Time: 2:00PM – 4:30PM
Location: North Platte River, Alcova Afterbay
For six out of the last seven years my friend, Steve, and I took advantage of the discount offered by Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service for guided float trips before April 1. During four of those six visits to Grey Reef our float trip coincided with the flush. During the flush large volumes of water are released from the dam overnight to cleanse the river bottom for improved rainbow trout spawning. Flows generally return to 500 cfs during the day, and the flush cycle repeats over a seven to ten day period. The fishing during the flush can generally be characterized as superb, since the temporary release kicks up abundant quantities of annelid worms, leeches and eggs; and the resident population of fish gorge on the high protein diet. Our goal for 2019 was to once again take advantage of the flush phenomenon.
Steve arrived at my house a bit before 7:30AM on Sunday, March 24; and we completed a gear transfer and hit the highway by 7:30. I was the designated driver, since Steve acted as the pilot during our 2018 expedition. We arrived in Casper, WY by 11:30AM, and we stopped for a quick lunch at Wendy’s. Next on our agenda was to check in at the Hampton Inn, and after taking care of that important task we refueled at a gas station on Poplar Avenue. We chose the North Platte River as our destination for Sunday, and we were now on our way. The Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service shop was along our route, so we stopped to say hello, but the door was locked. Failing to find someone with local information at the guide shop caused us to walk across the driveway to the neighboring fly shop. The door was unlocked, so we entered, but after calling for a staff person several times, no one responded.
We finally decided to proceed to Fremont Canyon without local information, and after another twenty-five miles we arrived at the large parking lot below Pathfinder Dam. Our route took us along the North Platte River below Grey Reef, and we were quite disappointed to view the off colored water that represented our fishing destination on Monday. Quite a bit of snow cover from the Bomb Cyclone storm remained, and warmer temperatures generated steady melt in the washes and tributaries that fed the North Platte thus creating the turbid conditions.
The combination of it being a weekend and the dirty water below Grey Reef apparently herded the anglers to Fremont Canyon, as all the parking lots were filled to capacity, and from the road high above the river we could see a large number of fishermen occupying all the accessible prime fishing locales. We drove downstream for a couple of miles, until we realized that Fremont Canyon quickly transforms into a deep gorge with sheer side walls, and we were not interested in a rock climbing exercise. We weighed our options and decided to reverse direction to the Alcova afterbay, a section that we fished on several past trips with some success.
The back road that followed Fremont Canyon downstream eventually led us across a bridge that was undergoing construction, and then we turned on to a moderately muddy dirt lane that delivered us to the crude boat launch in the afterbay. Another SUV was parked nearby, and we could see a pair of anglers in the wide run next to the boat launch. In addition a group of four occupied the nice run in the vicinity of a tall post. This was an area that I favored based on success on previous trips.
I suited up with a fleece layer and Adidas pullover and rigged an apricot bead egg, D-rib red worm, and slumpbuster. By the time Steve and I were ready to fish, the group of four vacated the post area, so we migrated upstream to a nice run just below the wooden landmark. As I began probing the run, the heavily weighted conehead slumpbuster caused frequent snags in the relatively low flows, so I swapped it for a flashback zebra midge larva.
The air temperature was around fifty degrees when we began, and the water was mostly clear with a tinge of color. After I switched to the lighter rig, I enjoyed better drifts. I spotted a few sporadic rises during this time frame, and within fifteen minutes I hooked a thrashing rainbow trout. Unfortunately my joy was short lived, as the spirited trout made a quick escape. I sensed that the eater grabbed the midge larva, but I could not be certain about this assumption.
I continued casting and spotted two decent fish in a shallow depression on the opposite side of the run from my position. I made a multitude of drifts to this vicinity, but I concluded that the fish were in spawning mode and not interested in eating. I shifted my attention to the area downstream and across from the deeper run. This change in focus paid off, when the thingamabobber dove, and I connected with a breathtaking slab of a rainbow. The heavy adversary dashed back and forth and then rushed upstream, and finally I pressured it back down the run and into my net. The tail of the beast extended four or five inches beyond my net opening, and this suggested I landed a twenty inch fish. I gently released my prize and turned my attention back to the area below the depression.
It was not long before the indicator once again skipped, and this time a fourteen inch rainbow splashed into my net. Both landed fish grabbed either the apricot egg or the red worm. The worm was in the mouth of the fish, but this does not rule out the possibility that the fish attacked the egg.
Steve and I persisted for another 1.5 hours, as we worked up and down the forty yard stretch on our side of the river, but neither of us could generate additional action. Occasional rises punctuated our time on the river, but we could not attract trout to our flies. During the last twenty minutes I converted to a missing link dry fly, and I placed some nice downstream casts over the locations of the rises, but the all purpose dry fly was totally ignored.
The sky clouded up and the wind gusted during the middle of the afternoon, so I returned to the car and retrieved my fingerless gloves and hat with earflaps. The construction crew at the bridge began digging in the river, and this caused significant sedimentation. By 4:30 Steve and I were chilled and bored, so we called it a day and returned to the warmth of the car. Two fish in 2.5 hours was not outstanding, but a twenty inch rainbow was certainly something to be thankful for.
Fish Landed: 2