Saturday, May 7, 2011

Priceless Stillwaters... The Legacy Ranch

Every spring, as our rivers rise and begin to surge with melting snow from the vast mountain ranges' frozen reservoir my focus immediately turns to the prospects of our local stillwater fisheries. Stillwaters are defined as any lake, pond, large reservoir or oxbow that offers refuge for trout & and other fish from flowing water. Among fly fishers these bodies of water are often overlooked but do offer every stimuli of the sport as rivers do, often requiring an even more keen and developed skill set for consistent success.
I have cherished stillwaters since childhood, remembering some of my best days as a young fly angler on the countless farm ponds of North Georgia. Naturally my intrigue is stirred when probing our public waters and rarely do I leave without a great sense of fulfillment, yet when an old friend, Tate Jarry calls from Livewater Properties(I have long been involved with Livewater for fishing reports, articles & photography) to tell me about a fishing property in Idaho my stillwater intrigue salivated with excitement.
The Legacy Ranch is positioned perfectly for the trout and waterfowl(upland as well) sanctuary it has become, lying adjacent to a massive wetland zone & flyway near American Falls Reservoir. Along with good friend & angling guru, Jeff Currier we began our adventure, meeting Tate at the ranch a morning in early May. The area was adorned with birds of all groups- raptors, waterfowl, upland, shorebirds & songbirds and this element added a significant relaxing appeal to the landscape. The nearly 700 acre property was like stepping into a pristine wildlife preserve with the 3 spring -fed lakes as the centerpiece that beckoned to all the creatures. We instantly surveyed our options and got right to the fishing. The day was overcast with yet another relentless front with gusty winds in the 30 mph range, challenging but favorable for stirring up food and getting the trout on the move. We quickly got into chunky 18-20" rainbow trout that were as wild as any I had experienced. As my burnt orange seal buggers got into the strike zone with a type III sinking line the tugs were sharp and addicting. After a couple passes through this comma shaped lake of about 10 acres we had landed our share of beautifully colored rainbows, hybrids and one gorgeous cutthroat all ranging from 18-30"... yes, I said 30"- the best was 11 lbs!
As the front passed the clouds cleared and we jumped around to the second lake. Here we found more activity in the wind swept shallows on olive mohairs and black buggers, typical stillwater flies and presentations. Hours later, as we beamed with pure fly fishing satiation we called the day a wrap and headed in for dinner and some beers as we recapped an amazing experience.
The next morning brought calmer conditions and brilliant sun, a significantly tougher scenario. We were on the water by 10am and found the activity to be spread out and slow. Immediately Jeff began to run through flies, rigs, depths and strip speeds. I just stayed with the small leeches and assumed they would turn on when they were ready. Jeff has long been involved in competition fly fishing so his instincts were saying otherwise but because we had no previous history with the habits of these fish it was hard to say what was happening, neither was working all that well. After refueling on a light lunch we headed to the second lake of about 15 acres. Here, Jeff had rigged 2 small nymphs on a floating line to work in shallower zones believing we were too deep in the previous lake.
As we launched the boat I saw in my peripheral a subtle rise formation that needed a closer look and there on the flat surface was a callibaetis adult. We quickly turned the boat, gently dropped the anchor and watched several big rainbows dasiy chain a warm flat gulping emergent mayflies. Jeff made 6 casts with his tandem rig and caught 5- 20" rainbows back to back... in his words we "cracked the code", or we simply were in the right place at the right time. Good anglers adapt and change water or flies, great anglers do both! We went on to have several hours of hot action with shallow nymphs slowly retrieved. In the end we boated perhaps 30+ trout in the 18"-24" class. Completely spoiled we trailered the boat, cleaned up and headed home.
I'm not sure if I will ever make it back to the Legacy Ranch or if I will ever experience anything quite like it elsewhere, this place has a magical feel that in my opinion is priceless.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ice Age 2011!

Daffodils emerging from a light snow, April 27... this has been a common morning occurrence this spring.
I regret to post that our snowpack has reached record breaking depths and could easily grow deeper over the next week. Our weather pattern is stuck in a consistent cool trough with ample moisture and as of this morning the snow water equivalent in our current base, measured at various stations around the drainage, is a massive 163% of normal. The silver lining at this point is that Wyoming's drought is over for now and area water agencies have learned hard lessons in the past from similar seasons and are dumping water from local reservoirs to help make room for the inevitable... flooding! Best case scenario is that the flow of precipitation stops soon and temperatures slowly climb maybe 5 degrees/week but night time lows remain cool. This will minimize the severity of the flood when it occurs, and it will. Worst case scenario is another month of cool, moisture laden weather over the region, preventing runoff to start gradually. Furthermore, turning from the cool 30's & 40's in the mountains to a sharp contrasting 60's & 70's in a week or two could be troubling.
Ok, enough doomsday talk. There will be some fantastic summer & fall fishing this year and the stillwater show is going to be the ticket later in May & into June. I love fly fishing lakes so stay tuned for good lake updates from JH & Western Wyoming. I guided a fun day with Philip Harris and his friends from Memphis last week on the Snake River. The flows are high and cold and it could be considered some of the most challenging conditions possible for the Snake. However, with the right mindset and a few beers the day can only end well. We found some very nice trout on streamers but it took a lot of work and focus.