April fishing on the Snake River

I love April here in Jackson Hole. The fly fishing can be some of the best of the year for those willing to put up with weather conditions that range from sunny and warm to blizzards. I’ve been out on the Snake over the past week doing a few guided trips and fun days and man has the fishing been good! Fish are eating midges, small black stoneflies and the large Skwala stones, etc. Yesterday we fished size 8 chubby chernobyl’s all day long. Big, chunky Snake River Cutthroat trout came to the net from start to finish.

Had the pleasure of fishing newly weds Dana and Connor on the Snake last week. They didn’t mind the cold temps, especially when they had fish on their lines

Connor shows off his first ever cutthroat trout.

Friend Rich casts to risers at Astoria. Rich and I waded down from the bridge for a few hours hooking numerous trout of midges and stoneflies. Then we met Jamie across the river for a soak in the hot springs. Now that’s how you spend a Saturday!!
When the wife wants to fish, you fish. So great to float the Snake with Jamie and our good friend Rich. Here’s Jamie showing off one of many…

Looking forward to guiding the next two weeks to try and capitalize on the great pre runoff fishing. This time of year is tough to predict how long the window will be but I think things will be good well into next week at least. Looks like the Dam gods are about to up the flows out of Jackson Lake Dam. Hopefully this means that water levels will be consistent throughout the summer. See you on the water!

One of the many “doubles” these two put together.
And I even managed to throw a few casts.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Shameless selfie from Red Frog Beach; one of many Snapper species I found while prowling the warm waters of Panama

Just back from an adventure to Panama. Fly rods were taken and waved around. Here’s my report for others wondering about the DIY fly fishing down there…

Never really thinking much about Panama, I was intrigued when Jamie and our good friend Connie invited me to tag along on a beach adventure to Bocas Del Toro, Panama. We flew from Jackson, Wyoming to Panama City, spent the night and then took an hour flight to the island of Bocas Del Toro. The Bocas area is a series of islands located on the northeast side of Panama along the Caribbean. After landing and some food and drink, we got a water taxi to Bastimentos, a nearby island that would be our home for 8 days.

Just off the boat. Connie and Jamie walk the dock into the Jungle. A short walk through the jungle led us to Palmer Beach Lodge on Bastimentos. Later that week we would see a sloth climbing in the trees just off the boat ramp.
Red Frog in the jungle. Lots of these little poisonous frogs live in the jungle on Bastimentos, hence the name “Red Frog Beach”

Despite a lot of research on the internet, I wasn’t able to find much in the way of fly fishing intel for the area. There were some whispers about bonefish, permit and tarpon, but most fishing-related content focused on the great offshore fishing there. So with rods, flies and quick dry clothing, we took the quick 10 minute panga ride from Bocas, the island hub of the region to Bastimentos where Palmer Beach Lodge was located. This small “lodge” catered to travelers from all over, offering a variety of jungle accommodations ranging from tents and screened cabanas to a few air-conditioned rooms. It also had a small bar/ restaurant for meals. Overall it was a good place to stay; clean, friendly staff and fairly small with a nice beach- front location. I would definitely recommend an air-conditioned room, an upgrade we happily paid for after a night in a cabana spent sweating in the jungle humidity. We spent our time lounging around the beach, exploring other beaches, both by walking and going on a boat with a guide for two days, and renting e-bikes one day to get to some beaches on Bocas. While I enjoyed Palmer a lot, I think if I was doing it again I would split the trip between there and a few nights on Bocas just to have access to more restaurants and beaches without having to travel by boat.

Jamie and I help Victor beach our boat while exploring Zapatilla #2. Beautiful here but not much in the way of fish (for me anyway)
Me and Jamie enjoying Zapatilla

Now for the fishing report…. Fly fishing doesn’t seem to be done by anyone there, save a few anglers who travel a ways up the coast to fish for giant tarpon in the river systems. We went out two days with “guides”, a term I’ll use loosely since they didn’t have any fly fishing knowledge but were able to take use to some shallower reef areas where the girls could snorkel and I could wander around fishing. While these areas looked fishy, I failed to find much, save some needlefish and a Remora (a species that attaches itself to other larger fish). Another day we explored Polo Beach, a stunning beach about a 1.5 mile walk from where we were staying. Polo looked great; reef protecting the shore making for some good looking flats. There I caught a number of snappers and saw a couple barracuda, but nothing in the way of sight fishing. Rays and sharks were also lacking, something I notice everywhere I waded. An old local there told me to come back in the evening because the fish leave the area during the day because the water’s too hot. Unfortunately I never made it back in the evening so I don’t know if it would’ve been better.

Hoping for Jacks, this Remora decided to eat my Clouser minnow instead. Not something I was expecting….
Remora are usually found holding to other larger fish like sharks. They have an oval spot on their head that feels like ski skins and helps them latch on to other fish. Then they ride along their host feeding on scraps. Weird that this guy was hanging out unattached and wanted a fly. A new species for me but not one I need to catch again!
Panorama of Polo Beach, a gorgeous reef-protected beach a short walk from Red Frog. Despite looking like an ideal place for cruising fish, I caught nothing but snappers. A local said the fish go to deep water during the day to escape the hot water temperatures. Another told me the area is fished out.. Who knows? Definitely one of my favorite areas we explored.
One of the many snapper I found along Red Frog Beach. A slowly stripped white and Chartreuse Clouser in some coral/sand cuts got the job done repeatedly

In addition to Polo, I explored and fished the Red Frog beach area where we were staying. The beach here had pretty good size waves and strong currents making it tough to fish and best left to the surfers and swimmers. I did walk left (north i guess) to a small cove/coral area where I was told they’ve seen bonefish. Again, this area was pretty tough to fish with waves breaking and a lot of seaweed floating. I did however find a few cuts along the beach near this area and caught a lot of decent snappers (this was the most productive fishing water I found). Keep in mind though this was just blind casting. One sunny day there were some fish milling around along the beach but I couldn’t get them to show interest in anything I cast and I’m still not sure what they were.

A few other days of the trip were spent lounging around both because of the weather (it rains here often) and some disagreeable stomachs (finally got some Pepto and Diarrhea pills). I did get a tip about a cove a little ways down the beach that sometimes has tarpon hanging out in it. Unfortunately I never made it there. Our last day in the area we rented E-bikes on Bocas and rode the 17 or so KM to Boca Del Dragon, an amazing area on the northwest tip of the island. The ride took us through the jungle and countryside eventually landing us at Dragon, a protected reef area with beautiful beaches that apparently provided Columbus and his crew shelter during his forth voyage to the Americas. After having a nice lunch and drinks along the beach, I strung up my rod and wandered the shallows looking for fish. Again, no dice. We then hoped on a boat for a short run to Starfish beach, an area renowned for its starfish populations and snorkeling. I was excited but quickly discovered we weren’t the only ones hoping to enjoy this area. Upon arrival, there were tons of boats and other beach seekers enjoying the swimming with music, drink, etc. I wandered off to wade along the mangrove coastline hoping for a game changer. All I found though were a few small barracuda and mullet. We decided if we had to do it again, we would’ve just walked the path to starfish and hung on the beach about a half mile away from the action. It looked much calmer and more our style. No biggie though, still a cool area to see.

Me, Jamie and Connie aboard Captain Marcel’s boat. While Marcel specializes in off shore bait fishing, he happily took us out for the day to areas where the girls could snorkel and I could wander around with a fly rod. Fishing was tough (though no fault of Marcels) but we really enjoyed his company and knowledge. If you ever find yourself in Bocas and want to bait fish, I’d highly recommend him. Plus he and his wife run and B&B in Old Bank on Bastimentos. He said he’s seen bonefish and Permit along Zapatillas but we didn’t come across any that day.

The following day after lunch on Bocas, we hoped a flight back to Panama City, spent the night and then took three more planes home to Wyoming.

I have mixed feeling about Bocas. I’m extremely happy and grateful I went there and enjoyed seeing the jungle, sloths, etc. but it didn’t knock my socks off. It is extremely hot and humid there and rain was pretty common. Often the humidity made for overcast days. The town of Bocas reminded me of Tulum, MX before it was ruined; a ton of young European backpackers and hippies, local poverty and foreigner owned restaurants, bars and hotels catering to a hippie disco scene. l was left with mixed feelings. While there are some beautiful beaches, etc, just about any one you go too will be filled with people and boats on day excursions.

Downtown Bocas, a mix of restaurants, hostels, hotels and street vendors.

Fly Fishing-wise, I found it difficult. I got the sense talking to some expats that the locals have fished out much of the shallow water species and that, combined with the extremely warm inshore water temps and lack of tide, don’t lend itself to much of a fishery. Keeping in mind though that I only was there a week. Maybe I hit it wrong or like many places, just need much more time to figure out the fishery. All that said, definitely take a fly rod along if you’re going. You’ll find some snapper to keep things interesting and maybe a bonefish, Permit or Tarpon. The surf here along the beaches is pretty tough for fishing. Waves and strong current turn up the sand and offer limited predicability on how the water moves and when rogue waves will hit. Plus, there isn’t much of a tide change here; maybe 6-12″. While I took a couple rods, a 9wt (or 8wt) is fine. I tied on some bonefish and permit flies but the old chartreuse and white clouser was really all i used. Wouldn’t hurt to carry some white baitfish type streamer patterns too.

Aside from walking the beach, flats boots are crucial to fishing the reef coral flats area. The “flats” are deeper (3-5 feet) than other places I fished and currents were stronger too. Partly to mostly cloudy skies were common for us do to the humidity. One place I saw but unfortunately didn’t get to fish was the Playa Pauch beach area on Bocas. We saw this while riding bikes but it was getting too late to fish. Out of all the areas that I saw for fly fishing, this area looked best. due to the inshore reefs and shallow water. This looked like the place to be looking for Permit, Jacks etc. We spent two days fishing out and snorkeling the Zapatilla islands. These were beautiful but by noon are filled with boats and day tours making wade fishing challenging.

The desert, winter and gearing up

Family portrait: Jamie, Lulu and I hiking around Catalina State Park outside Tucson, AZ.

Not a fishing related report, but fun non the less. Jamie and I returned from spending a few weeks in Bisbee, Arizona. Over the years we’ve traveled to Bisbee a fair amount, visiting family and enjoying the funky mining town. Last year while there, we decided it’d be fun to spend a month in the winter there, researching what it’s like to live away from the Wyoming winter. Bisbee’s a great old mining town in Southern Arizona. Once home to a thriving copper mine, now old hippies and artists call it home. Being built into the sides of the Mule Mountains, Bisbee remains a great small town at a high elevation that keeps it cooler than much of Arizona. We ended up getting an air B and B for a month, driving down in early January and returning to Jackson about a week ago. The trip was great; lots of hiking, relaxing and visiting with my aunt and uncle and their friends. An impromptu trip to Aqua Prieta, across the border from Douglas, AZ led to a great, but horrible haircut (fortunately my hair will grow back!!). On the way home we visited friends in New Mexico, getting back to Jackson in time to see some other friends who were visiting from SLC and LA. Now that we’re home we’ve gotten back in the swing of things here in Jackson Hole. I’ve been substitute teaching and tying flies while Jamie’s back handling the community’s mental health needs.

Jamie in the Dragoon Mountains. We spent the day at a location called Council Rock where native americans left petroglyphs and it is believed Cochise made peace in 1872.
Always nice to see fishing clients on their home turf. Long-time client Craig and his lovely wife Sharon had us stay with them in Phoenix. We had a great time hanging with them; nice dinners, football, guitar shopping and hiking. Can’t wait to see them again!
Jamie on along Tombstone Canyon in Bisbee, AZ.
My Uncle Mark (center) at his local watering hole, Elmo’s Bar in Bisbee. Elmo’s is a classic Bisbee bar in Brewery Gluch. We thought it was best to start the morning with a Coors before embarking on a driving adventure to Slaughter Ranch, the US/Mexico border and the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, AZ.
Music night (one of many) with my Uncle, Kari and Ed. Bisbee is home to a diverse music scene; lots of bars, venues and local musicians. It was fun to crank up the guitars while there!

I’m beginning to get excited for fishing season. New gear and fly tying material are being ordered and my calendar is quickly filling up with fishing trips for the upcoming season. If you’re thinking about booking a trip with me, please get in touch quickly to ensure I get you on the schedule. This season will be another good one with trips to various local waters and all inclusive fishing cabin adventures. Currently still pretty cold here in Jackson but once the weather starts warming expect a few fishing pics and reports.

Back from Belize

I returned recently from spending 4 days fly fishing in Belize. Permit were the target of our trip and they lived up to their reputation; moody, elusive and frustrating. I had fished for Permit before in the years that Jamie and I frequented Xcalak, MX and even caught one, but this was the first time I ever went fishing exclusively for Permit. We stayed at the Blue Horizon Lodge, a fantastic, small fly fishing lodge located on an island off the southern coast of Belize. Each day we set out fishing the many, many Permit flats in the area. For whatever reason, fish didn’t cooperate. Despite being known as the “Permit Highway”, fish were hard to come by. Each day out, the six of us saw a few Permit, both from the bow of the boat and also while wading on foot. Most of these fish were moving quickly though and not keen on giving us many opportunities. Fortunately in addition to searching for Permit, there were other game fish to cast to; various Jacks, bonefish, triggerfish, snapper, bonita, etc. These other fish helped put the occasional bend in the rod while searching for the main target. Guides seemed frustrated by the lack of fish and we did our best to put out good casts when shots presented themselves.

While I had 2 or 3 solid chances, getting a few casts at feeding Permit (who ignored my flies) the Gods smiled on me the last day on the water when Ivan and I made a long run north to some turtlegrass flats along the reef. After motoring for over an hour, we reached our destination. Within ten minutes of wading shallow coral we spotted a big Permit feeding in the shallows. I made a few casts at it with an olive Bauer crab and the fish aggressively turned on my fly and ate it. I strip set and watched as my line went tight and the fish bolted for the reef. A few seconds later my line went slack and the biggest Permit of my life was gone, it’s big black fins disappearing into a cut in the reef and out into open ocean. He had broken me off in the shallow, rocky coral. Heartbreaking! Since it was early in the day, I tried to shake it off and tell myself we’d find another one. Unfortunately that’s all she wrote and I consoled myself with rum and hand-rolled cigarettes that night at the lodge.

While we didn’t catch any Permit, we had a great time in Belize. Permit fishing is notoriously difficult, frustrating, etc. and we all agreed we would happily do it again. I can’t say enough about the quality of the guides we fished with, the staff that put up with us and beauty of Belize. Time to start saving my pennies for a future trip!

Rich fishing in the distance while our guide Ivan, mans the ship
Guide Ivan motors Rich and I to another flat. Rich and I got to fish together two days and fish individually two other days.
Richard starting the day off on the bow.
Rich shows off a nice Yellow Jack. This fish fought like crazy! I had so much fun watching Rich catch this guy.
Guides ready for another day of hunting. Lincoln (in foreground), is a legendary Permit guide and still getting after it at 80 years young. Ivan is 65 and put up with me for 3 days. Both set a high standard for the younger guides.
Sneaking in some wade fishing during sunset. I saw a tail and lost the tail as the daylight faded away….
Our group. Possible the most fun and easy-going crew in the fishing universe! R-L Jason, Me, Rich, Duncan, Ty and Castle. Can’t wait to fish with these fine folks again!

End of season and the beginning of winter

Since it’s the first of December, I thought it necessary to do an end of season wrap up and talk about the fly fishing opportunities for the winter season. This past fishing season was a busy one. It was great to fish with new folks as well as returning clients. Water levels in the valley proved challenging at times. Most of our tributaries were low all season while the Snake flowed above average all season to satisfy irrigation demands in Idaho. Despite all this, the fishing remained pretty good and we had a great time.

I recently put the drift boat away for the season and am now doing afternoon wade fishing trips. With temperatures dropping and daylight fading, it’s best to focus on the warmest part of the day for fishing success. Dennis and Son, Ace joined me recently for some wade fishing and we found some willing fish to help celebrate Thanksgiving.

With the season slowing, Jamie and I made an escape to Florida where we spent a week with good friends. While it wasn’t a proper fishing trip, I was able to spend some time targeting Snook along the beaches. These fish proved difficult but there were some hook-ups and I finally managed to get one to hand! Next week I’m off to Belize for 5 days of fishing. I’ll be sure to post a report when I return.

Matt is all smiles with this birthday cutthroat. One of my good friends here, it was fun fishing with him and his son Frank who has come into his own as a fly fisherman.
All smiles with a hook-up. Got to take a good group of guys fishing in Yellowstone on the last day the park was open for the season. In addition to some nice fish, we had a grizzly hanging out in the meadow with us all day.
Sometimes, after a long season, you just need to find some hot water to sit in.
Snook on the beach in Anna Maria Island Florida. Boy do I love saltwater fly fishing. Now if only I could find a beach house to buy!
Ace with his first fish of the day. Not bad for a 12 year old.
Dennis shows off a nice colorful cutthroat trout from the Snake. Wade fishing proved a successful way to work off the turkey

Spring fishing at its finest (and a desert detour)

April is flying by and I realized I haven’t written much about what’s going on out here in Jackson Hole. We’ve been experiencing the usual spring weather; sunny and warm one day followed by snow squalls and wind the next. Regardless, the spring fly fishing on the Snake River has been really good! Midges have been hatching like crazy. Add in tiny black stoneflies, the emergence of Skwala stones and Blue Wing Olive mayflies and you have the makings for some great dry fly fishing!

I had the pleasure of taking out a few visitors over the past few weeks on wade fishing expeditions. We’ve found plenty of fish, both native cutts and whitefish. Some days getting the fish to eat our dry flies were easier than others. This time of year fishing can be technical; tiny flies, selective fish in shallow gin clear water, etc. Regardless, days were a hoot and it’s always fun teaching folks the ins and outs of fly fishing. Hopefully we’ll squeeze out another week or two of good fishing on the Snake before runoff sets in. When that happens, it’s time to fish area lakes with leech patterns.

A long way from Alabama, Emily and Brock learned how to fool some fish with the long rods on the Snake
West found a pod of feeding cutthroat trout and had the “best day of fishing ever”
can’t blame the trout for being camera-shy…. Nice fish West!

In addition to fishing, Jamie and I were able to head south for spring break, visiting (and enjoying) some family in Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee is one of the coolest towns I’ve spent time in and I hope we get down there more often in the years to come. Our days were spent hanging with my Aunt and Uncle, playing music, hiking, painting and relaxing. It was a great week in the sunshine but it’s nice to be back fishing folks!

Jamie on Bisbee’s main drag
Got to join the “Last Call Band” on stage one night. My Uncle (left) and girlfriend front the Bisbee band and were kind enough to let me sit in for a great outdoor set. First time I’ve played “out” since my college band days!

Some fun in the sun, fishing in the canyon

I’m back in Jackson after traveling for the better part of the past few weeks. First, Jamie and I traveled to Anna Maria Island in Florida to get some sunshine and rendezvous with friends Kurt and Kelly. We all usually try and do a Bahamas trip every spring but with the Covid situation making travel outside the US difficult, we opted for Florida where Kelly’s uncle runs Sand and Sea, a small group of condo units about 200 yard from the Beach. We’ve been there once before several years back and I was anxious to return and do some warm water fly fishing. We had a great time. Anna Maria Island is on the Gulf, a little over an hour west of Tampa. The island is a nice place for a family beach vacation with restaurants, shops and other amenities without the high-rises and madness of other Florida beach towns. Of course there’s fishing too. While this area is a major destination for fly fishermen targeting the annual Tarpon migration in May and June, the area is also known for its great Snook, Redfish and Seatrout populations.

Kurt casting in a bayside turtlegrass flat
One of the many nice sea trout caught in our explorations.

Kurt and I managed to sneak away for a few hours here and there to cast a fly and were rewarded with some pretty good fishing. While it was still a little early (and cool) for the Snook along the beaches, we had a blast catching Sea Trout, Lady fish and some other assorted things. All our fishing was done on foot, exploring some cool turtle grass flats on the Bay side of the island. I got into some Ladyfish one evening while fishing the beach and was treated to acrobatic displays while the sun set.

It was really good to see Kurt, Kelly and their son. I always look forward to our warm weather trips together!

After returning home to Jackson, I packed my trout gear and drove south to meet up with my friends from Salt Lake City at Flaming Gorge. We spent last week fishing the Green river hoping to take advantage of midge and BWO hatches. While we had a great time, the fishing was pretty tough. Despite decent spring conditions, fish were in no mood to eat and made us work for the few we caught.

Back home in Jackson, snow in the valley is slowly melting and local fishing has been pretty decent due to warmer weather. I’m looking forward to getting out and taking advantage of the midges hatching.

Some good days on the water!

Had the pleasure of taking some new folks fly fishing this past week. The winter fishing here in Jackson Hole has been pretty good. As some of you know, the Snake is the go-to place for casting a fly in the winter. Days can vary from tough to great. Because of snow depth, access can be difficult. Fortunately several bridges over the Snake allows wade fishing anglers the ability to find productive water. My client today, Leslie, caught a lot of fish and was blown away by the number of heads poking through the surface gorging on midges. Definitely a fun time and since temperatures are warming and days getting longer, the fishing will just get better!

Leslie had a hell of a day dry fly fishing! Great way to kick of March
Matthew shows off a great cutt. It was a cold one but he was rewarded.
Dan getting it done in the Cold. First Snake River Cutthroat trout! Real pleasure taking Dan and his friends Cory and Josh out for a day.
Headshot of a native

A little fishing to kick off February

Kicked February off with a little fly fishing this past weekend. Conditions were far from ideal; wind, snow, cold temperatures, but my friends Seth, Rich and I decided to rally. We ended up doing pretty well nymph fishing, landing whitefish, rainbow and brown trout. After a few hours, we retreated to the cabin and warmed up with a fire in the wood stove, whiskey and sloppy joes.

winter rainbow
A nice chunky winter rainbow

Fly Tying

I’ve been tying a lot flies recently. Any day not substitute teaching has been spent at the fly tying desk cranking out various patterns. I like to tie in the mornings with a fresh cup of coffee and podcast on the radio. As many know, I supply my clients with my own hand tied flies during the course of the season. I try to do most of my tying this time of year rather than during the busy fishing season. Naturally though some early mornings or late evenings, pre and post trips, require me to bang out patterns that are working well and I’m running low on. Over the years of guiding I’ve paid attention to patterns I use a lot, focusing on them rather than everything under the sun. Sure, I like to experiment too; creating my own patterns and tweaking existing flies to suit my needs better. I want flies that are durable and are quick to tie. And since most of the water I fish out here around Jackson Hole is fast flowing, freestone streams and rivers, the flies need to float well and be easy for clients to see!

Lots of Pat’s rubber legs, stimulators, yellow sallies and water walkers. Also a lone olive leech with tungsten bead.

Fly fisherman are inundated with tons of new patterns every year. I think most of them are made to “catch” fisherman’s attention more than fish. Sure every few years there are some innovative things to come off the vise, but more often then not “new” patterns are just slightly tweaked old ones. When clients ask me about fly patterns to have on hand, I often recommend many of the classic patterns. While they might not be as sexy as new ones with flash and bubble eyes, they work and there is a reason they’re classics. Examples include: Parachute Adams, Stimulators, Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Wulffs, Double Humpies, Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears, Prince Nymphs and Wooly buggers to name a few. I’m fairly confident that these patterns in various sizes will work 90% of the time.

The Trina’s Carnage hopper is a newer pattern that I really like. Primarily made of foam, it floats well and has a great hopper silhouette in the water. I like these in Yellow and Tan.

Of Course there are newer pattens that are fantastic, both because they catch fish and because they bring something new to the table. Kelly Gallop’s articulated streamers come to mind as do any number of Chubby Chernobyl variations and hopper patterns.

At the end of the day flies are part of what makes fly fishing fun. Whether you’re creating at your vise or stocking you boxes, it’s fun to try and think what fly will outsmart a fish.

A view of my fly tying bench after tying dozens of flies for the upcoming fishing season. Not sure how many flies my Regal vise turns out every year, but it’s A LOT!