Wednesday, September 30, 2015

FISH XXIV: Overview and the First Couple Days

The annual FISH trip (Forum for Indiana Subjects in Healthcare) just concluded this last Sunday. This year was our twenty-fourth year and somehow it just keeps getting better and better. Not only did we enjoy some terrific fishing, but we also had a great time together. FISH XXIV had a few new attendees and they were warmly welcomed into the fold. Before I get into all the details... we enjoyed perfect weather (sometimes a bit too perfect!), a great group and awesome fishing on some of Wyoming's best streams.

As we did last year with FISH XXIII, we explored many rivers and streams on the eastern and western slopes of Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains. For most anglers, these waters are off their radar as we enjoyed some of the most remote and least pressured fisheries in the “Lower 48”. In this land of high sagebrush, working cowboys and irrigated alfalfa fields FISH was ensconced far away from the more well known angling "hot spots".

In order to access these areas and minimize the travel time needed to reach these waters, we headquartered FISH XXIV at the Red Reflet Guest Ranch near Tensleep, Wyoming. The Red Reflet is both a working cattle ranch and a luxurious resort. Located on over 27,000 acres, the Red Reflet's terrain varies from red rimrock to rolling foot hills to aspen groves, limestone canyons, and mountain meadows. In addition to the outstanding scenery, we enjoyed luxurious accommodations and simply outstanding cuisine. All anglers were housed in one of four expansive chalets each with an incredible view of the Big Horn, Jim Bridger, Owl Creek and Absoroka Mountains. Mealtime was truly memorable as much on the table was grown or raised on the ranch, then expertly prepared by the resident chef. Our food was delicious and beautifully presented.

But back to the fishing!
Over the 7 days of FISH XXIV, 
each attendee had opportunities to fish 4 distinct areas.

The first option was to explore the remote forks of the Powder River on ranches that sit at the mouth of red rock canyons. These ranches are near Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's famous Hole-In-The-Wall. These beautiful canyons are home to small streams that have carved their way out of the mountains and into the prairies. Each day, the groups on these streams caught many 14-17 inch fish, some 18-20 inch fish, and a few over 20 inches. Rarely was our fishing anything less than outstanding!

The second area we fished was on Piney Creek near the site of the Fetterman Battlefield and Fort Phil Kearny. 
This year we secured fishing opportunities on two adjacent Piney Creek ranches. Here, Piney Creek epitomizes western brown trout water. Its runs and undercut banks make for classic fall hopper fishing. We had to be stealthy and methodical, but the reward was browns and rainbows from 16-24 inches.

The third area we fished was on the west side of the Bighorns on tributaries of Tensleep and Nowood Creeks. We fished a half dozen streams that flow through working cattle ranches. These streams will remain nameless. Suffice it to say, the fishing was outstanding with browns and rainbows up to 20 inches caught with the typical fish being 15-18 inches! 

In addition to the streams and creeks mentioned above, each angler got at least one day on Wyoming's Bighorn River. We float fished below the "Wedding of the Waters" where the Wind River becomes the Bighorn River near Thermopolis, Wyoming. To my mind, this is the best "big fish" tailwater fishery in the lower 48. The average fish on the Bighorn is 18 inches and each day numerous 20+ inch fish were caught. Due to our unseasonably warm weather, the river fished well in the mornings, but afternoons were tough... that was until our last day when a light cloud cover and cooler temperatures turned the river on. On that day, both the morning "itty-bitty" hatch and the afternoon "hopper" hatch were outstanding.

More on all the fishing in subsequent posts, but for now...

I want to thank... 
...all our guides: Justin, Cole, Jeff, Brett, John, Peter, Neil Alyssa, Gary and Clark!! You all did such a fantastic job. We hope to see you again soon... possibly next September! 
...the Red Reflet staff... what a wonderful job you did. The food was superb, the lodging fantastic, the ambiance wonderful and the organization perfect. A special thank you to Laurence and Bob Kaplan, Amy Zizzo, Chef Matthew Cariveau, Pastry Chef Sophia Beaton and Chef's Assistant Shauntel Thackery. 
...all the FISH XXIII trip members. Thanks for an absolutely wonderful trip. I had a great time seeing all of you again! What would the fall be without FISH! See you all next year for FISH XXV... 25 years-whew! It will be a celebration!

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