North Platte River – 03/29/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: Alcova Afterbay

North Platte River 03/29/2017 Photo Album

Steve and I relaxed and took our time on Wednesday morning after our extended brush with adverse weather on Tuesday. The forecast projected snow over night, but the full extent of frozen water was the thin layer of ice on Steve’s windshield. After a quick breakfast at the Hampton Inn, we checked out and drove thirty miles to the Alcova afterbay, where we ended our fishing adventure on Tuesday. The last hour on Tuesday was the highlight of our day, so it did not take much to persuade us to return for some wade fishing prior to returning to Denver, CO.

The sky was once again blue, and the temperature hovered around forty degrees, when we climbed into our waders at the crude boat launch at the afterbay. Both Steve and I kept our rods in a rigged state, since they were fitted with Greg’s two egg set up. On Tuesday Greg pointed toward a large post protruding from the river forty yards above our parking spot as a place we should check out, so that was our eventual target destination. Initially however an attractive deep run near the boat launch beckoned us, so we waded into the river and covered the current seam before we migrated to the post area.

I used my steelhead approach, as I fanned casts close and then progressively farther out until I covered a section of attractive water. If fish did not materialize, I took three steps downstream and repeated the exercise. I duplicated this cycle five or six times with no positive results, and then I moved close to the space of a fisherman who arrived after Steve and I. This was my clue to change locations, so I circled above Steve and descended a steep bank, until I was directly across from the thick protruding post.

A nice deep trough curled between me and the post, so I lobbed some casts to the top and allowed the eggs to tumble through the deep area, but again I was shutout in my attempt to log a fish on the tally sheet. I contemplated a move, and I waded out below the post and then upriver, until I was across from a nice deep riffle. I was now casting toward the north, and I avoided the annoying sun glare that affected me when casting from the bank. I made five or six nice drifts through the moderately deep riffles, and on the seventh pass, just as the eggs began to lift at the end, I felt a jolt and instantly set the hook. Imagine my state of shock, when I witnessed a large silver missile, as it shrugged and charged about in the water surrounding me. I was quite pleased to be using a six weight rod and a 2X tippet.

P3290019.MOV

After a brief but spirited battle I lifted the head of the rainbow trout and nudged it into my under sized net. The fish was longer than the opening of my net and created a significant sag. I estimated my catch to be an eighteen inch rainbow, but more impressively it was well fed and exhibited a large girth. I captured a few photos and then smiled as the aquatic beast swam off to resume its life in the Alcova afterbay.

By now Steve moved up to the tail of a long slow moving pool above the riffles in front of me. He was casting from the bank, so I progressed directly upstream until I was above his position, and I cast back toward the bank. I covered the slow deep water in a manner similar to the faster run at the start of my day. I fanned casts of increasing length, and then after I covered a section, I moved up the river three or four steps and repeated. I made one full cycle of casts and added some steps, and then once again as the eggs reached the end of their drift and began to lift ever so slightly, I felt a hard grab and instinctively reacted with a hook set. Again I was thrilled feel the throb of a live stream resident on the end of my line, and the new combatant fought nearly as valiantly as its larger cousin.

P3290024.JPG

Unable to Grip Around the Large Body

Eventually I lifted the rainbow into my net, and I obtained a good look at my prize. This trout was around fourteen inches long, but it displayed the shape of a bluegill. The huge wide body behind the head prevented me from wrapping my hand to gain a grip. I was amazed at the steep upward and downward taper of the body, as it moved away from the small head.

By now the sun was higher in the sky, and the temperature crept upward, and Wednesday evolved into a very nice day. Steve continued prospecting the tail of the deep pool, while I waded back downstream and circled around the post, and then I hiked along the north bank toward the bridge and dam upstream. I prospected some marginal areas, but I was not able to spot any fish, so after some unproductive exploration, I returned and stood on the high bank above Steve. I sighted quite a few large trout across and below him, but they were hovering over some light colored round gravel openings in the river bed, so I assumed they were spawning and not interested in Steve’s offerings.

P3290026.JPG

Steve Focused

Steve landed one nineteen inch rainbow, while I was exploring upstream, and then he hooked and played another beauty that escaped, before he maneuvered it within a rod’s length of his net. He endured a lengthy period with no response to his flies, so he was ready to try something different. We decided to walk back down river to a position across from the bottom tip of the gravel island. When we arrived, we discovered one of the two fishermen that were below me initially. She was waded into the river waist deep, so we debated moving to the deep run below her, but the river dropped off rapidly in that area, and we were not certain we could fish it effectively.

P3290027.JPG

Pretty View

I glanced at my watch and noted it was nearly noon, so we decided to call it a day and returned to the Subaru. We quickly removed our waders and restored our rods to their rod cases and began the four hour return drive to Denver. Although two fish in three hours did not represent scintillating action, I was quite pleased to land two very nice rainbow trout while wade fishing. Our wade fishing experience on Monday resulted in a shutout, so two large hard fighting rainbow trout on Wednesday was a pleasant surprise.

Fish Landed: 2

North Platte Wednesday: 2013, 2014, 2015

North Platte River – 03/28/2017

Time: 9:00AM – 5:00PM

Location: From Red Butte Ranch to the western edge of Casper; the Alcova Afterbay.

North Platte River 03/28/2017 Photo Album

As usual Steve and I awoke on Tuesday morning in a state of anxious anticipation. The river float with guide Greg was the apex of our North Platte trip, and we were on the verge of completing another day of drifting over thousands of hungry rainbow trout per stream mile. Two pieces of negative news, however, clouded our optimism. The first was the weather forecast described in my previous post. Casper weather projected to be a high of 41 degrees with a 90% chance of rain over the entire day and then converting to snow in the evening. We also learned that the much anticipated flush took place earlier than usual and ended a week ago. Despite these discouraging factors we pinned our hopes on the vast experience and knowledge of our guide Greg. He did not disappoint us in any of our previous float adventures (2013, 2014, and 2015) with Wyoming Fly Fishing.

After a continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn Steve and I completed the twenty minute drive to the small shop operated by Wyoming Fly Fishing. We met Greg and paid our fee for the day trip, while Greg assembled our rods and configured our lines with the traditional egg and worm arrangement. Steve’s line displayed two eggs, while mine was adorned with a butterscotch egg and a purple leech. We jumped in Greg’s truck, and he proceeded west to the Red Butte Ranch (where he lives), and we launched from there.

P3280007.JPG

Gray Grey Reef

In a bow to meteorological accuracy, the sky was an imposing slate gray, and low hanging clouds shrouded the mountain range to the south. The dashboard thermometer registered 39 degrees and small water droplets pelted the windshield on a fairly frequent basis. I wore a warm UnderArmour layer, a fishing shirt, a fleece cardigan, a heavy down parka, and my raincoat. I felt like the Michelin man stuffed in a rain shell. My head gear of choice was the New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and I capped off my aversion to cold with my down ski mittens filled with hand warmers. Sadly even with this massive compilation of fleece, down and warmth generating technology, I suffered through various stages of near hypothermia. The worst factor over the course of the day was the famous Wyoming wind, which howled up the river and into our faces for nearly the entire eight hours.

P3280010.MOV

 

P3280013.JPG

Avoiding the Wind

We launched and our fishing approach followed a consistent formula over the course of the day. I began in the bow of the boat, and then Steve and I switched positions after lunch. The water was somewhat colored, and this enabled us to cast a fairly short distance from the boat; rarely more than fifteen to twenty feet. The rules were simple. Both fishermen were required to cast to the same side of the boat, Greg directed our casts, and we set at the slightest sign of pause or dip in the indicator. 90% of the time the set was initiated by the flies snagging into aquatic vegetation or rocks, but often enough to maintain focus, the hook set resulted in a throbbing angry fish.

During the morning I landed two rainbow trout, while Steve demonstrated his boat fishing prowess by netting 8-10 fish. Greg exchanged the leech for a second neon green egg part way through the morning, but the change did not seem to improve my fortunes. I also registered a couple foul hooked fish and three or four momentary connections. During the morning I suffered through several periods of exceptional chill, when the wind gusted in my face and shivers emanated from all levels of my spine. At noon Greg pulled the drift boat into a small nook at the top of an island, where we benefited from the shelter of a high bank while we gobbled our lunch.

P3280014.JPG

My Fishing Mates

Between 12:30 and 4PM we covered the remaining portion of the river, and I added two more rainbows to my straggling fish count. The thirty fish days of 2013 and 2014 were distant memories, and all I could contemplate was a hot shower and delicious dinner. Steve meanwhile fared better than me in the afternoon, as he moved the fish count to twelve, but even this elevated level of action was insufficient to take his mind of the ridiculous Wyoming wind chill. Greg did his best to find high banks that could shelter us from the fierce wind, but the river only offered a few of these natural wind breaks.

As we approached 4 o’clock, Greg kicked in the outboard motor and made fast work of the remaining slow moving unending pools. He then suggested that we move to the afterbay, and after loading the boat on the trailer, he drove us both to the Wyoming Fly Fishing headquarters. We jumped in Steve’s car and followed Greg to the end of the lane at Red Butte Ranch, where we parked the car and rejoined Greg in his truck. From there we drove another ten miles to the Alcova afterbay, and Greg launched the Adipose drift boat at a crude boat ramp. Initially Steve and I were fearful that Greg planned to drift from the Grey Reef launch back to Red Butte, a float of easily two hours, but then we realized what he was up to. The thought of another two hours in the icy cold weather was enough to crush our spirits.

P3280016.JPG

Number 5 Was This Beauty

Ultimately the last hour at Alcova was the best of the day. We embarked on the repetitive practice of drifting seventy-five yards on either side of a long narrow island across from the boat launch. 75% of the passes were on the side closest to the crude parking area, and the remainder were in the slow shallow channel on the south side. During this time I experienced another foul hooked fish and several long distance releases, but more importantly I landed two impressive rainbows that perhaps represented the largest fish of any of my visits to the North Platte. The first was a fat seventeen inch rainbow that displayed bright spawning colors, and my last fish of the day was a trophy to remember. The red-sided slab was in the twenty-two inch range, but the weight was even more impressive, as Greg estimated 4-5 pounds. Clearly this fish was not counting its calories.

P3280018.JPG

22

The time at Alcova salvaged an otherwise disappointing day for me, although Steve reached double digits and registered a respectable outing. For some reason the weather also improved during the last hour, and this only served to enhance my positive experience. Six fish in eight hours of fishing is certainly a sub-par catch rate, however, it is hard to overlook a twenty-two inch lunker to cap off a bitterly cold and windy adventure. Needless to say a hot shower was a welcome conclusion to a frigid day on a Wyoming river.

Fish Landed: 6

North Platte River – 03/27/2017

Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Grey Reef

North Platte River 03/27/2017 Photo Album

We skipped 2016, but my friend Steve and I made a trip to the Grey Reef stretch of the North Platte River in each of the previous three years. In 2013 and 2014 we took advantage of a deal offered by Wyoming Fly Fishing at the Fly Fishing Show in Denver. We enjoyed a one day guided float trip on the North Platte for a reduced price, if we scheduled the trip before the end of March. We gambled on tolerable weather and completed both trips on days when the high temperature climbed into the fifties. During the first two years our visit to Grey Reef coincided with the annual flush, when the reservoir managers released a huge slug of water for three or four hours each morning. The surge of water cleansed the gravel and rocks on the riverbed to enhance the spawning habitat for the rainbow trout. In addition the rush of high water dislodged worms and eggs from the sediment and bank, and this created a natural buffet for the resident trout. Our numbers during both years reflected the impact of the flush, as we each landed in excess of thirty fish.

During 2015 we were unable to schedule a trip for the end of March, so we made an appearance around the middle of April. Compared to any normal standard of fishing, we experienced superlative success, but our fish counts dwindled from 30 to the 15-20 range, and we attributed this circumstance to the absence of the flush.

For 2017 we once again exploited the show discount and booked our float for March 28. When we made this commitment, we hoped that it would once again coincide with the cleansing phenomenon referred to as the flush. Every early season North Platte River trip followed a similar calendar. We drove to Casper, WY on Monday morning, checked into our lodging, and then fished the Grey Reef tailwater on Monday afternoon. Tuesday was the highlight of our adventure, as we drifted the river below the dam with our guide Greg. On Wednesday morning we wade fished various segments of the North Platte River in the area, and typically we called it quits and made the return drive during the afternoon.

P3270003.JPG

Grey Reef from Parking Lot Side

2017 would not be an exception to our historical practice. Steve picked me up at 7AM on Monday morning, and we made the four hour trek to Casper, where we checked into the Hampton Inn. After a small lunch we continued west, until we pulled into the parking lot next to the Grey Reef tailwater between the dam and boat launch. Monday was a pleasant day with the temperature in the fifties and a clear blue sky, although the weather gods threw a bit of adversity our way with the ever present Wyoming wind. Quite a few fishermen were already casting on both sides of the river, but we found some space between the parking lot and the boat launch and began our quest for explosive North Platte rainbow trout.

P3270001.JPG

Pine Squirrel Leech

I began my search for a red striped bullet with an apricot otter egg and a pine squirrel leech, but after a reasonable test, I remained without a fish. I exchanged the leech for a red San Juan worm, and this move failed to improve my fortunes. Steve experienced similar luck, so we decided to change our scenery, and we hiked across the dam to the opposite side of the river. I staked out some very inviting runs on the other side of the narrow island below the dam, but once again my egg and worm offering was totally ignored.

P3270002.JPG

Apricot Egg

After another half hour elapsed I exchanged the San Juan worm for a vanilla woolly bugger, but again the change was ignored. In a final act of desperation I removed both flies and knotted a sparkle minnow to my line below a split shot. The shiny synthetic bait imitation looked amazing to me, but the fish in the river had other thoughts. I manipulated the minnow with a variety of retrieves, but the river trout population was absent as far as I was concerned.

P3270005.JPG

South Bank on the Opposite Side of the Narrow Island

By 4PM we ran out of real estate on the south side of the river, so Steve and I returned to the north bank next to the parking lot. We dabbled a bit in the runs above the boat launch, but by now we were both bored with the lack of action, so we called it quits and returned to the car and ultimately to our hotel room.

Monday was an inauspicious start to our North Platte River trip, but we were confident that our guide Greg would know the secret to attracting the wild rainbows to our offerings on Tuesday. Our main concern became the foreboding weather forecast that stared back at me from my weather app. Tuesday’s high was projected to be forty-one degrees with a 90% chance of rain or snow over the entire day. My priorities shifted from fish count to survival, as I rolled into bed on Monday night.

Fish Landed: 0

North Platte River – 04/22/2015

Time: 9:30AM – 11:30AM

Location: The after bay above the town of Alcova

Fish Landed: 3

North Platte River 04/22/2015 Photo Album

In some ways Wednesday morning was more rewarding than the Tuesday float trip despite landing only three fish in two hours of fishing. The difference was that Steve and I were on our own wade fishing in unknown waters with flows rushing down the river bed at 2,400 cfs.

On Tuesday we asked Greg, our guide, for suggestions on where we could enjoy some success by wade fishing on Wednesday morning before we made the four hour drive back to Denver. He suggested the after bay above Alcova and gave us fairly specific directions. Steve and I remembered turning at a church and parking after crossing a wooden bridge from his description. After breakfast at the Hampton Inn on Wednesday morning, we made the drive west to Alcova and followed Greg’s directions. The town was quite small, and we could see the after bay from the highway, so we were able to locate his recommendation.

Just as he described, we found a wooden bridge and crossed to the southern side and parked in an open area on the eastern side of the road. Several vehicles preceded us, and in fact a fisherman already locked up the prime spot just below the bridge on the east side of the river. Before preparing to fish, Steve and I strolled across the bridge and stopped to gaze down river at the area occupied by the fisherman. Sure enough we felt an adrenalin rush as we observed at least 25 large trout spread out in the shallow flow between the main current and the bank. We both suspected that many of these fish were in spawning mode, but the size and density was enough to raise the heartbeat of any red blooded fisherman.

We continued to the north side of the bridge, and once again we observed a pod of generous sized fish in a smaller narrow space between the current and the bank. Unfortunately this area was much smaller than the occupied space, and it presented the adversity of numerous overhanging branches and required back hand casts from right handed fishermen.

We hustled back to the car, as several additional vehicles arrived during our surveillance mission. The prime spot on the south bank and downstream side of the bridge was occupied, and Steve was prepared to fish much earlier than me, so he chose to fish to the pod on the north bank below the bridge. When I finally rigged my rod, I crossed the bridge and descended a steep path to a spot above the bridge. The water here was rather deep, but moved fairly slowly, so I hoped I could tempt fish that were not visible due to the depth. I began fishing with a butterscotch egg and red rock worm that Greg gave us, but after standing in the waist deep water for 15 to 20 minutes and making numerous backhand casts, I became frustrated with the lack of action and the relative difficulty of my position.

I retreated back to the Santa Fe and pulled on a fleece top, as I discovered that standing in the water created quite a chill despite the relatively warm air temperature. The only option I now had was to walk downstream along a dirt path on the south side of the river. This path ran along the border of an elementary school, but the lack of lights and activity suggested that the school was not in session or perhaps not currently being used. I hiked downstream approximately a hundred yards and found a place to clamber down the steep bank over some large rocks.

When I reached the river’s edge I discovered a wide swath of smooth featureless slow moving water. The only positive to this section was the fact that the water was fairly deep. Surely there had to be fish in this deeper version of the water just below the bridge that was stacked with at least 25 large finned creatures. I began to methodically cover the water and worked my way upstream while cautiously hugging the steep rocky bank. Typically I made three casts with each one fanning out farther toward the middle of the river. In this way I covered lanes separated by 8-10 foot spaces. After each series of casts I moved upstream three or four steps and repeated the process.

After fifteen minutes of fruitless casting and methodical movement, I fell into a bit of a daze, and I was startled when I saw a slight dip in my indicator at the tail of the drift. I pulled myself out of my trance and executed a swift hook set, but I only managed to prick the fish as the hook came free in an instant. This did give me a ray of hope, so I continued my game of river coverage for another ten minutes when once again a twitch at the tail of the drift provoked an intuitive hook set. This time I felt the weight of a substantial fish and I played it to the point where I could see the stripe of a rainbow, but then once again the fish executed an escape maneuver, and I stood motionless feeling waves of regret.

P4210045.JPG

Fat Rainbow Landed from Afterbay Area

Now I was certain that my method could yield results, so with renewed optimism I continued along the bank. I had probably covered one-third of the distance to the bridge at this point, but it wasn’t long before the process played out a third time, but in this case I managed to play a strong fighting fish that raced up and down the river until I finally exerted side pressure and brought it to my net. What a thrill and relief it was to finally have a broad seventeen inch rainbow nestled in my net! I was not certain I could repeat this success, so I snapped several photos and then gently released the noble silver and pink bullet back to its aquatic home. I contrived a method, persevered, and found success using one of the red rock worms that I tied prior to the 2014 trip. This was quite gratifying.

P4210046.JPG

Proud to Land This Fish While Wade Fishing

On I went resuming my pattern of casting and moving until I once again hooked a feisty rainbow. The indicator only hesitated slightly on this fish, so I was quite pleased that I reacted and landed number two. This rainbow was around 14 inches, but it also appeared to be quite healthy and well fed.

P4210049.JPG

Lack of Speckles on This One

The last fish was the smallest of the three landed in the morning and registered around 13 inches. It’s amazing how ones standards of size adjust when fishing a river that holds a pool of larger fish.

The gentleman below the bridge finally exited, and I could see Steve sandwiched between the bridge and the departing fisherman’s previous position. I methodically worked my way up the river to thirty feet below Steve, and here I could finally see the pods of fish spread out across the river bed just as they appeared from the bridge. I was skeptical that I could tempt these lunkers preoccupied with spawning, but decided to give it a half-hearted try. I lobbed several casts above the pod of three or four fish, and on the third drift I saw one of the fish move slightly to the side so I set the hook. Much to my amazement, the fish reacted, and it appeared that I hooked the trout in the mouth with the egg fly. Off the fish streaked, but as I maintained tension, I could feel a small give and then a reconnect. From past experience I knew that this indicated that the hook released from the mouth of the trout, and then the trailing hook found a home in the body. Sure enough when I finally skimmed the fifteen inch rainbow across the surface into the net, I could see that the trailing worm was embedded in the tail. I gently removed the intrusion and released the fine coldwater fish to its freedom.

P4210050.JPG

A Drift Boat in the Afterbay

By now it was approaching 11:30, and Steve and I needed to return to Denver by 4:30, so we climbed the bank to the car and shed our gear and prepared for the return trip. I enjoyed the two hours of fishing on Wednesday morning because I proved to myself that I could catch fish in new water by developing a strategy and sticking to it. The North Platte River was fun, but I’m now ready for more aquatic insect hatches and hopefully some dry fly action. Stay tuned.

North Platte River – 04/21/2015

Time: 8:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Boat launch below Grey Reef to Government Bridge take out.

Fish Landed: 15

North Platte River 04/21/2015 Photo Album

On Tuesday Steve Supple and I drifted the same water with the same guide that we used at the end of March in 2014 and 2013. The variables that were different were warmer air temperatures, significantly higher flows, and a three week lag on the calendar. Also the flows were running at 2,400 cfs 24/7; whereas, during previous visits the authorities were releasing flush surges intermittently each day. How would these variables impact our fishing success? This was the question that Steve and I debated prior to our scheduled float on Tuesday.

P4200024.JPG

The Drift Boat on the Left Is Ours

Danielle at the Wyoming Fly Fishing shop instructed us to be ready by 7:30 on Tuesday, and Steve and I followed her directions precisely. We each gave our rods and reels to our guide Greg Mueller so he could configure them while we climbed into our waders. Once we were ready, we climbed into his truck, and he drove west on route 220 and turned into the parking lot next to the boat ramp below Grey Reef. When Steve and I asked Greg how the river was fishing in the post-flush time period, he responded with his typically optimistic answer that the river fishes well all year round.

P4200025.JPG

Tall Grass on the South Bank Not Far from Lauch

It was bright and sunny at the launch site, but the ever present wind made its presence known, so I wore my down vest over my Adidas windbreaker pullover. Greg added an electric motor to his Adipose drift boat since our last visit, and he used this aid to power us downstream and ahead of the other guides and boats stacked up at the launch site.

P4200026.JPG

Steve Grins as Guide Greg Operates the Electric Motor

Once we were sufficiently clear of competing boat traffic, Steve and I flicked our lines into the river. Steve’s rig sported a purple worm and midge pupa while mine featured a butterscotch egg and red rock worm. In a short amount of time my thingamabobber dipped, and I set the hook and discovered that I was attached to a streaking rainbow trout. After a spirited run, I gained some control, but I was disappointed to realize that the fish was foul hooked. The fish did not add to my fish count, but I was optimistic that I made contact with a nice fish early in the float.

P4200031.JPG

Big Old Owl Looks at Us From Perch

We began the day with me in the bow and Steve in the rear, and then we swapped locations at lunch time. Steve fished from the back position all day during our 2014 float, so I felt it would only be fair if I shared that position. Typically the front is preferred, as that fisherman’s flies are seen first by fish, although I do not believe that the position is as critical when fishing subsurface eggs, worms and nymphs.

I spent the morning in the bow and followed the pattern of casting fifteen to twenty feet to the side and forward of the boat. Greg was very precise in his instruction and quick to reprimand deviations, as he expertly managed the drift and switched from the north to south bank depending on where the best fish holding water existed. In particularly juicy stretches he strained at the oars to row us back upstream against the current and wind, making an extra effort to provide us a second pass.

P4200032.JPG

Dave Displays One of His Nicer Rainbows

During the morning I landed eight rainbows ranging between thirteen and seventeen inches. All the fish were robust chunky fish with bright coloration, and most of them inhaled the red rock worm with one or two preferring the egg.

At 11:30AM Greg pulled the boat into a small bay that was somewhat sheltered from the wind, and we enjoyed our lunch consisting of a sandwich, chips, fruit salad, and cookie. Another Wyoming Fly Fishing guide, Kray, joined us along with his two clients, and Kray and Greg attempted to chum some rainbows to the surface by flicking some of their bread and tortilla into the eddy next to the boats. It would have been fun to witness, but no fish responded to the generous handout.

P4210034.JPG

A Companion Guide and Clients Join Us for Lunch

After lunch Steve and I switched positions, and we also elected to shed layers as the sun was high in the sky, and the air temperature climbed into the low 60’s. Some large clouds continued to block the sun periodically, and when this occurred small mayflies appeared on the surface of the river. These were baetis, also referred to as blue winged olives, but we only spotted occasional sporadic surface rises. Apparently the fish tune into the subsurface nymph form of the baetis, and in response Greg reconfigured our lines with BWO nymph imitations. My line now featured a red rock worm with an RS2 next in the lineup and then a small flashback nymph at the point.

For the next couple hours Steve and I landed fish at a decent rate, and the small blue winged olive nymphs were the most effective, although in my case the fish continued to show interest in the worm. Apparently Grey Reef rainbows do not feed selectively on baetis and respond positively to significant chunks of protein such as worms and eggs.

P4210038.JPG

Greg Shows a Steve and Dave Double

Over the remainder of the day we covered more water compared to the morning, and I added seven more fish to my count. The catch rate for me was fairly even over the course of the day except for the last hour when I was unable to interest any fish. Steve, on the other hand, experienced a hot streak just before lunch and then an even more productive run in the final hour before we landed at Government Bridge.

P4210044.JPG

Loaded and Ready to Depart

The fishing in 2015 was excellent with fifteen fat healthy rainbows landed in the 13 – 17 inch range. The weather was nearly ideal with mostly sunny skies and intermittent clouds to promote hatching mayflies. It was very comfortable for fishermen without the need for handwarmers and excessive layers of clothing. Unfortunately my catch rate was only half of my 2014 and 2013 experience, but I’ve now learned how ridiculously superb the fishing was in my prior trips. Steve and I both agreed that we would attempt to return during the flush period in 2016.

North Platte River – 04/20/2015

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Tailwater below Grey Reef

Fish Landed: 1

North Platte River 04/20/2015 Photo Album

For the last two years Steve Supple and I made an annual pilgrimage to the North Platte River below Grey Reef Dam just west of Caspar, WY. We scheduled the trip near the end of March to take advantage of discounted rates on guided float trips from the Wyoming Fly Fishing outfitters. The reduced rates were available to customers who booked a trip prior to 1 April. These trips occurred during the annual flush on the North Platte River when the department of wildlife in conjunction with the dam operators released a slug of water in the morning and then cut back the flows. We were able to fish during the flush by beginning our float from the dam behind the wave of flush water. The flush cleansed the stream bottom of sediments for better spawning while also kicking loose eggs, worms and leeches from the stream bottom. Needless to say we experienced fantastic fishing as we each averaged thirty or more fish landed on our two previous trips, and the size of the fish averaged in the 15 – 20 inch range.

Unfortunately Jane and I scheduled our trip to Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend National Park during the last full week of March, and thus I was unable to join Steve for a third annual North Platte River excursion. When I returned from Big Bend, I contacted Steve, and we agreed to make the trip in April. The price was higher, but what is an extra $100 when stellar fishing is at stake?

We originally booked the float trip for April 15, but an adverse weather forecast made us reconsider, so we delayed our date to April 21. We were able to retain the same guide, but we avoided a day with snow, rain, 25 MPH wind, and high temperatures in the low 40’s.

The plan was set, and Steve arrived at my house on Monday morning at 9AM. We made the four hour drive without incident and checked in at the Wyoming Fly Fishing shop along route 220 just outside of Caspar, WY. Steve and I purchased three day non-resident fishing licenses and proceeded on our way farther west to the parking lot next to the outlet of Grey Reef Dam. The wind was strong as usual as we pulled on our layers and warm hats and prepared to fish. We took a a quick glance at the river and realized that the flows were considerably higher than during our previous visits, Our guide on Tuesday informed us that indeed the flows were running at 2400 cfs compared to post-flush velocity of 500 cfs.

P4200018.JPG

Steve Begins His Quest for Trout

Given the high flows and the wind, I decided to break out my Scott S4S six weight nine foot fly rod. I rigged it using the Alaska set-up taught to me by Taylor Edrington since I knew I’d be drifting eggs, worms and nymphs the entire time. I looped an eight inch section of 0X to the end of my line and then tied a thingamabobber to the other end with an improved clinch knot. Next I clipped a five foot section of 3X from my spool and knotted it to the thingamabobber as well. My next step was to use a surgeon’s knot to tie a 12 inch section of 4X to the 3X, and then I knotted an orange egg to my line. Below the egg I tied a conehead pine squirrel leech, and finally I crimped a split shot above the junction of the 3X and 4X.

Steve and I hiked through the parking lot to the boat launch and approached the water. Steve elected to begin below the boat ramp, and I moved up to some slower moving edge water above the launch. I began drifting the rig along the current seam and eventually foul hooked a nice rainbow. Steve meanwhile moved above me, and he let me know that he experienced a hook up but failed to land the fish.

I leap-frogged Steve and swapped the egg for a red San Juan worm, and after quite a bit of movement and casting, I once again hooked a fish that rocketed downstream at warp speed. Much to my chagrin, this fish was also foul hooked, and the hook was in the tail so the fish was not hindered in its ability to swim. I followed the fish downstream until I could guide it to the bank and release it from the inconvenience of a pointed hook in its tail.

After an hour of fishing I reached a point where a huge 30 yard pool existed between the flume rushing from the dam and the bank next to some campsites and the parking lot. The water was quite deep and slow moving, so I suggested to Steve that we cross the dam and fish from the south bank. Steve decided to remain near the parking lot, so I advanced to the steep bank and ascended to the walkway that crossed the dam. On my way however I paused and gazed down at the slow deep back eddy on the north side of the dam outlet. Here I spotted six or seven decent trout hovering in the deep water and facing back toward the north bank.

P4200019.JPG

Only Trout Landed on Monday

I decided to give these sighted fish a try, and I carefully scrambled down the steep bank over some large rocks. I had lost my conehead pine squirrel leech, so my rig now included a hot red thread head leech and a red San Juan worm. I cast the combination to my left toward the bank and allowed it to slowly drift back toward me with the current formed by the eddy. On the third such presentation, the flies seemed to pause, and I thought I hooked bottom so I slowly lifted my rod, and much to my amazement, I felt weight. I gave the rod tip a quick hook set, and sure enough I was attached to an angry trout. I worked it back and forth a few times, and I was pleased to sense that it was hooked in the mouth. Eventually a bright crimson-colored rainbow slid into my net, and I had my first fish from the North Platte River in 2015. This particular hungry finned creature preferred the pine squirrel leech.

P4200022.JPG

The View from Near the Dam

I made some more casts, but I assumed that I had disturbed the pool, and the remaining fish were wise to my approach, so I climbed the bank and crossed to the south shore. I discovered three other fishermen ahead of me, but I managed to find a short stretch of attractive water where I made some drifts. I worked upstream for twenty yards before I encountered one of the other fishermen, and at this point I decided to call it quits. Steve and I agreed to meet at 5PM, and it was already 4:45, so I began the long return hike across the bridge.

I was pleased to land one powerful bright rainbow trout on Monday afternoon, and now I looked forward to our scheduled float trip on Tuesday.

North Platte River – 03/26/2014

Time: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Location: Tailwater just below Grey Reef Dam

Fish Landed: 7

North Platte River 03/26/2014 Photo Album

Despite the fact that Steve and I were not committed to wake up early to meet an appointment as was the caseTuesday morning, we both awoke at 6PM to the sound of barking dogs. Given the number of guests sharing one bathroom, rising ahead of the crowd was probably a good thing. The same two gentlemen from Ft. Collins that stayed at Red Butte Ranch a year ago were present again, and four additional fishermen rented the family cabin, so Ruth had a full house for breakfast. We savored our egg, ham, hashed browns, nut bread and yogurt and washed it down with tea and water.

Steve and I allowed the fishermen scheduled for a float trip to clear out, and then we gathered our things and paid our bill and departed. Originally we planned to fish near the Red Butte Ranch before the flush arrived, but the four fishermen staying in the cabin were already waded in the river and staked out their spots so we changed our plans and drove to the tailwater below the dam. We stopped briefly at the Grey Reef Fly Shop across from the afterbay, and we each purchased a few flies. I bought three pine squirrel leeches since they were productive on Tuesday, and I hadn’t tied any.

Looking Back Toward the Dam in the Morning When the Flows Were Still Up

Looking Back Toward the Dam in the Morning When the Flows Were Still Up

The temperature was amazingly 44 degrees at 9AM on Wednesday, so that was a pleasant surprise; however, the wind was a significant factor and swept across the relatively flat terrain unrelentingly. Only a couple fishermen were wade fishing between the boat ramp and the flume shooting from the dam, so Steve and I pretty much had our choice of water, and we decided to once again cross the dam on the footpath similar to Monday and fish back along the south side of the river. When we reached the far side we realized the flow was still fairly high, probably in the 1000 cfs range.

A Pine Squirrel Leech

A Pine Squirrel Leech

Both of us kept our rods rigged in the same manner that Greg set us up, and we began fishing with the egg/red annelid worm combination on top and a pine squirrel leech on the bottom. Steve elected to begin where the river branched off from the main current and curled around the point of a long narrow island while I walked down the river a bit and began near the bottom of the island. Because the flow was strong at 9AM compared to Monday, I added a second split shot to my line. Much to my amazement I hooked and landed a thirteen inch rainbow fairly early, but then I fished through a 45 minute period with no action. I continued to slice 2X line through the currents, and this came in handy when I snagged my flies on a fairly frequent basis.

Fuzzy Flies in the Center Are Pine Squirrel Leeches When Dry

Fuzzy Flies in the Center Are Pine Squirrel Leeches When Dry

By 10 o’clock I approached some faster water near the top of where the left channel curled around the island, and the flows had dropped noticeably. Since I had two split shot on my line I decided to drift my flies through some of the faster current toward the center of the run instead of working the  inside seam and slower water that bordered it. Much to my surprise, I hooked and landed three fine rainbows from the faster run of moderate depth including a 17 inch silvery rainbow that sported a broken off woolly worm-style fly in its lip. I took a photo and removed my annelid worm and the broken off fly from the rainbow’s lip.

Stretched Out to 17 Inches

Stretched Out to 17 Inches

When I reached the top of the island, I circled back to the area across from the boat ramp. This water looked very attractive, but between 2013 and Monday, I had yet to extract any fish. Finally along the current seam I managed to hook and land a small (by Grey Reef standards) rainbow of thirteen inches.

Next I moved back upstream to a section between the boat ramp and the bottom of the island. By now the level of the river had returned to normal flow for the end of March of around 500 cfs and the river structure was much easier to discern. I was at the bottom of a pair of nice pools that stretched for 30 feet below some current breaks, so I began casting upstream to the slack water and allowed my flies to drift back toward me along the current seams at the margins. By using this approach I landed two more nice rainbows including a colorful 15 inch specimen. One of these fish attacked the leech as I imparted some movement by twitching it at the tail of the drift.

Close Up of Another Nice Rainbow Landed on Wednesday

Close Up of Another Nice Rainbow Landed on Wednesday

Steve decided to cross back to the side of the river near the parking lot, so I moved upstream to a long wide riffle stretch just below the island and fished it thoroughly while Steve crossed over at the dam. I didn’t have any luck in the riffle so I reeled up and attached my flies to a rod guide and hiked back across the dam to the other side of the river to join Steve. We worked some nice areas for another half hour or so, but by noon we had run out of interesting water, so we decided to explore some access points downstream that we’d observed on our float trip the previous day.

We continued down the dirt road that led to the Grey Reef access for another three or four miles and stopped and checked out Pete’s Draw and The Redds. Pete’s Draw looked enticing on the opposite side of the main river current, but we didn’t feel we could effectively fish it from our wading positions, so we returned to The Redds. We were in the process of preparing to experiment with a nice run at The Redds, but I ran into some equipment problems, so we decided to call it quits and make the four hour return trip to Denver.

Wednesday morning yielded some decent fishing, and we got to experience the higher flows and then the rapid decline and the adjustments that this type of rapid change in water level requires. We now face the prospect of fishing Colorado rivers and in all likelihood catching smaller fish on average, but I know from past experience that it is really the enjoyment of being on the river and the challenge of fooling fish regardless of size that keeps me coming back.

North Platte River – 03/25/2014

Time: 9:00AM – 4:30PM

Location: From Grey Reef dam downstream to Lusby takeout.

Fish Landed: 31

North Platte River 03/25/2014 Photo Album

Well how did the the 2014 float trip on the North Platte River compare to the fishing that we experienced a year prior? If you read the header information of this post, you already know the answer to that question.

The “flush” and 2X are really the storylines of this outstanding day of fishing on the North Platte at Grey Reef. The flush is a process whereby the Bureau of Reclamation and Wyoming Game and Fish ramp up the flows from Grey Reef dam for five days during late March. The process begins at midnight and ends by 10AM as the outflow from the dam begins at 500 cfs and increases to a peak of 4000 cfs and then declines back to 500. The purpose is to remove fine sediment from the gravel spawning beds used by the river’s trout, and judging from the fishing experience in 2013 and 2014, this event is yielding outstanding results.

Our day of guided float fishing, Tuesday March 25, coincided with the next to last day of the flush. We learned in 2013 that this has minimal negative impact on the fishing since the local guides know how to work around it, and in fact it may improve fishing as the high flows dislodge annelid worms, leeches, and eggs from the stream bottom and vegetation.

Steve and I arose at 6AM on Tuesday morning, and this allowed plenty of time to have a nice breakfast at the Hampton Inn and then gather our essentials for a day of fishing. We drove to the Red Butte Ranch where we met Greg Mueller, our guide. We each gave Greg the rods and reels we planned to use for the day, and he rigged them in the preferred Grey Reef manner while Steve and I adjourned to the garage and climbed into our frozen waders and wading boots. Once again I broke out handwarmers and toe warmers as I availed myself of every possible ploy to remain reasonably comfortable in the cold temperatures of early spring in Wyoming. The high was forecast to reach the low fifties, but the morning period before the sun rose high in the sky was my concern.

Fishermen at Grey Reef Launch

Fishermen at Grey Reef Launch

We jumped in Greg’s truck and made the brief trip to the Grey Reef boat launch, and I couldn’t help noticing that the air temperature was hovering at 23 degrees at 8:30 in the morning. Was the weather forecast accurate? Quite a few fishermen, guides and drift boats arrived at the boat ramp simultaneously, but Greg jumped in quickly, and we took off slightly ahead of the others. Steve graciously allowed me the position in the bow while he took his seat in the rear, and we pushed off. Greg had me set up with two separate yellow-green eggs paired a couple inches above an annelid worm fly along with a single split shot and a red and white thingamabobber near the junction with the fly line. Steve had a similar set up, but instead of two egg and worm combinations, he had a pine squirrel leech as his bottom fly.

Wide Section with Snow Covered Peaks in the Background

Wide Section with Snow Covered Peaks in the Background

It didn’t take long before my indicator dipped and I set the hook and felt the throbbing weight of a nice fish. As I cautiously played the fish in a manner similar to my custom in Colorado, Greg announced that we were using 2X tippet on all the connections, and pointedly suggested that I should “reef the fish in quickly”. He was right as the combination of the Scott six weight rod and 2X line made it virtually impossible for the rainbows to break off. Amazingly the abundant population of rainbow trout in the North Platte River below Grey Reef demonstrate virtually no fear of fishing line.

Dave Displays His Nicest Catch of the Day, an Eighteen Inch Rainbow

Dave Displays His Nicest Catch of the Day, an Eighteen Inch Rainbow

The rest of the day continued pretty much in the manner I just described. Very little time transpired between hook ups, and Steve and I landed 30 plus fish each between 9AM and 4:30PM when we pulled up on shore at the Lusby take out. Of course each of us experienced 3-5 foul hooked fish and perhaps five additional momentary hook ups in the span of eight hours of fishing. Part way through the morning, Steve began to catch fish on his pine squirrel leech, so Greg removed my bottom egg/worm combination and replaced them with a dark colored leech. The leech became equally as productive as the eggs toward the middle of the day, but the egg seemed to outperform in the early morning and late afternoon.

A Crayfish I Landed on a Midge

A Crayfish I Landed on a Midge

There was also a period during the late morning when Greg added a small bionic midge as a third fly to my setup, but the only midge success I can report is a four inch crayfish that latched onto the tiny fly. All my trout were rainbows except for a small thirteen inch brown that I landed quite early in the float. The size of the rainbows ranged between thirteen and eighteen inches, and I managed to land two or three in the upper end of that range.

A Nice 17 Inch Rainbow Landed by Dave

A Nice 17 Inch Rainbow Landed by Dave

In my opinion the fishing on March 25 was just as outstanding as our previous float trip a year earlier. Catching thirty rainbow trout averaging 14 to 15 inches in eight hours is a superlative experience that I won’t soon forget, and in fact my major concern is that I’m spoiled for Colorado fishing just as the season kicks off. What a way to start the 2014 season with an action packed day on the North Platte River! The weather also played a part in our enjoyment as the sun warmed the air quickly and the high temperature actually reached 60 degrees late in the afternoon. Three cheers for the flush and 2X.

 

North Platte River – 03/24/2014

Time: 2:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: Below Grey Reef Dam

Fish Landed: 1

North Platte River 03/24/2014 Photo Album

At roughly the same time a year ago my friend Steve and I completed a fishing trip to the North Platte River below Grey Reef dam, and we had a great experience, so we decided to return for an encore. We were both amazed by the quantities and size of fish we were able to land in this tailwater fishery four hours away from Denver, CO. Steve took care of the booking details and arranged for a full day guided float on March 25 with the same guide that we used in 2013. We also attempted to book lodging at the Red Butte Ranch similar to our previous trip, but that didn’t work out exactly as planned. The main question in our minds was whether the fishery was as excellent as our 2013 trip indicated, or was it just an aberration caused by some confluence of factors?

The parallels between 2014 and 2013 were uncanny. Once again we planned to leave on Monday morning and drive to Casper, buy our fishing licenses and supplies, check in to the bed and breakfast, and then visit the tailwater and wade fish for a few hours. Our guided float trip was once again scheduled for Tuesday, and then we expected to wade fish on Wednesday into the early afternoon before packing everything up and returning to Denver. This mirrored our previous trip, but more eerie was the developing weather pattern. In 2013 a storm dumped snow in Wyoming on Saturday and that was followed by a cold snap of a couple days with gradually warming temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather forecast for 2014 matched this almost degree by degree.

Steve arrived at 8:15AM on Monday, and I was all set with my bags packed so we loaded the car and departed. There was some fresh snow on the highway between Ft. Collins and Cheyenne with signs warning of icy patches, so Steve was extra cautious as we traveled through this area. We stopped in Casper for a quick lunch and arrived at the North Platte Fly Shop by approximately 1PM. Steve and I each purchased non-resident Wyoming three day fishing licenses and continued on our way to the Red Butte Ranch bed and breakfast. Unfortunately upon our arrival we learned from the owner, Ruth, that she had overbooked and there weren’t any beds for us on Monday night! We still had the New Zealand room for Tuesday, but needed new accommodations for Monday night.

Ruth put us in touch with Liz, and owner of the guide service, and Liz reserved a room for us at the Hampton Inn in Casper. This added another 15 miles or so to our trips to and from the river, but it worked out to be a nice back up plan. Once this small snafu was resolved Steve and I jumped in the car and drove to the Grey Reef access area below the dam to do some wade fishing and introduce ourselves to the North Platte River in 2014. The thermometer in Steve’s Subaru registered 39 degrees as we drove along the wide two lane highway, and I was apprehensive about my ability to keep my hands in a tolerable condition to handle a fly rod.

Steve Ties on Flies

Steve Ties on Flies

When we arrived at the parking lot we bundled up, and I resorted to toe warmers and hand warmers as I slid into my waders and pulled on my New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and my warmest down parka barely squeezed under my waders. We elected to cross the dam using the footpath and then hiked down along the opposite shore to the area across from the boat ramp. I began with an apricot egg fly and below that offered a red annelid worm with a neon orange thread head. This combination didn’t produce any action, although I was able to avoid getting my hands wet and thus the uncomfortable bone chilling cold that comes along with that experience.

Eventually I removed the annelid worm fly and replaced it with a chocolate brown chenille San Juan worm as this fly produced several fish during my wade fishing in 2013. The chocolate worm did in fact produce a fish, but it turned out to be foul hooked, so I had to get my hands wet under the most unfavorable circumstances; releasing a fish that didn’t count.

I failed to bend down the barb on my egg fly and as I released the foul hooked rainbow, the egg fly got stuck in my net. After much twisting and pressure on the egg, I was able to free it, but the hook now penetrated only the bottom one fourth of the soft sphere. I thought about switching out the egg fly for another newly tied model, but given the cold conditions, I decided to gamble with the cripple. Sure enough I moved up to a wide riffle stretch of moderate depth, and the indicator paused, and I set the hook and felt a pulsing weight on the other end. The euphoria of a live fish only lasted for a moment, and then the fish popped free. I reeled in my flies to inspect, and it should be no surprise what I saw; the fish apparently bit the egg and pulled it off the hook!

A View Downstream from the Footpath Across the Dam

A View Downstream from the Footpath Across the Dam

Steve and I continued working up the left bank with minimal success, and then we crossed to the side next to the parking lot and found some nice water below a cluster of fishermen pounding the flume where the water pours from the base of the dam. At some point during this interim time I snagged my flies on a rock or stick and broke them both off, so I tied on another apricot egg fly and returned to the red annelid worm. I positioned myself in a nice spot where the main current spilled over some large rocks and created a nice deep tail out, and here I began drifting my two fly combination. Unfortunately there was some sort of snag eight feet below the head of the run that kept grabbing my flies on every other drift, but when the indicator dipped on the third pass I set the hook anyway and felt something throbbing like a live fish. Sure enough I got a glimpse of a rainbow, but just after seeing the fish, the rod stopped throbbing and I was once again attached to a non-living underwater obstacle.

I worked my flies free and moved down a bit so I could fish the bottom of the run and avoid the annoying snag.  This proved to be my best move of the day, and on the fourth or fifth drift I felt some weight and set the hook and began to battle a strong rainbow. Eventually I subdued my combatant by sliding my net underneath the bright rainbow. Since this fish was my first landed fish of the trip and roughly 17 inches in length, I couldn’t resist taking a photo and in the process submerged my left hand in the icy currents of the North Platte. After snapping three shots, I released the rainbow and thrust my hands in the wader bib pocket and clenched the hand warmers for ten minutes.

A Better View of the Head of the Rainbow and the Annelid Worm

A Better View of the Head of the Rainbow and the Annelid Worm

Once my hands arrived at a barely tolerable state again, I resumed fishing and had one more momentary hook up, but Steve wasn’t having much success either and the sun was sinking in the western sky, so we decided to adjourn to the Hampton Inn and dinner in Casper. The woman at the front desk checked us in and then recommended a restaurant called Poor Boys a couple blocks away. We took her advice and enjoyed a pleasant dinner before returning to the warmth of our hotel room.

Despite the frigid temperatures we managed to land a few fish and tested out the flies we diligently tied in preparation for our Wyoming trip. The weather forecast predicted highs in the low 50’s for Tuesday, so we anxiously anticipated our full day float. Would we have as much success as we did in 2013? Stay tuned.

 

North Platte River – 03/27/2013

Time: 9:00AM – 1:00PM

Location: Fremont Canyon then Grey Reef section below dam

Fish Landed: 7

North Platte River 03/27/2013 Photo Album

A good night’s rest at the Red Butte Ranch Bed & Breakfast performed wonders on our weary bodies, and we awoke anxious for another day of fishing. Two new guests arrived the previous evening from Fort Collins and they were preparing for a day of guided fishing on the river with Greg. Apparently it was their fourth consecutive year of booking a guided float trip with Greg at the end of March. We chatted with them over breakfast and made our plans for the day. Greg suggested giving Fremont Canyon a try as it was between Pathfinder and Alcova Reservoirs and above the flushing flows. He told us that it was smaller water with flows at 75 cfs and the guide shop reported some clients landing monster trout the previous day. Originally Steve and I planned to fish downstream from the B&B and then migrate to the area below the dam; however, we decided to accept Greg’s advice and drive to the Fremont Canyon stretch to start our day. Greg steered us in the right direction on Tuesday, so why not continue to follow his suggestions? Our plan for Wednesday was then to drive west to Fremont Canyon and fish there for awhile or all morning depending on our success. If it did not work out, our default was to return to the area below Grey Reef dam where we’d experienced success on Monday and Tuesday.

High temperatures were forecast for the mid-50’s on Wednesday so I was less concerned about keeping my hands warm, but I cracked open a pack of handwarmers nonetheless just to be safe. I placed them in my down vest so I could thrust my hands deep in the pockets inside my wader bib should my hands become cold. Steve and I packed up all our belongings, paid for our lodging, said our goodbyes, and hit the road for our drive to Fremont Canyon. We missed the left turn initially, but did a quick U-turn and recovered from our mistake. A five mile drive on a side road off of 220 led us to a parking lot overlooking the North Platte River in Fremont Canyon just below Pathfinder Dam.

Fremont Canyon Stretch of North Platte

Fremont Canyon Stretch of North Platte

We quickly grabbed our rods and descended the steep path from the parking lot down a bank to the river. As Greg described, the river was much smaller in this area but discolored to an olive brown hue. We immediately began drifting our eggs and worms in a nice run below the parking lot. Three or four fishermen were above us in some runs and riffles closer to the dam. I elected to start in the midsection of a long run and Steve began at the top. On perhaps the tenth drift through the soft water on the opposite side of the run, my indicator dipped and I set the hook and felt the weight of a decent fish. Unfortunately it wasn’t as large as it felt because I’d foul hooked the 13 inch rainbow in the belly. I skimmed it up over the surface of the water and brought it to net and released it.

Steve and I continued to prospect the pea soup colored water for an hour or so with no sign of fish other the foul hooked experience. After hooking a fish on practically every drift the previous day, it was difficult to adjust to this new lack of action situation. Finally after an hour of futility, I met up with Steve and we agreed to retreat to the stretch below Grey Reef since we knew that was yielding fish. We ascended the bank and placed our rods in the car and in a short amount of time we were parked in the parking lot below the dam. Quite a few fishermen occupied both sides of the run and pool created by the outflow from the pipe where water was being released from the bottom of the dam.

Steve decided to try the near side of the river first where we fished on Monday, but I was intrigued by the idea of crossing the dam and exploring the far side. Greg told us that we could cross on the walkway that spans the dam, and I discovered this to be true. Once on the opposite side I hiked down a well worn path to a spot just above and across from  the boat launch area. I had a fuzzy orange egg fly as my top fly and the chocolate San Juan worm on the point. I flicked a cast or two into a short pool and run in front of me and in a short amount of time I hooked and landed two twelve inch rainbows, one on the egg and one on the worm. I was pleased with the instant action after many fruitless casts in Fremont Canyon, but I was spoiled by the size of the fish landed the previous day.

A Fine Rainbow Landed Wednesday Morning

A Fine Rainbow Landed Wednesday Morning

Next I moved down to a nice deep run directly across from the boat ramp and began drifting this area, but nothing was happening. After I’d covered fifteen yards of this run I decided that I wasn’t getting deep enough so I added a second split shot, but this resulted in numerous snags so I pinched off one of the beads and returned to one split shot. Finally I decided that this water wasn’t going to yield any fish, so I returned to the pool where I began and moved up to the next nice area above it. Here I managed to land another moderate sized rainbow. For the remainder of the morning I worked my way back up the river toward the dam. A small long island split the river between the dam outlet and forty yards above where I began, so in a short amount of time I was fishing the smaller left channel.

17 Inch Rainbow Was Wednesday Highlight

17 Inch Rainbow Was Wednesday Highlight

Toward the bottom of this channel I hooked a fish and it felt larger than the earlier hookups. I battled the fish up and down the river a bit and eventually coaxed it to the shallow rocks near my feet and netted a fine 17 inch rainbow. I was pleased with this turn of events and positioned it on a rectangular rock for a photograph and then released it to swim again. Shortly after this and just above in a nice deep run I once again hooked a heavy fish, but it didn’t seem to possess the energy to rip off line in a long dash the way the rainbow had demonstrated. Sure enough as I played the fish and finally brought it up to the net, I realized that I’d hooked a monster 15 inch sucker. After days of catching fat rainbows, it was surprising to hook a different type of fish, but a sucker was not my preferred choice.

15 Inch Sucker in the Net

15 Inch Sucker in the Net

I continued fishing up along the left bank and ended up landing seven rainbows during the morning and early afternoon. Meanwhile Steve had made the walk across the dam, and he was covering the run across from the boat launch with more success than I’d enjoyed. When I reached the pool at the top of the island I was close to a number of fishermen, so I waded back on the bank and walked down the path to Steve. It was now 1PM so we decided to reel up our flies and call it a day since we had a four hour drive back to Denver in  front of us.

It was another fine day on the North Platte River, and I’m looking forward to a return in the not too distant future.