WYOMING ISN’T REAL
Wyoming (WY) is an interesting place. It is a large piece of land with very few inhabitants. There is a revolving door of folks moving in and folks moving out. A transient oil and gas workforce who’s #1 focus is love of place, oops, money…until it dries up. But a large majority are a very steadfast base that wouldn’t ever consider leaving. WY boasts a meager 580,000 residents sprinkled into 97,914 square miles. That’s just shy of 6 people per section (square mile) or 640 acres. We are proud to battle with the antelope for the crown of the most populous critter in this arid and high-altitude square. Sorry goats, we’ve got you by a margin but we still have tons of respect for you. Plus, WY is the center of the antelope (speed goat or properly known as the Pronghorn) universe. Most of the world’s Pronghorn reside within 300 miles of our busting, 30 resident metropolis, of Alcova, WY. Our low population is synonymous with lots of elbow room and why we despise tagalongs on the highway. Pass respectfully and keep moving or back WAY off…like 200 feet. This same concept applies to the line at the grocery store, hunting, fishing and camping. Maintain lots of room, no unnecessary congestion – simple, this is Wyoming.
Wyoming isn’t a super habitable place in the grand scheme but is the ultimate in short bursts. Summer is really amazing, warm but not hot by most of the union’s standards, dry and lots of big blue-sky days. Spring and fall, we have several of them every year, rarely act like they’re supposed to. Both will give up some traditional weather but both tend to cherry pick stints of summer and winter. This is part of the reason we have a revolving door of boom-and-bust economy “residents”. That, and the wind. The wind is no joke. No, it isn’t always windy because, as the joke goes, Nebraska doesn’t always suck and Utah doesn’t always blow. The funny thing about those of us who complain the hardest are those who don’t have serious outdoor winter recreation. That is, people who wouldn’t ordinarily spend time outside anyway. (HINT* embrace winter outdoor recreation including fly fishing for longevity in WY) The wind is really a winter and early spring phenomenon and why we have pretty solid air quality. If you don’t recreate outside in the winter, we are sorry, not sorry about the wind messing up your hairdo on your way into work or blowing your grocery list off of the dash board. We park into the wind and open one car door at a time. There are a lot of benefits to the wind as well. Every one of the aging Front Range “fly” fishing Bros wearing a visor who storms in and makes a big, super-astute declaration about Wyoming’s wind, goes back to the Front Range. Huge bonus! Just teasing, Brah. Wyoming is not for the weak and if the weather were a little less rowdy, we’d have several times the population. Most of the steadfast folks are here because people make them uncomfortable, and they occupy too much space, breath down your neck and make too much noise when they are on the water or in the field. It is a matter of priorities. We embrace the conditions that keep the population low, first and foremost. Be real careful about professing how important you and your money are to Wyoming’s wellbeing when you’ve been reprimanded for stepping out of line with the way things are done here. Your ill-behaviored presence, self-aggrandized by money, will never supersede the Wyoming way of life.
Low populations serve hunting, fishing and a myriad of other recreation really well. The part that seals the deal is all the awesome hunting, fishing and other rustic outdoor opportunities. Low populations aren’t all rosy, though. We acknowledge the economic struggles that come with fewer customers, we acknowledge a smaller tax base that limits wasteful and unnecessary overdevelopment of every recreational opportunity and we acknowledge that we have fewer soulless franchise restaurants. We also acknowledge a glaring lack of awareness from most of the folks who are charged with “managing” our outdoor industry and amenities. There isn’t a great pool of knowledge to pull from and that pool is reduced to kiddie sized once most of the capable folks are faced with electing to take government jobs.
WY is an emotional place. If you don’t believe it, just be around the day after the big game tags are drawn. That’s a pretty warm and fuzzy experience. WY is a safe place. We all have had the winter highway gear requirements driven into our hair. Have water, a sleeping bag, and some other things I can’t remember but very few of us have them along…but it’s the thought that counts, I’ve heard. Also, nearly 70% of WY households own guns. That stat could be irrationally confused with 70% of homes have gun toting psychos and we’re ok with that. Be careful to limit the term households to houses, that stat also applies to all the vehicles on the road. 70% (unofficial stat pulled from nowhere) of Wyomingites also wear muck boots as their daily winter footwear. Looks and smells weird but function over form, y’all. Muck boots are not a substitute for waders, however. If your fishing guide shows up with muck boots you are a captive to the boat for the day, you ain’t getting out to wade fish.
WY is a loving and caring place. If a stranger is broken down on the side of the road it will only be a matter of moments before someone stops to help. There is so much competition to be the one to save the day that it can become a real safety hazard. We lose our minds and will forget to check traffic before throwing a U-turn in the middle of the highway. On big snow days there will be dozens of roving, built 4 wheel drive trucks at the ready to jerk any unfortunate low ground clearance cars out of a drift…for free! They say central WY is the most charitable place in the nation, there are even flags flying in downtown Casper to make sure you know it.
All jokes aside, we love Wyoming for the very things that more refined folks hate about it. That’s why there is an unwritten rule that neophytes aren’t allowed to discuss the wind or make knee jerk, highway observations about our big, vacant swaths of sagebrush steppe equating to “nothing”. Wyoming is so much more than Devil’s Tower, the Grand Teton, Old Faithful or Jackson Hole. It is just like fishing Grey Reef, the seemingly boring and featureless chunks in between the exciting water are often the most productive and interesting. Train your eye to see beyond a single dimension and welcome to Wyoming.
Stay tuned for some upcoming articles
#1 Voices Carry- The Things We Hear Guides Tell Their guests
#2 a multi part series The Evolution of a Tailwater – The Ongoing Transition of Grey Reef and Miracle Mile
#3 No Compromises – Why we voluntarily apply massive limits to the way we approach guiding anglers and why we are more successful and the fishery is better for it.