Yeah, that's right - the trip I look forward to the most is almost here. Every April for the last 4 years Chad and I have made this trip to the Horn. Come hell, high water, snow, newborns, sickness, and anything else thrown our way, we make this trip.
Our first trip (2005) was interesting, we had no idea what the Bighorn was like, no idea how we were going to fish it, where we were going to stay, what flies we were going to use, or even how to get there!! We stayed at some cabins that were mid range, but way over priced. We had a friend meeting us from Grand Junction with a boat and we fished 2 days and had some very decent luck. The highlight of the trip was me pulling about 80-100 fish out of one hole (the Aquarium) within a 6+ hour period. The fish of the year was a 20 inch whitefish I landed twice in that hole - I pulled a red brassie out of it's dorsal fin.
Year 2 (2006) Chad and I felt like veterans, we had a whole group from the RockyMtnFly board meeting us up in Ft. Smith. But, the trip almost didn't happen - because less than 2 weeks prior to the trip Chad had his second child - little Celia. But he sucked it up and took one for his fishing buddy, and we made the trip as scheduled. We fished with Paul Morrison and had a great time. We stayed at Cottonwood and started what would be a great relationship with the campground. The whitefish trophy was introduced as the prize of the trip for the largest whitefish caught (and witnessed) - which was by me. The highlight of this trip for me was 45 minutes into the trip, while waiting for Paul to show up, we were fishing at 3 Mile Access and I hooked and landed a potbellied rainbow that was only 21 inches or so, but weighed at least 10+ lbs. The thing was a monster (kind of gross looking for a fish) and when I held it up for a photo from Chad, Chad realized he left the battery to his camera in the cabin to recharge. He might be a great fisherman, but he needs to work on his netting and camera skills. Another fun highlight was my first attempt at rowing and not 35 feet after launch from Afterbay Chad hooks a pig - so I land the boat 50 more feet down river - check the fish out below.
Year 3 (2007) we finally recruited another person from Denver to make the trip - Nate was excited to go and he did very well. We had the luxury of driving my wife's brand new (like 200 miles new) 2007 Toyota 4Runner - we rode up in style. We again stayed at Cottonwood - and we love it there - so reasonably priced and great people. We waded on one day, borrowed a boat from Buster on another, and begged a ride from Paul again. We had a great time. We noticed that the rainbows were about 2 inches longer on average than the prior year and the fishery was doing very well. I again was the whitefish trophy winner (and damn proud of it!). Nate was officially addicted and was going to make this a regular trip! I made some great t-shirts for all the regulars - and they were the perfect for the amazing weather we had. The highlight of the trip was the fish that didn't get caught - Chad, after getting skunked from 8am until 11am was casting by a huge downed tree in skinny flat water when he hooked a pig - I mean, 22 inches and a slab. I was the official NetBoy (I had the t-shirt to prove it) and had long handled net ready to scoop when the fish popped off. The look (and reaction) on Chad's face was priceless - I have never seen Chad get skunked or even think he was going to get skunked. Luckily he landed a nice long brown about 2 minutes later. The browns this year seemed to be 2 inches longer (and more plentiful) than the prior years.
Year 4 (2008) we had 4 of us in the truck, Chad, Nate and Matt (who flew in from Florida to make the trip). The truck was stuffed to the gills. We again stayed at Cottonwood. We missed Paul and Buster this year, but we did meet up with David Palmer (Blackotter) and got to fish with him for two days. Chad fished with his neighbor Jason on a great raft. The highlight of this trip was a monster fish that Chad landed that had to go 24 inches and weigh about 10 lbs. The whitefish trophy was up for grabs right up until late on Saturday (the last day of fishing) until I landed a legit 19 incher. Somehow I have the fishing Gods smiling down on me on the Horn! The larger browns again were regularly in the 20 inch range, and they were feisty.
Year 5 (2009!!) we will have a full truck again, with some new faces - Darren (Chad's neighbor - and his dad is a guide on the Horn) and Steffan (my buddy from my previous job) will make the ride up on that early Thursday morning. I was doubtful for this trip - until I got the ok from the wife. As many of you know I had a little boy in December, and didn't want to put a strain on the wife. We will be at the Cottonwood again, hopefully meeting a ton of friends up there for a beer and a float. If you are up that way we will be in one of the cabins - just look for the 4Runner with greenie plates.
Wow, 29 days, seems like a lifetime, yet so close. I usually get excited with 100 days left to go - I guess I am getting old. Here is hoping for a safe trip, a healthy fishery and leaky waders! Cheers everyone!