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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wow

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Marvelous

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Sag

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.

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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.

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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

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