It was only last Friday that I got blanked at Island Park Reservoir with my friend Rick Schreiber. We fished about 12 hours and never even had a definite bite. We tried everything from leeches, nymphs, and streamers in every size and color combinations imaginable. We tossed them with floating lines, slow sink lines and even fast sink lines, but nothing. It was a tough day to say the least. Well, today I went back for more. I took my new friend Perk Perkins whom I fished with yesterday and we met up with mutual friend Pete Erickson.
Pete and I go way back. He’s been a guide over here in the Teton Valley and Jackson Hole area for ages. We really got to be friends when we were teammates on Team USA Fly Fishing and competed all over the world together. We loved the challenge of learning how nymph up European Grayling and how to fool the spooky brown trout of Spain and France. Pete is also one of the better lake fly fisherman I know. Lake fly fishing competitions have recently become popular and Pete has done well in all of them including winning two tournaments in the last year. With all this in mind, I figured Pete could really help me catch the stubborn trout of Island Park Reservoir.
It was about 8 AM when we launched Pete’s boat. I pointed the direction I wanted him to have his old motor take us and off we went. It was fairly calm and there were so many billions of midges in the air that there was a humming sound. When we got to my spot, there were plenty of insects on the water, but there was nothing eating them. I rowed us slowly along. Perk fished a floating line with a dry and a nymph dropper. Pete was rigged up like I was last week, a floating line with a long level leader and three wet flies.
Soon a few fish were splashing around. They didn’t appear to be feeding but simply making their presence known. They were here and we had no excuses. Just like I was last week, Pete was full of confidence. But slowly as time went by he realized these fish were not that easy. And two hours into the fishing, today was looking an awful lot like last week. We were getting skunked!
For the next couple hours Pete and Perk tried everything. Perk changed flies while Pete not only changed flies, he also changed his lines. He went floating line to a slow sinking tip line to a full sink line. It didn’t matter, these fish were untouchable.
At noon it was time for a new spot. Not only were we getting skunked but there were some anchored up bait fishers that weren’t catching any fish either. But as we motored off we saw a gulper (term used for risers on a lake). Then another, and another and Pete cut the motor and it was game on. Perk had a dry on so while Pete ditched his sinking rigs and dug for the dries, I rowed after the gulpers while Perk made some casts.
By now there was an abundance of foods on the water including ants, midges, Callibaetis and even some Pale Morning duns. My experience is, the test isn’t so much the fly you choose in this situation but rather getting the fly in front of a fish. These fish cruise along and you must see which way they are swimming to anticipate their next rise. Just when you think you know the path of the fish and get your fly just right, they completely switch direction. It’s a very fun fly fishing challenge.
It didn’t take long for us to get the feel. Over the next hour we landed 6 quality rainbows. Honestly we should have caught about 10 but we’re all a little rusty on our gulper fishing. Once a strong breeze kicked up our pods of gulpers went down. We went back to dredging with the sinking lines and could not get another fish. It really doesn’t make sense we aren’t catching them underneath.
Pete didn’t exactly help me crack the code on how to catch the fish when they weren’t rising. But it was likely his good lake fishing luck that brought us the hour of gulper glory. And we capitalized and my skunk of last week is in the past.
Furthermore, it’s been a great two days of fishing with Perk. I have a new fishing friend and we’re already talking about getting into something cool when he returns in August. For now, its home for a few days of catch up. There’s art to be done, articles to write, photos to edit and yard work.