Fly Fishing Wyoming
We came across a great article by Ira Petry about fly fishing the upper Green River and had to share.
“I was 21 when three challenging events would cross my life’s path in two seasons. I was a young pup at the age of 8 when my journey began with learning the art of fly-tying and the whips of a fly-rod. My father was stern in patience and perfection. Being raised Wyoming manner, the life and the way I was brought up were firm and beauty with perfection was endlessly sought out– fly-fishing is seen the same way in my father’s eye’s. I learned to tie flies from a family friend along with books from Jack Dennis, and other sources I could find. Learning to cast on the other hand, were some words of advice from my father and clippings from magazines. I would wait a year before my father felt my form was strong in casting and fly-tying, then turning me loose to the graces of the Green River.
Needless to say… Fly fishing was not an easy start. My first outing was frustration, un-spun flies, and broken leaders snagging on rocks, willows, and fences. There were eleven outings before I learned to think like a wooly-bugger and six more trips before grasping fish smarts. Once catching my first fish by fly, I was hopelessly addicted to what’s now a life passion. I will be proud to admit the complexities of the art in fly-fishing will be beyond my lifetime in learning. I spent countless hours watching movements in feeding channels, pursuing new fly-patterns, types of casts, and conversing with seasoned anglers. After turning 14 and many lessons learned; although having the occasional snag of a mule ear from a curious mob of horses or the dog, fly fishing was a pleasure and escape from the world.
Passing a year bumming rides from my father and friends, I managed to save enough money to by an old truck. My father had limited rules to where I could drive on my learners permit after chores were done. My freedoms were also blessed being home schooled, which in turn allowed more time to focus on fishing and designing my own fly patterns. I made money hunting deer and elk sheds selling them giving me cash for gas, gear, and materials etc. for my fishing ventures. Shortly after turning 17, I was developing flies most said “will never catch a boot.” Granted looks were deceiving, many of the flies are a hit! I also kept the standard variations, nymphs, dry, wet, and streamer flies. I carried 3 boxes of my own designs along for the days “standard” needed help. I started taking people with me at my cost learning the ropes of guiding, granted it was expensive, the moments and friendships made were priceless.
The next two years I would expand fishing the Green River Lakes and below the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. My most memorable learning experience would be the Seedskadee Wildlife Refuge. The stretch of the Refuge holds world-class trout fishing. The Refuge averaging 4 pound and larger trout, it is any angler’s paradise. The Refuge at the time was elbow to elbow fishing along with added pressure from drift boats. Having to compete for holes to fish and reach the holes drift boats were able to fish, my tactics and skills were finally tested to their limits against wise fisher-man and even wiser fish. ©
Fall was coming to an end as well as the brown trout and salmon spawn’s. I had planned a weekend camping trip with snow flurries forecasted for the weekend. I learned early on that fishing in pressured area’s were best fished in bad weather. I set camp below the Fontennelle Reservoir with plans of fishing a 2 mile stretch for the weekend. After setting up that afternoon accompanied by snowflakes touching down, I decided to scout the Refuge for fun only 5 miles from camp.
The drive down the river two-track was a nice sight, never have I seen empty parking turn-outs in the years fishing this stretch. Taking a seat on a low hanging bank with the snow allowing 40 yards visibility, I was amazed to what my eyes and ears came upon. The river was tingling with large fish feeding on minnows. I waited for another 20 minutes before gearing up, then moved into a channel starting with a cone-head black and gold sparkle-bugger. The first cast had me landing a 4 pound rainbow, then the third cast lower in the channel I landed a monster brown. I knew then on, I was to plan the weather and fish in the middle of the storms at the Refuge.
The summer of my 21st birthday was the start of my pursuit of the elusive 3. I first heard of a monster fish on a corner locally known as “Ford corner.” I suspected a large fish or otters having the hole chased out never having a hit while fishing it. Two weeks later, fishing with a friend that shared many of the same holes, brought up occasions of himself and others breaking off a monster at Ford corner. Later as he talked, he mentioned another large fish above Dry Piney access taking several angler’s for a run. After the passing of that week I held my end of summer BBQ, having invited all my fishing friends to swap ideas, one friend in particular that guided below the Fontennele Resivour mentioned a large cutthroat he was un- able to catch.
The dawn of fall and a new challenge in life was ahead of me. I planned to start the farthest channel up river and work my way down. The Dry Piney access was my first goal, since it was the largest run of channels taking more effort and time to find the elusive trout. I started at first light working 4 channels having caught several nice fish with steady pace, but no luck on a monster for my first day. Then next day held much the same results plus a double catch of a one eyed brown trout from the previous day. When returning back to my truck, I decided to fish a side channel that normally flowed with spring and summer run-off. Having a small current feeding the deep hole I worked 2 wooly-bugger patterns, and then switched to a candy-devil. I retrieved 1/3 of the way in stopping to take a pinch of chew. Thinking I was snagged and no chance of catching a fish here, I reeled in having been met with a vigorous tug in return. The fight was short lived landing a 26″ 4 lbs. 9 oz. Rainbow. ©
The next channel was Ford corner 30 miles downriver. By now it was 3 weeks into fall and kokanie salmon were migrating up river from Fontennele Reservoir– 2 miles below Ford corner. I began the day catching a few salmon in the shallow ripples above and below the hole where the trout held itself, utilizing the time I watched for signs of a large fish before attempting the hole. I tried streamer patterns, then dry-fly indicator with nymphs having no luck as usual. I returned home awaiting dusk, having heard the fish was a brown trout I would attempt a night outing. The moon was at its fullest, I also brought along night-vision goggles to assist my next attempt. I rigged up a mouse variation to work the hole, casting close to the bank slowly retrieving in a swimming motion. I reached the halfway portion of the hole when my retrieval was met with a plop and roll of a fish. The fight seemed never ending of running and rolls, then a fast trip down the ripples to a deeper hole feeling the burn of line over my fingers. Minutes later and having a near movement in my drawers I landed a 29″ 5 lb. 8 oz brown trout.
The next fish would have some diversity added to the challenge. I set camp below the Fontennel Reservoir at Weeping Rock. I took time to scout the channels and taking account the fishing pressure that had many out before the forecasted snow arriving the next day. Starting early in the morning with a skiff of snow on the ground, I warmed up at the chutes below the reservoir working my way down to the channel were the cutthroat was told to be held. The majority of hard snow-fall was over giving break to a sunny midge hatching later in the afternoon. While eating lunch and eyeing the channel awaiting the rise of a big fish I rigged a midge to match the hatch in hopes of a fast catch. After nearly an hour, I got sight of a large fish feeding behind a boulder, having a flat bank next to it I set my path not to sky-line myself. Approaching slowly and hunched down, then moving into a crawl on hands and knees resting finally at the edge of the bank in a low seated position. I first worked the pocket that lay behind the boulder with hatch matched flies, then minnow variations, lastly a blue royal wulff indicator with a dropped zipper nymph. I casted above and angled to the current allowing the flies to float in behind the boulder, the moment the indicator stopped behind the boulder it dipped with a swirl and run of a fish! Taking several runs up the shallow water and circling a couple boulders before managing a run down to a small pocket of calm water. As I approached to land the fish it rolled exposing a bright red throat and a golden side… By far the largest native cutthroat trout I have seen in my life! 25″ 4 lbs. 8 oz.
From my beginnings of frustrations and let downs. Then onto my learning experiences throughout the years, thinking like the flies and fish I was attempting to catch. Having worked, studied, and followed flows of channels. Most of all, the patience, persistence and blessings from the art of fly-fishing. They all led me into two heavenly touched seasons of friends and fall, Along with the challenge of catching the elusive 3 of the upper Green River. ©”