Fly Fishing @ the Stagecoach River Ranch
Labor Day Week 2011
Each summer, I meet up with my Dad and younger brothers for our annual Trout fishing expedition to the Rocky Mountains. In 2005 we discovered the Cody Wyoming area and have tried to return each year since to fly fish the North Fork Shoshone River. In years past we camped in the National Forest campgrounds and fished the river only above the forest boundary. With the recent Grizzly Bear incidents in the area, the past couple of summers we have stayed at various lodging facilities in the Wapiti Valley.
This year when searching for lodging, I came across a new place called the Stagecoach River Ranch. I immediately contacted the owner, Linda Bortel and talked to her about her lower level guesthouse and what her property had to offer. Once I located the Stagecoach River Ranch on Google Earth, I knew this was going to be a special place to stay.
We stayed seven nights using Linda’s guesthouse as our base camp. The guesthouse was much nicer than we expected, and Linda was a really generous and friendly hostess. Our plan was to only fish the river section on Linda’s property in the mornings or evenings, and head up river to our favorite spots from Pahashka down to the forest boundary bridge during the afternoons.
On our first full day we decided to stroll down to the river behind Linda’s home around noon to check it out. It was the first week of September, which is prime “Hopper Time” in North West Wyoming. The river flows were at 680 cfs, which is a higher flow than usual for the late summer season.
All of the trout in the North Fork Shoshone River are Wild fish that migrate up from Buffalo Bill Reservoir to spawn. The vast majority of the trout in the river are “Cuttbows”, with good numbers of pure Rainbows and Yellowstone Cutthroats mixed in with them.
The river bend behind Linda’s home is a perfect and classic river bend in all aspects. Above it is a stretch of great looking pocket water, and below it is a deep run followed by boulder filled riffles. All sections held plenty of trout, but that bend is something else. Wading out waist deep is unbelievably easy. The river bottom on the inside bend is a non-slippery small cobble stone surface. We could wade out far enough to be able to easily cast the 70 feet to the outside bank where the deeper water was.
On the first day, in about an hour I hooked into half a dozen really nice trout, and landed four of them. They were all over 20 inches in length, and came from the outside bend on a big Stone Nymph under an indicator. My dad and brothers were also hooking into and landing nice sized trout. Dad had one break his 2X leader trying to keep it out of the riffles. We were using 2X leaders that let us put good pressure on the fish and land them quickly.
A couple days later, my brother Nick and I got up early and went down to Linda’s River bend. We got on the water around 9:00am and started prospecting with nymphs under indicators waiting for the bugs to get active. We landed a handful of solid 16 inch trout, which we started calling “the little guys”.
Around 9:30 a hatch of what looked like PMD’s started coming off and trout were rising to them. Nick tied on a size 18 PMD and started landing fish pretty regularly. I hadn’t tied any PMD’s for this trip, so I started throwing a size 18 yellow humpy, which managed to fool a couple of the “little guys”.
The morning rise stopped around 10:30am, so wondering what to do next, I tied on a size 10 yellow foam hopper to see if it might be approaching “hopper time”. What followed was absolutely the most incredible trout fishing action I have ever experienced! I was fishing the run just below the bend, and in 2 hours time I landed and released EIGHTEEN trout on that little yellow hopper. The smallest trout measured 18 inches in length and most were over 20 inches with several pushing the 24-inch mark! I “long distance released” (LDR’d) at least a dozen more big fish during that time as well. I was using my 10’ 6wt and I was still having a heck of a time fighting those fish. Nick was catching plenty of trout on smaller pink-bellied foam hoppers , and we had multiple double hook-ups going on during that incredible frenzied action.
A couple days later, we decided to see what the evening action was like on Linda’s river bend. Apparently we had educated the fish on fake hoppers, because for the most part they wanted nothing to do with them. Dad and Greg fished the bend section, and they both were getting into good fish. Dad had yet another monster break off, and Greg landed a couple of the nicest looking 20-inch plus Yellowstone Cutthroats I have ever seen.
The Stagecoach River Ranch is just over three miles up-river from Gibbs Bridge at the mouth of the reservoir. Being closer to the reservoir means the big fish will show up earlier in the season, and there will be greater numbers of them still migrating through the property later in the season. We were glad Linda requested we follow a Catch and Release / Barbless Hook policy on her stretch of the river, and that she didn’t allow float trip guides to anchor there either.
We hope to stay at the Stagecoach River Ranch next year and many years into the future, so please don’t go ruining it for all of us by being an irresponsible idiot. Lets all keep her river clean of trash and debris, and be ethical regarding the Wyoming Game & Fish Department’s Special Regulations for the North Fork Shoshone River.
Linda, thanks again for a fantastic week in Wild Wyoming!
The Locke Gang