One of the best parts about operating a fishing travel business is that our clients never scold us if we decide to actually go fishing. In fact, usually clients give us all the rationalization we need with a "Good for you, e-mail me some photos when you get back". We call it product development, our wives call it something else. Is this a great job or what!!
The predictions for the upcoming weekend were for beautiful August weather, so Brad and I decided to play hooky on Friday and spend a few days probing the Bighorn Mountains for big fish. We left A.D. headquarters after collecting messages and answering only the most urgent of phone calls. We grabbed our backpacks, a few freeze dries and the makings of a fish chowder and left our responsibilities at the trailhead into the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area... less than twenty minutes from our office, but due to the demands of our work schedule, all too rarely visited.
It took us six hours to hike in and five hours to hike out. In those 11 hours, we crossed four 10,000 foot passes in a grueling testament to the absurd lengths fly fishermen will go in pursuit of their quarry. Of the three days we spent on this adventure, we fished only one day... but what an incredible day it was! We won't tell you the lake where we caught these fish (unless you ply us with beer and swear eternal silence). We will tell you that much of our fishing was with dry flies or with small nymphs droppered off dries and that most of our success came after sighting cruising fish. Most of our fish were over sixteen inches, a few were over eighteen and one Rubenesque hen was over twenty-one inches and weighed in at a mind-numbing seven pounds! This fat lady took a #12 ginger quill that was the only fly in our boxes that imitated the large gray drake spinners that the light wind had piled up against the lake's rockiest shore. Here, gangs of sixteen plus inch cutts' lazily slurped up these large spent spinners in an act of gluttony that, judging by their fat bellies, was not an isolated event.
Rises to our dries were agonizingly slow. The fish climbed up through the mesmerizingly clear water as if suspended in Karo Syrup. These slow motion takes define the cutthroat species and encourage anglers to strike as if Valium was being fed to them on a slow drip. Sometimes the larger cutts' would rise confidently to our dries only to refuse this delectable morsel and veer off, mouths agape, to inhale the droppered nymph... our clue to strike was the slowly closing white mouth. Patience in striking was a virtue here. Adrenaline translated to as many misses as takes. After seven incredible hours, we left rising fish at 5:00 P.M. when the first of the hail started to noisily plop on the calm surface of the lake. We were afraid that the glacial rock heaps that defined our decent route would get too slippery if the hail turned to rain. We reluctantly turned our backs to the risers insuring that discretion would be the better part of valor this day. We started our decent to camp from this 10,600-foot aerie. Our route took us through fields of wildflowers and over fresh elk tracks lightly salted with fresh hailstones. We hiked in silence, neither of us quite believing what we had just experienced.
If you are a fit angler with a will to explore, give us a call. Many lakes and streams like this sit waiting in the Bighorns. They demand only stamina and a willingness to camp. If this describes you, we can arrange either horsepack or backpack guides both of which allow hardy anglers to access Wyoming's high country lakes and streams for a true "peak experience".