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All of April’s most important North Platte River fishing questions answered!
All of April’s most important North Platte River fishing questions answered!
Fishing is 10/10: Prespawn Rainbows, hungry postspawn Browns
Flow: 500 CFS and Clear
The Grey Reef is a tailwater that is loaded with normal tailwater aquatic life. Scuds, annelids, midges, leeches, crawdads, and baitfish (sculpins.) This time of year, large numbers of pre-spawn Rainbows and Cutbows are staging in long, deep runs, gorging themselves in preparation for their annual spawn. Meanwhile the Big Browns are in post-spawn mode, also eating everything in sight. They are replenishing reserves spent during their spawn, stacking in large numbers, in the tailouts of the long deep runs. Salmonids in tailwaters with large amounts of food sources expend as little amount of energy as possible to feed. Low flows, slow water, lazy fish concentrated in seams of slow deep runs, or tailouts is the basis for our topic this week. Egg patterns are still number one on the menu and literally all you need to catch fish. Nymph deep on the bottom of runs and drop off’s of shelves.
Kathryn and Cameron with a double on Egg Patterns. Grey Reef 1/28/18.
Midges, scuds, rockworms, baetis nymphs, and leeches are also producing fish. Fish are looking up on wind free days sipping midges, so look for noses in flat, slow, skinny water, and you can have stellar dry fly action right now. Streamer action is as good as it ever gets! The absolute best way to catch really big fish right now. Typical Winter Tans, Whites, Olive, and Browns are your best color options. Low and slow on the retrieve is key!
Guide, Jack and sidekick Boots with a Bow on a midge dry fly. Fremont Canyon 2/2/18.
Jack with a Brown on a custom brown/tan streamer. Miracle Mile 1/30/18.
The “tip of the week” will help you increase hook ups and decrease misses.
Remember how I mentioned low flows, lots of food, lazy fish, and fish not wanting to expend unnecessary energy to feed? Whether eating a midge, egg, or streamer in the winter, let’s examine their takes (eats.) There have been great studies done on nymph fishing with indicators and how the indicator reacts. Those of you who know me have heard this for the past 15 years but when we (anglers) make a cast, get a great drift, and execute a good hook set, we still miss 80-82% of the time, and that’s when we do it correct. Also, one-third of the time, a fish will eat your fly, close their mouth, open and spit it, and your indicator will never move. That’s A LOT of misses! Add winter water temps and slower fish metabolism with slow current and lazy fish, and the number of misses will increase even more.
Thingamabobbers work great for high, fast water and when using big nymphs on low wind days. They are so buoyant they actually set the hook for you when the take is aggressive. As they ride super high and get blown around, this style indicator will affect your drift. Because the winter flows are lower and slower, the fish are not aggressive, and we generally experience more wind variation, Thingamabobbers are not as ideal for our water in the winter.
I prefer a cork indicator in winter months. You want to use an indicator that doesn’t sink when using an AB weight, but rides low or even just under the surface in faster turbulent water. Little foam or cork indicators from WAPSI are ideal for casting into wind and VERY subtle winter takes.
The other “KEY” is a smooth, gentle, downstream, all-in-one-motion, hook set. If the indicator moves ever so slightly, set the hook. Sets are free! More times than not, you will be rewarded for a nice smooth hook set than, “oh man, I should have set, that was definitely a fish.” If you use the exact same motion as a recast, the physics are better than a “jerk” or “pop.” This gets your leader tight SOON, rather than hard. Every single one of us has set way too hard before, me probably more than most! The set is a reaction, and most reactions are fueled by excitement, adrenaline, and force. Remember, all that does is rip your flies away from their mouths sooner. The resistance of the fish during a setting motion should stop your rod motion. Slide hooks tight as opposed to jerking the hook into their mouth. Stop and think of the physics. While you’re doing this, reach into your fly box, eyes closed, and you will find out quickly that little fly hooks are sharp! It doesn’t take much force to stick one into your finger.
The majority of winter takes will be very subtle, so if the indicator moves, slide hooks tight. If hooks don’t come tight, follow through into your back cast and recast to get your flies back to the fish asap. The more time your flies are in the food lane drifting naturally the more opportunities you’ll have to hook up. Every run here has a River Monster! It might as well be you that catches him/her.
Clients causing double trouble on the Reef 1/31/18.
If you want to see the best fly fishing possible (and eat some of the best hot chili, soups, and stews) give us a shout soon. With awesome weather lately and limited space we are booking up fast!!! Mention you read this fishing report and receive a $25 discount on a full day float trip in February. That’s $325 for 2 anglers, full day float on the Grey Reef with hot lunch. Our clients have been averaging around 70 fish per boat per day and this “Tip of the Week” is the main reason why. You can’t beat that deal and our guides want to be out there as much as you do and ensure you have the best fishing trip possible.
Fish Hard, Fish Often
Water is clear and mostly clean. Hard freezing has broke free more of the summers stalky vegetation but it does NOT effect your fishing. Reef to Lusby is ice free in the afternoons with only a couple sections that have seen some ice up over night. By midday entire stretch is open.
*** Make sure you call before traveling here to float the river on your own. If the wind doesn’t blow after a couple very cold, very calm nights, those stretches sometimes stay locked up. There literally has not been a single other guide service or boat on the river but us so don’t trust every fishing report out there that you read. Putting a driftboat/raft/pontoon on the river when iced over can be extremely dangerous if you aren’t floating with someone who has recent experience on this river.***
Fishing is 10/10:
The fishing is as good as it can possibly get.
What to use: Nymph on the bottom of deep runs/shelfs. Egg patterns are number one on the menu. Literally all you need to catch fish cast after cast.
midges, scuds, rockworms, and leeches are also producing fish. Fish are still looking up on wind free days sipping midges, so on Lee sides, mornings, evenings, look for noses in flat, slow, skinny water, and you can have stellar dry fly action right now. Streamer action is also incredible! Typical Winter Tans, Whites, olive, and browns are your best color options. Low and slow!
The key to winter streamer fishing is a very slow and deep retrieve. If it’s not slowly moving near the bottom with the current you may not get a single bump. It doesn’t mean you are using the wrong fly or the fish aren’t eating streamers, it means you aren’t presenting your fly in the right area at the right speed. Follow the contour of the bottom with your streamer and strip set on any resistance 👍🏼 It works! Be patient and spend the time to find out how to get to the right depth and the retrieve technique that is triggering strikes. Most takes are extremely subtle!
2000 CFS 9/4/17
1750 CFS 9/5/17
1500 CFS 9/6/17
The Bureau of Reclamation has notified us that water levels on the Grey Reef will be dropping off the first week of September and reduced again to the normal winter flow of 500 cfs during the 2nd week of September. The daily trend has been a 250 cfs drop each night.
Shorter days and cooler nights have ended the life cycle of the moss in the river. It has started dying, breaking free, and drifting down the current. When the flows drop, the river returns to its main channel and the huge amounts of river salad filter the water and clear it up increasingly as you get downstream. It will only take a few days for the moss to settle, water to turn gin clear, and 95% of the fish in the river to start keying on adult bugs on the surface for the majority of their diet. Last year was amazing, but I foresee even better fall fishing for 2017 with outstanding Caddis, BWO, and PMD hatches. During autumn, the streamer fishing will also really pick up.
PMD, BWO, Caddis, Trico, Hopper (Foam: Tan, Yellow, Pink)
BWO – Barr’s Emergers, RS2, Juju Baetis, Olive Foam Back, Epoxy Back Baetis
PMD – Barr’s, Epoxy Back PMD, Pheasant Tail
TRICO – Purple back
MIDGES – Disco Midge, Miracle Midge
Brown, Brown/Yellow, Tan, Olive, Black
Call Bethany or Jason at 307-331-2031 for Guide/Riverfront Cabin Availability
The annual Spring Flush is over and the fishing is still fantastic. LIKE our Facebook page to see DAILY reports, photos, and videos. If you don’t have Facebook, you can still view our posts on www.wyocowboydrifters.com Main Page Facebook Feed.
1,000 CFS. Stable, post spring flush.
Eggs | Rockworms (Red, Purple, Pink) |San Juan Worms (Red)| Leeches | Crane Fly Larvae | Midges | Baetis Nymphs & Emergers
Olive | Tan | Brown
Up to 7, 000 fish per mile during the spawn.
The Baetis are coming and our annual bug hatches will be in full swing. Some Fish will then become suspended eating emergers along with the big boys on the bottom sucking up eggs, targeting fry, crawfish, leeches, and other large food sources.
Fish have moved up into the gravel on their spawning beds (Redds). Please respect the spawning fish on their beds and observe the signs posted along the river describing the dangers to the fish and their eggs from wading and fishing those specific areas. We encourage sportsmanlike conduct to help preserve our incredible natural resources. Education and awareness of this topic pays off and provides continued fish production and a healthy and strong river system for generations to come.
Boats on a river have the right of way and continue to move down river so be aware when wading to decrease potential wrecks. As always, have fun and be safe!
Grey Reef Fishing Report:
Grey Reef to Casper: Fish Long Deep Runs, 8-9′ leader, BB/AB weight.
Nymphing: Scuds, Midges, Rock Worms, Egg Patterns, Baetis, Leeches
Streamers: Olive, Grey, Brown, Tan
Cowboy Drifters is the only outfitter guiding daily on the Grey Reef right now. And we are still routinely getting off the river in the dark! We are boating tons of fish and some really big fish at that. The annual Rainbow migration is on. Actually I have seen several fish on beds already. Rainbows and Cuttbows are Salmonids. Every year they travel up to 80 miles up river to the Grey Reef section to spawn. This is what increases the fish numbers so high. The prespawn fish that are gorging themselves in preparation of the spawn. This high number of BIG brude fish are stacked up in 500 cfs runs, not spread out in 3,000 cfs. This is by far and has been for the past 20 years to catch the trophy of a lifetime and actually hook multiple giants per day.
Cowboy Drifter Guides have been on the river everyday and while the other outfitters are gearing up to start their season in April when the fish are in full spawn. By then we will have had 3 solid months of the river to ourselves. The best guides on the North Platte River and Grey Reef and Definitely the hardest working who NEVER work off a time clock will put you on the best float trip on the Grey Reef and other fishable sections of the North Platte River. I guarantee it! Local guides that spend everyday on the river in snow, wind, rain, or shine are always prepared to give you the best of what this trophy trout fishery destination has to offer.
If you are in search of a Giant Brown Trout River Monster, February and March is the season. The Browns have finished their spawn and are recovering int the slow tailouts of the long deep runs. Expending as little energy as possible they are replenishing their energy by eating every food source that drifts by their face without having to compete for it. It is the only time you will see large concentrations of hue Brown Trout together in schools. Once the river comes up for the flush the Browns will be pushed back downstream and again start competing for their territory. SO….. Obviously this is why we hook more Big Brown Trout than any other time of year.
PLEASE, DO NOT EVER FISH FOR ANY TROUT ON THEIR SPAWNING BEDS (also known as Redds.)
Lastly, the Rainbows are staging and beginning to spawn so please watch out for their beds (Redds.) Clear gravel spots tan in color are Redds, this is where the Rainbows lay their eggs. It is imperative to not wade across these areas!!!! We do not stock the Grey Reef and rely on natural reproduction for our river systems health. Their are plenty of great fish in the runs below the spawning beds. Thank you for very much for your conservation efforts!!!!
Grey Reef Float Access Map