We just returned from our annual spring guides trip. This year we went back to Cody, WY after visiting last season when we got rained out on the Bighorn. The rivers were blown out last year in May but we enjoyed the area so decided to give it another shot. Half of the fun of fly fishing is trying to figure out how to unlock the code on a given river and for a specific time of year. We rented out a great ranch on Rock Creek at the edge of the Beartooth front about 30 minutes from Cody and just 10 miles from the Montana border.
Fishing is only part of the experience on a trip like this and our crew of 8 guys thoroughly enjoyed fishing by day followed by great food back at the ranch and some heated rounds of “Kubb” on the lawn followed by pool in the game room once the sun went down. Our fishing was a mix bagged of blinding brilliance and “should have been here yesterday”. We are slowly getting the Cody area dialed in and are already looking forward to 2013. No other location matches Montana fishing for diversity and quality of wild trout fisheries, but it is always fun to explore some new waters!
Day 1: North Fork Shoshone We targeted the North Fork of the Shoshone on our first day of fishing to intercept the lake run rainbows out of Buffalo Bill Reservoir. The lower part of the river is closed until Newton Creek. The fish were already above the closure and we hit numerous rainbows in the 15-20” class. The top fly was a small brown size 10 stone that imitates the Skwala stonefly that was hatching. Worms, egg patterns and princes were also productive. The trout were definitely hold up and were in surprisingly fast water for April. The most productive water was the medium speed riffles at the head of deeper pools with about 3 feet of depth. When you found fish we often pulled out 4-8 trout out of each run. Sometimes an hour or so went between nice pools. After lunch the fishing really heated up and we managed some big bows and a few nice cuts. The scenery was outstanding and many of the wildlife were along the river corridor including some giant bighorn rams, bison and lots of mule deer.
Day 2: Shoshone tailwater The Shoshone had been fishing lights out for several weeks over midges and baetis hatches. About 2 days before we arrived they bumped flows from the dam which reduced clarity a bit and released a lot of moss. The river was still green so we gave it a shot. We had some great action right out of the gates near the put in with a nice midge hatch bringing up a about a dozen trout along a grassy bank. When we went back to drifting we had action every 5 minutes pulling light colored streamers for the first hour after the put in. Lots of chases and a few hookups on browns and cutthroats. As we continued our float the moss became more problematic and the fishing dropped off after lunch and became pretty slow. We learned from the guys at Tim Wade’s shop that they tend to bump flows around the 15th of april each year due to calls for irrigation. We decided to time our trip a week early for 2013 to try to catch this fun little tailwater that can offer great dry fly fishing over spring hatches.
Day 3: Newton Lakes Our plan A on the third day was to hike up into the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone canyon and do some more wade fishing. Unfortunately the warm weather had bumped the flows overnight so we opted to fish the Newton Lakes trophy stillwater. Newton produced our only good fishing from 2012 when we arrived in late May during run off. The midge hatch was on when we arrived and we managed to produce some nice hookups on 20” browns sipping midges while cruising the banks. Matt and Adam did some deep nymphing by slow twitching scuds and chironomids and had steady action and even a few doubles. Our boat opted to continue sight fishing and patrolled the banks looking for more cruisers. Once the midge hatch stopped the fish weren’t as shallow and the sight fishing wasn’t as good as last year. The callibaetis were just beginning to hatch but not in enough abundance to really turn things on. Many of the rainbows were in the “false spawn” and were chasing each other along gravel patches but not interested in feeding. We weren’t interested in nymphing and managed a few more eats in the shallows but nothing spectacular.
Summary After our second spring trip to the Cody, WY area we are slowly beginning to figure out the timing and access areas. We nailed our timing for the North Fork rainbow run but were just a few days late to catch the good dry fly fishing on the Shoshone. Next year we have decided to arrive one week early to get there before they calls for irrigation cause bumps on the flows of the Shoshone. Part of the fun of fly fishing is figuring out new rivers and streams and we will keep going back until we get this new location dialed in!