It looks like we might be headed into the February Thaw, so if you can find some open water, it’s a good time to get in some fishing. We joke about the February Thaw, but for years, since I’ve been serious about winter fishing, it seems to be a real occurrence. A warning if you have ice fishing ambitions: Watch Out for Thin Ice! A couple of us drove out to Alcova Reservoir a week or so ago just to see if there was any open water. What we found was that most of the water was open! But when we drove down to Sandy Beach where we like to fish when the ice goes off, darn if there wasn’t a little ice and perched on that smidgen of ice was some guy with an ice fishing hut, and parked next to that hut was a 4-wheeler. We left quickly because we didn’t want to have to try and pull the guys and their stuff out of the cold water! We fished a couple of other spots with little success. But it’s still worth the trip. Fish streamers on a sinking or sink tip line and let them sink. The water is mostly deep at this time of year.
I must have too many fly rods – at least enough that I have trouble keeping track of all of them. I recently ran across an old full flex Orvis 3wt; my first really high quality, hand-built rod. On a lark, I put it in the vehicle with several of the rods I’ve been fishing on a regular basis. The last time I recall having fished this particular rod was on a Cutt Slam trip about 8-10 years ago. And even though it seems like a limp noodle in comparison to the fast action rods I fish most days, it handled those fish fairly well – even up to some of the 14-inch Yellowstones we caught in the Lamar Valley. Anyway, I’ve fished this rod again recently on several Speas outings and it still handles a pretty decent fish. And it’s a hoot to see that little rod bend! Even with a 10” or so grayling. I’ve now replaced that old Orvis in the vehicle with a nice stiff Winston 3wt that I used to use in Arkansas. It’s easier to cast and will handle better fish. Sure, I have to be smarter about casting in the wind, but the net result is really fun! The moral of all this: Change rods once in a while. Even if you think you have come up with the perfect rod, [my current “perfect” is a Sage One 9.5’ 6wt that handles the wind really well and will cast a 1/32 oz Streamliner like a dream] dig out that old rod you haven’t used for a while. It’s like rediscovering an old friend; quite satisfying. And if you don’t have enough rods yet, give me a holler; I’ll be glad to offer some suggestions and maybe even steer you to where you can get one!
Let’s start thinking ahead a bit. We’re working on getting Project Healing Waters trips lined up for the coming regular season. I also know that many of the guides are already getting full calendars. And what the heck, the anticipation is part of the total satisfaction of the trip anyway. It definitely isn’t too ea
rly to be getting your sights set on where and for what you’ll fish this year. A suggestion: If you haven’t done it yet, make this the year you get your Wyoming Cutt Slam. Catch all 4 of our beautiful cutts in their native waters and you qualify for an awesome poster designed by Chris Madson, former editor of Wyoming Wildlife magazine. I’ve taken a dozen or so folks on Cutt Slam trips, and it’s still one of my favorites. There are some who try to catch all 4 cutts in the shortest possible time. I just heard about one group who plans to hire an airplane to transport them between sites so they can catch all 4 in one day. I think they are crazy. Three of our cuts [Colorado River, Bonneville, and Snake River] are found in the Wyoming Range, some of the neatest country in our fabulous state. When you are there, it seems totally weird to me to be trying to leave as quickly as you can! The remaining, the Yellowstone, inhabits streams in and around the Park. Take your time, make plans ahead, and spend 3-4 days in the Wyoming Range. If you plan far enough ahead, the Forest Service has a number of the cabins they rent out for a pittance: $40 a night or so. Or pitch your tent anywhere in the Forests. To go first class, get rooms in Cokeville, or Alpine., or finally, for your Yellowstones, in Dubois. It continues to amaze me how many people who are pretty serious fishers haven’t gotten their Cutt Slams. Just yesterday I met a gentleman who has been in Wyoming 30 years or so and who is an active member of a local fishing club, and he hasn’t done his yet.