Post by Spencer Higa from Falcons Ledge
We had the great opportunity of hosting the Orvis fishing managers at Falcon’s Ledge in July. We posted a blog earlier on Day one. Below is an account by our guides on their second day with the FM’s. Enjoy!!!
Trout Hunting with the Pros
Sometimes as a fly fishing guide you have to summon hidden reserves of patience from deep within your very soul just to get through the day. Guiding, especially with beginners, is extremely rewarding, but it presents some challenges, including: flies in trees, flies in the rocks, flies in the weeds, flies in clothing, flies in the bushes, flies in hats, flies impaled in soft fleshy body parts.
This was not one of “those” days. I had the honor of guiding 3 pros during the prime time of our fishing season. Paul, Bruning, and James were visiting Falcon’s Ledge as part of a group of fly fishing managers from various Orvis stores around the country. These guys are straight up awesome.
We went to my favorite spot on my favorite river. It was an honor to share it. I was a bit surprised when everyone unanimously decided to take turns fishing. This was how several
Orvis Managers Take Turns Catching Browns
other guides and I like to fish but I’d never had clients volunteer to take turns. But, these guys were pros and the more you fish, the more you know how much there is to learn by watching other pros. Besides that, this is the best way to hunt the large hungry browns that live here.
We started working up a bank sight casting to gray-green shadows with dry dropper rigs, picking ‘em off. It was a blast. I would say hit that little pocket by the rock and these guys would ask, “which part of the pocket?” Pinch me.
I believe it was James that started us off with a bruiser that buried itself in the fast current and then blasted down stream with brute force and speed.These are great fish with muscles and attitude.
Everyone hooked up with several trophy class browns, some we landed and some bested us. Great fish can often beat the best anglers.
On our 3rd or 4th round Paul’s turn came up again and we spotted a big golden snout sipping Yellow Sally stoneflies. He skillfully dropped his little stimulator just above the rise. Like clockwork it went: presentation, drift, rise, slurp, rrrrrip, hook set, jump 1, jump 2, run 1, pause, run 2, until things went awry. Run 3 buried the fish in a sunken tree and the leader strained, then popped.
The 2 jumps had let us know that it was a beefy brown in the 20 inch range and now the disappointment was palpable. But, as favorite rivers sometimes do, the stream decided to give us a gift. Almost immediately another large brown slashed sideways from the bank to take a Sally about 40 feet upstream. He left a wake.
Like pros, both Bruning and James deferred and gave Paul a chance to get the bad taste of break-off out of his mouth.
He landed his bug skillfully just on the inside of the big mouth brown, alligator jaws opened up, hook was set, and it was on. Paul handled this one perfectly. He held the fish above the submerged tree with a deep full bend in his Helios and eventually slid him into the net. It was a simultaneously beautiful and terrifying fish – giant rounded pectoral fins, buttery yellow sides, big brown spots, teeth, shoulders and 21+ inches of current-honed muscle.
It was a pure pleasure for all of us to watch it unfold.
There were more casts and more fish but when an electric summer rain storm blew in, we knew when to call it. Greed doesn’t become fly fishing pros and it had been a great day.
On day two I was matched up with Shannon and George, And I suggested that we try the Uinta river. The Uinta is a favorite of mine. It runs through a canyon at about 7,500 feet whose alpine setting is breathtaking. On top of that, the Uinta is lousy with fish.It’s a great place to catch a variety of trout. Although brook trout dominate there are also cutthroats, rainbows and an occasional beefy brown trout, making a grand slam possible. Both Shannon and George were excited about the opportunity, but Shannon in particular was excited to get back to his roots, chasing brook trout in small water.We got to the river, and it took only a minute to see that the fish were in trouble. George fished a single nymph without an indicator, the only way I ever fished nymphs as a kid. Shannon used his 8’4″ 2-weight Helios and threw a small Parachute Adams dry fly and fish attacked it all day.
One of my favorite parts of being a guide is teaching people how to fly fish. But it’s always fun to fish with some people who really know their stuff. Shannon and George caught what seemed like a million fish, some from seemingly impossible water. Their skill was impressive, and it was gratifying to see how much they enjoyed it.
Shannon and George have traveled the world fishing. They have caught big fish, and they’ve caught different kinds of fish. But fly fishing for Shannon and George is clearly still about fishing, finding ways to fool fish. And that made a fun day remarkable
On day 2 I had the great pleasure of spending a day on the water with Jaime Mercer from The Orvis Company Manchester,VT and Chris Olson from Orvis Houston. While talking over a hearty breakfast, our head guide Spencer Higa , enthusiastically announced the lineup for the day. I was excited to be paired up with Jaime and Chris as I was told that they were both a lot of fun to fish with. Douglas Barnes, a talented local photog was a long for the trip and right away I knew we would have a great day. Doug brings good karma everywhere he goes and today would be no different.We started out the morning fishing fishing the lower section of one of our creeks. I spent some time with Jaime fishing through productive runs while Doug went along with Chris down river. After nearly an hour on the water Jaime and I spotted some nice fish working in a slow, flat run. It was an
Jaime Mercer aiming for the target.
approach I’ll never forget. After lengthening Jaime’s dropper, we proceeded to bow and arrow cast to some nice natives that were feeding down deep along a classic western undercut bank.Watching Jaime make her first bow and arrow cast and actually getting an “eat” was something I’ll never forget. Doug and Chris were witnesses to this whole event and Doug got some great shots!
A few runs later, Chris was successful in catching two species, we decided it would be fun to go after a grand slam. So, we quickly headed back to the truck and drove upstream to the dam where the brookies hang out. It wasn’t any longer than 5 mins (including the walk from the truck) when Chris hooked into his brookie. A beautiful little specimen, worthy of quite a few pics. Chris is a great fisherman, as fine a stick as I’ve seen on the water at Falcon’s Ledge.Next up it was Jaime’s turn to catch her brookie. She had a few small, splashy rises to her fly but nothing to the net…yet. We slowly and methodically fished our way through the run to the top of the hole where another fish was rising. She placed her royal trude just perfectly along the bank where we saw the last rise…nothing. She re-casted again, this time a little left of the last placement. Gulp! Jaime set the hook perfectly and with Doug and Chris as our cheerleaders on the bank we were able to land the fish. Another beautiful specimen and quite a trophy for that piece of water. Amazing!
Our next destination was a small feeder stream that holds pure strain bonneville cutthroats. We made the small hike in, Chris and I started out in one of my favorite runs. A small riffle coming under two logs with a deep, root laden undercut bank on the right. I’ve had clients try to fish this particular run with little to no success because there are so many snags. Chris was very experienced so I knew we wouldn’t have any hangups (pun intended) When I walked up to the run, he was fishing the riffle with laser like precision. Then I suggested a bow and arrow cast into the undercut bank. In doing so, his royal wulff was crushed by a trophy bonneville cutthroat. We were elated!!!! Doug snapped a few shots of the trophy and the fish was immediately and safely released.
Next. Jaime’s turn. We walked up the stream a little ways to a few likely holds with little action. The next run was absolutely gorgeous. Wide open, smooth gravel bottom coming off of a small riffle. Jaime placed two casts in likely holds and we were rewarded with two eats but just couldn’t hookup. We took a small break eating the wild raspberries on the bank. After that, we moved up to the next hole. Jaime was in position to make a bow and arrow cast and her first cast got a look but not an eat. Next cast was successful, the beautiful native came out of nowhere to eat her dry. Jaime set the hook perfectly and we landed her first bonneville cutthroat. Doug snapped a few more pics. Spirits were high! On the way back we picked a few more raspberries and we were off to find one more species for Jaime.
In the lower reaches of the river we find a few rainbows cruising around a small stillwater by the river. It only took us a few minutes to catch our rainbow and complete the cycle for Jaime. I’m so proud of her for working hard (if you can call fishing work) As a guide you couldn’t have asked for a better day. Two happy clients,two new friends, two grand slams. Chris and Jaime both hit that day out of the park. Thank you again Jaime and Chris!!!!
Day two with Orvis managers started with another fine breakfast and Joe and I loading into my truck and off to Rock Creek. Joe was impressed, as are most of our guests, with beauty of the drive and size of the upper still water dam.
Fishing with Joe was great; he casts beautifully and is right on with his fly. The stretch of water just below the dam yields several nice brook trout and a couple of good rainbows. Next was a short drive to blind stream for some Colorado Cutthroats. After a short walk we were fishing. The stream held several nice cuts and Joe was impressed that the cascading water would hold so many fish. Joe has fished all over the world and commented on how many of his clients would love to fish here as much as they would anywhere else.
We now needed a brown Trout to complete his GRAND SLAM. So off to Minors Gulch and lunch. After a great lunch provided by the skilled staff at Falcons we take the short walk downstream to
Joe with a nice brown.
fish. Joe’s first fish of the afternoon was the Brown we needed to complete the grand slam. We fished the rest of the day and had a great visit while Joe just keeps hooking and landing the wild Rock Creek trout.
Back to lodge for dinner and Joe’s Grand Slam award.
On our second day, the luck of the draw went to Ty Patton (Boston, MA) and Rich Merlino (Royal Oak, MI). Two more of Orvis’ best fly fishing managers and skilled anglers. Armed with the knowledge that was gained the day before, we immediately began to have fish rise to our flies. After lunch, we made a pact to not eat our cookies until each had caught an 18 inch fish. The cookies called to us throughout the afternoon and we ended up stretching a couple of browns so we could eat.
When we arrived back at the lodge on our second day, we had just enough time for a quick dinner and then Adam, Ty, Rich, Bryan and I headed to one of our local rivers to cast to some rising browns… not many fish were landed, but the one that did was probably the most photographed fish on that river.. we finally called it a night and made it back to the lodge at dark 30.
I had the pleasure of fishing with Jason Cotta and Adam McNamara on the second day. I spent a few days with Jason earlier in the year at the International Sportsmans Expo in Sacramento, Ca. I learned very quickly that he was a fishing nut. He knows his stuff. I was in Portland for business and decided to step into the Orvis shop and introduce myself to Adam since I knew he would be coming out this summer. I let him know what to expect and the type of fishing that was available. It was nice to be out with guys that I already knew and we got along great.
I decided the night before that we would head to one of my favorite rivers, the Uinta river. At breakfast I let them know the plan for the day. It took about an hour to get there but we would have the whole river to ourselves. They liked that idea since they were on the Green river the day before with hundreds of other anglers and tubers. As soon as I started up the car the jokes and jabs were flying between the three of us. The entertainment was worth the short trip to the river.
We parked and got the rods rigged and set out to the river. We came to a side channel that wasn’t very deep and the looks on their faces were of uncertainty until Adam made his first cast and landed a nice 8″ rainbow. His second cast he tucked up underneath some downfall and a mouth slowly took in his terrestrial. A nice 14″ rainbow was landed.
Jason made his way up stream hooking and landing a fish out of every little run and seem he could get a fly to. In a 50yd stretch of river he hooked serveral fish. By this time they were both giggling, they knew this day was gonna get silly.
We hit three side channels before we got to the main channel all loaded with rainbows, browns, cutts and brook trout. By lunch time 100 fish were caught between the two and Adam had his Grand Slam. We were headed back to the car for luch when we came upon a nice little
Jason and Adam on the Uintah River.
poolthat looke fishy. Adam tossed his big tasty terrestrial and instantly a nose came up and devoured his fly. I thought it was a cutthroat at first but we netted it and it was a cuttbow. The first one I’d ever seen on that river.
After lunch we jumped in the truck and drove downstream a couple of miles. After the mornings success Jason and Adam were both having a blast. We hiked down to the river and began fishing. It was like they hadn’t skipped a beat. The afternoon was much of the same. Lots of fish caught and everyone was happy. It was a great day on the water with new friends.
I had the opportunity to fish with Mary and Adam. I had taken a couple of the managers to the Yellowstone the day before and decided to go back to show these managers some of our beautiful scenic streams that we enjoy so much. It was a great area for Mary who is from Texas and Adam from New York. We began fishing at one of my favorite spots down a little lower than most of
our guides usually fish. We fished many different ways this day. We caught fish on dry flies, nymphs and streamers. What an easy day. I just sat back and watched as these two just put flies in areas most of our clients struggle with. Adam came to an area that normally has a bunch of 6-10 inch fish. He yelled over to me and it wans’t a typical fish he had hooked. This fish was about 15 inches. A tophy for this little stream. Mary just worked every part of the stream hooking rainbows and brook trout all day. It was truly a pleasure fishing with these two managers.