I caught one fantastic fish and decided that he was the perfect end of the day fish … … from a fishing standpoint which meant some cigars and bourbon still to come before the day was done. Oh, but what a way to end the day with a release and then a clip off. In my mind that is the equivalent of a baseball walk off home run.
The late night cold found us back at the IRMA drinking in a bar that had more memories than I could tell in a lifetime. It was a ton of fun to sit back and nurse a bourbon ‘n water while imagining who all and what all had passed under that big bar mirror and what these rough log walls had seen in their day. Sometimes the sense of history of a place is so strong that is rolls us up in the sense of place and makes us feel as if we were part of that legacy and trust me the bar at the IRMA is one such place … … but of course I rarely went in there and didn’t spend any long evenings in her embrace, cross my heart … … and well … … maybe I better not finish that part.
Guide Rick had set aside the next day to go out and fish a place he calls “his office”. I was unsure what to expect until we arrived in the little town of Shell WY, and trust me little doesn’t do this town justice, and turned up Shell creek to the Hideout Ranch and Rick’s “office”. The Hideout ranch is a high end Equestrian Ranch that truly gets what the west is about and truly understands what the world wants with their Wyoming Experience and fly fishing is very much part of that. They have done a solid job of planning to do wildlife restoration work and in-stream improvements to an already gorgeous Shell Creek that flows for many miles through their property after coming out of many, many more miles of national forest lands. This little stream is perfect dry dropper water for a ton of feisty and amazingly large browns for such small water. Despite arriving with over an inch of fresh snow on the ground, the fish of this little stream were still eagerly feeding on dry dropper combos. The casts needed to be tight and accurate but the fishing was smooth and effortless … … after I checked up my ego and left the line on the reel. Pretty Fish were caught … …
But the star of this little creek isn’t the browns … … it is the scenery. This is one of those unique fishing environments that are almost alien in feel. From ridge lines and caprocks that belong in a John Ford western, to flowing steams and trees lines that belong in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
After a delightful morning of fishing, this section was designed for a half day excursion, we headed down stream all of two and a half miles or so to attack a little larger water. Rick took off sliding down a snow melt mud covered slide for few hundred yards down to the water and I tentatively took a soft hesitant step after him and found myself in a full on slide down the grade… … I felt like a cross between a skier and a jeep with its back tires fishtailing in the mud … … and as much as I cussed about it at the time … … I must admit that short ride to the bottom of the grade was a d**n fun ride… … in fact I have caught myself reliving it since and wanting to do it again. I hung back as the two professional fishermen began to grace the water with their long delicate accurate casts, you amateurs like me try not to puke at the thought of two long casters trying to out distance themselves in their perfection of loop and form, and yes even I have to admit it was d**n impressive, so I hung back and shot a few river pictures from a distance instead of disgracing their awesome casting displays with my own flailing attempts to cast.
They had each caught a couple of fish and finally got tired of me lurking back behind them, and made me wade up “front and center” and take the stage while they watched me fish. My first cast wrapped around my rod tip and when I got that straightened out my second cast threw a tailing loop that cracked like a whip … … and then on my third crappy cast, divine providence stepped in and I saw a subtle take on the strike indicator and “low and behold an old blind sow finds an acorn”, and thanks dad for the quote. The battle was short and sweet with more sideline advice than a forty year veteran of fly fishing deserves, but despite all of the help I still managed to land a respectable little brown. And for once since I had company, you guys get to see something besides my forearm in a fish picture.
Yeah I know, stick to the forearm shots … … that face isn’t fit for publication, oh well poop happens.
We hop scotched holes and fished as a group and I must admit as much as I like being alone, fishing as a group was really fun and watching Bernard catch a dozen midge feeding fish across a four speed giant eddy hole on the fifth type of size 24 midge that he had tied on was more than cool … … but reminded me that “non-expert” viewers are recommended to NOT try this at home and results are not indicative of actual results without serious professional experience. The result of the day was a peaceful low key day of fishing that left me with a smile on my face and memories in my heart.
At the end of the day we thought we could just catch the last light of the day on a pond on the ranch that happened to hold some spectacularly large trout that Rick just knew would be slapping the fire out of a well stripped streamer. We practically sprinted down to the water. The fishing was out of sight as we all managed to land several large rainbows which were indeed slapping the fire out of a streamer but to me the most memorable thing of that part of the day was the last rays of sunlight reflected through the trees of the Hideout Ranch’s main lodge.
So the day drew to a close with me on my favorite bar stool in the IRMA, with thoughts of fish intermingled with thoughts of what it would be like to have been here in the heyday. I didn’t even interject thoughts into the discussions of where the next day’s fishing adventures should occur but I must admit I smiled in spite of myself when it was a unanimous vote to return to the wild hidden mountain stream from a couple days ago. Sometimes something is just too wonderful not to be revisited.
Dawn found me standing on the porch of the IRMA, or as close to dawn as I was going to find on this trip which means a solid 9 am, getting laughed at by the locals because of my fuzzy flip flops. But they didn’t seem to understand that it was a “flip flop” kind of trip. There was a solid two to three inches of fresh snow on the ground and almost zero degree temperatures to start the day and they couldn’t believe a fat old man from Georgia was heading off into this … … to go fly fishing???? … … with fuzzy flip flops … … guess they haven’t met me yet huh, and no … … I never claimed to be too bright.
We had fished this river two days ago and I had thought it was as pretty as any place I had ever imagined but after two to three inches of fresh snow fall it was not even in the same realm of beautiful it had transcended even itself.
We rigged in silence knowing the drill from our last trip and totally in awe of the scenery and visions spread before us. Sometime even those of us idiots who are to verbose for our own good know enough to just shut up and let the world before us speak with all of it’s glory, it was one of those days when you can’t help but tip your cowboy hat to the power and vision of GOD.