A Fun Day with Turtles and Old Friends

by | Jun 14, 2024 | catching turtles | 1 comment

Henrys-Fork-Ranch

Photo by Nick Kelly

I miss Idaho on June 14th and 15th and always will.  Today a get together of the truest trout bums happens on the Henry’s Fork for the famous Railroad Ranch opener.  There are a few young folks but most are in their 60’s ranging to their 90’s.  Some haven’t missed an opener since the 70’s.  Maybe longer.  Granny and I made 25 straight openers and became friends with these legends.  I finally broke our streak when I was off traveling somewhere.  It was an incredible run though.  I met some of the coolest hardcore dry fly anglers of all time and became a decent dry fly guy myself.

 

AJ-DeRosa-Jackson-HoleBut today my new chapter in life here in Wisconsin continued.  Instead of a western walk into the Ranch with a PMD tied to a long leader on my 4-weight, I met Bob Butler at a boat ramp with longtime Jackson Hole fishing guru, AJ DeRosa.  I had a 9-weight with a musky fly and a 6-weight and a Clouser for smallmouth bass.

 

AJ moved to Jackson in the 60’s and has been in the guiding business all this time.  His business has evolved over the fifty plus years from guiding the Snake to outfitting Yellowstone Lake trips and now scenic Snake trips from his classy wooden boats.  AJ has roots here in Northern WI and he’s been finding himself out here avoiding the western crowds more and more each year.  Today he joined Bob and I on a float.

 

snapping-turtleIts turtle nesting season and I’ve moved at least half a dozen painted turtles from the center of busy roads this week.  Yesterday I tailed a big snapper and got him across right before a speeding semi took him out.  Early this morning as we launched the boat, I took a few pics of this gorgeous girl laying her eggs.  Unfortunately they love that loose dirt found on the edge of every road in America.

 

flyfishing-WisconsinWe pushed off before 7 AM and started what would be a shockingly slow day of fishing.  We didn’t see another angler, a boat, not another soul.  We expected smallmouth through the wazoo but the river was silent.  Nearly silent that is.  There’s a bend where Granny and I saw a large musky last year.  I was ready for him this morning and lo and behold, he followed my fly.  But he was too smart to make such a careless mistake.

 

Believe it or not, three hours into the float we caught no more than two baby smallies.  I was gazing downstream wondering what it would take to get the fish hungry when I noticed a turtle basking on a log – much too big to be the ever so common painted turtle.  I identified it as a northern map turtle.  One I’ve never held before.

 

Currier-map-turtleFew know it about me but I’m nuts about reptiles, especially turtles.  I grabbed the net and asked Bob to put the sneak-row job on the rigidly shelled turtle.  From what I’ve read, map turtles are one of the shiest and sure enough she plopped off the back side of the log.  It was shallow and I asked Bob to continue my quest.  The map was scurrying along bottom in 3 feet deep water.  She was trying to wedge under a log but didn’t fit.  There wasn’t enough room for the net so I leaped off the bow and dunked right in.  “Got her!”, I shouted.

 

map-turtlePumped to say the least.  I stood up with this beautiful turtle clenched between two hands.  The look on Bob’s and AJ’s faces was precious.  At first it was a look of surprise and dismay.  There I was soaked to the bone with a turtle, giggling like a twelve year old.  Their shock quickly turned to laughter.  It’s not a new fish for my list, but a new species I can say I caught from the wild and released.

 

After that cool sidebar adventure, next came a shot at a softshell turtle.  I caught a baby softshell on one of my first trips here but this one was stout.  They seem a bit cleverer and this one disappeared into a rapid.  I suspect it won’t be long before I’m showing one off here on the blog however.

 

smallmouth-bassMeanwhile, AJ kept fishing hard.  As we all know from this blog, when you fish hard there usually comes a payback.  Sure enough, AJ went tight from up against a grassy bank with some wood and a drop off.  It was a slab of a smallmouth.

 

Smallies are known for their fights.  Most anglers are familiar with this fight from lakes.  On the rivers however, the fight is even better.  The river dwellers aren’t only smallies but they contend with current their entire life.  This nice 17” smallie gave AJ a run for his money.

 

So the fishing was slow today but we made big out of a few things.  A common snapping turtle laying eggs at sunrise, an oversized female map turtle, a near run in with a softshell then finally, a porcupine drinking from the river and a nice fish.  And best of all it was fun to catch up with an old friend.

 

It’s the weekend now so probably no fishing until Tuesday of next week.  And hopefully Granny will be back to 100% so she can be here with a fish or a turtle too!

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

1 Comment

  1. Howie

    Love those reptiles! Thanks for saving the turtles.

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Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

Contact Jeff

I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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