A last minute phone call from my friend and ex employee came in a couple of weeks ago and they were short a guide boat for the Wyoming Two Fly event that is held in Casper Wyoming. With probabilities of either missing the caddis hatch on the Yellowstone or heading for clean water on the North Platte I hedged my bets on the later being more productive. I was humbly honored to be invited to the event as a guide, as well as looking forward to a road trip!
My friend Jameson and I headed out a few days early so that we could get a handle on where the fish were holding and to have a couple of days of fishing on our own. The trip from Bozeman to Casper is about a 6 hour drive and we made it into town just after the sun went down, which is very important since the antelope and deer like to stand in the highway and feed off the grasses in the median. Our buddy Blake was home after a long day of rowing in the wind and his wife Maggie was out at Old Chicago with a few of her girlfriends. We caught up on old times as well as pried Blake for a few hints on how the river was fishing. Fortunately for us Blake had the next day off so the three of us could spend the day on the river together fishing, telling lies and drinking a few beers.
Hooked up on scouting day
We awoke to a beautiful Casper morning and much to our surprise the wind was dead calm in town. After a quick stop at the fly shop for some licenses, bugs and to say hello to Bob and Jim we were on our way out to the river. By the time we arrived at the Crazy Rainbow lodge to pick up Blake's boat the wind had begun to blow slightly. The boat was hitched and we picked up a bag of Pat's amazing cookies and headed to Alcova for a shuttle and a couple of sandwiches to help wash down our beers. We put in at the top of the ranch and floated through about 3/4 of the float we would be floating during the tournament. The fishing was good and we spent very little time fishing each hole on the river because as a guide it doesn't make much sense to beat up the fish that you will be making a living on tomorrow.
I am not a fan of tournament fishing events which turn fly fishing into a competitive event. The Two Fly event is far from your typical tournament, it is a get together of some great people who raise a boat load of money for charity. This yearís event raised money for Meals on wheels, a local charity called the Seton House which helps single parents with children get back on their feet and for the Platte River Rehabilitation Foundation. The two day tournament is a team event with two members per team. Each angler gets to choose two flies to fish with and they can change size and use as many of each pattern as they need to during the day. They can also buy new patterns throughout the day if there choice isn't productive. The teams fish a morning session and afternoon session where they score two fish of at least 16 inches. It is a "catch and release" tournament so the fish are measured in a measuring tube made of PVC and released immediately. Each session is 4 hours long and they can cull their catch if they land a larger fish. The catch to culling your fish however is that it cost $100 per fish plus another $10 bucks for each inch that the fish is larger than the one they are replacing. So if an angler had a 16 inch fish and they want to upgrade the catch to a 20 inch fish it cost them $140 bucks. The standing joke between the guides and the anglers is that everything that cost extra money is "For the kids" and all of the contestants were happy to Annie Up for the kids. The teams did not fish in the same boat and anglers were rotated during each session.
The tournament started the next day with all of the participants arriving around 7:30 am to meet their guides and get on the river for the 8:30 am shotgun start. By the time we had the boats in the water the wind was blowing a steady 15 mph with a few gust probably reaching around 25, which in Casper is considered a calm day. Everyone was eager to get started and as the Horn sounded we all shoved off for the first session of the tournament. There were 25 boats spread out on the river and we had 14 in the stretch I was floating. My guys started out fast with a few small fish that didn't score but after the warm-up we hit the jackpot in the third hole of the day. As my angler set the rod it bent over and he was onto a large fish right out of the gate. The fish ran hard and after a few minutes it came close to the boat, and we all got really excited at the length of the fish. I dropped the anchor to get ready to net the fish. I was borrowing a low profile boat from the lodge and the floor anchor system once again jumped up and bit me in the butt. I use a side anchor system on my personal boat for several reasons but the main reason is I always step on the floor release at the wrong moment. This time I stepped on it at the right moment but I forgot to take my foot off the release as I was so excited at the size of the fish. The anchor rope went through the release and out the rear pulley to become one with the river. After realizing I had lost the anchor and the rope I regained my composure and netted a beautiful 21 inch Snake River Cutthroat that looked like it had been in a few Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. I quickly measured the fish and we released it without even thinking to take a quick photo. The fish was magnificent and it was as pure of a Snake River cut as I have seen in quite a while. With the fish on the score card it made the boat pretty slap happy and we enjoyed the rest of the morning float while putting a few more fish on each anglers card and we finished up the morning session with an upgrade on my anglers card from a 16 inch rainbow to a 19 inch rainbow while raising another $130 bucks for the Kids. My other angler had a good morning as well and he placed a 17 and 19 inch fish with one upgrade and another $120 for the charities.
Arriving in style for lunch
As we pulled into lunch and the end of the morning session we were greeted by one of the main sponsors of the event as he flew into the lunch hut on his Helicopter, which it was a very impressive site to see the pilot bring in the bird in a slight Casper breeze of about 20 mph. Both days we were provided with a huge lunch spread of hot brisket sandwiches, slow cooked Brats, homemade baked beans, baby red potatoes that were to die for and trays full of Pat's amazing white chocolate and blueberry cookies. I think I am still having insulin problems from eating all those cookies.
After lunch we exchanged one of our anglers for a new one and off we set. The afternoon start was quite a site with all the boats starting out at the same time. It was definitely a traffic jam and it is probably one reason the afternoon sessions were much tougher fishing than the morning sessions. I managed to score a few fish in the afternoon but we did not fill out one anglerís card and there were no upgrades for the kids in the afternoon session. We finished up the last two hours of day one in big winds and at the end of the day I was whooped from fighting the 30 mph sustained wind that we had to row directly into for the last 2 miles of the float.
We arrived back in Casper and a nice dinner was put on by the Jonas Bank and Halliburton who brought up their most impressive grill truck. I really would like to have one of my own but I don't think on a fishing guide salary I will be getting one anytime soon. The Halliburton grill put on a feast with huge rib eye steaks with mushroom sauce, green beans, buttery potatoes, salad, chocolate mousse for desert and open bar which I took full advantage of , I needed to take away the pain in my shoulders from rowing in the Casper Wind.
My dream Grill!
Day two brought in a bit cooler weather with slightly less wind throughout the day. The fish were definitely a bit tougher to catch but I my two anglers managed to have a stellar morning with one angler scoring a 22 inch rainbow/cutthroat hybrid and a 19 inch rainbow. The other angler in my boat for the morning was the owner of the ranch and he started us off right with a 21 inch bow in the first hole of the day. He caught a lot of smaller fish all morning long and waited till the last 3 minutes of the morning session to catch a score able fish that hit the tape at 19 inches. The rest of the boats had done alright and scored most of their anglers but with a two 19 inch fish, one at 21 and another at 22 our boat had a very good morning. As I dropped anchor we watched the Bell helicopter come in for another landing at the lunch hut and I was again amazed at the skill of the pilot as he maneuvered the bird in the steady breeze.
Biggest fish or the Tournament!
After lunch the fishing was extremely tough. My boat managed to score two fish and land two suckers. The suckers were quite a surprise since we were fishing only about 6 feet of leader in an 11 foot deep hole. Nick was the unlucky culprit who ended his day with three suckers, which may be a record for the Two Fly Tournament. I was sure he and his father were going to get razed at the Banquet later that evening, because his father managed to catch a sucker in another boat which brought their team total to 4 suckers in one day. The wind continued to increase throughout the afternoon and all the boats wound up fishing the same run for the last hour of the day. This was the only run where both the anglers and the oarsmen could get a reasonable drift and it looked like the start of a Motor Cross race. The afternoon turned out the be the great equalizer as most of the boats had a tough time scoring out their cards and many of us only posted a fish or two in the afternoon session. Everyone was glad the day was coming to an end; the open bar at the banquet was calling out to all of us.
The final nightís banquet was held at one of the sponsorís homes, if you could call it a home. The house has a banquet facility in the house that seats a couple hundred people and the banquet room looked like a tiny closet compared to the rest of the house. We parked the truck and headed around the back of the house and past the chipping and putting green that Mick had installed for his grand kids. The entire golf area was laid with Nike Turf , it was quiet an impressive practice facility. Most of the guides hung near the bar and mingled with the anglers as they came for another glass of Silver Oak Cab. After a half dozen Crown and sodas it was meal time in concert with a lot of fund raising. Mick, the owner of the house purchased a Clacka Craft drift boat for his pond and paid a mere $14,000 for the $8,000 boat, his wife wanted it for the pond off the back of the house that was probably 15 acres in size and rumored to not have a trout in it under 20 pounds. Lots of artwork went to the highest bidder and at the end of the dinner the auctioneer ask for in kind donations from many of the guest. I am not sure what the total amount of money that was raised during the tournament but in the 5 minute in kind donation session over $55,000 was raised for the two charities and one conservation effort that were the benefactors of the tournament. It was an amazing event to be a part of and it was refreshing to see a bunch of people get together for a tournament that were not really interested in the competition of the event, all that really mattered was having a good time and raising a lot of money for some very worth while causes. Huge Kudos go out to the organizers of the event and I would especially like to thank Brian, John and all the guys from the Ugly Bug Fly shop and Crazy Rainbow lodge for all their hospitality. I hope they will have me back for next yearís event.