It seems odd to me that, in spite of traveling across the country for the past 20 years and spending a great deal of time in the Western U.S., I haven’t spent much time at all in Wyoming. A few weeks ago, I decided to remedy that situation and take my friends at Hi Mountain Seasonings up on their offer to put The Sporting Chef TV show on some wild trout.
I grew up throwing a fly rod, but I’ve always left other options open in case flies weren’t catching fish. To the fly fishing purist, this is blasphemy, but I’ll work through it. If I’m fly fishing with no luck and the guy across the river from me is using a spinning rod and catching fish, I’ll be right back with mine. When I let my fly fishing fanatic friends know that we were fishing the Sweetwater River, their knees buckled just a bit and they got that glazed look in their eyes. “You’re gonna need caddis, humpy’s, hoppers…” which, as it turned out, I did.
Anyone who has ever produced or hosted an outdoor TV show understands how the shoot can be harpooned by a simple sentence or two. If the local guide says, “It’s been on fire! We’re going to shoot our limits and be back in the lodge by 8 AM,” the chances of shooting any ducks gets reduced down to about 10 percent, maybe. It’s OK to think it, just don’t say it out loud. TV cameras, even without high expectations, can stop an epic fish bite or migration as soon as the cameras come out of the cases. Not so on the Sweetwater.
I lost many more fish than I landed and I’ll take the blame for that. My fly fishing skills were a little rusty since I’ve been bass fishing much more often lately. Putting the screws to a 5-pound bass stuck with a pair of treble hooks requires much less finesse than keeping a 2-pound trout with a barbless #22 hook stuck to the corner of his lip on the line. Much to the horror of my fly pals, we did keep a couple to cook on the show. That took a little doing since I forgot my net and had to put the Kung Fu death grip on a fish or two in order to run it over to my Orion cooler. I’m pretty sure you won’t see that part on the show. For those of you who plan on writing in to let me know that killing and eating native trout is a sin against nature, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that you’ve all released a few tired fish that didn’t survive past day’s end. Ours were delicious.
After the Sweetwater, we headed up to a high country lake on a 90 minute off-road trip in a 4-seater Arctic Cat Wildcat, which was extremely cool. Since I got my driver’s license, I’ve never been without a 4-wheel drive vehicle and have done some borderline stupid things with them until I realized that it’s better to have one parked in my driveway than at the body shop. These side-by-sides are a hoot. Lighter, faster and more maneuverable than a Jeep CJ, they’ll go pretty much anywhere most other vehicles can’t. It enabled us to fish a beautiful 10K foot elevation lake without ever seeing another vehicle or people. OK, we did run into a large group of teenaged hikers from Jackson, but that’s it.
We got lucky and found a pair of boats in the bushes that didn’t leak much. One for my and friends, the other for the camera guys. We caught some of the largest brook trout I’d ever caught…on spinners. Back down the hill to cook more fish. While I set up the cooking segment, the crew caught dozens of little brookies in a nearby stream and went back at it until sundown after the work was done.
As luck would have it, I’ve got a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming on deck for September. Along with my Orion cooler, I’ll pack along my fly rod, spinning rod and a 5-gallon jug of bug spray to help combat the huge swarms of mosquitos we encountered along both the river and the lake. And there’s a better than average chance that I’ll keep a fish or two for the dinner table.
Scott Leysath, The Sporting Chef