Usually, the Ph.D. of Ski and I skin up Medicine Bow Peak for a few backcountry runs on Memorial Day. But this year, Highway 130 to the base of Bow Peak is still closed due to the deep mountain snowpack. So, instead we decided to hit the closed Snowy Range Ski Area. We had the place to ourselves except for some drunken college kids who showed up in the afternoon with sleds and energy. We braved the wind, sun, snow, clouds and other spring weather conditions for three runs, Marty on AT gear and me on telemark skis. The snow was mostly mid-deep slush, but conditions approached the mythical corn snow in places. Even though it wasn't our first choice, a day at Snowy Range turned out to be all we needed.
While I was fishing a lake for smallmouth bass today, I had some unexpected company. I had kicked my float tube out to an island, and then walked the shoreline casting a crayfish pattern. As I was working my way down the shore along a 12-foot cliff riddled with swallow nests, a snake surprised me from about 10 feet away. As always, I first suspected he was a buzzworm until closer inspection revealed no rattles on the end of his tail. I think he was a bull snake, about 3.5 to 4 feet long. I watched him slither up the cliff and work in and out of the swallow holes. He was probably looking for eggs, baby swallows or an adult, if he should trap one in the nest. I never saw him catch anything, but the swallows were not happy with his presence. They kept divebombing the cliff, but were careful not to get too close to a hungry reptile. The only other time I observed a snake hunting cliff swallow nests was on the Smith River in Montana, but that time it was a prairie rattler. I didn't mind sharing the island with a bull snake today. A rattler would be different.
If you only catch one fish in a day, it might as well be a memorable one.
That's what happened today when I caught my first Wyoming trout of the year. I traveled to a lake where some friends had a banner outing last week. Armed with their information on what flies to use, where to fish and how to fish, I felt confident of repeating their success.
Of course, that didn't happen. Two days of snow in the intervening period had totally changed conditions. I cast futilely for about 90 minutes before moving to the boat ramp where I thought rainbows might be attempting to spawn.
The fish were there and on my second cast to a cruising 'bow, the big boy turned and went right for my egg/chironomid combo. After a short battle, a guy fishing nearby netted the fish for me and also shot some video of my poorly executed release.
The 24-incher turned out to be my only fish, indeed my only strike, of the day. But it could well turn out to be the biggest trout I catch all year.
It took four months and three days, but I finally caught my first fish of 2011 today. I must admit that I had only been on the water twice so far this year. But usually I've caught a few, if not a lot, of trout by now. The cold, windy weather this spring has kept me indoors, however, and the fishing has been slow anyways.
This morning, I headed to one of my favorite lakes where I almost always have success. Many times, this lake has produced 30 or more fish in a day. So I was optimistic.
It was cold and windy when I arrived - no big surprise there. I started off with chironomids with no success. I switched to a beadhead prince nymph, again with no results. After lunch, I switched to the old, reliable Woolly Bugger and started getting some action.
Six brown trout and two cutthroats later, I was happy. As a bonus, I saw two bald eagles and a moose.
This spring has started out slowly for fishing. I've been out twice - one day for maybe an hour and the next for an hour and a half. It's just been too cold for me and for the trout, apparently.
But all the snow in the mountains during April means skiing is still good, as the Ph.D. of Ski and I found out Saturday, April 30, when we skinned up the slopes of the Snowy Range Ski Area.
We experienced the usual smorgasbord of Wyoming spring weather - sun, wind, clouds, snow - but also had 4-6 inches of new snow to shred. The base was sketchy in places, but solid in most, so we didn't have to ski very tentatively, but could let it rip.
There was some weirdness, of course. For some reason, a rake and several shovels were stuck in the snow on one slope. (You can see a rake briefly in the video.)
I assumed it was installation art. In any case, we didn't collide with any of the yard tools, and ended the day quaffing some microbrew in the Beartree Inn.
Eric is retired and living in Laramie, Wyo. He taught journalism in the University of Wyoming's Communication and Journalism Department for 26 years. Before that, he worked at the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle for 11 years.