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.

 

2023 Season Re-Crap


Yeah, wow…2023 was undoubtedly the toughest year for fishing conditions we’ve had in our 25 season existence. That’s right, Trophy Trout Outfitters that operates as North Platte Lodge, The Reef Fly Shop and Pathfinder Outfitters ( our big game hunting operation)  should have been tooting our horn for our 25th season throughout 2023. But we didn’t. More on that in a bit.

Back to the ’23 Grey Reef and Miracle Mile story. The winter of ’22/’23 was pretty good for moisture it just came in weird spurts. In central Wyoming we get a good bit of our water late in the spring. Those late dumps of heavy wet snow in the Snowy and Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges are great. They are 100 miles upstream and above our 5 reservoir system that creates a really good buffer/supplier of trout water 365 days a year. I’m not aware of a better situation than we have, seriously, no runoff and no hoot owl. The wild card is always those heavy snows landing in the Laramie Range and bypassing those 5 reservoirs and mostly the entire 80+ miles of the Grey Reef System. Sounds great, right? Great storage upstream that settles out what most anglers consider runoff…that is, high water combined with a silt load pushing down the ditch on its own free will. And, actual runoff entering the system below our huge fishery. It’s not so simple. There are other reservoirs and a state downstream. These complicate Grey Reef water operations.

We are graced by a great program called the “flushing flows”. It is normally in late March and surges of water for ten days in a row really purge a bunch of silt from critical spawning areas in Grey Reef…it also just makes the river nicer. These aren’t scary purges and lots of folks target the flush as THE time to fish Grey Reef. Whatever. This “excess” water is captured and held in Glendo Reservoir way down stream and is waiting for the call to be sent down for irrigation in a couple months. That’s all fine and dandy until the Laramie Range gets walloped and the runoff from that storm fills Glendo at a rate the Bureau of Reclamation didn’t anticipate. The first move is to reduce flows at Grey Reef, the next nearest and controllable source of water, that takes the burden off of Glendo. Keep in mind that Nebraska doesn’t want that water shipped since they’ve also had good spring moisture or are flooding already. Keep the water as high up in the system as possible! The result of all of this over info is that Grey Reef predictably gets its flows reduced and that exposes the spawning beds to fly angler predation and other sources that basically destroy that year-class of new trout. Is losing a few year class the end of the world? No, this is very common at Grey Reef and a reduction of the trout population would be a great scenario for the quality of fish and fishing but the game and fish play the numbers game over the quality game..and that is a problem for us but maybe good for less adept anglers. Grey Reef needs increasing/higher flows throughout the spawn for recruitment. 2023 had flows reduced throughout the spawn…ok, nothing new, we can work through that. Fishing is still awesome.

Then came the storms. And they came with great consistency. It was the “false summit” scenario from May through October. Every time the river would get back in shape after a gully washer we’d feel like we were going to get to run our normal free-range program of covering tons of water at will then the next storm would hit and the lower portions of the river or roads accessing the target would blow out. Sure we’d get a week of fishing the lower reaches then two weeks of being confined to the true Grey Reef Stretch or the Mile. 20 boats piling into the after bay…it was a disgusting display. Then the hatches would get rolling just to get plowed by another round of less than ideal river conditions. The anticipation of our dry fly season starting in mid July ( not including the Golden Stones in late June – early July…that was still very good) and getting to fish a bunch more water downstream keeps guide moral high and is what many of our guest have come to love about the summer and fall program. Central Wyoming couldn’t catch a break. It was ten seasons worth of water issues dog piled on Grey Reef in ’23.

Poor us, ha! The reality is that despite the rains we had a really good season when put in perspective. Our old adage is true “a tough day here is better than a good day on most fisheries”. We always have high quality fisheries available nearby and our guides and guest made the most of them when they wanted to see something other than Upper Grey Reef or the Mile. Some awesome fish caught in places that most don’t know or wouldn’t attempt. Our many private boat ramps kept us out of the mix as much as possible and the resourcefulness of the guide crew unmatched. Our guests seemed to still have a great time, the fact that you’ve rebooked for 2024 suggests that. Thank you…THANK YOU!

Mixed emotions, self reflection, relationships dwindling and new forming all contributed to a roller coaster of a year. Celebration dialed in just a bit lower than self pity so we figured we’d wait out the season and celebrate completing 25 years. This aligns with our urgently patient approach we take every single day. Here we are slapping ourselves on the back for making it through 25 years and not selling our souls or gaslighting our guests to do it. Let’s Party!

Belated Happy 4th


*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

First things first, we hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable 4th of July! It was shockingly cool here in Central Wyoming for the 4th. Temperatures hovered around the mid 50s most of yesterday, with lows in the 40s. Definitely not your typical July weather! Long range forecast shows us warming up and going into more of a summer pattern. Enough about the weather, let’s talk about river conditions and fishing…

GREY REEF: 1,000cfs. Mostly clear from Grey Reef Dam to Lusby. Fishing continues to be good in the water you can fish. Conditions downstream of Lusby are improving. We would expect a bump in flows at some point which should help with the downstream water conditions. It’s kinda crazy to say but we are still seeing baetis on Grey Reef…

FREMONT CANYON: 72cfs. Mostly clear.

MIRACLE MILE: 3,000cfs. Clear and stable. Fishing has been good. Fish have been keying in on the golden stone nymphs and we  have been seeing some adults.

 

 

 

A Drop In Flows?


*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, after the rain and the increased runoff, Grey Reef is back down to 1,000cfs. Apparently a little too much water was going into Glendo Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation had to turn it down a bit. We are fortunate to be surrounded by tailwater’s, so we still have good water to fish. Anything currently not under a dam is running and running hard. All of our reservoirs continue to rise and should do so for the coming weeks. It’s gonna be a great season!

GREY REEF: 1,000cfs and holding steady. Water conditions are good from Grey Reef Dam to Government Bridge. Below that, it’s a little off-color but fishable to the Bates Creek confluence.

FREMONT CANYON: 72cfs, mostly clear, hazy green in color. Fishable.

MIRACLE MILE: 2,775cfs, clear.

Baetis, midges, leeches and worms are our top producers.

Conditions, Flush and Fishing Report


Well we’ve reached the end of February and it feels like spring can’t come soon enough. As much as we fishermen and women hope for a long brutal winter, I’m sure the people of Wyoming are looking forward to a break in the cold and snowy weather. It won’t be long until the spring Baetis are popping, the sun is warm, and the fishing seems like it can’t get any better. Make sure to give the shop a call and get your spring trips on the books, we are already filling up fast!

This past week we saw one of the larger snow events of the winter. Roads were closed across the state and temperatures dove into the negatives with widespread blizzard conditions. Casper received over 12” of snow, the mountain got closer to 24”-30”, and Alcova even got a whopping 8”. One of our ranching friends out in Alcova expressed that he hasn’t seen a winter like this since the 70’s, so I’d say we aren’t going to struggle too much with water this year. Our snowpack is sitting at a healthy 124%, but we suspect this value will increase with temperatures projected to stay below freezing and more snow undoubtedly on the way. 

And now for what I’m sure many of you have been waiting for: the *Flush Update*. As far as we know the Bureau of Rec is calling for the flush to start March 10th. The flush is completely dependent on ice conditions on the river, so we suspect this date will get pushed back due to the last snap of cold weather, and especially looking at the ice shelves more towards Casper. Unfortunately, we aren’t top of the list in terms of information regarding the flush, but if I had to guess we are looking more at mid to late march at the earliest. We will obviously keep you all updated the moment we learn anything more. Wish we could give more of a definitive answer!

And finally, let’s go over current fishing conditions on the Reef, Mile, and in the Canyon. 

Grey Reef: 450cfs

Conditions: The Reef saw a significant increase in ice due to the storm we received this week. The top 2 miles below the dam are fishable, but watch out for extended ice shelves. Some runs  may still have too much ice to productively fish. As of right now we don’t have a report on the floatability from the Dam to Lusby, give the shop a call at (307)232-9128 before you pull the boat out, we should know within the next couple of days. The Bridge run is completely frozen over, and there is little to no open water from the bridge to East of Casper. 

Nymphs: Leeches (brown, natural, UV ), hot-head leeches (brown w/orange head, black w/chartreuse head), PALs, Rhinestones, Reef Worms, Mini Impalers, Black Mayhems, Black All Day Mays, Scuds of various colors. Target water directly off a shelf, the slow insides, and the deep tailouts. Rigs have been living at 4-5 feet with anywhere from 1-3 BBs.

Streamers: Kreelex, Rusty-T, Goldie, Thin Mint, Peacock Bugger, Olive/Tan Peanut Envy etc. Make sure to be using a sink tip or sinking line. The most productive retrieval has either been low and slow, or just on the swing through the slow insides and long tailouts. Fish are hugged on the bottom and need that streamer right in front of their face to get a reaction. 

Miracle Mile: 490cfs +/-

We have no current fishing conditions for the Mile. With the past snowfall Kortes road is extremely drifted over and we do not advise driving out there. For updated reports on the road conditions please don’t hesitate to call the shop. 

Fremont Canyon: 76cfs

Unfortunately both of the roads out to Fremont are pretty drifted in as well. One of our local Game and Fish biologist was unable to get to the canyon yesterday because the drifts got pretty bad. The closer to the canyon you get the deeper the drifts are. These should clear up sooner than the Mile road, and we should have a report on that in the coming week. At this time, we do not advise driving to Fremont. 

Well that’s all for our fishing report as of right now. This winter has been a rough one and your best bet is always to call the shop before venturing out especially when you’re looking to fish Fremont or the Mile. We are chomping at the bit to see what this season has in store for us, and we can’t wait to see everyone up here once the weather clears up. Tight lines folks!

 

Happy New Year!


We hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable New Year.  Here’s to 2023!  Well, we are starting the year off right in Central Wyoming.  As we write this little report we are on the backend of a two day snow event that has taken snowpack above 120% in the entire North Platte River drainage.  We like it!

Otherwise things are good here, just getting dialed in for the upcoming season.  Before this latest storm the weather was pretty nice and we actually had a few boats on the water to round out the year.  When you get the weather windows the fishing has been pretty solid!  So here’s an updated conditions/fishing report for all of you winter anglers…

Current Flows:

Grey Reef: 450cfs  

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.)

Top Flies:

Nymphs: amber scud, ray charles(tan), rhinestone, PAL, pine squirrel leech(brown or natural), mayhem midge(black), reef worm, hot head pine squirrel leech(chartreuse and black)

Streamers: rusty-t, articulated goldie, goldie w/ a pine squirrel leech trailer

 

 

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?

A Quick Little Update


Thanks to all of you that stopped by for our summer sale!  Here’s a quick little fishing report/update.  Grey Reef flows bumped up last week to 2,500cfs.  Weird, we know…but obviously Nebraska is needing a little more water.  We are expected to hold at 2,500cfs until September 6, when flows will start dropping.  After then rain and bump in flows, water conditions were pretty poor but things are settling back down and we now have good water to Sechrist.  Nymphing and streamers are the way to go if you just want to catch some fish.  That being said, we are getting a few on tricos in the morning with a few fish willing to eat a hopper in the afternoon.

Weather Window


Well, the weather has started to really shape up in Central Wyoming.  Yeah we know, it’s winter but over the past several weeks we have had some beautiful days.  If you follow us on social media you’ve seen that we are officially back on the water.  It’s hard to believe that it is time to start ramping up for another season.  Shop orders will start arriving in the coming weeks.  That means new patterns, a FULLY stocked fly bin, new gear and more.

So, as for the current North Platte fly fishing report…flows are low and steady and the fishing is solid!  Grey Reef is currently at 450cfs, Fremont Canyon 72cfs, and Miracle Mile is hovering around 530cfs.  And everyone is running nice and clear.  Nymphing and streamers are the name of the game but with the right conditions and a midge hatch we are seeing a few fish on top.  Nymph rigs for this time of year are 4-7ft, 1-3B shot…it really just depends on the type and depth of water you are in.  Of course the most popular flies to date are as follows; pine squirrel leeches(natural/brown/black), reef worms, PALs, rhinestones, brassies and mayhems.  If you go the streamer route a short sink tip or an intermediate line tethered to an articulated goldie or a rusty should do the trick.

Let’s hope we keep getting some windows of nice weather and when we do, give us a shout and take advantage of our offseason  day trip/cottage packages. 307-232-9128

A Quick Report


After a rough December and start to the New Year, we finally got a much needed break in the weather.  This past week has brought temps in the high 30s, full sun and very little wind.  It’s  just about perfect!  Grey Reef is open from the dam to Lusby and the stretch from the dam to the Outhouse Hole aka Pete’s Draw is prime for wade fishing right now.  With flows at 450cfs and water temps in the low-mid 30s, we have been concentrating on the slower/deeper runs.  Annelid’s, pine squirrel leeches and PALs have been our go-to flies.  Length and weight have varied but 5-7ft, 1-3 B shot has been mostly where we are living.

For those of you looking to scratch the itch, now is the time to start to watching the weather.  Look for a couple of nice days and give us a shout and take advantage of our off-season rates and packages! 307-232-9128