In the state of Wyoming cattle and sheep outnumber people five to one, and with just over half a million people it’s the least populated state in the nation. For the fly fisherman, the prospect of miles upon miles of trout streams, with not very many anglers fishing them, can only mean good things.
During the summer Wyoming seems to draws people in from everywhere - sightseers and tourists to it’s beautiful national parks, and campers and hikers to it’s many wilderness areas. However, most fly fishermen seem to pass it by in favor of neighboring Colorado or Montana. When a well traveled fly fisherman hears that I guide there, at times they’ll ask why I decided not to fish somewhere where the fishing was better or the trout were bigger. Perhaps their ignorance is my own personal fishing salvation.
I’d been visiting Wyoming since I was a child. It’s where half of my family is from, where my grandfather first taught me to fly fish and tie flies, and now I’m drawn back there to continue those things - but also to guide and to share that experience with others. Every summer when I return it feels like I’m home - coming back to a place where the air is cleaner, the water clearer, and the fish more plentiful and willing to take a dry fly with no regard for their own well-being. It’s the birthplace of my passion, where exposure to fly fishing started me on a trip that hasn’t ended, and I doubt ever will.
There’s an allure there that few understand unless they’ve been there - the amenities and comforts of home aren’t easy to find, and the dangers of the wilderness are ever present. However, the beautiful mountains, expansive hay fields, deep canyons, and winding meadow stretches of stream that are home to the trout of a lifetime wait for those who go anyway.
People ask me all the time how I could possibly go to such a desolate place, and put the rest of my life on hold every summer just to to chase a couple trout. When I’m in Wyoming, dropping my drift boat in to a world-famous tailwater, or walking down the banks of a stream that few have ever heard of, nearly shaking in anticipation for what the day’s fishing might bring, I can’t help but wonder how I could possibly be doing anything else.
Arriving in May, you run the risk of running into the end of winter - and if it's anything like last winter, where record snowfalls and snowpacks accumulated much later than usual, you're in for some snowy nights and cold, dreary days. But after a couple weeks the white snow turns into low, grey, soupy clouds and the daytime temperatures begin to stay north of the 40 degree mark at night. Summer is on it's way, but it isn't quite there yet.
Finally the sun starts to shine, the snow slowly retreats to the mountains, and the fishing guides are stir crazy and ready to fish no matter how high the rivers are. For the past few years, enormous snowpacks and warm months of June have meant high water, and lots of it. This year was certainly not the exception, as unthinkable amounts of snow delayed fishing in certain areas of the Rockies until late-August - dashing the dreams of angler and guide alike. However, in our neck of the woods we're blessed with a diversity of rivers and streams to fish unlike anywhere else I know of. One end of the mountains drains slightly lower elevations than the other, and the smaller streams down there, that have some of the most prolific stonefly hatches I've ever seen started to fish before just about anything else in the West.
A pontoon boat, a couple guides that can play double duty on the sticks and with the fly pole, and some cooperative fish are all that's needed to get things going in a pretty big way.
As the water drops a bit more, wading becomes an option, and the streamer fishing on a couple select creeks becomes something pretty special. This time of year is one of my favorites - the river is swollen with runoff, and stretches that are very productive in the coming months are all but unfishable through June. The fish, wild as they are, know how to deal with these times of hardship. Water carries food, and that's what the big predatory browns are looking for after a long, cold, winter. A properly placed streamer is likely to draw out some of the big boys, and as the saying goes, "everything is bigger in Wyoming."