River conditions around the Cody area have been up and down in regard to clarity and fishable conditions as the much needed rains fell at last. The rain melted the lower elevation snow that contributed to the turbidity of the Shoshone, Greybull and Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. Needless to say, when the waters rise and go off color this time of year, it is time to consider wetting a line in other places.
Fishing has remained good on the tail waters of the Wind/Big Horn and Shoshone for fly fishers wading or floating these tailwater fisheries. Flies tied to imitate scuds, sowbugs, aquatic worms and leeches, or baitfish like minnows and baby trout have been working consistently. Hatches have become a bit more sporadic and irrigation flows have increased on these two rivers. The aquatic flies mentioned in this paragraph work best fished dead drift under a strike indicator deep and near the bottom.
A common dead drift method is to connect two flies – scud to sowbug for instance, or a San Juan worm to a zebra midge – in tandem to better one’s success. This combo is cast upstream and then fished back and downstream without drag until line pressure catches up to the leader and flies, swinging them back to the surface. Recast and do the same thing over and over until you get the right drift and a fish hooked to your fly is the reward. When fishing from a drift boat or raft, anglers should keep their lines with indicators positioned at the 10 o’clock position on the port side and 2 o’clock on the starboard side of the boat to maintain a drag free drift.
Lakes have seen an increase in activity now that rivers have gone into the spring cycle from clear, to off-color to muddy, depending on air temperature and rain or snowmelt influences. The questionable water conditions will last through May and June most years. East Newton, a local catch-and-release, flies-and-lures-only lake has been fishing very well to midges which are those little black, gray or olive bugs that look like mosquitoes flying around the surface or the edges of lakes this time of year.
Luce and Hogan reservoirs are two other popular lakes managed and stocked by Wyoming Game and Fish that fish better and better as the waters warm, increasing aquatic and land-based insect activity. The road into Luce and Hogan is found on CR 7RP off WYO 120 north of Cody on the way to Clark. The road actually leaves WYO 120 about a mile past the Chief Joseph Highway turnoff and loops back around to WYO 120 approximately 7 miles north on Chapman Bench. This road can be slippery and treacherous on the upper end when it rains or is saturated from snowmelt. If going to these lakes after a wet weather event, it is advisable to drive to the farthest north access, then loop back south to these two lakes. You will be glad you did.
Again, midge imitations – larvae, pupae, emergers and adult fly patterns have been the best bet for fly fishermen at Luce or Hogan in early May. My favorite patterns have been black snow cone midge pupae in sizes 10-16 and they seem to work all day. Other flies to switch to are small leeches, damsel fly or dragon fly nymph imitations if midge action is slow. When cast and fished in 1-4 feet of shore line where the temperatures warm faster due to the reflected sunlight off shallow water, the trout are more actively feeding and keying on imitations of all of the above at some time during the day. In a week or so, Callibaetis mayflies will also be appearing on all these lakes. When these size 14 mayflies get active, it pays to have a tan-bodied parachute fly on the water trailed by some kind of crippled or emergent Callibaetis pattern.
I want to remind you all that the East Yellowstone Trout Unlimited Chapter is holding the 2022 version of the IF 4 Film Festival at Big Horn Cinemas on May 10. This year’s film festival has eight great videos clips of anglers – both men and women – with unique stories told in each clip. The length of the film is 1 hour and 40 minutes with a 10 minute intermission halfway through the showing. This is a fundraiser for the EYTU Chapter which, as many of you know, has done a remarkable job working with the Wyoming Game and Fish and other entities in Wyoming on wild trout and native Yellowstone cutthroat fisheries throughout the Bighorn Basin and Yellowstone National Park since the chapter’s founding in 1987.
There are giveaways and raffle prizes at the showing as well as the opportunity to sample some locally made libations for those so inclined. Raffle tickets can be purchased two for $10, or 5 tickets for $20 from chapter members, or at North Fork Anglers or Wyoming Trout Guides, as well as at the door. Raffle items are: a Sage SP fly rod, a guided fishing trip and a $100 gift certificate. I encourage all of you to support the local Trout Unlimited Chapter whose efforts are conducted by local volunteers. You can arrive as early as 6 p.m. to find out more about what efforts are being conducted by EYTU’s fishery projects in 2022 and beyond, or chat about your favorite fishery. The film airs at 7 p.m. If you cannot make it to the IF4 Film Festival you can purchase a ticket online at flyfilmfest.com and then view the videos from home. I hope to see many of you in attendance on May 10.