Category Archives: Stories

Morning On The Holston

A Question: A Reflection On Fly Fishing

Fall Fishing A question was asked of me today of which I thought I knew the answer, but upon further introspection, I suspect that perhaps I need to reset my footing.  A friend asked me today why exactly it was that I fly fish and why it was that I do not keep the very thing that I spend so much time and effort to get in my net?  I gave him what I suspect would be considered an answer gleaned from the liturgy of the angler, an answer that contained all the right keywords to at least insinuate that I knew what I was doing.  I am writing a book about it for goodness sake, so my answer came forth without any forethought.  Not because of any rehearsal, but because I have conversed enough, I have read enough, and perhaps on some levels I have written enough so that I have all the right words.  But a wise man once said to me, “If your words and your actions do not match, no one will believe a word you say”.

I used all the key phrases that would get the approving nod from my contemporaries.  Words like, challenge, nature, peace, wild places, clean water, skill, beauty, conservation.  All of these, or at least some of these will appear in literally every published volume on the sport, which would justify, in effect, that what I was saying was correct.  But just because you say the right things, you are not granted membership into those who “get it”.  Many are the folk who have all the accouterments of the sport-the right gear, the right look, the proper technique yet they seem somewhat empty.  I suppose it is the empty ones who do not last very long in the sport.  As a matter of fact, I have a couple of friends who dove into the deep end, bought all the gear, but when there was nothing left to buy, they found that it wasn’t the sport they were interested in at all.

So what makes me a true angler?  If I were to remove the nice gear and replace it with the worst possible equipment-would I still hold the passion?  If I were to be dropped into a situation where the only place I had to cast a fly were to bluegill in an algae laden farm pond-would I still hold the passion?  If I had never stepped out as a writer of fly fishing- would I still hold the passion.  If all the key words and catch phrases were removed from my rather limited vocabulary- would I still hold the passion?

In all honesty, after much introspection, the answer would be yes.  You see, as far as a great…or even good fly fisherman…I am at a loss.  More times than not my cast is not pretty and if I am in the water for more than three hours it is a certainty that I will manage to create a mess of my leader that would be in league with the Rubik’s Cube in difficulty to repair.  I am often quite clumsy as I wade, and the biggest fear I have in life is drowning.  My flies are not pristine, and my selection looks more mutant than even an attractor pattern might imply.  As a fly fisherman, I am just about as undone as you will find.

Therefore, without an abundance of skill and a limited perspective, I am faced with a burning question imposed upon me innocently enough by a curious companion.  Why exactly do I fly fish?  And to answer in as simple a way as I know how, the answer comes to me without having to dig very deep at all.

I cannot even try to imagine myself NOT being one.

This sport is as much a part of me as my next breath, much as a runner with his or her next stride.  The great race horse Secretariat was said to have a heart larger than is common for a horse.  Larger heart meant an incredible blood flow and an expanded capacity to do that which it was born to do.  I can see myself in no less of a term.

Great WaterIf you fish with me, it is a near certainty that you will outfish me.  I know this to be so because of the number of times it has actually occurred.  For me the epic day is nothing more than blind luck.  I can read the water well thanks in great part to Tom Rosenbauer.  I can understand the methodology of fly selection, casting, and most other things that encompass a day in the water.  But all the information in the world will not make you a great angler.  There comes a time when skill must take over…and in that department I am most lacking.

Yet I continue to frail about, stumble, make messes, and admire those of whom I spend time on the water.  I get so frustrated at times with myself that I curse under my breath at the bad luck or bad technique, yet the very next opportunity I have to fish, I will be there playing the role of jester in my own court again.  Not because I am a glutton for punishment and self degradation.  It is because I am a fly fisherman, and I cannot help but do that which I have found to be a very large part of me.  Tangles and all.Morning On The Holston

Fishwest - All Things Fly Fishing

Thoughts on 2014 from the Fishwest Staff

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions and here at Fishwest we have been thinking about how that relates to fly fishing. The staff here at the shop has compiled our respective fly fishing resolutions and would like to share them with you.

Jake WellsJake W. – Shop Manager

“One of the great things about the sport of fly fishing is that there’s always something new to learn.
But with that being said, there is so much to learn that anglers may find it necessary to solely focus on only one or two things over the course of a year in order to full perfect his or her skills and knowledge in that specific area of the sport. For 2014, I have decided to focus every magazine article that I read, every internet video that I watch, and much of my time on the water to the art of spey casting with a two handed fly rod and the world of steelhead.”

Scott “Scoot” – Web Team Manager / Shop Staff

“I just want to keep it simple and have my fishing year focus around friends, camping, and spending time with my dog. I think it will be a good year and hopefully I will get to be a part of the other goals on this list”

Morgan G. – Shop Staff

“My goals are simple for this year. I would like to buy some kind of boat. Do more pike fishing and finally I would like to learn to use a Spey rod and do some steelheading.”

Scott N – Web Team / Shop Staff

“Last year was a very good fishing year for me. Every time I went I was met with great success. The biggest problem was that I didn’t get out as often as I should have. In all I don’t think I was on the water even 20 times for the whole year. This must change, and so my resolution for the year is to get out a minimum of twice a month every month, once the days are longer(and warmer) increase to 4X with after work jaunts to the local spring creeks. Finally I am also resolved to fish on at least three new waters this year and expand my species list to include carp, pike, ect”

Will M – Customer Service Rep

“This year I resolve to help bring respect to the grossly underrated  and underappreciated whitefish.  From their blistering runs to their  willingness to readily eat a sow bug, these majestic native fish
have it all.  I resolve to not only fish for them and fish for them  hard, but tell anyone willing to listen about why these craft river dwellers are the bees knees.”

Richard L – Web Team / Shop Staff –

(A recent Maryland Transplant who just discovered how awesome Utah is) “Looking forward to 2014 I’ve only got a few goals, catch larger trout on dries, explore more of Utah and the west’s watersheds, and land new species on the fly, specifically pike, stripers, and carp.

Last but not least I would like to share my thoughts and “goals” for the upcoming year.  I would like to spend more time fishing with friends and having a good time no matter what water I find myself on that day. Hopefully I also can be a part of all of these other resolutions as well.  All I know is that the ole Subaru is going to be spending a lot of time on the road this upcoming year in search of new water and new adventures with old and new friends alike.

On an unrelated note I just wanted to express my gratitude to all of you who take time to read our blog here at Fishwest as well as those of you who read my articles as well. As long as you guys & girls keep reading we will keep writing and sharing our experiences. But on that note we would always love to hear your stories as well. So from all of us here at Fishwest I would like to wish you a happy 2014! Tight Lines!

Thanks,

JC

Web Team / Shop Staff

Greg Pearson

GreenDrakeOutdoors: Flats Of The High Desert

 

Local fly fishing industry professional and great friend of Fishwest Greg Pearson was kind enough to send us this awesome little video which has us all excited for spring and summer carp fishing. Here are Greg’s thoughts on the video itself. Simply put:  While carp are an invasive species and not for everyone, they are wary, large game fish that offer a challenge away from the crowded trout streams…..Enjoy!

Caribou Antler

I’ll Trade You This Lund for That ClackaCraft

(And a Canadian beer for one pike Deceiver and three grayling dries…)

My dad was an adventurer – not the adrenaline junkie type – but the type who yearned to see what was around the next bend of the river.  I think that might be a pretty common characteristic of fly fishermen.  Although Dad preferred his casting rod to a fly rod, he certainly had a bad case of “next bend” syndrome  - a condition that forces you out of your car and into your boat and even out of your boat onto your feet.

I don’t think it got worse as he got he got older, just more obvious.   When he maybe should have been out with the local mall-walking group, he was trekking through all kinds of wilderness, fishing rod in hand.

He didn’t care much if he caught a fish; he was mostly interested in seeing a new piece of the planet.  The beauty of it was that I could talk him into going to all kinds of places.  (Peer pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

Caribou AntlerOne August, we flew into Munroe Lake Lodge, just a bit south of the tree line in northern Manitoba.  It was August and the pike were out of the shallow back bays and into the deeper cabbage beds.  If we found some cabbage, we found pike –  solid fish from 6 to 8 pounds. With enough bigger ones to ones to keep the anticipation levels high.

However, lakes at that latitude are not incredibly fertile.  Being unguided, we roamed all over Munroe Lake’s 12 mile length to find cabbage beds.   We saw a lot of beautiful things– sand eskers, shed caribou antlers, stunted black spruce, and cabbage beds, too!  The cabbage bed residents loved to slam our offerings.  But not always…  As pike are prone to do, they would often merely follow.  And then watch, and maybe even grin, as we figure-eighted and frothed the water.

Surprisingly, the most effective flies were on the smaller side.  Bunny leeches, tan Whistlers, and white Deceivers from 4 to 5 inches long were deadly.  An intermediate line seemed to get just the right amount of depth.

As a change of pace, we fished for grayling at the mouths of inlet streams.  None were bigger than 10 inches but they were great fun on dry flies and a 3 weight.

One evening, the lodge owner mentioned that trophy grayling could be found down the outlet at the far end of the lake.  “Just float down through the riffles until you get to the first good pool,” he said.  He had me convinced as soon as he mentioned trophy grayling.  And it didn’t take much to get my Dad on board.  (Remember what I said earlier about peer pressure.)

The next morning, after a long boat ride down the lake, we eased our 16 foot Lund and 20 horsepower motor into the current of Munroe Lake’s riffled outlet. That particular boat and motor combo is typical issue at northern lodges.  A lot of people use boats like that for chasing walleye in Minnesota.  They are not exactly drift boats.

Push!After about ten feet, the prop dug in.  So up went the motor.  After ten more feet, the boat’s hull was stuck on the bottom.  So out we jumped.

We had on chest waders and it was kind of fun – hanging on to the gunwhales, half-walking and half-riding the boat down the river.  We went about 100 yards and then I looked at my Dad, who was 71 years old at the time, and said, “We’re gonna have to DRAG the boat on the way back.  Are you sure we should do this?”

He muttered something about him riding and me dragging and off we went.  We probably covered a half mile of river before we found the spot the lodge owner was talking about.  It was a beautiful deep glide with large boulders on the bottom.  We fished it hard but only managed one sixteen inch grayling.

Our exit from the outlet didn’t involve the same exhilaration as our arrival.  It was hard, exhausting work.  Instead of riding on the gunwhale, I grabbed it and pulled.  Dad was at the back of the boat and, despite his earlier threats, pushing like crazy.

It took us over an hour to get back up the outlet and onto the lake.  We were panting and sweating and beat.  Our excursion had netted us only fish.  Was it worth it?

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Totally!!!

Walleye

Iowa Walleye On The Fly

As summer putters out with the occasional warm day, thoughts of fall fishing is almost constantly on my mind.  In Iowa’s driftless region, fall fishing is one of the best all-around times of the year to fly fish. Warm sun and cool temps give way to some of the most comfortable fishing all year. Cozy layers allow the angler to stay warm, yet adequately move. I relish a day on the stream with a nice cool breeze and warm sun on my back. Lying in the dried grasses near the stream, knowing that the snow that will soon cover the landscape is on the way, is a treat. Even the drive to the stream is a simple pleasure, looking upon the changing colors of the leaves, wildlife, and the farmers harvesting their crop.

Trout fishing can be phenomenal this time of year in the driftless. Baetis hatches are frequent, and nymphing becomes an effective tactic to land big browns as the season wears on and temperatures cool.

While I love to fish for trout in the fall weather, unfortunately my schedule doesn’t always afford me the ability to pick up and go. When pressed for time, I have found some of the best all-around fly fishing can be found within a mile of home. During the fall, Walleye begin their run up our local rivers, and smallmouth are still to be found. These heavy, hard-fighting fish can provide some of the best fight on a fly rod.  Walleye seem to begin to eat as the sun sets in the fall. The fish become aggressively predatory, and much like when a trout takes a fly, the feel of the fight is addictive.  Walleye fishing gives me the chance to cast my 8wt and does a great job getting that fly out there, but when I want to have a little fun, I’ll bring along my 6wt. There’s nothing like wrapping your rod over on a warmwater fish- and walleye can feel like hooking into a unhappy log. Do be careful fishing as the sun sets. Casting a weighted fly requires you take your surroundings into account (as well as yourself-ears, eyes, etc.) Find a spot that affords you and others some safety.

Depending on water conditions, a weighted or sinking leader might be useful to get that fly down into a feeding zone for the fish. You’ll want to try various water depths dependent upon temperature. The end of a pool or a run in the river seem to be practical places to find walleye.  As far as flies, clousers, buggers, and zonkers stripped in at varying speeds can produce some great fish. I’ve found baitfish patterns work best in the river I fish. These are patterns that readily available for purchase and/or are easy to tie.

I use a non-slip mono loop connection for my tippet or leader to fly connection. This simple knot gives the fly a lot of play in the water and is durable as well. You may have to experiment in your own water to determine what strategy works best to hook into your fish. I cast upstream, pause to allow the fly to sink, and then use short strips to give the fly movement as the current swings the fly downstream. I vary this of course, on river conditions and structure.

I feel one of the best aspects of fishing for walleye or smallmouth is the simplicity. For me, it’s a short drive that allows me to be casting in a matter of minutes, which I consider therapy. I can take along minimal gear- a puck of flies, my mitten scissors or nippers, some tippet, and I am fishing.

We all dream of fishing on these beautiful days in fall, though it’s is a very busy time for almost everyone. Next time the fly fishing fever hits this fall, take a quick trip to the river. A short outing can provide an exciting and inexpensive experience.

Terrain

Charring The Bucket List

(Arctic sushi, arctic trekking, arctic plane reservations, arctic wildlife deterrent, and arctic char…)

The outfitter told me there were lake trout, arctic grayling AND arctic char at one of his camps and that sealed the deal.  Most people don’t get the chance to fish for arctic char in their lifetime and the allure of the exotic was overpowering.  So a few months later my Dad and I landed in Rankin Inlet on the shore of Hudson Bay.

The plan was to be helicoptered from there to a plywood shack in polar bear country on the Nunavut tundra.  However, Hudson Bay is a large body of water and Rankin Inlet is very cool in the summer – this combination leads to a lot of fog.  We actually spent two days in Rankin Inlet waiting for the fog to lift.

The outfitter put us up in his own house. For two days, we walked around town, taking pictures of sled dogs in their kennels and watching the locals bomb along the streets on quads.  We also sampled the local cheeseburgers, which were tasty but worth about $12 each due to the fact that all the ingredients arrived by plane.  And we joined in a family dinner where the appetizer was a traditional Inuit food – raw beluga whale. It had a mild taste and a chewy texture.  Being the rookies in the crowd, Dad and I were given plenty of teriyaki sauce and hot sauce as condiments.

Eventually the fog lifted and a15 minute helicopter ride took us to an area known as Corbett’s Inlet.  Up there, the lake trout stay shallow all summer and they like the rivers as much as any lake.  If you can navigate to the base of some rapids, you are pretty much guaranteed lake trout. (For a closer look at this type of fishing look at my  “Tundra Trout” article elsewhere in this blog.)

The outfitter had pointed out a particularly delectable set of rapids on our map. Being about ten miles from the ocean, these rapids held both lake trout and the sea-run holy grail of this trip – arctic char.  We immediately hopped in the boat and set off.

To get to the rapids, the map said we had to pass through a narrowing of the river; however, this narrowing turned out to be a boiling cauldron of whitewater.  Being self-guided in the middle of nowhere, we turned around and the Arctic char remained unattainable .

That night, by lantern, in the comfort of our plywood shack, we checked the map and noted the rapids were about ten miles away by boat. But they were only 2 miles away by land. In most wilderness on this continent, overland travel means crashing through dense bush with about the same penetrability as a brick wall.

However, we were on the tundra. There would be no bush, only rocks and spongy moss. I think the light bulb went off in Dad’s head first.  “We can walk it,” he said.  Brilliant!

So the next day we set off. In consideration of my Dad’s seventy years, I carried the tackle, the lunch, and the polar bear repellant – a rifle and three shells supplied by the outfitter.

Sidebar #1: Three shells are not a lot of ammunition but, according to our outfitter, if you are about to fire your fourth round, you are likely polar bear hors d’oeuvres anyway.

Sidebar #2: I later find out the rifle was a .308.  I know next to nothing about guns and hunting, but is that enough artillery for large Arctic predators? I still haven’t brought myself to Google it.

The hike to the rapids was just like the map said – we aimed between the two ponds visible from camp and just kept going. It took about an hour and we did not see any polar bears.

I’d like to say that hyper-aggressive char were stacked below the rapids. We fished hard all day and landed two.  They had beautiful, big white spots and were amazingly chunky.  Their heads, in fact, were tiny compared to the rest of their body – a likely testament to the feeding they did in the ocean. They fought strong and deep. We left the rapids satisfied with our catch.

The rest of the trip was typical tundra fishing for lake trout and arctic grayling. The day we were ready to leave, we piled up our gear and waited for the helicopter. And waited. And waited. And then we remembered that the outfitter had given us a satellite phone.  A quick call told us that our helicopter was down for repair and would pick us tomorrow. Another phone call and we had our outbound flights from Rankin Inlet rearranged. That far north, even the largest airlines become quite flexible and accommodating.  We had previously lost a couple days fishing to the fog and just gained one back!  Instead of sitting around waiting for the helicopter, we hopped in the boat and headed for a grayling hotspot.  Thank God for satellite phones…

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The next day, comfortably on board a commercial jet, flying out of Rankin Inlet, all I could think about was our tundra trek to the arctic char.  I kept replaying that day over and over in my mind. And I kept hatching schemes to somehow catch a few more.  I haven’t yet…  But I will….  :)

There Are A Few Things That Really Rattle Me

There are few things that really rattle me.  I have found myself in a standoff against a Yellowstone Black Bear, been bumped by a shark, went headfirst into a sweeper on a raging river.  Part and parcel of the sport I suppose.  All those things happened so fast that I really had no time to be afraid…I just reacted.  While all of those events made for interesting adventures, panic filled memories, and a good story or two, nothing…and I do mean nothing, creeped me out more than an occurrence in The Great Smoky Mountains a couple of weeks ago.

I am standing on the bank, little more than the toes of my boots in the water, roll casting flies into a seam that had trout stacked up in an amazing feeding line.  They moved very little and I could see the yawn of their mouths, food was plentiful and it appeared that they were not being very particular as to what they would eat which was good for me.

I rolled out a tandem rig. Neversink Caddis and below it I had on a Green Weenie.  Without a doubt, these two flies are the top producers for me.  Tons of trout, flies you trust, no one in sight…yep, I was in the zone.  The cast rolled out much better than usual and landed upstream from the aquatic congregation, just far enough for the GW to sink down into the feeding land.  It was a slow motion display in front of me as I watched the fly twirl in the current; the slightest of movement from a willing rainbow, the take…fish on.

He wasn’t particularly large by most standards, maybe ten inches, which is a pretty good size for a mountain bow.  I pulled him away quickly from his friends so that they would miss the fact that one of their kindred had been attacked by a bug puppet and was losing.  I had him maybe ten feet from where I stood, when out of the corner of my eye I saw something move from underneath a rock just to the right of where I stood.  Most of the rock was under water so I quickly determined that it was perhaps a brown trout that I had spooked away from its lie.  Then the line went crazy.  The trout began to struggle in a way that just didn’t seem right…then all I felt was the weight of the fish.

Confused, I reeled in the line, my rod tip dipping with each turn as it pulled against the weight of the fish.  Finally the head of the trout came into view.  Its eyes were stark white; the color you would associate with a wild rainbow had grown ashen.  And, just above its tail, holding for all its worth was a snake; the one common creature in God’s vast zoo that absolutely freaks me out.

The snake was maybe three feet in length with a dark cream colored body with deep rust colored bands which is the coloration of our local low country viper…the copperhead.   This snake had sunk its teeth deep into this trout and would not let go.  The trouble was…I couldn’t let go either…until I cut the leader, which I did with a swiftness that would have impressed Zorro as I pulled my knife from its sheath and with one pass cut through the mono.  It should also be noted that I did not cut until I was absolutely certain that the distance of my hand from the snake was safe.

Having rescued what remained of my leader, I expected to see my Neversink moving across the water to some remote location for this vile serpent to devour its/my catch.  However, in a manner reserved for only slapstick anglers such as myself, I saw that my lovely Neversink was floating inches from my right foot…and two feet beyond that lay the snake and the trout.  Perhaps in a moment of mutual clarity, both the snake and I decided that being exposed on the riverbank was not the best of ideas.  I left for higher ground and he took his lunch elsewhere.

Before swiftly extricating myself from the scene, I managed two photos.  Sadly these pictures turned out much like those of a Bigfoot sighting or perhaps the Zapruder film.  Shaky and dark.  I will leave it to the folks at Fishwest to determine if the evidence captured in a digital format are worthy of print.

It wasn’t until a couple of days later as I relayed the story to a friend that I learned the truth about the snake.  A copperhead it was not.  The fish met its demise at the mouth of a Northern Water Snake, which was no more comforting than being shot with hollow points instead of buckshot.  A snake is a snake and though I was twice his size and outweighed him by a multitude of pounds, he was the clear winner in this one.

 

The Gunnison River Gorge

My Fishing Roots

When I was about 9 years old, my family moved to the outer edge of Alexandria, Louisiana. The area was unique in that it was built just before the sub-division era, yet the area was not a part of the old town either. Luckily, for me and my older brother Chuck, there was a nice sized lake just behind our house. All we had to do was cut through the neighbor’s backyard, cross one street, go through another neighbor’s yard and bingo, we were at the lake.

When we moved into our new home, dad forbid us to go to the lake.  We were sternly told, if we were caught at the lake, we would be dealt a serious whipping. Keep in mind, this was in the day of liberal use of a belt or other disciplinarian  instruments. Being typical boys, we couldn’t wait for Dad to go to work so we could check out our new digs at the lake.

From the moment we laid eyes on her clear water and huge bass cruising the shorelines, we were hooked. I lost count of the “ass-whippings” we received as a result of our hard headed defiance. Our love for the lake and fishing was so powerful we could not pull ourselves away, even knowing a serious whipping was a certainty.

Most days, we would fish with the best intentions of being home before dooms hour, that being Dad’s punctual arrival home at 5:30.  By 5:00 our casting became frantic….”gotta catch one more bass.”  At 5:30 sharp, Dads whistle rang through the air with the dread of an air-raid siren.  I would look at Chuck, he would look at me, and we both would say, “Oh crap.”  We quickly gathered our gear and headed home with much trepidation.

Each time, we took our licks like men, knowing full well, tomorrow we would go back. Dad should have seen the light. Hell, there was a clear path beaten through the yards heading off toward the lake.

I can’t remember exactly when dad surrendered.  I think we were about thirteen or fourteen. After one particularly serious “ass-whooping,” I stood tall before my dad and said, “You might as well give us permission to go because we are going anyway.” By then it was obvious I could take the best of what he could dish out and would gladly do so for a good fishing trip….He finally saw the light. He had two incurable anglers for sons ….he relented.

From that day on we fished without worry. We even managed to persuade him to let us night fish and frog hunt on the lake. He quickly became keen on the frog legs as well as an abundant supply of large bream and bass fillets.

We “generally” respected his request to be home before dark. We weren’t disobedient children, we simply could not help ourselves.  We had to fish….it was in our blood and some sixty some odd years later, it still is.

I’ll see you on the water Chuck….I love you brother!

 

TetonRange

Yellowstone’s Little Sister

Much has been written – and deservedly so – about Yellowstone National Park and its fisheries.  (Take a look at Marc’s articles elsewhere in this blog for some very interesting samples.) What about the Tetons just south of Yellowstone?

The Grand TetonsSince the Tetons don’t bother with foothills, the view from the road is incredible.   Rugged peaks simply erupt from sage-covered flats.  And all kinds of trails lead right into these eye-popping mountains.  Naturally, what makes it a complete destination – at least for the typical Pisciphilia reader – is the nearby fishing.

It’s all about the cutthroats in this part of the world.  Other trout seem to be merely incidental catches.  No need for any size 20 Tricos. Large, attractor dries are the usual fly shop recommendation.

I’m no expert; in fact, I’ve merely sampled the rivers around Grand Teton National Park on a couple of different trips.  Nevertheless, I hope my impressions might spike your curiosity and even help you plan out a possible trip…

The Snake River: This is the one you’ve probably heard about.  It’s a big, wide river with a relentless, pushy current. Don’t even think about wading across!  It parallels the Tetons and then runs south. Common wisdom dictates that a drift boat is the best way to fish it. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to walk along and pick at some very juicy-looking pockets along the bank.   Better yet, if you find some braids, crossing a side channel or two will lead to enough water to keep you busy all afternoon.  You can even feel a little bit smug, knowing you’ll cover those enticing seams more thoroughly than the guy who zipped by in the drift boat.

Fishing The SnakeThe Wilson bridge access, just outside the town of Jackson, leads to a path that runs up and down the river in both directions.   Locals walk their dogs there and you might have to relinquish your spot to an exuberant black Lab.  Despite that, the Tetons form an impressive backdrop and you can definitely find some nice braids.  I have to admit that although the numbers were okay; my biggest fish from the area was perhaps eight inches.  Maybe my technique wasn’t quite dialed in?

There are other places, like boat ramps and the Moose Bridge, to access the Snake River for wading.  Further researching the resources at the end of this article will likely reveal even more.   Although wading is thoroughly enjoyable, the Snake offers a lot of river and a lot of scenery. On my next visit I will seriously look into the guided drift boat option.

The Hoback River: The medium-sized Hoback River follows Highway 191 and pours into the Snake south of Jackson.  There are many access points along the highway and the river has a little bit of everything – shallow riffles, rocky runs, pocket water, and deep glides.  The good water is much more obvious than on the Snake.  It is far more wader-friendly as well and you can cross some sections quite easily. Although the holding spots might be a fair hike apart, there are definitely 8 to 14 inch trout to be had.

The Gros Ventre River: This stream is a little smaller than the Hoback and just as easy to read.  It seems to follow a well-defined pattern of riffles and runs. Crossing it to optimize your drift is possible in most areas.

Despite all this, my catch rate on the Gros Ventre was almost nil. Nevertheless, I know the fish are in there and I’ll be Moose Crossingback. In the meantime, I’ll blame my lack of success on the bull moose that wandered into the stream and forced me to detour around a couple of prime runs.

Speaking of wildlife, the Gros Ventre River runs right by Gros Ventre campground on the road to Kelly. The river is easily reachable from the road and the sage flats in this region are like an American Serengeti. On more than one occasion, bison delayed traffic as they crossed the road.

Granite Creek

Granite Creek is a small stream that is paralleled by a good gravel road as it tumbles toward the Hoback River.  It alternates between pocket water in forested sections and a classic meadow stream in picturesque valleys.  (Think Soda Butte Creek with far fewer fishermen).

The meadow sections were perhaps my favorite places to fish in the entire region.  Although the water looked impossibly skinny from high up on the road, there were actually all kinds of places where the bottom slipped out of sight – undercut banks, around boulders, and just below riffles – where the bottom slipped out of sight.  It seemed like most of these places held fish that were extremely adept at quickly spitting out a dry fly.

Cutties Love HoppersHowever, a few actually came to hand. They were solid, gorgeous cutthroats up to 14 inches. Given the size of the water they came from, they seemed like true lunkers,

Granite Creek also had a couple of bonus features built into it.   One was a spectacular waterfall near the end of the road – a great place to simply admire, or cool off by splashing around.  And if you cooled off too much, there were some hot springs right at the end of the road.

Miscellaneous Notes: A standard 9 foot 5 weight worked great on all the above rivers except for Granite Creek, which was more suited to an 8 foot 4 weight.  When large attractors like Chernobyl Ants and Turk’s Tarantulas did not get eaten, smaller patterns like Trudes, Humpies, Irresistibles, and Goddard Caddis filled the gap. Drifting the odd nymph or swinging the odd sculpin pattern also worked.

Resources:

Book: Flyfisher’s Guide to Yellowstone National Park by Ken Retallic.  (It includes a chapter on the Tetons!)

Fly Shops in Jackson, Wyoming: High Country Flies and also the Snake River Angler. (Be sure to check out their websites.)

 

Marina Flags

Teasing In Cabo

(A sample of the fishing and – the non-fishing – in Cabo San Lucas.)

To me, a “non-fishing” vacation involves fishing – just not the majority of the time.  So even for a “non-fishing” vacation, I research the fishing possibilities well before any flights get booked.  And I’m sure you can imagine why my girlfriend and I wound up in Cabo San Lucas this past March…

Halfway through the trip, I had a full day charter booked with Baja Anglers. At about 7 AM that morning, I hopped on a very fishable 26 foot Glacier Bay catamaran with my captain and mate. Our first stop was getting the bait part of “baiting and switching” from a local pangero; $20 got me a half dozen, 8 inch goggle eyes.

We started fishing almost as soon as we left the marina.   The mate ran the boat slowly along likely beaches and rock outcroppings while the captain bombed out long casts with a spinning rod and a hookless surface plug – the teaser. My job, with a 9 weight and 350 grains of sinking line, was to land a Clouser just beyond the teaser as the captain skipped it back into range.   And then strip like crazy.  Sounds simple, right?

The persistent swell, which was likely great for surfing, was not terribly noticeable when just sitting in the boat.  However, it felt like a mechanical bull was out to get me while  casting.   I have to admit that for the first 15 minutes I was pretty sure that my entire day would be stumbling around the stern of  boat while trying to avoid “clousering” myself and the crew.  Eventually, however, my casting smoothed out.

I actually found it helpful to throw my fly on alternate casts of the teaser.  Every other cast of the teaser, I would merely watch, ready to throw if a fish showed behind it.  The whole routine was a bit hypnotic, even zen-like…

Cabo JacksUntil fish crashed the party.   About every third spot we tried, a gang of jacks assaulted the teaser.  It was very visual – sometimes they were a dark, swarming mass and sometimes they churned the surface.   Regardless, before they could touch the surface plug, the captain jerked it away and I replaced it with a fly.

The jacks were hyper-aggressive.  The first struck so violently, I seriously thought my rod was going to break; I froze and the fish shook off.  A second jack was well into the backing before it came unbuttoned.  I finally landed jack number three and was shocked by its lack of size.  The way it tested my backing knot and bore under the boat, it felt much larger than its 6 or 7 pounds.

When the action slowed down for jacks, the captain harnessed a goggle eye to the spinning rod and slow trolled along the shore, hoping to attract a roosterfish within casting range.  Unfortunately, the roosters did not make themselves available and we changed gears again.

This time we headed about a half mile offshore, towards a loose gathering of other charter boats.   I should point out, that up to this point, we weren’t exactly fishing in the wilderness .  One of the jacks was taken with a construction site as a backdrop; many of the other spots were just off major resorts.  So heading into a pack of boats seemed like no big deal.

“Spanish mackerel and maybe some yellowtail,” said the captain as we took our place in the formation over about one hundred feet of water. Fishing this depth was VERY relaxing.  I believe I polished off a sandwich as my fly sank toward the bottom.

However, once more, the fish interrupted. Something pulled my rod into a deep bend and kept pulling until the backing knot was deep in the water.   I thought it was a big yellowtail, but it turned out to be a 5 or 6 pound Sierra mackerel.

And so it went…  Another half dozen sierras reluctantly came to the boat and a couple were kept for delivery to our resort’s kitchen later.   As strange as it may same in that deep water, the sierras occasionally boiled on the surface and offered a visual target.

With an hour left in the charter, the captain still wanted me to experience a roosterfish, so we went back inshore to a couple more beaches.  However, the roosters played shy and we were soon heading back to the dock, escorted by a squadron of low-flying gulls.

As I left the marina, a few locals filleted my catch for a few dollars.  That night, with the wizardry of our resort’s kitchen, the sierras provided our best meal of the trip.  Sierra mackerel definitely are definitely too tasty for their own good..

Overall, it was a great part of a non-fishing vacation.  But what about the truly non-fishing aspects?  Here’s a few things both my girlfriend and I would recommend:

  • Rent a car and drive out of town. Visit Todos Santos, a picturesque village with quaint shops and galleries.  On your way, pull down a side road and look at the giant cacti. Maybe even find the beach at the end of the road….
  • Take a guided hike to a waterfall in Baja’s interior mountains.  The scenery is incredibly unique. And the water is incredibly refreshing (icy?) if you decide to take a dip.
  • Stay at a resort that is off on its own with a quiet stretch of beach.  Pueblo Bonita Pacifica is one such place. Watch the surf roll up. Watch for whales in the distance. Stroll down the sand to the rocks at either end of the beach.

A kayak tour and some snorkeling – those are a couple things we didn’t do  in Cabo San Lucas.  Someday, I’d like to get back there and try’em.  Maybe in November, ‘cause I heard that’s a good time for striped marlin…

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(P.S. For non-fly fishing significant others and family, Baja Anglers is adept with ALL types of light tackle.)