The impetus for this trip comes out of a short one-day visit that a couple of the guys made last year. During that trip, they fished to a Gray Drake hatch and wanted to go back again this year in hopes of fishing the hatch again. The Gray Drake is a large mayfly that may be better known to anglers familiar with the Henry’s Fork or Yellowstone River to our north. There are also famous Gray Drake hatches in the Midwest and East.
So, this is where it begins. I’ve never fished a Gray Drake hatch, and I’ll be heading to new water to do it. Sure, I’ve fished the famous Western Green Drake hatch here in Colorado, and I know the Green Drakes are similar in size to Gray Drakes. However, that’s where the similarity ends. The Gray Drake hatching behavior is quite different than that of Green Drakes. Nonetheless, I have heard that trout will sometimes take a Green Drake imitation during a Gray Drake hatch.
Preparing for a trip to a new river which will hopefully provide a hatch of mayflies that you’ve never fished to before can knock you off balance. My first instinct is to learn everything I can about the new hatch and then start tying flies like a madman to imitate them.
This can have drawbacks. I remember my first trip to Ascension Bay in Mexico. I tied flies to catch bonefish and permit for months before we left. I had hundreds of flies and probably ended up using fewer than 10 of them on the entire trip. I still have some of those flies stored in a giant fly box 30 years later. Bottom line is you want to be prepared for the “main attraction” of the trip, but what if the Gray Drake hatch doesn’t happen and all you’ve got is boxes of beautifully tied Gray Drake imitations?
The key is to supply your fly box with a reasonable number of flies tied specifically for what you may encounter on the new water, but more importantly have patterns that cover a lot of ground. General purpose dry flies like the Adams Parachute, Elk Hair Caddisfly and Stimulator are always a good bet. Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail nymphs have probably caught more trout in more different places than any other nymph imitation. Wooly Buggers, a few wet flies and some ant, grasshopper and beetle imitations round out the fly pattern styles. Any of these flies, if presented properly, can catch trout anywhere.
Most of the fishing I do close to home is on the South Platte River tailwaters. These fisheries mimic spring creeks closely and typically require small-sized flies that are good matches for the natural insects you find in the water. The odds are they won’t do me a lot of good on the Laramie, which is essentially an unregulated river, but I’ll take a few just in case. In addition, I’ve been combing through boxes of stored flies that I used on rivers that are similar to the Laramie and will take a few with me.
Of course, I’ve also been tying flies especially for the Laramie River. It gets me excited about the trip and a fly pattern like a Gray Drake nymph or spent spinner may turn things in my favor if we do see a hatch.
This isn’t my first “new” river, so I know the preparation goes beyond just fly imitations. I have to remind myself that I don’t need 10 fly rods or five landing nets. The tendency is to pack backups for the backups. It’s especially bad if you’re driving to the river because you can fill a pickup truck with junk you’ll never use. I remind myself to pack like I was flying to my destination. It really cuts down on the excesses.
I usually start the packing process by just throwing everything I think I’ll need into a pile on my office floor. When it’s actually time to pack I go through the pile of tackle, clothing, cameras, waders, etc. and typically eliminate 60% of it at home. I still end up with more than I need, but at least it’s manageable.
The preparation for this trip has been particularly fun because it dovetails with another project I’m working on this summer. My plan is to simplify my fly fishing. This means moving away from the technical, small fly match-the-hatch world of tailwater angling to a more general style of fishing where I’ll fish attractor style flies that are designed to attract the trout’s attention and hopefully induce it to strike. It’s particularly well suited for fishing Colorado’s high country streams.
This opens the door for some overnight camping trips near more secluded water and a more physical style of angling. The word is that Colorado’s small streams are its most underutilized angling resource. Just the chance for solitude on the water is an intriguing goal.
In the meantime, I’m busy sorting through gear for the Laramie trip. I still haven’t decided if I want to leave a few days early and fish and camp my way to the river or just drive straight through. The pile of gear in my office is getting bigger and bigger every day. I’ll deal with it soon.
The best part is that after 45 years of fly fishing and travelling to fly fishing destinations throughout the world I’m still pumped and looking forward to the trip. New water! What more could you ask for!
Visit EdEngleFlyFishing.com to see Ed Engle’s blog, “The Lone Angler Journal.”