Fly Fishing at The Flat Creek Ranch

June 7 & 8, 2012

Trey and Shelby Scharp (Trey is one of my partners of the Carp Classic) manage one of the coolest places in Jackson, WyomingThe Flat Creek Ranch.  This historic dude ranch is located on Flat Lake, the headwaters of the famous Snake River Cutthroat fishery, Flat Creek.  The fishing on both the creek and the lake is probably better on the private grounds of the Ranch than anywhere else in this gorgeous watershed.  Today I had the lucky opportunity to head up to the Ranch to help Trey finish up one of his three day fly fishing schools.

Twenty five years living in the Jackson area and I’ve never actually been in the Ranch – legally that is.  Back in about 1987 friend Scott Sanchez and I drove the painstaking road up to the Ranch property border.  Then we hiked around the property through miles of fallen timber, got soaked in a bog and eaten by mosquitoes before finally reaching Flat Lake from the backside.  It turned out we weren’t far enough on the backside and we got thrown off the property by a ranch hand after our second casts.  Our bushwhack hike out was so miserable that I never went up again.  (Today part of the road was Flat Creek as you can see – tough day for my Explorer)

That little episode from back in the day made today that much more exciting.  I was heading back with an invitation.  Also helping with the school was well known fishing guide Patty Reilley.  Patty and I arrived at the Ranch at 1 PM just in time to meet the students and enjoy a scrumptious lunch (Flat Creek Ranch is also known for its cuisine).

After lunch, Trey and I took one of the students, Sue, on the lake.  Unlike yesterdays “weather horror show”, today was crisp and clear with just a light wind, absolutely perfect for lake fishing.  The Ranch boat is a classic AJ DeRosa Wooden boat.  This hand crafted boat may not be the best idea for a raging bouldery river, but for Flat Lake it’s superb and extremely classy might I add.  Trey rowed us to an area he refers to as bonefish flats for cutthroats.  He was right.  As soon as we got there I couldn’t believe how much the bottom looked like the sand of a saltwater flat and how the weeds looked like turtle grass.  Then there were the torpedo sized cutthroats hunting over the sandy patches – man did I want to make a cast.   But this was school, and Trey got Sue rigged up with a floating line and a long leader.  And rather than a Crazy Charlie, Trey tied her on a nice looking black nymph.

I had an easy task.  Simply take a few pictures, make a few suggestions to help Sue with her fishing and casting and tell some stories.  Sue’s casting is excellent for a beginner.  Her pick up and lay down was fine and her loops were tight.  Where she had some difficulty is where folks learning commonly do, adding line into the wind.  We worked on some technique to help with this but there were so many fish we had to give them a shot.  Because Sue’s casting distance was short, we had her just lay her fly in the sand and leave it.  We layed low until a fish got close, and then Sue gave the nymph a strip.  The first fish charged and devoured the imitation but Sue hadn’t learned how to set the hook well yet.  That took her some practice.  Luckily there was constant action and after Sue missed a few more she landed her first quality fish on the fly.

After several fantastic cutthroats Trey released himself on the bank to go check up on the rest of the school.  Sue and I weren’t leaving the lake for anything and I guided her through the early evening.  I haven’t guided in years but it was an absolute blast.  We only caught two more fish; but that’s because the lake turned to glass.  The last thing you want when fishing a lake is for it to be glass.  Every move we made the fish saw.  It was excellent for Sue however. She could see the fish much more clearly and really enjoyed observing the cutthroats feeding behavior.  We watched them crushing grey drake nymphs.  Sue also got to see how subtle a move you could make yet still send a cutthroat running!

We ended the day with a feast.  This began with a spectacular sunset and plenty of wildlife from beavers to bald eagles.  I was nearly full after the tasty snacks during cocktail hour however somehow I topped that off with a monster steak and desert.  The students head home tomorrow then Trey and Shelby have guests booked solid at the Flat Creek Ranch all the way through early September.  I highly recommend this place if you’re looking for the perfect getaway with some of the finest fishing, hiking and horseback riding in Jackson Hole.  And if learning to fly fish or just improving your fly fishing skills is in your plans then consider one of Treys schools.  Trey will be offering them through the Ranch early June every year and I’ll be there also to help teach them.   Feel free to contact either one of us.

I actually snuck out this morning before I left the Ranch and beat up three big cutthroats.  Now I’m grounding myself through Monday to get caught up on some art projects and pack for Baja.  I’ll be updating my “Fly Fishing Through Midlife Heaven” show as well.  Remember, if you’re around for Henry’s Fork Day next weekend be sure to catch my show as well as some of the others.  The event will be a great time surrounded by great fishing.

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