The purpose of this article is to dis spell some myths about having to dredge to find fish at Grey Reef on the North Platte River.
I have to get this out of the way first. A long leader and lots of weight is a perfectly valid way of catching fish on the North Platte River. I have done it and our guides have done it. But, there are other ways of catching just as many fish without having to throw such a long leader.
The next thing I have to get out of the way is, don't accuse me of setting up a nice little short leader to take shots at spawning fish. I don't have any interest in that. I don't believe that many of the guides are targeting spawning fish. I know that the local guide services frown on this practice.
Okay, so the reason I am writing this article right now is partially due to a conversation I just had with Ryan Anderson, owner of Wyoming Guide Service. He was concerned that I was directing a post on the North Platte Lodge website to his company. The gist of the post was that a fisher called me and told me that a guide had told him "if he isn't fishing 12 feet he is floating over the fish". I wrote that this is absolutely wrong...in retrospect...in pretty harsh terms. I had no clue what guide the fisher spoke to, and I had no intention of bashing Ryan's outfit. When it was brought to my attention I quickly changed the post and am now eating crow and am in debt a six pack to Ryan.
Now lets get on with the article. Our guides refer to our standard leader length as a wing span. This is very close to 6' +/- from indicator to weight. Why do we fish like this? We used to fish long and heavy. But, we realized it wasn't needed and to us it is a lot more fun to fish short.
There are times when we get down and dirty. If we can't find suspended, actively feeding fish we will go to the depths. But, one great thing about fly fishing Grey Reef is the fish like to EAT. There is almost always a time and place to hook trout in just a couple feet of water. There are several hatches where the trout like to snug right up to a shelf or even on top of it to gorge on the day's bounty. That being said, there are probably just as many lazing around the depths waiting for the same bugs. When the fish really stack up in the shallow water I will often go even shorter and lighter...sometimes no weight at all. In these situations I normally use 4x or 5x fluorocarbon with 2 small emergers. A small natural color yarn indicator also works well. I have watched trout scoot over and refuse flies when I was using a bright indicator. After I switched indicators the same fish ate the original fly.
Caddis and yellow sally hatches are really fun. Try a 4' leader with lots of weight in the heaviest, deepest riffle. The takes are crushing.
If the BurRec drops the water in May it will be a great time to fish a dry dropper rig. Use a hopper or other buoyant dry as an indicator with a small emerger dropped several feet below that. You will be surprised how many fish will eat the dry, although the best production will be on the nymph.
Grey Reef is a multifaceted fishery. You will catch fish deep and you will catch fish shallow, you will catch them on streamers and drys. Make sure to not get too stuck in a rut. When you have figured out that you can get 'em one way, switch to another technique. You will learn a lot about the fishery and come away with some good stories to tell.
This article will, in no way, end the friendly teasing about rock worms.