Gray Reef Fishing Report
Hope this little Gray Reef Fishing Report finds you all well. It’s been a very busy and productive January. The winter fishing is as expected: Fantastic. Although nymphing is the most typical technique, the streamer fishing has been phenomenal (like every winter). The really interesting thing is, we have even had some dry action! Yep. You read correctly, dry flies on the Grey Reef in January. Pretty much says it all, however let’s break it down.
We are targeting large concentrations of pre-spawn rainbows, post-spawn Browns and Cuttys, as well as the river monsters that call the North Platte home. From the photos you’ve seen lately, you might have noticed that some fish are very pale. This is an example of our rainbows running up river, as all salmonids do, to spawn each year where they were “conceived.” The pale fish come from the cold and murky water (iced over) from Government Bridge downstream as far as Glenrock. As they begin staging, they put on their ballroom colors as well as armor for the males. Some of the fish are already lighting up with spectacular rainbow/cutbow colors. These fish start their spawn earlier, typically the end of Feb/early March. Regardless, they are all eating and gorging themselves.
On average, the WGFD tells us that fish numbers are lower than normal. This is actually a great thing because it lends to a larger average fish size. 18-20 inches is consistent and the majority of the Rainbows/Cutbows are now the brood age class of fish. We are seeing more fish over that average size this winter than in the past few years. We rarely catch fish this time of year less than 18″. It’s not that they aren’t in the river, it’s just that they don’t prefer to get beat up or eaten. The not-quite sexually mature “teenagers” get run out of town pretty quick when Love is in the air.
The beauty of winter fishing is that we have that large migration of trout to the upper 8 + miles, increasing the fish per mile average. Hence why we love the winter and pre-spawn months… Higher than average numbers of big beasts!
The most successful rig from now through June is the Alaskan Bead Rig/Egg imitations. Colors vary as do the natural eggs in the water every hour after they are released. Eggs are one of the most popular sources of protein in the trout’s diet as they are readily available for much of the year. When expending energy to migrate and spawn, eggs are easy pickins.
Admittedly, I was a purist for years and strongly against the rig until I was educated. The bead rig is legal in Wyoming, as long as the bare hook is not more than 2″ from the egg pattern. When executed properly, with a smooth and soon set, the Alaskan Bead Rig is safer on fish than egg imitations attached to the hook, PERIOD. The hook enters the corner of the mouth the majority of the time. We are happy to help teach this method. Education is the key.
For the purist, the Hamrick’ Mayhammy midge (Black, Purple) #18, Hamrick’s Top Secrets (Black, Olive, Blue Dun) #18, red Rock Worms #14 /16, and Hamrick’s Pine Squirrel Leech in Natural, Brown or Olive are the best producers. Scuds, Zebra Midges, Disco Midges, or any Midge imitation you can think of will definitely do the trick, if fished in the correct column of water in the runs.
Regardless of your Nymphing rig, the key to success is length of leader and the amount of weight to get flies to where the fish are at. Without large hatches, our fish are on the bottom, not suspended. Our crew have been running 9.5′ to 1.0-1.2 grams of weight on the upper 5 miles of the Gray Reef (Run dependent,) then dropping to 0.6-1.0 grams (Run dependent) downstream to Lusby.
The majority of the summer grass/debris/vegetation has been cleared out with the freeze and thaw. The water is clear and fishable to Government Bridge. HOWEVER, please call for current ice conditions before you head out on your own. Some sections can get jammed up overnight from wind breaking chunks from the bank loose, especially below Lusby.
The most exciting and rewarding technique for anglers in the winter – including myself – is streamer fishing. This is something I have enjoyed working on for over 25 years and though we will NEVER perfect it, we have discovered many tricks that reward our clients the big predacious trout we are all after. Winter steamer fishing is by far the most technical type of fishing we do. Targets include big post-spawn Brown Trout, and brood Rainbows and Cuttys that are more interested in eating big meals without expending a lot of energy.
This time of year demonstrates large concentrations of post-spawn Browns that actually hang out together and rejuvenate from the long months of spawning. Eventually they will return downstream to their territorial hideouts and return to predation. Until then, you will find them in the tail-outs of the upstream runs. Where there is one, I promise there’s another. Your streamers must be in the strike zone, and if retrieved slow enough, we can instigate an eat or reaction strike. It will feel like a snag, get ready.
Weight of streamer, type of line, boat speed, stripping speed and style of strip all are keys to success. If you aren’t following the contour of the bottom and getting the streamer to the fish your success rate decreases. Streamers that have been getting eaten more casts than not, have been Hamrick’s All You Need #2 (articulated #4 as well,) Hamrick’s Reefer Creeper #2, and Hamrick’s Sugar Bee #1, #2, & #4 (articulated as well.) Color selection is as important as anything. Our go-to’s are: Golden Olive and Cream/Ginger/Tan. These Streamers are in production and will be available in fly shops near you soon!
As you make your way down the awesome stretch of water between the Grey Reef and Lusby, keep your eyes out for the subtle rises on those slick calm days. The Midge Hatch has been outstanding and I know I’m getting old and possibly loosing memory but the recent Midges are BIG! Anglers are mistaking them for Blue Wings. In fact, I recommend using a BWO dry #18 as your point dry when attempting to trick these brutes. There is no need to fish dries smaller than #18’s here right now. If the cast and drift are right, they are not particular between #18’s and #20’s.
My goal is to help EVERYONE have the best experience on the water possible. If you ever have questions please feel free to give us a call. The other outfitters are not running many if any trips now. It’s hard to know the details of the river without being on it daily. We will gladly help you and answer any of your questions. Pass our info onto your friends as well and we’ll do the same for them. The pleasure is ours.h
I hope you find this fishing report helpful and useful. Please feel free to call anytime for the most up to date fishing reports. I don’t keep secrets and what I’ve been able to learn I enjoy passing on. Have a wonderful rest of your winter and if cabin fever is setting in, give us a call. We’ll help you experience some of the best fishing of the year. Be well and thank you for taking the time to read.
Before traveling, be sure to check the road condition map on the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s website: https://map.wyoroad.info/ and don’t forget your Wyoming Fishing Licenses.