The blog has been a little slow since my return from Bolivia. It’s a fact that until today, my last fish was that monster golden dorado. There’s no doubt I’ve been enjoying this. It’s helped me work rather than fish. But today was time to move on.
Move we did. Friends Scott Smith, top guide and owner of Grand Teton FlyFishing and Weldon Jones, guide as well, took me to a special place. A place I’ve known about for years but simply haven’t taken the time to go. The undisclosed place is a long drive, a long boat ride followed by a long hike through some of Wyoming’s most uninhabitable territory. Most the residents here will eat you in a heartbeat!
We drove there last night. Then this morning we made the hour long driftboat ride across the lake with Scotty’s new 6hp Mercury. The weather was surprisingly cloudy and cool and we felt a few shots of rain, enough to put on my Simms Paclite Jacket.
Once across the lake we tied off the boat on some rocks at the base of a waterfall, attached some big terrestrials to 9’ 1X leaders and began our hike/wet wading adventure deeper into the backcountry. Once up over the falls we got our first look at the no less than spectacular river. It was glassy calm and moving slower than bonefish flats on the Henry’s Fork – a favorite place of mine.
As we stared at this amazing piece of water the sky blackened. It wasn’t rain or clouds but rather the mosquito air force. Three minutes into the hike and Weldon was sprinting back to the boat for bug dope. I had some on me but it was almost gone. An empty tube of Ultrathon would have undoubtedly resulted in untimely death for the three of us.
Trudging beside the river was difficult. As you stumbled along slipping on clumps of grass and falling in holes you not only awoke more mosquitoes but also swarms of aggressive horseflies. I opted to head up to higher ground and traverse a hillside to avoid them. However after the fourth massive pile of fresh bear poop I returned to suffer at rivers edge with Scotty and Weldon.
There wasn’t much going on. There were no hatches and zero rising fish. So after picking off a few dink cutthroats and rainbows blind we reeled in and hiked for an hour. We passed an impressive canyon that I couldn’t help but climb down and make a few casts. The excursion resulted in a minor ankle twist and a few more small fish. We were here for big browns so we moved on.
Another hour of hiking brought us to an even more impressive piece of river and a seemingly endless valley. The epic view would have fulfilled your favorite western movie and some. By now the sun was out and the heat waves blurred the ground. The hoppers were clicking so loud we just knew we were about to crush some huge browns. But we didn’t.
For the next six hours, Scotty, Weldon and I fished our way upstream. We covered the few rises we saw and methodically drifted our flies over every deep run and along undercut grassy banks. Based on Scotts and Weldon’s previous trips, we should have caught ten huge browns but instead we caught only three. Not huge browns either, they were respectable but word has it 30 inchers lurk.
Sure, a heap of bruiser brown trout would have elevated the day, but it was a gem nonetheless. It was a privilege to be invited along with Scotty and Weldon to what is one of the last great lower 48 fishing locations. There are huge browns, rainbows and cutthroats here but far better than them; this place provided me that hard to explain “wild” feeling. The feeling you experienced frequently when you were young but hits you rarely as you get older. I cherish this feeling.
There were some side adventures of note. I got separated from Scott and Weldon. I’m always the guy. There were occasional side channels entering the main river. I hiked everyone of them and within ten minutes or so I’d be back to the main channel and there would be Scotty and Weldon. This was not the case on the last one. I fished up this small channel for 45 minutes and the channel continued veering away from the main river not towards it. I was spanking 14 inch browns and rainbows on every turn. I couldn’t stop. But then I found some wolf tracks in the mud and got that sick feeling. Yikes! Was I being watched? (See my tiger story). That was it, I backtracked to the main river and sure enough this put me far behind Scott and Weldon. Knowing they’d figure out I was missing and begin to worry I attempted to catch up.
It was getting late. The last thing I wanted was to hike deeper but I had to. I didn’t want the guys looking for me all night out there. My quickest method was to head back to the bear infested hillside and walked deeper into the wilderness.
As I hiked I was immersed in a juniper forest expecting a mountain lion to pounce on me at any second or a grizzly to startle and eat me. Honestly it was the creepy hike from hell. Every so often I’d yell as loud as I could hoping to hear the boys but they were deafened by the river. At least I was scaring critters so I kept it up. Finally after an hour of this desolation Weldon returned a yell. They were about a half a mile away as far as I could tell and I yelled I’m heading back. Indeed they were looking for me. An hour later we regrouped.
That should have been the end of our day – a happy one hour grunt back to the boat. But instead I came within a glance of ripping prairie rattler fangs from my calf. I was third in line. Generally, the hiker in the lead scares a rattlesnake into rattling and everyone has time to step back. But I came within inches of planting my Simms Wading Shoe right smack on the middle of this three foot snake that opted to give us the silent treatment. That is till I almost stepped on him. His rattle went off like a fire alarm and I leapt backward like a little girl. Dang that was a close one!
We returned to the boat after our adventurous hike at 6:45 PM. The great thing about Weldon’s boat is its cooler, a cooler full of cold beer! The hour long putt-putt back to the truck was perfect length for a cigar and two beers. All three of us leaned back and took in the sunset. The ride was as good as the day itself. I pulled in my driveway at 12:30 AM this morning.
I’ll be updating more often from here on out. Its One Fly practice time and I’m deeply into my art of late. I’ll be posting a roosterfish painting shortly that so far is my best art ever. It’s a gift for my roosterfishing partner, Sammy Vigneri.