Floating the Snake

Last September I took a half-day guided trip on the Snake River just south of Jackson, Wyoming, with Fletcher White, who guides out of the Orvis store in Jackson. Fletcher lives over Teton Pass in Idaho and spends the warm months guiding in the Jackson area and the winter months in the Florida flats.

I was a bit concerned about catching any fish because I had unwittingly scheduled the trip just a few days after the annual Jackson Hole One Fly contest. After all, the waters had been hammered for several days by some of the best fly fishers in the world. But as we pulled out of the Orvis parking lot in Fletcher's Ford 250 diesel, he told me not to worry and said I would catch plenty of fish.

We launched Fletcher's Clackacraft drift boat south of town and began our own private version of the One Fly contest. Fletcher recommended a Dave's Hopper, and said if I didn't lose it, I could probably fish with it all afternoon. Within a few minutes I landed a small (6-8") Snake River Cutt. Over the next few minutes I had two more Cutts on the line but lost them on the way to the boat. Then I successfully boated a 12" Cutt, then a 15" and then a 17" Cutt. Fletcher kept the boat in the middle of the current so it was easy to reach the eddies and pools along both banks. During the three-hour float I boated about a dozen Cutts (most of them in the 12-17" range), had at least another dozen on the line, and had another 8-10 strikes. The action was almost non-stop-I never ate the sack lunch I had packed.

I've only been fly fishing for a few years. This was my first experience in a drift boat and my first opportunity to use an anniversary gift I received from my wife just before the trip: a 5-piece, 5 wt. Winston. So I was trying to understand and learn the subtleties of the rod, keep my balance against the knee braces in the bow of the boat, get my net under numerous trout, absorb the tips and instructions offered freely by Fletcher, and at the same time sneak a peak at eagles, ospreys, great blue herons, and assorted waterfowl. Needless to say, I was in full sensory overload. And, as an added bonus, I finished the day with the same Dave's Hopper on my tippet.

Fletcher White is young, enthusiastic, savvy, and patient. If you want to fish any of the waters in the Teton drainage with a guide (either floating or wading) you'll enjoy his company.

The trip from Austin was easy: American Airlines to Dallas, and then American non-stop to Jackson. Even in mid-September Jackson is a popular destination, so it's a good idea to book accommodations several weeks in advance. There is a broad range of accommodations, from simple and reasonably-priced to hedonistic and outrageous. And save some time to drive through Teton National Park. In late September the aspens are turning, bears are foraging vigorously, geese are heading south, and the bull elk are bugling and collecting their harems. So whether you float the Snake or crawl along the banks of Flat Creek, the Jackson Hole area is a great place for a fishing trip.

Carl Jones, Austin

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