Fall- Winter Newsletter
September
2012 - March 2013

08/25/2013

 
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Be sure to check the current fishing report for frequent updates on our conditions and latest fishing excursions.

March 24th

Hatchery Fish

One of the things the Game and Fish have been doing for many years now is releasing their old over the hill brood stock into some of our rivers and lakes for our enjoyment. We have been observing this for many years and it is honestly a great idea in many ways.

These fish have lived a very sheltered life. They are kept in concrete tanks in close quarters and fed like live stock. They exert no energy to survive other than to eat and spawn. They can reach maximum weight and size very quickly but on the down side they are big out of shape couch potatoes so when they hit a river with current and have to fend for themselves they can have a very difficult time. They want to go back to no current and a constant supply of food just as most of us would!

We affectionately call them Ugly Stockers. We've actually named a day in mid winter after them and we get together to see who can catch the ugliest one while wearing a Santa Claus hat! They can be identified by their massive size, strange coloration, small unformed and worn or missing fins, and their desire to ravenously consume anything that hits the water. Some males have large calluses on their lower jaws from rubbing on the concrete tanks. Some look a bit better than others but they are easily identified once you've seen a few.

The thing I've noticed most is the amount of pleasure the older people, kids, and even some serious fly fisherman get out of hooking these beasts. The look on a little kids face when he lands a 6 or 7 lb trout is priceless! Older people with less mobility can go to easy access spots, fish on their own and have a ton of fun without putting themselves in harms way. They are big strong fish and anyone can catch them pretty easily if you know where to look for them. A great way to provide for less mobile fisherman!

I've been watching these fish for many years. Lots of them simply can't make the transition from captive to wild and die off the first year. Some do make it and the transformation they go through is nothing less than incredible! It's almost like a salmon. Within just one season their color reverts back to natural, their fins begin to grow back (unless clipped at the hatchery), and the calluses begin to recede.  Their body shape goes from an out of shape stocker to a muscular wild fish. It's amazing! Some even spawn and continue to help populate the system. It's a win win for everyone!

Here's a few pictures from some of our past Ugly Stocker days. Again, we thank the Game and Fish for their efforts to provide fun and enjoyment for all levels of fisherman. Next time you catch a massive trout that doesn't look quite kosher, you'll know what happened. Enjoy the picts!

              

    Wild Fish in the Middle and Stockers on the left and right!                           

 

 March 15th

North Fork

Trout Unlimited  local chapter president Dave Sweet, Tim Love, and I decided to check out the North Fork on the 15th just to see if by chance there were any fish in the river yet. As soon as I saw the river I knew it was looking promising. There was a lot more water in the river than I expected and though it was off color it was very fishable.

 

The wind howled all day with gusts up to 30 mph. The water is still pretty cold and first couple holes we tried were very slow. We did catch a couple of fish but nothing special. We hit another spot and we all immediately were into fish but most were ldr'ed and some just plain missed (at least by me). By about 11 a.m. things started to pick up with Dave and Tim consistently catching fish. They began getting into some doubles and by noon it was on!

 

Dave's little 5wt Sage was struggling with the wind so I let him try out the new Hardy Pro Axis 8wt. It sounds like over kill but it turned a struggle with the wind into an easy exercise in catching fish. It is a very, very fast rod and it is made for longer casts, wind and big flies. I usually only use it in the salt but it made dealing with a 30mph wind a breeze and turned out to be a good tool on a day like this. Tim had his Yellowstone Special that I made for him a couple years ago. As far as a bamboo rod for bigger fish and windy conditions it does a fantastic job and leaves you with a smile on your face. Dave was pretty impressed at how well it handled the wind. It is a Phillipson taper with Granger special wraps and an original Granger reel seat. The rod is impregnated for easy maintenance. Very classy with the Hardy Bougle.

 

The fish are in very good shape and of good size this year. They fought hard and we even had a few jumpers. We we did see a couple risers. The day exceeded my expectations all the way around. Good company, no other fishermen in sight and quality fish on the end of your line on a regular basis. The run is about 2 weeks early probably due to the lack of ice on the reservoir and warmer temps bringing up the flows a bit. I see no reason why the fish shouldn't make it above the closure by April 1st. If this is any indication of things to come it looks like the summer should be excellent on the North Fork. We'll just have to wait and see. Enjoy the pictures!

 

March 8th and 9th

The Bighorn at Ft Smith

Anthony Aguirre and his son Alex invited me to fish the Bighorn in Ft Smith with them for a couple days. These are two of my absolute favorite guys in the world. Just a class act all the way! We met a couple of other friends Eric and Scott from Colorado at a killer house right on the river that they had rented. Leather couches, tying table, outstanding chow, and heat and a shower. All these are things I had never experienced before while fishing the Bighorn and I have to say, it didn't suck! Eric and Scott had been there for a couple days already and filled us in on what was happening.

The river has been the lowest I'd ever seen it all last summer till now. It was still pretty cold and the hatches hadn't really gotten going good yet. The water, being low and crystal clear, had the fish pretty spooky if they were rising. Streamers were an option but with cooler water temps even later in the day it was hit or miss. Nymphing was the most dependable as usual but it wasn't a gimmy. O.K. so we had to go to work!

The first day we were bound and determined not to nymph. We threw streamers and when the opportunity presented itself we fished dries. It was tough! The streamer fishing was very slow. Every once in a while we got hit but it was few and far between. I think the water is still just a bit to cold. The risers were in very shallow flat water sipping midges on and just below the surface. If you got any closer than about 35 feet they went down and moved further away before they would resume rising. If you continued to pursue them they would quit you all together. Very challenging fishing! After lunch we found a pod or two that were rising fairly consistently and we did manage to get 6 or 8 fish on a #22 black cdc midge. We saw about 2 BWO's and the fish that were taking those we also were able to catch. Then the wind came up and the action ceased on the surface. Finally we tried a little deep nymphing and still not much action. As a last ditch effort I rigged up a dry dropper and cast to the spots that were similar to where we caught fish on dries. That was the ticket for the rest of the evening. Fish taking a little midge about a foot down on the edges and on some seams.

The next day we had a plan. We started with a couple of nymph rigs and kept a dry fly rod ready in case we ran into the risers. Alex was on fire pretty much from the put in. He caught fish all day nymphing with a soft hackle sow and a 3/4" wine San Juan worm. He'd had a tough day the day before getting skunked and he was making up for lost time now. He was the hot stick in the boat for sure. Anthony was catching a few but not near as many as Alex. He did catch the bigger fish of the day so we'll call it a draw. Interestingly, they were both fishing exactly the same rig and Anthony was in the front of the boat. I had only one fish all day. We did encounter the risers but again, in the morning they were all but impossible to catch. By noon where we'd had luck the day before with the dries, the wind came up to about 20 or 25 mph and about all we could do was toss streamers with not much luck. Ironically, Eric and Scott were having a good afternoon with the streamers but didn't have any luck with the nymph rigs. No rhyme or reason to any of it really.

I had a fantastic time! Good friends, great evenings tying flies, and plenty of good stories passed around. More and more the actual catching becomes inconsequential to how much fun you can have on a road trip. Eric and Scott got interested in the bamboo and are planning a trip up to make some blanks. The disease has begun to spread again!  My wife came up and spent the night Saturday and on the way home we were already putting together another spring fishing road trip. This is a great time to take a couple of days and hit the road. The weather is turning and the fishing should continue to get better and better. Enjoy the picts!

 

March 7th

Lower Shoshone just keeps getting Better!

With the warmer temperatures and progressively heavier hatches the lower Shoshone is pretty impressive right now. Hatches are very consistent right now. From 10 a.m till 4 p.m. you will go through all the stages of midges and mayflies. Some guys have been having trouble getting fish on top recently. You have to remember the water is very low and clear. The fish are wary. Your best bet is to stay back as far as you can. Even though the fish will continue to rise they know you are there and their guard will be up. Light tippet and fly selection are now factoring in as well. I always use fluorocarbon and most of the time it probably isn't necessary but right now it can really help.  As far as flies, emergers will out fish the dries 10 to 1 until the end of the hatches when all your seeing are heads. Pay close attention to where your flies sit in the water column. If you want to fish sub surface concentrate on the faster water at the top of the runs and you will find some nice rainbows and browns nymphing there. Prince nymphs, sow bugs, zebra midges, just the usual stuff will work. Streamers have been more effective for me later in the afternoon when the hatches have subsided. Some of the biggest fish I have caught lately have been on streamers late in the day. Right now pretty much anything goes. If your still having troubles concentrate on your presentation. Change your position to get a better drift. Change your angle. No need to get frustrated. If all else fails move up a few feet and try a fresh fish. The main thing is get out there and have some fun. It's been quite a while since I've seen fishing this consistently good!

 

February 26th

The Rebirth of a River!

In 2011 we experienced a snow pack that was in the neighborhood of 300% of normal. This resulted in flows below our local tail waters that set records for amount of water and duration of the flows. Both our local tail waters received over 8000cfs for about 3 months straight. This resulted in some radical changes in both streams but the end result is the same. The rivers are in better shape than they have been in over a decade and may contain more fish than they ever have.

The Lower Shoshone was devastated by the super high flows. This river has a relatively small steep tight corridor to flow through for many miles below the dam before it finally flattens out and becomes wider. The high flows made it impossible for the fish to get out of the current. This combined with the fact that all their food was displaced by the raging water resulted in about 90% mortality for the fish. The Bighorn tail water has a much broader corridor to flow through and it has a more gradual drop in elevation. Even though it is tight in the canyon, there are big deep holes where the fish could get under the current and still feed effectively. Through Thermopolis and north the river is much wider so the fish could use the edges and eddies for shelter. The result of the super high flows in the Bighorn was not near as devastating to the fish.

Both rivers had their issues prior to the flooding. For many years the flows had been inefficient as far as keeping the rivers clear of sediment. Both rivers had major problems when it came to the fish naturally reproducing due to insufficient clean spawning gravel. The Bighorn actually had flushing flows established for the spring but even these weren't totally effective in removing enough sediment for the fish to have a good chance at a successful spawn in the spring. Also, these flows came a little to late in the year. Most years the fish were well into the spawn before the flushing flows started and the result was that all the spawning effort prior to the flush was washed away. On top of that the flows were drastically increased for irrigation season further disrupting the spring spawning efforts. This is one of the reasons brown trout do so much better in our tail waters. They have clean gravel and reasonable flows in the fall.

Another area of transformation is in the biomass. The nature of what the fish eat has been altered. With large amounts of sediment in the rivers we saw large numbers of midges, aquatic worms, leaches, and sow bugs. Bugs like caddis and mayflies that require clean gravel and more oxygenated water take a back seat. Now that the bottom is clean for literally the length of the river we are seeing a huge increase in the numbers of caddis and mayflies which results in much better dry fly fishing for us! The Baetis activity is already phenomenal and this year may be the first year in quite a while that we will experience a decent mothers day caddis hatch on the river through Cody. The caddis are already thick at Willwood and are steadily moving up stream every year now.

The numbers and health of the fish population in both rivers is unbelievable this year. There are more fish in both rivers than I personally have ever seen. The Lower Shoshone is boiling with fish this spring feeding on good numbers of midges and mayflies. There are good numbers of fish all the way to Lovell. The Bighorn has always been able to produce larger fish than the Shoshone and now the numbers are way up as well. We all know that when mother nature is left to her own devises she can work miracles but let's give some credit to our local Game and Fish as well. They responded to the devastation in the Shoshone flawlessly! A huge cutthroat stocking was implemented immediately and combined with the natural reproduction the river has gone from almost empty back to phenomenal in just 3 years. These guys are severely under staffed and under funded in my opinion. They have taken a lot of flack in the past for various reasons. All I can say is that our fisheries speak for themselves. You'll be hard pressed to find anything better anywhere in the lower 48.

I guess my point with this article is to say that we don't always know what our rivers need to stay healthy. We interfere with dams and by playing god with the flows and expect nature to just adapt to our wants and needs. Three years ago you never could have convinced me that what the Shoshone needed was to be flushed to the point of killing almost everything off in order for it to be at it's best. We would have never done something that radical on purpose but it was exactly what the river needed to become all it could be. Every river is different. That's why blanket policies aren't the best management practice. I wouldn't suggest we do this to all tail waters but remember what happened here and try to use the knowledge in future management. Every now and then we are handed a gift from above and that is exactly what happened with our local tail waters!

 
 

January 31st

Are there to many guide boats on the North Fork?

I've been spending almost all my time lately on the water fishing. Now that the guiding business has taken off I don't get to fish with as many locals as I used to during prime fishing time and I kind of miss that. This is about the only time I run into people I haven't seen in a while and we get a chance to catch up on life, families, and fishing. Three times this winter the first topic about fishing to come up was, " man there's just to many boats floating the North Fork these days." All I could say was that the past couple years I just haven't fished it that much but every time I did a flotilla of about 7 or 8 guide boats came past about lunch time and piled in under Wapiti bridge each time I floated. The river in the national forest was even worse. All three of these guys were really pretty upset about their fishing experience on the North Fork being compromised by this commercial fleet.

Being a guide, this could have been an uncomfortable discussion but honestly I had to agree. I still have my ways to get around most of it when I do float like putting in very early or at noon and floating till dark but for about 2 solid months every day you can count on 7 or 8 boats floating the same 11 mile stretch of water. Now we all have our opinions on Wyoming water law but if you  owned a house on the river and had a guide boat sitting in the river behind your dream home every day for 2 months during the best days of summer it could get very old. I hear about more and more land owner fisherman confrontations every year. On top of that we have to consider the impact this is having on the fish. From the time these fish hit the spawning beds to the time they make it back into the reservoir there is a fisherman or 3 on every hole on about 40 miles of river. As guides it is in our best interest to be kind to the fish . Be conservationists. At least make an attempt to give the fish a break if you can. It could be that if you have to run that many guides on such a short stretch of water every single day with all the other rivers we have around here you might have to many guides. I guess everyone does things a little differently.

In the end all I could say was that I had to agree with most of what was said. Each individual has to make these decisions for themselves. Bottom line is that if you are just fishing every day to put a dollar in your pocket regardless of the effect it has on your neighbors, the fish, and the environment somewhere along the way you've gotten lost. I struggle with the implications of my job more and more every year. I try to move around as much as possible. Maybe I'm just getting old and sentimental but if we lost any one of these treasures due to something I did it would be more of a burden than I could bear.

 

January 29th

DOD (dry fly or die)

I've never been one to follow and herd or limit myself to just any one way of doing things but you have to admit taking trout on dry flies is one of the coolest feelings on the planet. Ironically, the Cody area really isn't the hatch capitol of the world. We do sometimes get some hopper action and sometimes there are a few caddis, PMD or drake hatches in the summer but between now and April is the best time to fish to rising trout consistently everyday around here. Everyday there is a midge hatch around 11 a.m. and then around 1 p.m. the little mayflies come off.

 

The hatch is best just down stream of the hot spring which keeps the temps up enough for the bugs to hatch all winter. The further down stream you go the less rising fish you will encounter. Fishing flies #16 and down, making accurate casts, and getting good drifts is the game. Once the fish start rising there will usually be dozens of them coming up in one spot. Resist the urge to just cast your fly into the middle of the melee and hope for the best. Starting with the fish furthest down stream in the back of the pack, try to pick them off one at a time. You can usually get them to move out of the herd fairly quietly after you hook them and this way you will end up with a chance at many of the fish instead of just one or two. The biggest fish in the pod will always have the prime lie which is usually at the top of the hole. Take your time and you may be able to get him.

 

If your going to stay on top the entire hatch look for the risers in and closest to the fastest water. Right now the water is as low and clear as it's going to get. This means the fish can see you or any disturbance much better. Earlier, when the hatches first started almost all the fish were pretty easy to catch. Now after two months of constant fishing pressure they have become more wary and selective. Fish rising in the slower water can be much more difficult to take on a surface fly than the ones by the fast water. Faster water gives them cover and seems to make them feel more secure. Most of the time you will be able to put as many casts over these fish as it takes to catch them. Slower water fish, one false move and their down. Last week I even caught fish on a #8 dry fly in the fast stuff. They don't have as much time to look it over and will usually just take it.

 

One last piece of advice. Don't be tempted to use a bright color post on your flies to help you see them better. I used a white post on sunny days and a dark cdc post on cloudy days. This usually gives me enough contrast to see the fly. I have been rejected a lot more when I have tried flies with a brightly colored post. Sometimes I put a bigger but not to intrusive dry in front of the fly their taking to help see where my fly is. After a while you will learn to fish the rise. If your cast is sound you know where your dry fly should be when the leader straightens out. If I see anything move where I think the fly could be, set the hook. You'll be surprised how many times this will produce a hook up.

 

 I hate to admit it but I'm not to the point where all I do is fish dries. I still enjoy some of the other faces of the game to much. If your going to try fishing just dry flies for a while this is a great time to get started. The opportunities are there everyday and it will give you the chance to work on your casting accuracy and presentation. If you do it right you will be rewarded!

 

 

January 25th

Taking the Plunge!

Being an independent fishing guide is one of the best jobs on the face of this planet. It is a path that takes courage and perseverance but if you weather the storm you will work in a beautiful and diverse environment, meet some fantastic and interesting people, and if your lucky, make enough to nicely supplement your addiction to fly fishing. This little essay will give you a general idea of exactly what it takes to get started, grow your business, access your suppliers, and avoid some of the pitfalls that can be encountered along the way.

First, in order to be successful it is mandatory that you are a self motivated individual. Don't assume people will flock to fish with you and your life will be a bed of roses hanging out on the river every day with the rich and famous. Being an independent fishing guide takes planning, commitment, and hard work. If you are satisfied working for other people and having your daily routine laid out for you, you will probably be better off working for a fly shop. If you want to be your own person, run things your way, and are willing to work hard to be able to do what you love, the pay off can be better than you can even imagine! Most things in life that are worth while don't come easy.

I tried the fly shop route to begin with and this particular fly shop just wasn't for me. The owner was overbearing, the fly shop itself was into high pressure sales, and the guiding was in a super competitive everyman for himself environment. I felt like any of the enjoyment gained by working in fishing was being sucked out of me on a daily basis. It just wasn't my kind of place. On top of that I spent two summers working inside while everyone else was fishing for a grand total of about $1200 and got to buy stuff for 10% off retail. I did however, agree to this deal thinking I could at least be paid with knowledge but after two summers I'd had enough. Everyone told me I'd never make it, and it would make much more sense too do something else. That's the last thing they should have said.

One of the first considerations in getting started are the legal issues. You will need to get your name approved and start an LLC. All this takes is getting in touch with an attorney and a minimal fee. The next consideration are permits for where your going to fish. A lot of baloney surrounds this issue but it is very simple. For our area you will need a BLM permit, State Park commercial permit, and possibly a Shoshone National Forest permit. The first order of business when it comes to getting a permit is insurance. There are some companies that offer very cheap policies. Most of these companies don't specialize in outfitters insurance so be ware. Insurance companies that specialize in outfitting can help get the proper indemnifications, help you sure up a proper release form, and basically just know what it takes to keep you well protected. You may be legal with other companies but if an accident occurs will you and your clients be covered properly? That is really why you pay for insurance. Make sure they give you enough of a minimum to cover the requirements of the people issuing the permits. The next order of business is going in and talking to the agencies that issue the permits. You will have to show a business plan, a safety plan, first aid and cpr training, areas you want to fish, ect. My experience with the BLM was very good. Those guys couldn't have been nicer and more helpful. They walked me through everything and really made me feel like they were working hard for me. There was a lot of red tape for them and in my opinion they deserve a lot more than they charge for the permit. The National Forest was a bit different. It turns out that they hadn't issued a new permit for day use fishing in decades. The Forest Service is currently performing an assessment and hopefully it won't be long before permits do become available. They did however, allow you to operate under someone else's permit. The outfits that held the existing permits had literally 100's of unused days left on their allotments every year. Basically, all you have to do is go talk to people and explain what your looking for and see if you can work something out. Make sure your paper work is in compliance with what the Forest requires. Hopefully one day soon things will change but in the mean time this appears to be the only way. I was able to find someone willing to work with me but in all honesty, I rarely ended up fishing in the forest. It is now just to crowded for me in the summer.

Trying to get business without a store front is a daunting task. How do you get connected with those first couple clients. I did three things. I started a web page, I had some brochures printed up and I took out a few advertisements in local tourist magazines and the phone book. I then went door to door to the local bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels and talked to people about what I had to offer. I even paid a company to place my brochures in the brochure racks around town. At first the only business came from business owners telling people about me and friends referring their relatives. Once I had the opportunity to take people out and they had a good experience the people were much more active in referring people to me. Everyone looks good if you do a good job! This worked! Occasionally I would get a call from someone through the phone book adds. Obviously it is necessary to have your name in the phone book but I never got enough business that way to make having even a small ad worth while. Same thing with the brochures and the adds in the local magazines. It never justified the expense. The web site has turned out to be the most effective form of advertising you can buy but it took a long time for it to get going. I highly recommend having a creative, updated, and accurate web site. It pays off big in the long run. The absolute best form of advertising is word of mouth. This also takes some time but if every person you take fishing refers even one person it doesn't take long before you will start building a pretty substantial clientele. It just grows and grows as long as you make absolutely sure you give everyone the best day you possibly can. These days I have a list of everyone that I fish with. I have their email and personal info, phone numbers, physical limitations, and even the names of their family members. If they require special food I list that as well. I make it a point to at least email them a couple times a year on a personal level and update them on future fishing conditions. Several of the hard core guys with flexible schedules, I even call when I run into some really special fishing. These days, between the new referrals and new people finding me through the web, I have more business during the summer than I can handle. I still try to cultivate business in the shoulder seasons. Work it and they will come!

Finding suppliers is not difficult at all. Once you have an LLC, web site, and a card printed up most companies will be willing to put you on the guide program which is a huge savings on great gear. The return for the companies is that you show people the gear you use in the hopes they will purchase it down the road. It's a win win for everyone. There is no better way to sell fly fishing equipment than by putting it in someone's hand to try while they are fishing. In my case I truly believe the stuff I was using was the best and had no problem getting people interested in buying stuff but since my former employer had taken offense to me starting my own business my clients had no place to purchase new gear. Not a problem. I simply contacted another fly shop in Montana, told him I needed a place to send my customers and he was extremely grateful for the business. As a matter of fact the first two years we did business I was averaging selling about 15 high end graphite rods a year. That's $9750 in rods alone per year. It jumped him up on the buying scale so he was able to buy all his rods at a better price plus make a good profit on each rod. He gave each customer a free line and had their names put on the rods for free. He also shipped the rods to the customers residence for free so it was there when they got home. Some customers even bought reels and other things as well so it was a really sweet deal for everyone.  On top of that the rod company got the exposure they were looking for from me. We formed a business friendship and to this day we help each other out if we can. These days there is another fly shop in town I can work with. We give each other trips if we are overbooked and basically work together to help each other any way we can. I send all my clients in there to buy their supplies. They take real good care of me if I need something in a pinch. If they don't have what the clients want I can get it from my buddy in Montana. Sometimes you have to get creative to get what you need but where there is a will there is a way. Working together is a win win for everyone!

Once you get to this point you are well on your way to being successful but don't slack off now. The only thing that can separate you from everyone else in this business is the quality of your service. I am constantly thinking of ways to try and do things better than ever. I give away free dvd's with pictures of peoples day fishing so when they are sitting at their computers at work they can look back on their adventures. If clients catch an exceptional fish I will make a barn wood frame and mail a nicely framed  and matted 8 by 10 to them. I send them some of my fly patterns that they liked while they were fishing here. Any thing you can do to let these people know that you enjoyed fishing with them and that you appreciate their business will help insure that they will be coming back and tell other people about you. I'd say that about 80% of my customers now come back every year or at least every other year. I sincerely appreciate every one of them.

Fly fishing guides can be a huge asset to a local communities economy. Most people that can afford a guided trip are spending money in other establishments as well. They eat in the nicest restaurants, stay in the best hotels, their non fishing partners shop in the local stores, and in general they spend a quite a bit of money in our local. Most of the guys I fish with will usually stay for 4 or 5 days. That can really add up! Any time people have a good experience doing business with someone in town I pass that info on the the next guys. It helps to insure every aspect of their stay is the best it can be. Again, a winning combination for all!

That's about all there is to getting started. It was a lot of hard work to get going and now guess what, it's still a lot of work but there is nothing I'd rather be doing. It is a business and a big responsibility but well worth the trouble. I have met some of my best friends and some very interesting and fun people through guiding and it has opened up more opportunities than I could have ever imagined. It's a dream job allowing you to work in some of the most beautiful places on earth. It might be for you if your willing to do the work! Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 10th

The Myth of the Drag Free Drift!

The hatches on the Lower Shoshone the last few days coupled with some unseasonably warm weather have the fish feeding on or near the surface. It usually starts around noon when you begin to notice some swirls and a few backs and tails. Later in the hatch you might even see a few heads. The flies are small and the hatches are sparse but the fish are on them for a couple hours. Sometimes you never even see the  bugs on the water at all. Usually they are midges or grey or tan mayflies.

Many people like to believe there is a special fly that the fish want and many good flies have been created trying to break the code. Many people believe a drag free drift is a necessity in this type of fishing. I say possibly to the above but at least half the time it can be something else. Movement!

Many of us have dead drifted dry caddis over fish rising to a caddis hatch to no avail. A skittering bug is usually what it takes to get a bite during a caddis emergence. This can also be true during midge and some mayfly hatches. Some mayflies like drakes and PMD's float for a long way on the surface and are fairly motionless while their wings are drying. They usually come off in slower flatter water. Other mayflies like the little winter ones we've been seeing lately are very active swimmers as nymphs and also skitter a bit while trying to dry their wings before take off. Midges are often seen buzzing around on the surface. This movement can sometimes be what the fish are keying on.

For this type of fishing I prefer to be even with or slightly above the rising fish so I can present the flies first before the fish sees the leader or line. I also like to use a visible surface fly like a sparkle dun with an emerger about a foot behind it. If you see a rise set the hook! A good reach cast to get started helps. Getting the fly to the fish after you see it rise as quickly and as accurately as you can is very important. Try to put the fly 12" above where you saw the rise. Many times a quick accurate cast will induce an impulse bite right away. The first couple casts I like to let dead drift over the fish just to see what kind of a mood he is in. After 2 or 3 casts with no love I'll put a little twitch on the fly just before it gets to the spot where the fish is rising. If this doesn't get any attention I'll stop the dry just in front of the fish in order to get the emerger swinging to the surface. Last but not least I'll just let the flies drag across the fishes position giving the fish a chance to take it on the swing or the dangle. Almost always one of these techniques will induce a strike. Sometimes a different technique will be working just up stream in a different type of water but shortly a pattern will form and it's go time.

On the 9th the first group of flies I tried worked like a charm all day. I was having fun so I never changed up. On the 10th I decided to change the second fly all day and I still caught fish all afternoon using one or another of these presentations. It wasn't the fly!

Next time your feeling rejected during a hatch give this a try and I'll almost guarantee you'll get more bites. I've watched many fisherman lay a perfect drag free drift over fish after fish the last two days to no avail. Every now and then I'll see them go to make another cast and have a fish on the end of their line. It could be the movement they are after!

 

 

 

 

It Holds it All!

Side Compartment!

Gear organizers!

Main Compartment loaded!

Rolling!

Good Gear Report!

 Any gear that can withstand the rigors and abuse of a fishing guide and come out alive deserves to be talked about. In this day of rising prices and cost cutting materials it it rare to find a piece of gear that exceeds all expectations. The Orvis Rolling Duffel is such an animal. I've had this gear bag for 8 years now and it has held up beautifully.

 

During the winter months I take time to take a look at all my stuff and decide what needs cleaning, fixing, or replacement. It was time to go through the gear bag and clean reels, wash gloves and hats, and in general just take stock of what I had on hand so I can order for the coming season. For me, the gear bag is an essential piece of equipment. It enables me to put everything fly fishing in one portable spot so I am absolutely sure that I leave nothing behind. There's nothing worse than finding yourself miles from home and finding you have forgotten an essential item. A good gear bag solves that problem.

 

While I was pulling stuff out I noticed that even though the duffel was pretty filthy the zippers, seams, and material were intact. Not bad I thought for the amount of abuse it had seen. I took everything out, filled up the tub and went to scrubbing with just soap and water to find out what was under all the dirt and alkali stains. After a thorough rinse I set in front of the fireplace over night to dry. In the morning I was stunned to see what appeared to be an almost brand new bag. Unbelievable!

 

This bag has been with me almost everyday for the past 8 years. It has been all over this country and to the Caribbean and Central America. The bottom is a ventilated wet storage area for wet waders and boots. There is a water resistant zippered cover that allows you to put rod tubes on top of the wet stuff for storage. The plastic bottom shell keeps the bags shape and houses the wheels and extendable handle for running through airports. The top part of the bag is divided into three zippered compartments. One of the two side compartments I used for extra gloves, hats, hand warmers, sun screen, and bug dope. On the other side I have specialty fly boxes, cameras, and first aid. The huge middle compartment has another three mesh zippered compartments and a nice big main area. One zippered compartment for reels and specialty lines, one for extra sun glasses and bug nets, and one for extra lead, indicators, floatant, tippet, tools, reel grease, ect. The main compartment is for my rain jacket, fanny pack, merino wool long johns, and anything else I happen to toss in.

 

The Orvis Rolling Duffel has past the test and looks like it will last for many more seasons. If you don't already have a gear bag or are in need of a new one I recommend you take a look at the Orvis Rolling Duffel.

On a side note: The Orvis Lazer scissors are the best tying scissors I've ever used! Super sharp tips get you in to cut flush with the shank. They are adjustable and come apart for easy re sharpening! Fantastic scissors!

Bottom Compartment Loaded!

Side Compartment!

Reel Storage!

Ready to Roll!

Annual Christmas Thank You to All!

Once again, last year was the absolute best year we've ever had at Eastgate Anglers. I want to thank everyone very, very much for your support and friendship. Without it I'd simply be another guy living in a van down by the river. The water really cooperated last year. It wasn't a big fish year but the fishing remained really good from March till December. That's a lot of fishing. I've been blessed with many return customers and I want to say a special thanks to all those who come back every year and put up with me and those two dogs. I have made many great friends through guiding fisherman and I truly look forward to fishing with each and everyone of you guys. Last year we also saw a great many new faces as well. I  had a real good time with all of you. Everyone was just great to fish with and I hope you will all come back this year to try your luck in some of the best waters in the lower 48. Last year I was overwhelmed with trips from July till the first week of September.  I have appropriated 2 guides to help out this year to give me a hand if it gets that busy again. They are both local fly fishing fanatics and have been guiding for several years. Last year they did some work for me with some of my oldest dearest customers and passed the test with flying colors. They will be available in case I am already booked. There was a rumor that Mike at the Humble Fly would close his shop this year. Mike has had a rough couple years since his Dad's passing and a really busy season last year had taken it's toll on him. I am happy to report that with a little persuasion from his fishing friends he will be open and ready to roll this year as usual. Those 70 cent fly prices just can't be beat! We're all glad he's sticking with it! The outlook for the coming season is very promising as of January 1st. The snow pack is a little above normal. The weather has been unseasonably warm so far but honestly, we get most of our snow in March, April, and May. Just about everyone is in agreement that we probably will have a normal high water year this year. Those of you who fished last year know that all the rivers fished quite well so just add about 4" to 6" to those fish and things are looking really good. Again, Thanks to all of you guys for giving me the best year to date last year. I'll be out scouting the waters trying to find you the absolute best fishing possible and I am looking forward to fishing with you all again this season. Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year! Scott

 

Raft looks real good from a distance!

Wear from Frame!

Piece cut to cover wear area!

1st wear guard installed!

1st wear guard installed!

New swivels installed!

Buckles taped!

New handle installed!

Pulley mod!

Finished side rail!

Finished Top chafe!

 

Periodic Raft Maintenance and Set Up Tips

Rafts are the craft of choice here in the Cody area. Our rivers are steep and have many places where the bottom of your boat will come in contact with rocks. It's just part of the game. Most of the rafts made today are extremely durable and will last many years if not a lifetime if properly cared for. Most of the time all that is required is a trip to the car wash but when your boat gets to the ten or so year mark there are some things to check that will get you to the 20 year mark safely.

 

I own a 13' Avon and have used it extensively for guiding fisherman for 12 years. This boat has literally been ridden hard and put up wet the whole time I've owned it. It has held up beautifully. At a glance, the boat looked to be almost new to most people. Besides the occasional trip to the car wash the only other maintenance I've had to do is patch an occasional hole in the floor due to scraping to hard on a rock. Never had a puncture in an air chamber. I found another hole in the floor this fall and decided to take the boat all the way down to make sure it will be in prime condition for next years clients. Here's some of the issues I found and measures I took to fix them.

 

I had noticed the seats getting pretty loose. The number one cause of this is simply screws backing out of the bottom of the seat that you can just tighten up. I had already done this and had used a thread locking compound when installing them. My seats have a swivel and a quick disconnect system. The screws were tight but the swivels themselves had worn out. I simply replaced these swivels. One thing to look out for is that they make 2 sizes of swivel-quick release set ups. One 6" and one 7". Make sure you order the right size for your boat. Don't want anyone falling out of the boat due to a failed swivel.

 

I removed the frame and noticed that the straps that attach the frame were starting to deteriorate from sun and moisture. They weren't dangerous but I felt they needed replacement. They are cheap and after 12 years they didn't owe me anything. You'll feel a lot better just knowing they are new.

 

Another thing I did was to refinish the stand up platforms. After years of use they had worn through the non skid coating. I used an epoxy paint recommended for garage floors. The abrasive that comes with it is to fine in my opinion so I sprinkled some coarse sand in it and it worked like a charm. We all know that the problem with paint and water is peeling but so far this epoxy paint is good as new. No sign of peeling anywhere.

 

I cleaned the raft up and looked it over. What I found was that certain areas of the tubes had worn where they contacted the frame. Most rafts come with wear patches on the top of the tubes but the frame contacts the tubes in other areas. These can become thin over a long time. A blow out here while floating could be a major problem and if you address these areas you can extend the life of your raft easily by double. There are generally three types of material used in today's rafts, Polyurethane, PVC, and Hypalon. I ordered some material, cut it to cover the wear areas, and glued it in place with the appropriate glue. I decided to double the material in several spots buy making another patch 4 inches larger and placing it over the first one. That will be enough reinforcement that you'll never have to worry about those areas again. The bottom chafe had worn quite a bit as well and that will have to be fixed with some gum chafing material. The chafe was the most expensive fix ($250, 16.99 a foot plus a 2 quarts of glue). It's not a complicated job anyone can do it if they pay attention to details and it is very cheap as apposed to buying a new boat. The total for everything I have done (new seats, mounts, and swivels, reinforcing the raft top to bottom, painting the floor, and replacing the handles) came to less than $600 and the raft should be ready for another 10 years. Now the raft is actually better than new in these areas and if you do the work carefully it will look just like it came that way from the factory.

 

That was about it for my boat as far as problem areas but here are a few more things to check. The valves can become worn. There are kits that will let you replace the guts very simply or if you have to you can replace the entire unit. Replacing the whole thing is a little more involved but still something anyone with basic skills can accomplish. If your frame uses rivets or screws to hold it together check them. They are easily replaced and if possible I recommend stainless steel. It will last for ever. The two pins that hold the seat backs on can pop out. I always replace these with a stainless steel bolt with a locking nut as soon as I get the seats. You'll never have to mess with those again. Also, check all your ropes to be sure they aren't dry rotted. Check handles and d rings and replace if necessary.

 

The sun is a big enemy of rafts. There is a spray on protection for rafts that can help but in all honesty keeping them inside when not using them is the best bet. You will see a huge difference in a raft that has been inside when not in use as opposed to one that sits outdoors all the time. Letting them sit outside will cut their life in half.

 

One more valuable piece of advice has to do with your anchor system. A smooth operating anchor system in a raft usually takes some tweeking. On my boat the problem came when you released the anchor rope. The rope would jump off the pulley and by the time you got it back on you were way out of shape. I solved this by using a piece of 10 gauge underground wire and wrapping it around the pulley to keep the rope seated in the pulley at all times. It is cheap, fast, durable and requires almost no modification to the hardware. I have used it for many years and never had any trouble with it. Now I can operate my anchor system accurately and easily with one hand with a 35lb anchor no problem.

 

The main enemy of fisherman in the raft are loose ends or protrusions that your line can get tangled on while casting. I remove any unnecessary obstructions and smooth out as many of the areas as I can by taping them up with simple electrical tape. This takes very little time or money but makes a big difference to the guys fishing. All lean bars should be run back into themselves so no line can catch on them. Every time I go out in another craft I am looking for ideas to make what I have better or other systems to rig things better for no hassle fishing.

 

That's about it. Check all these areas and fix what's needed and you will be floating safe and secure for many years to come!

Wear from frame!

Wear from frame!

Wear from frame!

1st wear  guard installed!

New seat mount with floors painted!

Stainless bolts in seat backs!

Obstructions taped!

Pulley mod!

Finished front panel wear guard!

Breaking in a new Bamboo Rod!

November 28th

I have been messing around with some tapers this winter trying to make a rod that is light in hand, light enough in the tip to handle light tippet and small dries, and with enough backbone to handle big fish and wind. I made a blank that cast nicely in the yard and decided to finish it out and try it on some bigger fish. The Bighorn river was a perfect spot to give it a go.

 

The rod is darkly flamed with antique gold wraps tipped black and blued hardware. Classy and stealthy. It is 8'3" long and radically hollowed up into the tips using a scalloping technique. The rod casts a 5 or 6 weight line and has the backbone and power to make long casts and land big fish. I threw some 18 dries today and it presented them very nicely. I have to have a rod that is not tip heavy and balances right under your thumb. This is the key to a rod you can fish all day without fatigue. The rod meets all the requirements. It feels very nice in the hand.

 

I started off tossing a streamer and the rod was able to make 50' casts effortlessly. Hook sets were solid and fighting 18" to 20" fish was no problem. I switched over to a dry double dropper and again, no problem casting. Mending took a little more effort than a 9 ft rod but still not much trouble. Roll casting was much better than expected. This made picking up line and recasting a breeze. All in all I am very pleased.

 

The fish were very cooperative. The soft hackle sow bug was the fly and they wanted it dead drifted today. There were a few risers but they were smaller fish. All the nicer fish all came off seams next to the faster water. Almost all the fish were rainbows with just a couple browns at the end of the day.

 

Making your own fly rods is very rewarding to me. I enjoy every aspect of it from start to finish and especially the fishing. Bamboo is a great material for trout rods and seems to be making a come back recently. If you've never fished a bamboo rod you should give it a try. It just adds a little more enjoyment to your fishing experience. Enjoy the pictures!

October 10th

First Fish on a Fly!

I'm Pretty sure we can all remember the first fish we ever caught on a fly rod. Mine was a complete accident. A friend had loaned me an old fiberglass rod with an automatic reel with a beat up black gnat on a 3 ft leader. I went to the fly shop and bought 75$ worth of flies that "would work" and headed to the North Fork. When I got there fish were rising and everyone was catching them. Only one problem, I couldn't cast! I tried all the flies that "would work" and finally put the beat up old black gnat back on because it seemed to look like what the fish were actually eating. After several hours of" I'm going to learn this today or die trying", I was stumbling up the bank, toes bleeding from trying to wade in sandals, and 30' of line dragging behind down the bank, I felt something. When I started reeling in low and behold, I had a fish and a nice one! This would have been a funny story except I was 38 years old at the time! Somehow I knew at that time that this would be my calling in life.

 

I got a call from a young man last week who was trying to arrange a half day fishing trip for him and his Dad and brother. He had talked to the local fly shops and they insisted that they needed 2 boats to float 3 people at a cost of $900 plus a rental of waders, boots, rods, and the cost of flies leader and tippet. The young man was very polite but thought that was an excessive amount for a couple of guys just wanting to try fly fishing. I told him that I would take them for $250 for half a day on foot. They could use my rods if they would agree to pay to have them fixed in case of accident and that they could use some of my old ratty wading stuff if they didn't mind a few leaks. Also that fly fishing was better learned one on one and that the more people you had the less individual time I would be able to spend with each person to help them through the vast learning curve on the first day. This didn't detour the young man in the least so we agreed for the next afternoon.

 

The guys had gone to church before fishing (which couldn't hurt on your first day) so it was 1p.m. by the time we started fishing. There were quite a few fish working when we got to the water so we rigged up, went over casting quickly, and began trying to catch some fish. I figured we'd just learn as we went as it was already kind of late in the fishing day for this time of year. Everyone managed a few fish in between the tangles and things were looking up for a while but by about 3:30 the bite began to slow. We moved to some fresh water and kept fishing hard but with very limited results. By around 5p.m. the Dad and brother had had enough but William wanted to keep at it. We left the guys at the car and went up stream to try more new water. We tried this and that and finally managed a couple more fish but honestly the bite had been over for a while. I was pretty disappointed with the way things had worked out. I always want people to catch lots of fish, especially on their first experience. If they'd had another day in Cody I would have taken them again no charge.

 

On the way back to the car I apologized for the way thing turned out and said I hoped that this wouldn't sour his desire to learn fly fishing. William said he thought this had been a trip of a lifetime and he had totally enjoyed it. He would be saving for some fly fishing stuff and hoped to be able to come back again and try some more. Amazingly, he was fired up about the day! When we all shook hands and were parting company that evening he even leaned over and slide me a tip! I was stunned. I thanked him and said it was really not necessary but he insisted. Just an outstanding young man! To William this was a very special day!

 

I guess the point is that your first fish on a fly is a once in a lifetime experience. There will be only one and for some of us it can be a life changing event. It changed the direction of my life 180 degrees and I am truly grateful for that. As a fishing guide I have been honored to have been there on many peoples first fish on a fly. To me it is the most important day of your fly fishing career. A true accomplishment and I salute all that have persevered to get there. As teachers of the craft we should do everything we can to be encouraging to those who want to give it a try. At first, fly fishing is nothing but obstacles that you have to learn to overcome and we should do our best try to make it as easy as possible for people to engage in it for the first time. Here's some picture of first fish from this summer! They are not all giants but they are all very special!

September 28th

Pickett creek!

The dogs and I hit the Greybull on the 28th. This was the first time I've fished it since early this spring as I have been guiding like crazy this year. The stream got a huge amount of pressure this year and I had my fingers crossed that everything would still be ok. I had found some dead fish on a stringer in there earlier this summer and a couple of the best holes seemed to be devoid of fish.

 

 

Tons of 4 wheeler tracks on the way down didn't look promising. I did find a fresh bear track in the trail. Looked to be a 2 year old cub. There were human footprints all over the banks when I got to the river which made me a little nervous as well. I made my first cast and a fish came up and ate my fly. There were several other fish below him trying to steal his meal! Things were looking up!

 

 

There was certainly no shortage of fish in the river. Any good looking hole held between 5 and 10 nice fish with smaller fish in between in the riffels. The trees were just starting to turn, the weather was perfect and the bite was on. I thanked god that the fish made it through the summer in fine fashion. These fish always amaze me with their resilience. They took a serious beating this year from us fishermen. I guided down here 2 or three times this summer and every time there were as many as 5 to 10 others fishing this same stretch. I applaud the fisherman who fished the stream this summer for doing an outstanding job of taking great care of this irreplaceable treasure!

 

 

The fish were taking midges early in the day. As the sun warmed things up I began getting some surface action. A big orange Bah Behr was working pretty well. The water is very low and clear and if you don't stay back and make longer casts you will see fish spooking all over. Ask me how I know this. I didn't see any hatches at all. I tried a couple other dries but the Bah Behr was definitely the ticket. Around 2 p.m. the dry fly action slowed. Smaller fish would still come up but the bigger ones wanted something sub surface. A black copper john did the trick.

 

 

It turned out to be one of the best days of fishing for me this year. It was absolutely beautiful with the leaves changing, my worries about the fish turned out to be unnecessary and I was the only one on the water on one of the best wild Yellowstone cutthroat streams left on the planet. It doesn't get any better than this! Enjoy the pictures!

September 24th

The weather is finally cooling of, leaves are starting to change, and fall fishing is picking up around the Cody area. The Lower Shoshone has been just excellent this fall and I only expect it to get better. The flows are below 800cfs so floating is still great. Salad has been an issue recently but a dedicated fisherman can easily deal with that. The river has more fish in it than I have ever seen. The numbers of natural reproduction browns is unbelievable. Babies are all over the shallows and this river is well on it's way to being better than ever before. Float trips have been anywhere from good to great with 50 to 80 fish days. Most fish are 10" to 14" with quite a few 15" to 18" fish on certain days. If you don't catch that many you will at least see that many chasing your fly.

 

The freestones are low and clear which makes for some spooky fish. You have to use stealth and be very accurate with your casting but a great time can still be had if your skills are up to par with these conditions. Dry fly fishing has been very dependable on the freestones. This time of year the fish all drop into the deepest holes for the winter so if you play your cards right you can catch many fish from one spot. The North Fork just didn't put out like it did last year. I've seen more small fish than I ever have before in the river which is a very positive sign for the future but fishing was only real good for a couple of weeks this summer. I gave it a rest this year myself.

 

The lakes are just getting started. I've been fishing East Newton a bit and it's been good. The water is lower than I'd like to see for this time of year and I hope it doesn't get to low before they fill it next June. The browns, splake and brookies are just starting to think about spawning so I haven't seen many of them yet but the rainbows are very willing. Already a ton of people fishing it. West Newton is killer right now if you are in a float tube. The cutts are out in the deep water and are just starting to get active. I've been stripping small buggers and bead heads and doing great and there are even some fish rising in 15' of water to dries. Very fun and a lot fewer (none) people. Luce has really only been fishing fair. Both Luce and Hogan are very low this year. The rainbows in Luce are growing and looking very good. Bank fishing has been tough with the bright sun and low water.  Hogan is so low that many places aren't fishing that well from the bank but if you get into some deeper water the fish are there. Not as consistent as Luce yet but I still hope it will start fishing well soon.

 

Thermopolis has been very good this year and should only get better as the temps cool off. It's been a while since the flows have been this low all summer. Salad was an issue here as well but now is the time to start giving it a try. It's my favorite place to fish in the fall. The browns usually get going the last week of October so look out. The best big fish river in the state.

 

Guided trips are finally slowing down a bit. I've had the busiest season I've ever had! Thanks to all who have made this the best guiding season ever. It is greatly appreciated! Now I am ready to get into some rod building and fishing on my own. Thermopolis? Yellowstone? Livingston? I'll bet I can find something fun to do!

 

Tight Lines!

 
     

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