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.
One skill/technique that many trout anglers neglect, is learning to fish streamers effectively. Streamers are imitations of bait fish, leaches and other bigger forage that larger fish prey upon on a regular basis. These larger imitations provide larger fish with high calorie meals and enable growth rates that pale in comparison to eating small insects, one at a time.
I believe, that recognizing the water types on a trout stream where streamers can be most efficiently be fished is the first step in learning to build confidence in this skill. Throughout the day trout anglers walk and wade through miles of water looking for that perfect spot where they feel the trout will live. Some like the long riffles of gravely runs, some like the plunge pools and deep drops of highly oxygenated water and some like the long glides of even speed boulder strewn water. Trout anglers are confident in these places because they have caught fish there before. They know how to fish the water using dead drift, swinging and dry fly techniques and generally are happy with their success. Time and time again I watch anglers walk by the slow moving, long, mid-depth flats which are abundant on our trout streams. This type of water is difficult, if not impossible to implement the standard drift techniques so commonly used in the faster water situations. Consequently these areas receive very little fishing pressure, and yes, the fish go there for rest, relaxation, and to HUNT.
Streamer fishing involves imparting action to the fly. Generally speaking, casts are made quartering down stream. Accurate casts are made to the far bank(12” from the bank is not close enough). The line is retrieved in a Strip.....Strip.....Strip fashion in which the length and abruptness of the Strips can be varied. Start moving the fly right when it his the water.
Heavier tippets are needed when fishing streamers because of the violent strikes and size of the fish. Don’t do yourself the disservice of not changing to a heavier 3X or 4X tippet. The fish you encounter in these stretches will be the ones you dream about. Getting lazy by not having enough tippet strength to control them, will enable these fish to take you to the cleaners.
Give streamer fishing a chance, or don’t and leave the big fish for me.