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Road Trip Along Wyoming's Greys River
Last Camping Trip of Fall
by Dennis Weaver

McDougal Gap, Wyoming
Debbie Frantzen
McDougal Gap, Wyoming

We spent the next several days exploring the gorgeous Greys River canyon. With a topographical map, we found a road leading toward an alpine lake just below timberline. We drove to within two miles of the lake and then hiked with fishing rods to beautiful Barstow Lake, hoping there would be fish in the lake. The trail was easy to follow and even with some steep pitches the last few hundred yards, it didn't take us long to get to there.

The lake was a gem shimmering in the midday sun. We wandered along the shoreline, picking ripe raspberries and currants as we went. We could see foot-long cutthroat trout cruising the lake's rim and stopped to put a fly rod together. When the breeze died and water's surface smoothed to a mirror, we kept seeing dark shadows fading through the deeper water. Across the little lake, a cow moose emerged from the trees and waded into the shadows.

It took a while to figure out the formula for catching the little trout: a tiny midge imitation suspended in the lake's film. The gold and crimson cutthroats would cruise by in perfect view, somehow spot the tiny fly in the film, and torpedo to the surface. Once hooked, they would splash and thrash and then pull doggedly to the depths as cutthroats do. We would gently pull the tiny hooks from their mouths and slip them back into the chilled water. Those in the group who weren't fishing soon tired of watching the action and we packed up the rod and headed back to camp.

The Greys River is an enchanting stream. It wanders through quiet meadows, often lined with willows, and then shoots through narrow canyons. There are supposed to be fish in the river to 20 inches with an occasional larger brown in the fall but I've never seen one over 16 inches and most are much smaller. Still, the pools in the corners in the meadows are inviting and the water is crystal clear. I remembered eager fish that would often dash from the cover of an overhanging bank to suck in a dry fly, and I had Merri Ann drop me off where the road left the river to wind through a flat of willows.

I walked down the river a quarter mile before starting to fish. There were deer and elk tracks pressed into the sandy bars but no tracks from another fisherman. A coyote perked its ears over a bush and watched my approach before slinking away and disappearing in the willows. It was almost shirt-sleeve weather, the sky was a deep blue, and the late afternoon breeze was just rustling the willows. It was going to be a perfect evening.

I caught a few fish, native cutthroats, in a side channel, and then a hatch started -- a little light gray mayfly in a size 16. The natives eagerly took an imitation but they were smaller than I had remembered them from previous trips.

Twice I heard animals crossing the riffle above me. On the second, I put down my rod and climbed the bank in time to see a cow elk climb out of the river.

After a while, I tied on a streamer, weighted my leader and tried scouring the deeper holes along the bank, finally dredging up a 16-incher, an accomplishment on the Greys. I decided to head back to camp and supper. I cut through the willows to climb the hill back to the road, twice scaring up ruffed grouse. A brace of mallards jumped from a beaver pond and on the bench above the flat, a dove sprang from the yellow grass in front of me and flew to a gnarled, stand-alone pine. What in the world is a dove still doing around with nights this cold? I wondered.

I started walking down the road, banking on someone stopping and picking me up and giving me a ride back to camp. The third car slowed and stopped. It was the grandfather from the hunting camp below us. They had seen a few elk but nothing to shoot at.

The next day, we went exploring. Even after several trips, there was still much of the country that we had not seen. The grandfather in the hunting camp had made several suggestions but we wanted to show our daughter and son-in-law McDougal Gap.

Half way up the river, a road forks to the north, eventually climbing out of the canyon and heading to Daniels Junction north of Pinedale, Wyoming. McDougal Gap is the pass where the road finds its way out of the Greys River canyon. It's a gorgeous road with spectacular cliffs and beautiful mountain meadows. We explored a few side roads and then headed back to camp. We had a late lunch, reluctantly broke camp, and headed back to town.

It had been a good trip, probably the last of the season, but we would be back next year to explore more hidden corners along the Greys River. I'll bring the Dutch oven again.

     [Continued on Page 3]

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