In the Middle of Nowhere- a Minute from Everything


 

Anglers seek great fishing, that’s no secret. We also want our trip to include an adventure component and a little exclusivity. Grey Reef is still a far lesser known angling destination despite, objectively, being a in the top tier of superior fisheries based on a bunch of features. It is tough to match Grey Reef’s healthy numbers of trout, large average size with gargantuan trophy specimens, relatively low to absurdly low angling pressure (season dependent), access, abnormally good water conditions all year long, proximity to a bunch of stellar fisheries and being able to provide a great experience to a broad range of anglers from novice to advanced and all ages. Of course, that’s what we’ve always prided ourselves on providing while not diminishing what fly fishing really is. We Grey Reef Road locals are loaded to be, not only an invaluable resource for visiting anglers that are not booking guides with us, but also providing a guided/hosted program that aligns with skilled, traditional and conscious fly angling.

Like you, we are destination anglers. We’ve tailored our operations to fill gaps that we see in many of the fisheries we visit. As anglers, we need a great place to stay, food, drink, fuel, great guides and advice and flies…a cool vibe is an added bonus.  Pretty simple, but hard to pull off since most great outdoor experiences are isolated from amenities or manufactured and lose the soul you get with rustic establishments built and operated by locals. Think the modern ski resort. Alcova, WY and Grey Reef are different. While we don’t have the engineered facilities that are planned, proposed and built in bulk we have the best kind of amenities. These amenities were here before Grey Reef became known in the fly fishing world. They’ve been here for a very long time to serve the ranching community of this special, unmolested region of Wyoming. They are loaded with character/s and the things we need. The North Platte Lodge and The Reef Fly Shop properties were just lucky enough to be the first fly fishing operations to set up shop on the lower North Platte River over 25 years ago. That’s why we have these insane locations. Grey Reef Road was once the main highway from Casper to Rawlins, Wyoming but has now been reduced to a mile and a half long, dead-end relic of the old days that accesses the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River and our two locations. North Platte Lodge was a feed ground before it was built and The Reef Fly Shop was the location of and old road house bar. It was a scary proposition to make investments and carve out a first of its kind outfitting business on an entirely unknown fishery. What is often overlooked are the local businesses that make The Reef Fly Shop and North Platte Lodge visit unique and position us in the ideal location to provide an experience only we can. We are in the middle of nowhere but a minute from everything.

The Sunset Grill: Locals call it the The Sunset and has been an Alcova fixture for many decades. Just a 3 minute walk or a sub one minute drive from your cottage at The Reef Fly Shop, Sunset burgers are legendary. Nobody who comes to fish Grey Reef should miss an experience at the Sunset. Seriously, you’ll bump into a variety of folks from local ranchers to anglers from all regions of the country to the lake folks stopping in for a burger before the 30 minute drive back home to Casper. It is a little salty and family friendly but is also a great spot to grab a cold beer, pin a doodled dollar to the wall and meet your new best friends. If the drive though doesn’t blow your mind, when they hand you a cocktail out the window will.

Sloane’s General Store: Sloane’s has been in business for a 100 years. Their location is a touch over a minute drive from The Reef Fly Shop and is a must do stop for a scoop or two of ice cream. They sell fuel, basic groceries, firewood, propane, souvenirs, beer, boating and fishing supplies etc. Sloane’s will build you a pizza that you can pick up 15 minutes after your order. They have prepared food like breakfast burritos, cinnamon rolls and pizza that you can grab anytime. These are prepared fresh and onsite. They also have the original vacation rentals in Alcova and the fall-back if we are booked.

Windy Waters RV: This is a newer operation and is located across the road from Sloane’s General Store. They provide RV campsites and allow long term stays. While The Reef Fly Shop RV sites are closer to fishing (walk out in front of the shop) and Grey Reef boat ramp/fishing access, nicer views and a great vibe at the the fly shop property. Windy Waters is a solid nightly option and provides month long or longer living.

Alcova Post Office: it does post office things but you can also pick up bird hunting licenses if you forgot to get yours online. Another one-minute destination from your cottage.

Alcova School: K-8 rural school situated below Alcova Dam 4 or 5 minutes from the shop. Not sure if there is another public school anywhere who has world class angling a few skips from the playground!

North Platte Lodge:  That’s us. Owned and operated by fly fishing guides with deep and lengthy connections to the fly fishing industry. The original inclusive fly fishing lodge serving Grey Reef and Miracle Mile with great food, the best and most experienced guide crew in the business and the undisputed prime location for those targeting the Grey Reef, Fremont Canyon and Miracle Mile sections of the North Platte River. The Grey Reef boat ramp is visible from the awesome deck and your guide will have you at the boat ramp in a minute. We often trailer our boats with oars in the oar locks and straps off ready to launch as soon as you pull up. With rods already rigged you are making casts while others get their straps off of their boats. The lodge is a little over a minute drive from The Reef Fly Shop, Cottages and RV and is a nice one mile walk along the very low and slow traffic Grey Reef Road. The lodge has some of the best trout water in the world a couple minute walk from the front door. We also have upland, waterfowl and big game hunts as well as hunting/fishing packages.

The Reef Fly Shop, Cottages & RV: That’s us. Custom flies, expert (and friendly) advice, our overqualified guide crew, RV sites, drift boat rentals, vacation rentals, BuffTrout swag, cigars, beer. Apres beers on the covered patio, every evening.

That’s it, aside from a few residences and primitive camping options. Alcova has pretty wild geology (paleontology, archeology etc) so the topography hides sight of other locations in many cases…especially the North Platte Lodge, we are way off of the highway and around the bluff from the shop, the Sunset, Sloane’s etc but the only to have outfitter to have front row seats to Grey Reef the fishery. The airport is a 40 minute drive. If you need groceries, restaurants, a mechanic, hospital or any other services you’d expect in a city, Casper is only a 30 minute drive. We are the nearest outfitter to Miracle Mile at a 30 minute approach and Fremont Canyon, Alcova Reservoir, Pathfinder Reservoir at 15 minutes and the after bay section is at your ready right in front of the shop.

Grey Reef doesn’t play second fiddle to any fly fishing destination.

 

Sweet, Sweet Summertime


***SHOP PHONE LINES ARE DOWN***

Email us at: info@thereefflyshop.com

 

*PURCHASE YOUR FISHING LICENSE ONLINE BEFORE YOU ARRIVE*

Sloanes General Store is no longer selling licenses and we will not be able to keep up with the demand so PLEASE get your licenses before you get here. Thank you!

 https://wgfd.wyo.gov/apply-or-buy

 

Well, it’s officially starting to feel like summer around here. After arguably the coolest and wettest start to a summer, we might actually be heating up this week. For the first time in 2023, we might hit 90F. Flows continue to hold steady on all three North Platte tailwaters. Conditions on Grey Reef continue to improve and we are starting to see some sallies and PMDs. We’ve even had a handful of our guides and guests pick up a few fish on hoppers. The golden stones are coming a little bit more into play on the Miracle Mile. Our crew has seen some adults and have been doing well on nymphs. We’ve managed to put a fair amount of water in reservoirs this spring and summer. At this point we have not heard as to when Grey Reef will see an increase in flows. As always, we will let you know if we hear anything!

GREY REEF: 1,000cfs. Fishable water from Grey Reef Dam to Government Bridge. Conditions are improving downstream and we are starting to float lower.

FREMONT CANYON: 80cfs. Mostly clear.

MIRACLE MILE: 2,800cfs. Clear. Road conditons to the Mile are dry but very rough in spots.

Bugs Popping


Things are shaping up and its actually starting to feel a little bit like spring! We’ve been fielding a lot of calls/emails regarding the conditions on the North Platte, so folks here’s a current conditions report for ya!

GREY REEF: 450cfs, mostly clear from Grey Reef Dam to just upstream of Government Bridge. After that is slightly off colored but still very fishable, green with 2′ of visibility. As of right now, you could fish your way into Casper. Baetis(BWOs) are popping! The low pressure/overcast days have been pretty magical if you ask us.

MIRACLE MILE: 2,800cfs, clear. With the low lake level, the Mile is fishable to Sage Creek and well beyond. Road conditions are good. The fishing has been so-so. From the sounds of it, you’re gonna work for ’em.

FREMONT CANYON: 75cfs, slightly off colored but very fishable. Fishing in Cardwell and Fremont has been average. Some bugs(baetis/midges) coming off, depending on the conditions.

Overall, things are pretty solid. Looks like we have some more moisture forecasted this week. Just a heads up, we are thinking Mile flows will only continue to go up as we make our way into summer. Grey Reef will probably be holding steady for the coming week, if we had to guess. With the current snowpack levels this could really be a fun year in our neck of the woods.

Fremont Canyon Before Disneyland


Cruising through social media this morning and the above picture immediately caught my eye. Our friend, Bill Bohman Art on Facebook and  @billbohmanart on instagram, crafts some really cool art that is often fly fishing centered. I have a set of Bill’s traditional fly pattern prints displayed in my family room. In reality, our family is not into the fly fishing art theme but, man…he hits the mark. His depiction of this scene instantly had me traveling back to a time before Fremont Canyon, aka Cardwell, had been manufactured and developed into what I often describe as a Disneyland fishery.

In the early 2000’s the Cardwell Access Area project was completed. This project had 4 major players that collaborated to develop the meadow below Pathfinder Dam and above the next entrance to Fremont Canyon. The Cardwell Family agreed to allow public access, the Bureau of Reclamation agreed to a 75 CFS minimum flow from Pathfinder, the Wyoming Game and Fish agreed to stock and manage the fishery, as well as, install pit toilets and parking areas while the Wyoming Fly Casters helped with the plan and raised cash and awareness. Voila! A small stream experience emerged from nothing…or did it? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on this fishery, this development has really been an overall benefit to anglers, the local visitation economy and the scenery. What most folks aren’t aware of is that there was already a thriving fishery, hiding in plain sight, with amazing access. It was a little sad when the track hoes showed up to manufacture a small stream bed in the meadow to optimize the 75 CFS minimum flow but we could also reasonably predict the consequences and realized it wasn’t a heartbreaking event then or now.

There were no fences, trails or trespassing signs. The traditional river bed is what you expect from a good-sized river whose flows were diverted through a tunnel carved in the canyon wall. Pathfinder is a granite block dam that seeps water. There was always some water coming from Pathfinder upstream and fish could access Fremont Canyon via Alcova Reservoir below…a fishery existed. Access also existed. Fremont Canyon has always been one of Wyoming’s shock-and-awe geologic features but it was only recognized by a few sightseeing locals and the local climbing community. There is a good road through the canyon and there was a sandy two track approach from Pathfinder Rd to the perfect campsite right at the mouth of the canyon. It was best when the North Platte River was released to flow down the canyon. It was hard to sleep, despite the ideal sandy spot to toss your sleeping bag,  with the river roaring as it entered the mouth of the canyon. The beers flowed nicely while consumers were sitting on the diagonal rock layer depicted in Bill’s art above. Similar to a rock concert, being so close to the powerful, smooth tongue of the river as it dropped in encouraged tight lips or necessitated a pretty boisterous conversation.

The campsite was a sandy depression, flanked by the cliff and fronted by junipers that separated the fire pit from the river. One late night at the campfire my buddy pointed beyond me and firmly said “what are you doing?”. Knowing he wasn’t talking to me but rather something behind me, I immediately became concerned for my well being. A couple frogs had popped out and joined us at the fire. I survived that scare.

The Fremont story that has been the most impactful to my development as a guide, angler and my outdoor recreation ideology happened one afternoon after taking our guests/anglers to Miracle Mile for a few hours of wade fishing. North Platte Lodge was in operation prior to the Fremont Disneyland development but I would divert through the canyon after fishing the Mile to blow my guests’ minds with the views, and if they were game, drop in for some fishing. This particular afternoon I was leading another group along with my guests. The other guide was pretty inexperienced and not at all familiar with Fremont Canyon fishing. We parked along the road and I pointed he and his anglers to the prime hopper water in the meadow. The potholes in the slough were always good for a couple hopper eaters each. Easy pickings and some really impressive fish! I took my anglers around the bend and into the canyon. After a couple hours we emerged and the other guide was nowhere in sight…nor was his vehicle. We reunited back at the lodge and I asked where he went. He explained that as they were rigging their hopper rods a Game and Fish warden drove up and asked what they were doing. He stated the obvious and the warden replied with “there are no fish in here, we haven’t even stocked it”. That zapped all of his confidence and embarrassed him in front of his guests. They left without ever making a cast. I don’t recall how we did that afternoon in the canyon but I will never forget the lessons of that day. I often reflect on that experience and how misguided it was on several levels. Decades later we still struggle with these issues from all players in this story. Erik

 

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!

 

 

 

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…

Buggy


Miracle Mile(1,500cfs), Fremont(80cfs) and Grey Reef(500cfs) are all in great shape.  Clear water and the bugs have been popping, especially on Grey Reef.  This is such a fun time of year!  A baetis and midge pattern have been our bread and butter up top, no question.  If you’re heading down low you definitely need some leech patterns as well as some caddis.  Streamers have definitely been on the menu as well, especially if we get some overcast weather.

Spring Time In Wyoming


Well folks, as we write this little report it is snowing!  Some locations more than others.  Casper is currently under about a 10″ blanket of white, while 30 miles to the southwest in Alcova, it might just be a few inches.  Currently the Grey Reef stretch of the North Platte is in good shape.  For about the past week and a half we have been fortunate to have good water conditions from Grey Reef Dam to Glenrock, Wyoming.  That’s a lot of fishable water!  Unfortunately it might be different below Casper when the snow starts melting.

Current Flows:

Miracle Mile: 1,526cfs

Fremont Canyon: 72cfs

Grey Reef: 505cfs

Nymphing is currently the name of the game.  Leeches, worms, annelids, midges and baetis patterns are top producers.  3-7ft on the rig length, with anything from a single #4 split shot to 3BB’s.  We know thats a broad range but when the bugs are popping our guides are fishing light/short and when things quiet down a longer rig is more appropriate.

Happy New Year!


First things first, we hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable New Year!  Our crew is looking forward to 2022 and what should be another great year in Central Wyoming.  Currently, snowpack is looking good on the upper North Platte River drainage(115-119%).  If we keep with this trend we should have good flows and water in the reservoirs.  So cheers to all of you and we look forward to seeing you this year!

Shoulder Season


Hard to believe it’s already November 15th and we are a week and half away from Thanksgiving.  Wow, time is truly flying by.  November 15th is the official start to our “shoulder season” and discounted rates.  So if you see a weather window, come pay us a visit.  We have cottages available and guides ready to work!

Now for a quick little fishing report.  After a couple weeks of weather, we have dried up and are having some very mild temperatures here in Central Wyoming.  It’s been a great month to be on the water thus far and the extended forecast looks like more of the same.  With dry fly opportunities waning, our guide crew has been focusing on their nymph and streamer game.  Pine squirrel leeches, PALs, foam-wing RS2s, mayhems and scuds on 4-7ft with 1-3B shot.  We have definitely been varying the length/weight depending on the run and type of water.  As far as streamers are concerned, we’ve mainly been throwing intermediate lines, covering the entire run.  The fish are holding in all types of water but as water temperatures continue to drop expect them to concentrate towards the bottom of the run.  Slow and deep, that is the winter streamer program.