The idea for this trip sparked during a period of brief homelessness. I had just quit my job, and had a number of weeks before I was due in Wyoming. Naturally, I spent the time deer and elk hunting, fishing, and helping rack wine at Hells Canyon Winery. One leisurely morning at the winery, while enjoying a cup of coffee, I opened a nearby magazine which happened to have an article about an off the beaten path kind of river. The author didn't give specifics, but it was clear that this river is remote, hard to access, and provides tantalizing rewards in the form of solitude and salmo trutta. It also happens to be in Wyoming. I filed this information away in an important part of my mind I call the steel trap. It's standard practice that most things that enter my mind are gone within 5 minutes. In fact, it'd be more accurate to call my mind a steel colander. But when a friend looks over his shoulder before telling of a secret fishing spot, the jaws to the steel trap spring shut, and they are committed to memory.
Fast foreword a few months to winter in Wyoming. Having only a part time job, I had plenty of time to research and plan summer trips. I gathered what I could about the river, and made plans to visit in the summer. Directions were vague, the guidebook said not to go by yourself, and to bring a map to navigate the maze of BLM roads.
Before leaving, I carefully laid a route on GaiaGps. 20 miles on gravel and two track roads. Bikes on the back in case we the road turned bad, or if we augered the truck into a mud hole. The gps track proved invaluable while navigating, and we arrived at our destination with little problem. Our river is contained within a BLM Wilderness Study area. A mountain stream that grows into a desert river flowing through the sagebrush flats into a limber pine lined canyon. Shallow granite walls flank either side of the river providing roosts for hawks and peregrine falcons. Evidence of moose and deer abounded along the riverside path.
I've been stubbornly pushing the grasshopper season this summer. I tied up a slough of hoppers this spring in anticipation, and I have been throwing them in vein for the past few weeks. No interest in the hopper, we must be a few weeks soon. Finally we came to a beautiful plunge pool. It was the type of pool that when I came to it, I said, "If I can't catch a fish here, I'm no fisherman...Not leaving until I catch one." I had seen a few stonefly shucks earlier, so I put on the tried and true Gardiner-Special Matt Minch Golden Stone. I hooked and landed my first rainbow of the day within 3 casts. I don't know why I'm so reluctant to fish nymphs. It probably comes from growing up in a family of die-hard dry fly fishermen. (One on a dry counts for 3 on a nymph!...right?). The truth is that fishing a nymph on this type of water (clear pocket water) is every bit of fun as fishing dries. The clear water and short line techniques allows you to see and feel every take. I was having a blast.
Nancy and I both pulled in a few more rainbows before I was reminded that we still had a 4ish hour drive back to Cody. Time to start hiking back to the truck. Its nearly impossible for me to hike back along ariver and not cast a few last times to the best looking water. I threw one perfectly placed cast over a cross current, and right behind two large boulders. The golden stone was immediately taken and the brown trout jumped out of the water pulling clicks off my hand-me-down Pflueger Medalist. Its humorous how much these moments make me giggle and whoop.
These kinds of trips are some of my favorite. Not because the fishing was epic, or that I caught the biggest fish of the season. In fact, I probably could have stayed home and caught more fish withing 30 minutes of my front door. Its the exploration, planning, and unknown that I love. This trip has been coming together for months. I wasn't even sure we could drive all the way in due to recent rainstorms. I saw more wildlife this weekend than I caught fish. Hooked as many ticks as trout. You never know what you will find on a new river. It could be blown out, or worse. Don't let that stop you. You don't know until you go.