Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wyoming's Outback: Seeking the Rumored, the Remote.... and the Reward

Last weekend, Chad Olsen and I took a busman's holiday hoping to find some rarely fished waters in a sparsely populated and rarely visited portion of the state. Armed with BLM maps, topo maps and a Yeti cooler filled with beer, we set off into the unknown. We knocked on ranch house doors, stopped passing pickups and eventually found some very interesting water.

No, I'm not going to tell you where we were. Most of these creeks were very small and difficult to access. We fished both a meadow stream and a canyon in our two days. Each day when we set off, we had no idea if that day's hike would be productive.

On Day 2, we asked a grumpy rancher (and had a NRA sticker on his pickup) if we could drop over a ridge and into a creek. This very small creek was surrounded by tough terrain and dense brush leaving us very small casting windows. Our day was up.... down… around... you know, the original "slip and slide". It was a lot of work to go up a rocky sidehill then climb back down into the brushy creek to fish another 20 foot slot. But the reward was one big fish about every 100 yards or so. Obviously, these big browns were protecting their turf as we never caught two fish in the same hole. Rewarding, but exhausting, fishing.

But enough from me...
Here is Chad's report:

"My good friend, fishing and travel partner, Scott Heywood, and I spent the weekend exploring some little known water on the west side of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. Anytime Scott and I get together, fishing or guiding clients, our time is sure to be filled with lots of laughs, inquisitive fishing insights, shared knowledge, photo sessions and memorable experiences!  For many years now we've been exploring waters near and far and this weekend was no different.  We started the trip fishing a secluded piece of water I recently discovered. We each began with one rod, but my five month old chocolate lab and guide dog in training, Finley, managed to break one of the rods almost immediately.

Not to worry though, we had a fabulous time taking turns fishing likely looking runs and sight fishing to rising browns that were feeding on a nice March Brown hatch. 

What I had envisioned as a two hour excursion turned into five hours of fantastic fishing for 15-20" browns on this small meadow stream.

Afterwards, we made our way to Ten Sleep Brewing where we enjoyed a few deliciously cold Outlaw Amber while engaged in a heated battle of Jenga!

On Easter morning, we thought we were out of luck for coffee and breakfast. Just as our hopes dwindled we found a great cafe with friendly service, a hearty breakfast, good coffee and superb pastries. Fueled for our next adventure we headed out again. We drove to the mouth of a limestone canyon and after securing the necessary information and permission, we prepared rods, loaded our packs and grabbed our camera gear.  The creek was small and holding water was initially very scarce.  I was confident we would find fish, but we had to cover ground in this rugged canyon in search of the perfect pools.

Eventually, we found deep structured water that held one large, territorial brown per pool. The canyon walls were spectacular, rising high above the narrow creek with interesting, unusual formations, in vibrant reds, whites, tans, creams. I came upon a deep, rocky hole with overhead brush and thought to myself "if there's not one here then there aren't any in this canyon".

After a couple of well placed casts in the narrow pool my dry snapped under the surface as a healthy brown took my nymph.  As I fought the brown, Scott made his way upstream to shoot some photos.  A short while later I came upon Scott hooked up to another very nice brown who tugged his line under a large boulder on the far side of the emerald pool. Scott coerced the gorgeous brown out of the hole and into his hands for some quick photos before releasing it back to its home. We continued searching holes and leap frogging each other, catching a few more wild browns on large attractors and droppered nymphs before deciding to return to the truck for a late lunch and a beverage. After refueling our tired bodies, we finished with a brief trip in an upper meadow where we both hooked a couple of solid browns including a 20 inch plus brown on Scott's final cast that jumped twice and threw his hook!  An exciting finish to a beautiful weekend with a great friend!"

Scott and I have been researching and discovering new waters throughout Montana and Wyoming in recent years.  We've created a wide variety of exciting Base Camp and Trout Tours for those wishing to explore and fish new waters.  If you're interested in fishing some of these small streams in Wyoming or hearing about our other trips, please contact Scott for more information.

Photos by Chad Olsen and Scott Heywood
Next: more info on the Base Camp and Trout Tours offered by Angling Destinations and Chad Olsen at Greater Yellowstone Flyfishing Outfitters

Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's Spring... time to go fishing in Wyoming

With the snowpack in the Wind River Range approaching 200%, the Bureau of Reclamation decided to up the release of water out of Boysen Reservoir the day we arrived. As a result, our flows last week on the Bighorn went from 3500 to 5500 cfs in three days. That along with 20-25 mph winds and turbid 42 degree waters meant SLOW fishing. Guide Chad Olsen, myself and Scott Sawtelle caught 6-10 fish a day collectively, but it was still tough when you are used to the numbers we normally tally when we get together. 

Even this giant sucker Hoovered off the bottom of a deep run didn't make up for a very slow day!

That night, we made plans to evacuate to some private water nearby. Here, we experienced great spring fishing in gin clear water. I love Wyoming just before runoff and these next few days did not disappoint. The Baetis were coming off sporadically in the afternoon making small dries and emergers very productive. The rest of the time bead-head nymphs and streamers were sure bets.

All in all, it turned out to be a great trip. Just what we were looking for in Wyoming in the early spring!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Shrimp Tails from Fish Skull

Recently, my long time friend Tom Merker, sent me an e-mail regarding some bonefish flies he had just tied using a new material. Tom is a very experienced bone fisherman having fished all over the Bahamas, so I was very curious what he had just come up with. Tom said he would mail me some samples. The flies came in a few days. When I opened the envelope, I could see this was something new and innovative and definitely merited closer attention.
The Shrimp & Cray Tail is a stainless-steel, weight molded in the shape of crustacean tails.

In the company's words:
Quick and easy to tie, the Shrimp & Cray Tail™ is a simple alternative to bead chain eyes and dumbbells – two general-purpose fly tying materials which add the needed weight to shrimp and crayfish flies, but require ungainly tying methods and lack the distinctive tail profile of these creatures.

Not that bead chains are bad [and lead eyes]... in fact, bead chains or small dumbbells have been one of the most successful and enduring fly tying materials ever since they were first popularized several decades ago.

However, their sole purpose on shrimp or crayfish patterns is purely as a weight. On these flies we're trying to imitate shrimp and crayfish that typically swim backwards (often assuming a diving, defensive posture), their purpose is purely functional. They simply add weight to the fly, and being tied in underneath the hook shank, they play an important role as a weighted keel, helping to keep the hook oriented upwards.

Think about it  as fly tyers we put a tremendous amount of creativity and innovative use of materials to realistically imitate the appearance of shrimp or crayfish eyes, feelers, mandibles, and other body parts, and then blow it by placing an unnaturally shaped piece of metal in the place where the tail of the fly is supposed to be.
Thus began the idea to create a fly tying product that would provide both form and function.

Here is the more information from their blog.

...and here are instructions on how to tie a gotcha using these new shrimp tails:

My thanks to Tom Merker for drawing my attention to this innovative new material. If you give these shrimp tails a try, let me know how they work. I'm going to try them on Crooked Island in the Bahamas in May. I'll post a report on how they worked after I return in late May.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Havana, Cuba: More Photos

Recently, as you probably know, the rules were relaxed making it much more easy for American citizens to visit Cuba. The influx of visitors from the states has begun! Hopefully, with the tourist hoards on their way, the wonderful friendliness of the Cuban people will not be lost.

The cruise shops have begun to arrive...

and the Americans are coming....

The Cubans that try to shake down tourists are dealt with harshly.

Music is part of the culture

We visited Hemingway's favorite bar, La Bodeguita del Medio, for dinner and a few mojitos. The food, music and dancing were great!

Yes, the Cubans do love their cigars!

There are signs of the revolution everywhere... if a bit tattered and frayed at the edges.

At the Museum of the Revolution, American presidents along with the deposed Cuban president Batista are called cretins and for solidifying the opposition, the "best friends of the revolution".

Baseball and football rule the sports world in Cuba

I have no idea why this young couple was having their wedding photos taken right in the middle of traffic!

Warriors at the boxing academy... we just happened to see a guy running (see next photo to see the weakling). W saw him duck into a building so our curiosity was piqued. We peeked in the door to find men of many weight classes intently following the instructions of their trainer.

Want to box this dude?

Scissor sharpening

Sara passed out pens and paper pads to these children: this father wanted one for his daughter.....

The little girls immediately began writing. She was thrilled and so very cute.

A salsa lesson. We peeked in and watched. The women were good.... the men, not so much!

Thanks Sara, this was a wonderful trip!!