Monday, November 27, 2017

Water Valley ranch Encampment

Another retreat to the Water Valley ranch, for reflection and some fishing, late September. We got some colors on the drive, though in Wyoming and Colorado most of our colors are green with a bit yellow in the fall. Later arrivals had an inch of snow to get through on the slick muddy road, we were early enough to just have rain.

Greg and I headed out to the pond under pouring rain. The ranch hand said, 'true outdoorsmen' to which I replied, 'truly foolish'. When you are a city slicker with a chance at some WY fishing, weather don't matter, at least until your lips turn blue.

This brown hit a small olive streamer fly. He ran out to the backing and then flourished on the surface, way out in the dappled water.

Father Ted and Father Lou arrived a bit later on the road by the pond and didn't believe in my fish, doubting Thomases all.

Next day we did retreat things until mid-afternoon then headed upriver. Five of us, the other four at least are decent to good flyfishermen, accounted for just two fish, a 5" rainbow and a 10" brown. I nearly caught a small brown out of the white froth here. He rolled up to take the Crackleback but my strike was too late, too early, too sideways, who knows. 

The 70s vintage rod and reel, Browning Silaflex 322975 perfectly delightful, and Martin 67.

Next day we went downriver to work back up. I took the lowest beat which began with a half-mile of shallow water and no holding pools. Sometimes there will be smaller fish in the pockets but not today. I was almost resigned to another skunk when a 3' deep pool arrived. It had not much of anything for cover with two main currents plunging in. The skunk-buster, handsomely spotted 11" bow, took a #16 beadhead zebra midge. See below for its appearance at the end of the day.

A small brown came out of the slack water between the currents. Usually by now I'd expect to have spooked the pool and would move on, today the dearth of holding water kept me fishing carefully and patiently. In the end there were six takers in the pool, landed five, including a strong handsome 16" bow. Every fish today took the zebra midge and ignored everything on the surface.

The view from the pool, more discouragingly thin water. Jeff sits on a rock disentangling his line. I tried to guide Jeff to a fish but did not succeed, partly because I'm a lousy guide and partly for other reasons. He's a very driven guy, likes to move fast and fix things. 'Fast' doesn't translate well to fishing, as I observed to him. This gave his wife a good laugh later, when Jeff mentioned to her that I thought him not well suited to become Piscator.

Way up around the bend there was a bit deeper water in shadow which yielded two medium 'bows and a pretty little brown.

nothing to say here, but it is such a pretty speckled fish..

Lunched contentedly on a rock in the sun.  Still life with no fish. I love the industrial look of these Martin reels, solid functional US engineering.

The ranch owner is planning to start a restaurant in Cheyenne and had the chef working at the ranch in the meantime. Juan is a graduate of Johnson&Wales culinary school who produced spectacular meals three times a day. It was difficult to refrain from licking my plate. For lunch the sandwich was on a ciabatta roll with at least ten different flavors going on, I ruminated upon each mouthful.

After lunch I saw a big brown movement upriver, at first thought otter, but then realized it was a wader leg. Jeff was taking a restless little nap among the yellow leaves. He'd fished down some good water without moving anyone. We rested a bit and went back up. I sent Jeff up to the good-looking pool and fished a little riffle below it. After twenty casts or so the Crackleback stopped and this big 'bow came thrashing up to the surface, then bolted downstream.

Usually in these situations I apply side strain to persuade the fish into an eddy on my side of the river, then run around to get below while holding a light pressure. Often enough the fish will pause in the eddy and let me do this. The side water was so thin the fish didn't hold anywhere and ran back into the current each time, took me about fifty yards to finally wear him down.

We humped back up to the trail and walked back toward the ranch and a very Wyoming, very River Runs Through It kind of scene.

The pond above them is where the brown came from.

Here's the remnant of a well-chewed zebra midge, ready for its honorable retirement. Actually I'll probably keep fishing it until they stop taking it.

At one point in all our adventuring Fr. Lou wandered off and didn't show up for the evening service. Jeff the ex-backpacking guide and I the trail-runner, rambled off on the darkening hills to look for our lost sheep. Two young men in the company left behind, looked at each other worriedly, and came after us in case the old guys ran into trouble. We took this gratefully as we came out with Fr Lou, who had lost track of the time a bit.