Category Archives: North Platte River

North Platte River – 03/26/2019

Time: 10:00AM – 11:30AM

Location: Fremont Canyon below Pathfinder Dam

North Platte River 03/26/2019 Photo Album

Fremon Canyon. Steve and I visited this short section of the North Platte River between Pathfinder and Alcova on 03/27/2013, and we experienced no success; but various sources suggested that water clarity was excellent and large fish were present in 2019. Fremont Canyon was our original destination on Sunday upon our arrival in central Wyoming, but when we cruised along the upper and most accessible half mile, the parking lot was overflowing, and fishermen dominated all the available water.

Our original plan included a trip to the Miracle Mile above Pathfinder on Tuesday, March 26, but this option necessitated a two hour drive over a muddy dirt road, and the weather reports highlighted wind velocities in excess of twenty miles per hour. This combination of adverse factors caused us to visit the much closer Fremont Canyon stretch, and we banked on Tuesday being less crowded than Sunday.

Steve at the Top of the Pool and Run

We were not surprised by the harsh assault on our senses, when we stepped out of the car at the large parking area high above the river and below the bridge that spans the North Platte on the road that leads to the Miracle Mile. The wind blasted our bodies, and the temperature hovered in the low forties. The weather forecast suggested high temperatures of sixty degrees, but this seemed like wishful thinking upon our arrival. Two other vehicles were in the parking lot, so Steve and I hustled to pull on our waders and an endless array of additional layers to combat the Wyoming spring chill. The wind would be a constant nuisance during our time on the water, but the presence of the sun did elevate the temperature to the upper forties before we left.

Our rods remained rigged with eggs and worms from our float on Monday; so once our layers, sunscreen and hats were in place, we descended a relatively steep angled path to the river. The flows seemed low as a result of the extremely wide streambed populated by an abundant quantity of exposed rocks. but once we approached the bank of the river, we noticed that the velocity and depth were greater than anticipated from a distance.

Looks Great

One of the fishermen in the parking lot occupied the large wide pool below the bridge, so Steve and I migrated toward a relatively long narrow run and pool below him. Another group of fishermen were visible fifty yards downstream from the section that we claimed. Our area was approximately thirty yards long, and the main current tumbled from the top of the section and then raced within five to ten feet of the north bank. The opposite side appeared to be more attractive with a wider shelf pool, so I requested Steve’s permission to cross at the tail. He approved of my plan, since he left his wading staff in the car.

Heavy Metal Worm Gets Tested

I ambled downstream to the tail and began a crossing, but three-fourths of the way I encountered fast water above my knees, so I retreated and modified my plan. Steve remained at the top of the run, so I began an upstream approach from the right bank. My line was configured with an apricot bead egg imitation, a D-ribbed red annelid worm and a second smaller red worm. The wind was a constant, and I began to chuck the rig  up and across, and then allowed the three fly arrangement to drift downstream with numerous mends. I covered ten yards with no success, at which point I arrived at the widest part of the pool. This spot was just above where the streambed narrowed and the current accelerated, so I once again attempted a crossing. I hoped that the slower current would enable me to manage the deeper channel close to the south bank, but alas when I reached that impediment to crossing, I was thigh deep, so I once again backed away. I was now committed to fishing the remainder of the pool from the north side.

Sucker Spawn Takes a Turn

I accepted my position and once again focused on fishing the North Platte River in Fremont Canyon. After thirty minutes with no sign of a fish, I began to consider a fly change. I decided to retain the egg and larger annelid, while I rotated other flies through the bottom position on my line. I was anxious to experiment with the heavy metal worm, that I tied in my Andrew Grillos class, so that was the next fly to occupy my line. I also was not sure whether my flies were getting deep enough, so the relatively large tungsten bead in the center of the worm was also a welcome addition.

Sumpbuster Did Not Bust

Unfortunately the heavy metal worm did not reverse my fortunes, so I cycled through a series of fly changes over the next hour, as I slowly progressed upstream toward Steve. Next I plucked a sucker spawn cluster from my fleece, and I allotted a fair amount of time to this new winter creation. No dice. The sucker spawn was not weighted, so I crimped another split shot to my leader to achieve more depth. I employed a dead drift as well as a swing at the end of the drift, but none of these tactics brought an ounce of success.

20 Incher Not Liked by Trout

Next I knotted a conehead slumpbuster to my line, and I fished this passively on a dead drift and then imparted various strips and twitches. The fish were not impressed. During the remainder of my time I cycled through a 20 incher, orange scud, and flashback zebra midge; but I was disappointed when 11:30 arrived without a sign of fish in Fremont Canyon. I sensed that I was pushing my rehabilitated elbow to the limit with constant casting across and into the wind, and the frequent mends were straining the joint excessively. Steve and I conferred and wisely decided to cut our losses and call it a day.

Mercury Midge Given a Chance

Steve and I remain fishless in Fremont Canyon. The combination of high wind and lockjawed fish made our one and a half hours of fly fishing a less than pleasurable experience. It will probably be another five years before we return, if we ever return.

Fish Landed: 0

North Platte River – 03/25/2019

Time: 8:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Grey Reef and downstream for seven miles.

North Platte River 03/25/2019 Photo Album

My friend, Steve, and I floated the North Platte River below Grey Reef in six of the last seven years, and Monday, March 25 was our selected date for 2019. Once again we arranged to use Wyoming Fly Fishing Guide Service, and we requested the repeat services of our guide, Greg. As we drove to Fremont Canyon on Sunday, we were very concerned with the dark olive to brown color of the river, as heavy snow from the Bomb Cyclone snowstorm continued to melt and discolor the river.

We anxiously monitored the weather forecasts, and we were relieved to notice a sudden change for Monday. Originally the weather experts expected a high of 48 degrees with a 40% chance of snow and rain, but Sunday’s version suggested more favorable conditions of 52 degrees with a 10% chance of precipitation. Imagine our surprise and disappointment, when we checked on Monday morning and discovered a reversal to highs in the upper forties with wind, snow and rain likely up until noon. The turbid condition of the river and the bleak weather certainly elevated my level of concern.

Greg’s New Clackacraft

As expected, weather was the most significant factor on Monday, March 25. The temperature hovered in the thirties throughout the morning, and the frigid conditions were accompanied by wind, snow flurries, and heavy cloud cover. It was rather miserable. I placed my mittens containing hand warmers next to my seat in the rear of the boat, and every time we stopped fishing, I jammed my frozen hands into these comfort zones.

Quite a Circus at the Boat Ramp

The river was a fairly dense olive color even at the boat ramp below the dam, but our guide assured us that the visibility was adequate for the resident trout. The sun broke through the dense clouds in the late morning for a brief pleasant period, but then another large cloud rushed in, and the afternoon approximated the morning minus the snow with temperatures in the balmy low forties. For the last hour the clouds lifted a bit, and I refrained from placing my hands in the sanctuary of my mittens.

Because of the dirty water conditions our guide, Greg, worked extra hard to remain in the first three miles for an extended period of time. He knew the location of the tributaries dumping sediments, so he repeatedly rowed upstream along the bank to enable multiple drifts through productive fish holding runs in the upper river.

Effective Flies

Pretty Fish

My line contained an apricot egg throughout the day, and a red annelid worm was a mainstay fifteen inches below the egg. Greg rotated a third fly twelve inches below the worm; and that position varied between smaller annelids of different colors, a gray leech, and a midge emerger. Over the course of the 7.5 hour, seven mile float I landed three rainbows in the morning and three more in the afternoon. Six fish in 7.5 hours of fishing represented disappointing results particularly for the North Platte Grey Reef section compared to history. All six fish were strong silver fighters in the fourteen to sixteen inch range, so size was not an issue. The first landed rainbow gobbled the orange egg, and the fifth fish smacked the midge emerger. The remainder of my catch grabbed one of the red annelid worms.

A Nice North Platte Rainbow

Overall it was one of my worst experiences on the tailwater west of Casper, WY. The common denominator to slow fishing on the North Platte seems to be timing. Our worst float fishing numbers coincided with trips that did not overlap with the spring flush. The snow melt turbidity was another negative in my opinion. The cold wet windy conditions were tolerable, when fishing action dominated; however, slow fishing caused one’s thoughts to dwell on adverse weather.

Fish Landed: 6

A Pretty Stretch

North Platte River – 03/24/2019

Time: 2:00PM – 4:30PM

Location: North Platte River, Alcova Afterbay

North Platte River 03/24/2019 Photo Album

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.

One of the Flies of Choice

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.

Smaller But Still Pleased

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

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.

Gorgeous Rainbow from the Afterbay on Wednesday

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

22″ Beast at the End of the Day

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.