Saturday, July 18, 2009

High Country Paradise

Unfettered access to the high country has finally arrived! A trip in with Floyd and his friend Joe to kick off the back country lake season will be a memorable one for a while to come. There are still a few drifts to hike over, but that is to be expected this time of year. The first fish of the day was a beautiful cutthroat that came up and took a beetle pattern. After that almost all the fish were on midges as droppers or under an indicator. There were adult midges everywhere in the air. I managed to find my first golden trout of the season on a lake I had all to myself. This was odd as it seemed to be the busiest day of the year at the trail head. Multiple large groups of hikers were on the trails, with some of them carrying rods. Thankfully, they were headed to other destinations and only a few other fisherman were briefly around the lakes we targeted. The afternoon and evening were filled with feisty brook trout and another nice cutthroat came to hand. Joe caught his first cutthroat ever which was a great moment and nice surprise for him. Today was everything you could want from a high country trip with beautiful weather, cool temperatures, wildflowers starting to bloom, cooperative trout and on occasion, some actual solitude.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Backcountry Cobbler

After the beerfest on Saturday evening none of us was moving particularly fast on Sunday morning. A casual breakfast was cooked and camp packing was completed. It was time to get on the trail and find a few more fish before heading out to check on Eric's leaky gas tank. On a section of trail about 200 feet above the river, Adam's sleeping bag liberated itself from his pack and tumbled all the way to the river in an impressive display of the constancy of gravity. We never saw it hit the river as the brush and trees appeared to stop it at the bottom of the hill. Adam thought about trying to hike down to get it but we talked him out of it. There was no way to really access the location where he lost sight of the bag. Pressing on to fish, the river greeted us with a few morning trout and I managed a decent rainbow on a north fork special in a deep run. Working our way up stream, Adam spots a familiar sight. His sleeping bag! It had somehow made the river and drifted downstream to a nice bend where it sat waiting for him to happen upon it. Fortuitous coincidence indeed. After recovering the cliff diving bag, Eric somehow managed to have the current suck the wading sandal off his left foot. The sandal was long gone downstream and not recovered. In typical McGyver fashion, he devised a tee shirt shoe that at least allowed him to get to the trailhead and retrieve his hiking boots. After hiking out another group of fishers confirmed that search and rescue had finally located an unfortunate kayaker that had been lost in the river in June. It was sad but I am glad the family will finally have some closure. Rest in peace Tigger. Luckily, Eric's patch job on his gas tank seemed to be holding and we headed into Riverside for a nice lunch at the Bear Trap before saying our goodbyes and departing for home.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Into The Gulch

Adam and I got everything in the SUV and headed out to meet up with Eric who made the trip over from Utah for a weekend in the wilderness area. Flows were at a decent level for fishing and the water clarity was beautiful. We found Eric at the top of the access road with his truck up on a jack. He had managed to put a small hole in his gas tank with a loose leaf spring. Resourceful as ever, he McGyver'ed up a patch from chewing gum in the truck and we all went down the access in Adam's rig. We hiked into the wilderness area and got camp set up to get started with the fishing. Wet wading all weekend in the crisp river was a treat. Some nice browns and rainbows wer found in all the typical lies with fish coming up to smash stimulators on the surface being the preferred method of take. There were bugs coming off everywhere. Stoneflies, caddis, brown and green drakes, and PMDs. It was an amazing insect show and had the fish looking up. Everything in the canyon was flowering and it made for the perfect backdrop for a backcountry fishing trip. That evening, a backcountry brewfest was conducted since we were missing the brewfest in town. A decent selection of beer managed to be packed into the wilderness consisting of Old Chub, Spaten Munich Optimator, and Sierra's Summerfest Lager.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Drift Boat River Trip - Day 2

A 5:00am start assured that we were the first boat on the river at the launch. After a quick camp pack up, the drifty was in the water and we were off as the sun wasn't even fully lighting the river canyon walls. In the early morning shade we were into fish immediately and had a better numbers day than Monday but never found the same sized fish as we had been blessed with a day earlier. With the river up the float seemed to go by much faster than normal. We saw a nice golden eagle and lots of early morning mule deer, including a sizable buck, using the river corridor. Songbirds are everywhere in the riparian area and we were inundated with different sightings and songs. More great time on the water with beautiful surroundings, trout, and wildlife. It all ended too early and we drove the shuttle and said goodbyes. Thanks to Adam and Christine for graciously inviting me along on a wonderful two days on the water.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Drift Boat River Trip - Day 1

Adam, Christine, and I got over the hill and managed to float the river with great success in the high off color water. The area rains had gotten flows up above what we would typically think of as "good". The trout were hungry however and we fed them a steady diet of stripped streamers and buggers. Adam's drift boat made things nice and easy with good handling and plenty of space to work out of the boat. With the fish tucked in tight to the banks, we bombed the banks and got some vicious strikes and hook ups from big trout. I actually landed my best rainbow from this stretch ever on the first fish of the day. Adam had a brute brown trout as well and I followed later on with another sizable brown. Christine found her first fish of the year today as well which was a ton of fun to watch. After floating, we had dinner in town and moved upstream to a remote camp spot to set up for the night and be ready to hit the river early the next morning. We watched the International Space Station pass over from camp with the trailing Russian Progress spacecraft following up behind the ISS. Adam did some fire tricks on film for me as we drank a few Trippels and then retired for the early launch on Tuesday.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Muddy Sunday

A long drive to start the day, I arrived at the river hoping for some good fishing. It was a roiled muddy mess with the best water up at the dam. I talked to some locals and they said big storms had pummeled the area on Friday and Saturday with some actual flooding in Casper. I tried swinging some big stuff up at the dam a while and after finding nothing moved on to Alcova to search for some invertebrate fossils on the BLM side and hiked up a creek bed for a little while. I found a few scattered examples of belemnites and a pelecypod but didn't really understand the topography until I did the Cottonwood Creek Dinosaur Trail hike across the other side of the reservoir. That really reveals the way the uplift occurred and the different layers of time and at what levels they reside in the surrounding landscape. Plenty of viewable pelecypods on the trail as any collecting is prohibited, so I got some nice photos instead.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Whirlwind Trip On The Fourth

I was up and moving early on the fourth with a starting destination for the day mapped out and ready. Devils Tower was a spectacular start to the morning. I pushed through the fog and overcast from Spearfish into northeastern Wyoming, wondering if I would even get to see the tower. As I turned north the sky opened up and the viewing was beautiful. I walked the Tower Trail around the base of the Bear Lodge as a nice start to the morning. The view of the tower constantly changes as you walk around it with the sun rising and its changing angle of light. Walking 20 feet down the trail seemed to present an entirely new viewpoint. It was nice to take it all in with only a handful of people around this early in the morning. After sitting and contemplating life at the tower for a while I pushed on to my next stop in the Mowry Shale. I searched around for some of the fossil fish scales present in the shale from 95-100 million years ago. At first, I wasn't finding anything but eventually a few began to reveal themselves. Time was short however and I had about 150 miles to cover to get to my afternoon fishing destination and meet up with Adam. We plied the waters of a high country river in the Big Horn range and found some nice cutthroat trout. Adam also managed some rainbows and browns to round out the evening. A storm chased us off but we were thrilled with the outcome. Capping the day with a 1554 black ale, we got some sleep in preparation for the next day of weekend adventure.

Friday, July 3, 2009

D.C. Booth Historic Hatchery

I took a trip to Spearfish, SD for a wedding and had a few hours prior to the ceremony to take in the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery. They have a great museum and a replica rail car for fish delivery along with some gigantic brown and rainbow trout on display with an underwater viewing area. It was a relaxing diversion with some well produced displays and historical information.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Evening On The River - Thanks Ralph

I went out in search of a few trout this evening. The river is down, clearing and fishable. The three weight delivered the royal wulff and a para adams into the current admirably. It also performed well swinging a bugger for a while. Nothing seemed to be going on so I started to watch the water. Eventually some small fish began rising warranting a return to the para adams. This produced some nice drifts in front of these little rascals. I was getting take after take but not many hookups, they were so tiny the few I did hook were flying through the air and off the hook before I could even think about landing them. Finally one came to hand, a pretty little common shiner. Nice to see you my native friend and in a river in which you belong. I snapped some pictures and away he went. Storms to the south dropping lightning strikes, the overhead commotion of a hawk being chased by blackbirds, wildflowers and cacti along the path to the water... it doesn't get much more relaxing than an evening like this. Thanks Ralph Hesson. I hope you were looking down with a smile on some of the joy you created for me tonight.