September 26, 2010
What a September! Today was in the 80ºs. The sky was cloudless and there wasn’t an ounce of wind all day. The willows, aspens and cottonwood trees are glowing with gold and the hillsides are vibrant red from the wild roses, mountain maples and hawthorns. Hardly a single turned leaf has fallen yet. September is truly the best time of year in the Yellowstone area and this year we are having the best of the best.
Today I floated the Moose to Wilson section of the Snake River in Jackson Hole Wyoming with Gary Eckman and Cooper. Cooper you should remember from previous blogs is Gary Eckman’s fourteen year old son that has become quite a proficient fly fisher. We got an early start today of about 8 am. Right now, 8 am is about sunrise here. It should have been freezing cold but instead it was a balmy 50 degrees. We all wet waded from start to finish.
Fishing started surprisingly slow despite the seemingly perfect conditions. I rowed the first hour while Cooper practiced his streamer fishing and Gary plopped an ant pattern along the banks. Other than a follow on the streamer and a small swirl behind the ant the cutthroats were asleep. Wildlife always seems to make up for lack of fish. We saw a gigantic bull moose tearing up some willows, a mule deer and her nearly full grown fawn, numerous elk, eagles and a long tail weasel along the banks as we drifted. Just to spice things up even more we floated into the famous “Bourbon Channel”. I’m not a big fan of the channel as it is one if you are the oarsman you row and that’s it. You can’t relax and enjoy your surroundings for even a split second or you’ll sink the boat. The Bourbon Channel is small and winding. The water moves fast and there are boat flipping snags and debris every inch of the way. It’s probably one of the most treacherous sections of all the Snake River. Take your eyes off what’s ahead of you for a second and your life is in danger.
We successfully navigated through even the most hair-raising mazes of the channel. There was no doubt that my workout for the day was complete. Once we got back to the main river the fishing turned on. It could have been the time of day but I think it was the slower water. This time of year the Snake River cuttys like a steady flow along a rocky ledges and the drop-offs just below riffles. There were plenty of bugs hatching. This late summer weather continues to deliver PMD’s. It’s late for PMD’s but we saw some. Then there were numerous Mahogany Duns and the occasional Snake Drakes, a large mayfly about a size 12. Fish began to rise and we all fished dry flies for the remainder of the day.
Today’s highlight, was watching Cooper catch his biggest fish ever on a dry fly on the Snake. The catch occurred during a time when he was getting a little distracted. The Snake River has one of the best sucker populations you can imagine. If you look into the water from the front of the boat while drifting you notice huge fish moving along the bottom all day long. While many anglers freak out thinking they are all huge trout, most of us know that most of these fish are actually suckers. Naturally, the fact that they are so much bigger than most trout in the river, Cooper wants to catch one bad. And while he should be carefully mending and watching his drifting dry fly, he’s often in a trance staring into the water ahead of the boat. I always watch his drifting fly and find myself constantly telling him to mend, dry your fly, recast and when we are lucky, set the hook. I must sound like a broken record.
Fortunately for us, not the cutthroat, Cooper was watching his fly when a big yellow belly slowly elevated from bottom to the surface and ate his Mahogany Wulff. You could see that this was a big trout and somehow Cooper kept his cool and set the hook on him like a pro. But once the fish was on, Cooper got very nervous. Now he truly knew how big this trout was and like any kid he wanted this fish in the net. He wisely asked for advice on the best way to get him there. Gary and I were thrilled and did our best of coaching Cooper through the event. He handled it beautifully and a few minutes after hook up I netted Cooper’s gorgeous cutthroat trout.
It was another great day on the Snake River in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Cooper relished in his success for an hour or so before going on a full time sucker hunt. Gary and I enjoyed the weather and scenery and took turns fishing and rowing. We caught plenty of fish but today was by no means as good as it has been in previous weeks. As much as I’m not ready for it, what we really need to trigger our fall fishing is fall weather. Next on the agenda Granny and I will be chasing some big browns and brookies on some secret lakes. Stay tuned . . .