South Fork Shuffle

The results were amazing as Snake River cutthroats, rainbows and browns came up to slam the Chernobyl Ant...

  • By: Steven Spigelmyer

After fishing my life away on the western end of Yellowstone Park for 10 weeks, my buddies and I decided to head down past Jackson, Wyoming, to float the fabulous Snake River. I had been learning how to row a boat so I was expecting to be able to row my buddies Curtis and Bryce. What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that Bryce used to be an offensive lineman, and trying to row a 250-pound beast down a river as big as the South Fork is no easy task. Yet the big guy was a blessing in disguise because as I was unable to row it meant more time to twitch hoppers off the bank. The results were amazing as Snake River cutthroats, rainbows and browns came up to slam the Chernobyl Ant when it would land inches off the bank. It literally is inches, and although you may lose some flies to overhanging trees, if you can land that bug off the bank and get a good drift those fish will come and slam it. We floated more than 30 miles of river, just camping on the bank when our day was over. But catching too many fish isn’t always a good thing, as the river karma managed to get me one more time.

Every day on the river is a learning experience; it just so happens that some days are more expensive lesson then others. On the last day of our float, in order to save time, I decided to rig up my six-weight Sage Z-axis rod on the boat. It’s my favorite rod, and since I worked at Bud Lilly’sFly SHop, I got it personalized with my name on it, as well as my Ross Evolution, which was attached to the butt section. Yet as I prepared to put my four-piece together, I clumsily landed my rod and reel in the river. It’s safe to say a rod and reel shouldn’t be used as a floatation device in the event of an emergency. I watched as my $700 rod and $300 reel floated to the depths of the Snake River.

But not even losing a rod like that could ruin such a perfect trip. Something about trout coming up to slam hoppers just makes me giddy. And even the big footballer Bryce learned to use a little finesse when setting the hook, allowing him to land his first fish on a fly. Although he’ll always remember the trip for landing his first trout, I will always remember paying my monthly fee to the river gods. I miss the river already, unfortunately I miss my baby Z-axis more. Just another day on the river, at least it wasn’t a video camera this time. So if you are on a drift boat, it’s not as important to save time as it is to be prepared beforehand. Hopefully I have paid all my fees to trout for the year, but I doubt it.

Steven Spigelmyer is studying journalism at the University of Nevada at Reno, and is reporting for us from Yellowstone National Park this summer.