Bighorn hopper fishing

Another great Bighorn trip is in the books.  This year we had a group of 14 that had some of the best hopper fishing of thier lives.  Mark Stroh and I went up a few days earlier and “scouted” the area for the group.  I called it dedication to my job but most had another view.  Anyway you look at it, it was the best year of topwater I have ever had on the ‘Horn.  Mark and I fished with John Kaiser….a.k.a. “Mr Congeniality” and had an epic trip. It sure was nice to hit it at the right time and we made every effort to take advantage of the great hopper bite that held up for the entire trip.

John put us over top water fish every day and said it was the best he has ever seen for a four day stretch.  Lots of 18″-19″ ‘bows and browns over 20″s came up to eat our hoppers every day.  This river never seems to amaze me with how well the fishing holds up year in and year out. 

I have been hitting the Bighorn since ’96 and this is the first trip I can remember when I never put a nymph rig on.  99% of our fish came on hoppers, a few on black caddis and a couple on streamers.  Love it!

We even went up and tasted a little of the fabled Bighorn lake carp fishing.  It’s pretty cool to see them come up and try and grab a top water bug.  Carp eyes are not situated well to eat topwater so sometimes it’s comical to watch them charge a fly and totally miss it.  Mark and I missed our share as well. 


Matt and Keri McMeans of the Kingfisher Lodge have always been very gracious and made sure our clients have a great trip.  This year was no exception.  The food at the Kingfisher has always been legendary.  I sell it as an “Eating trip with a little fishing thrown in”.  They now have taken it to another level.  Chef Keith made up some of his creations that were out of this world.  He truly is the best I have seen at the lodge and made me gain a few more pounds than I normally do.  A great trip with another great bunch of people….can’t wait ’til the next one. 

Antero Lake CO

Came up to hit some of the best lake fishing Colorado has to offer.  I’m staying in Buena Vista about 25 miles from Antero.  I’m been hearing how great the fishing is and I’m not disappointed, at least with the fish….the weather could be a little more accommodating.  It’s 3:40 pm and I am in my Super 8 room playing with a computer….my favorite thing to do.  Blown off the lake again today.  Yesterday am was dead calm and bluebird skies….death to a stillwater fisherman.  Travis banged them on simis last week.  I couldn’t get one to grab at all.  A Callibaetis hatch was coming off and they were definitely looking up.  The only thing I could get any grabs on was a size 18 para Adams.  Problem with that is these fish are 3-7 lbs and a little 18 hook doesn’t hold real well.  Plus with the high skies and calm conditions I had to use 5x tippet.  I hooked 9 and landed 3…all about three lbs.  I fished ’til noon and got blown off big time.  I waited around for a couple hours and it never let up.  Back to the Super 8 and get ready for day 2. 

Day 2 started with a little chop on the water and the fish liked simi’s today.  Landed probably 15-16 and lost a bunch.  Biggest two went 5 1/2 and 6, both rainbows. 

There are lots of 2-3 lb fish and they are awesome fighters.

I think I can handle a couple more days of this…work, work, work!

Day 2 the lake had a mild chop, sweetness.  It proved to be my best numbers day and the only day I wasn’t blown off by noon.  I got to fish until 5 that evening and then all hell broke loose.  Luckily the winds normally blow in the right direction going home.  I surfed my way back in, riding the waves and using my oars as rudders to steer.  I must have been doing 5 knots when I hit the bank.  The Callibaetis hatch wasn’t strong that day but the caddis made up for it.  I hooked several nice fish over 5 lbs on some bigger para Adam’s I tied.  I could use 4x but the minute I hooked those babies they skyrocketed and headed straight down into the weeds.  On both occassions my catch ended up being a wad of weeds and a straightened hook.  One did the same on a caddis as well.  I landed several 4 lbr’s and a slew of 3’s.  Got this nice 4 lb cutt on a dry.


I desperately wanted to land more of the big boys but wasn’t having much luck so far.  I called Wonder Boy on my way back to the hotel and got some advice on where to find the big boys the next day….my last.

Day 4 was a wee bit cooler, 31 when I launched, but there was a mild chop again.  I headed straight for WB’s honey hole and sure enough first three casts produced 2 nice 3 lb cutt’s on simi’s.  Nice but not what I was looking for.  I worked the area for awhile and kinda waited for the magic hour, usually around 9, when the bugs start moving.  Well the wind beat the bugs to the punch.  It came up big time around 9.  I made it to an island and took a small nap for an hour.  Woke up to no change so headed in, practicing my surfing again and looked at different areas of the lake to fish.  All the same, the wind had churned up the lake so bad that all the shorelines were mud for 100 yds


Oh well, nice trip.  I learned a lot about the lake and will definitely be back.  These fish fight as hard as any I’ve caught.  I am already planning my return trip.

Bitterroot MT Early July 2009

Just spent a week in the Bitterroot country of Western Montana. The waters were as high as I have even seen them this time of year, but still fishable.

It is usually stonefly season and it was, but an added bonus was the salmon flys were still around:

It was big bushy dry fly fishing all day with big numbers. Most of the fish were not large, but some ran up to 17″

We mostly fished the West Fork, but a local tier turned me on to a lovely little feeder stream which had a reputation as on of Gary LaFontaine’s favorites. I can see why. The water was gorgeous, the deer thick, the big bugs everywhere, and tons of resident cutts and cuttbows:


I am 61 years old and have had to dial 911 once in my life.  I did it twice on a three day trip this weekend.  I usually avoid the crowds and stay home on big holiday weekends but DW had some time off so he twisted my arm and off we went.  Plan was to camp at Pacheta to fish it late.  I had found a BIG fish working topwater last week and he had been weighing on my mind pretty heavy. I picked Daryl up at 2 and down the road we went.  This was July 4 th am.  I think there may have been a few parties that night and we found a guy who had obviously stayed a bit too long.  He was coming right at us going the wrong direction on 60 just heading into the Gold Canyon area.  Luckily I found a turnoff just in time and got off the road because he didn’t waver a bit and kept right on coming right past us.  I was doing 65 and he was doing at least that.  That would have been a 130 mph smackdown.  Not a way to start a weekend fishing trip…..first 911.

We took Y55 to Pacheta and we got into the elk pretty good.  We saw 4 small bunches….all big mature bulls, 11 total, all still in velvet and a few turkeys too.  This trips’s shaping up better now.   

We hit Pacheta and to my surprise it wasn’t any more crowded than the week before.  Fishing was just about all topwater…ants and beetles….We fished it ’til O Dark 30 and no big boys caught.  We saw several but it’s pretty much a cast to the rise thing and we never really got in position for a shot.  The lake is really full and in great shape but temp’s are getting up to almost 70.  The bloom will probably be coming soon.  Off to Big the following am, talked with Rick and he recommended Crescent.  It is full and the water is beautiful, around 66 degrees.  The rainbows evidently killed last winter so we only caught 10-14″rs on simi’s.  Brookies are harder to come by in the summer months but they should be 18-19″s this Fall.  We hit Big that afternoon and caught fish up to 15″s there, rainbows and cutt’s.  Had some good topwater action on damsels in back of the cove off Railroad.  Most of the fish were small, but I marked a ton of big fish on the finder.  I think you just have to beat your way through them to get to the bigger fish. 

Stayed at Sunrise that night, hit Carnero early am.  Lake is weeding up but in surprisingly good shape.  Water temps were still around 65 and the rainbows were eagerly eating damsel nymphs.  Biggest fish were around 14-15″s again.  Fished that ’til 11.  As we were leaving one of the campsites was shooting off a .22 into the forest.  Now I am all for plinking but not in a campsite in the middle of the forest with 10 other campsites around and a road just 100 yds away.  When we turned on the road heading to Greer bullets came whizzing over our heads and hit the trees on the other side of the road from us…..911 #2….idiots.  Hit the restaurant at Greer and headed to Tunnel.  It is starting to bloom and around 66 degrees.  Lake is low as usual and the rainbows were not in the best shape.  We used small simis and landed probably 6-7 each.  Didn’t see any big fish on the finder but as shallow as it is they can feel your vibrations and move away from you. 

No big fish to report….good time to leave the camera home.  I am really encouraged with the great water conditions we have on most of our lakes and it is raining every day.  This will be a good Fall fishing season again.

Black River

Headed out with Brandon and Jason on Friday to the Black.  The fish were keyed on topwater, hoppers and cicadas.  It was some of the best fishing I have seen on the river this year.  This was only Jason’s second trip with a fly rod and he got into double digits pretty easily.  I think he may be hooked.








Lake Pleasant

Got out on Lake Pleasant this morning from 4:45-8:45 with Zach and Scott.  There was a good amount of boils, but the fish we be up and down in a matter of 5-10 seconds making it difficult to get them when they were up.  We boated 4 fish on a variety of small baitfish patterns fishing 250gr and 300gr sink tips.  These early sunrises make it fun to be able to go to work with the smell of fish on your hands.  I need to start doing this at least once a week, it was a lot of fun.  Those stripers pull hard…



Pacheta, Big, Sunrise

I’ve been wanting to fish Pacheta late in the day but dreaded the long drive out late, so I headed up early Thursday am and fished ’til dark.  Started out fishing simi’s and caught lots of small rainbows and browns…..6″ to 13″.   The fish were coming up constantly as it was raining off and on all day so I switched to small dries, imitating the midges coming off….small fish.  Finally around 8 pm a big head popped up and grabbed my ant.  Ended up being a 24″ 4 lb brown.  Unfortuantely the only other person fishing the lake wasn’t the best with a camera and it came out blurry.  You’ll just have to trust me. 

Fished the following am and caught small fish again.  The lake is full and looks great.  One I’ll hit this Fall for sure. I spent that afternoon on Big and caught rainbows on dry damsels.  The lake is brimmed and has plenty of weeds….looks as good as I’ve seen in awhile.  The weather turned so I hit it early.

Hit Sunrise this am and caught small rainbows again.  I got tagged by a big one though and he broke my 3x like a thread.  Not much for fish pics but you get a couple nice am shots.  Summer conditions are on us already and it’s usually the stockers that want to play.  If you want a big one you’ll have to play real early or real late…..or just get lucky like me.

Panguitch Lake

Just got back from our first annual Panguitch Lake trip.  With a $50/night lodging fee and a short 7.5 hour drive to catch the diversity of quality fish we caught, this will surely be one of our best non guided trips every year.  Guests Ron Gonzalez and Buddy Edson both caught the biggest trout of thier lives.  I wish I had better photos of our trip but because of bad weather and a little bit of laziness I missed a lot of opportunities.  I managed to get a few…mostly of Daryl who was definitely on his “A”game this trip.  He caught big fish every day…..the BUM.   Here are a few shots.

This is Ron Gonzalez with a 21″ 3 lb. Bear Lake cutthroat. As you can probably tell, Ron had a bit of a struggle keeping this fish in the net.  I think next year his net will be considerably bigger.

We caught lots of 3-31/2 lb rainbows, numerous 4 lbr’s and a fattie that went over 4 plus Daryl’s big fish of 5 1/2 lbs.  Lots of 19″-22″ Bear lake cutt’s were landed.  Between us we landed 9 Tiger trout which is just about unheard of there.  Many locals have never caught one on a fly yet.  We averaged 15-25 fish a day and your arms felt like it too.   The rainbows fought as hard and jumped as good as any rainbow I have ever caught including the Kamloops in B.C.  95% were caught on simi’s tied up especially for Panguitch using an intermediate line.  With the weather being bad the Callibaetis came off mostly all day and this brought the big fish up shallow.  We simply casted to rises or kept our simi’s in the upper water column and they hammered them.  With the amount of food in this lake I can see it becoming one of the premier lakes in the West, surely one I plan on hitting a lot in the future. 

Hurricane Lake June 12-14 2009

Hurricane Lake

We spent the past weekend camped at Hurricane Lake with about 30 friends.

The unusual June weather continued – it was windy, cool, and occasionally cloudy. Despite this, the fishing was fair to good.

Like the weather, there was no predictable fly. Just about the time you thought you had it figured out, you would find yourself trying a new pattern after a few minutes.

The Apache trout were varied in size. Most of the fish were around 13-15″ with the dink and odd 17″ + thrown in.

Hurricane Lake

Hurricane Lake

Hurricane Lake

Hurricane Lake

Late in the evening, the winds would lay down and everyone would grab their rod in anticipation of the rise. Friday evening was one of those sessions we dream about – water like glass and fish rising like mad along the bank. Lots of tight lines and laughs all around.

Hurricane Lake

Thanks to everyone for coming. It was a pleasure.

Other notes:

Fishing was good at Reservation and Drift Fence for stockers. Pacheta was slow during the day, except for the fingerlings

Damsels are starting to show.