Despite the gorgeous day, all yesterday’s presentations at Simms Ice Out were packed. I was expecting a small crowd for mine because it was from 11:30 to 12:30. Man was I wrong. Folks put huge value on hearing how I’ve pulled off so many great international fishing trips in my life and there were over 200! Just as fun and exciting was last night. While a bluegrass band played in the background, Dave Whitlock, Derek DeYoung and I demonstrated our art as folks ate, drank and visited.
Today I fished with my long time pal Doug Mcknight of Livingston, Montana and new friend (met yesterday) Dale Spartas. Like many of my friends, Doug worked for me in the fly shop in Jackson, Wyoming. He’s presently a well known guide, fantastic artist and an unbelievable fly tier. If you feel like adding some cool new patterns to your box, check out some of his original flies. It was great to meet Dale at the Simms event. Dale and I have many mutual friends. Dale has been a top outdoor writer and photographer for more than 30 years. If you read any of the major outdoor fishing and hunting magazines then you’ve seen his work.
Our initial plan for today was to float the Yellowstone River. However, this continuous unseasonably warm weather has elevated water levels through the roof. The Yellowstone River rose 1000 cfs in the last 24 hours and although I have my “muddy water” fly options, if there’s a better fishing choice, I take it. Dougy had a lake in mind.
This was no ordinary lake. Doug made friends with one of the local ranchers in Paradise Valley and this lake is full of stunningly strong rainbows as well as a few burly brook trout. If you’ve read this blog over time than you know I love fly fishing lakes.
We left a windy Livingston at around 9. I took in the scenery from the backseat while Dale and Doug who were meeting for the first time shot the breeze. It’s been awhile since I’ve been up this way and I was quickly reminded how beautiful Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River is. Once to the ranch it was a bumpy 20 minute dirt road to the lake.
The lake is nestled in the side of the mountains. Doug was here two weeks ago and he showed us where an elk carcass was before the mountain lions finished it off. There was still snow then and the cat tracks were everywhere. We launched the boat in a breeze but by first stroke of the oars the lake was glassy calm. I had two nymphs tied on a level 15ft 3X Fluoro leader. My point fly was a Euro nymph that resembled a crane fly larvae and 5ft up my leader I had a red chironomid size 16 dangling as my dropper. Doug looked at my rig, lit a cigarette, smiled and said, “You are going to crush this place”.
Most lake fly fishers attack with leeches and streamers. And there’s no doubt that both flies can be deadly. For some reason however, I love hand twisting nymphs along the bottom of a shallow lake. Sure enough, on my first two casts I landed two fat rainbows. This place was mine. Just like Dougy thought it would be.
It wasn’t as easy as you might think however. The trout weren’t on the bottom. In fact, if your flies got too deep you were out of the zone and you couldn’t buy a fish. My success was coming from about exactly four feet below the surface. Instead of using my usual, a Scientific Anglers Stillwater Line, I was using a floater. I’d let my flies sink for a five count then begin the retrieve.
The three of us caught so many fantastic rainbows and two nice brookies it was incredible. The weather was so nice it was hard to believe. We had not an ounce of wind in one of the windiest areas in the US. And the temperature topped 80º! This was a perfect spring fishing day.
By 4 PM we knew life couldn’t get any better so we packed it up. We’d caught enough fish for the day. Any more and we’d spoil ourselves for tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, I considered driving all the way home tonight. I haven’t exactly been home much and I’m getting kind of anxious to be home for awhile. However, Dougy tossed out another lake idea that may have some more big rainbows, brookies and even some brown trout. Can’t refuse that!