In what appears to be an annual attempt at fishing, I stacked the odds in my favor by going to the holy grail of fly-fishing: Grey Reef.
Located only about 30 minutes from my home in Casper, Wyoming and four hours from Denver, Grey Reef is renowned for lots and lots of fish. In researching this blog, I came across a blog posting from Grey Reef Anglers and Wingshooting reporting that on 9/8/2011, “one of our guides Tyler broke in his brand new boat today in style, 45 fish to the net and 4 fish over 20inches.”. American Angler Magazine also named the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River the #1 big fish destination in the world. Let’s just say Tyler and American Angler all have distinctly different experiences than Michelle.
I should start by explaining that we didn’t start our day at Grey Reef- we started in much faster water with this incredible sticky mud bottom. Since a large part of my fly fishing experience is looking at the pretty rocks in the river, this was not ideal. We loaded up the wet, happy dogs and headed upstream. After some very nice help from a guy at The Reef Fly Shop, we waded into the river again with a new and improved nymphing setup. Apparently, I shouldn’t have been dry fly fishing at all. The reason I resisted nymphing initially is a simple math equation: with one (dry) fly, there is less to get tangled than with nymphing, where there are two flies (although one of mine was a ‘purple worm’- what?) PLUS weights PLUS an indicator (small plastic ball thingy). Part of this setup is supposed to be underwater and part above. That’s a lot to get tangled. And it did.
But first, I lost my shoe. Even though Grey Reef did have my required quota of pretty rocks, there was one sticky section as I waded upstream. The velcro on my fly fishing sandals (yes, I have special sandals as they need to be extra-big to fit the neoprene booties of my waders) got seaweed in it and wasn’t functioning at 100%. I tried to slap the strap down under the water but eventually, the sandal was barely hanging on and in immediate danger of floating downstream. I reached down and picked up my sandal with my right hand while I began to wade towards shore with my rod in my left hand and my sandal in my right. And that’s when I saw him.
He was a monster fish. Definitely over 20 inches. And he was 3′ in front of me and swimming slowly upstream as I bumbled towards shore. Frantically, I looked for a place to set my sandal. But I was still in the middle of a river and there was none. Egad! I finally shoved the shoe in the top of my waders and hurriedly readied my rod for a cast. It was a terrible cast and I think I saw bubbles from the now out-of-sight monster fish laughing, “Hey lady the jig is up. Do you think I got this big by being dumb?”. I fished for another 20 minutes before tangling my setup beyond all recognition and having some (more) delicious snacks back at the truck. Maybe next year, but for now I have the consolation of being part of the age-old story about “the one that got away”.