Wednesday, October 9, 2019

One of Those Rare Days

To refresh your memory, in my last post, I'm in north central Wyoming fishing on a lesser known stretch of the Bighorn River. And, as previously reported, my companions had departed... Dan Cerven and Chad Olsen were on their way to the Billings airport. Dan was headed home, Chad would return to his full guide schedule.

I was now solo, so I chose to float a huge ox-bow. Here, I could unload my kayak at the put-in and drive my car to the take-out. Then I could walk a mile back to the put-in thus avoiding a shuttle and still getting 2-3 miles of prime water to fish. I wanted to fish a hopper, but as the morning drug on with no takes, I switched to a hopper/dropper. Still no luck...

After lunch, I reached a braided stretch and the prime hopper spots grassy banks and riffle seams bring. I switched back to my small hopper. I waded around one island with no luck. At the last small riffle just downstream of where I had started, I probed the head of a short run with my first cast. As I lost my hopper in the sun's glare, I thought I saw a head barely scratch the surface.  I struck optimistically. My line came tight with a delicious THUNK.

"Cool", I muttered as my line ripped upriver. After a careful fight, I landed a fat 20" brightly colored buck.


After a Cliff Bar and a slug of water, I paddled across the river to probe a very shallow, mid-river bar. The edges of this bar looked like a good holding spot for a big trout. I cast across the fast riffle water at my feet plopping the hopper on the barely submerged bar. I made a huge mend to avoid the inevitable drag that I knew would come mere seconds later. I only managed three feet of a drag free float, but that was enough. Just as my hopper was about to take off with the current, a huge 21" rainbow completely cleared the water as he snared my hopper. The take was so aggressive it startled me. My heart pounded as I struggled to gain control of the big 'bow in this heavy current. This fish was very strong and demanded all my attention as it fought hard to escape. Once at hand, the 'bow probably went 5 lbs. WOW!

From then on my day was absurd. At one point, I texted Chad a photo of my airborne rainbow, while I was still fighting another fish. I also hooked a fish off an undercut grassy bank while I was in my kayak. I didn't want to drift past the next riffle so I put my rod handle in my mouth as I paddled to shore. The big 'bow stripped line off my reel and somehow I managed to catch the fish without breaking off a tooth! This was pure luck and a bit stupid... but it did work and the next riffle did produce!.


As I worked the runs on the way to the takeout, I hooked fish after fish... all big, all on hoppers. I had one of those days you dream about. I probably hooked 20 big fish and landed 12-14. I really don't know, but I do know it was a damn good day! Finally I just quit... 

When I hooked a big bow in 2 feet of water exiting a tiny side channel I knew it was time to stop. The bow jumped at me feet and went 21 inches. It was time to stop, best to avoid gluttony... it builds good fish karma.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Dan, Scott and Chad Head to the Bighorn for Day 2

After our walk and wade exploratory, we ventured west to float Wyoming's Bighorn River. We had heard that fish numbers were down after two years of very high water that apparently flushed out many of the smaller fish. We were told there weren't many fish... and that the fishing wasn't that good.

Well, I don't know how many fish you need in a day to be happy, but short of Alaska, I've never caught such big fish. Yes, we didn't catch many, but the ones we caught were all 18-21 inches and fat.... no that's not correct, they were.... FAT, FAT, FAT! 
Dan with a huge 7lb. rainbow. Look at the belly on this fish!
Some of the 'bows we caught were 6 or 7 lbs. They were strong powerful fish. I caught one at the end of the day I couldn't control with my 4 wt. It took me quite awhile to land this fish.

My biggest 'bow was smaller than Dan's, but still a pig! 
None smaller than this guy!


Of course, it was lots of fun being with Dan and Chad again. Thanks for the invite fellas!

The following day, Dan had to fly home and Chad was driving him to the Billings airport. I decided this river deserved another thumb's-up from me. I had my kayak with me so my plans for tomorrow were laid the moment I stepped out of the river on following this great day. I would kayak and get out to wade fish slowly. Any runs or rising fish would merit my attention. If I was very stealthy and sneaky, I  was curious what I could find... 
stay tuned for my report!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Fishing the Wyoming Hinterlands with Dan Cerven

I was lucky enough to spend some time a week or so ago with my old friend Dan Cerven. I've known Dan for over 20 years and when he gets a chance to come to Wyoming to fish, I love to join him for a day or two. Dan has a great sense of humor and also happens to be a first rate angler.

Dan Cerven in his element.
Dan fishes bamboo only so his fishing style is relaxed and very effective. Many years ago, I hooked Dan up with my friend and guide Chad Olsen... now they fish together quite a few times each year. They are like brothers. As they travel around sampling the best fishing spots in Wyoming and sometimes Montana, they argue about flies, fishing techniques and equipment and when they are not doing that, they give each other a ration of shit. It's a lot of fun to watch... I just sit back and enjoy.

On Day One, we fished an absolutely stunning canyon stretch on a stream that will remain unnamed. Here we caught hefty browns and rainbows up to 16 inches all on dry flies. It was tight casting and somewhat challenging as the water was crystal clear and the fish a bit wary.

We still managed to catch lots of brightly colored trout and had a great time together. Thanks Dan and Chad for great day!
Next the three of us travel to fish the Bighorn River in Wyoming.
We picked Dan up at the international airport... (don't believe everything you read on the internet
It was beautiful fall day!


Chad Olsen sticks a fat little trout.
...and even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then. you can see, I was having fun!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

FISH XVIII... More Photos!

Here are more photos from FISH XXVIII...  
The more I look at these photos the more I realize what a great adventure we all had. My only regret is I didn't get to fish all the rivers and streams!
...and Craig Heath posted more photos here

Very cool John!
Beautiful Andy
The Gang of Four
Nice Cutthroat Chris!
Jim Burke powers up after a fantastic morning on a stream that shall go unnamed.

Dr. Peskoe and a huge rainbow! 

Monday, September 30, 2019

FISH XXVIII... Back to Wyoming!

The goal of this year's FISH trip was to fish the fantastic small streams that surround Cody, Wyoming including the North and South Forks of the Shoshone, the Clark's Fork and as many of the other streams that drain out of the west slope of Yellowstone Park as we could. We planned to headquarter at Monster Lake and head out each morning in groups of 2 or 4 to explore, fish and enjoy each other's company. We were a group of 26 with 12 guides. That was the plan... but in the days leading up to the trip we were thrown a few curves.
Monster Lake was under new management.

The first was the purchase of Monster Lake by Kanye West a few weeks before our arrival. After ironing out an agreement with the Kanye representatives, our group was "grandfathered" in... whew, that was dodged bullet Number 1.

The second bullet was a wet one. On the Saturday before our arrival, a monster fall storm dumped 18 inches of snow in parts of Yellowstone and a couple inches of rain down lower. This blew out the Clark's Fork and the north and South Forks of the Shoshone. 

These spikes are never a good thing when you're going fishing

After some creative thinking and explorations, we found fishable water for our first day, Sunday. Monday and Tuesday went very well as waters cleared up and the fishing turned on. As a result, Bullet Number 2 was also successfully dodged and FISH came to a very successful conclusion.

Thanks to all involved for going with the flow. Thanks to the guides for a great job. Thanks to all FISH members for your good humor and positivity and thanks to Ryan and Kayleigh for a job well done under somewhat difficult circumstances. And thanks to Kanye, we appreciate your willingness to host us and not ruin our trip at the last minute!

Here then are some of the photos from FISH XVIII:
More to follow soon!