The Travato Camps Next Door to Heaven
After a quiet night and breakfast on the Gros Ventre, the next morning we drove to the trailhead for Flat Creek for opening day of fishing there. Located in the National Elk Refuge, Flat Creek is only open to fly fishing for three months of the year, August -- October. It is known to be home to some very quality, native, wild Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout, which are only found the Teton Valley and surrounding watersheds. Unlike their brethren, they have many, small black spots, vs larger spots concentrated near their tails. Geographic isolation has them uniquely evolve, and protecting their habitat and preserving isolation from introduced trout species has kept them that way. It's a great example of conservation efforts working to preserve habitat and wild, native trout fishing opportunities for everybody.
Opening day meant they shouldn't be very used to being fooled by flies in a while, but it was clear when I parked however, that this was no secret. Beyond the information/conservation kiosk, I could see the heads of more anglers than I cared for lining the creek, or already hiking out. Not exciting for someone who prefers to fish in solitude, but, we were here, there were fish out there, and I figured hiking further always solves the crowd factor, so off I went.
Flat Creek has the feel of a spring creek, meandering through an open meadow in the refuge. It's clean, clear, ideal trout habitat, but also makes for technical fishing. The grass is tall, and banks undercut, so the name of the game is stealth - stay out of the creek, use the grass for cover, and sneak around trying to find fish and get in position for an accurate cast before they can hear or see you coming.
That's exactly what I did, and after a bit of hiking and looking, I was able to find a pool of undisturbed and feeding fish. Excitement certainly runs high when you can see a line of wild cutts, peeling off the bottom six feet down and feeding on tiny dries on the surface.
Time to figure out the puzzle of the right fly, size, placement and drift to get one on the line. It didn't take long before a golden nose sucked my light cahill fly off the surface. It was clear these were very wild fish, and not very happy about being hooked. They had a habit of taking long runs downstream, around some rocks, under a log, and showing me who was smarter.
Landing strong fighting, larger fish on small flies (size 16-20) is always a challenge, and even if they didn't break me off on the underwater rock/log hazards, they kept popping free just as I was at the very end of the fight, pulling hard trying to net them. It wasn't until the fifth one that I decided enough was enough, and when I saw that developing in the fight again, I jumped in the creek, fought the fish around the rocks, under the log, and eventually brought a net full of Teton gold to hand.
These were absolutely beautiful fish, golden and speckled, shining in the mid-day sun, and it was great to finally photograph one on the GoPro. Making a stop was more than worth the effort, and another Teton memory was added to the memory bank.
Knowing I had to get on the road, hiking back to the Winnebago was bittersweet. There were more fish out there, but they'd have to wait until next time. When I got back to the Travato, Tripper was barking, mad that I couldn't take him with me, but happy to smell the net, and ready to go eat lunch. Off to The Bird we went, for pints, burgers and fish stories on the deck.
Heading South from Jackson, our next stop for the afternoon and evening was Alpine, WY. The plan was to find somewhere to fish for the evening and camp on a river, before making our way South.
What do you do when you're looking for advice on where to fish and camp? Pull into your local friendly fly shop -- in this case, Pioneer Anglers in Alpine. Located right at the confluence of the Salt, Grey's and Snake Rivers, they are right in the heart of prime trout country. If you're traveling and looking where to fish on your own, or hire a guide, making a stop into the local fly shop is always a good bet.
In our case, a quick chat with Mike at Pioneer, a few new flies, and off we headed, up the Grey's River. Miles up the Grey's are public, primitive camping options, right on the river with easy access. I headed upstream to fish for more Snake River fine-spotted cutts, while Tripper was more content this time to hang back in the Travato and fish for treats from Ash. We were both successful.
All in all, any time you get to fly fish two new rivers in a day, add a new species to the list, spend the day with those you love, seeing new places and meeting new people, it's a pretty good day. That's exactly what this day in the Travato provided.
Wet wading in summer temperatures is great, but nobody likes standing around in wet clothes all day, nor having to pack them away in the RV. I like the more durable, quick drying Granite Creeks on my legs when a little more brush busting may be in order, and the super light, super breathable, sun-protecting Equatorial Shirt on top. Even after a fight down the creek, they're dry and comfortable by the time the hike back is over. The Equatorial Shirt in particular packs down to nothing when folded up in the Eagle Creek Cubes in the Travato overhead storage bins, meaning I can pack more shirts in a small space on long road trips.
Whether I'm in the kayak or on foot, the Orvis Safe Passage Guide Kit Bag has become a favorite tool for keeping everything organized and handy in both the RV, and on the river. Fly boxes, tools, leaders, tippets, weights, sun protection, reels, GoPro, whiskey, you name it. It helps me keep everything in one place in the Travato, and perfectly fits in the Plano storage trunks that use under the bed and we highlighted in an earlier article.