I will confess, I tossed and turned the night before the first day of the One Fly.
What fly to use? The effective but somewhat risky bead head? The reliable Adams to rack up the “two pointers”? The foam bodied imitation of the nocturnal stone fly, twitched enticingly? Or go big with a bunny streamer—but risk getting blanked?
I did not make my decision until we were parked at boat launch. My fishing partner Jim Klug and I looked at our guide AJ Rasmussen. Like a military tactician giving an analysis of the battlefield, AJ briefed us on the latest intelligence: “I heard a couple of boats fished this section hard with streamers two days in a row... good fisherman...they did poorly. Foam was on fire yesterday, we would could have filled two cards easily...but they will be seeing a lot of big dries today...”
AJ paused...“I suggest a #16 zebra midge with a silver bead”.
Last year was my first One Fly and I did not know really what to expect. I had never fished in a competition and like many anglers relish being alone on the river, as far as possible from other people. But, somewhat to my surprise, I found I really liked the intensity and focus of two days on the water fishing with guides who really knew the beats, and casting side by side with some of the best trout fisherman I’ve ever fished with. It was very interesting to see how wet and dry techniques have evolved. It was also revealing to see how the different flies and techniques compared with each other, watching them deployed side by side on the same water and under identical conditions. I learned a lot.
I was also attracted to the overall mission of the One Fly— to use the event to raise grant money and then invest back into habitat protection and restoration grants to local non-profits and agencies to implement critical projects in the Yellowstone/Snake River and tributaries. Every dollar raised at the event leverages at least an additional $5 from funding partners!
On the second day of fishing this year, I drew a tough beat: a wide and fast section of the Snake between Pritchard and West Table. Despite not being known as big fish water, I decided to follow my own instincts this time and fished an olive streamer on a long leader. I fished upstream and nymphed the pocket water, where I could find deep water. I fished “low and slow”, and cast and stripped through everything else. I did reasonably well, but many fish took my fly short, or followed then refused. From the long faces at the take out, everyone that day had tough fishing. My modest card of 13-16 inch cutthroat did not seem so bad after all.
Why did we win? Hard to say. There were many stronger teams than ours, including the legendary streamer fisherman on the Lip Rippers. Last year we came in 6th place, and this year we were in first place after day one, so we knew we had a shot, but all of us were surprised when we won both amateur and professional divisions. We fished a mix of bead heads, foam stoneflies and brown and green bunny fur streamers. Our team captain Dan Plummer fished with a brown streamer and managed 910 points over the two days. Dan manages to catch fish in the heavily pounded east coast rivers, experience that may have given him an edge.
The FUDR Avengers all work in natural resource conservation and Dan assembled the team to “strengthen friendships of like-minded conservation partners to get to know each other better on a personal level”. Dan is Chairman of Friends of the Upper Delaware River and serves on the board of the Code Blue Foundation, Chris Wood is the CEO of Trout Unlimited, and Mike Sutton is the President of the Goldman Environmental Foundation in San Francisco. Our alternate Krystyna Wolniakowski has been the One Fly grants manager since 2003 and is the Executive Director of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
My organization, the Wild Salmon Center, also supports wild fish conservation. Our geography is the great salmon and trout rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean. Our focus is the strongholds in each region: the rainforest rivers of coastal Oregon and Washington, the Dean and Skeena Rivers in British Columbia, the Bristol Bay rivers in western Alaska, the remarkable salmon and char rivers of west Kamchatka, and the great taimen rivers of the Russian Far East. These are some of the “last, best” and we work with local groups to protect them from not just the current threats but the threats that will come in 10 or 20 years from now.
We believe—as most anglers do—that with the privilege of fly fishing beautiful rivers comes an obligation: enjoy the river and fish, but also give back by supporting the protection of the rivers you love—starting with your home waters. This is what the One Fly is all about: habitat protection and restoration, wild fish management, and fighting for adequate instream flows and cold water refugia for native trout. The Jackson Hole One Fly does a remarkable job bringing together leaders in the fly fishing and conservation worlds, throwing them together on some of the most beautiful rivers of the American West, focusing them on camaraderie, friendly competition, and raising funds for conservation. It is an amazing model, and one that we should replicate—as Dan Plummer has with the Delaware River “One Bug”—with other great trout streams in the United States and beyond.
Guido Rahr is the CEO of the Wild Salmon Center, based in Portland Oregon.