An experience I will never forget! Set high in the Big Horn Mountains, Spear-O-Wigwam ranch is the place from which I explored the magnificent Wyoming landscape last week. Horseback riding, hiking, fishing or a combination of these activities was just out the front door in a setting that truly spoke to your spirit and left you with the understanding of how life was lived, in a time long past.
The adventure was nothing short of cosmic.
The 34 horses were driven from their corral each night by a set of wranglers. The horses destination, one of numerous high mountain pastures located within the Big Horn National Forest for an evening of grazing among the shadows of the lodge-pole pines and rocky outcroppings of the Big Horn Mountains. Each morning the wranglers returned to once again gather the horses and push them to the ranch corral, beginning another day's work of packing, training and trail riding. The wranglers, composed of both men and women, were living their dream. Riding, roping and residing in a place that has changed little from the time man's eyes first set upon its wild character. All of them, real people, upholding an ethic of hard work, honesty and a love of land and animal that sometimes escapes the understanding of many who live among the steel, blacktop and glass of the city. This simpler choice of existence, although dramatic at times, beckoned me to look back through a window in time to see the purity of a way of life that has mostly been substituted for by a short sighted thought process that does not include the land and the animals that survive upon it. It was a pleasure to see a group of people living in harmony with their surroundings instead of looking for ways to change it.
The entire ranch is powered by two massive generators. Each night, power to the ranch was turned off. In the morning, the generators were re-started and the wonders of light and power resumed. The absence of power each night left me to ponder, once again, what it was like to live without these conveniences. The moon and stars shone brightly and fire provided the only additional light. Cell phone service at the ranch was not available, only a satellite phone for emergencies. Those who had flashlights used them to find their way. I preferred not to, only to fully appreciation a way of life that still exists, and in fact flourishes, with fewer modern conveniences. Granted, just a flip of a switch and all the conveniences of home would be restored, but the thought of life without all the additional technology was somehow appealing.
The moose and mule deer, mountain lions and marmots, eagles and elk all made appearances during the week. In this National Forest, it seemed as though the animals interaction with man was that of curiosity and coexistence rather than fear. This was just an observation but in most of these encounters the subject would stand their ground and stare back instead of flee in terror. It was nice to observe the wildlife at a distance and I couldn't help but feel that somehow these animals felt the same way as I did.
Fishing each day took place in a different location and the variety of scenery was incredible. Small hidden lakes with streams flowing in and out gave you the choice of fishing still water or moving water. High mountain reservoirs loaded with cutthroat trout, and meadow creeks flowing crystal clear with brook trout hiding in every plunge pool, And the grayling, oh the grayling. The fishing wasn't always easy, but the scenery was always grand and we did find our share of the "village idiot" fish that I often dream about when I go to new destinations.
Overall the trip was magical. The accommodations were perfect without being to fluffy. The food was fantastic and the company was delightful. The common thread that binds this wild country together is the horse. There would truly be something missing without it and Spear-O has incorporated this 4 legged as it should be. Thank you to Ken, Beth and their staff at Spear-O-Wigwam for showing me the paths forged by wild game and followed by man and horse, for taking the time to share your stories, and that of Spear-O-Wigwam in a manner that embraces all who wish to become part of its history, and thank you Mitch for making it all possible.
As a fly angler, one of the aspects I most enjoy is tying flies. This art form of creating imitations of food that fish feed on is not only creative, it is a valuable part of the education process while learning about fly fishing. Without a general understanding of fish forage, I believe there will be a missing piece in the bigger puzzle of becoming a successful fly angler.
In nature, the insects and other forage that populate our waters are the food sources that fish depend upon to survive. Fish forage exists in all shapes, sizes and colors and is distributed in wide variation throughout the different cold, warm, flowing and still water environments where fish live. Because the basic premiss in fishing is to fool the fish into eating the meal that is attached to our line, anglers in general should be interested in the identification and life cycles of fish forage, to become more successful at catching fish.
In the world of fly tying there are literally millions of patterns designed to imitate the insects, crustaceans, terrestrials, leeches and minnows that fish eat. Using a combination of natural and artificial materials that are either tied on or wrapped around a hook, anglers from all over the world strive to create just the right imitation of forage in their local waters to outsmart their targeted species of fish. These patterns have specific recipes so they can be copied by anglers seeking new imitations for their own waters or to prepare for travel to fishing destinations they are unfamiliar with. There are no machines that tie flies, so each is a hand made creation.
Fly tying often times lures anglers into researching and understanding more clearly the importance of a question often asked in fly fishing, and in all fishing for that matter. “What are they biting on?” Having the answer............... is the key to your success.
Fly tying classes in the Midwest begin after the first of the year. When the onset of winter is apparent, fly tiers from all over the region begin to prepare their arsenal of flies for the upcoming season. Once the tools and skills are acquired, fly anglers generally tie all season long enabling them to create just the right imitations any time, any where, in hopes of fooling their most challenging adversary.
Keep an eye on Gray Goat Fly Fishing for the upcoming fly tying classes,,,, at a location near you.