Cottonwood to Byington
We pick up where we left off last week…
As we bounced along the lengthy dirt road to our launch point we were mildly reminded of the festivities the night before, which is to say that I was glad we didn’t stay up any later than we did. Day One of the “friendly competition” had Team Olive fishing the canyon section known as #3: Cottonwood to Byington. And with guide Will Dewey of Worldcast Anglers responsible for the oars and for keeping an honest record of the fish we caught, we had our work cut out for us. To clarify, I do not mean to suggest that Will was incapable of doing his job, which was to navigate the river safely and put us on fish—he proved worthy of that. But he also proved to be a man of integrity, and we were incapable of buying a little “leeway” when sizing our fish and totaling the overall catch. Turns out he
was is an Eagle Scout, as was am I, but he’s much younger and the oath we each took as Scouts remains a lot fresher in his mind than in mine.
We had about 12 river miles to cover on this first day, and though we were on the water by around 9 AM, we were not alone. As one might imagine with 22 teams spread out over 4 sections of river, there would be company (albeit good company) and it would be difficult to fish untouched water. I was glad to be stationed in the back of the boat where there’s no pressure to perform, whereas Marck occupied the cat bird seat up front where he would earn his keep (and redeem himself from the ass-kicking he took on the Bitterroot two days earlier). I started out the day with a hopper and a dropper while Marck worked the surface with two dries: something big and something small.
Throughout the day we would hear lots of grasshoppers in the grass, but hopper patterns didn’t rise any fish. Most surface takes were on PMD patterns, and we saw a few of the creme-colored mayflies coming off at times throughout the day, but nothing that would amount to a hatch. The South Fork has a very good number of both trout and Whitefish per mile, and when you’re nymphing you’re going to catch big trout and lots of Whitefish. Or at least the latter, in my experience. In my defense, these were all fair hooked: in the mouth. And they were some of the biggest Whities I’ve ever caught…photo-worthy Whities, they were. We didn’t get a lot of photos of fish (trout or otherwise) on the first day, which might partially be due to the fact that we didn’t catch many photo-worthy trout (since when is a 16 inch trout not worth a photo?!). Will is obviously accustomed to much larger trout, and an auto focus cameras proved too slow to capture a photo before most were tossed back.
Late in the afternoon we were working a small back eddy when Marck’s rod bent like the front bumper of the Fish Taco hitting a deer. There were no ensuing head shakes or spunky little attempts to slip the hook. This fish just put its head down and stayed put. And then it tangled itself up on some sunken branches. And the broken end of Marck’s 5X tippet returned to the boat. It would have been nice to have gotten a look at whatever leviathan had just stolen more of Will’s flies. My bet was that it was a huge brown, although we’ll forever be left to wonder. Either upset by the loss of yet more flies or the fact that this fish might have won the tournament for Team Olive (and therefore secured a place in the Casting 4 A Cure Guide Hall of Fame for Will), our guide was clearly upset. He may have shed a tear, or he may in fact have had something in his eye, as he alleged.
We fished out the remainder of the day without any remarkable fish to note, although I’d like to reiterate that a 16 inch trout is gangbusters from where Team Olive hails. And 16 inch trout are what we posted as our 4 biggest fish of the day: 3 cutts and one rainbow. We caught a total of 21 trout, which wasn’t too shabby considering we weren’t really there just to catch fish.
That evening back at the Teton Lodge we talked shop with the other anglers. Interestingly everyone seemed to gather near the scoreboard where
we they casually glanced, pretending not to care, as totals for the day were entered into the columns. Neither Marck nor I hardly noticed as the results of Day One were totaled up and one of the teams posted unbelievable numbers: 57 total trout caught?! Riiiight, I’m just so sure, Team Sage/Rio 😉
We feasted on a an exceptional Mexican buffet for dinner, followed by a few more cold beers from The Cooler That Was Never Empty before turning in at the shamefully early hour of 10PM. Some of the
heartier younger folks stayed up into the wee hours, but Team Olive needed to make sure we brought our A Game in the morning. There were bigger fish to catch than just 16 inch fingerlings.
Jump straight to Day Two by clicking here.