Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big Ugly Trout Need Love Too

blog_Sept_27-28_2010_1[1] Dede and Barb have been fly fishing in the Jackson Hole area since the 70’s. I met them as a young buck working in the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, Wyoming in 1987. They came in the shop, asked me some questions and quizzed me hard. I was the new kid in town. Fortunately I knew enough that they accepted me and we’ve been friends ever since. For years we never fished together. It’s typical if you work in a fly shop. Your customers become friends but you rarely ever fish with them. It’s because you never have time to fish with all your customer/friends. There’s so many of them and you only have a couple days off a week. But sometimes it works out. Luckily ten years ago it worked out that Granny and I fished with Dede and Barb blog_Sept_27-28_2010_2[1]on one of their secret waters. We had so much fun that we fish together at least once a year ever since.

Kubswin Lake isn’t really one of Dede and Barbs secrets. Anyone who chases big trout about knows Kubswin has some of the largest browns in the entire west, but because it’s a lake they rarely go there. When they go, it’s usually a one time thing because they get skunked. These trout are very hard to catch and as a rule anglers walk away shaking their heads wondering if the lake has any fish in it at all. Granny and I and Dede and Barb have certainly had these days. Nonetheless, that’s where we spent Tuesday and Wednesday

blog_Sept_27-28_2010_3[1]Monday night Granny and I drove to stay and have dinner at Dede and Barbs. These gals take great care of us when we stay over. We brought down some steaks and wine and they cooked it all up with some fresh veggies. Morning came fast and after  some quick coffees we drove to the lake. The weather continues to be as good as you could ask for. Despite Kubswin sitting at over 7,000 ft there was little to no wind and temps reached 80º each day. When we arrived at Kubswin it was almost calm. This sounds good to a rookie lake angler but the truth of the matter is that trout are so spooky under a placid lake that when your cast hits the water all nearby trout retreat to the deep. They think and eagle or an osprey is diving for them. I ran into this blog_Sept_27-28_2010_4[1]repeatedly when I was walking the shoreline and casting to cruisers. All but one took off just from seeing my fly line in the air. The one that stayed around followed and refused my fly.

We all spend more time fly fishing on lakes than the average trout fly fisher and we each have rigs and vests we only take to lakes. My rod of choice is my 6-weight Ross Essence FC. To match that rod I use the Ross Airius Reel and I have five spools to go with. Each spool has a different Rio fly line. There’s a floater, Midge Tip, Intermediate sink, Slow Sink (Type 3), and a Fast Sink (Deep 7). With those I can cover top to bottom of most lakes simply by changing spools. The line I use the most often is the Intermediate which blog_Sept_27-28_2010_5[1]in Rio lines is called the Aqualux.

We each carry a wide range of flies. Most of your once a year lake fly fishers simply pound away with various streamer patterns. Streamers definitely provide some success but I find that most of my catches  are made by patiently sight casting to risers with dry flies or slowly twitching nymph and midge patterns just below the surface. The speed and way you move your flies makes all the difference in the world. Lake fly fishing is extremely challenging and if you haven’t fished them much there’s lots to learn. I enjoy the challenges lakes present me with and especially the chance at catching huge trout. I also find them rarely crowded like many of our best rivers.

blog_Sept_27-28_2010_6[1]It wasn’t until about 1 pm on Tuesday that one of us hooked up. I was daydreaming while retrieving each cast and chatting away with Dede. Then she hooked up. It was obviously a big fish because her reel sang as the beast headed for the middle of the lake. Barb and I reeled in while Granny, who opted  to observe this weekend, came running with the camera. The fight lasted a good five minutes before she netted an obese 23” brown. Fat probably wasn’t the best word to describe this enormous trout. This amazing brown trout was an absolute monster and a perfect example as to why we like the challenge of lake fishing. And rather than eating a huge streamer, this brown ate one of Dede’s small nymphs while she was doing a very slow strip down near the bottom.

Our fishing remained slow both days but was very rewarding. We only landed a total of five fish, but the smallest was 17 inches. Dede caught four of these and three of them were over 20 inches. All the ones over 20 inches were impressive to say the least. One was impressive not only because of his size, but he was one of the ugliest big browns blog_Seept_27-28_2010_7[2]I’ve ever seen! His bottom jaw protruded so far out past his upper it was ridiculous. It’s a wonder he could even eat with this obscurely shaped mouth.

I only landed one but he too was a monster. This brown trout ate an olive bead head leech late in the day  and schooled me out into the lake. I rarely need backing when trout fishing but this fish required about thirty feet of it! It was another great weekend. Next for me will be back to the Harriman Ranch on the Henry’s Fork for the last of the Mahogany Dun hatch.

Our fishing remained slow both days but was very rewarding. We only landed a total of five fish, but the blog_Sept_27-28_2010_8[2]smallest was 17 inches. Dede caught four of these and three of them were over 20 inches. All the ones over 20 inches were impressive to say the least. One was impressive not only because of his size, but he was one of the ugliest big browns I’ve ever seen! His bottom jaw protruded so far out past his upper it was ridiculous. It’s a wonder he could even eat  with this obscurely shaped mouth.

I only landed one but he too was a monster. This brown ate an olive bead head leech late in the day and schooled me out into the lake. I rarely need backing when trout fishing but this fish required about thirty feet of it! It was another great weekend. Next for me will be back to the Ranch on blog_Sept_27-28_2010_9[1]the Henrys Fork for the last of the Mahogany Dun hatch.

as ridiculous. It’s a wonder he could even eat with this obscurely shaped mouth.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nothing but Yellow Belly

September 26, 2010

blog_Sept_26_2010_1[1] What a September! Today was in the 80ºs. The sky was cloudless and there wasn’t an ounce of wind all day. The willows, aspens and cottonwood trees are glowing with gold and the hillsides are vibrant red from the wild roses, mountain maples and hawthorns. Hardly a single turned leaf has fallen yet. September is truly the best time of year in the Yellowstone area and this year we are having the best of the best.

Today I floated the Moose to Wilson section of the Snake River in Jackson Hole Wyoming with Gary Eckman and Cooper. Cooper you should remember from previous blogs is Gary Eckman’s fourteen year old son that has become quite a proficient fly fisher. We got an early start today of about 8 am. Right now, 8 am is about sunrise here. It should have been freezing cold but instead it was a balmy 50 degrees. We all wet waded from start to finish.

blog_Sept_26_2010_2[5] Fishing started surprisingly slow despite the seemingly perfect conditions. I rowed the first hour while Cooper practiced his streamer fishing and Gary plopped an ant pattern along the banks. Other than a follow on the streamer and a small swirl behind the ant the cutthroats were asleep. Wildlife always seems to make up for lack of fish. We saw a gigantic bull moose tearing up some willows, a mule deer and her nearly full grown fawn, numerous elk, eagles and a long tail weasel along the banks as we drifted. Just to spice things up even more we floated into the famous “Bourbon Channel”. I’m not a big fan of the channel as it is one if you are the oarsman you row and that’s it. You can’t relax and enjoy your surroundings for even a split second or you’ll sink the boat. The Bourbon Channel is small and winding. The water moves fast and there are boat flipping snags and debris every inch of the way. It’s probably one of the most treacherous blog_Sept_26_2010_3[2] sections of all the Snake River. Take your eyes off what’s ahead of you for a second and your life is in danger.

We successfully navigated through even the most hair-raising mazes of the channel. There was no doubt that my workout for the day was complete. Once we got back to the main river the fishing turned on. It could have been the time of day but I think it was the slower water. This time of year the Snake River cuttys like a steady flow along a rocky ledges and the drop-offs just below riffles. There were plenty of bugs hatching. This late summer weather continues to deliver PMD’s. It’s late for PMD’s but we saw some. Then there were numerous Mahogany Duns and the occasional Snake Drakes, a large mayfly about a size 12. Fish began to rise and we all fished dry flies for the remainder of the day.

blog_Sept_26_2010_4[1] Today’s highlight, was watching Cooper catch his biggest fish ever on a dry fly on the Snake. The catch occurred during a time when he was getting a little distracted. The Snake River has one of the best sucker populations you can imagine. If you look into the water from the front of the boat while drifting you notice huge fish moving along the bottom all day long. While many anglers freak out thinking they are all huge trout, most of us know that most of these fish are actually suckers. Naturally, the fact that they are so much bigger than most trout in the river, Cooper wants to catch one bad. And while he should be carefully mending and watching his drifting dry fly, he’s often in a trance staring into the water ahead of the boat. I always watch his drifting fly and find myself constantly telling him to mend, dry your fly, recast and when we are lucky, set the hook. I must sound like a broken record.

blog_Sept_26_2010_5[1] Fortunately for us, not the cutthroat, Cooper was watching his fly when a big yellow belly slowly elevated from bottom to the surface and ate his Mahogany Wulff. You could see that this was a big trout and somehow Cooper kept his cool and set the hook on him like a pro. But once the fish was on, Cooper got very nervous. Now he truly knew how big this trout was and like any kid he wanted this fish in the net. He wisely asked for advice on the best way to get him there. Gary and I were thrilled and did our best of coaching Cooper through the event. He handled it beautifully and a few minutes after hook up I netted Cooper’s gorgeous cutthroat trout.

It was another great day on the Snake River in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Cooper relished blog_Sept_26_2010_6[2]in his success for an hour or so before going on a full time sucker hunt. Gary and I  enjoyed the weather and scenery and took turns fishing and rowing. We caught plenty of fish but today was by no means as good as it has been in previous weeks. As much as I’m not ready for it, what we really need to trigger our fall fishing is fall weather. Next on the agenda Granny and I will be chasing some big browns and brookies on some secret lakes. Stay tuned . . .

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Join Me in Brazil!

The awe-inspiring, legendary Peacock bass on the fly!

blog_Sept_25_2010_1[1] For the third year in a row I will be hosting a trip to the Amazon in Brazil for peacock bass. Peacock bass are one of the most incredible species of fish you will ever catch with a fly. I have been chasing them for over ten years and can truly say that out of the 250 species I’ve caught, they are in the top three! I love them! They explode on your fly and for the first thirty seconds pull so hard they scare even the most experienced anglers. They are king of the Amazon and because they are so aggressive you can catch numerous peacocks on any given day whether you are a novice or expert. Peacock bass may very well be the most beautiful fish on Earth. There are four different species of peacock bass that you can expect to catch along blog_Sept_25_2010_2[1]with numerous other species of fish from jacunda to aruana.

The dates for this incredible trip are Saturday through Saturday, March 5-12, 2011. The trip will have 8 anglers  including me. The cost of the trip is $4395 based on double occupancy. This price includes airport pick up and drop off in Manaus, Brazil, one nights stay in Manaus at an excellent hotel, travel to our camp in the Amazon, fishing guides, accommodation and food. It does not include international airfare (expect airfare to be about $1500, with currently a direct flight from Atlanta to Manaus on Delta or United Airlines from Miami), your Brazilian Visa (about $160), tips to fishing guides, camp blog_Sept_25_2010_3[1]staff and airport pickup, taxi drivers or food while staying the day in Manaus.

The outfit we are using is River Plate Amazon Outfitters. I had a couple options as what trip or type of trip to do. Based on my experience in the last two years, I booked what they describe as the "Floating Tent Camp – Regular”. You will not be disappointed and can  see for yourself, many descriptions, explanations and photographs on the the River Plate Amazon Outfitters website. It’s truly incredible!

Further information, photographs and stories of some of my past peacock bass fishing trips are to be blog_Sept_25_2010_4[3]found at this blog and Jeff Currier's Global Fly Fishing web site.

Check out this great Amazon Peacock bass fishing map, courtesy of River Plate Amazon Outfitters.

If you are ready to sign up or would like more information feel free to email me at: or use the "Contact Jeff Currier" button on the right hand side of this blog.

Of all the incredible gamefish in the Amazon basin, the one that has received the most press is the peacock  bass. Peacock bass are known as pavon in Venezuela and Colombia or tucunare in Brazil and Peru. While four distinct species are generally recognized, some fish biologists suggest that a dozen or more varieties might blog_Sept_25_2010_5[1]actually exist throughout South America. Peacock bass are not a true bass such as the largemouth and smallmouth bass found in North American waters, but comprise a genus within the family Cichlidae.  Cichlids are a diverse family of tropical fish found primarily throughout Africa, South America and southern Asia.  Of all the incredible gamefish in the Amazon basin, the one that has received the most press is the peacock bass. Peacock bass are bass are known as pavon in Venezuela and Colombia or tucunare in Brazil and Peru. While four distinct species are generally recognized, some fish biologists suggest that a dozen or more varieties might actually exist  throughout blog_Sept_25_2010_6[1]South America. Peacock bass are not a true bass such as the largemouth and smallmouth bass found in North American waters, but comprise a genus within the family Cichlidae.  Cichlids are a diverse family of tropical fish found primarily throughout Africa, South America and southern Asia. Of all the incredible

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Granny Catches Huge Granny

September 21, 2010

blog_Sept_21_2010_1[1] Micah Kruger, a.k.a. Meeks and I had such a nice day on the Nunya yesterday that I thought I’d take Granny there today so she could enjoy this incredible September weather and catch a few fish. We made a very casual start of leaving the house at about 10 am and by the time I finished the bike shuttle and launched it was almost noon. We did a higher stretch than what Meeks and I did just to mix it up a little. Just like yesterday there were fish rising everywhere. That didn’t last long however. The wind started in a matter of minutes after we launched and the calm surface of the Nunya turned more similar to a walleye chop.

blog_Sept_21_2010_2[1]Our fishing never got any easier. I watched Granny begin the day by doing something I often do. She tied a  Trico pattern on and on her first cast it was gone. It turns out; we people in our mid 40’s are losing our eyesight. We refuse to believe it so occasionally we miss those little holes, particularly the second one where you stuff your tag end through the hole you make with your Clinch Knot. Trying much more carefully, she attempted to tie on a CDC Mahogany Dun. Everything was looking great. She even went as far as to lick her knot and pull it tight at the same time. That was the mistake of the year. The fly slipped from her clenched fingers and she stuck herself right smack in the tongue!

blog_Sept_21_2010_3[1]She was a little shook up at first. I was biting my own tongue to keep from laughing (That could have led to a very troublesome day for me). The reason I wasn’t too worked up was that I knew it  was not just a flattened out barbless hook but rather a completely barbless hook from the get go. They always come out easy and sure enough I plucked it out with my forceps and she didn’t feel a thing.

The a few hours into our day the wind was a horror causing difficult casting and even harder rowing. It seemed that when we had our few breaks and a fish would eat the fly, Granny would miss them or lose them in a second. We called for a beer break and then the wildlife showed up for blgo_Sept_21_2010_4[2]us. While we sat and relaxed tucked in some willows to get out of the wind along came a moose cow and her two calves. We watched them for nearly an hour. When we went back to floating we ran into another three more moose. I think the sound of my boat and oars was muffled by the strong winds. We went on to see a total of six moose and a family of Great Horned Owls.

The winds of September died off for our last mile of floating. The temperature dropped and a few small fish worked what was left of spent mayflies and wind smoked terrestrials. Granny finally landed a few small trout. Although our fishing was nothing like what I experienced yesterday, we blog_Sept_21_2010_5[1] squeaked out another summer like day and the wildlife more than made up for the lack of fish. It was another great fishing day in the books for 2010.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Me, Meeks and Middle Nunya

September 20, 2010

blog_Sept_20_2010_1[1] I’m not so sure it was entirely exhaustion that caused Micah Kruger a.k.a. Meeks, Dougy and I to struggle to get to the back porch this morning, but we struggled. Luckily the coffee was good and the sun warmed us up fast. In no time our plan for the day began to form. Doug was quick to say he thought it was best he drive back to Livingston Montana. I thought about getting some work done but now that Meeks lives in Oregon we rarely get to fish together, we were fishing.

As Doug headed north Meeks and I broke for the Middle Nunya. The last time I floated on the Nunya was with Granny a good month ago and the fishing was excellent. After the challenging two days we experienced on the South Fork of the Snake River, a chance at some better fishing made total sense. Once again the weather was perfect. We have nice Septembers in the Yellowstone area but this one has been one to remember. As I pushed off from the boat ramp, rising blog_Sept_20_2010_2[1]fish dotted the river ahead.

Meeks had two hopper patterns rigged up about two feet apart. The Nunya is slow moving and the resident trout have plenty of opportunity to recognize a fake from the real thing. I wasn’t too confident in the big flies but I figured I’d watch Meeks try them. Fish after fish, Meeks drifted his hoppers without a take.

“Meeks we need to go small today”, I stated.

I had a small dry already rigged on my 4-weight Ross so Meeks grabbed the oars and told me to give it a whirl. The fly I had on was one of my CDC Vladi Trzebunia dry flies size 18. The pattern always works and sure enough the first riser I presented it too ate. It was a nice rainbow that began the fight down deep but jumped and broke me off.

We assumed we had it figured out after that rainbow nailed my small dry on the first cast, but it still wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t find another of my Vladi flies so I tied on a Mahogany Dun. The Lawson’s Thorax Mahogany almost never lets me down but the first few trout I cast too refused it. Meanwhile Meeks too was changing through various flies with poor results. These fish were tough. I dug deeper into my tackle bag and finally I stumbled into a well used CDC fly. Sure enough, the first fish I fed it too ate it and we were on the boards.

blog_Sept_20_2010_3[1]That first landed fish was like magic. I’d swear that for the next few hours every fish we showed that fly too ate it. Meeks and I took turns with my 4-weight and the productive European fly. We landed an array of rainbows, cutthroats and brook trout. One of our highlights today included a beautiful rainbow we found rising tight to the bank. He was rising like a porpoise with his back completely breaking the surface every time he rose. He was so cool looking we kicked back and watched him for about five minutes. He was in difficult spot to drift a fly too but I miraculously got it there to him thanks to a gust of wind. I wasn’t too surprised when he ate but was when I actually felt him fighting on the end of my line. I thought for sure I had too much slack.  Minutes later I was releasing a hefty Nunya rainbow. Meeks too landed a memorable fish today. He watched the white lips of a quality cutthroat move from about six feet down to rise to the small fly. If you haven’t ever experienced the leisurely take of a cutthroat it’s something you must do. They do it so slowly that even the most experienced anglers often pull the fly away before the cutty eats it. Somehow, Meeks kept his cool and watched those white lips close down on the fly blog_Sept_20_2010_4[1]before he struck. Then when he did strike, it was perfect, the fish was there and he too landed the gorgeously fall colored cutthroat trout.

The last three days have been spectacular. Fishing with old friends is something that can’t be beat. We covered a lot of water from the near forty miles of South Fork to the five miles of the Nunya. It will be awhile before we do it again together but we certainly will. Tonight begins Granny’s’ weekend and I have a funny felling I’ll be right back on the Nunya tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Monday, September 20, 2010

Slow Fishing Couldn't Be More Fun

September 18-19, 2010

blog_Sept_18-19_2010_1[1] Five days in a row without fishing breaks that four day record I set a few weeks ago. But I had work to get done because from here on out I need to be ready to enjoy the fall and some of the best fishing of the year. The last two days I fished with friends Ben Brennan, Doug McKnight and Micah Kruger (Meeks). All three guys worked for me in the Jack Dennis fly shop years ago and unlike most of my former employees they are still in the fly fishing business. Ben lives in Jackson, WY and is a fishing guide for Snake River Anglers. Doug lives in Livingston, Montana and just quit working at the Yellowstone Angler Fly Shop to pursue his art and fly tying. Doug is a contracted fly tyer for Umpqua Feather Merchants and is the man behind patterns such as the Home Invader, Sweetgrass Hopper and the Pigpen Leech. These are great flies and if you don’t have them in your box you need to get some. blog_Sept_18-19_2010_2[1]Meeks lives in Bend, Oregon and is a representative for fly fishing service products including Fishhound, a fly fishing information site and FLyBOOK, a fishing guide and outfitter reservation system. When you get a chance, definitely check out the Fishhound website.

We don’t see enough of each other these days so we wanted to make sure we did something exceptional. Our choice, an overnighter in the canyon of the South Fork of the Snake River. Even though I’ve been on the South Fork weekly all summer long, I loved the idea of doing it again. As you know by now from my previous reports the South Fork has fished its best in over ten years.

We launched our two boats at Husky (two miles below the Palisades Dam) Saturday morning and pulled out blog_Sept_18-19_2010_3[1]at Byington, some thirty-four miles downstream on Sunday night. When we pushed off, the boats were heavy and low in the water due to our camping supplies and an excessive amount of food and drink. One thing we all love to do is eat like kings on a camping and fishing trip. We had bratwurst, steak, chicken, a heap of veggies, cookies and chocolate bars along with a few tasty brews to wash the delicious food all down. Regardless of the weight, we started fishing immediately. I rowed Doug in my boat and Ben rowed Meeks. Doug busted out of the gates with a healthy brown on his Home Invader streamer pattern. Things were looking good but that brown actually turned out to be the only fish for the first few hours. At about 2 pm I took a small side channel and Doug twitched a big ant pattern on the  surface and caught a big cutthroat/rainbow hybrid. Shortly after we met up with Ben and Meeks for lunch and unfortunately they had not landed a fish yet.

It was obvious the South Fork was not fishing like it had all summer. It finally slowed down. I often wonder how a river can simply shut down like this. Perhaps it’s from the fishing pressure or simply a slow down in blog_Sept_18-19_2010_5[1]hatches. The South Fork typically shuts down in August then picks up again in September. But not this year. It’s been good since the season started. It was no wonder it finally got tough.

Tough fishing was not going to put a damper on this trip. The weather was a toasty 75º degrees. There was very little wind and the bratwursts made for a scrumptious lunch. We had a ways to go before night fall so we turned the next few hours in to a joy ride out of the civilization found on the Upper South Fork stretch and floated into the wilderness of the Canyon. Entering the canyon at sunset is a sight to behold. Making few casts at the same time and you may as well have died and gone to heaven. Doug racked up a couple nice cutthroats before we rowed into camp near the mouth of Pine Creek.

blog_Sept_18-19_2010_6[1] Preparing camp was simple. There was no need for tents. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. We just threw down our insulate pads and sleeping bags and set up our camp chairs. Then we watched Meeks make a kitchen and prepare about twenty shish kabobs. My mouth was watering at the shear sight of them. It was all I could do to hold back. Luckily the talk and drink kept us all in check. By the time our feast was over the sky was full of stars. We brewed up a nice fire for warmth and kicked back. Just as all was perfect,  Ben’s dog went crazy barking up a tree. I whipped my light into the tree expecting to see a raccoon and was surprised to see a baby pine marten. He was cute as can be gazing down at us from the cottonwood tree. I’ve seen quite a few over the years but it was a first for the boys. We watched him a few minutes then the dog lost interest blog_Sept_18-19_2010_7[2] and it was back to the fire.

It’s amazing how fast these weekends go by. We had a relaxing morning warming up in camp with coffee then fished hard all day. Today Meeks hopped in my boat and Ben and Doug fished together. The fishing was slow again. We caught a few nice fish but it was nothing like the fishing I’ve been spoiled with all summer. However there were no complaints. Today was an unusual 80º degrees and anytime you get a bonus day of summer in September you smile. We pulled the boats and empty coolers out at the Byington Boat Ramp at 7 pm and made a dash for burgers at the Knotty Pine in Victor Idaho. A great trip with friends came to an end.

Ben has to work tomorrow but Dougy, Meeks and I might wet a line somewhere special for a few hours tomorrow. We’re pretty beat from our two day adventure so we aren’t committing to anything. We’ll just wake up in the morning and decide on fishing over coffee on the back porch.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Grind

September 12, 2010

blog_Sept_12_2010_1[3] Day 2 in the Jackson Hole One Fly is where you need to make things happen. With our team in 2nd place we wanted to make the move forward and win the One Fly. Realistically, all each of us needed to do was have a slightly above average day. This sounds easy, but isn’t. Out of four anglers one could simply lose their fly, pick the wrong fly or just plain and simple, have an off day. I had pressure on me to perform. I drew the South Fork and it typically produces higher scores. While average on the Snake River is about 250 points, average on the South Fork is about 350 points. I really needed to make sure and break 400.

Deciding what fly to use was difficult again. Originally I planned to fish a streamer, but streamers are risky. Indeed the streamer paid off yesterday, but risk wasn’t such a factor as our team wasn’t in 2nd place yesterday. You can easily snag a streamer on unseen sunken tree branches or a rock and your fly is gone. The other thing about streamers is that when the fish aren’t on them, you could get skunked. Either way, if I didn’t come back today with a full card I’d hurt the team.

I arrived at the South Fork Lodge for breakfast at 6:15 am. This is where our guides and boat mates meet up for the South Fork. I had breakfast with good friend Mike Lawson. Mike too was in the One Fly and was also spinning about what fly to use. He also scored well on the Snake River yesterday and knew a good South Fork score would help his team and perhaps move him into high individual standings. Taking the pressure off us, we both decided we’d leave our fly choice up to our guide.

When my fly fishing guide Mike Bean arrived at the breakfast table he didn’t exactly tell me what fly to use. He too was torn. He’s seen me hammer fish on streamers and would do anything to see it today, but today the weather was crisp and clear and temperatures were expected to reach 77º. Streamer fishing on the South Fork can be slow I such conditions. With a small Pale Morning Dun dry fly he was sure I could fill my measured fish card. That is if I blog_Sept_12_2010_2[1]could keep the fly all day without losing it and hope that it didn’t fall apart. Both are major concerns with a small fly. Then we met my boat mate Scott. Scott was set on fishing a small dry fly. That was it; I too would go with a size 18 Pale Moring Dun Parachute Cripple.

Mike Bean is one of the best South Fork River guides and he had a plan. He pushed us away from the Spring Creek Boat Ramp at 8:15 and rowed like a mad man so that we would be in a good dry fly spot at exactly 8:30. Like yesterday, it was cold as heck and thick frost blanketed everything. When we got to Mike’s spot it was too cold. Not a fish stirred and even blind casting to where we knew fish lived did not entice a rise.

Fortunately, as the sun rose so did the thermometers. Today was going to be another September day of dreams. Scott and I simply had to be patient with our small flies. If the trout weren’t awake yet there was no sense in casting them to the banks and risk loss and add unnecessary wear and tear. With the exception of a few riffles we relaxed, held our flies and waited for the first insects to hatch.

It took longer then we expected. At 10:30 neither of us had one point on our score cards. There were no blog_Sept_12_2010_3[1]bugs and no rising fish. It was plenty warm enough by now. I was in shorts and a t-shirt and I was hot. Where were the fish? Mike remained cool and rowed us to his next spot. Sure enough there was our first  rising fish of the day. Scott and I were rotating the front of the boat each hour and it happened to be my turn. I studied the fish’s rises for a minute then delicately landed my cast. My presentation was poor compared to a normal day. The reason being that I was attempting to fish my tiny dry fly on 2X Rio Powerflex Tippet. On any normal day of fishing I’d have a size 18 dry fly attached to 4X or perhaps even 5X. But this was the One Fly Contest; I wasn’t going to risk fishing with a light tippet this early in the day. I flipped a couple mends in my fly line to help my stiff looking fly along and to my delight up came a gorgeous Yellowstone Cutthroat to consume it. I set the hook and like a normal day in paradise the fish was on and I brought the 16” trout to the net. Yes, I had my first fish of the day.

I was set to measure the trout. He was easily 16 inches and would score me 60 points, but Mike had bigger fish in mind. Somehow he talked me out of measuring the fish and accepting him as a mere 2 pointer. Wow! I was hesitant, but I picked the fish from the net and released him without measuring him. Then I plucked my fly up from the net and was just about to drop it and roll cast it out again to start fishing when blog_Sept_12_2010_4[1]I saw my PMD was not attached to my leader. My tippet had broken in the net! My heart dropped and a feeling of near disaster overtook me. When I told Mike what happened he nearly went into shock too.

I had work to do. Somehow I damaged my tippet earlier in the morning and didn’t know it. I cut the entire piece off and carefully tied on another with a triple surgeons knot. It took much longer than normal as my hands were shaking. Then I leaned back in my chair with my fly tightly clenched in my left hand and took a breather while Scott made some casts to some more rising fish. That was a close call.

Ten minutes went by and Scott wasn’t getting it done. Several fish rose to his fly but he missed each one. Mike asked me if I was finally ready. I was still rattled, but I made my cast and quickly hooked up. I landed another gorgeous 16” cutty. And once again, Mike talked me into taking him as a mere 2 point fish. I was a little uneasy letting these 16 inchers go without measuring them for bonus points. I knew all I needed was 400 points to help my team. What if now after I let these guys go I didn’t fill my card, or worse, lost my fly?

I missed the next three quality fish that ate my fly. It seemed my luck was taking a turn for the worst. It blog_Sept_12_2010_6[1]was after 11 when finally I hooked up again. Although I was relieved, this wasn’t a gentle fighting cutthroat but rather a scrappy rainbow. The bow leaped twice and then took off for the middle of the river and dove for bottom. I had little control. I knew he was down deep looking for trees to snag me on and rocks to grind my tippet against. It was really gut wrenching. At last, the fish gave in and Mike netted the rainbow. Enough is enough I said to Mike, measure that fish. I was just too uncomfortable without a bonus point fish on the board. He measured the rainbow and sure enough he was 16 inches on the nose.

I continued to miss fish but managed to pick up two more bonus point trout so that by 1:00 I had two 16 inchers and a 17 incher on the measure card along with several two point fish. I had three more hours to reach 400 points. Unfortunately Scott still sported a zero. He just wasn’t connecting at all. When Scott returned to the front of the boat Mike worked hard by coaching him while he fished to a pod of risers. It went on for fifteen minutes or so while I patiently watched from the back of the boat. It just wasn’t happening for Scott. Then in one swift move Mike spun the boat and said Jeff take a shot. I whirled a false cast straight up in the air as not to hook anything in the boat and as I went forward I felt my fly burry into  something high above us. It was a cedar tree branch dangling a good 30-feet above the river. Disaster had blog_Sept_12_2010_7[1]struck.

As the three of us tracked my fly line and leader up to the cedar branch there was dead silence. It was worse than initially thought. The branch was a snarled mess of twigs and needles high above the boat. You could follow my leader with your eyes but the fly was buried out of sight. By now Mike had the anchor dropped and was heading up the bank as if to just climb the tree and undo the mess. But it wasn’t so easy. This was a big tree extending off a cliff like bank and the first branch to grab for climbing was 10-feet up.

I handed my rod to Scott and headed up to the base of the tree where a bewildered Mike Bean stood with a very sad look on his face. I simply asked him for ten fingers and up I went to where I could grab that first branch. Using complete adrenaline, I swung my legs up and started to wiggle my way through closely knit branches high into the tree. Once I thought I was at the branch my fly was on, I asked Scott to pull tight to my fly. Soon I was scaling my way out over the river on this branch. But there was no way. I was out as far as I dared. The branch dipped down and swayed side to side as if it were about to snap. If the branch broke from under me I’d fall 30-feet onto jagged river rock. All I could see was my 2X Rio Tippet tightly wound and snagged deep in a cluster of branches about 8-feet from my reach. I was absolutely screwed.

blog_Sept_12_2010_8[1] Our first move was to try to reach it with the net. Mike threw it up to me and even it got tangled in the branches. This was not the tree to mess with. At last I got it and pushed it towards the end of the branch where my fly was. It was a useless operation. As I sat there uncomfortably and discouraged as you could be, I gazed at the anchor rope in the boat below me. That was it. If it was long enough I could tie it to this branch and from the ground we could pull on it until it snapped. It was a long shot, but the only shot.

Mike and Scott had to be shaking their heads by now, but Mike went through the trouble to disconnect his anchor. I hung like a monkey from my knees and Mike threw me the rope. I wrapped it around the branch so we had two ends of the rope to pull on and our last hope was underway. I climbed down and stood in the boat with my rod while Mike, a good sized man, pulled the rope. At first the branch was like a rubber band, it just wouldn’t break. Mike was actually getting tired of bouncing on that rope. Then without any hint at all the entire 300lb branch came crashing down on Mike and I. Once we realized no one was hurt we cheered and laughed. We had made a historic fly rescue.

My fly still wasn’t easy to find. It was tangled in there so bad that we never could have retrieved it by pulling my tippet. I was drained. I was scratched up, stressed out and plopped in the back of the boat and drank a beer. Now I had less than two hours to catch at least three more measurable fish. And poor Scott still hadn’t caught a single fish. Worst of all the trickle of a hatch we had earlier was all but gone. Things were ugly.

blog_Sept_12_2010_9[1]I felt terrible that I put my boat mates through such drama. I drank another beer and just sat and watched as Scott drifted his PMD along the bank while Mike back rowed. I wanted to fish but Scott needed to catch one first. There were absolutely no randomly rising trout. About then Scott buried his fly in the back of my neck. I let out a yelp. I don’t care what you say; even a small fly in the neck hurts. The One Fly is a barbless tournament so I reached up and carefully grabbed it and attempted to jerk it out. Unfortunately the flattened barb wasn’t flattened all the way and the skin on my neck stretched out an inch and snapped back putting the fly deeper into my neck. It was in there good. Scott felt terrible. I told him no big deal and Mike pulled over and with his forceps made a nice clean rip and the fly was out. Mike said it was time to check on his pets so while I soaked up a little blood with my t-shirt off we went to the cliffs of the South Fork Canyon.

There’s always a few cooperative fish at the cliffs. Scott tucked a cast into the first cave and wham, he had his first fish of the day and it was 15”. I was glad to see Scott on the board. As they measured I snuck my own cast back in the cave and I landed a 17” cutthroat. Things were looking up again. I only needed two more fish of 16 inches to rally for 400 points.

Let’s just say the last hour was a grind. Scott all but gave up on the day. It was hot. There was no hatch. Most of Mike’s pets were hiding. Things were bleak. I felt I didn’t deserve it, but Scott gave me the front of the boat again. For the last 45 minutes or so I made risky cast after risky cast. Sometimes I tossed my tiny PMD against the willows in fast water while other times I side armed so far back under trees that if I got hung we’d never find the fly. And it paid off. I went on to fill my card and my measurables included three 16” and three 17” trout. I also had sixteen two pointers and by miracle, kept my fly for another 25 point bonus. It was one of the toughest competition days I can remember but I grinded out 460 crucial points.

blog_Sept_12_2010_10[1]My poor boat mate landed only one fish. He wasn’t alone. Although there were a few fantastic scores on some fancy ant, many on the stretch did not fill their cards. This included Mike Lawson who hooked and lost a nice fish in the last minutes of the contest. When I arrived in Jackson after my near two hour drive from the South Fork Canyon, the scores were in. The Good Times Team had dropped to fourth place. Gary lost his fly before catching a fish today and our other anglers had a tough day. There was some good news though. Gary’s big 23 ½” brown from Day 1 earned him the big fish trophy and my grind of both days earned me third place individual. All our practice earned us something. It was a great One Fly and next year perhaps we can take the next step and the Good Times Team can win it all.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Good Start for the Good Times Team

September 11, 2010

blog_Sept_11_2010_1[1] While many fly fishermen still don’t like the sounds of competition fly fishing, I personally love it. I love when every fish has meaning and I love a day on the water when someone is keeping score. It’s an adrenaline rush that I used to thrive on when competing in the World Fly Fishing Championships. While the Jackson Hole One Fly Contest is not nearly as demanding as World Competition, it is competition nonetheless. And the Good Times Team is in it to win.

I awoke at 4:30 am without and alarm and meticulously went over my gear one last time. My stuff was ready three days ago but I just wanted to be sure. At 5:30 Rob Parkins picked me up and off we went to breakfast at the Gun Barrel Restaurant where the guides pick up all contestants for the day. Iblog_Sept_11_2010_2[2] wolfed down a heap of food knowing there would be little time to eat lunch during the days contest. Then I met up with the competitor I fish against in my boat (It happens to be long time friend Joe Debryan) and our guide Charles Kempe and off we went to the Wilson Bridge Boat Launch.

The way the One Fly Contest works is each angler draws a random stretch of river and floats it with a randomly drawn guide and a person from another team. There are about 40 teams of four anglers each. Therefore there are 160 anglers spread out all over. The guide is the judge and measures and counts the fish caught. Every fish you catch is worth 2 points. It doesn’t matter if he’s 2 inches or 20 inches. He’s two points. Then, you are allowed to measure eight fish, six of blog_Sept_11_2010_3[1] which earn you bonus points. How many bonus points depend on the size of your eight measured fish. For instance a 12” trout is worth 10 points while a 16” fish is worth 60 points. Measured fish must be over 12”s and although it sounds easy to catch eight fish over 12”s, you would be surprised how many anglers don’t. If you don’t measure at least six, your score will be low.

Anyway, Joe, Charles and I had planned our attack on Thursday night at the cocktail party once we knew we drew each other. Even though Joe and I are competing for our own teams, it’s still advantageous to work together and fish similar flies. Per our discussion with Charles, we were set on making our one fly choice a dry fly. However, last night at the One Fly Dinner, I heard that the dries didn’t blog_Sept_11_2010_4[1] do so well yesterday on our stretch so I started considering a streamer. Now if one guy streamer fishes and the other dry fly fishes than each angler is hindered by the other. In other words I had to get Joe to do the same or stick to the dry. We discussed it and although Joe was a little reluctant, being the good guy that he is, he said he’d do it.

Our guide Charles Kempe wasn’t there last night so this morning we caught him by surprise when we told him we decided against the dry fly and were going with streamers. He had tied us each a bomb proof dry fly to use today. However he too knew the dry’s fished mediocre at best yesterday and was excited at the thought of a streamer. It was a done deal. I fished an olive weighted eyeballed streamer tied by Scott Sanchez and Joe fished his concoction that was browner in color.

blog_Sept_11_2010_5[1] It was cold as heck at the boat ramp at 8 am. There was a thick frost formed by the fog lifting off the Snake with the sunrise. It was going to be awhile before the cutthroats woke up. At 8:30 the tournament started and Charles pushed us off. Knowing the fish may not be eating yet, Joe and I each fished conservatively, not wanting to risk losing our one fly. Then at about 9:15 Joe landed a 14 incher. He wisely had Charles measure it and Joe was on the board. Joe went on to measure a 12 incher at about 10:30 yet I still didn’t have a fish. I hadn’t even rolled one yet and although there was plenty of time left (we fish until 4:30) I was ready for my first. Then finally I got one that was 15 inches at 10:40.

Our fishing improved as the day went on. Things warmed up considerably and soon it was one of those spectacular September days that Jackson Hole Wyoming is famous for. The sky was blue, the temps were blog_Sept_11_2010_6[1]around 70º and the Tetons were gleaming over the valley. Best of all, by noon, Joe and I each had four measured fish. I was very lucky in that one of mine was 17 inches and one was 18 inches long. It was obvious the streamer was the correct choice. There was little to no hatch occurring and we talked with competitors fishing dries from other boats and they weren’t doing well.

By 4:30 Joe and I each filled our measured fish cards and had a pile of 2 point fish to go with it. Our scores were excellent for that stretch of river. Joe scored around 380 points and I scored 450 points. Compared to most others, we were top scorers on Wilson to South Park. When I got back to the Gun Barrel Restaurant for dinner to catch up with my teammates, I found that everyone did well. Best of all, Gary Eckman, who was on the South Fork River today, caught a 24 inch brown. That trout alone earned him 300 points! He managed three other measurable trout and he scored over 500 points. With all our success today we are excited to say we are in 2nd place. Gary is in the top ten for individuals and I am in the top twenty. Best of all for me, I have the South Fork of the Snake River with Mike Bean tomorrow. I should be able to at least score another 400 points that should lift my standings and keep our team in the running. Things are good!

Sorry there are not more photos but you can’t put down the rod in competition too often. I can tell you there is a picture of Gary’s big 24” brown. I will get it posted as soon as I get the photo from Gary.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site