I met up with the fellas at 6 AM in the Albertsons parking lot in Jackson. We hopped in Tom’s car and enjoyed catching up on the hour drive to Pinedale. At 8 am we were pushing the boat off. It’s been unusually hot here and already it was in the upper 70ºs. The water was obviously high. All three of us are very familiar with all the waters of this area and we were a little concerned. However, high as it was, clarity was not bad. There was no doubt that fish could see a fly.
I’ve been craving twitching big dry flies along the banks immitating stoneflys. Normally by this time of year I’d have ten days under my belt. But this summer conditions have not allowed so with the chance of it working that’s how I started. John was rigged up with a dry and nymph below and it didn’t take long for him to lay into his first fish. The fish was a 13” brown trout and during the first two hours John caught several similar. I fished the dries unsuccessfully for an hour and then switched to streamers. My streamers were on my usual rig, my Ross 6-weight rod with my SA Stillwater line. Rather than fish my usual three flies, I fished two. I had a brown crystal bugger on the point and a black screamer up about five feet. I caught only one fish in an hour but it was good brown of about 18 inches.
One of the reasons for today’s float was for Tom to check out the river for his upcoming guide trips. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been guiding a certain river; you always need to check it out without clients to start the season. Rivers, particularly after a major runoff, change considerably. Side channels relocate, ranchers sometimes run a fence across a stretch of river, hatches can vary and even boat ramps can get damaged. Because of this, Tom held the oars most of the day. It was probably best anyhow because this rock filled river is a dangerous row in such high water. There are also a few diversion dams, one in particular that John and I not only got out of the boat to reduce some weight but we were a little nervous as we watched Tom navigate through.
By mid day we had the river solved. We could catch the few fish we saw rise with gray drake patterns. On the real soft water inside turns we could turn fish on the streamer with some reliability. But the best fishing came from the nymph below the dry. I’m not big on the nymphing these days but I succumbed and actually mended nymphs along the banks without and indicator. I guess you could call it a European method that I tweaked for fishing out of a boat. And with a little practice works quite well and today was no exception.
The afternoon brought in some nasty thunderstorms. At one point the lightning got so bad we pulled over to get away from the water and graphite rods. I hate these electrical storms more than running into bears on a hike. Once the worst storm passed by we were able to fish continuously and for awhile fishing was unreal. Everywhere you dredged your nymph you caught at least a respectable brown trout. But we had some huge wind to contend with and some torrential rain. The rain was the worst part. We were protected in our raingear and getting wet was nothing to worry about, but the river quickly became noticeably off-color and rose several inches. Once river conditions got really bad our fishing was over.
I just rolled into the house here at 9:30. I should be exhausted but I’m all pumped up after an incredible day. We had great fishing, entertaining weather and I fished with a couple great friends. This will be a short season and one needs to cherish these days.
The only bad thing about today is that river conditions have taken a reversal. We got so much rain today that the cfs charts show a rise in the waters. Not just around Pinedale but overall in the Yellowstone area. Granny and I are planning to drive back down to Pinedale to wade fish the next two days but I’ll need to check the charts again in the morning. Stay tuned. . . .