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The Greys and No Blues

Swimming in PsychedeliaIf you’ve read my blog before, you may know I have a bit of a thing for the Greys River in western Wyoming. With the drought gripping the nation, including our neck of the woods, I was a bit worried about this year’s trip to the Greys. The water was down when we arrived July 10th (for that date, it was down) but it was actually just about right for fishing.

The Greys River is about 60 miles long. When I started fishing the Greys some 15 years ago it took me a bit of time to find the “sweet spot” where I was consistently catching fish. I narrowed in on a five mile section and pretty much stuck with that for ten years without much of a problem finding fish and avoiding anglers. But over the past five years or so there has been an increase in fishing pressure and a corresponding decrease in fish in the “usual” areas.

Dan's CutthroatSo the last couple of times Dan and I have tried to expand our horizons a bit and find some fresh waters to fish. We have a few favorites, but we try to add a couple of miles to the home stretch. We hit a couple of new spots on the way up the, with Dan catching seven or eight fish and me catching a couple.

This year we wanted to camp near a spot we have had both success and frustration on before. One nice thing about the river is that there is open camping along almost the entire river. There are about five National Forest campgrounds, but you can also just find an open spot and pull over and camp. We found the place we wanted to camp available, so we pulled the trailer in. I hopped out to check the area because I thought I saw something in the bushes. It was a couple in their side-by-side four wheeler pulling away from the river.

Cutthroat Art 2We had a nice chat and he offered the nugget of advice that the fishing was slow (they hadn’t pulled anything out of the the hole they had just fished, which Dan had taken at least five nice fish from last year), but the few hits they had caught in the last day had been on large Adams and dark elk hair caddis. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we had picked up about ten fish in the hour or so it took it to drive and fish our way up the river with Dan using an Adams and I was using an elk hair caddis. Along with the advice, he also offered me a beer. It was not quite 11:00AM. I have my suspicions about his lack of fish.

A Greys River EveningAfter dumping off the trailer, and grabbing a bite to to eat, we headed upriver for a full day of fishing. When I say a full day of fishing, I mean we fish – hard. It really hasn’t hit me until recently that when Dan and I fish, we might not be typical in the amount of time we’re on the water. We are either fishing, or driving to the next place to fish. We might snack on things we have in the truck, but there is no stopping to look around. We don’t hang out on the river’s edge looking at the water. We don’t wait for a hatch. We fish. On this particular day, we got to the Greys around 10:00AM. Fished a bit driving to the campsite. Then Fished from about 11:30 until dark – about 9:30. We drove to multiple places, but I would imagine during that ten hour span we fished at least eight hours. Meaning we were actually waving flies around and setting them on the water for eight hours. That’s typical. If we are on the river by 7 in the morning, we’re not done until dark. Fishing the entire time except for driving, meaning ten to twelve hours of fishing. Are we atypical, or typical? Give me some feedback.

Evening Caught CutthroatSo it ended up being an incredible day for me with something like 25 fish caught. Anybody would feel good about a day like that. Right? Well, I was somehow feeling a bit let down. When I catch that many fish on the Greys, the bulk of them are usually between 12″ and 18″. Most of my fish were between 8″ and 14″. But the biggest thing causing me to feel less than adequate was the day Dan had – he caught over 60 fish, with a good chunk of them in that 14″-18″ range! Every time I peeked his way it seemed like he had a fish on or he was releasing one – it was something to behold.

We got back to camp and I cooked up some potatoes, onions and t-bone steaks. Dan spent a little time patching up his waders. Neither of us had anything appropriate, but he did have some nail polish (I think is what it was) with his fly tying kit. He applied a liberal dose and put some yellow rubber legs on to it to help give the polish something to hold on to (see pic in the gallery at the bottom of the page). Then it was time for some sleep.

Dan at the Bear I’m an early morning riser by nature (I can rarely sleep past 6 – it drove my parents crazy when I was always up at 5 and messing around). I actually got Dan up early and we hit the water shortly after 7. He tends to sleep in a bit later and I’ll often fish an hour or so then go back for breakfast and pick him up. He finally caught the vision of fishing with the rising sun that morning as he got into a hole that produced 6 16″ cutts and another hole with an eighteen incher. I landed a couple of fish as well, but Dan had his sights set on a 100 fish trip as he continued his count from the day before.

The Cliffs of Insanity - (or, Where's Dano?)We made our way back to Mr. have-a-beer’s hole near our camp and caught a handful more 16″ fish. And then we took off for waters new and also unknown. It’s actually been nice to seek new places to fish. We had a couple of spots we found last year, such as The Cliffs of Insanity (see the picture to the left – click to enlarge and see if you can find Dan) which we headed to. We got into some nice fish and then worked our way into a few new spots which ended up being my Nirvana. This new stretch had just a few fish, but they were all over 16″ with the biggest being a shade over 20″. He was hanging beneath a couple of downed trees that were criss-crossed and formed a nice pool with the trunks providing nice cover. I positioned myself on the shore and just dabbled my line on the upstream edge of the lowest log. A fish nipped at my fly just as I was pulling it off the water so it wasn’t sucked under the tree and snagged. It appeared to be a good-sized fish and I was pretty sure it hadn’t felt the fly. So I gave it a few seconds to shake off it’s miss but tossing my fly upstream a ways a few times. Then I came back to him. On the fly’s first pass, I made sure to wait as long as possible, and sure enough, he hit the fly hard. I set the hook and quickly played him in the relatively small hole while keeping him away from the tree trunks. One nice thing about the Greys is that I’ve found a heavier tippet doesn’t seem to affect a fish’s willingness to hit my fly. So I was able to horse the fish to shore rather quickly, but he shook free while I was getting my camera ready.

Waiting Out the Rain in the TruckThe mountain ranges the Greys sits between ranges of mountains with peaks and ridges over 10,000  feet, so it can be a thundercloud generator, and this trip proved it. After waiting out a quick thunderstorm, we were soon back on the river. I continued to make up for my smaller fish day from the day before and Dan struggled keeping his insane numbers up from the day before.

In the end I had a great day and Dan got very close to his 100 fish mark.

Cody's First Fish on a FlyI was back on the Greys about a three weeks later. This time I was with a group of young men from our church. We were rafting the Snake River and I suggested that the Greys River would be the perfect spot to camp since it was off the main highway and yet close to the rafting. A couple of the kids and an adult leader wanted to learn to fly fish, so I took extra gear. We arrived about noon on Monday and fished the rest of the day. I fished before breakfast the next two mornings before heading to the Snake River to raft. Each evening I fished until dark. Then on Thursday we had breakfast, broke camp and fished until about 4.

One of the boys, Cody, quickly caught a fish after about an hour’s worth of instruction on the first day. He’s got a great natural casting rhythm (he’s a soccer player and on a dance team, so maybe that’s why). The other young man, JJ, I had taken fishing last year on some local waters with another fishing newbie. On that trip he hadn’t caught anything, but he did witness me take only my second ever plunge into the water. He likes to remind me of that frequently. Anyhow, I figure I can pay him back by including a picture of where he spent a lot of his time – in the trees!

JJ's Fly in the TreeJJ actually picked up a three inch fish (the first day, I think) and then two fish on the second evening of the trip. So it was good to see him finally catch one.

That just left the adult, Kody. His dad had been a fly fisherman, but Kody had never had an interest while he was alive. His father had actually had a heart attack on a snowmobiling trip with Kody up the Little Greys, not too far from where we camped. His father died on that trip, and Kody had wanted for some time to try fly fishing. I was happy to provide some [questionable] expertise. I’ve only helped a few people learn to fly fish, but one thing I notice is a propensity to want to throw the fly like a lure or bait. I harped on Kody pretty good about that on Thursday. Along with the timing and not dropping the rod tip too far on the backcast. Anyhow, I put Kody onto some of the most consistently producing holes I fish. To no avail. The fish were there, but Kody was having a hard time setting the hook – either he saw the take to late, or he tried setting the fly so hard that it just ripped out of the fish’s mouth.

He was getting a bit frustrated, but it was time for us to start heading back to get ready to go home. A couple of my old favorite corner pools hadn’t had anybody parked along that stretch of the road all day, so I decided to take a risk and give them a shot. I had been staying with him the whole time trying to help coach him into that first fish. During the day he had at least two fish on briefly, but could never land them. About half an hour into these final holes, he finally had his breakthrough moment and landed an 18 1/4″ beauty. He was ecstatic, and it was a satisfying moment for me.

It was a great summer on the greys for me this year, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s visit.

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Discussion

5 comments for “The Greys and No Blues”

  1. Great report Scott. Not quite as good as being there myself, but it will have to do for awhile!

    We are heading out to southern Utah to visit Arches, Canyonlands and Capital Reef National Parks on 9/7. Not sure what the fishing opportunities are in that part of the state.

    Posted by HarryL | August 20, 2012, 12:05 pm
    • Thanks for dropping in again. The fishing is fairly limited. The best fishing around Moab would most likely be in the La Sal mountains (do a Google search for opportunities). I’m guessing mostly lake fishing. Running through Capitol Reef (one of my favorite “locals” places, although more out-of-staters going there now) is the Fremont River. It’s tough fishing, but if you can afford the private sections (look online for outfitters), there are some nice fish to be had. Also some lake fishing in the Boulder Mountain south of Torrey. You’ll want to swing in to Cafe Diablo in Torrey while you’re there. Let me know how it goes.

      Posted by Cutthroat Stalker (Scott) | August 26, 2012, 5:15 pm
  2. the pictures are beautiful

    Posted by Cine Rock | August 29, 2012, 2:25 pm
  3. excellent narrative exciting informative and clear crisp pictures too..continued sucess looking foward to the next ‘episode’

    Posted by fishingtalking | August 30, 2012, 9:39 pm
  4. Wow some great looking fish!I will have to check out Greys river some time.

    The colors of those fish are just simply amazing!

    Posted by Alex | May 22, 2013, 2:15 am

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