Lifelong angling buddies, Ed Weber of Rochester, N.Y., and Gary Giudice from Norman, Okla., are fly fishing their way up the spine of the Rocky Mountains following mayfly hatches. They started in the White Mountains of Arizona and will end on the Bow River of Alberta, Canada. This blog follows their trip.
LIVINGSTON, Mont. — If you are reading this you are most likely a fly fisherman. A fisher of trout.
So, if asked to describe a perfect trout stream, what would you say?
Most likely, at first, it would have something to do with catching lots of fish. But after some thought you would start qualifying what the stream would look like, how it would fish, how many people were there and on and on and on.
Please, allow me some thoughts on the subject. I'm no expert. I'm just another guy who loves to catch wild fish with a fly rod. I'd love to hear what the experts have to say, but here's my view.
I think my traveling buddy, Ed Weber out of Rochester, N.Y., agrees with me for the most part, but here goes my perfect trout stream.
The stream should have lots of wild trout: Rainbows, browns and cutthroat. It should be clear and never rise or fall more than an inch or two. The fish should be smart but not too smart, with a chance at big fish.
Hatches should be happening all day, every day making the fish fat as footballs. And you should have the water to yourself for the most part. A little history and legend would be nice. Let's add a backdrop of pretty mountains. Sounds like heaven to me but I'm no expert.
I've fished countless streams in my life in many parts of the planet. And I can say there is only one place like this that I have seen. Maybe there are others, I wouldn't know but I can assure you there's at least one place to fish in fly fishers heaven — The Spring Creeks of Paradise Valley.
Ed and I have been on the road for over three weeks, following trout right up the spine of the Rocky Mountains. High, turbid water seems to be everywhere we stop. Late runoff and unseasonable heavy rains are everywhere up and down the range.
We have abandoned our original plans. We are dreaming of water to wade without fear of life and limb, and trout that are eating mayflies floating on the surface like perfect little sailboats.
We are now stopping at DePuy's Spring Creek in the Paradise Valley just south of Livingston, Mont., and north of Yellowstone Park. DePuy's is exactly as I described my perfect water, our fly fisher's heaven.
We were here a year ago and put the final plans to this year's monthlong trip. We fished DePuy's well that day last year, catching countless fat fish on dries. Pale morning duns (PMDs) hatched all day then, and as we pulled up to the stream's edge today they were at it again.
Emergers, duns or spinners were all we needed, small, size 18 and 20, and the fish were rising to them well. A good drift to a feeding fish meant a strike. A good gentle hook set and a careful battle meant a fish to net.
There were other mayflies, a few caddis and even a few of the small yellow sally stone flies, but the PMDs were the favored food for the trout and all we needed to catch them.
Starting midday the terrestrials would come off well but we didn't try them. Ants, beetles and hoppers fool even these cagy trout.
Please don't misunderstand, it's not like you can catch a fish every cast. There are slow times, but just about the time you start getting frustrated they start eating well again.
Wave after wave of PMDs start coming off and the fish go nuts for a while building our egos and making us think at least for a while we're getting pretty good at this game.
Then something changes and you have to stop and try to figure it out all over again, bringing us back to reality.
DePuy's is about as wide as your living room. Most of the gentle flow is no more than waist deep. Back casts often get caught in streamside willows, but something at this wonderful place needs to teach you just a touch of humility.
Pools, glides, long runs and a little bumpy water give us a taste of everything. And like everyplace else a good mend trumps a long cast every time. It's all about the drift.
An eight and a half-foot four weight or three weight is about perfect. We used 5X tippets and maybe we would've caught more with 6X, but just how many fish do we need to catch anyway?
It can be spot and stalk fishing at its finest. Watch the fish; learn what it's doing then fish to it. This is way cool!
DePuy's has a fly shop right on the water. Buzz Basini is there most of the time to give you any guidance you may need or sell you some more flies that will work on any given day.
You must have reservations on any of the spring creeks here and there is a fee ranging from $100 a day in the summer down to about $40 in the winter. They limit the number of anglers so it is never crowded.
Most of the guests give you ample room. Moving around a bit is common practice here and it does make for a more enjoyable day. Lots of wildlife to see and fish to watch, so when you go take in as much as you can.
Fish up to and above 20 inches are fairly common but most are smaller. Ed and I caught them in all sizes and caught them all on dry flies, somethingg that has eluded us on most of this trip. What a place! We will be back, again and again I hope.
We're moving farther south now. We want to catch some of those rare fish we hear about from time to time. We were told by a guy from Colorado that green back cutthroats are to be found in Rocky Mountain National Park.
It's on the endangered species list but the park officials actually encourage anglers to try for them. We've got to see this so we are off. Maybe we'll find a place to catch some Rio Grande cutthroats as well. How cool would that be?
I sure hope this guy is telling us straight because leaving this perfect stream is not all that easy.