Last Thursday night the time finally came for a trip that was a long time in the making for me...fishing for hopper eating trout in Wyoming. Greg and I had talked about the trip a few times over the last couple years because this is his favorite fishing and he knew it was right in my wheelhouse. Once I finally saw the pictures last winter it only took me about ten hours of obsessing over what I had seen before calling Greg to book my spot on his hosted trip.
After jumping on a plane at Detroit Metro airport, and a short stop in Denver, we arrived in Billings ready to chase some fish. The drive from Billings south to Buffalo was quite spectacular for us flatlanders. We wound our way south through the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, and through the Crow Reservation, before pulling in to Buffalo....our home away from home for the next few days. We immeadiately headed downtown as we had a little time to burn before meeting up with the rest of the group. It was neat to see the historic Occidental Hotel.
The real reason for us to head down there was to stop in to the Sports Lure, which is quite an amazing little place. The Sports Lure is packed with tons of high end gear for everything from hiking and mountain climbing to hunting and fishing. With all the mounts in there it reminds me of a smaller high-end Cabelas. It was a really great place to pick up on a few bits of local knowledge and some flies for the week. After an hour or so we left to head over to the hotel and meet up with the rest of the group, then it was time for dinner at the fantastic Winchester Steakhouse. I could not think of a better way to fuel up for the following day. Some fantastic cuts of meat and a few cocktails later we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep...if the excitement would allow for it.
On Saturday morning we loadedup our gear and met up with the guides for the drive out to the creek north of town that would be our destination for the long day on the water.
Just as during the previous days drive the scenery was quite amazing for us. After about a half hour or so we pulled down a drive and on to the ranch.
It did not take long for Greg 'Trout Ninja' Senyo to get geared up and the rest of the crew followed suit. We were armed with 4 and 5 weights to throw a multitude of foam hopper patterns at unsuspecting troutskis.
It was quite a long walk from where we parked out to the stretch of creek that we were going to fish, and the excitement just built up with every step. It was crazy to see how dry and brown everything was...except for the oasis of green that accompanied the cold water flow as it wound through the valley.
As we got within easy eyeshot of the river our guides, Kelly and Zach, made a final assesment of the water and planned out our assault. The two of them had three of us to keep an eye on and since we all wanted to share in the glory we decided to simply leapfrog holes within sight of each other.
Definitely tough scenery to beat! This particular creek can be simply on fire or can be far more technical than you would ever expect of a locale with extremely low pressure. On this day it was more of the latter for me, but the rest of the group seemed to do quite well using little foam hoppers in the low and clear flows.
Of course that's not to say that I did not catch fish.
And did I mention the scenery...? With grass lined banks like these you can see why these fish are used to looking for hoppers. As we moved from spot to spot through the grasses there were hoppers flitting about with every step.
Oddly enough this river produced far more rainbows for our group than is normally expected in a watershed known for it's brown trout. These 'bows were absolutely ballistic once hooked and pulled harder than fish twice their size in the Midwest.
This will give you a bit of an idea how clear the water was. These conditions had us sneaking up on trout by crawling through the grass on more than one occasion. Despite being very wild and unpressured these fish were very spooky. We were placing pinpoint casts with 12-14 foot leaders...and if there was any drag, forget about it.
It was a pleasure to have Kelly working with Greg and I throughout the day; that dude knows these trout and this water extremely well, and how to impart that knowledge to his clients.
A little game of 'find the Senyo'...
After walking section after section of river that looked like this I thought I was in trout fishing heaven. It was seemingly a never ending cycle of grass lined riffle, run, pool, and repeat.
It was exhausting, but we found ways to deal with it.
and plenty of fish throughout the day came out to play.
After about eleven hours of fishing we called it a day and all got back together at the vehicles to break down the gear and swap stories. That story time was cut short though by a storm that came out of nowhere. It got very dark and windy, then the lightning came. We had one big bolt just on the other side of the hill from us then shortly thereafter we could see billowing smoke, confirmed by the smell. Luckily that was followed by enough rain to put out the fire, but it really hit home just how dry everything was.
After this amazing day on the water it was tough to see how it could get any better, but we had a few more days to try. With dinner knocked out, along with a few Fat Tires to wash it down, we headed back to try and get some sleep before heading back out for round two...
SAO Tyer and Fly Fishing Specialist