Ultralighting for High Mountain trout
on North Crandall Creek.
article and images by Bill Byrd
Please understand that I am condensing a 30 minute 100 slide, audio visual presentation into this web article. I shot over 600 slides on my western trips, and my challenge is for you to come along with me on these trips using the "theatre of your mind" as you see the images and I paint more visuals about my ultralighting experiences with words.
It was early morning in Cody, Wyoming, located in the "banana belt" of Wyoming, featuring mild weather, incredible scenery, and a short drive from Yellowstone Park.
Cody is the home of Buffalo Bill Cody, but more importantly to me Tim Wade's North Fork Anglers, and 2500 miles of incredible fishing water within a two 2 hour drive. You can fish more than 50% of the water with your 2 to 4 weight. In some of that water you can fish your 1 weight, ought weight, or even double ought weight rod to catch-and-release some of the most beautiful and quickest cutthroats, rainbows, and cuttbows you'll ever see.
Above left is main street in early morning in Cody on my trip in 1998. At the end of Main Street you see the mountains. North Fork Anglers, was located on main street then, and yes that is a huge trout upper center of the picture, making North Fork easy to find. Chip Andrews, at the time shop manager, and Tim Wade, owner, are expert fly fishers, and love to fish ultralights in the right conditions.
Fly tying is huge here. Avid fly tyers find a well stocked shop with tying materials as well as well tied flies. When in Cody you have to stop at the new North Fork Anglers located on Sheridan Boulevard.
Chip Andrews and I met at the fly shop just after coffee on August 25th, 1998, and began our journey to North Crandall creek for some real ultralight fly fishing fun. We stopped at Dead Indian Pass on the way to watch sunrise and this spectacular this view. The magnitude of the scene is beathtaking. Photography just doesn't do this country justice.
Our road to North Crandall snaked its way to the horizon. Everywhere I looked, I was amazed. I was feeling sensory overload. Closer to North Crandall Creek, we stopped to view from the highest elevation bridge in Wyoming.
There is fishable water everywhere in stunning scenery. Welcome to the sunlight basin. The Absoroka Mountains (pronounced Ab-SOR'-ka) lie in the background. The basin glows in the early fall morning light. The dark shadowed area foreground contrasts with the brilliantly lighted mountains. This vast view is truly one of the most beautiful sights in the area. It is breath taking.
Just up the road is cathedral cliffs (image right), with a mirror lake in the foreground. This area was burned over by the Yellowstone fires in recent years. Lodgepole pine seedlings were just coming back, and are young trees by now. Lush, tall grasses filled the sun drenched meadows for moose, elk, and other browsers to forage on. Many animals come over from Yellowstone to feed in these adjacent forage filled areas.
We pressed on and finally, about an hour and a half from Cody, there it was - we had arrived at the North Crandall Trailhead (below left).
Chip Andrews prepares for our mile and a half hike up the steep trail to North Crandall Creek (below center). We rigged our primary rods, put on our waders and boots, loaded up our backpacks, and began our ascent up the trail.
Then we legged it out for the first 400 yards up the trail to the fence line. You can see the parking lot and truck just visible in the image above and right. I caught my breath, took one look back, and we were on our way.
My guide Chip Andrews shown here was walking naturally up this well travelled trail...but the elevation, over 7,000 feet had its impact on me. This was only my second day at altitude. It takes at least 3 days for most folks to adjust.
The problem is that at this altitude, the ambient pressure on oxygen is about 50% less than it is in Atlanta. This made my body literally starve for oxygen as I labored climbing up the long trail with a 35 pound backpack.
Frequent rest breaks were in order for me. In addition to resting to let my oxygen intake catch up, this condition makes most lowlanders very thirsty. I drank a gallon and a half of water on the trip.
Notice the full backpack with rod tube sticking up behind me. I had my primary rod rigged ready to fish.
The wise thing is to plan to take your time climbing these trails with frequent rest stops. There is no reason to cause a physical problem and there is nobody out in this wilderness to assist quickly in the event of a problem! Anyway, the views in every direction are spectacular. My advice is to slow down and enjoy all of the magnificent scenery.
Finally we arrived at the stream. Streamside we prepared our gear, tied on small dry flies (image upper left), and prepared to fish upstream with our backpacks on. Chip started fishing with a tiny Adams.
Chip began fishing with his 7 foot 9 inch 5 piece Winston pack rod (Image center). He probed the run patiently...and showed expert form while fishing that run.
Chip's reward (image above right) was a small but beautiful native cutthroat. North Crandall Creek is known for beautiful scenery, bears, cutthroats, cutbows, and rainbows. The fish are some of the fastest at hitting a fly, and ejecting it if you are not REALLY paying attention!
I fished with my Sage Ought weight all day, but Chip and I switched rods for a few casts. I liked his Winston 2 weight 5 section pack rod so much I ordered one when I returned to Atlanta. I still use it and my ought weight on trips like these.
Once on this delightful stream there were literally hundreds of trout holding pockets to fish. Enough to extend well beyond the time we had available to fish them.
Being in the high country we could expect weather changes and we had them. In the morning no clouds and cool temperatures. Just before we started out, it clouded up and began to rain. We could actually see that precipitation in the form of snow up higher in the mountains.
In my slide show I have slide after slide of beautiful fish holding spots and even more beautiful cutthroats, cutbows, and rainbows. You'll see a few more scenes and fish but I won't try to give that kind of depth to this article.
North Crandall Creek bathed in morning sunlight is a living picture postcard. If I were an artist, I would catch the image upper left in oils.
Chip continued probing water with a girdle bug. This richly colored cutthroat couldn't resist it (image above center). Notice the fat girdle bug hanging from its mouth (image above right).
Although I prefer to show you images of fishers other than myself most of the time, I was having a great time and I was catching plenty of fish on my Ought weight (image left).
You can't see the detail but this is another jet powered cutthroat. To say that these fish are quick is a major understatement.
Also notice the backpack. We fished most of the day with backpack on. That allowed us quick movement upstream, and if we needed to move to cover from a bear, all of our gear was with us at all times.
We carried all our gear in our backpacks and that was different. We each had water bottles to store water in as we fished.
Chip (seen upper left) carried a water filter/pump to keep us in fresh, cold water free of Giardia. We drained and filled our water bottles constantly during the trip.
I fished this nice run (above center) with my ought weight. Diligence paid off with this nice cutthroat (upper right).
I decided to commence ending this "article" because it could go on forever. I have three images above of some of the beautiful North Crandall trout that Chip and I caught that day. My special thanks to Chip for taking his time and sharing his slice of Heaven with me for the day.
Chip and I caught and released over 50 cutthroats, cuttbows, and rainbows on that beautiful August 25th of 1998.
In the image strip just above left is the store front for the latest North Fork Anglers Fly Shop which I haven't visited yet. I expect to see it in 2007. Center above is Chip Andrews manager of NFA in the new store. Chip never gets a close-up image shot of him, if he can help it. Above right is Tim Wade, owner of North Fork Anglers. Tim has been the consummate host and is your main source for everything fly fishing for these parts.
If you haven't experienced fly fishing in this quiet area of NW Wyoming, you should take a trip there. The scenery is gorgeous, the people are incredibly friendly, plus Tim Wade and Chip Andrews at North Fork Anglers will ensure that you have a top notch trip and experience there.
Cody has a fascinating history nicely defined and displayed in their showcase museum. The town is very nice with good restaurants and very accomodating people.
For full info on Fly Fishing NW Wyoming with Tim Wade please click on The North Fork Anglers Website. or call North Fork Anglers, 1107 Sheridan Ave. Cody, Wyoming, at 307-527-7274. Please tell the guys Bill Byrd sent you.