Nieces on the Nunya 2018

by | Jul 18, 2018 | nunya river | 2 comments

July 16, 2018

We headed north to the mighty Nunya River around 3 pm.  Right when Granny got home from work.  My nieces and I had the boat rigged, Yeti’s packed and plans made to hit the road quick.  We arrived in the boonies of Texas Ridge Flats just in time to set up camp and eat under the orange glow of a beautiful sunset.

 

After dinner Granny taught the girls how to pop caps off our beers on a fence post.  Something likely to come in handy for years to come.  Then we hit the sack and slept like logs because we haven’t taken a minute to rest since the nieces arrived.

 

July 17

 

The nieces are beginning to realize their Uncle doesn’t lay in bed and waste a day.  Like every day, I had them up before 6 am.  Teenage girls dislike waking up early and these ones tried to put some fear in me with that “teenager glare”.  Little do they know this look is nothing but a laugher for me after coming face to face with tigers, crocs and bandits to name a few.

 

We pushed off around 8 am.  Regardless of getting up early, organizing three women for a two day boat trip doesn’t come together fast.  The real hang up was fitting camping gear, food, beer then making room for four in a drift boat.  Surprisingly the blue bathtub boat of ours is more comfy than you’d think.

 

The difference between my two nieces is incredible.  16 year old Sammy, whom I would’ve expected to be at the right age to soak up a new experience, spent most of this morning sleeping in the back boat seat.

 

14 year old Montana on the other hand, whom I was worried might get bored, had her hands in everything.  She checked out every bird we saw with my binoculars and insisted on choosing her fly and tying it on herself.

 

While Nunya River conditions seemed perfect with water levels and water clarity, the fish weren’t cooperating.  Montana, who is getting exceptionally proficient with a Winston, made some great casts and perfect close to the bank presentations.  But the fish wouldn’t rise.  Luckily she has some “Uncle Jeff” persistence in her blood.  She continued to lay out the red winged Chernobyl for hours.

 

As time went on a few fish began to show.  Montana missed and jumped off a few small trout.  She was starting to get frustrated at missing her opportunities.  She wants to become a better fly fisher and asked what she was doing wrong.  But it wasn’t her, some days, especially when it’s this hot, the fish eat very halfheartedly.  Finally she stuck one good and here she is with her first ever brown trout.

 

You may have noticed Montana wears a cast.  The day before flying out she broke her wrist.  She’s a tough bugger to do that Teton backpacking trip with me last week and now a two day float fishing trip!

 

Tragically, despite barbless hook and a quick battle, Montana’s first brown trout died.  When Montana pulled him from the net I could see blood gushing.  We finally had a trout absolutely gulp the fly and I mean GULP.  He was hooked past the gills and tongue directly in the heart.  Within seconds the poor fish was gone.

 

With single barbless hooks trout mortality is rare.  Naturally Montana was distraught (Granny and I were also).  In order to turn a sad moment to a positive I made a big exciting deal about having a fresh trout on the river.  Less than an hour later we enjoyed fresh riverside brown trout.

 

While the trout was delicious there was hardly enough to feed four.  At 2 pm with a storm brewing overhead, Chef Granny had me fire up the grill.  She cooked us each a hefty burger that we indulged on through the short lasting rainstorm.

 

The sun broke out after the storm and no doubt the temperature reached the 90°s.  It was excruciatingly hot for trout fishing and I purposely led the boat down a shallow channel forcing all of us to get out and wade to cool off while dragging the boat.  You could see in the water like it was an aquarium.  There were a few browns to enjoy but then Montana spotted something special.  I identified the unusual fish as a burbot.

 

The burbot is a fish I’ve caught through the ice all my life.  We called them cusk back in New Hampshire.  Lawyers in Wisconsin.  And in Minnesota they were eelpout.  But I’ve never seen one in the summer.  I grabbed my streamer rig and went to work.

 

At first I tried stripping my streamer past the bottom dwelling fish hoping he’d attack but no luck.  Then I used a trick I use for bullhead on a fly.  I sank my fly to bottom about three inches in front of the burbots face.  Then I twitched.  That’s all it took.  The snake-like fish had to have my Screamer Streamer and moments later I had him.  My first burbot on the fly and perhaps THE first burbot on the fly.  A very unusual one for my list!

 

If any readers have caught one before I’d love to hear about it.

 

Other than the burbot excitement the afternoon session was a scorcher and the fish were absent.  Montana caught one more nice brown trout and this time she got to release it back to the wild.  By 5 pm Montana was asleep in the bow of my boat hiding from the sun and Sammy started a watercolor painting from the back seat.  I knew it was time to pull into a camp.

 

 

 

I have many spectacular camp choices on the Nunya.  Tonight I felt like we needed some beach and a view.  I parked us under a set of desert cliffs.  At least 25 different species of birds use these cliffs as their home ranging from merlins to cliff swallows.  Tonight didn’t disappoint.  And while Granny whipped up one of her scrumptious camping dinners I showed the nieces their first porcupine.

 

So what if the fishing today was tough.  It was a great day.  The Nunya continues to offer that wild feeling and there’s plenty more to take in beyond the fishing.

 

As Granny and I finish up our bottle of red we have a great horned owl looking down on us from a cottonwood tree.  He isn’t used to seeing humans.  I only wish the girls weren’t already passed out.  Time for bed.  We have a 6 am push off with hopes to find some moose before fishing!

 

July 18

 

One of my favorite things to do on the second day of the Nunya River float is to get up at dawn.  I French press strong coffee while Granny stuffs the tent and sleeping bags in our dry bag.  By the time the coffee is made Granny has our gear in the boat and we push us off.

 

Despite sunrise being the best streamer fishing of the day, we don’t make a cast.  Instead we drift down the river quiet as a mouse enjoying the coffee.  We see amazing wildlife.  This is how my nieces began their day.

 

As usual they weren’t thrilled to be awaken before 6 am.  Had they gotten up exactly when I woke them they’d have seen the bobcat I saw sprinting back to his cave after a night of hunting.  But at least they got up.  And I think they’re glad they did.  We saw mule deer, eagles and had some of the best moose viewing we’ve ever had on any river.  We saw 7 bulls at the same time!  All dressed in beautiful velvet antlers.

 

Fishing wasn’t much better today than yesterday.  It was so slow that Montana hardly fished.  She and Sammy left most the angling to Granny and I while they enjoyed the animals, birds and a bunch of naps.

 

Oh, Montana did do some guiding however.  I’m sure the family will love to see her rowing with a broken wrist.  But you need to start them young.  Especially when I’d like to be getting rowed down the river someday!

 

Sammy’s highlight was swimming.  She didn’t make a cast all float trip but along with a few fantastic paintings she swam.  Once again it was easily 90° plus and I arranged plenty of swim spots.  This place in particular was fun because the beach had random quicksand spots.  When you ran to dive in you often face planted before you made the water.  I liked it a bunch too!

 

Montana got to hold one more brown trout before the day finished.  This was about the biggest one we got.  He’s not that big though.  Not only did we have the slowest Nunya fishing trip on record but we never broke 16” and we almost always catch a few in the 19” plus.  Such is life.

 

 

 

The adventures of parenthood for Granny and I are about over.  Tomorrow I’ll let the nieces sleep in and do their own thing.  Friday the true parents collect them and Granny and I return to normal life.  These past ten days have been just as an incredible adventure for me as it was for Sammy and Montana.

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

2 Comments

  1. Brendan Mason

    Cool addition to the life list, but I know a few people who have caught burbot on flies before you. When I was a kid, i saw a photo of one in a book on fishing the Canadian Rockies that had a crude white bucktail streamer in its mouth too. Wish I could remember the name of the book.

  2. Jeff

    Thanks Brendan. Really appreciate the info. I figured there’s been a few caught on fly. I’m curious how many more people chirp in with more burbot on fly catches. Thanks for reading the blog!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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