North Platte River – 03/22/2018

Time: 10:30AM – 1:00PM

Location: Miracle Mile

North Platte River 03/22/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday was a special day, and after our skunking on Tuesday I was very skeptical that Steve and I could produce some action without the aid of a guide and a drift boat on Thursday. When we asked our guide, Greg, for a suggestion on where to wade fish on Thursday morning and early afternoon, he suggested the Miracle Mile. Our expectations were relatively low, but the idea that we needed a miracle was a bit excessive. Or was it? The Miracle Mile is a five mile section (not sure why it is named a mile) of the North Platte River between Seminoe and Pathfinder Reservoirs, and it has the reputation of harboring very large brown and rainbow trout. Our lack of wading success below Grey Reef and in the Alcova Afterbay convinced us to explore a new section of water on Thursday morning.

We checked out of the Hampton Inn in Casper and made the nearly two hour drive to a picnic area below the Seminoe Dam. The temperature on the dashboard was 50 degrees, when we opened our doors to prepare to fish, but a fairly steady breeze made it seem much colder. I opted to wear my heavy down coat, billed New Zealand hat with ear flaps, and two layers of socks under my wading boots. I stuck with this attire during my 2.5 hour stay on the river and never regretted it.

Merging Braids at the Downstream Tip of the Island

As we pulled on our waders and prepared to fish, a group of five fishermen departed from the parking lot, and they headed downstream below the point of a narrow island, where three channels merged. Our rods remained strung from the Wednesday float trip, but my line only contained one apricot egg, so I quickly added a second of the same color. Unfortunately I did not possess one of the light chartreuse varieties that shared space on the leader during our float of the river below Grey Reef. I also added a BB split shot and a thingamabobber and then waited for a short time, while Steve made some adjustments to his line.

Wide Featureless Section Was Windy and Did Not Produce

We decided to explore the upstream river, since this was our first visit to the Miracle Mile, and we had no idea what to expect. We hiked beyond a campsite and crossed a small stream and quickly reached the point, where the main river split into three braids. The combined river above this point was quite wide and featureless, but similar sections of the downstream North Platte produced on Wednesday, so we decided to prospect it a bit. I began spraying casts ranging from twenty feet to forty feet across the river from the bank, and after three or four drifts, I stepped downstream four or five steps and repeated the process. I completed four or five cycles in this manner with no evidence of fish, and then Steve approached me after having similar results.

We decided to reverse our direction to check out the area where the currents merged below the parking lot. After an eight minute hike we reached the aforementioned confluence of braids, and much to our surprise the area was vacant. A fisherman was visible sixty yards upstream, and two fishermen were waded into a nice shelf pool thirty yards below us. The river in front of us was very tantalizing, as the main current rushed by fifty feet from the bank, and the area in between was a nice deep shelf pool. I offered to fish the bottom of the pool, and Steve charged into the top section.

My First and Largest Rainbow Came from This Seam

I began to fire casts toward the midsection and allowed the eggs to drift downstream, but on every third cast the hooks snagged in some sort of aquatic growth. I was using 2X tippet, so in each snag situation I moved upstream and applied direct pressure and pulled the flies free, but the interruptions to my fishing rhythm were frustrating.

Eventually Steve and I swapped places, and I waded in to the very top of the pool. A small V-shaped pocket existed where the river tumbled over some large boulders, and then a quality current seam extended along the fast main current of the river. I began lobbing casts to the V and allowed the egg flies to tumble along the seam. I repeated this maneuver five times with no evidence of fish, but on the sixth drift the indicator dipped, and I set the hook. Instantly my line moved, and I felt significant weight on the end of my line. Fortunately the object attached to my line was a diver and thrasher more than a streaker, and I slowly waded back toward the shoreline while allowing the active fighter to make several brief runs.

I gained the upper hand and applied side pressure and coaxed a spectacular rainbow trout into the shallow water, where I eagerly scooped it into my net. What a fish! The tail flopped over the edge of my undersized net, and I estimated the length at twenty inches. But more amazing was the girth of the brilliantly colored fish, as it seemed to fill all but two inches of space on either side of the net frame. Steve joined me and snapped a photo, while I reached into the net and removed the apricot egg hook. I hoped to snap a few photos, but before I could remove my camera from the case, the football shaped finned creature extended its tail and executed a flop. Before I could react, the wild trout was free and headed back to its underwater home.


My adrenaline was coursing through my arteries, as I returned to my position at the head of the seam, and I began repeating the long drifts, although I concentrated on the area a bit farther downstream from my surprise hook up. Sure enough after quite a few unproductive floats, I spotted a dip in the thingamabobber and once again lifted my rod to embed the hook in the mouth of a hungry subsurface life form. Again the recipient of the hook penetration reacted, and it streaked up and down the pool. This fight lasted much longer than the previous, and I was certain that a trophy was within reach. Alas when I finally leveraged the trout to the surface, I determined that it was a fat rainbow, that I foul hooked in the belly. This fish was shorter than my first one, but nearly as corpulent.

With two euphoria inducing battles under my belt, I invited Steve to return to the top of the pool, and I began to probe the midsection. Unfortunately I was unable to reprise the earlier magic, and after another ten minutes I approached Steve to discuss our next move. As I looked downstream, I could see a long jumble of rocks that angled into the river, and I suspected, that this created some quality rainbow trout structure. We decided that Steve would continue to fish the present pool for another twenty minutes, while I walked downstream to the area described. In the absence of action Steve would drive the car down to the next picnic area, which was just below the section that I targeted, and we would meet there.

Looking North or Downstream

The plan developed as described. The area by the rock bar was indeed quite attractive, as the river tumbled off a steep drop off and created a deep hole with numerous swirling currents. I began to cast to the shallow riffle and allowed the flies to drift off the shelf into the deep pool, and within a short amount of time the indicator dipped, and I once again found myself attached to a pink striped rocket. When I slid it into my net along the bank, I was delighted to learn that this fish displayed an apricot egg in its mouth. It was another beautiful trout in the seventeen inch range, and I snapped a few photos and carefully released it to fight another day.

I Like This Position

I returned to my perch on the shelf and resumed casting to the entering riffle, and once again the thingamabobber dipped. I lifted my rod, but in this case it felt like I was snagged to a stump or rock. I began to curse my ill fortune, when the heretofore stationary object began to move. I exerted increased side pressure, and the slow steady movement accelerated, until there was no doubt that I was once again attached to a fish. This rainbow trout was another tough customer, but once again the cause was disappointing, as I eventually discovered that the hook was embedded in one of the small fins along the belly.

I marveled as the slab slowly swam away, and then I scanned the parking lot by the picnic ramada downstream and noticed that Steve arrived. Once he began hiking toward me along the path, I stepped on to the bank and ambled along a worn path to meet him. I told him of my success and invited him to take my place on the shelf, and he eagerly accepted my suggestion.

Number Three

Once Steve was situated, I circled below him and began firing casts to the pool below the deep hole and eddy. I was running drifts near the current seam and fishing the middle third of the long shelf pool, and much to my surprise another thingamabobber dip initiated a solid hook set. Again a muscular combatant streaked back and forth across the pool, and I maintained tension, while I edged to the shallow water along the shoreline. Eventually after several mad rushes, I once again carefully slid my net under a solid North Platte River specimen. I was pleased to observe the apricot egg lodged in its mouth, and I was frankly stunned by the knowledge, that I landed three gorgeous rainbow trout from the Miracle Mile.



Had the day ended at this juncture, I would have been ecstatic, but it did not. I circled around Steve and waded along the edge of the shelf, until I was in a position to reach the inviting moderate riffle that fed the far current seam. I was now standing where I could reach enticing virgin water in the large honey hole that we occupied. Over the remaining thirty minutes I landed two additional chunky hard fighting rainbows in the sixteen to eighteen inch range to bring my fish count to five. While this good fortune was unfolding I paused to wade to the shore and photograph an incredible eighteen inch rainbow that was unable to bypass Steve’s egg fly. I recorded a video of the netting and snapped a few photos, before I returned to my favorite position at the top of the pool.

My What Red Cheeks

By 12:40 a drift boat rowed into position thirty yards below us, and the occupants paused to eat their lunches. Steve and I experienced a brief lull in action, so we decided to call it a day at 1PM. I escalated my focus and delivered some expert drag free drifts to the top of the hole and along the seam, but I was unable to replicate the earlier success. At one o’clock I reeled up my line and hooked the egg fly to the rod guide and slowly waded to the bank to join Steve. We informed the occupants of the drift boat that the pool was all theirs and returned to the Subaru.

Drift Boat Below Us

What an amazing day! Before we began fishing, I announced that I would be happy with a couple fish. I ended up landing five stunning rainbow trout, and all measured in the sixteen to twenty inch range. More impressive than the length, however, was the considerable weight of these healthy specimen. I was certain that all my fish as well as Steve’s exceeded all but one or two of our landed fish on Wednesday. I was convinced that the Miracle Mile would not live up to its name, but I must now confess that it is not an example of modern day hyperbole. I cannot wait to return.

Fish Landed: 5

North Platte River – 03/21/2018

Time: 8:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Grey Reef boat launch to Government Bridge

North Platte River 03/21/2018 Photo Album

The dashboard temperature hovered in the 28-30 degree range, as Steve and I drove to the Wyoming Fly Fishing shop after breakfast at the Hampton Inn on Wednesday morning. We met Greg, our guide, at 7:30AM, and this was earlier than our previous float trips. Prior to our departure from Denver, in an email to Steve, Greg mentioned floating the Miracle Mile, but when I greeted him, he informed us that he scheduled the normal float below Grey Reef. He later explained that a friend fished the Miracle Mile with solid results, but he was hesitant to make that our destination before he personally inspected it.

A Crowd Gathered at the Boat Launch

Wednesday, March 21 was the last day of the flush, and the water level at the boat launch remained higher than our experience on Tuesday afternoon. I took my place in the rear of the drift boat, while Steve manned the bow. I began the day wearing my heavy down coat, mittens with hand warmers, billed hat with ear flaps, and two layers of socks with toe warmers under my waders. I was not taking any chances after the adverse 2017 weather experience. Over the course of the day I never shed a layer, and I felt reasonably comfortable. The high temperature for the day was 55 degrees, but it never felt that warm because of the stiff wind, which gusted up to twenty MPH during the midday time period.

Beauty on Display

A Better Angle

Steve and I enjoyed steady action throughout the day. We both drifted double plastic egg rigs; one light chartreuse and one apricot. The consistent catch rate enabled me to tally twenty-one fish, and eleven filled my net in the morning, while ten occupied the rubber mesh receptacle in the afternoon. The takes were equally divided between the two egg varieties. The most productive river locations were slow moving  sections of decent depth next to faster current lanes and drop offs.

Deep Snow Drifts in This Section

Greg managed the speed of the boat in expert fashion, and this enabled long drag-free drifts. In one particularly productive spot, Greg rowed upstream repeatedly thus allowing six drifts through a sweet trough, and the effort rewarded Steve and I with four or five fish each.

Bronze Variety

All the fish landed were in the thirteen to twenty inch range, and we each topped out with one at the twenty inch mark. The rainbows were in perfect condition and consequently strong fighters, and the males displayed vivid stripes and bright scarlet cheeks. We both hope to make another trip in the spring of 2019. In short, we had a blast.

Fish Landed: 21

Guide Service Sign

North Platte River – 03/20/2018

Time: 2:30PM – 3:30PM; 4:00PM – 5:30PM

Location: One hour at the tailwater just below Grey Reef dam; 1.5 hour at the Alcova Afterbay

North Platte River – 03/20/2018 Photo Album

My friend Steve and I decided to renew our annual pilgrimage to the North Platte River near Casper on March 20, 2018. This was our fifth such trip, and we experienced good to phenomenal fishing during all our ventures. Steve made the arrangements and scheduled the float trip with Wyoming Fly Fishing for the last day of the spring flush. The water managers release a surge of water from the upstream dam for ten consecutive days to cleanse the gravel spawning beds of the rainbow trout. This action also stirs up the sediments of the riverbed, and this in turn creates a conveyor belt buffet of eggs and worms for the resident trout.

Our 2017 trek was less successful than previous years, and we attributed this to two factors. Our visit took place after the conclusion of the flush; and the weather was extremely formidable with wind, rain and temperatures that hovered in the upper thirties. It was difficult to maintain focus under these severe conditions. Steve communicated with Liz in the shop in order to pick a date that coincided with the last day of the flush.

Fortunately Steve was willing to drive his car, since the spring on our overhead garage door snapped the day before our departure. I arranged my gear on the porch, and once Steve arrived, I transferred the cargo to his Subaru. We departed northern Denver by 8AM, and after a four hour drive we arrived in Casper, WY. We stopped for a quick lunch and checked into our room at the Hampton Inn, and then we headed west to the parking area below Grey Reef dam.

Steve Covers a Run Above the Boat Ramp

The temperature was forty degrees as we prepared to wade fish, but the ever present wind blasted across the relatively flat high plain. I wore my heavy down coat, hat with ear flaps and two layers of socks; and I was thankful for the insulation. Steve and I rigged our rods with a plastic apricot colored egg, split shot and indicator. After fifteen minutes with no action, I added a pine squirrel leech, since the same fly proved its value on an earlier visit to the tailwater during the flush. Unfortunately the additional weight of the conehead leech pattern caused my flies to continually snag, until I broke off the leech and replaced it with a red annelid worm.

Pine Squirrel Leech Failed to Produce

We worked our way up the right bank toward the dam, although when we arrived, six fishermen were spaced out between our positions near the boat ramp and the dam. These anglers, however, cleared out and ceded an open path to our progression. By 3:30 Steve and I were very chilled and bored with the lack of action, so we decided to relocate our efforts to the Alcova Afterbay area.

Steve Feeling the Chill

We stowed our rods and gear, and after a brief drive we bounced our way down a rough packed mud road to the crude boat launch area of the afterbay. Steve chose to begin in the area near the launch, while I hiked upstream to the “post”. A thick post protruded from the river twenty feet beyond the bank, and I recalled landing several nice rainbow trout from the same area during our 2017 trip.

I fished the deep trough between the post and the bank with no reward for my efforts, and then I waded to a position just below the post and began fanning casts to an area of moderate depth between two merging currents. Roughly halfway down the V-shaped merge area, the indicator dipped, and I set the hook. Unlike the endless previous sets that yielded bottom snags, I felt movement and weight, but as soon as I applied pressure, a rainbow rolled on the surface, and the hook released, as two flies hurtled back toward me. After two hours of frustrating fly fishing, my opportunity to tally a fish count evaporated in an instant.

I moved downstream a bit more, and as I was doing this, a guide appeared on the bank. He offered that his client was on fire with a purple rock worm and midge pattern. I did not possess a purple rock worm, so I exchanged the red rock worm for a pink San Juan worm, and then I added a 3X section to the eye and knotted a salad spinner to the end. I returned to the top of the moderate riffle and repeated the downstream prospecting but with no positive results. Apparently only the lower portion of the afterbay was on fire.

My feet morphed into stumps, and I began to shiver, so I climbed the steep bank and spotted fish for Steve over the next half hour. I was amazed by the number of large visible trout, but most appeared to be in spawning mode and showed little signs of hunger. Steve persisted with some nice fly fishing, but he was unable to interest the pods of fish in his offerings, so we called it a day and returned to the hotel. After showers we drove a short distance to J’s Bar and Grill and enjoyed a casual dinner. Our thoughts now turned to our much anticipated float trip on Wednesday.

Fish Landed: 0


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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”” type=”video” alt=”P3290019.MOV” image_size=”1920×1080″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Unable to Grip Around the Large Body” type=”image” alt=”P3290024.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Steve Focused” type=”image” alt=”P3290026.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Pretty View” type=”image” alt=”P3290027.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Gray Grey Reef” type=”image” alt=”P3280007.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”” type=”video” alt=”P3280010.MOV” image_size=”1920×1080″ ]

 [peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Avoiding the Wind” type=”image” alt=”P3280013.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”My Fishing Mates” type=”image” alt=”P3280014.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Number 5 Was This Beauty” type=”image” alt=”P3280016.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”22″ Beast at the End of the Day” type=”image” alt=”P3280018.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Grey Reef from Parking Lot Side” type=”image” alt=”P3270003.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Pine Squirrel Leech” type=”image” alt=”P3270001.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Apricot Egg” type=”image” alt=”P3270002.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”South Bank on the Opposite Side of the Narrow Island” type=”image” alt=”P3270005.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Fat Rainbow Landed from Afterbay Area” type=”image” alt=”P4210045.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Proud to Land This Fish While Wade Fishing” type=”image” alt=”P4210046.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Lack of Speckles on This One” type=”image” alt=”P4210049.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A Drift Boat in the Afterbay” type=”image” alt=”P4210050.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The Drift Boat on the Left Is Ours” type=”image” alt=”P4200024.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Tall Grass on the South Bank Not Far from Lauch” type=”image” alt=”P4200025.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Steve Grins as Guide Greg Operates the Electric Motor” type=”image” alt=”P4200026.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Big Old Owl Looks at Us From Perch” type=”image” alt=”P4200031.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Dave Displays One of His Nicer Rainbows” type=”image” alt=”P4200032.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A Companion Guide and Clients Join Us for Lunch” type=”image” alt=”P4210034.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Greg Shows a Steve and Dave Double” type=”image” alt=”P4210038.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Loaded and Ready to Depart” type=”image” alt=”P4210044.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Steve Begins His Quest for Trout” type=”image” alt=”P4200018.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”–8ArEE-9OPM/VTgtzckrPkI/AAAAAAAAylw/fAi1gJL09Lw/s144-c-o/P4200019.JPG” href=”″ caption=”Only Trout Landed on Monday” type=”image” alt=”P4200019.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The View from Near the Dam” type=”image” alt=”P4200022.JPG” ]

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.