Still A LOT of snow up there

It’s the end of May, but you’d never know it here in Jackson
Hole. We’ve had an incredibly cold, wet spring this year. In
fact, just this week snow was falling and more is on the way,
with another storm system predicted to hit Western Wyoming
Sunday night. The snow pack stands at 237% of average and
locals are concerned with the flooding that will most likely
happen when temperatures warm and the snow begins melting.

It’s not uncommon to have this kind of weather at the end of
May (seems that it always snows on Memorial Day), but it is
uncommon to have so much snow sitting in the mountains
(even the old timers I talk to seem baffled). Fortunately, it
looks like sunshine is forecasted to arrive next week. Hopefully
it does, as everyone in the valley is starting to go a little

Consequently, the fishing around here hasn’t been much to talk
about. All major rivers are muddy and swollen, with lakes in
the Tetons just starting to loose their ice. I’ve been getting out
and focusing my attention on a few small streams that have
remained fairly clear. The fish in them aren’t big, but they are
pretty, and happily take flies. Yesterday, after teaching a
cartooning project to high school biology students, my friend
Matt and I fished a nice local stream. And while it was off
color, we manage to catch a couple nice cutthroat trout on
nymphs- a fitting end to the work week.

For now, I’m going to enjoy the three day weekend with Jamie
and Sage; focusing my attention on family walks, playing some
guitar and tinkering with fishing gear with hopes of nicer
weather to come.

Fishing, just in case..

While the world (or at least a few crazies) waited with
bated breath for the impending Rapture, Sage and I and went
fishing….I mean if the world’s going to end, we might as well
get one more day of fly fishing in.

We settled on a piece of lesser-known water that I
suspected would be clear and fishable. While far from being
the legendary type of fishery that the West is known for, this
water is a sentimental favorite that never lets me down. I
took to fishing dry flies in a few favorite holes, fooling several
brook trout, while Sage happily sniffed out some expired elk.
We ended the day, having dinner with my friend Joe, grilling
buffalo ribeyes and sipping whiskey. A fitting way to end
things, just in case…….

brook trout

a brook trout's world

stream sketch

Fly rods and Individuals

I recently accompanied a friend to the local fly shop. I was
along to aid in his quest for a new fly rod, and while the visit
was about helping him, I selfishly was excited to cast some
rods myself; comparing tapers and actions from brands that I
never have judged face to face before.

Prior to arrival, the goal was to find the ultimate five
weight. Somewhere along the way though, things changed and
we set our sights on a four weight; a rod that would cast a dry
fly perfectly on one the many small meadow and mountain
streams we fish out here in Wyoming. Not an all-purpose rod
by any means, more a luxury item that would only be used
when fishing to cutthroat trout on hot summer days. Here’s
where things got interesting. While we cast approximately six
rods from several manufactures, our opinions varied greatly. A
rod that my friend loved, I couldn’t put down fast enough, and
a slow action rod that I quickly became smitten with, my friend
shrugged off in favor of a stiff brown pole made of space age
NASA stuff.

Regardless of our preferences, we did think it was pretty
cool how rods, much like guitars, are destined for certain
individuals. Different rods appeal to different casting styles. I
think the guy at the fly shop said it best when he explained to
my friend that no amount of fancy writing or opinions matter,
“the rod picks you.” And it was true because at the end our
comparison, my friend picked the rod that he connected with,
not the green one that I liked and not the fancy one that
earned 50 gold stars in the magazine shootout.

Our time spent casting rods made me examine my own
preferences and rod arsenal. Deep down I’m a guy who likes a
slow action rod, but I know that for practicality, it’s hard to
argue with a fast action 5wt, at least for our here in the West,
where wind and bulky flies are the name of the game. I also
realized that despite all the fancy polymers and nano weight
technologies being employed to create fly rods these days, it
doesn’t really matter. A rod from 20 years ago cast just as well
(maybe even better- yeah, I said it) as the current crop being
built in today’s arms race.

Here’s to hoping for a Winston 4 weight some day……

and slow


Normally I am not one to participate in the yearly snowpack/
runoff speculation. I shy away from discussions, refusing to
theorize, reasoning that an act of nature that happens EVERY
year doesn’t warrant conjecture from a bearded fisherman; it’s
going to happen. Oblivious to people’s predictions and
anticipations, the snow melts, rivers rise, rivers clear and fly
fishing in Jackson Hole turns great. This year will be no
different. Let’s get on with it already though!

I’ve tried being patient and understanding, adopting a Zen-like
demeanor, “fishing will be ready when”…. you get the point.
Seriously though, there is a TON of snow in the mountains that
needs to start melting or we’re not going to be fishing until
September of 2012! I won’t bore you with all the numbers and
graphs, just know that winter (and snow) got serious around
here back in November, and hasn’t relented. In fact, just
yesterday as I sat at my fly tying desk crafting foam hoppers,
giant snowflakes choked off the sun and blanketed new grass
sprouting up in the backyard.

I’m trying to be strong here folks, but damn it I’m ready for
spring; ready to wear my flip flops, don Hawaiian shirts with
reckless abandonment and most importantly, fish! At this point
I’d simply like a decent fishing option….something that doesn’t
require pounds of split shot and a prayer. Heck, I’d gladly take
a lake (yeah, I said it), but in order to fish a lake, it has to be
free of ice, and we’re a ways off from that happening too.

Sooner or later, like every year, snow WILL melt, rivers WILL
rise and fall and fly fishing in Jackson Hole WILL return to
glory. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later because
I’ve got rods strung up in the garage and I’m growing

A brown trout and a brown bear

Saturday’s fishing adventure up north didn’t offer much in the
way of fish; one scrappy little brown trout fell for a nymph, but
aside from that, the only thing we got was wet. We did learn that
the resident grizzly bears are up and active….

joe fishing




Heartbreaker. That’s the name I’ve given to Albula vulpes,
commonly known as the Bonefish. I came to this name while
strolling the sunburned flats, having been rejected yet again by
a shadow whose only prominent feature I could make out was
a small middle finger pointed in my direction as its owner
headed away from me with alarming speed. “Hmm. Did I put
the fly too close- maybe too far to the left? Hell, I don’t even
think it saw my fly. Of course it did- it’s swimming away you

I have never encountered another fish (save the Permit,
but folks seeking them know what they’re getting into) so
good at making grown men question themselves and their
fishing abilities; just flat out zapping them of any self esteem
they may have had. Yet at the same time, just when all hope
is lost, these fish can (and do) make you feel like a hero,
inhaling a fly and running out a hundred plus yards of line
from a buzzing reel in seconds. Not surprisingly, self esteem
suddenly rebounds, and for a minute or two you think that if
you were to die this very second, it would be okay, even

The 20 hour journey back to the Wyoming tundra gave me
quite a bit of time to reflect on Bonefish and the obsession that
spurs us on in pursuit of them, all while risking financial and
marital ruins. After spending two weeks in the tropics pursuing
these cold, heartless creatures, I’d like to think I learned a few
things, but overall, I’m left with more questions than answers;
Why does that big, single, cruising fish veer slightly to left of
where my fly has been patiently waiting? Heartbreaking, just
heartbreaking I tell ya.

In the end, I guess the only way to deal with such a fickle
creature is to come clean with yourself, admitting that even
though they break your heart, you love it and will happily sign
up for it again and again!


A pirate’s life for me..

I’ve returned to the cold mountains of Wyoming, after
doing my best to live like a pirate for the past two weeks;
consulting a hand-written tide chart daily, consuming copious
amounts of rum, neglecting to wear shoes and combing pink
sand beaches in search of treasure. A man could get used to
this sort of thing. The treasure I (and my friend Kurt) sought
(and discovered) came in the form of bonefish. All our
searching was done together on foot, with 8 weight rods and
hand-tied flies. The first week was fantastic. The second
week, not so much (wind and clouds made fish spotting
impossible). Overall though, our trip was a major success and
a much needed break.

casting for bonefish


on flat

Kurt's first bonefish

mutton snapper