Thursday, February 10, 2005

Extreme Fishing

I've always been partial to doing things the hard way.

After a three hour drive from Park City Utah to the town of Dutch John just below the dam of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, we met our guide and headed down the Green River to try our hand at winter fly fishing. The weather turned out clear and cold (single digits in the AM and up to a high of 30 deg F after lunch). We were dressed for it and the anticipation of landing a few fish had our blood moving. It was a spectacular day - we fished three different ways and caught three types of trout - Cutthroat, Brown, and Rainbow. Tom Knight, our excellent guide from TroutBum2 kept us on the fish and we enjoyed the "magic carpet ride" down the river in his drift boat. He was full of wit and river lore and started off by telling us that cell phones weren't needed on the river - "there are only two lines available - line 1 was Mr. Brown and Line 2 was Mr. Rainbow (I guess he was as surprised to learn that we added a third line for Mr. Cutthroat).

He also gave us a safety orientation about the float and made sure we had enough clothes. He got us into the approved PFDs and showed us how to keep out rod eyes from icing up (stick in the water since it is above freezing temp). My Honey made me a felted hat with ear flaps that was just the ticket to keep my head warm. Thanks Tracy! It's not everyone that has a custom made hat!

We had a great day of fishing and enjoying the beautiful 7 miles of river down to the Little Hole takeout. The trout were not too active at first and we fished a #14 midge nymph below an "edible strike indicator" which was actually a cicada tied by our guide. It was a pretty big bug tied entirely out of foam and synthetics but we actually had a couple of fish try to take it. I missed them either due to inexperience or timing and the guide graciously said "the hook set is the hardest part". He was a great encourager and always seemed to be able to say the right thing without sounding phoney..."nice touch", "good drift", "you are in the kitchen now", and was capable of giving advice without sounding condescending..."slow down your backcast", "cast over 5 ft to the right - to the foam line", "foam is home".

It seemed that there was a name for every feature along the river - Snoopy Rock, The Diving Board, and so on. I got to watch a trout 40 feet away cruise up and look at the edible indicator and before I knew it he inhaled it. I lifted up and pulled it right out of his mouth. I will replay the video of that take in my mind for a long time. It was quite a sight! It's easy to see how fly fishing gets in your blood. I haven't had too many experiences of fishing dry flies for rising trout but I hope to have another opportunity like that again soon. Next time I will set the hook by lifting the rod over my casting shoulder................

We had lunch at the 3-mile mark at "Lake Bonneville". Grilled chicken topped with ham, swiss, and jalapeno mustard in a toasted bun with potato salad and chips on the side. Joe and I fished the bank while lunch was being cooked. Several trout were taking midge emergers in the surface film and were creating rise forms that looked like they were inches below the surface. A family of river otters were catching and eating their lunch right in front of us and a western jay came in to search for crumbs after we were through.

After lunch we went deep with tandem nymphs below a "bubble" (small balloon indicator). We had identified two sizes of scuds (freshwater shrimp) and red wormlike midge larva on the bottom of submerged rocks so I had one each of these and Joe used a pink scud and the same midge pupa nymph we had before lunch. These were fished deep with a split shot under the bubble and had to be watched closely to detect a strike. I picked up a couple of fish using this method. When we were slow to set the hook and missed the fish our guide would say things like "Hey its OK - its just fishing - you can't catch them all". We fished some nice runs and eddy water and along some rock ledges. The water was clear and you could see the fish everywhere.

As we neared the takeout at Little Hole we switched to streamers to "pound the bank" for Browns waiting to ambush an unsuspecting minnow. We were instructed to cast right up to the shore and to look for good ambush sites. I was given a big olive and white "double bunny" and got to start casting while Joe was getting rigged up with a wooly bugger. We were anchored and I saw three rocks loosely together near the shore in a triangular pattern. Thinking this might be one of those good ambush spots, I made a clumsy cast to the area between the three rocks. I think I hit the fish in the back and from the explosion of water that resulted, I'm pretty sure it was a bigger fish than any I had boated all day. Everybody got a good laugh at my reaction and soon we were cruising the shoreline looking for the "thirty foot handshake". I hooked up on a couple of nice fish and it was a nice way to finish out the day.

All in all it was one of the best fishing trips ever and I'm looking forward to a repeat performance on the 25th with my brother Paul. Here are a couple of sites that have some good pictures of fishing the Green.

Green River pictures on Trout Source

Green River Drifters pics


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