SAO Pages

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wyoming 2012 - Day Three

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.

So, I do have to jump in here for a second...  This was the bend that we fished just before lunch.  We did manage a few nice fish but had one big old rainbow slash at a hopper then disappear and not show itself again.  On the way back from lunch we came in from the high bank side of the bend to scan the water, and decided to give it one more shot.  We discussed what we would do, in theory, if a fish was hooked then I moved myself in to position.  From up on the outside bank, about six feet up, I pulled off line and launched a foam hopper pattern about 80 feet in to the center of the fast riffle water and watched in anticipation as it floated back towards me.  Nothing happened on the first cast so I tried another, landing the fly about a foot left of the first cast and took up the slack.  About 15 feet in to the drift the rainbow appeared and nailed the hopper, I set hook, and all hell broke loose as I though 'Oh shit...what now'!  The fish came 5 feet out of the water while violently thrashing a couple times then came straight at me.  Somehow I kept it from going into the undercut bank that I was on and it settled nicely in to the pool.  After a minute Grag eased his way down on to the clay ledge below me and slipped it in to the net
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 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 or drop him a line on his cell at 419.466.9382.

-mike schmidt
SAO Tyer and Fly Fishing Specialist

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wyoming 2012 - Day Two

The previous night’s sleep was delayed a bit by some re-rigging, delicious cold Fat Tire, and a conveniently placed Tosh marathon on Comedy Central.  Though not as early as we likely should have called it an evening, eventually the lights went out and I laid there starring at the ceiling for a bit before crashing out.  Despite the late night we woke up ready to go as on day two armed with the knowledge that we would be hitting Greg’s favorite water of the trip…or perhaps anywhere.  With gear in hand we headed downstairs to meet up with the crew for a quick breakfast, and then off we went to hit the water.  Our targeted river for Day Two was about 90 minutes away, or the Wyoming equivalent of ‘just down the street a bit’. 

I had thought the scenery from day one would be hard to beat, but day two was unbelievable.  As we made our way southwest and then off the highway and in to the hills we found ourselves in a landscape that seemed a cross of Sedona and Moab.  With red rock cliffs and canyons, and endless arroyos, it was easy to see how the Sundance Kid and his gang could melt away in to thin air ahead of their pursuers in this county.  As we wound our way back farther and farther in this unforgiving environment I could not help but think that if we were not following friends then this remote maze would certainly be cause for concern.  Luckily we had guides Cole, Zach, and Teddy along to keep us out of trouble.

Eventually we wound our way down along the river and parked back up under a grove of trees.  Everyone geared up quickly and we split off to see about some fish.

Right off I could see that today was going to be a blast.  This was small water with plenty of overhanging cover.  The casting was going to be challenging and mending across different water speeds tough, but this water looked super fishy.

It did not take long for Greg to get on the board with a nice brown that made quick work of a variation on a Madame X.  Cole is the head guide for the outfitter and was along with us for the day.  He was a pleasure to work with on the river and exuded a confidence that what we were doing would work.  

Again I was amazed at how technical the fishing was.  Despite only seeing a couple rods a week through this water they were extremely spooky and demanded a drag free drift to even show themselves.  Often they would come out from the slower lies and nose up to investigate the fly for a few feet before deciding it was an acceptable meal, or sensing something was wrong and disappearing.  The program stayed the same for us all day long...long casts, drag free drift, hitting every seam and undercut, multiple times, and setting once the fish turns away but not before.

Rather than go through every picture I will let them speak for themselves.  The scenery, water, and fish were truly spectacular.


After another long day on the water we were exhausted heading out, but all smiles and sore arms.  This would not be a day we would soon forget. 

Once the gear was broken down and the flip flops were put on we got in the cars and headed back out through the canyons.  The drive out was no less awe inspiring than the drive in.

Rather than head to town for dinner the outfitter owner, Clark, put together a Prime Rib feast for us out at the ranch.  The dinner was fantastic and then we stuck around to have a few beverages and trade stories with the guides and other guests.  This building is the oldest in the county, I believe the fourth oldest in the state, and now serves as the fly shop on the ranch. 

Inside is a great little bar for everyone to gather at and embellish stories.  The bar is filled with all sorts in old and new items, gag mounts, dart board, and of course pictures galore.  As you can see the fridge is as stickered up as my car.  Going to have to send an Anglers Choice Flies sticker out there for it...

This was the scene for a few hours that evening.  It really was fun to talk about the day on the water and to hear some of the stories of past wins and losses vs both fish and life.  This was definitely my kind of gathering; everyone had a smile on their face and a beer in their hand. 

As the evening wound down we started to turn our thoughts towards the last day on the water that was just a few hours out.  We were told that we would be hitting some newer water that the guides said had been absolutely on fire and was a few hours away over the pass through the Bighorns.  On the way back we did our best not to run over any of the hundreds off mulies and pronghorns that lined the road back to town.  We did our best to doze off quickly since we would need our rest for one final long day on Wyoming trout water...

-mike schmidt
SAO Tyer and Fly Fishing Specialist