Dawn broke on the third and final fishing day of the trip and as the sun forced us out of bed the excitement for the final river grew. We had been told that this river was a new lease for the ranch and the water was amazing. Based on the stories from earlier in the season it sounded like the river could be fickle but when it was on the fishing was off the charts...and we were of course hoping for the latter!
After breakfast we threw our gear in the cars and started off west towards the Bighorns. They are truly an impressive range, the scale of which you simply can not get from a picture. The closer we got the more awe inspiring they were as the moutain walls towered over us.
We made our way up and over the 9666 foot of elevation crest at Powder River Pass, and continued on down the western slope towards the water.
We stopped on the way back down and took a panoramic from one of the pull-offs. This valley was immense and it seemed we were just perched along the edge. Definitely makes one feel small.
After a few hours in the car we wound our way on to the ranch and pulled up to a winding river with long slow pools right where we parked. This river was just a little wider than the last two days and had open casting lanes. With water this clear they could see us coming from a long way both things would play to our advantage. The fish here were big and certainly no slouches...they require long casts with long leaders and, of course, long drag free drifts. If it all came together though you could expect a fish to come from every fishy looking spot to take a look, and some others to appear where you least expect them. It was AWESOME!
In a few places the river did choke down and form a few braids, but for the most part it was a classic freestone river with pool after riffle after pool...and repeat over, and over.
Greg and I had the pleasure of fishing the day with Clark, the owner of the outfitters. Clark was an absolute blast on the water. Perfect parts guide, teacher, and friend to have along for the day. I think the following shots pretty much talk for themselves so I will stop typing now for a bit and let you check them out. Lots of big browns and rainbows taking hoppers in a setting like this is not something I will soon forget.
The three of us rotated rods through the day, catching fish and just laughing. There were strong fish from a foot up to two feet that were landed and many new stories burned in to my memory over the course of the day. I cannot imagine a better hopper river.
We did take some video over the course of the trip with both the GoPro and the G10, with water this clear it was not something we could pass up. Over the next few weeks I will see what we got and edit down some highlights to share.
As you can see these fish had shoulders...man could they pull!
This was a trip that I lost sleep over, and when the time finally came it exceeded even the high expectations that I had built up for it. On this trip we hit some of the best hopper water that I have ever seen and it produced in spades. The fishing was far more technical than I would have expected, but a good few drifts would yield results. These fish pulled hard and jumped like no trout I have seen before, and I can not wait to get back...which will be next July! This is not a trip I plan on skipping anytime soon.
Greg Senyo, of Steelhead Alley Outfitters, and myself will be hosting two separate three day sessions, back on these waters, to chase hopper eating trout again in July of 2013. If you are interested in coming along with us then contact Greg for more information on this amazing trip. You can shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop him a line on his cell at 419.466.9382.
SAO Tyer and Fly Fishing Specialist