Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amazing Wind River Country!

Many of my clients have heard me speak highly of the Wind River Country to the East of Jackson Hole and when local anglers mention the same, it is often with a tone of secrecy. Truth is the Jackson Hole region does receive much more praise when it comes to its prized fly fishing opportunities and the same could be said for Last Chance(ID), Livingston, Twin Bridges, & Craig(MT), yet the key to any superior fly fishing journey is being there at the right time... and now is the time to be on the Wind!
Above Boysen Reservoir the river flows primarily through private property within the Wind River Indian Reservation(WRIR) and access is tough & remote(contact me about trips into the Crowheart from Jackson, provided by WRCWW), furthermore it undergoes a significant runoff during the spring happening now. Once below Boysen, flows are managed and generally run clear. Here you are nestled in a breathtaking canyon still within the WRIR and again access is limited- that is unless you team up with Darren Calhoun and his whitewater guides from Thermopolis, Wyoming.  Darren called the other day suggesting if I had a day off to get over there now, it was coming unglued with cicadas
As summer approaches these large insects become active with the heat, often being blown in the river like hoppers!

Most seasons this occurrence is not until mid-late June but with very warm spring temperatures this year  the big black bugs have come early and are bringing some hefty trout to the net in strong numbers. This terrestrial hatch comes in 1-17 year cycles and so far this year looks to be a banner cicada season. Fishing these in the Wind River Canyon is all about hunting the big brown trout(some topping 24") with big dry flies. Darren and his crew fish from rafts down the canyon because it holds some significant whitewater(class III-IV), adding another fun element to the pursuit.


As the season progresses the two canyon sections can become slower due to warm water and weed growth but will consistently produce some very nice trout. Meanwhile, upstream above the reservoir the Crowheart sections come into their prime shortly after runoff, often around the 4th of July. These stunning 8-12 mile floats cut through the arid valley, rich in our nation's Native American(Arapahoe) history and in my opinion offer one of the most unique fly fishing experiences in the country- combining true trophy class wild trout with the area's remote high desert history. These trips are not at all for the passive social angler(no disrespect, I love a comfortable float in JH) but require a very early departure(5am), long drive to remote ramps, fishing hard for 8-10hrs with streamers or big dries and then the long drive back, often pushing 18-20 hrs. for the day. When you have a good day it is well worth it, when you have a great day it blows your mind!

Lastly, it is very important to note that Darren and WRCWW rest each section for a full day and will only put one group per section each time it is fished, a philosophy that enriches everyone's experience on this Wild River of Western Wyoming. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Fly Fishing Report-

Trey Scharp spotting the morning's first yellow belly in the 8th annual Carp Classic
It never ceases to amaze me how driven and creative an evolved fly angler can become. This is easily demonstrated by the spread of our sport across all geographical boundaries and our pursuit for any fish well beyond the normal. Even here in Wyoming, Montana & Idaho, arguably the pinnacle region for American trout fisheries, we get the itch for something new and fresh(only in the experiential sense). So what do a handful of early season fishing guides and outfitters do to raise a few bucks for a family in need?  
Carp on the Fly!
The Carp Classic was first established in 2004 to help benefit a guide and his/her family in a time of need- we are all there at some point. Since then the group has become more organized and now hosts, especially when the weather cooperates, dozens of participants and friends. The tournament converges on the  remote reservoir of Blackfoot that harbors literally tens of thousands of mirror carp. The two day event includes some fantastic camping, sharing of stories, food & beer and, of course your fly against the wily carp.   
I have pursued carp with a fly rod before with some luck and found it to be similar to redfish of the salt marsh- no offense to my redfish friends at all! These fish will lay up in shallow grass & willows to feed and at times aggressively. However, this trip to Blackfoot the carp were cruising and sucking in midge pupae from the intense hatch that had been happening for several days, needless to say the catching was very tough... perfect for some thinking anglers. So next time you need to scratch a big fish itch, grab a fly rod and give the old carp a try- you may walk away humbled yet satisfied, we did.
Jeff Currier cracking the code with a chartreuse bonefish fly- check out his detailed blog here!
First flying carpenter ant of 2012
Our gorgeous spring is continuing here in Jackson Hole and with ample warmth comes early insect emergence. Most think of heavy caddis or plump western mayflies in May- true these are of significance but while our rivers remain high from snow melt the main attraction locally can turn to the numerous lakes along the range and here the first bug to get the trout looking up are terrestrial in origin. Flying ants are not a separate species of ants at all. They are simply ants at a particular stage of life — specifically, the mating stage. Here we see large carpenter ants in late spring taking flight after several days in the upper 70's. Often followed by gusty winds the ants are blown from nearby downed timber to the lakes surface. When the conditions are ripe the trout become voracious and feed in an intoxicated manner. Super fun to witness!
Finespotted cutthroat from Jenny Lake
Other reports from the region are all consistent with a great fishing season in the making. My top picks for the Memorial Day weekend are often narrow but this year we have several viable options:
#1- Firehole River in Yellowstone NP- cool condition this weekend may slow hatches but the flows are low and the trout are very aggressive at this time.
#2- Green River- The flows have been on the slow drop(1000cfs) and fishing is good with streamers and nymphs.
#3- South Fork & Henry's Fork, ID- These rivers have had a fabulous spring and are fishing well with only moderate early season flows. Salmonflies are moving on the HF and the SF(11,000cfs) is fishing quite well with streamers and nymphs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2011 & 2012- Seasons of Extremes

There is no doubt that normal weather and climate patterns are changing, this I think we can all agree without getting into the political and environmental aspects of that debate. Everything is in a constant state of change but in my opinion as an outdoorsman nothing compares to the radical swings we are seeing all across the globe. For instance, last season the Northern Rockies had a tremendous snowpack topping 200% or more in some drainages bringing delight to whitewater enthusiasts and the typical pains to the angler. While this season contrasts the complete lack of snowpack in many vast regions and could eventually spell out the beginnings of a major drought. Only time will tell but state hydrologist say they have never seen two record breaking seasons back to back, both at opposite ends of the spectrum- One for the record books!
Dave Smith and Louie checking out the soon to be fish n chips(lake trout).
In the meantime, we are fishing and all indications point to a long productive season. Our runoff has shifted on & off with the passing warm to cool trends but now seems to be in full swing. The outlook is for med-high flows through May with a fairly quick decent into the middle part of June. By July most areas will be clear and fishable, perhaps even the mighty Snake River here in Jackson Hole will fish by the 4th of July... in 2011 it was closer to August 10th!
In many areas we are a good month ahead- with local temps in the 70's the lakes are turning on and flying ants are out in down timber. The word is the Salmonflies are moving up the Henry's Fork near Vernon this weekend so be prepared for the fiberglass hatch as well. Yellowstone Park opens to fishing   on May 26th and the Firehole should be producing some fabulous hatches with the warm conditions in that area too. 
Best to all... and get out to enjoy our beautiful natural resources!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

2012 Runoff Begins!

The downside to our gorgeous spring weather we had the last week or two is that the river blows out, hence the 2012 runoff began on the upper Snake a little early as night time temps remained above freezing. Soaring valley temps on April 23(76 for a high!) sent the hydrograph into a vertical climb that past the tipping point and by early afternoon flows at Moose were already green-brown with less than 2' of visibility. Of course, our tailwaters in the region are fairing well but as cold flows increase from the dams I personally feel the spring action is closing until the sun can work its magic and warm maturing insect larvae. Until then streamers and large nymphs worked slowly can pick up impressive trout in slower troughs. 

However, keep in mind the snowpack is in constant change and if we re-enter a cold cycle this can seize the pack and slow runoff, often stopping it all together and opening a brief window. Some of my best days have come after a week or two of runoff that has been choked off by a cold front. The flows drop and clear enough to trigger aggressive feeding while the conditions allow. This happens more on our medium sized freestone rivers of Jackson Hole.