Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fishing in Ancient Yellowstone

On Saturday, Wade went walkabout to put some of his new photographic gear through its paces and capture some free lance imagery for Wade Rivers World Imaging Systems Inc. You simply can’t produce the stunning photography that has become a Wade Rivers hallmark by dropping a point and shoot digital in your vest pocket next to your bottle of Gink:

So Gerry and I headed back to the Snake River plain, which is what you get when you combine plate tectonics with the Yellowstone caldera. As the North American plate drifts over the Yellowstone hotspot and its inevitable cataclysmic explosions, the resultant craters trace across Wyoming and into Idaho and produce the Snake River Plain. However it got there, we’ll take it….at least until the next big blow:

And a plain it is. Here’s Gerry, my blood and brother of the angle, doing everything wrong on Flat Creek. Standing in the water. Making no attempt at keeping a low profile. Everything wrong except catching more and bigger trout than everyone fishing the Elk Refuge that day combined. Seems Gerry has the knack of getting a perfect drag free drift no matter what the situation, and that counts big time. Me, I managed to put down 3 rising fish on a single cast as my leader got sucked down a swirl and my dry fly zipped over their heads. Done indeed, despite a decent mix of mahoganies, gray drake spinners, tricos, and baetis. Not much to do then but enjoy the view of Sleeping Indian in the background:

If I had one regret from this trip, it’s not dragging our kiesters out of bed early in the morning to hit the Snake at sunrise. Despite the obvious chill, I’m sure we would’ve encountered a protracted rise to these claassenia stoneflies. Locally called “mutant stones,” the male adults have such short wings that they look just the nymph, and have a habit of scooting around across the surface of the water. Fresh shucks greeted our return to the side channels of the Snake in Grand Teton National Park; the S.S.S.S. was in once again in session:

Speaking of side channels, they really are your only option if you’re wading the Snake. The good news is that there’s no shortage of them, and a bumpy but otherwise easy drive will put you on the opposite side of the river from the more publicized access points. A set of aerial photos will help pinpoint the channels and the cuts through the riverside scarp for access to the river. The river morphology is too dynamic to rely on maps or one of those fly fishing guide books. Better to D.I.Y.:

Thinks there’s one in there?

Despite the intense afternoon sun, the fine spotted cutts did what they do best – eat oversized foam and rubber legged concoctions with abandon. When they wised up to a surfboard with a hook in it, a Parachute Adams or small Klinkhammer was all it took:

Gerry stuck this fine spot in a fine spot, a deep shaded run next to an overhanging sod bank:

Parting Shot :

If Fly Fishing Team USA thinks there’s something to be gained by practicing nymph fishing for whitefish , I think they’ve got a seriously flawed strategy. The Snake and its tributaries, and especially the Crowheart, have enough eager whities to supply a whole chain of New York delis. Not sure if that business model would work in Wyoming, but the stiffies will hit just about any nymph presented at their level. I caught so many that I figured it wouldn’t hurt to harvest a few. I tried smoking one, but his slimy nose wouldn’t stay lit. If you manage to light one up, let me know how it goes, though I can’t imagine you’d want to inhale…


Wade Rivers said...

"If you manage to light one up, let me know how it goes" - Greg G.

Those whities pack an awesome buzz. I'm gonna try cooking some up for the first time this weekend but first I need to find a little pot (rim shot).

Speaking of whities; Ever wonder why there are so many Rocky Mountain whitefish present in the Snake River downstream of Jackson Lake?

It's because the Wyoming Department of Fish & Game has never done anything to "help them" (rim shot followed by deafening silence)

Whitefish Ed said...

Oi vay!

Nothing beats a good head of whities. We smoke 'em all day long on Opening Day over at the Ranch.

GlenG said...

After a few puffs of a smoked whitefish, I'd need some doritos, a burger and a beer, perferablly a Troegs Hopback. Prolly need a few drops of visine too.....I don't think I could smoke'm all day long...I ain't in college any more.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful fish than a Whitefish? I bet that one that Greg's holding is a wild one too...Clearly the whitefish is the red headed step child of the fresh water fish world. Though, I'd bet on a white sucker, they're even uglier.

Nice job Greg - I love that slot run on the Snake!!!!

Old Arapaho said...

Now that right thar was funny, I don't care who you are.

It's true, the Y-Hotspot can be a real hot spot for whities. That being that, I sure hope I don't sound like I'm hot-spotting the Hotspot while being spot on about it being hot. I say Y-not have a hot spot for whities too? Ass hooked or not.

Old Arapaho

GregG said...

Whoa! Whitefish Ed!!! A real cult hero! I hear your RR Ranch opening day outfit can jam police radar - you need to ride with me on my next Cooke City cruise.

Glen: Maybe it was due to me not showering as much as the others, but I couldn't keep the gefilte fish off my nymphs, size 6 woven stones included.

Old Rap: Care to share any of your hotspots on the Crowheart down on the reservation? (and I don't mean casinos).

Old Arapaho said...

The Arapaho people are not fish eaters but for catch & release fishing, or when the Nez Perce come over for a summer buffler hunt and fish fry, you can't beat the Crowheart Canyon. There's more fish over 20 inches down there than a man can imagine.

Old Arapaho