Winter Newsletter

December 2009 - March 2010

07/20/2010

 
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Be sure to check the current fishing report for frequent updates on our conditions and latest fishing excursions.

Wool Socks

Outer Waterproof Shell

Emergency Cloths

Fleece

Fun!

Staying warm while fishing in the winter!

We fish year round in Wyoming and it can get pretty cold. Here is what I do to stay warm while fishing at temps of 20 to 30 degrees.

Layering with breathable material is the key. Breathable materials move warmth sapping moisture away from your body. Even though it is cold you will still sweat if you are moving so it is imperative to get that moisture away from your body. This is why neoprene is not as good as Gore-Tex even though it is a much thicker material. There are many systems of synthetics and wool that will work. I use a combination of things. Here's how I do it.

 

1:My first layer is usually just a tee shirt, underwear and a pair of thick wool socks.

 

2:My second layer is a Simms breathable body suit. There are several good ones to choose from. About an hour before I am going to fish I break open a pair of chemical foot warmers and let them get started. Once they are warmed up I put them in a second pair of wool socks and put on the socks with the warmers positioned comfortably under my toes.

 

3: The third layer is merino wool pants and sweater. Nothing beats wool for warmth, even when it gets wet. Sometimes I use a fleece over this if it is really cold. Then my waders and boots. It is critical that your feet aren't to tight once you have your boots on. If they are to tight it will cut off circulation and you will get cold.

 

4: Over this I have a Simms Gore-Tex jacket. It is water proof and wind proof and has a good hood.

Head, Hands, and Feet

These are the most important areas and the ones that will get cold first while you are fishing. We already have the feet covered with 2 pairs of wool socks and foot warmers. On the head I use the old LL Bean "Elmer Fudd" type hat. It has ears and chin covered and a brim which shades your eyes and helps you see. I always carry an extra hat in the back of my jacket just in case it gets wet. Gloves are a pain when fishing but some days you have to use them. I have a couple pairs of the fingerless wind stopper glove mitts. That way I can use my fingers when I have to and cover them the rest of the time. I always keep the extra pair in the back of my jacket in a zip lock bag in case I go down or they get wet. I go through at least 2 pairs of gloves every time I fish in the winter so a third pair will come in handy.

 

Last but not least: I always take some dry cloths in case I go down. A shirt, pants, socks, and a Walls jump suit is what you need to get dry quickly and get warmed back up. We usually fish close to the car in winter but it can be a long cold ride back to the house if you don't bring extra cloths.

 

I can't honestly say that I am warm as toast every time we fish in the winter but I can easily tolerate the temperature and the pay off can really be worth it. The biggest fish of the year (at least for me) are almost always caught in nasty weather. Fishing in the winter is beautiful and fun if you dress properly. Don't get cabin fever this winter. Get the gear and get out and fish!

Merino Wool Pants and Sweater

Breathable Jump Suit

Wind Stopper Gloves

Elmer Fudd Hat

15"Snake River Cutt!

Average Fish!

Nice big Cutbow!

Pig of a Cutbow!

Fat Rainbow!

A real Beauty!

Learning from The Lower Shoshone

We can learn many lessons about how water flows affect our local tail water. When we were in a long term drought and the winter flows coming from Buffalo Bill were reduced from 300cfs to 100cfs from 2002 thru 2007, we all thought the fish would take a huge hit. The first year the flows were dropped, they went from 1200cfs to 100cfs in a matter of hours, leaving huge areas of biomass high and dry. We all assumed that this would destroy about 70% of the biomass. The fish were then all pushed into the larger pools. With more fish in a smaller area with 70% less food, we assumed that a lot of fish would die. There may have been some fish mortality but it was no where near as bad as we had anticipated. In my opinion that was some of the best winter fishing we have ever seen. The BOR changed it's policy the next year and gradually dropped the flow in winter over a period of weeks giving the biomass a chance to adjust to the lower flows. I believe we may have had a decrease in numbers of fish per mile over this period but I also think the remaining fish got a couple inches bigger than they had in the past. Not really a bad scenario considering the effect the drought had on other resources.

 

The spring of 2008 brought an end to the drought and actually gave us a surplus of water. The water managers were still in the drought mindset and left the reservoir about 80% full pre run off. When the snows melted a lot of water came down quickly and filled the reservoir. The water kept coming and they had to run about 7000cfs through the lower Shoshone for about 3 months to keep the reservoir from overflowing. That fall when the flows came down the fish were almost non existent from the dam down to Willwood dam. The ones that remained were in very poor shape.

 

The fish were not able to find a place to get out of the current with that much flow. On top of that their food base was washed away in many places. Consequently, the fish starved to death. It would be similar to us running all day with very little food. The fish continued to loose weight until they just died. The bigger fish went first because it takes more food to sustain the larger body mass. Ironically, to much water was much more harmful to the fish than to little.

 

Now for the good news! Many years of gravel choking sediment is now down in Lovell where it belongs (just kidding). The bottom of the river is nice and clean and the biomass is able to rejuvenate itself very quickly. The GAF quickly restocked the river with a bunch of little Snake river cutthroats. The remaining browns found plenty over clean gravel to spawn in. Since they spawn in the fall, their eggs don't get washed away by high water and there are a bunch of new recruits. The fished that made it through the storm are finding plenty to eat and are coming back strong. It's as if we have a fresh start!

One further observation. The late summer run off last July dumped tons of nutrients from the big fire of 2008 into the reservoir. Even after run off the water coming out of the dam was off color with poor visibility but very green and fertile looking. There is still only about 4feet of visibility. I believe this was like a big nutrient shake for the lower river causing the phenomenal resurgence of life.  Just a guess.

 

In my opinion, the river is coming back very quickly. I think in 2 more years the fish population will be as good if not better than it was pre flood. This is baring any further catastrophic flows. It is one pretty prolific and amazing system. The river has been given a new lease on life so lets try to take good care of it. These are some pictures from a day of fishing on the 14th of November. All fish from 12" to 19". They appear in excellent health. A few could afford to loose a little weight. Not a bad recovery in a little less than 2 years.

 

Fishing Dog!

Cookie Cutter!

18" Cutbow!

Obese Rainbow!

Big Fish of the Day! 19" Cutbow!

Bugger Chunking!

March 26th

Fishing in the Cody area is finally starting to get consistent at least for the last 2 days. The past couple days on the Lower Shoshone has been almost as good as it was before the fish kill. The fish are on midges in the mornings and about 12:30 they switch over to blue wings. I have been fishing a dry dropper in the morning with a small prince for weight and then a red and black zebra midge. It is very effective. The fish aren't up in the riffles and pour overs in the morning. The deeper slower water and the edges where it is about 4 feet deep and on a seam will get a bunch of fish. I fish slowly in the morning, staying back and really covering every little feeding lane I see. If I catch a fish in one area, I will give it a short rest before casting again and often get a couple more out of the same area. The bigger cutts are almost always close to the bank. I adjust my flies for depth in the pocket water and pick up quite a few fish. For example I'll take off the prince and go with a couple of zebras if the water is shallow. The deepest holes have to be nymphed with an indicator.

At around 12:30 the fish stop taking the zebra as readily and it is time to go to a blue wing emerger or nymph of some sort. Here we go again! Same strategery but now the fish are moving up to the pour overs as the nymphs start emerging. You will start to see fish a foot or two below the surface. You can actually sight fish with the dry dropper. By 1:30 or 2 you will see fish feeding on the surface or just below. Be aware of the type of rise form you see. Heads they are on top, backs and tails, they are in the film. I usually put on an #18 sparkle dun with my little emerger a foot behind it. This will take me to the end of the hatch. Interestingly, as the hatch tapers off, the fish become more aggressive on the dries. It makes for a really fun day. On afternoons when I don't see much activity I like to search with a streamer with a sow bug trailer. Lately the biggest fish have been taking this set up.

I am truly amazed at how fast the Lower Shoshone has come back. I am seeing lots of fish between 14" and 16" and quite a few bigger. I am even seeing good numbers of rainbows and browns that are wild fish. Here's a few pictures from the last couple days. Give these techniques a try and have some fun! It's EASY!

Bernard in his Shop

Couple Eden Cane Rods.

My New Hand Mill

Planning Bench.

Neat and Clean for the Moment.

 

March 16th

Two years ago I started my bamboo education with a trip to visit Bernard Ramanaskas, master bamboo rod maker for Eden Cane and Scott Fly Rods. I spent my birthday money driving to Salida and visiting with Bernard and his family. Had a great time drinking coffee with his wife Becka and daughters and talking about rods. We talked of many things bamboo but at that time it all seemed so far off and unattainable. So much to learn.

 Over the last two years I have been fishing, studying and refinishing bamboo rods . Bernard has been advising me on shop tactics, techniques, and tools the whole way.  Last Christmas my wife Dawn gave me money to start my own little bamboo work shop. I have been putting it together one piece at a time as the money came in. It is now ready to be outfitted with tools.

Last weekend, after I returned from visiting my Mother in Georgia, I took a trip up to visit Tom Morgan, former owner of R. L. Winston Rod Co, and his wife Gerri and also his bamboo crafter Bill Blackburn. Tom now sells some tools designed to plane the bamboo into finished tapered strips. It was a real treat to meet Tom. I have been a fan of his rod designs ever since I first picked up a Winston. He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest modern rod designers of all time. He was very excited that I was getting started on my bamboo journey but mostly what he wanted to talk about was fishing. We talked fish, places and tactics for at least 2 hours. Rods and fishing are definitely something we have in our blood. Bill Blackburn worked with me for 2 more hours showing me how to use the hand mill. His bamboo work is incredible. He gave me many tips and secrets on techniques, glues, and varnish. He is also an avid fisherman and we plan to fish together this spring in some of my secret haunts. Tom's wife Gerri was great as well. She does most of the finish work on the bamboo and graphite rods. The bamboo rod she showed me was one of the finest finishes I have ever seen. She also gave away her secrets (just a bunch of hard work) and advised me on some techniques I will be using in the future. She really seemed to hit it off with Dawn and those two plan on a junk finding expedition in May when Tom and Gerri come to visit. It was just a real good time.

So, my shop is ready, my tools are ordered and on the way and my first shipment of bamboo is in route to Cody. It will be a glorious day!  It is just the first day in what I hope to be a long and educational journey playing around with the lovely reed! Here's a few pictures of the shop without the tools. Pretty cozy! Bye the way! I have been out fishing like a man possessed and I will post some more fishing stories real soon!

Sorted Strips for Planning.

The Ramanaskas's

Two little girls!

Rod Shop Library.

View out the Window.

Tonkin over Door for Luck!

Steve's Rod

Steve's Rod

Phillipson Peerless "63"

Phillipson Dry Fly Special

Abercrombie Fitch Firehole

Granger Aristocrat

February 13th

I was fishing on the river downtown Cody yesterday and ran into a fellow guide and friend from the Humble Fly Shop. We were commenting on how we knew a lot of people that talk fishing but with the exception of a half dozen close friends we seldom if ever see them on the rivers actually fishing, especially this time of year. We both have a great love of fly fishing and as a matter of fact have both pretty much dedicated our lives to living the fly fishing life style. We don't make a bunch of money but we have few if any headaches and live a good healthy honest life. What more can there be?

 

I happened to mention that I was fixing up an old bamboo rod for a friend. The rod had a great number of intermediate wraps and would be very labor intensive to restore. It was from the early 1920's and originally cost $1.35. It was a terrible fishing rod but the rod was to become just a conversation piece and wall hanger.. I told him I would probably have about 20 hours of time invested. When he asked how much I was charging I said nothing. I needed to get my hands on as many rods as possible to practice on and I had never attempted one as intricate as this one even though it would never be fished. He asked what I liked about the old rods so much that I would do something like this. A very good question!

 

I think for me the answer lies in the old rods connection to a better time. A time with healthy wild fish and streams. A time with no pressures or crowds competing for water. A time with a more relaxed pace. A time when people made things that were functional as well as beautiful with their hands. A time when there was honor and ethics and not so much greed. When I'm fishing bamboo, even if I am not catching fish and just out casting, I feel great joy and peace. I find myself just looking at the rod and admiring the work of someone who truly cared about what he did for a living. A simpler time. It's odd how this material can transport you to a better place.

 

 With a raised eyebrow my friend said he had never really looked at it that way before but seemed to really understand where I was coming from. He asked the obvious questions about bamboo compared to graphite, durability, maintenance, ect. I tried to explain that bamboo is not better or worse, just a different material that is interesting, and a great material for fishing rods. I could see the curiosity building in his eyes. I know that feeling well. This is how it begins! Here's some pictures of Steve's rod and some of the other rods I have fixed in the last couple months. Enjoy!

Steve's Rod

7' 8" South Fork

Phillipson Peerless 63

Phillipson Peerless #6

Firehole

Granger

January 21st

Bighorn Ft Smith

Jerry, Anthony and I fished the Bighorn at Ft Smith on the 21st. This is a great time of year to fish the Horn mainly because there are very few people fishing. Having this river all to yourself is something everyone should try at least once. This day there was only one other boat on the water from After Bay to 13 mile.

The river is in winter mode. We didn't expect to catch a bunch of fish, but there is about a 2 hour window of opportunity when the fish bite the best. The browns had just finished spawning and the fish had dropped back into the slowest water at the bottoms of the runs to rest and feed. Most of the fish we caught were on the edges eating  midges and just a couple BWO's. They were eating emergers just below the surface. We chose to throw streamers with a soft hackle dropper. Almost all the fish we caught were on the dropper. A big long pull with a pause instigated hits.

There is plenty of water in the river and it looked very good. Good numbers of water foul in the air. Very little trash for such a heavily fished river. The weather was perfect with a high of about 40, partly cloudy and no wind. Jerry caught his first fish on a fly which made the day a success from the start! We couldn't have asked for a better day. We didn't slow down to try to fish dries, but it looks like you could fish dries on a run for a couple hours and do very well. We never got anything huge but the other boat fishing reported a rainbow that was shockingly big a mile or so before the take out. Ninety percent (90%) of the fish we caught today were browns.

If you get a chance the Bighorn is a great place to try right now. The way it was fishing, you could probably fish the lower stretches and do very well for some bigger fish. Down to Mallards might be a lot of fun. Enjoy the pictures!

 

January 21st

Part Five- Catch and Release Waters

The last of the five part installments will be on our catch and release waters. The North Tongue is the only catch and release water in Wyoming outside Yellowstone Park. You can keep some brookies but fishing is on artificial only and everything but brook trout must be released. This stream has had to deal with the same increase in fishing pressure that all other Wyoming streams have experienced. Last summer it was the most crowded it has ever been. Catch and release regulations start at the confluence of Bull Creek and go up stream for about 3 1/2 miles. Below Bull Creek the numbers of fish fall off dramatically and even a few hundred yards into the no kill section numbers of fish are much reduced. Fish are stocked below Bull Creek just to keep some fish in the lower river. The river above Bull Creek all the way up to it's headwaters is one of the best high mountain streams I have seen anywhere. Tons of fish and even some big ones up to 18" or better. Last year the fish population was as strong as I have ever seen it. Even with a short growing season and increased fishing pressure the fish were very healthy looking. In the past I had even caught a legitimate 20" fish there. Anyone who has fished this little stream cannot deny the success of the catch and release section. Every hole is just full of fish.

The stream has it's issues. One thing is cattle grazing in the creek. Luckily, this is not year round, but when the cows are there you can see the effect. The cows put a hurt on stream banks and bank side vegetation. There are signs reminding people not to drink the water because of fecal bacteria. Cattle can be grazed in almost all of the Bighorn National Forest. If they were driven further into the back country instead of released right by the river part of this problem could be greatly diminished. Once the cows find the creek, that is where they stay until they are picked up in the fall. The other thing the cows do is bring in hordes of black flies for a couple weeks in early July. Miserable for people but fish may eat them, I don't know.

One other practice that I don't think makes sense in the blowing up of the beaver dams. In a low land streams a beaver pond can slow water which reduces oxygen content and causes the water to warm too much during the heat of the summer. It also encourages silt to accumulate. This is not the case at 9000ft above sea level. The river is supplied almost totally by snow melt. The water is fast and cool. There is very little sediment dumped into the river because the snow melts off the grass. I have seen beaver ponds being a big benefit to the fish population on the North Tongue. When flows drop in the fall the fish all move into the deepest pools they can find for the winter. These ponds are perfect for this. The ponds often flood areas way back into the willows which provides the fish with good cover from predators and fisherman alike. Young fish thrive in these nutrient rich havens. These areas can support lots of fish and the fish seem to get bigger in them. I see no reason to do away with them.

Is the North Tongue a success story? You bet! It is the first and only, and worked like a charm. Why wouldn't we use this as a model for some other streams? Your guess is as good as mine.

Yellowstone Park has recently gone catch and release in most areas as well. In the last 5 or 6 years Yellowstone Lake lost over 4 million Yellowstone cutthroats due to various reasons. The fishing on the Yellowstone from mid-July on used to be beyond belief as far as numbers and quality of fish. Now the river is a shadow of what it once was. There are less than 10% of the fish remaining. Where did all the fisherman that used to fish the Yellowstone go?  Answer: Lamar Valley.

The Lamar, Slough Creek, and Soda Butte Creek had small numbers of fisherman up until the crash of the Yellowstone River. It was and still is one of my favorite places to fish (if I can find a hole). They are all great streams with pretty good populations of fish, but can they handle the presence of thousands of fisherman everyday all summer long? Yes they can! The catch and release regulations have definitely saved these fisheries. There is no doubt that these creeks would be void of fish had the Park Service not stepped in and implemented catch and release regulations. The fish you catch here generally have multiple sores in there mouths from being caught before. Many are deformed from rough handling and have broken jaws or missing mandibles. I cannot help feeling sorry for these guys as they do get an extreme amount of fishing pressure but, They are alive! Most even have big fat bellies despite being caught many, many times. Most fly fisherman that come to Yellowstone consider this to be the premiere fishing in the park today. They should have been here 10 years ago!

Out of all the examples of catch and release regulation there is only one that can be considered some what of a failure. High mountain lakes. Brook trout have a tendency to over populate these lakes. The fish remain very small and the numbers are incredible. I have never seen this with any other species of trout. This example does not apply to any of the rivers we have discussed. Many of these fisheries, once stabilized, could return to a reasonable bag limit if slot limits are in place, sizes and numbers of fish kept are limited, and as long as ample water is left in the river. Any place that has been devastated in the past has made it's recovery by implementing changes to stimulate the health of the fish population. As fisherman of all types, we all want great fishing. As our population grows we must make these changes or chance loosing it all. Lets pay attention to our successes as well as our failures. If we pay attention we will have a lot less failures in the future.

To read the first 4 parts click below:

Part 1_ Northfork Fisheries

Part 2_Clarksfork Fisheries

Part 3_ The Greybull & Wood Fisheries

Part 4_ The Lower Shoshone Fisheries

 

  

Ugly Stocker Day 2009

December 20th 2009 was the second annual ugly stocker day. For those not in the know, the GAF has stocked all their old brood stock below Boysen dam. The object is to catch the ugliest most disgusting mutant fish. Fish are scored on a point system with factors being considered such as putrid yellow coloration, bulbous callous chin, exceptionally short fins, missing fins, sebaceous lesions, short tails, short gill plates, and any other noticeably disgusting deformity. The new point system has been implemented to remove any personal preferences and take the politics out of judging the fish.

 

It was a sparse crowd this year. It seemed everyone had parties, illness, or family obligations that were more important than USD. Priorities people! It was cold! The temps were supposed to hit 39 above but I would be surprised if it got above 30 all day. Guides icing every couple casts. Anthony, Alex, and I jumped in and started the competition. There were several other parties from Riverton competing up stream. The stockers were there and hungry!

 

I broke the ice (literally) with a fairly disgusting specimen. Not long after Alex scored on a couple real ugly fish. Then Anthony pretty much just pulled away from us with some exceptionally big and Ugly fish. Anthony is the current champ and now two time winner of the contest.

 

. These fish, of indelicate appetite, sluggish disposition, negligible intelligence, paltry stamina, and possessing a head, mouth, and stomach of ludicrous bulk in comparison with it's stultified body are easily one of America's most underrated fish. It's most exceptional quality is it's suicidal voraciousness. These demented creatures have been known to attack any bait, spinner or fly that crosses their path. Our favorite fly of choice is the pencil eraser, which is very durable and can be used to catch fish after fish.

 

The bite was on from about noon till 1:30. We found most of the fish in the slowest deepest water, just trying to stay out of the current and willing to eat anything that swam by. Mostly a soft hackle sow bug on the swing. There was a trick to it. We used a heavily weighted bugger to get the soft hackle down on the bottom and as soon as drag was applied and the flies began to swing to the surface, fish on!

 

We managed several doubles and the guys from Riverton even managed a triple! Not a single wild fish was caught by anyone. I think after the stockers were planted the park area became an undesirable neighborhood and all the wild fish moved back down into the canyon for the winter. All in all it was a great day. Many fish caught and all released unharmed to be caught another day!

 

Join us next year for one of the most fun days of fishing for the year! We are even thinking of making a floating trophy that can be past from year to year and a hat with a big ugly rubber stocker on it for next years winner. Enjoy the pictures!

 

Tight Lines!

 
     

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