Lessons from a Fishless Day on the River

March 21, 2018

My fly fishing skills lag far behind my passion for the sport.  I spent the Wyoming winter perusing monthly magazine articles filled with new techniques for honing my skills and developing a larger repertoire for catching fish while waiting for spring to arrive.


I spent Friday afternoon on the Northfork of the Shoshone River-- exactly one day late. I found the river rushing and filled with sediment as this year's runoff began even though my coworker assured me that the water was "only a little high" the day before.


The highway that leads to Yellowstone National Park's east entrance parallels the Northfork of the Shoshone River for most of its length.  Keeping a wary eye on the elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and bison near the road, I searched for the waters my coworker assured me were still fishable.  All I found were silt-laden, snow-melt waters churning down the river.  I refused to concede defeat and drove higher and higher up the valley in search of waters I could safely wet my line in.


Much of the Northfork of the Shoshone is seasonally closed to protect spawning runs of the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout.  The stretch of river between where it enters the Buffalo Bill Reservoir west of Cody, Wyoming up to Newton Creek are encompassed in the closure.  The seasonal closure was a partial relief as I watched the roiling water on my way up the valley.  Ascending the valley I eventually found water that, while off-color, was less so than lower in the valley.  Nevertheless water levels were still too high and swift to even think about wading into.


I didn't even give a thought to tying on a dry fly; instead I began working the soft water near shore with a rubber-legged woolly bugger.  When this failed to produce any results I switched to a bead-head copper John, which also failed to produce any strikes.  In the little time I had left on the water I switched to my favorite fly- the Alexandra wet fly.  I stripped the bright colored fly through the soft water in the 200-yard stretch that I kept myself contained to as I tried different types of flies and my new  magazine-garnered skills, but like my previous two attempts received no strikes to reward my efforts.


Friday turned out not only fishless, but without even so much as a single strike; however, I consider it a heck of a productive day.  The tough conditions helped shape my frame of mind so as to make the afternoon a learning episode.  I tested new methods of fly fishing along with trying flies I typically wouldn't even give a second thought.  Even though I didn't catch a single fish I established a great foundation for expanding my angling repertoire in both easy and challenging conditions throughout the remainder of this year's fishing season.


Interested in Wyoming fishing adventures?  Check out Wyoming Mountains & Home-waters!


This blog was posted on the original Conservation Angler blogger page on 5/8/2017 and has been slightly updated for posting here.


Until next time,




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