Another Blast


Well it looks like we might be breaking out of another 36hr arctic blast.  The snow has finally stopped and the cold temps are settling in, lows today and tomorrow are set to be in the negatives.  The upside, we should be back above freezing by weeks end.

Current conditions are as follows…

Current Flows:

Grey Reef: 450cfs (*No floating Grey Reef to Lusby for the next few days.)   

Fremont Canyon: 76cfs  

Miracle Mile: 535cfs +/- (*As always this time of year use caution if you are thinking about venturing to the Mile.  Make sure to check with someone local and be prepared.)

We were on Upper Grey Reef this past week and the fishing was pretty legit.  Temperatures were in the mid 20s and it was a little breezy, so nymphing definitely seemed like the thing to do.  The handful of fish we caught on nymphs all ate a hot head leech, black with a chartreuse head or brown with orange.  Decided to break out the streamer after an hour or so of relatively “slow” fishing.  I think the first six casts got a grab or a hook up.  The next few hours delivered close to a couple of dozen of grabs on a single rusty-t, on a slow swing and strip.  They were definitely all about the streamer!

 

 

More Snow


It seems this year we are staying a little more consistent on the snow.  Southern and Central Wyoming has been seeing storm systems at least once, if not two times a week.  Snow pack in the North Platte drainage is anywhere from 116%-165%.  That’s pretty darn good if you ask us. Hopefully we continue to keep piling it on!

Now let’s talk about the conditions and the fishing…

Current Flows:

Grey Reef: 450cfs (*Floatable from Grey Reef Dam to Lusby.)   

Fremont Canyon: 76cfs  

Miracle Mile: 535cfs +/- (*As always this time of year use caution if you are thinking about venturing to the Mile.  Make sure to check with someone local and be prepared.)

What flies are working?  Here’s Mason Bouffard’s top pick nymphs….

PALs, rhinestones, leeches(brown, natural, UV brown and hot head) scuds(amber, orange and olive), reef worms and mayhems.

Remember to concentrate on the lower half of the run.  If the water looks deep and slow, fish it!

 

 

 

Blanket of White


Central Wyoming is covered in snow.  After about 24hrs straight we are probably looking at 8-10″ in the Alcova area.  That’s a pretty good amount of snow for us!  Let us hope the upper drainage is getting it as well.  Enough with the weather, here’s an updated fishing report for the North Platte River.

Current Flows:

Grey Reef: 450cfs   Fremont Canyon: 76cfs   Miracle Mile: 535cfs +/-

Top Flies:

Nymphs: amber scud, rhinestone, PAL, pine squirrel leech, mayhem midge, reef worm

Streamers: rusty t, goldie, articulated goldie, Seth special, twin lakes special 

Conditions are what you would expect for mid-winter.  Low and clear.  With temperatures dropping, lower Grey Reef (downstream of Lusby) is rolling some slush ice and shelf ice is building as we speak.  So if you want to hit the Reef, planning on staying up top.  As of yesterday the upper is still floatable but that could change any day.  With this storm you also want to be careful if you have plans to head out to the Mile.  Adhere to the old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”.  We don’t currently have updated road conditions after this past storm but…our guess is, it’s probably pretty sporty heading that direction.  Overall, the fish have mostly slid in their winter haunts.  Plan on concentrating on the lower half of the run.  Now, we aren’t ruling out fish in other places it’s just gonna be a little more productive in the slower, deeper water.  Primetime has been late morning, early afternoon as you would expect.

The Winter Program


First things first, here is our winter schedule for the shop.

CURRENT SHOP HOURS:

Thursday-Monday: 8AM-1PM

Tuesday and Wednesday: CLOSED

A quick little fishing report for you folks.  It’s pretty much winter in Central Wyoming.  Flows are down to winter levels and we are starting to see some slush ice on lower sections of Grey Reef.  Nymphing and streamers have been the way to go on Grey Reef, Miracle Mile and Fremont Canyon.  Various scud patterns, rhinestones, PALs, reef worms, leeches and mayhems have been our top producers.  The most productive nymphing water has been the mid to lower sections of the runs.  Some fish are definitely starting to hunker into their winter patterns.  Streamers (i.e. Rusty T and/or a Goldie) have been producing some nice fish, just remember to slow down your strip with the colder water temperatures.

Evolution of a Tailwater – Grey Reef


Scrapbook memory from 1996. “The Meat Hole”  pre North Platte Lodge. Looking downstream to the “Outhouse Hole” aka Pete’s Draw.

Things change. Sometimes we accept them and other times we feel it degrades our experience enough that we discontinue pursuing it. Sometimes these changes are clearly laid out and other times they are a slow progression and, oftentimes, a bit mysterious. The Grey Reef section of the North Platte River has maintained a mythic, prolific and in demand status while it has slowly transformed from the fishery we knew before guides hit the scene. The “old” Grey Reef was amazing but so is the “new”. We aren’t suggesting that the change stemmed from the presence of guides or as a result of being an angling destination, but it is a fun place to start and nostalgic to reminisce.

What is now known as Grey Reef has been through a series of changes over the past 100+ years. The construction of Pathfinder Dam in 1909 started the transformation, then came Alcova, Seminoe and Kortes Dams, in quick succession, between 1938 and 1951. Arguably, the most important feature is the tiny Grey Reef Dam, completed in 1961, a mile below Alcova Dam and/or the initiation of the flushing flows in the mid 1990s.  Crack open a beer and let’s remember when… 

Things really got going at Grey Reef once the little Grey Reef Dam, sitting right between The Reef Fly Shop and North Platte Lodge, was constructed. This tiny impoundment has enough storage to regulate flows downstream of Grey Reef and isolate them from the continual change in power generating demand of Alcova and all the hydro units upstream. Naturally, this cultivated a very robust trout fishery. In those years the river was known for its modest population of huge brown trout (much like Miracle Mile a quick skip upstream between Kortes and Pathfinder). In the mid 1990s the Wyoming Game and Fish and Bureau of Reclamation agreed to start a new program of flushing flows to mimic high water events that is designed to displace accumulated silt. Silt was a big problem. Not only was it contributing to an almost complete lack of successful spawning recruitment, but it was scary to wade as you’d sink into deep black goo and getting stuck in that quagmire was a real concern.

The first 7 or 8 years of the flush was a 5-day event both spring and fall. The fall component was cancelled after repeated issues with dislodged vegetation clogging the intakes at the Casper water treatment plant and the cooling units at Dave Johnston Power Plant. The fall flush was insane streamer fishing! Man, those were the days. The Spring flush was lengthened to a week and within the past decade was extended to 10 days.

We have very vivid memories of water that was never really clear. A few feet of visibility was our benchmark for “clear” water. Later in the season we’d be fishing in pea soup. No joke, the water was green and thick with suspended organic stuff or fines. However, the fishing was awesome. We had some good dry fly opportunities and streamer fishing was solid at times but nymphing was ever present. A lot of the same flies have been in our box for over 25 years, but a couple of must-have daily patterns don’t get the same use that they used to. Red Blood Midges and Scuds just don’t seem to be as productive as they were in the days of green water. The fall baetis hatch doesn’t seem to have the same interest slightly below the surface like it once had. Now that interest seems to be on the surface.

We had a huge water year in 2011 and it kind of seems like a monumental moment when there was Grey Reef before 2011 and Grey Reef after 2011. Prior to that date it was the same as we always knew it, not really clear, nymphing, lots of our trophy class fish (25” or better) were rainbows. 2011 was also a prolific hopper year and that’s when focusing on grasshopper fishing really became part of the conversation. It is strange to think about now but there were 3 drift boats sunk that season, due to flows upward of 8000 cfs, and we couldn’t even start the process of searching for them until the following spring. That’s when the water would always be the lowest and clearest.

Since 2011 Grey Reef has progressively become clearer and that has been paralleled with a marked increase dry fly fishing and a delayed response to streamers. The Grey Reef dry fly season is mid-July through October…and it’s awesome! The streamer season that used to ripen around mid-September is now mid-October through mid-November…and it’s awesome! Of course, all the same hatches are still in play and the trout respond to nymph rigs, always.

Reservoir levels, turnover and gully washer weather events don’t seem to have changed much over the years. Did the huge flows and Pathfinder spilling in 2011 super charge the gradual impacts of the first 15 years of the flushing flows? Did subsequent big water years amplify that progression to dry fly and clear water? Has the extended spring flush had a larger than expected impact? The water quality seems to have improved but why do we see more trophy class brown trout now when 20 years ago it was rainbows in the majority?

It’s Coming


After what has been arguably the nicest fall in history, it’s finally starting to turn a little here in Central Wyoming.  The past week has given us some pretty big wind, temperature swings and a little snow mixed in.  Like it, love it or hate it…it is about time.  Well then, how’s the fishing?  It’s been good!  Our crew has been spending a bulk of their time on Grey Reef.  Water conditions on Grey Reef are excellent, with fishable water from the Dam to Glenrock.  That’s a pile of water!  Streamer’s have been the name of the game as of late.  We love throwing an intermediate line(airflow fast intermediate) this time of year. It’s our go-to line for the low/clear water in the fall and winter months.  A single articulated streamer or two smaller single-hook patterns seem to be the ticket.  Our go-to streamers have been a rusty-t, petunia, goldie and/or a kreelex. Keep in mind with the colder weather and water temperatures dropping, you might need to slow down your strip.

In other fishing news, Kortes road from Alcova to the Miracle Mile is open.  As far as the fishing goes, it has been really windy but the fishing has been pretty good.  Our nymph rig has been 5-6ft with a worm, olive scud and/or a pheasant tail.  Streamers have been working as well.  A floating line with a 7-8ft leader, tethered to something white has been the ticket (I.E. goldies and white dungeons).

Well, winter is coming.  With that in mind, make sure to check both the weather and road conditions when venturing out.  Especially those of you headed to the Mile.  Stay safe and don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you have any questions.

October!!!


September went by in a flash and it did not disappoint!  As we round out the first ten days of October, all we can say is that it has been a dandy thus far.  Weather and conditions are primo!!  Flows on Grey Reef remain at 500cfs and the river is clear, extremely clear, especially down low.  Conditions are prime for the picking from Grey Reef Dam to Glenrock.  Miracle Mile is in good shape as well, not quite the clarity but fishing has been good.  But as you would expect it has been busy with both fisherman and fall hunting camps.  Fremont Canyon is at it’s low flow as well (72cfs) and the water is off-colored.

So what’s happening on the fishing front?  Well, to start you need to be rigged for just about anything and everything right now.  We are still seeing good numbers of tricos and pseudos, making for some legit dry fly-fishing.  One of our guides even got a few to eat a hopper the other day.  We are also starting to see some fish really moving for streamers.  Nymphing is good, per usual.  Our rigs have been 2-6ft, a single #4 split to 2 ABs…it just depends on the depth and the speed of the water you are fishing.  Our top nymphs have been pheasant tails, foam wing RS2s, mayhems, pat’s rubber legs and PALs.

Feels a Little Like Fall


Cool and rainy this morning in Central Wyoming.  Not gonna lie, it feels pretty good!  We are officially at the midpoint of September and we are right where we are supposed to be.  Flows on Grey Reef are at 500cfs, Miracle Mile 530cfs and Fremont is holding steady at 75cfs.  Everything is fishing well, actually really well.  Water temperatures have dropped to a more comfortable level and conditions, especially on Grey Reef, are primo.

Pretty standard when we see the drop in flows, Grey Reef is running very clear and the vegetation is far less of a hinderance.  That being said, it has been buggy and the fish are looking up.  Huge trico numbers in the morning and pseudos in the afternoon.  Our Grey Reef guides have pretty much been rowing around looking for heads.  A little longer leader, tethered to 4X or 5X with a single dry (i.e. para adams, trico spinner), or a double fly rig with something a little bulkier (i.e. X caddis) with a trico spinner dropper. If dry fly fishing isn’t your thing, you can still catch them on trusty nymph rig.  Our go-to nymphs have been PALs, RS2 foam-wings in black and grey, pheasant tails, Pat’s rubber legs and/or a black two-bit hooker.  Our nymph rigs have been between 3-6ft in length and anything from no weight to 1-2BB split shot.  It really just depends on the type of water you are fishing.

WY Wyoming?


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.  

 

 

 

 

Battling the Veg


It happens every year, without question.  The vegetation(mainly a species from the genus potamogeton), on Grey Reef starts breaking up and making its way downstream.  In the case of this year it has gotten a little extra jolt, courtesy the recent bump in flows.  Is it a pain in the ass?  Sure.  Does it make it unfishable?  Absolutely not.  You just have to be prepared to clean your flies and get them in the right spot.  This isn’t spring on Grey Reef, so don’t expect it.  You may not be hitting the numbers of fish you are accustomed to but the quality is there, without question.

If you are here or headed this way, this is the program our crew has been rolling…4-6ft, 1-2 AB split shot.  A short, stout nymph rig that gets down quick.  The first fly will be a Pat’s rubberlegs, cranefly or a leech.  Trail that with a birds nest or another caddis pattern, pheasant tail and/or a foam wing RS2.  Also, keep your eyes peeled for risers.  We are seeing a few heads up on tricos in the morning as well as a few eating hoppers in the afternoon.

So if the current situation has you a little down and you don’t want to bother with the veg, there is a silver lining.  When flows start dropping after Labor Day, the river should be in great shape.  Less vegetation and clear, clean water.  September and October is setting up to be one for the books…