rob peddie (rippnlips)
2 - Good
Just thought I drop a line to let all know that the fishing is starting to heat up at the world famous Gray Reef on the North Platte River near Casper, WY. This section has been called the best trophy tailwater fishery in America for the past 5+ years. In 9 miles of floating you have a legitamate chance of hooking over 50 fish... landing them is another story. There have been days where boats have landed over 100 fish and very rarely do you see fish under 16". Last year one of my clients landed a 34" female brown. There are pics of it on my website (www.robpeddie.com) and cowboy drifters website.
On average the fish run from 19" - 23" and fight very hard. Not uncommon to have a 5 or 10 minute fight. This year the BLM has bought a couple of miles of the land near the dam and now there is over 4 miles of public water to wade... depending of course on the flow. Anything over 1200 csf is pretty hard wading. The water is very mild and flat though. The best fishing is in the private stretches. It's not uncommon to double up (both anglers catch a fish at the same time) several times throughout the day.
The water will remain at winter flow (500csf) until mid -April and the rainbows begin spawning towards the end of March. Just to see these rainbows spawn is worth the trip. Some say that the entire 9 mile float is nothing but a giant redd. Most outfitters will not allow clients to fish directly to spawners but they will fish below where numerous feeding fish lay. This is as good as trout fishing gets. "Silly" or "whiffle-ball" is how most guides describe it. Have you ever caught 100 pounds of trout in a day? Or over 300 inches of trout in a day? And not in Alaska. I have a guy who comes out from TN in mid April and says it is better than Alaska. Cheaper, easier travel, just as big and as many fish... + no bears.
The great thing about the reef is that the fishing is great when all the other rivers in CO, WY, MT are just beginning to thaw. March, April, and May are the best months to fish this particular stretch. 95% of the fishing will be nymphing. The other 5% would be streamers. The dry fly fishing doesn't get going here until mid-june... the same time all the other rivers begin to pop also.
I can not recommend this trip enough. You can get a real cheap ticket into Denver then rent a car or you can fly non-stop to Casper from Chicago and rent a car or have your outfitter pick you up. Most outfitters have deals on hotel rooms.
I am booked pretty solid for the season but can recommend a few highly skilled guides/outfitters and tell you the difference in service.
1) cowboy drifters will keep you out the longest and catch you the most fish. They will make you think you are the only boat on the river more often than not. They also have cabins on the river and offer private wade fishing access... wyocowboydrifters.com or just google cowboy drifters. The owner is Jason Hamrick and has had a 2 part "Gray Reef" show on Outdoor Life Network.
2) North Platte Lodge will be the most expensive but has over 10 miles of private water and you will float/wade fish most of the day. Again they try to keep you ahead of the traffic but end up posting up in a run and waiting the floatilla out. The lodge is located just below the dam and there is plenty of public access to wade fish around the lodge. You can see their info at northplattelodge.com or google North Platte Lodge... they also have a blog site on the reef. The owners are Trent and Erik and will be very helpful to you.
3) Crazy Rainbow has the most private water access but not the best guides. The price is right and they do have a few guides who will put you on fish and hold a good conversation. They can put in / take out almost anywhere they want. This helps get those first fish on the board and keeps you ahead of the armada for the first half of the day. They have a lodge but not on good water so you are better off getting a hotel or cabin. They also watch the clock a bit so when it gets after 3 be ready for a boat ride. You can go to Crazyrainbow.com to view them. They don't keep up to date fishing reports though. The Owner is an oil tycoon and uses the biz as a write off. You won't talk to or see him but he does have a pretty good staff at the shop.
4) Platte River Anglers... wyomingflyfishing.net These guys claim to be the biggest online fly shop... or at least do the most biz. They do do a great job in keeping the fishing report updated. This is the guide service if you are on the clock and want to fish for no more than 7 hours. Their day begins at their shop which is 25 minutes away from the put-in and the meeting/drive time is included in the over-all time you have to fish which is 8 hours. So 45 minutes in the morning to meet, drive, rig then 30 minutes in the afternoon to drive back leaves you with very little time to fish. Their guides are good but think of the job as a 9 to 5'er. Mark Boname was the owner and has a bunch of fly patterns on the market... mostly midges since that's the diet of reef fish. The new owner is Ryan Anderson and he is one of the best guides on the river.
5) There are a few other guide services but none I can recommend. The saying around the Platte is local guides for local waters and I'm a firm believer. Don't hire a CO guide to fish the Reef.
I have been guiding with these guys for the past 8 years and know them all real well. Along with most of the outfitters in the state of WY. The state has 500,000 people in it so of course we all know each other.
For the streamer/salmon fly enthusiast the end of May and beginning of June is usually the magic dates. Last year was the best salmon-fly day I've seen in years on June 14th. For the true dry-fly fanatic the drake (green and grey) hatch's usually start around the third week of June and last just a few weeks. This is for the Encampment, New Fork, and Green Rivers. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Or if you do look into any of these outfitters feel free to tell them I sent you.
Rob Peddie (03/01/09)