bill!

By now everyone is familiar with the passing Wyoming's new bill to increase the amount of feces in our streams "not used by people for recreation" by 500%. We all understand that it is simply to expensive for ranchers to fence of vast areas of rivers to keep livestock out of the water and still maintain a reasonable profit. I do a couple fly tying classes with some high school kids and this was the topic of discussion in one session. The kids asked me what I thought and I tried to be diplomatic. I explained that ecoli can make people sick and even kill but that most of these streams are not readily being used by a lot of people so chances of it effecting people are slim. I did know high concentrations of nitrates are not good for any biological organisms except harmful bacteria's that feed on it. These waste products also act as a fertilizer for weed growth which if left unchecked will choke out the stream. Larger fish often use these tributaries to larger rivers to spawn and all this will hurt natural reproduction down stream. Also all these streams eventually run into waters that people do use. I had to say that I was against the new bill for fishing's sake. One your man said he couldn't think of one good reason why allowing 500% more feces in our water was good in any way. I replied that he was just a kid and didn't understand the workings of government in Wyoming. The young lady next to him said "Democracy in this country is only an allusion for the sake of the people. The country is run by rich and powerful industrialists who manipulate the system to become more rich and powerful with no regard to it's effects on it's citizens or the environment." All I could say was good answer and we went back to tying.

   

October 17th

High Water Woes!

Last Spring we had a locals meeting with the Game and Fish sponsored by Robert Crooks to discuss the causes and solutions of problems with the local fisheries. The question was asked who in the room though that the fishing had gone drastically down hill and all present raised their hands immediately. Kirk Bollinger and I brought up the subject of running to much water for to long down our tail waters killing fish. We were told that know one had ever heard of to much water killing fish. Our reply was that you'll see it this year. Fast forward to October. After fishing all summer and now into the fall I don't think that there is anyone who has been fishing wouldn't agree that the high water this year put a serious hurt on all our rivers and streams. Especially the tail waters where Super high flows were run since March and are still running at this date. The tail waters were very close to decimated. There are still a few hardy little fish that found places to get out of the current and some how find food but in the lower Shoshone 80% of the fish are gone. The Bighorn is a much larger river corridor than the Shoshone so up till this year the fish population has been able to handle more water but this year they finally found it's limit. Fish population are down and a lot of fish are in pretty poor condition. Now you guys in Thermopolis know why people from Cody are on your river so much. We've been dealing with this to some extent for years now. Even the freestones took a hit. The high flows only lasted a month and a half on the freestones as opposed to 6 months on the tail waters. Large areas of the freestones were filled in and straightened. The fish missed most of the most prolific hatches just trying to stay put. Fish numbers were down and the average size was noticeably smaller. Areas of good fish habitat were filled in and greatly reduced. On the North Fork this year I'd estimate that 70% of the fish we caught were in poor shape and very skinny due to fighting strong current during high water. Add intense fishing pressure to already stressed fish and well, you see where this is leading. As it turns out one summer of high water is much more devastating to fisheries than extended periods low lower water. It kills the fish right now. This is just one of many problems that have pushed our fisheries to the breaking point.

   

September 27th

Fishing opportunities in the Cody area are at an all time low

There are many reasons the fishing is heading down hill in the Cody area. Views on what's happening are varied. It doesn't matter why at this point but the fishing definitely isn't close to what it was even 5 years ago. The lower Shoshone is a shadow of what it is capable of being. It used to be one of the best fall streamer fisheries in Wyoming. Full of fish 12" to 17" and many bigger. You used to see lots of locals fishing the Stock trail and down on the public access right in Cody. Now there are 0 locals fishing. That's the best indication of how good the fishing is right now. All that remains are a few smaller browns. Very sad. It's unconscionable for a blue ribbon trout stream to have fallen this far in such a short period with nothing happening to revive it. The local lakes have suffered the same fate. East Newton is a shadow of what it was 10 years ago. Last year the average fish was 17". Very few anglers are even bothering to fish it this fall. West Newton which was a very prolific fishery with fish averaging 15" to 18" is no longer a hold over fishery. All the fish are 1st year fish 6" to 10 ". Luce and Hogan suffer as well. Luce used to produce many fish up to 22". It now has fish that average 15". The fish are hammered now that the other lakes have gone down hill and all show signs of multiple hooking and appear stressed. Hogan, which was a great cutthroat lake with cutts to 22" is now a first year fishery. All the fish are 6" to 10".  Even Sunshine reservoir has finally succumbed to intense fishing pressure. It appeared as an almost unlimited resource for years with super healthy cutts averaging 17" and 18". This year the fish were 10" to 12" and thin. It's unbelievable how many fish must be being take each year to cause this. The North Fork had the best year it's had in a long time this year. 2 to 3 weeks of decent fishing this summer. That's right, 2 to 3 weeks of fishing is the best it's been in a long time. 75% of the fish caught this summer were very skinny. The lower Clarks Fork  has not been worth fishing for years. 400 total fish per mile with 2/3rd's of those being whitefish. The canyon has seen more pressure than ever. No one even bothers with the upper Clarks Fork any more because of lack of fish. Sunlight creek has become overrun with fisherman and the fish population are at an all time low. Honestly the only areas that are still holding their own are places that require personal effort to get to. Even those places are becoming crowded. The Greybull had as many as 5 groups of guides working a 2 1/2 mile stretch of water that we used to think was good for 3 anglers a day. Fish size and overall populations are down. Thermopolis has taken some hits as well from fishing pressure especially during the summer when it is really to hot to fish. On the 8th of September the water temp was 72 degrees below the dam. North of town the fishery is a shadow of what it was 5 years ago. This situation will continue to worsen in the future. This year people that have been coming here for years were saying how the fishing has gone down hill and probably won't be back. Business will be loosing lots of income. Fly fisherman stay in the nicest hotels, eat at the best restaurants, shop in all the stores, and over all have a sizable impact on the economy of this area. We're going to miss them. There is one bright side to all this. We have some beautiful streams to fish. If your mainly into the experience and not so much the catching and solitude is your thing this could be your place. The catching isn't good but the fishing is great! 

   

June 10th

Fishing outlook for the Cody Yellowstone area 2017!

I wish I had some good news but so far this year things aren't looking very promising. The Cody Yellowstone area has been hit with many challenges the last 4 or 5 years and so far they have gone unaddressed. We have had sedimentation issues, chemical spills, 100% increase in fishing pressure, invasive species transplanted, and now super high spring runoff and exceptionally hot weather for this time of year. In years past I have observed what flows of these levels do to the rivers in this area and it is very bad for fish populations. The only good point is that the rivers will be squeaky clean and ready to start rebuilding baring any further challenges. Most of the rivers around here are very tight corridors. This makes it impossible for fish to get out of the massive flows we are receiving right now. They can withstand super high water for maybe a month and a half but at that point their energy reserves are depleted and the larger fish start dying off. Freestones like the Greybull have done very well except under the highest water years but the highest I've ever seen the Greybull in the last 20 years has been 2700 cfs. Today it is at 5000 cfs and has been between 4 and 5 thousand for a while. Rivers like the South Fork and the Clarks Fork are notoriously hard on fish under normal run off. The North Fork fish will have a much harder time getting to spawning grounds. Once there they will have a hard time finding calm enough water to lay eggs. Fry can be left high and dry when the water recedes. On the way back to the reservoir they will be in poor condition. Even so the last time we has high flows like the the North Fork wasn't fishable till August but is was the best we've ever seen it. Keep your fingers crossed. The lower Shoshone was nearly void of fish the last time we had these types of flows. It has been running over 4000cfs since March.  The snow pack this year is the highest I've seen. We are currently fishing lakes. So far the best lakes are Sunshine and Luce. The fish in upper Sunshine are plentiful but are half the size they were only a couple years ago and look thin. Lower Sunshine is holding it's own but is more difficult for fly fisherman because of the depth. It's hard to get a fly much deeper than 20 feet. The other two catch and keep fisheries Hogan and West Newton have virtually no hold over fish. That means they are getting fished out every year and all you will catch is this years stocking. East Newton is not bad but the fish are highly pressured and only the lightest tippet with instigate a bite. Thermopolis will probably do alright but since it will be the only stream in the area fishing well every fisherman and guide in the area will be there. The summer temps over there get very warm and that combined with tons of fishing pressure this summer will make it tough on the fish. I'm hoping that I'm totally wrong in this prediction and I could be but after spending 20 years watching how these things effect the fishing hope is all it is. We'll just have to see what is left when the water comes down.

   

March 30th

DYI Bonefishing!

Once again it is time to head south for some big Bones! This time of year when the water is still cooler the biggest fish are still coming up and feeding on the flats of Andros island. The combined areas of the North, Middle and South Bights are probably the largest flat in the world. 500 square miles of prime bonefish water. Double digit fish are swimming around every day this time of year. They usually are not easy but you can generally hook one if you try hard and stay focused during your stay.

This is a very different game than bone fishing in Belize or Mexico where numbers of fish in schools are bigger but average size is much smaller. What makes it more challenging is doing it without a guide. Honestly, you either get lucky or get lucky if you catch one of the big boys your first trip or any other trip for that matter.

There are certain kinds of flats that seem to attract big bones consistently. Having a close drop off into some deeper water is one of the biggest factors. Big fish don't like being exposed up on a flat for to long. They like to be able to zip into the deeper stuff if they sense trouble. Finding areas like this can be challenging. You simply have to go and find them yourself or if your lucky enough go with someone who knows the lay of the land.

Each flat is like a neighborhood. It's residents move about in different areas over the course of the day depending on the tide phase. Full moons bring the biggest tidal flows and seem to bring the biggest fish up on the flat. Certain areas are prone to having more predators than others.  I have lost more big bones to predators than anything else. Sharks and cudas know the drill just like the grizzly bears around here during hunting season. They'll wait until your fish is tired and just about in your hand and shoot in for an easy meal. All you see is a puff of pink and your line cut like a razor when it's a good sized cuda. Really pretty amazing to see but also a real heartbreaker, especially for the bonefish. If I'm lucky enough to see them coming I just break the fish off. Other areas have buggy whips and small coral heads to get you tangled or cut your line. Lot's of things can go wrong quick.

The first couple days I like to fish sun up till sundown to acclimate to being able to just see the fish and get slowed down enough to be stealthy and be able to wade without spooking fish. I learn where the fish come onto and leave the flat and locate the areas they like during the tide change. You can catch fish at all levels of the tide once you figure out where to look for them. After about a week you'll have things dialed in and have a real good chance of running into a big boy. Sometimes it takes quite a while to get your first legitimate shot at a big fish. You will be tempted to go off and fish for sharks and cudas or move inland to schools of smaller fish but if you really want a big boy you have to stay where they are and wait till they show up.

Your selection of flies must be able to match the depth of water you are fishing. Having heavy, medium, and light weight flies is a must. I even set up a couple different things as droppers to keep handy just in case things change. For instance, Most of the time when you see a permit you are fishing for something else and don't have time to change flies. If you have a crab already set up on a dropper all you have to do is slide it on the fly you are already using and cast. If you are fishing middle depth and you see fish in shallow water tailing on grass slip an unweighted  fly on and cast. Your heavy fly will sink into the grass where the fish can't find it but the light fly will be right in their faces.

To me the whole journey is fascinating and I never tire of it. If you are wealthy enough to higher a guide it will definitely be worth it. Just like here they will speed up the local learning curve and put you on fish that you wouldn't be able to get to otherwise. Also in the Bahamas all the guides I've met have been really good guys with a sharp sense of humor and would be great to fish with. More than likely you will catch more fish with a guide but I have to say we usually end up matching a guided day and sometime exceeding because we fish long and hard all day. I'd fish with the right guide every day if I could afford it.

Cost wise it's not as bad as one would think. The trip we are leaving on at the end of the month will end up costing $1600 each for 2 weeks. That's $800 a week which can be as much as one or 2 guided days. Almost cheaper than staying here is what I tell my wife. That includes food, lodging, insurance, and air fare back and forth to Cody. We bring snorkling gear and our cameras and the places we stay have bicycles, kayaks and access to rental cars if we need one. On this trip a guide friend of ours down there was hit by a hurricane last year so we are bringing him tools and in exchange he is loaning us his flats boat while we are there. Heck of a deal! There are some really solid people in the Bahamas! Trip insurance is a no brainer. For $100 you and your gear are protected. The cost of one airlift in a health emergency can wipe you out just like that.

 

   

March 18th

Finally some good news on the lower Shoshone!

The flows below Willwood dam have been around 2000cfs for the last couple weeks. That is about 3 times the volume of normal summer flow. The water coming over the top of the dam is now clean and the river is already cleaner than it's been in a long long time. Turning over rocks produced large numbers of mayfly nymphs! A huge relief. The plan is a flushing flow of 4000cfs for 12 days to remove the remainder of the sediment. With continued flushes every year the river down here will be the best it's ever been! There has been a large response from  all the government agencies combined with locals about this. I think everyone at every level has taken the health of the river more seriously and goals are being accomplished. Honestly all that is required to keep the river clean is annual dispersal of sediment accumulation combined with a little water to flush it down stream. Basically someone has to open the dam for a couple days once a year and non of this would have ever been a problem.

When you take a look at water records from the start of organized irrigation it looks like engineers that built the dam new that the placement of the dam wasn't ideal and sediment accumulation maintenance was going to be required annually. A flushing flow was originally used to keep the river clean every year up till the early 60's and then for some reason was discontinued. That was the start of the problem we are experiencing now. Hopefully this will be put back into effect from now on.  Everyone can get the water they need and enjoy the river. We can have it all with just a small effort.

It is obvious that the Lower Shoshone means a lot to everyone in this area. The turn out for the clean up was huge, maybe the biggest of all time for Cody and Powell. I've never seen that many boats on that stretch of the river. Unfortunately the 2000cfs that cleaned the river also flushed most of the tires and trash down stream so there wasn't to much to pick up but it was good to see all the support for the effort. Kirk and I have periodically done some personal clean up below the dam and I have to say in the past it has been a mess from time to time. Old couches and mattresses covered with beer cans and trash and other articles of unmentionable ness has been an issue down here. I have to give credit to the guys that were doing the work on the dam along with the Irrigation District. They had the area below the dam cleaner than I've ever seen it before the GAF, Trout Unlimited, concerned anglers, and local guides ever showed up! I can't explain how much better this made Kirk and I feel to see that kind of respect give to a river that has been neglected for so long that is literally right in our back yard.

The lower Shoshone certainly has other obstacles to overcome but hopefully this incident will set a new precedent as to how we treat our waterways. If we pull together we can continue to solve the Shoshone's  problems one at a time. For the government agencies, it is politically correct to take care of the river. You do that and you'll get a lot more votes around here.

   

March 1st

I was walking the dogs on  the lower Shoshone under Belfrey bridge the other day. I went over and read the sign by the new changing station expounding on the vast wildlife and fishing experiences we are lucky enough to have available to this community. I remember when it went up and we had the first river festival. Everyone was excited and seemed to really appreciate the natural and recreational opportunities we are lucky enough to have right down town here in Cody. Then a serious down hill trend began on the Shoshone.

First all the Russian olives which were the majority of the food, habitat, and shade for the river were cut down. The wild animals took off and the few cows that were grazing there ate the grass to dirt and trampled the river banks anywhere they could reach in search of more food.  Currently the city of Cody is debating whether to start killing off the deer that have been stripped of their habitat and forced to live in town in peoples yards. Super high long duration summertime flows periodically culled most of the biggest fish in the river during a couple of seasons and the fish population entered into a constant state of rebuilding and recovery. 2 years ago there was a huge fish kill starting above the Hayden arch bridge. 90% of the fish population disappeared in a week or so. Fish populations below began taking a hit from this as well. As of now if you look under rocks up in the canyon you will find very few invertebrates and almost zero hatches. The Shoshone through Cody has had miniscule hatching activity last summer as well as this winter and the fish population seemed to be in decline. Last fall we found another big fish kill that started around Cooper lane and was evident down to the take out at Corbett bridge. This occurred just after flows were dropped for irrigation in the fall. As of 2 days ago another fish kill was found down below Corbett dam. Dead fish on the bank and many just waiting to die in the shallows. This occurred just after the flows were raised for irrigation season stirring up the toxin. Something has poisoned our river. On top of that the Willwood irrigation district dumped 20 years of sediment into the river suffocating all the biomass down stream to Lovell. Run off from this summer is expected to be super high and once again the fish will take a hit. We could also factor in a 100% increase in fishing pressure but with all the other obstacles it is fairly irrelevant in this scenario. Still there are small brown trout and a few cutts and rainbows trying to hang in there. It's a miracle anything survives after all this.

Business goes on as usual in Cody. You would think that someone would at least take enough incentive to take a serious look at the situation but as far as authorities are concerned everything is just fine. To some of the newer residents of the area it still may look like decent fishing in the Shoshone. Certainly better than back east. But to those of us that have been here 20 years or so it has become a shadow of what it once was. Pretty darn depressing from a fishing guides point of view.

 

   

January 5th

Fishing outlook for 2017

I hope everyone had a great holiday season with family and friends. We had a great time. I have been steadily building rods since we quit fishing in November. I've continued to experiment and have come up with some pretty nice casting fishing tools. I'll be tweaking (tapers) for the rest of my life I think.  I messed around with some fancy aesthetic techniques  as well which has turned into a nightmare because now everyone wants them. It is minus 14 today in the afternoon. Very cold. The spring bonefishing is, unfortunately, still quite a ways out. Can't wait to get back to Andros for some of the big guys. This is my time to tie flies and try to learn to play guitar. I thought it would be easier sober but it's not. At least I though I sounded pretty good when I was inebriated. One cool thing. Some friends wanted me to make their son a bamboo rod for his birthday. I do some other work for these guys in the winter as well. I had noticed an old Martin getting dusty in a corner and we decided to make a trade. Very cool old guitar with patina and a lot of history (ie mojo). Sweet!

Now for the fishing next summer. The bad news. Many of the floating rivers around Cody have issues and I don't expect the floating opportunities to be very good this summer. The Lower Clarks Fork is just not a good option. I haven't used it to guide on for 7 or 8 years. The GAF estimated 400 trout per mile and for a river this size that is pitiful. It's to bad as it is a very beautiful river to float. The Lower Shoshone has again been burdened with a set of circumstance that has the fish size and population way down. The Willwood stretch is dead from the dam down indefinitely due to sedimentation.  The upper river was poisoned by a chemical spill from somewhere around the dam. It killed a bunch of fish and may still be having an effect on the river. No one even mentioned it much less tested the water. You can still catch a few nice fish through Cody but nothing like it has been capable of in the past. I'd say the overall population is about half with the majority being 8" to 12" browns. Hopefully the GAF will get some fish back in the river by next summer. Every year we keep hoping for a better run of fish from the North Fork but after a down swing the last 6 or 7 years I just don't expect it to be any better this year. At best expect a week or 2 of decent fishing in August. This leaves Thermopolis which has become the newest go to fishery for everyone in the state. Very crowded all summer. Many of the people I have talked to lately mention having tough days in July and August. It gets to warm over there during the middle of the day and the fishing can get very slow to none existent. Sun up to 10:30 and 6:30 till dark are your best bets over there. Crowds are just not my thing.

The good news! We seem to have a pretty darn good snow pack this year so far. This is good for all the freestone streams with resident fish. If your not into crowds and prefer not to see any other fishermen all day this is your place. We've been having a great time for the last 3 or 4 years going off the grid. Beautiful fish in a beautiful setting with solitude. This does require more effort than sitting on your butt in a drift boat all day but everyone that takes the plunge has had a great time. Last year fishing with several groups of regulars it was the best I've seen in years. We also have access to very good private water that is available certain times of the year. Awesome cutthroat fishing! Use this year to get yourself in hiking shape, bring your bamboo and lets hit the back country this summer. It's the place to be!

 

   

December 3rd

Turning a Pigs Ear into a Silk Purse!

There is only one option for the river below Wilwood dam now. A flushing flow is the only sensible way to get started cleaning up the mess. We might get lucky and that will be all that is needed. There could be some dredging necessary in places like the big eddy below Alkali creek. At any rate let's get started with a flush.

Right now the water coming out of the dam is cleaner than it's been in at least 20 years. The sediment that has been removed up stream of the dam has greatly improved the water quality below the dam. Since the initial sediment spills starting in 2007 the river bottom had be compromised in places where the flow slowed down the most. Sediment covered the bottom and the biomass was killed. The fish simply had moved out of these areas. The river needed a good flush back then. With a flushing flow that could at least move the sediment down below Mormon dam this could be the absolute best section of the lower Shoshone for fishing in just a couple years. As long as the river isn't choked with sediment fish will begin to spawn and populations will recover quickly. Insect life in the past has been very productive. The flows in this stretch of the river are never compromised by super high flows for months that kill fish up stream. This section has always produced the biggest fish in the river. The fishing pressure has always been minimal compared to the rest of the river. In other word if a flush is successful this section of the river could be better than it has ever been.

On top of that the river will be already prime for the GAF to restore. They usually like to kill everything and start over to begin with. This will save them all the cost and effort to poison the river. They're good to go after a flush.

The Bureau of Rec now has a choice. It's up to them whether they are going to be the Bum or the Hero. The cost to them is minimal and is actually just their responsibility for basic maintenance in taking care of their dam. Let's see them step up and be the Hero. Or will the Corp of Engineers have to step in and make them do it right.

   

November 19th

Willwood Irrigation District was dealt a bad hand from day one!

There's no excuse for dumping the sediment into the river like was done below Willwood dam but under the same circumstances I doubt if anyone could have done much better with the problem of sedimentation.  As I see it the problem is of course to much sediment in the river in the first place but where it drops is mainly caused by how much flow you have. The lake above Willwood dam is the first place the water comes to almost a dead stop. It is just poorly designed. That is one mile of dead water that collects all the sediment that was suspended in the river all the way from Buffalo Bill dam. When the water hits Corbett dam it has a full flow and not much of a place for it to back up above the dam. There is sedimentation but it's pretty marginal compared to Willwood. Half that water goes into the ditch and now we have half the flow heading toward Willwood. Above Willwood there is a mile long lake. There is almost no flow for a mile and any suspended sediment drops out of the water right above the dam. Basically the way things are designed and with the amount of flow they have it's a loosing battle from day one. The peaks do dump some dirt but we only get 7" to 11" of rain a year. Not near enough to cause the kind of problem we have now. Right now below Willwood the water is at it's highest level for the year. On April 15th it will drop to half of what it is now. This part of the river never gets enough flow to remove any sediment that falls out of suspension. I can't think of any way to solve the problem the way things are set up now.

   

November 18th!

After the meeting on the Willwood dam situation on the 15th  it was felt that the state agencies involved didn't recognize the seriousness of the problem. The Corp of engineers was contacted and they were extremely upset with what has transpired with destroying the river and damaging private property. Tom Johnson at the Corp office who is currently working on a much smaller but similar situation in Duboise said that if the local agencies can't straighten this out and get the river cleaned up the Corp will step in and get the ball rolling. He has contacted the EPA as well which is the Agency at the top of the heap and he stated that this situation will be resolved. If nothing happens after the holidays the Corp of Engineers will step in and take over the process of cleaning up the river and look to find compensation for the land owners for property damaged.

This is the third time in 8 years that this exact violation has occurred. It would seem that the DEQ would have balked at giving a permit to an agency that had broken the law twice before under the same circumstances.

   

November 16th!

Wyoming Continues Legacy of Questionable Environmental Practices!

160 persons attended attended the meeting on the huge fish kill and environmental disaster below Willwood Dam yesterday in Powell. As of today the 17th the mud is still running out of the dam. All state government agencies involved with the exception of the Department of Environmental Quality refused to take any responsibility in the decimation of the river or any action to clean anything up. The DEQ took no responsibility but did issue a citation to the Willwood Irrigation District and the Bureau of Rec. The three agencies are at the table but so far the DEQ has not submitted any of the violations for prosecution. This simply means that there is a distinct possibility that nothing will be done to restore the river or to fix the outdated and insufficient policies of keeping our water clean. This is now the third time this exact situation has occurred in the last 8 years.

This is not about the necessity of updating all the Bureau of Rec's outdated and inefficient equipment to restrict sedimentation in the future. This is not about the agricultural water users getting there fair share of water. No one wants farmers to be shortchanged. This is about a bad decision to release one mile of sediment 60 feet deep and 300 feet wide into a Blue Ribbon trout stream by the Willwood Irrigation District when there were other options to consider. Apparently the Irrigation District had no Idea it was going to be that bad however they had looked into alternative methods of removal and deemed them to costly. Asked why they didn't stop the flow of contaminants as soon as they realized what was coming out of the dam the Willwood superitendant Todd Stingbell replied " it didn't look that bad to me."  Well it was that bad and the mud still continues to run.

According to the Department of Environmental Quality the Willwood Irrigation District and the Bureau of Rec are in violation of 32 separate instances of violating Wyoming water law. Each agency had 10 days to respond before it was turned over to the Attorney General's office for prosecution. Each agency responded by contesting every one of the violations stating that as of now there is no proof the river has been damaged. At this juncture no plan is being considered to restore the river or compensate the land owners and the state for damages due to loss of Wildlife and loss of property value.

As a side note research has shown that 85% of Wyoming's water usage is used for Agriculture. This is 73% for growing hay, an the other 12% for grow sugar beets ,barley, peas, sunflowers,  and corn. The remaining 15% of total water is consumed by all the other people in Wyoming. Property taxes are minimal for Agricultural lands and everything that is grown is sold out of state.  Rivers are decimated by unrestricted cattle grazing. There is no financial benefit to the state. The recreational water usage in the Lower Shoshone brings in 10.5 million a year to the area annually. Interesting.

As stated above no one wants the agricultural guys to not get the water they need. What we do want is for the people enlisted with getting the water to these farmers be responsible and not destroy our wildlife in the process of getting it to them. There was a way this could have been prevented. Willwood Irrigation District even looked into alternative methods and decide to trash the river instead.

The DEQ is responsible for making sure these type of violations don't occur and if they do, fine the offending parties and restore the water to the best of our abilities. They issued stipulations to the turbidity  increase and every one of these stipulations was violated. It is their responsibility to prosecute these agencies and restore the river if even possible. That is Wyoming Law!

   

October 27th

Here's a little update on the Willwood situation. There has been a lot of support to try to get some action taken to straighten out this problem. People seem to be pulling  together which is a first for Cody. Quite a bit of media has been getting the word out. Unfortunately, at this time the flow of mud continues. This is the type of environmental abuse that we criticize China for. In America this should not stand. Some type of action needs to be taken. This issue will be a long drawn out process but we've got to stick with it. It is not 1900 any more.

The issue now is not one of placing blame. It is one of how we are going to pull together to get this cleaned up. All we're hearing from the people responsible at this time is we're sorry. Some sort of commitment to clean this mess up is mandatory. We can't let it end here. Everyone who fishes tail water is at the risk of this happening in their river. Boysen Dam, Buffallo Bill reservoir and even Corbett dam just up stream of Willwood are reaching critical levels of sedimentation. Every dam collects sediment and we really need to start taking a look at how to handle this problem with some efficiency in the future. I'm pretty sure doing it the way this was done is not the best approach we can come up with.

As of October 22nd 2016

 

October 22

Lower Shoshone Destroyed by Wyoming Construction Practices!

I've just about given up on trying to be active with helping to preserve Wyoming's trout Streams. It's like whipping a dead horse. People have been contacted and many are aware of the issues that plague some of our rivers. So far as I can tell not one thing has been done to correct any of the issues brought to the attention of our State and Federal Government as far as protecting the fish and wildlife around these streams outside of the Game and Fish writing citations for small poaching violations. Fish kills go unreported and no effort is made to even investigate them. Russian olives which have become primary habitat for many animals in the last 75 years especially on our rivers are destroyed because they might be sucking more than their share of water. To much water is run down rivers for to long, so much so that fish populations are almost wiped out, over harvest issues are ignored. Not one thing has been done to at least try and do something! These issues are not even acknowledged as being a concern yet. What else could be done to make it any more difficult for our wildlife to survive? Guess what!

Two years ago agencies began addressing problems around the Willwood dam. There were a number of thing that needed to be updated and resolved. Good , one would think. Last year a load of sediment was released that took out a third of the rivers biomass. The sediment killed the fishes food sources in many runs. Of course nothing was said. We noticed it while wading. Dense sediment that you could stir up and even in a current would drop back to the bottom in 30 or 40 feet. Very dense stuff. The areas hardest hit with this sediment no longer sustained any fish as their food source was taken out. Great runs that used to hold good numbers of large fish were empty but at least there were some places that still held some nice fish.

 Last week the entire mile above Willwood dam that was full of about 50 feet of sediment was released into the river. This goes from just down stream of Cody all the way to Yellowtail Reservoir. There is not an inch of river bottom that has any life at all as of October 22nd. The reason for doing it: It just would have cost to much to do it the right way and dredge it. According to GAF biologist it may never again support life unless a massive ( millions $)clean up is undertaken. A huge flushing flow for an extended period might help. Guess how much chance there is of this ever happening. Taking care of the environment is not going to be cost effective. Is it worth it to spend more money and do it right? Many of us don't know the answer to this question but our children are going to find out the hard way.

What it used to be!

                       

 

 

Opening Day in Yellowstone Park May 28th!

Dawn and I fished the park on the opener and it was fantastic. Everyone usually fishes the Firehole on the opener. Lamar valley is usually still to high and muddy to fish. This year Soda Butte was low and crystal clear. On top of that we were the only fishermen on the river. What could be better than that! The fish were taking big Hoppers, that's what! We caught a bunch of nice fish on dries all day long with no other anglers anywhere in sight. I haven't had Soda Butte to my self since 2001 on opening day.

 

All the fish looked to be in very good shape. Most were 14" to 17" and fat!  We did see some small black stones and a few caddis in places but all you needed to throw was the big hopper. Any place the water slowed and had a bit of depth there was at least a couple of takers.

 

We did go down to the Yellowstone about lunch time and it was also low and clear above the confluence to the Lamar. We caught a bunch of little guys on all kinds of flies. Again not a soul to be seen. The entire day was sunny with a slight breeze. It was a perfect opening day.

 

It couldn't have been a better day for the opener and as long as it stays cool it will be in good shape. The Lamar was fishable but high and off color as was Slough Creek. There is still plenty of snow up high to come but I'll bet by the 1st of July Lamar valley will be prime. If you want to dodge the masses and catch some quality fish on dries you might get a couple more days before run off starts in earnest. Enjoy it while you can!

   

March28th

Outlook for 2016

This is always the most interesting and my favorite time of year to fish in Wyoming. This is the time of year I get to stumble around in the hills by myself plinking away in creeks and enjoying what living in Wyoming is really about. Every thing is waking up and getting active after the colder weather. Everywhere I've been for the last month or so has been looking real good. Antelope, Elk and Deer populations are looking very good , migratory birds are already coming back and starting to sing and nest. I've never see such good populations of pheasants chuckars and huns since I've been in Wyoming. Raptors are pairing up and nesting! All the freestone streams I've been checking on appear to have wintered very well and the bugs are already starting to get active. It's great to see good numbers stonefly and mayfly nymphs crawling all over the bottoms of rocks. The North Fork is looking to have a positive run of fish this year from what we've seen so far. Even the Lower Shoshone with it's problems last year is rebounding nicely already. Not many larger fish but lots of healthy little guys. Having a easy winter has been very kind to the wildlife! On top of that our snow pack appears to be right in line with what it should be at this time of year. We're still a little low but we always get our best snows for the summer in the next month or so. All in all I'm pretty optimistic about this summers fishing.

I've been spending quite a bit of time roaming smaller waters in search of some good populations of fish in beautiful areas that should be pretty much devoid of other anglers this summer. I've found some real keepers. If this is the type of fishing that appeals to you I think you'll be very happy this summer. They do require a little effort to get there and fish them but you'll leave knowing what real fly fishing is supposed to be about. It's getting harder and harder to find beauty, peace, and solitude in one package these days. If you've already caught your share of big fish and shun waters crowded with other boats this is your spot. To me a 16" fish in a creek 3 feet wide is a monster!

I've been lucky enough to receive quite a few booking already this year, especially during prime time so if your interested in booking a trip  please let me know as far in advance as you can so I can make sure to get you the dates you need. It's been getting progressively busier every year and it doesn't take long now to get booked up. It's looking like a good summer and I'll look forward to fishing with everyone!

 

   

February 21st!

Connecting with the Game and Fish!

Robert Crooks and I had a real nice discussion with Sam, the new head of fisheries in our area. I really just wanted to introduce myself but we ended up talking about a lot of the issues that anglers that have been around the area for a while were concerned with. A lot of us anglers feel the fishing in some fisheries in the Cody area have gone down hill and stayed there the last 4 or 5 years. Game and fish is becoming aware of it and I gained confidence in the effort the GAF is putting forth trying to adapt to the changes this area is seeing. Many problems can be over come by resources the GAF has at it's disposal. Some cannot be over come and that's just the way it is. The area is becoming more crowded and angling pressure has increased 10 fold of what it was just a couple years ago. There is nothing we can do about that. The issue of running to much water down the lower Shoshone in the summer is another thing we just can't change. More and more people equals more and more water demand around here and down stream. The lower Shoshone is already past the maximum of what becomes harmful to fish in the summer. Let's face it, it's not going to get better. Stocking to supplement fish loss is the only option. The sediment issue below Willwood is only going to continue until the dam is repaired. The damage is done. Once the dam is complete a flushing flow may help get the sand out of there so the biomass can recover and that is something that might be able to be negotiated. Many of the still water impoundments can be worked on and plans are forming as we speak to get these areas back to the great fisheries that they are capable of being. The lower Clarks Fork is in need of serious help and some things are being considered to try and get some fish populations established in there again.

The North Fork is the one area that just didn't make any sense to me. My perception of the current state of the fishery and the data the GAF had accumulated the past couple years were just to far apart to make any sense. I'm positive the fishery is not even half of what it used to be and according to the current GAF data the fishery has remained consistent since 1997. WTF! Let's take a look and both sides of the coin.

My perception is based on fishing with a fishing pole, catch rates during many days on the water, and just a gut feeling. The GAF base their perception on the scientific data collected by shocking fish at the same time, in the same area, four days a year. Could either of our methods of collecting data be flawed? You bet!

The North fork is a very unique fishery. It is a spawning run. There are very few resident fish in the river. If you hit a school of fish going up or down the river it will seem like the best fishery in the world one day and a couple weeks later it could be almost void of fish. The fish move all over the place. A shocking survey has been the standard for estimating fish populations since the beginning of time and has been proven to be pretty darn effective. It is also the best thing the GAF currently has available. I also feel my method is pretty effective just from years of personal experience. The catch is that the standard is with shocking fish in a river with resident fish, not a spawning run. My philosophy has always been if you want to know stuff find the best there is at doing what you want to do and learn from them. Montana counts the fish going up the Madison into the park in the fall by hand. That method would be difficult to adapt to the North Fork.  I began researching Salmon and Steelhead runs in Alaska to see how these guys are doing it. 

These guys count the fish as they start up the river and as they return in the case of steelhead. There is a piece of equipment called a multibeam sonar scanner that could be perfect for counting fish entering and leaving the North Fork. It is easy to set up and use. It takes less manpower and effort by far that running boats with shockers. You could also use it to check the runs going up individual tributaries, canal work, the sky is the limit! I haven't been able to check on current prices but I'd bet it will cost less than the way we're doing it right now all things considered. The clincher is that we would then have a much more accurate idea of fish numbers in the system and be able to formulate a plan to try and get it back on track if in fact the numbers are what we suspect. Once the research is completed it will then just come down to the cash involved in getting one.

The real message here is that the Game and Fish guys are working as hard as they can with limited funds and staff. They are on our side and we should be working with them to solve some of these issues. Sam was very open to listening and highly informed about many things that laymen like us fail to consider. He grew up in southwest Montana fly fishing with his dad so he is one of us. Any information or ideas were gladly accepted for consideration.  These problems can't all be solved over night but if we keep at it one step at a time some of the issues can be solved. We've got to stay on top of these issues or we risk loosing the thing many of us love the most about Wyoming.

   

January 13th!

A few pieces of gear for us old guys!

It's my birthday today and I have an update on two great gifts for us guys getting on up in age but not quite over the hill. The older we get the harder wading seems to get. We start bypassing some really good fishing holes because we just don't feel comfortable wading slippery rocks with faster current. It just doesn't seem worth taking a chance of getting wet to reach some of these spots anymore. Some of us even start driving to the other side of the river instead of just wading across. There is a real solution to your problem.  Patagonia came out with a good idea about 4 years ago with their aluminum bar boots and cleats. The first time I put on those boots and tried walking across some slippery rocks on the North Fork I was sold. There is no better gripping boot! You could literally run across water that you would have avoided with regular boots. The down fall was that the inserts in the bottom of these boots pulled out very quickly. The aluminum is pretty soft so when you step on a rock the bars would bend and pull out. It was very frustrating to have to repair your boots after every day on the water. The boots needed more work. They needed a steel insert in between the inner and outer sole to keep the bars from pulling out and distorting so badly. They finally got the problem solved! The new Patagonia Foot Tractor boots are really good boots for wading in rivers with slippery rocks covered in algae.  You just don't slip anymore. You won't believe it till you try them but they work! These boots will put you back on water that you have started to avoid because you thought you were to old. I got so over confident that I almost got it trouble a couple times. It honestly will give us old guys another 5 or 10 years of wading rivers before we will be confined to float tubing lakes. The bars are replaceable so you can double or even triple the life span of your boots.

To be honest there are a couple of things that you will have to be aware of with these boots. If you step on your fly line they will cut it. You really have to be careful about that. Also, they are heavier than the ultra light wading boots. If you want light your going to compromise durability. They're not terrible but if you're used to the ultra light boots you will notice it. They are safe in rafts and drift boats. No problem tearing or scratching the floors with these boots. It costs $40 to replace the bars. If your inventive you can do it yourself for a lot less. The boots aren't cheap but if it gets you back out on the river in confidence for a few more years it is worth it!

I ended up with a pair of ultra lights and these boots. Many places we fish require a lot of hiking and the stream beds just aren't that slippery. I use the ultra lights for them and just use the Tractors for the waters I know are really slippery where extreme traction is necessary. Don't throw in the towel on your river fishing until you give these a try.
 

Simms Freestone Prostate Waders! Is your prostate the size of a tennis ball? We've got a wader for you. The older we get the more trips we make to the bathroom at night. It seems to happen to everyone sooner or later. You have to consciously plan how and where you can go. I have gone to the extreme of just not drinking anything when I'm going to be fishing all day in cold conditions so I don't have to take all my stuff of to relieve myself.  Not any more. The zippered waders have been out for enough time now to have the bugs worked out. I've owned just about all of them at one time or another and probably won't be using anything else from now on. Not having to take all your cloths of to take a leak in the winter is enough of a reason for me to use them. No more coming ashore in a float tube. It's freedom just like the name says! The Simms Freestones are reasonably priced as well. Basically you will pay about $75 or $100 dollars more for the waterproof zipper than a regular pair of waders. I had a pair of the really expensive ones and they were actually to heavy duty for me. The Freestones do me just fine. I lubricate the zippers a couple times a year just like my pack and that's about it. They are also much easier to get in and out of. On top of that the guys at Simms are the absolute best if you do encounter a problem or need a repair. Once you try the zipper you'll never go back!

   

January 11th!

Get in shape now for summer fishing!

Last year we had very poor conditions for float trips for most of the summer. We were forced to do a lot of walk wade trips. I didn't do my first float trip until almost the middle of September when the water finally got clear and cool enough to fish. We ended up having some phenomenal times wading water where we never saw another fisherman all day for almost the entire summer. Me, the dogs, and my clients had a blast catching wild fish on dry flies in beautiful places all season long. The days when you are in a beautiful place out in the wilderness all by yourself is what fly fishing is really about. Flotillas of boats dodging each other on the same rivers day after day is not the experience I'm looking to offer. Don't get me wrong, I like fishing out of a boat as much as anyone when the conditions are good and the fish are biting. I just don't like floating just for the sake of floating when conditions are much better else ware.  I'd much rather take a walk in the woods. The thing is you have to be in good shape to have a good time doing this.

Charles Ritz, a very famous fly fisherman and heir to the Ritz hotel chain wrote the only book I've seen that included a chapter on exercises to stay in shape so you could wade fish. When he was 80 years old he could still wade and cast to rising fish in his home water the Traun river in Austria!  Arnold Gingrich and A J Mclane, a couple of his fishing buddies, once commented that one thing they could do without was Charles getting up at 5:30 every morning and doing his calisthenics in the buff so he could keep fishing. You may not need to go to that extreme. My buddy Don Hicks is in his upper eighties now and still fishes at least three to four times a week even in the winter. Annelise Bruus, another fishing friend waded with us last summer into canyons and up mountains for 4 days straight at the age of 79. It can be done if you get started now and stick with it.

Now I am totally understanding if someone has health issues that make floating the only option. I have another friend that is a retired football and wrestling coach that has a real hard time with his hips and knees these days. We find a place to float every year. This guy is just fishy! Super focused and just an excellent fisherman. No one enjoys fishing more. If you have health issues floating is certainly the way to go.

The bottom line is the better physical shape you can get yourself in the more really good fishing opportunities you will have when you get here. Lot's of guys come from sea level. If you don't do some kind of cardio type exercise you can have a hard time hiking and fishing at 5000 feet and up. Also, try to loose the extra weight. It's not fun climbing out of the outlaw canyon or hiking up to the golden lakes in Cloud Peak with an extra 50 lbs if you don't have to. It's kind of like carrying a full pack for no reason. Just like casting practice, exercising before you get out here could  rewarded you with some of the most memorable fishing experiences of your life!

   

January 3rd!

Common sense tips for staying warm while fishing in cold weather!

I fish a couple times a week all winter even in some below freezing temps. Most of us have all the cool gear by now but somehow we still find ourselves pretty uncomfortable from time to time. That can be the difference between having a good day on the water and sitting at home watching t.v. thinking about having a good day on the water. We tend to think our gear is faulty when we get cold but really it is how we choose to use that gear that can make the difference.

Head hands and feet are the words of the day. I always carry two hats. One super warm Elmer Fudd and just a regular ball cap. The Elmer is necessary most of the time these days but there are a few days here and there when the wind is down and it just isn't that cold. The Elmer tends to keep wind and snow out but also restricts your field of vision and your hearing. I'd much rather fish with a ball cap if I can. I also use a scarf these days. Some people think it looks a little feminine  but it keeps the heat in and the cold and wind out. Huge difference without it. If you don't need it put it in the back of your jacket with the extra hat and gloves.

Hands are probably the biggest thing to keep warm. I always carry at least two pairs of gloves. Sometimes even three if I know I'm going to be out a while away from the vehicle. No one likes fishing with them but you just can't do without them this time of year for long. The newest coolest glove mitt type fishing gloves seem to be one of the best options. They feel great, especially in the store but their downfall is that when they get wet it is all over and they always get wet. They then will make your hands colder instead of warmer. That's why you need at least a couple pairs so you can change into something warm when they get wet. Wool gloves that work for fishing are better in the sense that they will still work when wet. With wool you won't be so cold your hands will fall off but you will never be truly comfortable. The ultimate in a fishing glove is the Kast pro MX glove. These are without a doubt the best fishing glove made so far. It is resistant to wind and waterproof and still has reasonable good dexterity. The Kast Steel header is a bit beefier but with a little less dexterity. At $75 it is as pricey as they come but if you want the ultimate there it is. You won't be able to tie flies on with them but no glove will. You will be able to strip and manage line and handle fish without getting wet fingers. Absolutely Killer Glove! I also have started carrying a small cloth to dry my hands with after I have handled a fish. It will make a big difference keeping the inside of your gloves dry longer if you dry your hands before putting your gloves back on.

Wool is the answer for your feet. Carhartt makes the best, most affordable wool socks on the market. 87% wool and around $13 a pair. I don't have any problems keeping my feet warm with these. If you do try a pair of regular socks with a heat pack under your toes and then your wool. Just make sure to let the heat pack heat up before you put it in your sock. The chemicals need air to react.

Here's a couple more tips that can save you in an emergency. Always wear a belt for your waders to keep water from getting past your belt if you go down. When you put on your jacket, make sure the cuffs are pulled tight to keep water out and zip the jacket all the way up as well. I have gone down on numerous occasions to my neck and taken on no water at all just because my jacket was tight, double belt on with my waders and my waist pack, and my scarf knotted around my neck. I also keep my gloves in a top front pocket when I'm at risk of going down to try to keep them dry as well. Put them back on after you've made the crossing.

I guess the last thing would be to keep some dry cloths in your vehicle in case you do get wet. If you've ever had to drive home from Thermopolis in wet cloths you probably won't want to do it again. On a final note, make sure you take your stuff into the house and dry it when you get home. I hate to go fishing the next day with frozen gloves. Be safe and have fun!

   

December 27th!

Tips for fishing small dries!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! We've been pretty lucky in the past with being able to fish water with very little fishing pressure. Things have changed dramatically in the last couple years. We are experiencing what Colorado and Montana has been dealing with for years. The fish are becoming used to seeing people and flies floating by every day and are becoming more conditioned to it. They are much more wary than they have been in the past and can get especially picky with fly selection and presentation.

Thermopolis can have some of the most challenging and fun dry fly fishing around when the small bugs are on the water. I have seen quite a few guys give up and go back to nymphing even when there are tons of fish rising all around them. I also have had my share of schooling by these fish. You have to remember that if they are feeding they can be had. You just have to be patient and figure it out. Some of the best reads on catching tricky fish in water like you will see in Thermopolis that I have seen come from over on the Henry's Fork. The river in many places is very similar to the Wyoming Bighorn. Big smart fish in slow clear water eating little bugs. These guys have been fishing for selective fish for decades and you can learn a lot from reading their techniques and looking at some of their fly patterns. They specialize in this type of fishing.  Super small patterns, super long leaders, and super light tippet can seem pretty ridicules to us over here where the fish are dumb. The first time I tried to throw a 15' leader  it seemed laughable. The fish around here would come up and glom a #6 foam dry on 0X. You won't see me laughing these days though.

The fishes mood can change drastically from one day to the next. Some days you can walk right up and cast and they will still feed. Other days you raise your arm for a back cast and they are gone. This is the first thing you need to determine is what kind of mood they are in. Sometimes an approach from behind works best. Other days you have to stay back and make an down and across presentation showing them the fly first. If they are spooky remember that if you are fishing from a boat you have a much higher profile so you have to stay back and cast much farther so you won't be detected. Figure out where you need to cast from first. If you can't cast to the fish without spooking them it is over before you ever start.

Now take a look at where and what they are eating in the water column by what type of rise form they are showing you. When fish are feeding at or near the surface the first 12 inches of water can get pretty complicated. Are they feeding on top, in the film or slightly below the surface? Do they want it dead drift or with a little motion? Do they want it sinking or rising? Choose flies that fish in a little different spot in that 12 inch zone until you get a positive reaction from the fish. This is also where the long leaders come into play. What I have found is that the farther you are from the fish the more difficult it can be to present your fly properly. Many, many times I've made what should have been a perfect cast only to have the fly drag slightly just as it gets to the fish. If you put the fly to close the fish spooks. Sometimes that longer light tippet will give you just that extra couple seconds of drag free drift to get the fish to take. What I usually do is just make the final tippet about 4 feet to start with. Most of the time that is enough but if not you will just have to adjust from there. Leader design can get pretty complicated but 90% of the time this seems to work as long as the wind is down.

Finding the right fly can often be frustrating. Some guys approach it by just tying a bunch of different stuff and changing until something works. That's fine if it works for you. The first thing is take a real good look in the water and see what's hatching. Around here we see a couple different sizes and colors of both midges and mayflies. I tie my flies as to where I hope they will sit in the water column. I tie several different sizes and colors of each.  pattern. For example: Take a simple thread midge. Start with just thread on the hook. That fly will sink slowly. Add a rib of wire and it sinks a little quicker. Add a bead and it will sink quickly. Add a tuft of cdc and it will tend to hang in the film or sink very slowly. Add a hackle to the cdc and thread and you are on top. Add an under wing of peacock and you have contrast. The choices are unlimited. Most of the time the less complicated you make it the better it will work as long as it presents where you want it to. I often float flies at my knees just to see what the fish will see. Last year a couple of clients were coming in late October. I went over to check it out and found fish rising everywhere to tan mayflies. Down and across a foot above the rise with a dry and an emerger and it was fish on. I was confident. On the way over the next day I shot my mouth off saying we would be dialed in and would be killing them. We caught fish but something was different and we were only getting them every now and then. There's nothing worse for a guide than to be standing in a bunch of rising fish and not being able to figure out how to catch them. We changed tippet and fly size but never really got it figured out. As we were walking back to the car I was looking at bugs in a little eddy and noticed that in between the hundreds of tan mayflies was a little tan midge about a #24. Not many but enough to notice. We got back late and after I got home and cleaned everything up I decided to tie a couple dozen of the little midge patterns just in case. Got done about midnight. We went back the next day and the mayflies were out in force again. We started with the obvious mayfly patterns and again caught fish but weren't really on them. Around noon I started seeing the little midges and switched flies and it was on!  Why those trout wanted a #24 midge when thousands of mayflies were on the water I don't know. I do know that I felt a lot better and so did the guys I was fishing with. Take the time to make an adjustment!

This type of fishing is really about personal awareness. The more you pay attention to what you do the better your chances become. Sometimes it can take days to figure things out. That's if your lucky and the same hatch lasts a while. Other times you get on them right now.  Once you get it figured out there is nothing better. No matter how much you think you know you will always have days that you get skunked. Honestly, those are the days I tend to look forward to now the most now!

 

 

 

 

   

December 11th

Deer Hair!

I've been slowly working my way through my list of flies for next year and am now working on deer hair dries. Many caddis and mayfly patterns can be tied with deer hair. We all know the prices of quality dry fly hackle have gone through the roof. Gold and platinum grades are almost non existent. Silver is about as good as you can get a saddle and cape in any more. 100's are the most economical way to go these days and they aren't cheap. Anytime I can avoid using dry fly hackle I do as I am poor so I've been using quite a few deer hair patterns lately.

In the past I never really liked tying deer hair patterns very much. There was a lot of under fur that had to be removed. Many of the patches sold were of poor quality and were hard to tie with. Most of the flies I tied sunk due to the hair not being hollow all the way into the tips. In short, quality deer hair was just plain hard to come by.

Blue Ribbon Fly is the Shiznat when it comes to deer hair! For many years those guys have been tying  their original patterns with deer. They took the search for the right hair for the right fly to a new level. Their grading system for deer hair patches is down to an art form. They researched sources for high quality skins. These are domestic skins that are harvested in the summer and come with very little under fur and are tanned properly. Not all deer hair is suitable for tying flies. There are many types of hair with different tying properties coming from different places on a hide. There is hair for tails, hair for spinning, hair for wings, hair for very small flies, ect, and none of it comes from the same place on the deer. Blue Ribbon Flies patches are all number coded for exactly the right kind of hair for the type of flies you are tying.

The last hair order I got was the absolute best deer hair I've ever seen. It was so nice I hated to cut it up and tie with it. When you have the right hair for the right fly it makes it so much more enjoyable to tie with and your flies will actually do what their suppose to do when they hit  the water. It is something that has to be experienced before you can believe how much easier it is to tie with and how much better your flies come out. I ended up buying 3 or 4 small patches of different types of hair in natural and bleached just to get an idea of the differences in  the grading system. I  settled on a couple of numbers for natural and a couple for bleached that suited my needs and then got the larger patches. For around $50 I now have enough perfect hair to last for many years. I tied way more flies than I normally do this year just because it was so fun to tie with compared to the stuff I was struggling with before.

I highly recommend taking a look at some of this hair. You won't be disappointed!

   

December 3rd

Discount Flies!

With the onset of below freezing weather it has been time to stock up on flies for the upcoming season. I usually end up spending about a month tying my personal patterns. These are patterns that simply work better around here for me than anything you can buy. They comprise about 65% of the patterns I like to use. The rest of the flies I used for guiding are good generic patterns that work about anywhere. Most of these patterns are common bead head nymphs.  I've been buying these patterns at about .60 cents a piece and have been very satisfied with the quality at that price. You can't count your time and tie for twice that price.

I like tying flies very much. It's always fun to try and come up with something to solve the mysteries of local hatches better than anything else. I do not like massive amounts of repetitive tying. This is where supplementing with store bought patterns come in handy. Tying 20 dozen red copper johns in size #6 through #18 doesn't appeal to me at all. I then to have to do it again with black wire! It takes all the fun out of it.

Let's look at some of the things I've noticed about store bought flies in general.  There are very few commercial dry flies that come with enough hackle to suit me with the faster waters we fish around here. They just don't make them. Tie your own. The light wire hooks on all smaller dries are going to bend no matter what type of hook you buy. It's just the way it is fishing in faster current and larger fish. The durability of commercial store bought  flies can easily be improved by you. A touch of glue on the head of the flies solves a lot. They don't make weighted streamers with enough weight to suit me. It just doesn't happen. Again, that's why you tie your own. Most store bought commercial flies, no matter who makes them are just not that much better than what you can buy on line for less than a third the price retail sometimes even less if you look around a bit! That was the clincher for me.

Before I continue let me say that there are store bought flies that are worth it to me. There are still just a few fly shops that take the time to tie their own patterns for sale. Not flies with someone's name on them tied by a commercial tier. They are beautiful flies professionally tied by great fishermen in the shop. Most are really good. They are tried and true original patterns that match the hatch better than any of the generic patterns and are well worth the price.  I love to look at these type of patterns and am willing to pay what ever the cost. Not many of these type of shops still exist and these are the shops that should really be supported by us fly fishermen. When you find shops like this you will know you are in the presence of greatness!

With globalization the fly market has been bombarded with companies offering discount flies. Some are definitely crap. We've all had experience with the one fish fly. The proportioning on some can be ridicules.  Even some with hooks that snap off on the bend. Most of the ones that are still in business and have been successful tie some reasonably good flies. The way to make sure you will get something that will work for you is to select a few flies and buy a couple to see what they look like before you go all out and buy a large amount. Don't expect them to be quite as good as what you tie but look for proportioning, color and a decent hook. Some nymphs will be weighted properly and some won't. I don't find this to be to much of a problem with nymphs as I use either nymphs that sink slowly or I use lead to get them down. Durability is not to much of an issue as I put a drop of super glue on the head of every fly. It's good insurance and it doesn't take any time to do while your watching t v in the evening. It's just that simple. The  two companies I primarily use are The Fly Stop first and then Discount Flies. I've been very satisfied with the companies that I've been doing business with. I go through a ton of generic patterns every year. With a lot of clients who are just getting started you are going to loose flies before a fish ever sees them. Personally I go through about a dozen flies every time I go out on my own. The amount of money saved is well worth it to me. If your the type of guy that has to have a perfectly tied state of the art fly on the end of your line at all times this may not be for you. If you want to supplement your fly stock and not have to tie thousands of the same pattern and at the same time save over half of what you'd pay in a shop this may be the answer.

 

   

What's the key to being a Great Fisherman?

November 24th

Lately I've been reading a lot of discussions on forums with  more experienced fishermen (in their own estimations) knocking other fishermen for the techniques they prefer to use. Fly guys look down on spinning guys. Fly fishermen look down on nymphers. Dry fly guys look down on anything but fishing dries. Swinging streamers is the only ethical way to catch steelhead. Blah, Blah, Blah. This attitude really rubs me the wrong way.

We all evolve as fisherman over time. I'd bet very few of us began our fishing careers tossing dry flies up stream to rising fish. Our views tend to change over time as we learn about our surroundings and see how we impact the environment.  We all also have our own set of personal likes and dislikes. As long as we are open to change and have the ability to see the fish and streams not as a resource to be exploited but a treasure to be protected we are moving in the right direction. But what does it really take to be a great fisherman?

I have met guys who I think are great fishermen on their very first day of fly fishing. I've seen them who are moderately experienced to very experienced. Skill level has very little to do with being a great fisherman in my eyes. That will come with time on the water. It's passion, commitment, character, and focus that makes a truly great fisherman!  The more experienced you become the easier it can be to think you know it all and to loose sight of why you fish in the first place. Ego rears it's ugly head. When I see someone who has fished for many years and is still very excited, curious, and passionate with their fishing, that is how I hope to stay.

When you fish long days all summer it is easy to start taking for granted how good we really have things here. Very few places in the lower 48 can come anywhere close to what we have literally in our back yard. When I'm tired there is nothing that picks me up more than people who really appreciates the beautiful waters and fantastic fishing we have on our door step. These guys have been looking forward to doing what we can do every day all year. They are people who are engaged with their surroundings and approaching each minute of the day with enthusiasm. It's contagious! These are the guys I enjoy fishing with most.

Our evolution as fisherman is a metaphor on life. As small children we are enthusiastic and willing. We start learning a few things. By the time we are 17 or 18 we start judging our roll models and decide we know more than they do. We are positive our way is the right way and no one else knows more than we do. This is simply a sign of immaturity and the nature of growing up. Hopefully we will mature past all this. The next time you find yourself looking down on someone for the way they are fishing just try to remember where you came from. You've probably still got a long way to go.

 

 

 

Wind River Canyon November 14th

Randy Richardson and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Wind River Canyon on the 13th and 14th. We had been over there a couple weeks before to take a look around and honestly not much was going on north of Thermopolis or up in the canyon and State Park. Just a few signs of fish starting reds. I caught 6 nice rainbows that day and 5 of them were up in the state park in some of the deeper holes.  They were all 18" to 22" and fat but I really had to cover a lot of water to get them.

 

 

We started fishing in the canyon this time and right off the bat we started catching some big browns. They were in their pre spawn colors and in excellent shape. Interestingly, they were almost all big males. Every now and then we got a nice fat female brown or rainbow in the mix. The females looked like they had eggs but they hadn't begun changing color yet. They were stacked in 8 feet of fast water at the top of a huge deep run. They were tight to the bottom. This is our least favorite type of fishing but it was so good we just went with it. Four big #03 split shot with two flies about 9 feet below an indicator. As long as you were right on the bottom it was almost every cast for an hour or so. When they slowed down I waded across the river and found another spot that was just loaded with fish. Again, almost all were big male browns in beautiful bright spawning colors. There weren't any signs of fighting or rubbing the bottom yet. They were in prime shape! We continued up stream and while we didn't run into any more areas like those two the fishing remained very good for the rest of the day.

 

 

We decided to do it again the next day as it had been some of the best big fish fishing of the year so far. Those kind of days don't come around very often and it was a blast. Also very cool to see that many super healthy big fish in the river. We began fishing again and the bite wasn't near as good as the day before but we were catching plenty of fish. This time the fish were mostly big fat female browns with just a few males and the occasional rainbow. Pretty interesting! The fish were holding in the exact same type of water. 8' to 10' deep and moving fast. I'd guess they use that kind of water for cover when there are that many fish moving at one time.

 

 

There's so many things we still don't know about the habits of fish in the canyon and each time we go over there we seem to notice another new pattern of behavior from these browns. One of the things I notice is that when these fish start to move it happens quick. One day there isn't much sign and within just a day or two there are fish all over the place. I'm pretty sure the males come in first and build the beds and the females show up later but they could be together and the females just don't show themselves till a little later. The main brunt of the spawning run seems to happen within about a two week period and then there will be some stragglers for up to a month or so. Fall spawning rainbows are often around as well but they don't seem to spawn in the same places as the browns. There are also rainbows that come to gorge themselves on eggs. Once the fish are on the beds they deteriorate quickly. They just aren't any fun to catch when they are beat up and in poor condition and should be left alone to do their thing. Once they leave the spawning areas they feed heavily. They are back to good condition within 3 weeks of spawning. That is pretty amazing considering how bad some look after spawning. There are plenty of large protein sources in that river. The Brown spawn can start anywhere from late October to the end of November or even December some years. I'm not sure what triggers it but it could be anything from water temps, to moon phases, to lake turn over, to who knows. It can't really be predicted from one year to the next but it does seem that the longer the weather stays warm the later they get going. I just find it interesting and fun to have these guys right there for decades and we really don't have a clue what they do, where they go and why. Bottom line is if your not learning anything your not having fun. That's the best reason to get out there and fish!

   

October 18th

The end of the season is upon me and what a season it has been. This was one of the busiest season's Eastgate Anglers has ever had! The conditions this year made things pretty tough early and floating action never got going until just recently. We ended up doing a lot of walking and wading . I know it was tough on some of you guys but with the extra effort came some really great fishing in some extremely beautiful places! With the low clear water this was the first year in quite a while we were able to fish mainly dries all season and that didn't suck! Thanks to all the old clients who  return every year. You've been the backbone of this business and my saving grace every year. Thanks to all the new clients I met this year for the first time and here's to a long lasting friendship with more adventures to come. I enjoyed fishing with everyone of you. I also really want to thank the kindness of locals who allowed me to access some sweet private water this season when conditions were very tough. Most of the guys I fish with wait all year to come out and fish and I can't stand to let these guys down. You guys saved my butt! Thanks to all of you!

I've just returned from St. Pete this week and after 2 years and 4 months we finally got the floating bonefish lodge in the water! It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. We met some great people and learned just a ton of stuff about setting up sailboats for some blue water sailing. Looks like it's the middle bight at Andros in May for some of the best bonefishing left on the planet. A legitimate shot at some double digit bones! It is always challenging but the ride alone is worth it!

I hate to say it but the fishing in Cody is finally starting to really get good. The weather is perfect and irrigation season is done. Over the past several days I've been out taking a look and it has been killer. The fish we've been catching in the lower Shoshone are in really good shape. We're seeing lots of 15" to 18" fish and quite a few at 19" and even 20" and fat! That's really nice to see. It's been a mix of dries and dry droppers with midges and pseudos every day. The private water is also prime now! There are some really nice cutts coming out of there. Good numbers of 17" to 18" fish with a couple whoppers in the 24" to 25" range. Spectacular on dries! The browns and brookies are spawning at Newton and the sight fishing is getting pretty darn good. Got a couple of really nice fat female browns and lots of 18" to 20"ers the last couple of days. Brookies are in full color now. The float to Powell was killer as well. We got some really good cutts and browns down there so far this fall. Thermopolis is finally starting to come around. We've been up in the canyon but the little mayflies are finally getting started through town and the dry fly fishing is on the verge of getting real good. Just need some cloud cover and it is on!

Between the fishing, building rods, side jobs,  and working on the mustang I'll have a pretty busy winter going on. We clipped a big buck antelope the other day in the 65 and luckily the antelope survived with minimal injury. I saw him the next day out with the ladies and he wasn't even limping. The car faired pretty well also so with a little body work and paint it will be fine. Fly fishing is always better in a classic! Thanks again to everyone for another great season! We'll do it again next summer!

 

September 14th through 19th

I had the pleasure of fishing with Jennifer Olsson and Annelise Bruus for 4 days. Jennifer is also a fishing guide. She guides with her husband Lars for Grayling in Sweden during the summer now but has guided out of Bozeman and West Yellowstone for almost 20 years. She fishes Bamboo which was a real treat for me. Annelise is Jennifer's good friend and also a client. She is from Denmark and also loves to fish Bamboo. These two had just returned from a tough go over in Sweden. Heavy rains had really put the skids to Annelisa's trip and they were back in the west trying to get their Mojo back. We were in a tough place here as well with very low clear water but I was pretty sure they would be able to get into some good fishing with a little luck and their skill set. We really did have some good fun!

 

Annelise is an amazing individual. She began fly fishing at 65 years and just loved it. It's pretty hard not to as it is always in a beautiful place with beautiful water, good people, and good fish. She immediately realized however, that she needed to get in better shape to be able to get to the places she wanted to see and fish. With a little push from Lars and Jennifer she started an exercise routine and ended up loosing 28 kilos and gaining much needed strength and stamina. All this to enjoy fly fishing at the age of 79. I have yet to meet anyone that has shown that kind of dedication in order to fish. Pretty incredible!

 

The first day we hiked into the Greybull. The girls made it down just fine by being careful and taking our time. The water was low and clear so stealth was the name of the game. Jennifer was fishing a really sweet rod by Ted Simroe formally of the Leonard rod company. Annelise and I worked together a while fishing dries and emergers. The fish were on them and it wasn't long before she had her first wild Yellowstone Cutthroat. A once in a lifetime opportunity! I suggest a hole up stream for Jennifer that was flat slow, low, and crystal clear. Not may clients had been catching fish there under these conditions. When I caught up with her she had taken 7 or 8 nice fish from that spot. Turns out she is an incredible fisherman and really had the stealth dry fly fishing going on. The girls both caught fish all day and had a great time. I was a little concerned with the hike out but Annelise handled it with no problem. This trip was really looking to be some fun.

 

The next day we floated the lower Shoshone. I introduced then to some serious bugger chunking and other hard core Wyoming techniques and they both tried them and caught fish. I could tell dry fly fishing was more to their taste so we concentrated on some spots more conducive to that type of fishing. Light tippets, tiny dries and emergers. They liked this way better. They really enjoyed the river and we ended with another pretty darn successful day.

 

The 3rd day we fished a high mountain stream that was very low and very tough fishing with the high pressure and bright sun. Fish were rising to midges when we arrived which was a good sign. You had to stay low, fish down and across making longer casts, and use some really fine long leaders. The girls did great.  We even got a little mayfly hatch in the late afternoon when some rainy weather came in. Fun was had and fish were caught! It was really great to fish with people who really appreciate the great waters we have around us. They were both blown away by the beauty,  numbers,  and diversity of Wyoming waters.

 

The last day we decided to float the lower Shoshone again. Not so much hiking today. We decided to fish dries all day if we could. We had some cloud cover and around 10:30 the little tan pseudoes started hatching. The fish were on them! We found pods of fish rising in some big eddies. The casts had to be spot on. There were many conflicting currents that had to be negotiated. Long light tippets made landing some fish pretty tough. The girls hammered them!  I think we might have fished 2 holes all day landing countless fish. It was very fun fishing and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the game.

 

These were probably my favorite 4 days of the guiding season. The company was outstanding! The fishing conditions very cerebral and challenging! The anglers skill level was up to the task! It seemed that everything just fell into place the way you always hope it would. They had some very tough conditions in Sweden but they definitely made up for it when the opportunity presented itself in Cody. Annelise and Jennifer are both amazing people. It was truly an honor and privilege to fish with them and I hope this is the start of a long friendship. Thanks for a great 4 days! (Maybe next time we'll get some big ones)

   

September 3rd

Floating the South Fork

Recently there have been incidents of fisherman - landowner conflict on the South Fork of the Shoshone. The South Fork corridor is almost all private property. There aren't any real put ins or take outs on this river. It is a very small river with rather large irrigation demands and has never been the type of river that is floater friendly especially in Wyoming where touching the bottom is against the law. It is small enough that most people know not to float it as there will surely be landowner conflict. On top of knowing that you will have to get out and drag your boat in a lot of areas and break the law it would simply be bad manners to try and take advantage of your neighbors in the Cody suburbs. Some don't see any of this as a deterrent and float it anyway. Some of these floats that have been cited are even guided trips.  How ironic is that!  It turns out the accuser was actually the perpetrator all along! Man, I've never heard my attorney laugh so loud!

The South Fork land owners are pretty stirred up about this situation. As much as I dislike the Wyoming water law I can see their point as there is no way you wouldn't be trespassing with the low flows in the river. So low in fact that there is zero water where the river enters the reservoir. There are plenty of other places to fish so why piss of your neighbors and take a chance at a big fine. Lay off floating the South Fork. Remember, what goes around comes around.

Hook and bead!

Thread base!

Eyes tied in

CDC selected!

CDC removed from stem!

Clump of CDC ready to tie in!

Completed nymph!

It's simple and EASY!

 

June 15th

In search of the ultimate Damsel nymph!

Almost all the damsel nymphs I have ever seen look fairly accurate to us but honestly they are way to big and to stiff.  The criteria. Damsel nymphs are about a half inch long and swim with a wiggling motion where their entire bodies are fluid. There buoyancy is just past neutral.  They can be dark brown, straw colored, grey, olive, or even chartreuse. The fish take them swimming toward shore early in the hatch and at the base of vegetation as they start to emerge. The swimming action is what the fish are keying on. You will see fish accelerate on them from several feet when they see them. You can always get a few fish with the standard patterns but I was looking for something that they would take without hesitation all the time.

CDC has become one of my favorite materials. It's lightness and it's action are unsurpassed above and below the surface. It can be dyed to any color. I wanted to use it if at all possible as it had everything I was looking for AND it was FREE.

Another consideration is making the fly as simple as possible and it still be effective. Most damsel nymphs get way to complicated to tie for my extremely short attention span. Tails, extended bodies, thorax and wing case, and legs all had to go. Eyes I feel are critical to a good Damsel imitation. This kind of narrows things down a bit. Thread, eyes, hook, and CDC.

The standard long shank hooks would make the fly to stiff in my opinion. The only hook that I could imagine that would fit the build was a #20 scud hook. #6 thread would be fine. I made my eyes out of 10lb mono.

I wrap a base of thread and then tie in the eyes and burn them. Select 3 nice long fiber CDC feathers and strip them making a nice clump with fibers of assorted length. Trim the butts to a uniform length. This takes a little practice but is very easy once you get the hang of it. Start by tying the CDC in just aft of the eyes with a couple of loose wraps. Slide it back until you clear the eye and secure it in front of the eyes. You can kind of palmer the thread through the butts and spin it around the front of the eyes to make a little thorax and legs. Whip finish.

The Fly looked good, especially when wet. I took it out and gave it a try and it was a no go. It was to buoyant. I rubbed it in the mud and still had to give it a couple jerks to make it sink. I ended up fishing it behind a bead head zebra to get it down and it caught fish! Tough fish! I just needed to figure a way to get the weight just right. I decided to put a midge bead just behind the eyes. It should give the fly the weight it needs and look like a more pronounced thorax which could actually help the profile of the fly. That did the trick! I had to further experiment with both brass and plastic beads but the brass seemed to make the fly settle at just the right rate. if the fish are looking in the first 5 feet of the column. If you are fishing deeper you can fish it behind a weighted fly or use a sinking line.

So there you have it. An extremely simple low budget damsel nymph that really gets the job done. That's what happens when you have to much time on your hands! Give it a try and you will be amazed at how the fish react!

   

May 9th

Tippet: Does it matter?

I've been using fluorocarbon tippet exclusively for the last 15 years. Let's look at the pros and cons and see if it will make a difference to you.

First lets look at the pros. The number one pro is that it seems to be less visible to the fish under water. After years of fishing fluoro in places like Newton lake or the Firehole where the fish get heavily pressured I find that I can get away with at least one size (sometime more) heavier tippet when using fluoro. If you fish areas where the fish are "educated" I think this is the primary reason to consider using fluoro. They just can't see it as well. Another big consideration is strength. Fluorocarbon is a smaller diameter to higher strength ratio material than mono. This means you can use a smaller diameter material and achieve higher breaking strength. All good. It also doesn't degrade as quickly as mono which means it won't go bad on you over time. On this note I have to say that like any material sometimes you will find a bad spool. I go through maybe 15 hundred meter spools a year and it usually happens like this. All of a sudden you start breaking fish off and test the tippet. It breaks easily with your hands. I have found that if you spool off 15' or so you will find that it can be just a short bad section. It usually only happens with size 4X and down.  This is very very rare but it has happened. So, what we have is a material that is smaller, stronger, and less visible to the fish. Sounds pretty good to me.

Now for the cons. Price. Fluorocarbon is over twice as expensive as mono. This is a disadvantage to your pocket only. When your out fishing some tough big fish and the guy next to you is getting 4 times as may bites as you are the price won't seem to matter. The knots don't hold as well. I hear this all the time and yes it does take a bit more concentration to those just starting to use a new material. If your knot tying is sound your knots will actually be stronger than mono. Fluorocarbon isn't biodegradable. This is true, it's not going anywhere soon. You don't want to leave a bunch of it on the ground for birds and other animals to get ensnared in. I find I don't have any noticeable waste with any tippet material but if I do, I dispose of it properly. Fluorocarbon is heavier than mono. This is also true but the difference is negligible. I find it works to your advantage when fishing small unweighted nymphs just below the surface and I've never had it pull a dry fly under. If you worried about the weight just grease the front of your tippet like you would mono.

I guess it really just boils down to if you can afford it and how serious you are about catching fish. A good fisherman will catch his share of fish with any material. I use it because I believe it gives me and my clients maybe just a slight advantage that will help make their trip to Wyoming the best it can be.

 

   

May 4th

Lower Shoshone suffers a couple more injustices in 2015!

The Lower Shoshone has had it's issues the last couple years. To much water has been very detrimental to the fish population 2 out of the last 5 years. Last years levels weren't catastrophic like 5 years ago but we lost most of the mature fish from 17" up last year. There were still plenty of smaller fish left but it was a significant loss. This year was looking to be a little better for the remaining fish with a more normal snow pack. The decimation of the Russian Olive along the river has been catastrophic to the animals on the shore. The animals use the trees for everything. They provided critical habitat and food for birds, deer, skunks, coons, porcupines, and many others. The trees provided much needed shade for the animals as well as the grasses. With the trees gone the grasses are burned up by the sun and are easy pickings for the cows. The trees also provided a natural barrier to keep live stock from compromising the banks. Now the grass is gone and the cows have crumbled the banks. I've counted rings on some of the cut trees and they were over 80 years old. They may have been non indigenous at one time but they are certainly more indigenous than we are.

Earlier this spring we encountered a couple of new issues. Almost every fish below the dam but above the Stock Trail has been destroyed by some sort of toxin. Earlier this spring you could look off Hayden Arch bridge and see literally hundreds of nice trout. Now there is nothing. On a float the other day we found that the toxin has even effected fish below the hot springs just up stream of the Stock trail. Holes that just recently held hundreds of fish now may hold one or 2 skinny fish. Some are totally empty. A few dead fish are still apparent up there. How long this poison will stay active in the river or how long it will last still remain to be seen. Will it gradually make it's way down stream? We just don't know.

The second issue is below Willwood dam. Last year the dam unleashed 25 years of backed up sediment into the river. The bottom of the river is covered in a course sand all the way to Alkali creek. It's like a beach down there in places. What this has done is smother the biomass on the river bed and impede any chance at natural reproduction the fish may have had and depleting the food supply. Not good! During the summer flows drop even further so we can count on the sand being in there for some time to come.

An even more interesting phenomena is that absolutely nothing has been mentioned about any of this anywhere I can find. Agencies and trout advocates alike have yet to even acknowledge any problem. Had this happened in a wild trout fishery anywhere else, some sort of an effort would have been made to find out what type of toxin it was, how long will it stay in the system, and is it harmful to people. Remember, this is our water supply.

Somehow a few trout still seem to make it and given any reasonably chance will come back. The point is that all of these situations have been created by man and could have been prevented with a little foresight. We would have a world class fishery running right through Cody that would attract major tourist dollars year round. Instead we have a fishery that is struggling to hold it's own surrounded by big piles of dead vegetation. It makes me very sad.

   

Enjoying Bamboo

It will put a smile on your face!

I fish bamboo probably 75 to 100 days a year now. That is actually less than when I first started. I've learned that a bamboo rod is suited for a certain type of fishing on a certain type of day. Given the right set of circumstances there is nothing that allows me enjoy fly fishing more than using bamboo. When the hatches are on and the fish are feeding at or near the surface that is a bamboo day. When you are walking small streams making accurate casts as you prospect for fish in little pockets and under cut banks that is a bamboo day. Trying to pick off fish with super accurate and delicate casts at sun up during a trico spinner fall is bamboo time. Hopper time is bamboo time. These are the types of situations where a bamboo rod really shines.

Bamboo is a very different material than graphite. What this means is it will usually take quite a while for you to learn how to cast it properly ie. make the rod cast the way it was meant to. People who have used spinning rods extensively usually have a very difficult time learning to cast a fly rod. To much wrist. It is muscle memory that must be unlearned and it is pretty difficult to change it. Time and practice are the only options. Switching from graphite to bamboo can be just as challenging for some. The fact of the matter is that most people are just starting to learn how to cast graphite. The thought of starting over and learning to cast differently is just to much for them at this stage and they give up very quickly. Many end up thinking bamboo rods are crap because they could never make it work. Learning to cast is about feel and learning feel takes time. Just think how much your casting has improved since you first started. I still learn things about casting all the time.

The first time you experience fishing a bamboo rod on a bamboo kind of day you will leave the stream feeling as though things are right in the universe! There's something about fishing a one of a kind hand crafted tool that is capable of making the most accurate and delicate casts and with a feel that makes any size fish very fun and enjoyable. It's really fun to watch people when they first try it. If they get it you can see the light bulb go on and the enthusiasm level climb beyond anything they have experienced to this point. Many of my friends have switched to fishing only bamboo now or at least fishing it as much as makes good sense. These guys had been fishing bamboo for a couple years before they really made friends with it. Ask them if it was worth the effort and they will tell you there is no question. You will also find that many of the more experienced fly fishermen become drawn to bamboo. I think it is just part of the natural progression of learning to fly fish.

If your still in the fishing commando stage where catching massive numbers of big fish in inclement conditions from sun up to sun down every time you go out, bamboo may not be something you want to try just yet. If you've caught your share of fish, have an unending curiosity to experience new things and feel as though your looking for something a little more in your fishing give a bamboo rod a try. You might find that it will open up a whole new world of enjoyment in your quest for enlightenment.

 

 

   

April 5th

I am heading back to Tampa to continue working on the floating bone fish lodge this week. I wanted to pick up a few more salt water rods for the boat. All the guys I know in Florida are using the G. Loomis NRX LP salt water rods. I had the opportunity to cast a couple last time I was down at the boat so I got in touch with Loomis and they sent me a one piece and a 4 piece 8 wt and a 4 piece 10 wt. I already have a couple Sage and a couple Hardy's that I had been using. The Sage Xi2 or the Hardy one piece was a better choice if the wind was down and you wanted to cast a rod with a bit of feel and the Hardy 4 piece was the one to use in a gale force wind and when you were expecting harder fighting fish. The Hardy one piece is great for just about everything except travel but the 4 piece was extremely stiff but also extremely durable. The Loomis NRX rods for salt water fishing are one step above anything I have tried to date. The one piece 8wt is a fantastic rod. Light in hand, a supple tip, and more than enough backbone for  wind and hard fighting fish. This rod casts effortlessly. You can cast all day and not get warn out like I did with the 4 piece Hardy. It is super accurate at all distances up to 80'. I can't see past that. The 4 piece 8wt is just slightly stiffer but honestly, the difference between it and the one piece is minimal. There is a huge difference between the Hardy one piece and the 4 piece. The one piece Hardy is  a phenomenal rod but the 4 piece is much stiffer and feels noticeably heavier in hand. The 10 wt 4 piece Loomis is about as nice a big rod as I have ever cast. It can handle an 11wt line if you needed it to load quickly. I'm pretty sure it would be fine for all but the biggest Tarpon and it won't wear you down near as bad as some of the other big rods I've tried. We'll have to see how it works out. I left the one piece rods on the boat in Florida and brought the 4 piece 8 wt rods home. I've been using the Loomis 8 wt for tossing big streamers and throwing nymph rigs around here. That may seem like over kill to some but if the wind is up and you are making a lot of casts with a big nymph rig or heavy streamer you will find it is a lot easier to use this rod than a 6 wt. I love this rod for tossing the big stuff around here. If you are in the market for a bigger streamer rod or a bone fish, permit, or Tarpon rod I highly recommend the Loomis NRX LP. There's no need to look any further.

 

February 20th

Fishing emergers! It's in the details!

With the water warming up the insects are becoming more and more active on the lower Shoshone and Bighorn. I'd been catching fish with about any technique I wanted to fish recently but lately the fish have really been keying in on the surface. A well placed BWO or midge imitation will al least get a look from fish even if you don't see any noticeable hatching going on. Midges are coming off every day almost all day and there are usually some BWO's later in the day with some days being much better than others. You will see some heads but most of the surface activity you will see will be backs and tails. This means emergers!

Fishing emergers is one of my favorite types of fishing. Tiny flies on light tippet! Sometimes it can be just stupid fishing. Other times you really have to pay attention to get things figured out. Paying attention to the details can make the difference between catching a few fish and in have your way with them. Here's an example.

I came across a nice pour over around noon where fish were staring to show themselves by dimpling and feeding just under the surface in very shallow water up in the riffle above drop off. Occasionally I saw a head but mostly backs and tails. I immediately switched to a dry fly with a one of my favorite emerger patterns on the back. I made several casts, got plenty of looks, but it took much longer than expected before I finally caught a fish. I was positive the pattern I had on should have been working. I continued doing this for about 15 minutes. After a fish took me into the weeds and I was cleaning my flies I just happened to notice the emerger I was using was tied on a heavy wire scud hook instead of the standard light wire dry fly hook I thought I had on. I tie them both ways to achieve different sink rates for different situations. I switched to the lighter fly and the fish were on it almost every cast! The same pattern on a differently weighted hook made all the difference in the world! 

The fish feeding in different spots in the river will often require you to fish differently for them even though they are all keyed on the same hatch. Fishing at different depths, trying different presentations, and even adding movement to your flies can make the difference. I have also run into fish feeding in the same hole that required you to use different bugs. Some fish were feeding on midges and some on mayflies. Sometimes I find myself casting at fish that should have been taking my flies and realize I had a bit of salad on the hook or a small tangle that I hadn't noticed. Sometimes just a change in your position will allow you to get the proper drift. If you find yourself not getting the kind of results you think you should be getting take a few minutes to check your flies and tackle and take a closer look at what is happening on the water.

Fishing right now is really starting to get going with the water getting very clear and the insects getting active. It can provide some of the best surface fishing of the year. Pay attention to the small stuff and you will be rewarded!

 

   

January 13th

The Tipping Point

We have been lucky in Wyoming for the last decade or so to have great fisheries that avoided the big crowds that other more well known waters have had to deal with. It seems that now we have caught up with the rest of the world. Last year our rivers were more crowded than I or any locals I've talked to have ever seen. The Bighorn in Thermopolis was ten times busier than it was 3 years ago. The North Fork of the Shoshone has people on every hole in the National Forest any day it is clear enough to fish. Have the fisheries suffered because of it? You bet they have.

Fisheries can be pressured in a couple of different ways. Natural causes, over harvest, and to much fishing pressure. The Lower Shoshone has had another one of those years where we just had to much water. It wasn't a catastrophic amount like 5 years ago but it did significant damage to the fish population. Many of the bigger fish just couldn't make it. They had to work to hard for to long in the fast currents and simply wasted away. Many of the fish that survived were in poor condition going into the winter. Some of these may not survive. Fishing pressure has remained constant further stressing the already poor fish. Not so Good.

The Bighorn in Thermopolis faired much better with the high water. It has a wider corridor and can handle the high flows much better than the Shoshone. The problem over here is that fishing pressure has risen ten fold in just a couple years. People are starting to come from all over. The river holds bigger fish and the word is out. The amount of guiding on the river has exploded. Guides from Cody, Lander, Riverton, and even Casper and Jackson are now hitting the Bighorn on a daily basis as well as all the local guides. Already we are seeing fish size dropping and the numbers of really nice sized fish declining. The angling experience has been diminished as well. Some may argue that people are keeping to many fish but one thing us fly fishermen hate to admit is that we put a serious hurt on the fish as well especially under certain circumstances.  In the past I have stayed away from fishing the Bighorn in the summer for one simple reason. The water just gets to warm in the middle of the day. The water comes off the top of the reservoir so is already 10 degrees warmer than if it came from the bottom of the dam like the Shoshone. By noon or so the fish will slow down or even quit feeding some days because of temperature. Unfortunately, the summer is when the fishing pressure has become the greatest. It is very easy to over stress fish under these conditions and they are better left alone. Montana even shuts down some rivers in the summer for this reason. Has the almighty dollar compromised our ethics in this situation? You bet.

The North Fork of the Shoshone hasn't had a good season in about 5 years. This rivers fishing is almost totally dependant on a spawning run of fish from Buffalo Bill reservoir. It has been somewhat cyclical in the past but if we don't see a better year soon I'd have to assume fish populations are on the decline. This wouldn't surprise me in the least. Ice fishermen hit the lake hard in the winter. Starting in March there are fishermen all over the fish as they make their way to their spawning grounds. Dude ranches pluck fish off the beds in the high country in June for their clients to eat. People are on every hole back to the reservoir from the end of high water in July on. Flotillas of guides hammer the same stretches of river daily all summer long. With all this on top of the many natural things such as high sediment laden flows that can effect the fish population it would not be surprising if this fish population took a digger.

The Clarks Fork on the Yellowstone has been in trouble for quite a while. I haven't run a guided trip on the lower Clarks Fork in 6 or 7 years. The client satisfaction level is non existent for the more experienced anglers I fish with. The river is naturally hard on the fish. The water levels fluctuate greatly over the year from very high to very low. There is a very short window of opportunity for fish to feed from the canyon upstream. This makes it very difficult for the river to produce many larger fish from the mouth of the canyon up stream. When the lower river drops in the fall the once large deep pools are reduced to a trickle and this makes the fish that are there much more susceptible to predators of all varieties. So much so that the GAF can't stock enough fish in the system to have many holdovers to the next season. It's a shame because the lower river is capable of growing some of the biggest trout around. There is plenty of large protein in the form of stone flies and whitefish. Every year fewer and fewer trophies are seen. The water quality is very good  so I can't see any other reason for fish populations to be receding other than over fishing.

Fisheries in Southern Wyoming are already off the charts as some of the most overused in the country. The North Platte in Casper and Saratoga and the Green in Utah are two places I will probably never fish again. Friends of mine have almost been involved in fist fights on the reef. Having your tackle stolen out of your vehicle is becoming a problem. There are more guides on the river than fishermen. It's out of control down there. The list can go on. Can anything be done to correct these issues and bring our fisheries back to what they once were? Theoretically yes. Stricter management practices and enforcement are the number one thing that will ensure the survival of these water sheds in the future.  We can no longer just pass the buck to the GAF. Fishermen as a group have to make our voices heard in Government as to what measures need to be taken to get this situation back to the acceptable level. Take matters into your own hands. Write letters make phone calls to government officials and let your voice be heard. Bottom line is that this means changes. Are we able to make the changes necessary before we loose everything? I  would like to see it but I don't think it will happen. We have to take a serious look at why we fish in the first place. I fish to relax, be in the moment, and to be out in nature. Nature is the one place that still makes sense to me. Fly fishing is not a competitive group sport. Wild fish in pristine environments are not there to just be capitalized on. They are there to be respected and enjoyed so that hopefully future generations can see and feel the same things we have which will enable them to make the right choices for the environment in the future.

   

January 7th

Back into the Boo!

Last year I took a break from building bamboo rods. I had so many orders the year before I got behind and it really was overwhelming. Most bamboo builders will do maybe 50 rods a year by themselves. That's one a week for a year straight. I made about 75 rods in 3 winters or about 17 months. A lot of strip straightening! You have to consider that I have only been doing this for about 4 years so I am just a baby in the world of bamboo builders. I gave myself a crash course.

I got the 65 Mustang finished up ( for the time being) and broke out a few sticks to see how it felt. Immediately things felt better. No pressure! I was able to take my time flaming, splitting, straightening and heat treating. Everything seemed to go much smoother and the strips were looking really good. They were very straight, the nodes were compact and flat and the color looked real nice. After getting the strips to the final planning  stage I was able to sit down and do a little brain work to try and figure out how I wanted the rods to cast. After building a bunch of different tapers I now had a pretty good idea of how the material worked and I am now able to make the rods cast the way I wanted them to. I had 4 different rods for different types of fishing to make for different people. I have fished with all these guys for a long time and I know how they cast and what they all like in a rod. A little work on the graphs and the computer and I had my tapers.

The having the correct specifications on a rod blank is critical to getting the rod to cast the way it's supposed to. The difference between a 4wt and a 5 wt is around 10 thousands of an inch difference through out the rod. On a six sided rod you have 3 planes to measure. If you cut a strip 3 thousandths off your mark you will end up being 6 thousandths off your number (2 strips per plane). If you add to much glue to that it could be another 2 or 3 thousandths more which is almost a different line weight. When this happens you just have to start over from the beginning which can be very disheartening. Another 15 hours of work. You really have to pay attention to detail and have a very sound process for hitting your numbers accurately. It can be very frustrating at first. It took me quite a long time to start getting my process down pat. Today everything was very acceptable.

I always tape some guides on the blanks when I get them straightened and the ferrules fitted and take them out back to test cast. This way you don't spend all the effort to finish off a blank that isn't what you were looking for. Every piece of bamboo is a little different with it being a natural product so even if you cut the strips to the exact numbers it doesn't necessarily mean any two blanks will be totally the same. Sometimes it can be a good thing and sometimes not so much. Once I'm sure the rods are casting properly it's time to wrap and varnish.

Silk is used to wrap the guides. Recently I was lucky enough to find a source for some Rices silk made back in the 40's and 50's. There are some pretty good silks made today but the Rices just seems to go on easier and smoother than any of the modern stuff. It is a round braid instead of a flat so each wrap slides together very nicely. Guides come from Mike Mcoy at Snake Brand. They are a little more expensive but they are the best guides made bar none. Varnishing is considered an art in itself and every builder has their own ideas of what they like best. I like sharp corners and minimal varnish. A coat goes on and is then sanded down flat to almost no varnish and another coat is applied. You just keep applying coats and sanding until every flat is smooth and the corners crisp and then one final coat to finish it off.

After that comes the polishing I like to remove the varnish from the stripping guide, clean up the ferrules and polish them  and then I polish all the flats down to a final polish of 10000 grit. They look really good after that. Then tubes are made, socks sewed up and they're ready to go. All four rods are some of the best I've done so far and I couldn't have been happier. As you can tell there a lot more to it than most people can imagine. About 40 hours per rod and it's all maximum focus work.

Sometimes you just need to take a break and get a new perspective on your work. In this day and age everyone is working way to hard to consistently put out top quality work. Production numbers go up but when it comes to precise quality work the quality can really suffer especially if your disgruntled and burned out. Take care of your self and good things will happen.

It seems like every year rod companies are coming out with the newest greatest blah blah blah. Graphite will always cast like graphite. It is a great material for certain situations but so is bamboo. Graphite is for shooting line where as bamboo is for casting line. Since most of our trout fishing is inside 30 feet well, you get the picture. If you love to cast your selling yourself short if you don't give bamboo a try. It excels at fishing dries to trout in moving water when a delicate presentation is necessary.  All the guys I know that have given it an honest try now like to fish bamboo unless they are nymphing or tossing streamers. The graphite stays under the seat of the truck most of the time. There can be a learning curve for some people but with a couple little pointers you will be casting with less effort, more accuracy and more delicately than you ever have before. Roll casting is also much easier with bamboo.  If you consider yourself a good caster and you think you can adapt to a new material come by and give it a try. I've got a bunch of different rods for you to try and it may take you to the next level in your fly fishing.

 

 

Opening Day in the Park

The Firehole

May 28th is opening day in Yellowstone and it has become tradition for us to fish the Firehole. First warm feet of the year! "Do you want to go fishing somewhere with small fish that can be really challenging in inclement conditions and drive for a long time? " "What do we want to do that for?" "You'll see."

There is no other river anywhere like the Firehole. Hot springs and thermal areas give it it's name. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting places to fish in Yellowstone and it can provide excellent fishing on opening day in the park. The river is diverse in types of water and insects. Everyone has there favorite spots. We always hope for cloudy, rainy days with no wind. Perfect mayfly conditions! For me the weather is a key factor in where I'll fish on any given day.

The river can be anywhere from coming down and warming to out of the banks on opening day. If it is out of the banks there probably won't be much hatching and I go straight to streamers. The fish will be tight to the banks and undercuts and it can be a blast to strip streamers up the bank when the browns are active. I've had fish actually jump out on the grass chasing streamers when the river is very high. Caught a fish without ever touching it! This can be the absolute best time to get some of the bigger fish in the river. Cast your flies down and across. Let them swing all the way back to directly down stream and strip them up the bank with quick erratic movements. If there's a fish there they will hammer it. This really isn't the type of fishing we come to the Firehole for but when the water is this high it is about the only way to have success.

If the river is coming down and warming it is on! Since we usually come in from Old Faithful we start just below where the river crosses the road. There are meadows, deeper sections with breaks and some nice pools in this stretch. Swinging soft hackles and nymphing early in the day is usually what it takes but if your lucky you may get some hatch activity early. We usually fish this area at least till noon and if it is fishing well sometimes all day.

If the bugs start coming off I head down stream and fish above and below the Grand Prismatic spring. The water is a little warmer down here and the bugs are more apt to hatch. Most of the time mayflies are hatching but there can be caddis and midges as well. On a good day you will see heads everywhere. The fish can be easy or infuriatingly difficult depending on the day. Presentation is usually the key. If your wailing away at fish that are ignoring your offering something has to change. Most of the time you can change your position to get a different drift, cast down and across to show the fly first or something of this nature to get a bite. It can also be fly selection. There are tons of different bugs in this river and these can be some of the most educated small fish you'll find anywhere. Sometimes the smallest things will make a difference. When this is the case it can be amazing how big a smile success on a small fish can bring1 Great fishing!

There is just a ton of good dry fly water from here down to Nez Perce creek. There's probably 12 miles of river to explore. The Grand Prismatic area can be very crowded but if your willing to walk a bit you can find plenty of water where you'll be hard pressed to see another person. Follow the basic rule of if there's a lot of people go somewhere else. People are also part of the Yellowstone experience. I've had many great conversations with people from all over the world on the Firehole.

From Nez Perce down to the canyon the water is a little faster, deeper, and there is more structure. If the sun is out and things get tough you can usually find some success in this stretch.  Swinging soft hackles is always good as are the streamers. The risers will usually be tight to structure like downed trees or rocks. Every seam will hold fish. There are tons of caddis in this stretch. Later in the day this is a great place to try if caddis are out laying eggs. I like to fish the opposite side of the river from the road. Most people just get out of there cars and fish so the opposite bank gets much less fishing pressure. Making your way up the bank to get into the right position to cast is the key here. I've caught some of my nicest fish in this stretch by being observant and patient while scanning the water. The larger fish can be very subtle and you really have to do everything right to catch them.

The canyon can hold some bigger fish that have come up out of the Madison. There is faster water here which provides more security to the fish. Bigger stoneflies like this type of water so some big dries, nymphs, and streamers can be very effective if the larger fish are around. I usually fish this later in the day. From here and down into the Madison fishing can be killer if it is cloudy, rainy weather in the evenings. The Madison can be very tough if the sun is out but with nasty weather it can be the place to be. The fish will come out of the weeds and cut banks to feed and you'd be hard pressed to find prettier water to toss a fly.

The Firehole is all about fly fishing beauty, history, and tradition to me. Fishing bamboo on the Firehole on opening day is something everyone should try at least once. I just can't explain how it makes you feel. I even have an old Phillipson bamboo named "Firehole" that is the perfect rod for this river. Make the pilgrimage and you to will see why we drive a long way in inclement conditions to catch small fish that can be very hard to catch!

 

 

December 14th

The best Yellowstone Cutthroat Fishery in the world!

Where could this possibly be! There's only one place that meets this description and that is the Yellowstone river in Yellowstone National Park. This fishery has had it's share of problems in the last 10 years. At one point 95% of the fish population disappeared. That's 4 1/2 million Yellowstone cutts that averaged 16 to 18 inches. That's a lot of fish! The parks service tried to make people believe it was solely due to lake trout predation but there's simply no way lake trout could eat that many fish that quickly. Whirling disease, low water years, poor management and to much fishing pressure, and the lake trout all had something to do with the loss of fish. The Madison had a similar situation just a decade before this happened. Luckily, it turned out it was a cyclical event and within about 10 years the river pretty much returned to as normal as it can with that much fishing pressure. The Yellowstone is finally on the rebound but fishing to me has remained spectacular almost the entire time.

 

The insane numbers of fish did disappear but so did the insane numbers of people fishing on the river below the lake. I decided to start checking it out a year or so after the fish got gone and catching was pretty sparse but the fish I did catch were the biggest nicest Yellowstone Cutthroats I'd every seen. I guess that since numbers were way down the fish that remained just got that much bigger. Another plus was the scenery on the river is some of the most spectacular in the world. The crazy numbers of people disappeared when the fish did and everyone headed to Lamar valley. To this day it remains one of the most crowded place to fish in the park. I had the Yellowstone river pretty much to myself for probably 5 years. I spent a month or so every year for the last 10 years trying to learn each section of the system and it's idiosyncrasies,  enjoying hatches beyond belief, and I have been lucky enough to have experienced the best fly fishing of my life there.

 

The system can be divided into 4 sections. The river above the lake and the lake itself, the river below the lake but above the falls, the river below Tower, and the river from the Lamar down stream. Each one of these areas has a prime 2 week period when the fishing is the best. You can catch fish and have a great experience any time but each section of the river fishes best when the water is at a certain level and when the water temps are right for certain bugs to hatch. This is totally dependant on how much run off we get every year and how quickly things warm up.

 

The other thing that comes into play is knowing the water as it is fishing now. I used to think I knew the river pretty well before the fish kill. The thing was there were fish everywhere way back when. Now things are much different. You have to intimately know the water at varying levels to catch fish consistently. There is a ton of non productive water with the fish population at what it is today. We've talked to many rangers doing fish surveys and they have really been surprised when we tell them it was the best fishing we ever had. Most people they talked to were pretty disappointed with the experience. There is a huge amount of water in this system. The lake alone has almost 200 miles of shoreline. Knowing coves, flats, thermal areas, and drop offs and knowing where bugs are going to accumulate when the wind is blowing a certain way is critical to catching fish on the lake. Years of trial and error have made it a lot easier to find fish these days. Sure, there are still plenty of days when it's just tough fishing but if you know where to look under certain conditions it narrows things down quite a bit.

 

You have to be a go getter on the Yellowstone. It is big water and if your just looking for peaceful easy fishing you probably won't find that here. Years ago everyone would wait to start wading the river until it was down to 2000cfs. We usually start wading  way before that. The higher the water is the more fish are still in the system (if they are migrating from the lake) and usually the easier they are to catch. High water provides cover so the fish aren't as wary. When the water comes down they can be pretty spooky. You have to really know the river and be in good shape to get around safely at these flows. You will severely limit your opportunities if you wait to long. It's not for everyone and every year people actually die while fishing this water so be careful and don't do anything stupid to get yourself killed (as captain Dan said to Forest Gump).

 

The hatches on the Yellowstone are some of the most prolific I've ever scene as far as diversity and numbers of bugs. It can be unbelievable dry fly fishing. When you see that huge head engulf your fly it really puts a smile on your face.  Basically, it is a giant spring creek. You really have to pay attention to detail on presentation and fly selection in order to catch fish consistently. Things can change quickly and learning how to watch the way the fish are eating will give you the upper hand when it comes to fly selection. You have to scan the water carefully to find fish. These cutts are perfectly camouflaged and you can't see them until they turn on your fly. Sometimes you just hear a slurp and you wait until you can pin point it's location. Casting some distance and casting accurately will pay off on the Yellowstone.  Just like Slough Creek, it is important to be at the right place at the right time. Again, this is just a matter of putting in your time on the river. You can always find good fishing and solitude on the Yellowstone somewhere if you know where to look.

 

The Yellowstone has to be one of the most special rivers in the U.S.A. and we are blessed to have it right in our back yard. Every year I look forward to fishing it more than any other stream we fish. These are the most beautiful Cutts in the world. Fortunately, the way things are looking, it is making a comeback and we will be able to continue enjoying it  for a long time to come. It is a special place! Enjoy the pictures!

 

 

November 18th

Wayne Lunvall was one of the first guys I met when I started fly fishing in Cody. He was a great fly tier, stylish caster, good rod builder, and an all around good and gentle person. He loved to fish. He taught me many fly fishing lessons and was just one of those guys that you aspire to be like. Wayne's whole family is just a bunch of good people as well which is just another testament to the kind of guy Wayne was. I was lucky enough to be able to fish with Wayne and learn a little bit of what the fly fishing life is really all about. He was one of the last of my old school fishing buddies in the area and I will miss him greatly.

 

 

Wayne, Kevin ,Don, and I went and fished the Bighorn a while back and Wayne had one of those days where he could do nothing wrong. He caught fish steadily all day and I remember him saying it was one of his best big fish days ever! Check the bugger in his nose with the big rainbows! He was totally focused on the fish that day! I was grateful to have been able to share it with him. Wayne was a fly fishing icon in Cody and I will always remember him with fond memories.

 

   

November 17th

The Lower Shoshone continues to Evolve

The lower Shoshone continues to evolve and the fish continue to adapt to ever changing conditions. It's been fascinating to watch how differences with water temperature, water volume, and biomass effect this fishery. If you are fishing this river the way you did 7 or 8 years ago you are probably not catching near as many fish as you could be. It's a much different stream now.

Prior to the fish kill due to high water 5 years ago we had 5 or 6 years of drought conditions. I remember everyone singing the doom and gloom song but the fishing was fantastic year round during the drought. Even with the lower flows in the winter there was plenty of water to keep the fish and the biomass pretty darn healthy. There were still plenty of deeper holes for the fish to winter in. There was probably 20 years of sediment on the bottom which was bad for natural reproduction but it provided good habitat for midges worms, and sow bugs. The dry fly fishing was good at times but fishing sub surface with nymphs and streamers was phenomenal. It was one of the best streamer fisheries I've ever seen. The fish averaged 15" to 18" and there were even a few fish in the 4 to 7 pound class caught occasionally. With the slower flows the fish were able to rest and feed anywhere and anytime in the river and they really prospered. They didn't have to work very hard so they grew fast and put on weight very quickly.

Then came the high water. As it turned out this was much worse than the low flows for the fish. We had over 300% of snow pack that year. The flows were up over 5000 cfs for more than 2 months and very high for probably 4 months. 90% of the fish were killed. They couldn't get out of the current. They had to swim hard day and night. Their food was displaced. It was like running a marathon without food till they died. It was a real heart breaker. After the water came down all that was left were a few of the smallest fish.

If we look hard enough there was a bright side to this scenario.  20 years of sediment was down in Lovell where it belongs. The bottom of the river was clean and ready for insects and fish to prosper. It was as if the river was reborn. The natural reproduction took off like we've never seen before in this stream. The browns really took advantage of it because they're eggs don't get hit with the high water in the fall like the rainbows and cutts in the spring. The rainbows and cutts also did pretty well. The river lost a lot of midges, worms, and sow bugs when the sediment was washed away. The cleaner bottom was better habitat for caddis and mayflies so the dry fly fishing got better. The Game and Fish also did a great job of restocking the Yellowstone cutthroats so all of a sudden there were a lot of little fish in the river. Things were looking up in just a couple years.

The summer before last it was looking like the river would soon be back to what it was when I first moved here 20 years ago. Lots of 15" to 18" fish with many smaller ones. An amazing comeback in just 4 years. We really just needed a couple more years of good conditions for the big boys to start showing up again. Then last year we had another very high water year. This time the BOR was ready for it and they started releasing water very early in the year. In March the flows went to 2000cfs. Lets take a look at how this effected the fish.

The Lower Shoshone is a very tight corridor that drops fairly quickly. 2000cfs in the Lower Shoshone has a much greater impact on the fish than 2000cfs in a big wide and flat river like the Bighorn in Thermopolis. 2000cfs takes away many of the feeding and resting areas for the fish in the Shoshone. Only a third of the feeding and resting type areas remain at these flows if that. This has a drastic effect on the fish. I had been fishing a certain run off and on that held an amazing number of very nice fish early in the spring. Literally hundreds of fish in a pretty small stretch of water. Fishing had been extremely good with nice hatches and lots of fish feeding on top and just below the surface so you had a real good idea of just how many fish were there. When the water came up 70% of the water in that area became to fast for fish to hold and feed. The fish were packed into a small eddy with some even up in the grass trying to get out of the current. We watched them for about a week thinking that they would readjust to the flows but they stayed in the same area and weren't feeding well at all. This was the only place they could go with that much water flowing.  They couldn't get comfortable anywhere in the water column and there wasn't enough food to go around. Remember this was at 2000cfs. Nothing compared to how high the flows were going to get and the fish were almost totally shut down. The water came up even higher, went off color , and stayed that way until October of last fall.

When the water came down and finally got clear enough to fish again we were interested and some what concerned to see how the fish had made out. What we found was that the fish were almost all packed in the deepest holes with the biggest eddies. There were large sections of the river that were void of fish where there had been fish before because the water was just to fast for to long and they could no longer survive there under those conditions. There were some very thin fish but most of the ones that remained seemed to have faired pretty well. They were feeding on midges and mayflies in the foam and it appeared that if they continued to feed well they would recover. There had been quite a few fish that had been pushing 18" and even 20" the year before. They should have been solid 20"ers this fall but we weren't seeing any of those fish. The bigger fish are always the first to go when food and habitat gets scarce. Still there were plenty of fish in the river, just in different places.

Then we got the early cold snap. The water temperatures plummeted and the remaining fish that were feeding so well slowed way down due to the cold temps. The last several days on the water I've seen very few fish rising and not much hatching. I've been catching fish but the takes are barely perceptible and the fish seem lethargic Hopefully the temps will get back up to normal but if it stays to cold for the fish to be active some of the thin ones will surely die.

One last problem that will become more and more apparent in the future is the sediment load in Buffalo Bill reservoir. Every year it takes the lake longer to settle out after run off. This year in December the river is still off color. Sooner or later we will be faced with off color water year round unless they can build a drain something like Boysen reservoir where the water comes off the top of the lake. The sediment loads have been extremely high the last couple of years. How much can the lake take before the water stays off color year round? We'll just have to wait and see.

As you can see from all this water levels, temperature, and food availability has a huge effect on the health of the fishery. Honestly, I think the water managers have made some significant strides in being responsible about the way they handle the flows in regard to the fishery. I can't see any way they could have handled the excess water last year any better. Sometimes conditions are just tough. Some how the fish seem to make it even under pretty extreme conditions.

How does all this change the fishing? The streamer fishing is not near as good as it used to be. We still catch fish on streamers but instead of chasing the fly like it was their last meal from the edges they now prefer to take it dead drift or on the swing near the bottom of the deeper slower runs. The majority of the fish are now in the deepest slowest water. You just aren't seeing a lot of fish up in the riffles, in pockets, or behind boulders in the faster water like there used to be. They seem to prefer sipping emergers in the foam now. Nymphing can be pretty good but I think fishing within 4 feet of the surface even in some deeper water on all but the coldest days is more productive. The fish seem to like to suspend in the deeper slower water. The dry fly fishing can be great if bugs are on the water. You are seeing more types of mayflies and caddis than  in the past 5 years.

Lots of changes! Any of these tendencies can revert back if the flows stay at reasonable levels for a couple years. The fish always try to find the place where they are most comfortable in the water column. The more comfortable and stress free they are the healthier they are and faster they grow. If the water was always at a good consistent flow, temps stayed optimal, and bugs always prolific fish would prosper and we could all toss the same stuff in the same spots everyday for the rest of our lives. The catching would be great but fishing would get pretty boring. What I have learned is that fish are amazing animals that seem to survive and even prosper no matter what conditions are thrown at them.  Give a chance they can make a come back very quickly. The changes are part of why we love to fish. We get to use our heads and maybe learn a few things along the way. Be open to it and  the fish will be plentiful.

   

November 16th

Here's one I didn't see coming. I bought a pair of the Simms flats sneakers a couple years ago to fish down south. They looked great but on the very first day they wore blisters on my toes and heels so bad I almost couldn't fish. I got a pair of neoprene's to get me by and they were much better on the feet. I hadn't done anything with the sneakers for a year or so but since I'm heading to Florida in January I decided to wear them a bit and try to break them in. Turns out they are great shoes for walking around in weather like we've been having the last couple weeks. Killer in the snow! They seem pretty durable, they are water resistant, and they have a non skid bottoms that give great traction in the snow.   I haven't tried them in the river yet but I am now finally getting my monies worth out of them.  Flats shoes for the snow. Who'd of thunk it!

 

November 12th

Fishing Slough Creek

The rumor is that fishing in Yellowstone Park is to crowded to be any good these days. There are many times when that is definitely the case but finding good fishing in the park takes knowledge of when the conditions are best for each river. Every river in the park has a specific time that the conditions are just right and it just so happens that most of the time there are very few people there to take advantage of the really good fishing. Each year it seems my most memorable days of fishing are in Yellowstone. Let's take Slough Creek as an example.

Slough Creek is probably the most famous cutthroat fishery in the world. Famous people come to fish it, books are written about it, and anglers from all over the world come to see what the fuss is all about. Because of all this hype it can be very crowded and the fishing came be disappointing if you go at the wrong time. Don't get me wrong, it is always a killer place to be fishing. There may not be a more perfect cutthroat fishery anywhere but it gets hammered every year and some days the fishing can be very tough. There is a perfect time to be there and that is before it gets overrun with anglers and outfitters in the summer.

My general day is July 1st. I usually head up to take a look a week earlier just to see how the water is looking. Slough Creek is always the first stream in Lamar valley to clear after spring run off. I check the lower meadow to see if the water is clear enough, low enough, and how the water temperature is doing. A couple of days of dropping water and warmer weather is all it takes to get things started. If it looks pretty good I'll walk into the first meadow and give it a try. If I have to resort to nymphing, it is still to cold to be what I'm looking for. If it is just a tad to high and cold just a day or two can be all it takes to go from marginal to extraordinary fishing.

Last year I checked it one day and it looked like it was just a day or two off. The weather was calling for nice days so a friend and I walked it to the second meadow a couple days later to give it a try. There were very few if any other fishermen and the outfitters had just started packing people in to the Silver Tip. There were no foot prints on the river yet. I saw a rise as soon as we got to the water and tossed a dry dropper out to see what was going on. An 18" cutt came right up and took the big dry!

We started checking the water and there were nymphs floating by like crazy. In a cubic foot of water there were at least 10 nymphs of different varieties floating by. The water was still cool but the extra couple days had it warm enough for the bugs and the fish to become active. It was on!

 Usually the first bugs you see will be midges, PMD's, and Drakes (both green and grey). There may also be a smattering of golden stones and caddis so keep an eye out for splashy rises. I used to start with a dry dropper but in Slough Creek if it is a bright day just stick to your dry. On a cloudy or rainy day you may be forced to use a dropper but the fishing can still be very good. The fishing won't be technical. The fish haven't seen anything all winter and are looking to feed. 4X is fine. I still use stealth and work the runs from down stream and across Pour overs, edges of seams and especially deep cut banks are the targets.

A few things to consider are these: Bears. You will definitely see some bears this time of year. They don't want any trouble but seriously, keep your eyes open because it is real easy to walk up on one, especially in the woods going over the hill and between the first and second meadow. Some have young and you don't want to surprise anyone. Biting bugs: You will be bitten. There will be mosquitoes in the trees and biting flies in the fields and along the river. For some reason if you stay in the water on the inside of the river channel (not on the cut banks) the bugs won't bother you as bad. Bring 100% deet. Pack plenty of water: If you make it to the second meadow you will be hiking at least 15 miles over the day of fishing at 7500 ft above sea level. You don't want to get dehydrated on the way out. Ask me how I know.

Most people assume the 15th of July is the day. If you show up 2 weeks before it can really be worth it. You will probably have the whole valley to yourself if you go early. I've been doing it for the last 7 or 8 years and every year we've hit it right by going in early and checking it out. If for some reason it turns out to be a bust you can go down to the Yellowstone and get into some Salmon Fly or Golden Stone activity. They are always about on the 1st of July on the edges. Any big orange dry will get takes. There are no buffalo to speak of on the Yellowstone so there are no biting bugs which can also be very pleasant. There will be no people there this early either so you'll have it to yourself as well.

Every Stream in the park has a specific time when you will find great fishing and have the whole place to yourself if you know when to go. The Park is one of the most beautiful places around to fish and when your alone on the water with feeding fish there is no place better. Don't fall for the nay Sayers and assume the park is always to crowded. Think outside the box!

   

November 8th

Function over Form in Fly tying

The last several years I have had great success using flies that were originally intended to perform a certain task but looked nothing like anything a fish might find to eat anywhere in the water column, at least to people. I like to refer to these flies as rebellious flies. A good example of this is a fish coming up and eating your strike indicator. Last year I tied up a version of the Chubby Chernobyl that was absolutely ludicrous if used solely as a fly to entice fish. The fly was huge. It is tied on a #6 4 xl nymph hook. It uses a 2 1/2" piece of double thick foam as a body. It has two 1 1/2" white poly wings. It is dubbed with psycodelic purple UV dubbing and has 4 pairs of legs about 2" long. I had clients so skeptical that they wouldn't even let me put it on until they saw it in action. The biggest fish of the year came up and ate this fly time after time all year and are still doing it even now.

This fly was solely designed to float as many and as heavy a nymph as needed, to float with no maintenance, and to be able to be seen by anyone at distance who was not legally blind. Really just a bobber. The fish loved it. On my days off I fished it next to a bunch of other more conventional patterns and the fish seemed to prefer it to the more natural looking bugs. The foam, the hook, and the wing were on purpose but the purple dubbing and the large number of wild legs were just crap that happened to be on the bench when I started. It was a winner.

There are times when during certain hatches fish seem to be pretty specific on what the fly looks like but in my experience this is about 5% of the time. It's where the fly is in the water column and how it moves that is what gets the fishes attention. I have proven this to myself time and again in many different situations. Right now on the Lower Shoshone and the Bighorn this is the case. The fish are keying on minute moving bugs in the film in the morning and then change to a fly that is swinging towards the surface in the afternoon.  There are many ways to go about making this happen but if you do it you will be successful. The presentation not the fly is the key to catching fish all afternoon.

When you tie new flies try thinking this way. Where will it be fished in the water column. Does it need to get down quickly. How fast do you want it to sink. Do you want it to have neutral buoyancy. Does it need to float heavy nymphs. Does it need to be seen easily. Does it need to be small, delicate, and subtle when it hits the water.  You can almost make your fly do anything you want it to do except that it has to do it attached to your line which can change the way it reacts to subtle currents. I fished to a fish for a half hour the other day and couldn't get him to take. I was in the process of changing flies and a large attractor fell out of my box and floated down to the fish. He came right up, ate the fly, and swam off with a smug look on his face.

I admire guys that can tie flies that look exactly like a certain insect. It take patience and talent and is one of the highest forms of the art of tying. When it comes to just catching fish use common sense. Make flies that perform a specific task. Don't be scared to be creative and use funky materials. Next time your looking in your fly box for something else to try looking in your kids fly box. He may have already tied the next holy grail.

 

 

October 21st

As we grow as fly fishermen,  our assessment of what makes for a truly great day of fishing tends to evolve with us. Magazines shower us with pictures of big fish but it's not just big fish that we seek anymore when it comes to a really good day. Sure, the big fish are nice but not at the expense of tons of people and fish with mouths scared with hook marks. The truly good day would be lots of nice sized wild fish that are totally unmolested by fishermen, with beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife, eating big dry flies, not another footprint anywhere, with a good friend, and on bamboo. Not to much to ask right! Kirk and I got to fish such a place and experience those exact conditions today. This time of year is perfect for fishing on some of our local freestones. The water is low and crystal clear. The weather is beautiful. The fish are in the best shape of the year after feeding all summer. They feel the weather changing and are feeding up heavily for the winter months. We were at the right place at the right time.

 

The morning started off a little slow. With cooler nights in the fall this is to be expected. We fished through some good looking water that should have held fish and saw nothing for an hour or so. As the water warmed up the fish started coming out to play. Yellowstone cutthroats are perfectly camouflaged so if they don't want to be seen you just can't see them even if the water is super clear. Only when they move to the fly can you be sure there is anything there. Once they turned on it was pretty spectacular. We were using a huge ugly dry fly and to see these fish come out of no where to inhale it was just the best. There were plenty of fish in this stream!

 

These were some of the healthiest cutts I'd seen outside of Yellowstone all year. They fought very hard and you could just feel the vibrant energy when they were in hand. They weren't overly fat but just in real good shape. They were fish that see very little fishing pressure if any. Having them come up and eat that big attractor was an unexpected surprise. They took it like it was their last meal. It made us laugh. Very cool to see.

 

The scenery with the leaves changing and eagles flying was fantastic. The dogs were in heaven, running and playing all day. They even got to play with a fox until it got tired of them and headed for the hills. There were plenty of deer and elk track but we didn't see any out in the open all day.

 

By around 3:30 p.m. things began to slow down but we'd both had more than our share of fun. We both felt it was one of the best day of fishing we'd ever had on this stretch of water. It sure is nice to see a river in as good a shape as this one. These kind of waters are getting fewer and farther between in our area. It sure is nice to know that there are spots like this still out there. Enjoy the picts!

 

 

 

 

 

September 26th

The fishing in the Cody area is finally starting to shape up. I hate to say it but this has been one of the worst summers  for consistent fishing for as long as anyone can remember. We has some very high water which extended into August and then we were hammered by rain off and on for the rest of the summer. We caught fish but really had to work to find good water and then the fishing was never quite what it can be. Things are finally starting to shape up.

The Lower Shoshone was off color all summer and is still not totally clear. The good news is the fish made it through the high water and are now feeding hard for the winter. Almost no one has fished the river all summer which is perfect! Hatches are very good right now and the dry fly fishing has been pretty darn good with about half the fish being taken on dries or emergers on any given day. Plenty of 16" to 18" fish in the river this year. I haven't fished much from Corbett down but I expect to see the same all the way to Powell this fall. Should be a great fall.

The North Fork was a big disappointment this year. The river was muddy off and on almost all summer. There were a few days when it was clear enough and we caught some nice fish but it definitely wasn't the banner year I was expecting with all the muddy water. On the bright side, there were tons of smaller fish in the system this year. With the muddy water the fish got a big break from fishing pressure so we should see good numbers of fish in the next couple seasons. The river is really pretty now with the leaves changing and you can still have a good day catching some smaller fish with the occasional straggler up there.

The Clarks Fork fishing never even came close to fishing to it's full potential. The high water lasted a long time and then the rain and weird weather patterns had the fishing only fair at best when the water finally came down and was clear enough to fish. It is down and looking good now so maybe with the lack of fishing pressure over the summer the fall will be good and produce some of those rare big browns I love to see.

The Greybull and Wood systems were pretty good all summer. It had it's share of rain as well but cleared quickly and fished decent when we were up there. We hit several very good hatches and had some good fun! The fish population seemed pretty good with at least 3, maybe 4 age classes of fish in about equal numbers spread out through the system. Again, the lack of fishing pressure this year can't hurt.

The Bighorn had it's days this summer. Cloudy days are usually always the best over there. On the sunny or partly cloudy days you'd better be there early or it can be extremely tough especially in the afternoons. As long as there was some sort of a decent hatch you can always catch your share of really nice fish. The early trico fishing (5 a.m. till around noon) can be very good. Hopper droppers are fun as well. There is more and more fishing pressure on this river every year because the fish are big. The water gets pretty darn warm in the summer and with all the pressure hopefully the fish will not take a hit. I prefer to fish this river in the spring, fall, and winter because of this. A lot less people. Right now is just the beginning of the really good fishing on this river in my opinion. When the temps cool off and the little tan mayflies and midges start up it can be some of the best dry fly fishing anywhere. The browns will get going and it is looking to be an awesome fall.

The local lakes are starting to get good with the cooler weather. East Newton is looking the best it's been in quite a while. The Game and Fish addressed the low water problem this year by putting a bunch of water in the lake later in the year and the fish have really responded well. You're not seeing any of the skinny as death fish this year. All the fish I've caught in the last couple days have been fat and healthy. Great job! Right now is the time to start fishing scuds. As the vegetation starts dying off the little crustaceans have no place to go but into the fishes mouths. Sight fishing will be really good this fall. West Newton hasn't really got going yet. The fish are still out deep. It can start out there any time in the next couple weeks. Luce and Hogan are going well most days. The fish in Luce never got as big as they used to get out there. Could be the strain of rainbows, who knows but there are tons of them and they are eating well. Lots of 15" to 17" fish. Hogan is doing great some days with the late season callibaetis on top. A black copper john stripped with short erratic strips can be very effective when the fish are chasing back swimmers. Zebra midges, scuds,  and san juan's are a good choice below a hopper.

Yellowstone Park was good this year. The fish in the lake are finally starting to make a noticeable come back. Right now the fishing over by West Thumb is very good. The cutts can be found rising and the lake trout are starting to move into the shallows to start the spawn. Lewis, Shoshone, and Heart lakes are starting to fish a bit as well. Lamar valley got it's share of rain this year and ton's of people. I fished it early and the fish seemed to be doing quite well. The Lower Yellowstone took quite a while to come down  but fished very well this year. The west side is now starting to get good as the temps come back down and the Madison will start to see the browns coming out of the lake. The Firehole is fishing pretty well most days now.

The outlook for fall fishing is looking great, especially compared to what we've had to deal with this summer. The weather is perfect right now and the leaves are absolutely beautiful. I'm really looking forward to getting out there and catching some really  nice ones this fall!

 

 

   

June 17th

Run off Update!

We are in the middle of run off so the fishing opportunities have been somewhat limited lately. The weather has been all over the place making fishing in the clear water we do have inconsistent. East Newton has bee tough for most of us lately. It has been getting a lot of pressure and the clear low water makes the fish wary. Hatches have been so so with midges, callibaetis, and damsels coming off sporadically. West Newton has been considerably better. There are tons of fish cruising the edges. Lots of little guys but there are some real nice cutts as well. The water is very high so a water craft of some sort can give you better access. Luce and Hogan have been on and off as well. Same hatches as Newton.  Scuds have been getting the fishes attention along with damsels. There are some real nice cutts in Hogan cruising the edges now on sunny days with a little chop. Site fishing with a big dry has been fun out there on some days. The west side of the park has been hit and miss as well. The Firehole is still the best bet in the park. The hatches are really just getting started. Caddis and PMD's can get the fish looking up some days but it's been mostly sub surface action with emergers and small nymphs for me. This could change any time. I did have one day of good dry action with PMD's but it only lasted for about an hour or so. Well worth the drive as it is really pretty up there. The Bighorn in Thermopolis is fishing fair to good. The flows are down a bit and the fish are looking up on some days to BWO's, Tricos, and even hoppers now. Nymphing is always a good option as is swinging a streamer or two. Lots of people as it is the only floatable water around right now. The North Tongue is coming around. Hatches haven't really got going but sub surface fishing is good at least for me. I like fishing the Tongue when the water is high and clear. That's about the size of it right now. We got a bunch of rain and new snow up high on the 16th so the end isn't really in site yet. Keep an eye on the horse head as it is the only true indication of the end of run off. When the reins disappear the water is receding for the summer. It looks like it's going to be the middle of July to the 1st of August depending on the weather right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 10th

With all the streams in run off and just a couple lakes fishing well I've had plenty of time to work on one of my favorite projects. As most who know me know, I am into the old school approach to life. I do enjoy some of the fine technological advances but there something about the way it used to be that seems simpler and way more interesting than just staring at screens and pushing buttons. My wife and I had both owned muscle cars way back when. One day we saw a car that got our attention and on a whim bought a 65 mustang. The car was rust free with lots of new parts but was never really finished out to act the way it is supposed to. That's where the fun began.

The 65 mustang was a very classy small car designed by Lee Iacocca to be a poor mans sports car. There were actually a few cars out in 64 1/2 but just as today the new models simply come out 6 months ahead of time. With just a few minor exceptions the 64 and 65 cars were identical. The cars hit the streets running and sales far exceeded any expectation Ford had for it in 65. It is still going strong even today which is 49 1/2 years later.

I had always been a fan of Carroll Shelby. He was a racer who's philosophy was put a big motor in a small car and go fast. His cars were all designed to be about function but with style. Nothing wrong there. The 65 Shelby was the first true Shelby  Ford collaboration and was a true factory race car built in an airplane hanger in San Jose California. The cars won many Trans Am and SCCA races and gained notoriety very quickly. I wanted to pattern my car after that type of thinking while still staying within a reasonable budget.

My first priority was the suspension. I did a Shelby drop which lowers the upper control arm about 1 1/2 and moves it back a 1/8 inch. This  gives the car better steering geometry by giving it less negative camber and more positive castor which makes the car much more stable going around corners after it is properly aligned. A 16/1 quick turn manual steering box was installed. I welded in set of sub frame connectors with an export brace and Monte Carlo bar to stiffen the body so it will be able to handle the additional hp.  Stiffer springs front and rear with a 3rd of a coil out of the front to slightly lower the car and 5 leaf springs with Shelby style traction bars in the back to keep the wheels on the pavement. A big 1 1/8th sway bar up front. Roller spring perches and a roller idler arm to free up the manual steering. Top it off with a set of Koni adjustable shocks to dampen the ride. Torque Thrust wheels with the cooper cobra tires complete the vintage look. This was pretty much the suspension set up Shelby used on his cars.

The car came with a highway geared 3.00 rear that was open or single traction. I replaced that with a 3.55 track lock limited slip that coupled with a TKO 600 5 speed is the perfect combination of quick around town acceleration and lots of top end while still maintaining decent gas mileage. Rpm's in 5th are 2200 at 75 mph. The over drive transmission is a real kick in this type of car. Brakes were upgraded to 4 wheel power disc to be able to stop as good as it goes.

Now on to the power plant. The block is a 351 Windsor with forged internals. A road racing roller cam from lunati was used. Crane roller rockers finish the valve train. The block was topped off with Edelbrock aluminum heads, air gap intake, and a 600 cfm Holley with vacuum secondaries to be a bit more streetable. An extra large aluminum radiator with an Edelbrock aluminum water pump and an external oil cooler will be sure to keep things cool. I also added a CVR vacuum pump as the cam had to much overlap to produce much vacuum for the brakes at idle. The exhaust comes down hooker ceramic coated headers into a pair of flow master mufflers and exits through the rear valance panel through chrome exhaust trumpets.

On the outside the car has gunmetal grey metal flake paint with silver Shelby stripes under clear coat. The gt350 stripes on the rockers were deleted. Lots of nice new chrome and a Shelby fiberglass hood. The Shelby touches just make it look mean. The interior is pretty much stock with some wood grain pony accents and a Shelby wood steering wheel. A 4 point roll cage is there just in case. Dyna matt keeps the noise down inside.

The car is still and will always be a work in progress. The next addition will be a trailer hitch so I will be able to pull my raft. This car is a lot of fun to drive. It handles like a go cart and has a nice growl to it when you give it the gas. Riding around in the mountains or site seeing in Yellowstone is really a blast. I have truly enjoyed every minute of working with this car. It has literally been a blast from the past. It will be 50 years old next year! So, if you see a guy with a couple of Australian Sheppard's and a bamboo rod getting out of a 65 Shelby pulling a raft it will probably be me. I am living the dream!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

April 25th

Tuning up the Bamboo

It's been a harsh winter this year with a lot of nymph fishing and tossing heavy streamers so the Bamboo has been in the closet for a while. I tossed a bunch of rod tubes in front of the fire place the other day and sat down to wax sections, clean ferrules, and generally just give the rods a pre season check up. Bamboo rods do require a little more care and periodic maintenance than graphite but those of us who own them enjoy taking the time to look them over and get them ready for a new season. Nickel silver is basically just copper (85% copper, 15% nickel, 5 % zinc) so the ferrules will oxidize even when they are just sitting in the tube. That is why it is important to clean the ferrules with a little alcohol or mineral spirits on a q tip and if necessary a light buff with 0000 steel wool. Stuck ferrules are one of the primary reasons bamboo rods can get damaged and at the least are just a pain in the butt. I also check for varnish nicks, loose or clicking ferrules, or any other problems that one might find. It's just a good idea at the first of every season and really just fun.

So far this year there hasn't been very many bamboo type days but I have recently found some places to use a couple rods. Dry flies are what bamboo rods were really intended for. They are capable of  throwing just about anything but I generally use the graphite for nymph rigs and heavy streamers. I ran across some dry fly activity at a local lake as well as on the Bighorn and a few small streams so I decided to break out the boo. The rod I chose is an 8' 3" 3 piece rod based off an E.C. Powell taper. It is a pretty powerful rod capable of making longer casts and presenting the fly with delicacy.  After casting graphite for most of the winter I had almost forgotten how nice it was to cast and fight fish on bamboo. Graphite rods have become almost to light in my opinion. There is no mass there to help load the rod which make you have to work harder even when you cast shorter distances. You have to really get graphite rods moving to get them to bend. With the bamboo you just let the rod do the work. It was so nice to feel the rod load on the back cast and drop the fly 40' out like a feather landing on the water. After the fish takes it just gets better. The amount of feel you have fighting fish has to be double that of graphite. Every fish puts a smile on your face. I'm back!

Small stream fishing is another area where bamboo takes the prize. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a little 7 1/2' Granger special a couple years ago that was in need of repair. I got an old beater Granger off ebay and delaminated the strips so I could re taper them and make a couple new sections with original Granger cane. A fun project in itself. The rod is one of the sweetest casting medium action 4 wts there has to be. It will roll cast a leader. It seems to lay the line out in slow motion. Any fish you hook is fun to fight on this rod! I got quite a few 8" to 12" cutties on a big dry and just had a ball! It was like running into an old friend for the first time in a while.

My feeling is that both graphite and bamboo have their place in fly fishing. If you are balls to the wall chunking heavy stuff or wailing heavy streamers to the other side of the river in a hurricane graphite is your friend. If you are casting to fish at reasonable fishing distances (out to 45' to 50') with dries or dry droppers or fishing smaller streams bamboo takes the cake. It sure was nice to get the feeling back!

 

   

April 17th

Fly Fishing in Wyoming

It wasn't so long ago that in Wyoming fly fishing was a solitary activity with appreciation for the environment and the total outdoor experience being the primary goal. It was a peaceful activity where taking your time, connecting with the outdoors, and trying to rekindle the feeling you had when you were a kid chasing frogs and playing in the creek was your only job. I can remember a time not so long ago when local outfitters in a couple small southern Wyoming towns with intimate streams would get together and decide to only run one or two boats a day on the river to keep the experience real for their clients. There wasn't unlimited easy access for the masses. If you didn't have the get up and go you just weren't going to be able to fish there. That's what made it worth doing. Are those days gone for ever? I think so.

Our waters are being bombarded by masses of  fishermen. Fly fishing commandos with SUV's, rafts and drift boats, satellite and topo maps, meat fishermen looking to load up coolers, and scores of outfitters from near and far all looking to put their clients on the ultimate fishing experience.  Excess and capitalism at it's finest. These are all people who say they love the outdoors, respect the environment, and care about our limited resources.

The reality of what is happening is now staring us right in the face. Money, greed and lack of respect has hit our precious rivers with a vengeance. The quality of the total experience is in a steady downward spiral. The days of not seeing anyone else while fishing are few and far between. We all know it. Sadly, I don't believe that there's much to be done about it.  The Native American with the tear in his eye saw it coming long ago.

On a bit brighter note let's give a round of applause to two government agencies that have implemented changes that have a big impact on our rivers and fisheries. First, the Bureau of Reclamation. Six or seven years ago the Bureau seemed to have no interest in the impact of fluctuating flows on the fish in our tail waters. They would drop flows to drastically lowering them over night and raising them equally as fast without consideration to the fish or biomass. When it drops to quickly it leaves a large percentage of the biomass high and dry. The fish are concentrated in the deepest holes with only half as much food as they were used to. Not a killer but it can easily be prevented.  On the other hand, one year they held back so much water that when it finally had to be released it was so high for so long it killed 90% of the fish in the river. That was a real heart breaker that could have potentially been prevented. Shortly after that they began implementing a much kinder to the fish approach of slowly raising and slowly dropping the flows so the fish and biomass could gradually adjust to the change. This year they read the snow pack and reasoned that we needed to dump some water in order to compensate for the bigger than average run off we are expecting. This is making the fishing tough right now but it is much, much better than having all the fish die like they did in 2010. Thanks to the Bureau of Reclamation for taking the fish into consideration this year. The Wyoming Game and Fish have also been working with the Bureau to try to implement flushing flows in certain tail waters if we have enough water for the year. Another excellent idea. The effects are already evident in rivers like the North Platte, Green river, and the Bighorn. A much better bio mass and wild fish population. The GAF's most recent project is to look into the over crowding of our rivers. Our new section head has worked the Green river, a very heavily fished tail water in southern Wyoming and northern Utah for the last 13 years, so he has plenty of experience dealing with overly crowed fisheries. The North Platte in Wyoming is a major issue. There are just to many guides on the river every day which really diminishes the experience for everyone but especially for the those of us that live here in Wyoming. Rumor is Colorado guides are now running lots of guided trips in Saratoga and on the Grey Reef near Casper. We are experiencing the same thing in Cody except that it is local guides crowding the waters.  The solution to the problem is regulation with enforcement. The GAF proposes to require all guides to be Wyoming residents and to carry a Wyoming outfitters license. The other stipulation would be that every outfitter will be limited to running no more than five guides on a given a day. This will help make for a better experience not only for clients but also the rest of the fishermen trying to enjoy our rivers. For us in Cody that would mean you will see less than half the number of guides on the water every day. Good for the fish as well as the fishermen. Personally, I am all for this plan. Lots of us moved to Wyoming because of the great fishing experience. We've watched things go steadily down hill for the last couple years in the Cody area due to this situation. I for one am willing to do what ever it takes to get this problem under control and hopefully reverse the trend. I'll keep my fingers crossed that we can get these changes into effect as soon as possible. A big thumbs up to the Game and Fish Department. We appreciate your efforts.

 

 

   

April 13th

 

Well, it's been a bumpy ride so far this spring. The lower Shoshone was just starting to see some hatches and the fishing was just picking up when the flows were raised to double what we were expecting. The fish still haven't totally adjusted to the higher than average flows and the fishing has so far only been fair. The water quality is very nice and the higher flows have helped get rid of the sediment dropped in the river last fall and this spring by unusual amounts of precipitation. We' just received another dose of cold weather and snow. We'll just have to play it by ear and see what happens on the Shoshone this spring. There are good numbers of good size fish in the river this year and when the conditions come around it should be excellent!

The North Fork fish started showing up at the mouth of the reservoir on the last days before the river was closed for spawning down low. The fish should start showing up above Newton creek in decent numbers any time now.  Right now run off has the river off color but running at great levels for fishing. When the water clears a bit the fishing should get good.

The Bighorn in Thermopolis has been fair to good depending on the day. We've seen occasional BWO hatches that can make for some good dry fly fishing but they haven't been to consistent. The rainbows are just about done spawning and should start feeding heavily once water temps come up and the bugs begin to hatch consistently.  Sub surface action has only been fair so far, at least for me.  One or two nice fish out of spots than can produce many more. It has been slowly improving the last couple days. There have been record numbers of people on the river so far this year. That could be helping to make for some tougher days. The canyon is starting to fish now that it is warming up and the fish are done spawning.

The Clarks Fork has been fishing pretty well up by the canyon. Lots of whitefish, some nice smaller trout, and the occasional 17" to 20"er. The flows and water quality have been some of the best around. I've even seen a little dry fly action with some fish up on midges.

East Newton lake is starting to get going now. The rainbows have started spawning and there have been a few decent midge hatches. Fishing can be pretty darn good on some days now. West Newton is very high and the water has a tannic tint to it from low land run off. It's clear enough to fish but with the water way up in the trees a float tube or pontoon is your best bet. It's still been pretty slow over there. Luce and Hogan are just getting started as well. The water is just starting to get clear and fish are being caught. It should get much better as it warms up. Sunshine reservoirs are fishing now as well and can be pretty good. The water is nice and clear. The lakes are very low and the fish are concentrated. I've had a couple fun days watching fish chase streamers.

I have been able to get out fishing almost every day this spring which is a good thing! It's beautiful country and between watching animals, hiking, and spending time on the rivers it's been good. Sometimes you have to just take what comes your way, embrace it, and see what happens next. That's how this spring looks to be.

 

 

March 21st

Spring Transitions!

It looks like winter has finally released it's strangle hold on the Bighorn Basin. We are still getting a few days with highs in the 30's but in general things are improving on a daily basis. Sand hill cranes and cedar waxwings are showing up, ducks and geese are pairing up, and muskrats, minks, and beavers are out working away and finally some aquatic insects are starting to show themselves.

The first real midge and Baetis hatches in enough numbers to get the fish looking up are starting to happen now. Hopefully they will continue to get stronger as the water temps warm. Walking the river, you can now start to see small schools of fish holding on little eddies and seams about 2 feet down looking for food. Occasionally you will come across pods of fish rising if the hatch is heavy enough. Approach them carefully as they are very spooky right now. Later when the bugs get thicker they will loose their inhibition and be focused on just one thing. Eating!

Even a few freestones are starting to thaw out enough to think about giving them a try. The North Fork and the Clarks Fork are just weeks away from starting a new year. The run of fish from Buffalo Bill reservoir has been off the last couple of years compared to what it can be. Everyone has an opinion of why fish numbers have been down. I predict that this is the year we will see a good run up of fish. Last fall with all the rain we had there were tons of nutrients washed into the lake providing food for the small organisms the fish like to eat. The fish should have wintered well and should be in good shape to make the run up to spawn. With a better than average snow pack it looks like there will be plenty of water in the river all summer. It has been an extremely wet winter for Wyoming and if the trend continues into summer we could get a phenomenal hopper hatch in July and August. That would be a lot of fun!

Almost all the lakes are now ice free. It will take a little time for the water to warm and life to speed up but when it does it is a blast. You can catch a few fish now but in a couple more weeks it's going to be a whole different ball game. We should see scuds mating, leeches swimming, midges hatching, and if we get lucky maybe the callibaetis will show themselves a little later. The rainbows will spawn very soon. The systems are just waking up.

Right now anglers can fish with just about anything they like. The subsurface action is already good on the Shoshone. Midges and Baetis are showing up and the dry fly fishing will hopefully continue to just get better and better as the water temps come up. The Bighorn in Thermopolis should start getting good after the flushing flow on the 25th of March. The flush may put the fish off at first but it will clear out any loose vegetation and knock loose lots of food. The fish will be on these bugs shortly. Right now the water is very low and clear. The fish that aren't spawning are pretty spooky. Once the fish quit spawning and go back on the feed the fishing should really improve. It also just so happens that the midges and Baetis hatches on the Bighorn will get going at about the same time so the dry fly fishing should be great over in Thermopolis.

It's great to be able to finally fish with no gloves and just a fleece. Just sitting on the bank watching wildlife is almost as good as fishing right now. Everything is happy to have made it through the winter and is working hard to build shelters to house their young. I watched a flock of cedar waxwings pick off midges for 45 minutes yesterday. Everyday there are a couple of sand hill cranes cooing out at the pond behind my house. Muskrats, minks, and beavers are working away.  It's a great time to be outside in Wyoming.

 

   

March 10th

We've had some serious snow melting lately!

 The rivers have been muddy for about the last week due to some serious low land snow melting. The lower Shoshone is still off color on the 10th. You can call it fishable but it won't be any good until it clears. I was walking the Stock trail the other day and there was so much water coming out of Sulfur creek that it changed the river course drastically. There is now a huge gravel bar all the way across the river. That's how much snow melt we've had! Needless to say the river hasn't been fishing. Even up in the canyon the water where the water is relatively clear is still very cold and the fishing has been slow. Thermopolis got muddy below Wedding of the Waters but I'd bet it is clear by now. They didn't have near as much snow as we did in Cody. We fished in the canyon over there and it was slow as well. The water is very low, clear and still cold. The fish are starting to get active but are very spooky. We did see a few midges but not the full blown hatch we will see every day shortly. Also there are quite a few fish spawning so that may be slowing it down a bit.

On the bright side the weather has broken and it is nice and warm. Ice is melting on the lakes. East Newton started icing off yesterday. There is now a bit of open water. That can be fun fishing the edge of the ice. When the water finally clears I believe the rivers will really get going. Warm weather means hatching bugs and I'm ready for that. We will get a little more snow on the 11th and that should be it for a while. I'm chomping at the bit to get into some spring dry fly action.

   

February 25th

2014 Runoff Forecast

The snow pack in Western Wyoming is hitting 150% of normal and we're expected to get more snow next week. Yellowstone park is loaded with snow as well so plan on Lamar valley getting started in the middle of July instead of the 1st. The Firehole, Gibbon, Madison side is a little over 100% so right now it looks like it will be fine on the opener. We normally get the majority of our spring snow in April and May so you can be sure we're going to get an above average runoff this summer. There are lots of variables as to when and how fast the snows come down. I don't think anyone can predict it for sure. The way things are looking to me is that runoff will start in early May and streams will be un fishable until around the second or third week of July. That means we could be fishing the last 2 weeks of July. On the bright side I would also assume that the rivers will have plenty of water into Sept which could extend the floating season on the North Fork. Remember, this is nothing more than an educated guess at this point. If temperatures get hot early and stay hot we may be fishing sooner or if things stay as they are or we get even more snow it could be later. I'll try and keep you posted on my thoughts when we can see how things will unfold more clearly. At any rate we blessed with plenty of water for next summer when a lot of areas might be pretty dry! We'll see how it goes.

   

February 23rd!

Phillipson Bamboo Rods! Some of the best tapers for the Rocky Mountain West!

I've been experimenting with making bamboo rods and taper design for a number of years now. It's amazing how many ways there are to screw up making a stick and I'm still going strong. It is a long drawn out process to get to know a material especially when you don't have a mentor to show you the ropes hands on. It's all seat of the pants thinking. This amounts to many failures followed by modification with the results being slightly better failures.  When you consider that it takes about 20 hours to produce a blank that you can test cast and fish, then to fish that blank for a couple of months to see if it fishes as well as it casts, and that most of these will end up in the trash it is obvious that one has to have a real love and persistence for what you are doing to come up with something good. It takes many years of research and development to be able to produce something that is getting close to the maximum potential of the material for the way you think a rod should cast.

I started out thinking that I could come up with something on my own that would be hands down better than what came before me. It quickly became clear that I didn't know enough to even attempt something of this nature so I decide to try some of the many tapers developed by the masters of bamboo and see if I could find a place to start. We may have better technology now but there have been plenty of smart guys around since the beginning of man. To make a long story shorter. What I found was that these guys developed rods designed to fish best in the types of water they fished the most. The masters of the eastern rod design developed rods that were better suited to fishing eastern waters where the rivers were smaller and tight with cover, wind wasn't a common occurrence, and the fish generally weren't as big.  The west coast guys were really into tournament casting. They fished for a lot of steelhead and salmon on big water so required larger, longer line weight rods that were generally bigger than what we'd need here to handle most trout. Bill Phillipson who ran the Granger fly rod shop in Denver and later started his own rod company fished under the same conditions and types of water that we fish here in Wyoming.

I started by picking up rods that I could afford (a relative term especially to my wife) and trying them out around here to learn about the tapers. I was enamored by the Grangers at first (and still am) because of it's local legacy and the fact that they are very beautiful and well made rods. Ammonia toned cane with that reddish hue, very cool wraps, and a really cool one of a kind reel seat design. They were all great casting rods and the consistency of the tapers between rods was just unbelievable. The 71/2' and 8' rods were really nice for the smaller streams. I found the tips on the bigger Grangers a little light for the places I was fishing until the 9053 which was a 9 foot rod weighing 5 and 3/4 ounces and was more of a bass and steelhead rod and heavier than what we'd usually need. When I first began looking at the Grangers I found out Bill Phillipson was the Granger rod shop foreman. I figured Bill already knew how to make a great rod so when he opened his own company his rods would be even  further evolved than the Grangers. I think he did just that.

It turns out Bill was a no nonsense guy. His rods aren't as pleasing to the eye as the Grangers to most people. The wraps were plainer, the reel seats aluminum instead of nickel silver, and he used resorcinol glue which left dark glue lines on the blanks. The glue lines were not as aesthetically pleasing but Bill believed as do most rod makers now that resorcinol was the best glue to use to make rods at the time. The aluminum "no rock" reel seats were lighter and held the reels better than the Grangers. His main goals revolved around  function, tapers and how well the rods performed. High performance at a cost most people could afford. The tapers were similar to the Grangers but seem to have a little more backbone to cast in the wind better and land fish quickly. The tips remained supple but quick and the rods were very accurate. His impregnated rods are some of the most durable and powerful bamboo rods for their size. It is said that he designed these rods mainly to fish the South Platte in Colorado which was known for tough conditions and big smart fish back in the 50's and 60's. These tapers are probably some of the easiest bamboo rods to learn to cast for someone just transitioning to bamboo.

I would have loved to have swept the floors in Bill's shop just to have been able to talk with him about rods and fishing and pick his brain for ideas and pointers on taper design, making tools, and building rods in general. I don't think any production rod shops of his time ever executed the kind of consistency with tapers that his shops did. Any rod with the same configuration  casts almost exactly the same as the next. Extremely accurate when we're talking about thousands of an inch tolerances and that he produced tens of thousands of rods.

I have acquired many old Phillipson's and still fish them regularly. Some are more than 60 years old now. I have made quite a few copies to the best of my ability and the people who own them are very impressed with how they cast and fish. He made great rods for every situation from 7' to 9 ' both impregnated and non impregnated. The non impregnated rods seem just a bit softer and lighter than their impregnated counterparts. Even his later fiberglass rods are still coveted to this day. All are great rods and if you live where there's wind, big water, and big fish it's hard to find something better in bamboo. If you live in the Rockies and are considering a bamboo rod take time to cast and fish some Phillipsons. They're hard to beat and still can be found at fairly reasonable prices.

Here's a list of some Phillipson rods I have along with my impressions and places I like to fish them.

7 1/2' Peerless impregnated. This rod is a fast little 5 wt. It is actually a pretty good all around rod as it is capable of handling some pretty large fish. It casts very well in the wind. I've fished it all over. Clarks Fork canyon, Newton, Luce, Lamar valley, Fall browns on the Madison. Does well everywhere. It is a little stiffer than what I like for dry fly only fishing but it can handle just about any size trout with ease.

7 1/2' Power Pakt  Really sweet medium action dry fly rod. Excellent for any small stream work. You will smile catching fish with this rod. This is what most people expect a bamboo rod to cast like. It's soft and smooth and great for real delicate work. Hard to find one in this length these days. Shell creek, Tongue, Crandall, Sunlight.

8' Peerless impregnated Another great rod for dry flies and light droppers. It is a little softer than the 7 1/2' impregnated and a better dry fly rod in my opinion. Mends and roll casts very well. I don't like to use this rod on large fish as the tips are pretty fine. It has a nice progressive feel. A very accurate rod with a sweet action. Firehole, Lamar valley, Slough creek, North Tongue, and the Greybull to name a few.

8 1/2 Peerless impregnated Dry Fly Special   I've had a number of these rods and it is probably the best all around rod for this area. It is a little stout for places like the Tongue or the Clarks Fork canyon but really excels on water like the Yellowstone or the Bighorn in Wyoming where there is wind, big fish, and you have to make some longer casts. The tips are still fine enough to protect light tippet. Little dries to heavy buggers, this rod will do it all. Some say this rod is just to much rod for most situations but in the rocky mountain west it is perfect for the waters we fish. The Bighorn, Yellowstone, North Fork, Lower Shoshone. It is my absolute favorite big bamboo rod.

8' Pacemaker  The non impregnated versions are a tad softer and lighter actioned than the impregnated versions.  This is a real sweet medium to medium fast dry fly rod. On days with just a little wind and rising fish this is a great rod. A nice accurate smooth caster and really fun to play fish on. The North Tongue, Clarks Fork canyon, Firehole, Slough creek, and the Greybull are fun with this rod.

8 1/2' Paragon A little more backbone than the 8' version and having a little extra reach can come in handy when mending. A better rod for droppers and light nymphing. Great roll caster. I fished this rod for a long time on the Lower Shoshone and had a blast in the spring when the bugs get going. As long as you don't throw to much weight this rod can handle it. Any of the 8 1/2 non impregnated rods are a good choice for this area and can be one of the best price points you'll find.

9' 5 5/8 ounce Preferred  This is a big rod for heavier flies and bigger fish. It's a great casting rod. You can mend line, roll cast and really get some distance with this powerful rod. It takes a little getting used to as it is heavier compared to graphite but once you do it's performance is fantastic. Yellowstone on a windy day or Wind river canyon rod! Probably even land some steelhead with this rod.

 

Early Spring BWO Hatch

Spring is on the way and everyone is chomping at the bit to get into some dry fly action after a long cold winter of sub surface fishing. We'll just have to wait some more because it is usually the middle of March before the BWO's start coming off in numbers that will get the trout looking up. Midges hatch sporadically all winter long but the little mayflies require a significant increase in water temperature before they become active.

 

If you fish the Lower Shoshone on a regular basis you have probably noticed that in late February and early March the BWO nymphs start to become active. One way to tell when things are about to happen is to start flipping over rocks in some of the shallow riffels. As the sun rises higher in the sky and the water begins to warm the nymphs become active.  You will begin to find them on the bottom of rocks in the shallow warmer waters. The warmer the water gets the more nymphs you will see and the more active they will become. No sign of activity yet this year. Another sure give away that the bugs are getting active is to fish the little nymph along with a midge on a dry dropper rig. In late February fishing the nymphs becomes effective and it will just get better and better until the Mayflies finally begin to hatch in the middle of March. By the second week in March the bugs will start showing themselves every day from about 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. The hatch will get more prolific as the water warms. The first two weeks of April can be some of the best dry fly of the spring season. The best hatches almost always come on still overcast days.

 

You can use bigger flies when the bugs first make their appearance . A #16 dry fly will work for the first week or so and then you will have to drop down to an #18 and even a #20 when the fish get used to seeing anglers on the water every day. Emergers are always effective early in the hatch. Hit the water about 10 a.m. and fish midges on top or nymphs sub surface for the first hour or so. It will be obvious when the fish switch to the mayflies on top. Little sailboats all over and heads everywhere!  Here in Cody as well as in Thermopolis we are blessed with hot springs in the river. The water below the springs is the warmest and the first good hatches start high up in the system just below the hot springs. It may take a couple weeks for the water to warm enough for the hatches to be good throughout the entire river. April 15th is the cut off for BWO hatches on the Lower Shoshone in Cody as the flows will be ramped up for irrigation season. Once the flows come up it will take the bugs and the fish a couple weeks to adjust and normally with the higher flows we are usually back to sub surface action for the most part. You will still find fish rising but nothing like earlier when the water is lower. Thermopolis will remain good all summer. Midges, BWO's, Tricos and Yellow Sallies are the hatches along with terrestrials later in the summer.

 

I look forward to this hatch as much as any hatch all year! It sure is nice to be able to fish in warm weather without gloves after a long winter and even nicer to start getting fish on top. This year we have almost double the winter flows we've traditionally had.  Fishing has been slower this winter on the Lower Shoshone than in the past and I suspect that this could put the BWO hatches even further off than usual. Keep your fingers crossed. We'll just have to wait and see!

 

To see the pictures from some of our latest guided trips click here.

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