September 11, 2010
While many fly fishermen still don’t like the sounds of competition fly fishing, I personally love it. I love when every fish has meaning and I love a day on the water when someone is keeping score. It’s an adrenaline rush that I used to thrive on when competing in the World Fly Fishing Championships. While the Jackson Hole One Fly Contest is not nearly as demanding as World Competition, it is competition nonetheless. And the Good Times Team is in it to win.
I awoke at 4:30 am without and alarm and meticulously went over my gear one last time. My stuff was ready three days ago but I just wanted to be sure. At 5:30 Rob Parkins picked me up and off we went to breakfast at the Gun Barrel Restaurant where the guides pick up all contestants for the day. I wolfed down a heap of food knowing there would be little time to eat lunch during the days contest. Then I met up with the competitor I fish against in my boat (It happens to be long time friend Joe Debryan) and our guide Charles Kempe and off we went to the Wilson Bridge Boat Launch.
The way the One Fly Contest works is each angler draws a random stretch of river and floats it with a randomly drawn guide and a person from another team. There are about 40 teams of four anglers each. Therefore there are 160 anglers spread out all over. The guide is the judge and measures and counts the fish caught. Every fish you catch is worth 2 points. It doesn’t matter if he’s 2 inches or 20 inches. He’s two points. Then, you are allowed to measure eight fish, six of which earn you bonus points. How many bonus points depend on the size of your eight measured fish. For instance a 12” trout is worth 10 points while a 16” fish is worth 60 points. Measured fish must be over 12”s and although it sounds easy to catch eight fish over 12”s, you would be surprised how many anglers don’t. If you don’t measure at least six, your score will be low.
Anyway, Joe, Charles and I had planned our attack on Thursday night at the cocktail party once we knew we drew each other. Even though Joe and I are competing for our own teams, it’s still advantageous to work together and fish similar flies. Per our discussion with Charles, we were set on making our one fly choice a dry fly. However, last night at the One Fly Dinner, I heard that the dries didn’t do so well yesterday on our stretch so I started considering a streamer. Now if one guy streamer fishes and the other dry fly fishes than each angler is hindered by the other. In other words I had to get Joe to do the same or stick to the dry. We discussed it and although Joe was a little reluctant, being the good guy that he is, he said he’d do it.
Our guide Charles Kempe wasn’t there last night so this morning we caught him by surprise when we told him we decided against the dry fly and were going with streamers. He had tied us each a bomb proof dry fly to use today. However he too knew the dry’s fished mediocre at best yesterday and was excited at the thought of a streamer. It was a done deal. I fished an olive weighted eyeballed streamer tied by Scott Sanchez and Joe fished his concoction that was browner in color.
It was cold as heck at the boat ramp at 8 am. There was a thick frost formed by the fog lifting off the Snake with the sunrise. It was going to be awhile before the cutthroats woke up. At 8:30 the tournament started and Charles pushed us off. Knowing the fish may not be eating yet, Joe and I each fished conservatively, not wanting to risk losing our one fly. Then at about 9:15 Joe landed a 14 incher. He wisely had Charles measure it and Joe was on the board. Joe went on to measure a 12 incher at about 10:30 yet I still didn’t have a fish. I hadn’t even rolled one yet and although there was plenty of time left (we fish until 4:30) I was ready for my first. Then finally I got one that was 15 inches at 10:40.
Our fishing improved as the day went on. Things warmed up considerably and soon it was one of those spectacular September days that Jackson Hole Wyoming is famous for. The sky was blue, the temps were around 70º and the Tetons were gleaming over the valley. Best of all, by noon, Joe and I each had four measured fish. I was very lucky in that one of mine was 17 inches and one was 18 inches long. It was obvious the streamer was the correct choice. There was little to no hatch occurring and we talked with competitors fishing dries from other boats and they weren’t doing well.
By 4:30 Joe and I each filled our measured fish cards and had a pile of 2 point fish to go with it. Our scores were excellent for that stretch of river. Joe scored around 380 points and I scored 450 points. Compared to most others, we were top scorers on Wilson to South Park. When I got back to the Gun Barrel Restaurant for dinner to catch up with my teammates, I found that everyone did well. Best of all, Gary Eckman, who was on the South Fork River today, caught a 24 inch brown. That trout alone earned him 300 points! He managed three other measurable trout and he scored over 500 points. With all our success today we are excited to say we are in 2nd place. Gary is in the top ten for individuals and I am in the top twenty. Best of all for me, I have the South Fork of the Snake River with Mike Bean tomorrow. I should be able to at least score another 400 points that should lift my standings and keep our team in the running. Things are good!
Sorry there are not more photos but you can’t put down the rod in competition too often. I can tell you there is a picture of Gary’s big 24” brown. I will get it posted as soon as I get the photo from Gary.