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…