Monday, July 27, 2015

Wyoming Trout Tours: Day One and a New Game Plan Needed for Day Two!

Last weekend, I met Scott Sawtelle and Chad Olsen in Cody on Sunday night. We were hoping to float the North Fork of the Shoshone for two days then drive down to Thermopolis to fish the Wind River for a couple more days.

So far this summer, the North Fork had been consistently blown out by a landslide in Yellowstone Park. Each time it rained, the river became a chocolate brown mess which lasted until the next time it rained, usually only a few days later. We had heard reports that it had just begun to clear up again. We had heard the river was still a bit cloudy, but it had started to fish well.

When Monday dawned bright and clear, we decided to see if the reports were true. As we headed up the valley, we could see the river looked clear enough to fish, so we shuttled vehicles and put in about 12 miles above Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

We had a great day! Lots of cuts and cuttbows in the 12-16 inch range and a few up to 19 inches. The scenery was magnificent and we never saw another boat on the river all day… simply amazing for one of the best trout rivers in the west. The North Fork was so good we decided to try it again on Tuesday.

As they say, "the best laid plans"... On Tuesday, as we were driving to the put-in and crossing the first bridge, we could clearly see that the North Fork was once again a chocolate mess. We immediately flashed our lights at each other and pulled over to then side of the road. We got out and huddled on the berm with the Yellowstone tourist traffic whizzing by. We obviously needed a new game plan! 

We decided to go exploring! There are a few small rivers in this part of Wyoming we have always talked about floating, so it was a good time as any to give them a try. We got out our maps and searched for workable access points.

Scott and Chad rig up….

We drove to a few spots where we thought we could drag out a raft, then knocked on the appropriate ranch house doors. We were eventually able to line up a seemingly doable put-in and take-out. At one ranch house, we were told a couple Wyoming Game and Fish guys tried to float the river a few years ago. They had heard they had found a lot of logjams and sweepers, but had no idea if they had made it or more importantly, had found any fish! We thought we had bitten off about 12 river miles, but we really didn't know. We basically had no idea what to expect. Could we navigate thru logjams, avoid sweepers and not get bled into waterless braids?

There was only one way to find out… we backed up to a steep cutback, dropped the raft in and slid out into the swift current. It was time to find what this river held… 
Next up: The results of our explorations

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