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Michael Gracie

Fly fishing the Grey Reef on Easter weekend

fromthedam A couple of buddies and I hit the Grey Reef this past weekend. Easter weekend to be precise. The flush happened just the week before, and there was a full moon last Thursday/Friday. Those with families pulled teeth (i.e. begged on hands and knees) for the chance to escape. I just had to find a dog sitter, and drive. The stars were aligned, and everything worked out just dandy.

theprofessor Craig “The Professor” Berg and I shot down early Friday morning and were in the water by noon. As would turn out to be the case all weekend, we started off very slow. After a few hours I took it upon myself to get friendly, and netted a neighbor’s fish that had gotten a little too far downstream from him. He returned the favor by spilling the beans – the fish had been feeding on the color red for days, and he pulled out his camera to show me the nine-plus pounder he’d picked up on a red Copper John just the day before. We thanked him for the tips, and proceeded to tie black flies on.

The rest of the day was markedly improved – Grey Reef trout love those little Red Rock Worms. Craig picked up a couple of fish, and then we moved cross dam to a vacant stretch of water. I turned up the heat, and by the end of the day we had about fifteen netted between us, caught on a combination of red worms and CJs, as well as little (like #22) black UV-winged emergers when a sweet midge hatch popped up.

Satisfied we had the place somewhat dialed, we popped by the motel to drop off our gear and then headed for grub. Our first mistake of the trip – ordering the ultra-super-hell-fire-and-brimstone flavored wings – was followed by a couple of Bud Lights each and a pizza we ate but didn’t really enjoy because our taste buds were burned clean off. Later that evening Corey “Check out those ducks…damn I wish I had a 12-gauge instead of this fly rod” Christensen arrived, and quickly declared us schmucks. In other words, there was no beer in the fridge and Corey wouldn’t stand for it – a jaunt to the drive-though liquor store solved that problem. We wound up the evening doing twelve ounce curls and introducing our Australian professor friend to UFC. He still thinks rugby players are tougher than those fighters, and we still think he has some kind of island nation inferiority complex. That issue would soon resolve itself too.

duckhunter Saturday morning was much of the same – cloudy and cold in the morning, with sun breaking through just long enough for us to thaw our hands and tie new flies on. Corey jaunted off on his own, we think to scope out the bird hunting opportunities (he was certainly dressed for the occasion) while Craig and I tested some of the same pools/runs that had produced for us the previous afternoon. It started off slow despite our switch from black to red, and by noon it was time to grab some burgers. We stopped at the little diner across 220 from the Reef access road and got our chow, along with a pretty interesting discussion with the great lady serving us about all the ghosts that haunted the restaurant, the highway, and the river. By the end of the day we had a couple of dozen fish released between us – that which goes bump in the night turned us to that which goes bump on the fly – and the fish thankfully weren’t spooked. I got a chance to piss the crew off too, with a eight fish run topped off by a roundabout 6.5 pound rainbow, just before quitting time. It was all good, as I lost the sleeping arrangements rock-paper-scissors game for the second night in a row soon thereafter.

Our last day on the water (Sunday) reverted to friendly competition once again. By lunchtime Craig had hooked up four times, while the Duck Hunter and I were empty handed. The Professor tried to keep his cool, but by the time we were halfway through our sandwiches the cockiness was beginning to show through.  Post-meal didn’t seem to be faring too much better either, with Craig picking up two more before we’d even wiped our mouths.  We’d been neglected by the Easter Bunny, and it was high time we filled up the baskets on our own. Corey and I positioned ourselves on each side of the flow, near the tail end of a slow running pool. The next hour was spent giving our furry little friend the middle finger…

easterbasket
Screw the chocolate rabbits – I’ll assemble my own basket…full of rainbows

Even though some of the crew were a little miffed that they could fish a hole for a half hour with no luck, then turn it over to another member (we won’t name names…wink wink) only to watch in disgust as six sum odd fish were pulled out of the section in the next half hour (using yellow scuds), we are all still friends (at least I think so, but it’s still subject to interpretation). However, should “the Professor” ever need help finding a new hobby, I’m suggesting he become an outdoor photographer – I’ll happily take the role of subject matter. As responsibilities back home won out over the clock, we were left wanting for more of the Reef. But we took with us lasting memories of an outstanding weekend, exemplified by a parting shot from the master cameraman…

endingthedayonagoodnote

MG signing off (to plan next year’s trip to the Reef)

Editor’s note: for those interested, there are more photos in this gallery.

Rod review: G. Loomis EastFork FR1085-4 (Part 2)

gear bagIncluding a taste of the Grey Reef

Following up on part one of the G. Loomis Eastfork 5 weight review, I finally had a chance to put the stick through the paces. The location for testing was the Grey Reef – North Platte River, Wyoming.

Casting

I’d previously noted that the rod was very accurate at intermediate distances, and felt a little mushy on the long end. I can’t say I had much of a chance to air it out, but I can say that on a large western trout stream you’ve got all you’ll ever need with the EastFork. I threw weighted and unweighted streamers, including doubles, and did a fair amount of nymphing with it as well. It performed admirably with all. I did not, however, cast any small dries with the rod, but I’m not going to wonder whether it can cleanly turn over a #20 Parachute Adams – the rod isn’t built for ultra-light work (although it still fared well protecting tippets – see below).

Catching

Marketers would like you to think that ‘feel’ is what it’s all about when it comes to fly rods. But while ‘feel’ may make you think you’ve been transported to some mystical place where the trout eat your fly and then swim directly into your net, the reality is far from it. Once you cast your magic rod, you still have to hook and land fish! And that’s where this baby seemed to shine.

During a day and a half of testing on a large mountain states tailwater, I caught and released roughly 25 fish. Better yet, I did most of that on 5X tippet and in very heavy flows. Best…the smallest fish was 17 inches and the average fish probably weighed a couple of pounds.

Loomis EastFork Fight
Bend or break – it bends and bends and bends

To get ’em to net you need a outfit that has leverage in its heart but isn’t so much of a broomstick that you’re on your second spool of tippet by noon. The Grey Reef was running around 2,000 cfs, meaning every hookup was a challenge. And while I pulled more than my fair share of hooks, I only popped one tippet (and I’m chalking that one up to user error to boot).

Here’s the best catch of the test…

Grey Reef Pig
Screwing up the weight average – at minimum I’ll call the rod lucky

Proof is in the pudding. The G. Loomis EastFork has earned itself a permanent spot in my multi-rod tube.