Fly fishing Jackson Hole’s Snake River: it’s all in the guide

Fly fishing Jackson Hole’s Snake River: it’s all in the guide

By on October 2nd, 2013

Yes, you can sneak away for your fantasy fly fishing getaway, Dad. Just make sure the kids are busy with their dream to-dos. All possible at Four Seasons’ resort in Jackson Hole, family vacation bliss central.

I had been eyeing Wyoming’s Jackson Hole as a vacation destination since the day I read the Four Seasons website’s section on Warm Weather Activities in Jackson Hole. There was not a single item on their list of sample activities that I was not interested in. The fly fishing in particular had caught my eye.

Fly Fishing Lessons in Jackson Hole

As a long time angler with no fly fishing experience I had always wanted to try it, but never had the courage to risk the rare sacred fishing vacations on learning the technique. Fortunately for me, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole staff is quite diverse and includes in-house fly fishing guides who are happy to train guests in the art of fly-fishing. So when it came time to booking our Jackson escape fly fishing was at the top of my to do list.

As a parent of a four-year-old, getting away for personal adventures while on vacation is never easy. Even when I am able to, I am generally plagued by twinges of guilt over my personal enjoyment at the expense of spending time with my little girl. Fortunately for me, this proved a perfect place to do it since there is such an abundance of child-friendly activities. So while I plotted my fly fishing escape, I made sure my conscience was eased by organizing some wonderful activities for my daughter and my wife.

While I was to indulge in my Wyoming fly fishing trip fantasy, my daughter, Molly, would indulge in a few dreams of her own. As an animal lover who has always wanted to ride a horse, she was ecstatic to learn that she would get to go horseback riding—and would even get to ride her very own horse. After that she was booked to go for a bike ride in the countryside, swim in the pool and finally retire to a delicious meal at the resort’s Westbank Grill. So it was that we arrived at the Four Seasons’ reception fully armed with an itinerary for all.

Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole

Soon after entering our room, I received a call; it was John, the resort’s lead fly fishing guide and my guide for the following day. He wanted to know what I wanted to eat for our shore lunch. He offered various dishes, but said that the kitchen could prepare pretty much anything I wanted. I said I was not picky and let him decide for me. This proved to be foreshadowing of the astonishing level of service I would experience on the fly-fishing trip and the whole vacation in general.

The next morning, I met John in the lobby. A reserved, yet exceptionally amicable man, John introduced himself and, after we grabbed a coffee from the lounge, he took me out front where the SUV and boat were waiting.

It was a beautifully carved, custom-built drift boat. I marveled at the craftsmanship. John informed me that the man who builds the boats still takes orders, but the waiting list is five years long. Although the seats were extremely comfortable, I spent almost the entire seven-hour trip standing up, thanks to the perfectly-designed, hip-hugging platforms in front of the seats.

Fly-Fishing in Jackson Hole

After a short drive, we arrived at a private-access boat launch. After brief preparation, we launched and anchored nearby. John then taught me the basics of fly fishing: how to cast and mend the line afterwards. I was spared the chore of tying the flies, thanks to John, and I was soon drifting down the river casting in the sunshine.

Fly Fishing Lessons in Jackson Hole

Fly fishing, it turns out, is a much more active endeavor than the rod-and-reel style I had grown up with. Falling much heavier on the sporting side of things, fly fishing (in this particular scenario) required frequent casting and recasting; strategic placement of the fly; a subtle touch for mending the line; and constant focus. Focus was critical: the fish were quite cautious and would spit out a fly in less than a second after striking.

So as soon as I got a nibble—either saw the fish actually strike or the fly dip ever so slightly—I had to set the hook. Fortunately, there were an almost endless number of opportunities to practice, since the Snake River Cutthroats were plenty cautious, though still aggressive.

By noon, I had landed about seven small trout—and missed out on another dozen or so who struck, but I failed to land. It was time for our shore lunch. Shore lunch for me has typically been frying up the catch of the day or heating a can of baked beans if the fishing was bad. But since we were just catching and releasing, and since this was a Four Seasons excursion, it would not be a typical shore lunch.

Fly Fishing Lessons in Jackson Hole

Beef tenderloin, grilled vegetables, fresh bread, prawns and Caprese Salad, followed by flourless chocolate cake and fresh berries, all prepared that morning by a Four Seasons chef… truly my most memorable shore lunch. Drink choices ranged from Gatorade and soda to locally brewed beer and Pinot Noir. This meal was an event in itself.

Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole

Insisting that he take care of everything, John prepared the table and food, then packed it up and put it away in the blink of an eye. After the brief respite, I was back on the water and landing more trout.

John was an exceptional guide, and, as I learned by the time the trip ended, an exceptional person. Understated, but extremely capable, he guided me down the river pointing out prime locations for catching fish. On occasion he would even jump out of the boat and hold it in place while I fished a prime location, or he’d row against the current to hold us in a good spot for a little while.

By the end of the day, I had landed 11 fish (if you count the one that hit me in the chest and bounced back into the water). But beyond that, I learned a great deal about a sport that I’d always been a little intimidated by. I also basked in the sunshine while drifting along with a cold beer, enjoying candid views of the local wildlife and Wyoming’s remarkable natural beauty. It was a trip I will never forget—and, I hope, one day repeat.

Fly Fishing at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole

Read more about Jackson Hole in Four Seasons Magazine. 

Read our ”Concierge Recommendations” for Jackson Hole in Four Seasons Magazine. 

Read about ”Hiking with Kids in Jackson Hole” in Four Seasons Magazine.  

Post Author
Jake Gosselin

Jake Gosselin completed his undergraduate degree in Anthropology at the University of Toronto before heading to New York where he finished his MFA in English and Writing at Southampton College of Long Island University. He then moved to Vancouver where he wrote web copy for a marketing firm. He currently lives in Southern California where he works as a freelance writer and restaurant website producer for Four Seasons.

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