To Trout, or Not to Trout: That is the Question

Written by: Sarah Hoog, Manager of Orvis Ocean Reef

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My first solo trout on a fly. Not a monster, but I caught it all by myself.

photo by Sarah Hoog

Working for The Orvis Company has its benefits: being able to talk fishing all day and not being frowned at, playing with some great new gear as it comes out of the box, and having the opportunity to really expound on different types of fishing. Orvis isn’t a “fly-fishing-only” company but really embraces all types of fishing, even if some of us do lean a little more toward those long, skinny rod.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending my summer in gorgeous Jackson Hole, Wyoming, working at the Orvis Jackson Hole store. How did this amazing opportunity come about you may ask? My District Manager said, “Would you like to spend the summer in Jackson?” and I said “Yes, I just need the weekend to talk my husband into it!” Talking Chris into letting me leave for 3.5 months and taking only one of our four dogs with me was much easier than I anticipated. In early June, we packed up my car, our husky/Dalmatian Bowser and hit the road for the longest trip we have ever undertaken, 40 hours (2570 miles) and nine states.

Arriving in Jackson was surreal, like being in a movie: everything was emerald green and so clean and shiny. Everything, that is, except the water. It was chocolate brown and roiling dangerously everywhere we went. Some 732 inches of snowpack melting can have that affect on rivers! We couldn’t get on the rivers until around August 1st. That was a LONG month and a half of waiting for the water to go down. We did some lake fishing, though. Jenny Lake in Teton National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I caught my first few trout— lake trout, cutthroat trout and a brookie, if I remember correctly.

Once the rivers were fishable, however, I was ready! I bought my waders, boots, wading staff, more flies than I will ever use in a lifetime, and a bag full of gadgets and gizmos that we have no use for in saltwater, but I just had to have them.

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A gorgeous Star Valley cutthroat.

photo by Sarah Hoog

My first day on the Snake on my own, I caught my first Snake River cutthroat trout. I was so pumped. Now, granted, he was as long as my middle finger and ate a fly almost a quarter his size, but who cares? I chose the fly, tied it on, and picked where I fished. That was success in my mind!

Other trips ensued, and the most memorable was an afternoon on Christensen Creek in Star Valley. I did my first spring creek wading there and landed one really nice cutty and a few others. But again, I picked the fly and did my thing. What a sense of empowerment.

I also found that sometimes it’s just not your day! On my last fishing day in Wyoming, on Flat Creek at the National Elk Refuge, I cast for close to two hours and missed one monster cutty. We’re out of time and my husband says, “I’ll just cast once.” You know what that means: he hooked a HUGE cutty, and I watched, slightly perturbed, as he brought it in. My husband is a fishy dude, and it always seems to be his day!

At home in Florida I need a boat, a guide, or something else that complicates things in order to go fishing for anything other than bass in a canal. In Jackson, if you want to fish, you go fish! There are national parks and forests everywhere, and as long as you have a valid fishing license you’re good to go. I took advantage of that and fished so much that I can now say that I know the difference between a Chernobyl Ant, a Parachute Adams, and a Golden Stonefly. My education has only begun, and I look forward to picking up as much as possible in the coming summers.

So, I have determined that I LOVE trout fishing and will spend as much time as possible doing what I love: catching trout that are the size equivalent of what we use for bait offshore in the Keys. I was extremely fortunate to catch some big fish, usually on my own when no one was around to witness them, but I know they exist and only wish I had the pictures to prove it. Oh well, there’s always next year!

Sarah Hoog is the manager of Orvis Ocean Reef in Key Largo, Florida.

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