This had to be one of my most memorable outfitter trips. The first float was the Wind River and before ever stepping foot near the water, the scenery was overwhelmingly breath taking. Paul Collamer was my fishing guide and after sharing my preference of wanting to nymph, streamer, and dry fly fish, he decided to start by rowing to a nice wading area and nymph. Unfortunately, the river was living up to it’s name and the wind was gusting consistently making it difficult for me to cast, see my line and get a good drift. But with Paul’s patience and guidance, we were able to land a small rainbow. Fish caught nymphing – check.
Next, Paul suggested we switch over to dries. We moved to a shallower area and he directed where to cast the cicada imitation. Immediately a nice brown came out of seemingly no where and attacked my fly. However, since I have the reflexes of a slug and the eye sight of a mole, I missed setting the hook on him. I know most fly fishers love or prefer dry fly fishing, but it is not my forte. The difference between a good guide and a great guide is one who adjusts to the strengths and weaknesses of a client. Paul and I agreed he would be my eyes and tell me to set since I couldn’t see the brown fly well in the glare of the water. A few more casts into the wind and as I was saying, I can’t see the fly, he was emphatically suggesting (notice I didn’t say yelling) “SET, SET, SET!” Being an obedient Asian female, I immediately set and felt that awesome yank on my 4 wt 10 ft St. Croix High Stick Drifter rod and the music of my reel peeling out line. It was an incredible tug of war as he took off upstream and away from the bank. I was diligently trying to reel him back towards us, while swiftly moving down stream to slower water. Paul was in position several times to scoop up my catch with his net, but this very stubbornly elusive fish didn’t want any part of going near a net. We finally triumphed and I was completely stunned when I was able to see my worthy opponent. This 23 inch hog of a bad boy brown had been caught on a dry fly and not a streamer! Check, CHECK – bruiser caught dry fly fishing!
At this point, if all I caught were weeds, I would have been fine. But as Paul and I had planned, it was on to streamer fishing. I had been successful using a tan double screamer the previous day on the Madison, so we just left it on my St. Croix 6 wt 9 ft Bank Robber and re-boarded the raft. Unlike, all of my previous floats, I wouldn’t be standing while casting. It didn’t take long to draw out a couple of lookers as I was skillfully floated down the bank at a very comfortable distance for chucking meat from my seated position. With the water clarity, “I” was even able to see the follows. Paul was very conscientious of my casting distance comfort zone and stripping speed and I soon felt the addictive rush of a full on streamer take. We were able to land another impressive brown, a 21″ rainbow piggy, and other rainbow beauties. Check, check, CHECK – bad asses caught strippin junk! Trifecta achieved! I came off the river exhilarated.
But yes, there’s more! After being so completely spoiled by my fantasy float down the Wind, what could the Bighorn in Wyoming hope to offer. Marco Piazzi-VonOsten, my guide for the day, met me bright and early, and again my challenge was to see if Marco could help me catch trout on dries, nymphs, and streamers. He knows every nook and cranny of the river, so we started nymphing and immediately hooked into fish. Check – nice rainbows caught nymphing.
I hooked into a couple of dries, but did the early release thing. Dries not checked off. So, Marco did the appropriate guide encouragement speech and we switched to my favorite – streamers. As Marco was telling me, the Bighorn has some really great fish too, he came right on cue. I was responding by saying I have rarely caught cutthroats. Before, Marco could even reply, my Baby Barely Legal was slammed! This was going to be a big boy. My rod was bending and reel screaming. I was beyond giddy after landing him and realizing he was not a brown, but the biggest cuttie I have ever seen!
Of course, I was like a race horse at the gates, wanting to get a picture of this incredible catch. But just as I was saying to Marco, be careful of the second hook, that’s an articulated fly, Mr. Cuttie decided to try to thrash his way out of the boat. Unfortunately for Marco, it was at that moment he got a nice size 8 hook embedded into his index finger still attached to a hefty 22+” very active trout. Thank goodness he was able to quickly get the hook out of the mouth of the cut. The hook in his finger was a bit more of a problem. The difference between a good guide and a great guide is one who is hooked and still manages to place the catch in the water in the net so the client can get a picture. I tried to use the mono trick to get the hook out, but I only managed to cause Marco more pain. He finally used his hemos with his left hand and ripped it out himself. While bleeding profusely, Marco snapped a few pictures of me with my trophy trout. Now that’s one dedicated guide! Check, check – monster Cut and guide cut on an articulated streamer.
You are probably wondering, ok, but did I achieve a catch on a dry? YES, but only after lots of casts and lots more not making it into the boat. I know it had to be extremely frustrating for Marco. It sure was for me. The fish were cooperating, but the angler wasn’t delivering. I was blaming my rod because we rigged up 3 rods to save time when switching. I was using a rod and reel I very rarely pick up because I my Sage was being repaired.
It is worth mentioning, these are extremely unpressured waters. Unlike the Bighorn in Montana where boats and anglers were everywhere, we saw only one other boat all day on the Bighorn. Darrin, the owner of Wind River Canyon Whitewater and Fly Fishing only floats two boats a day in the canyon. So if you are looking for a local destination, with unreal fishing, scenery out of the movies, and expert guides, add the Wind River Canyon to your bucket list. You will be asking yourself why you had not come here sooner. If I can have land honkers on dries, nymphs, and streamers, just imagine the stories you’ll be telling….