Fall is the time for get togethers with my friends whom are guides, fly shop employees, fly fishing instructors and those who are just too dang busy to spend time with in the summertime. Fall is the time when fly fishing people do less working and more fishing. These last two days was the end of the year party with my old fly shop staff. Even though I’ve been out of the fly shop and guiding biz exactly six years almost to the day, I’m happy to say they still bring me along.
“They” is now Grand Teton Fly Fishing and its Scott Smith who is the main owner and founder of Grand Teton Fly Fishing. Scott worked his way from fly shop employee to casting instructor to guide and eventually to be my head guide by the time I left. It was an amazing process to build the company and acquire some of the best fishing permitted water in North Western Wyoming. Now four years in Scott has it under control. For the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park fishing trips, Grand Teton Fly Fishing is who I recommend.
October 25 – Day 1
Sunday morning six of us met at 9 AM in Jackson and carpooled four hours to Thermopolis, Wyoming where the Wind River becomes the Bighorn River. Minus a couple stops along the way to take in the incredible October scenery, we arrived directly at a boat ramp and pushed off the boats before 2 PM.
Everyone was stoked to be fishing together and there was a lot of goofing off and fun times in order as we put the boats in. But we were quick to snap into seriousness when we noticed big rising trout in all the likely spots on each bank. Josh Gallivan (Sicket) went into action and on the first cast hooked and landed this proper brown trout on a size 20 purple Comparadun.
Our weather was fantastic. There wasn’t an ounce of wind and the temperature hovered in the low 60°s. Most of the leaves have left the trees so it’s sort of weird having leafless trees but such nice weather. The water temp of the Bighorn is warmer that it should be for October as well but fortunately it didn’t stop the tiny Baetis from hatching. I grabbed a size 20 Trico and tied it on without readers – something not many 50 somethings can do. Though not a perfect representation of the Baetis its small size was what was needed and the Trico went on to catch its fair share.
Day 1 was productive as long as you could see a tiny fly. If your eyesight was at all hampered the going got tough. While Scott, Sicket and I had a respectable afternoon of dry fly fishing the other guys didn’t do as well. But they stayed more with big ants, streamers and nymphs and the trout just weren’t into those flies.
We overnighted in Thermopolis and Scott treated the crew to an evening of dinner and beers at the Safari Club. The Safari Club is a unique hotel and bar that suites multiple day fishing trips to Thermopolis perfectly. We had a great dinner and I was able to find my long lost billiard skills for a few games.
October 26 – Day 2
This morning charged in fast but luckily it doesn’t get light till almost 8. Ben Brennan and I got an early breakfast and watched the rest of the group limp in for coffee around 9. I guess some of the guys didn’t spend last weekend celebrating someone’s 50th so they took it a little further than normal last night. Like every day this October, temps were unseasonably warm early in the day but there were a few threatening clouds drifting in.
We floated the least fished part of the Wyoming Bighorn today. The stretch doesn’t see the pressure of the rest of the river due to two diversion dams. Both dams have taken their share of drift boats over the years due to rogue waves, hidden sharp boulders and the actual waterfall like drops in both. This time of year the level of the Bighorn is so low you can’t float over the diversions and need a few crazy guides to wade and drag the boats. This part was not a problem for our crew.
Dealing with less boat traffic wasn’t the only reason we chose this stretch today. We were looking for some less pressured fish that would be easy to catch. We caught them yesterday but it took patience and small dries. We wanted to do some streamer fishing with hopes of tagging a few big browns. Our choice paid dividends and not only did we stick a few browns on streamers but the risers ate the big summer Chernobyl ant patterns as well. Fishing was on!
The best fish of the trip came on my last cast. I’d been going back and forth from dry to streamer hitting all the mid river troughs where big browns hold in October. I smacked my double streamer rig down and let it swing (a good technique in fall). On the first strip I got a yank and downstream without a jump went what I quickly guessed to be an oversized brown. At the same time Scott hooked up as well and his leaped and it was a rainbow. All this happened as the takeout ramp came into sight.
Scott and I battled while Sicket steered and gradually beached the boat by the ramp. Then he netted Scotts rainbow and seconds later my brown. The net had over 5lbs of trout – 2/3rd brown trout and 1/3rd rainbow. What a way to end a trip!
That’s likely my last trout for a while. My travels start Friday with a short trip to the Florida Keys for a Simms shoot. Then one night to San Francisco to speak at the Henry’s Fork Foundation Banquet then off to Africa. Stay tuned. . . .