August 26, 2010
There are few living legends these days, but Boots Allen is one. Boots has been fishing the Snake River in Jackson Hole Wyoming his entire life and guiding since he was old enough. He is truly one of the best fishing guides on the river. His grandfather, also Boots Allen, and father Joe Allen, pioneered much of the fishing in Jackson, Wyoming and surrounding areas. They also designed many proven fly patterns including the famous Double Humpy. I have the good fortune of being friends with young Boots and even knew both of his elders. In fact, when I first moved to Wyoming back in 1987, one of my favorite things in the winter was to pick up sucker meat for ice fishing bait from his grandfather Boots. The quick stop for bait would turn to hours of incredible stories from the old days of Jackson Hole. I also sold Double Humpies for his father Joe; he too had more than his share of incredible stories.
Today I had the good pleasure of taking a seat in Boots boat. Gary Eckman, whom you should know by now, invited me to join him on a guided trip with Boots. Each year Gary hires Boots a couple weeks before the One Fly Contest in order to pick up any new secrets that may have evolved since last year. Boots guided us on the Moose to Wilson stretch. This stretch starts in Grand Teton National Park and ends outside the Park at the Wilson Bridge on Highway 22 just west of Jackson. It’s one of the longer floats – about 14 miles. And one of the more demanding stretches in that you better know how to use those oars or you could be headed for disaster. We saw two sunken boats today.
Like Gary and I, Boots is gearing up for the One Fly. The Snake is one of those rivers that changes from year to year. Spring runoff on the river itself annually creates new channels and removes some of the old. Hatches can vary from year to year and the overall feeding patterns of the cutthroats can change. In other words, even though Boots knows this river inside and out, noticing and adjusting to the Snakes subtle changes is what makes a guide and angler more successful than others.
Rarely do guides in the Jackson Hole area get customers capable of effectively fishing streamers. It’s too bad because streamers can be murder on the biggest Snake River Cutthroats in the river. With that in mind and knowing that Gary and I can toss a streamer, Boots asked us to give them a whirl to start. I had already planned on starting with a streamer and was rigged and ready.
We drifted and pounded the banks with streamers most of the day. As expected we moved many quality Snake River Cutthroats. For me, it was one of the best days I’ve seen on the Snake in recent memory. It would not be an exaggeration to say we landed more than a dozen cuttys over 15”s with several of those over 17”s. We even landed one that Boots measured at 19”s – a true monster for the species. As preparation for Boots, he floated us down several channels he had not tried yet this year. We also walked into a few spots that are often overlooked by the average angler. Now Boots also knows what to expect in these locations and doesn’t have to explore during the tournament, an ultimate no no.
We finished up the long float just after 5 pm. It was a superb day and as always fun to fish with Gary. As far as Boots goes, this was my first time I his boat. I’ve been with hundreds of guides over the years and many good ones. I can tell you, Boots shines with the best of the best. It’s not only his knowledge of the Snake River but also his own desire to catch fish. The One Fly is exactly two weeks away. It’s time to start crossing the fingers in hopes that one of our team members draws Boots on Moose to Wilson.
To learn more about the Snake River – read “Snake River Fly Fishing: Through the Eyes of an Angler” by no other than Boots!