With the appearance of a grizzly in its winter hibernation, you emerge from the cocoon of a mummy sleeping bag rated for freezing temperatures. The first breath you take feels like new crisp air entering your lungs, but you don’t want to leave the sanctuary of warmth. With sounds of elk bugling, a roaring river teeming with aquatic life, you know the outcome of the day is going to be spectacular regardless of any situation that you might come across….
I start to get ready for the day ahead of me in the body warmth of my truck – which is scattered with pre-rigged fly rods, half-frozen waders riding shotgun, and numerous other articles of clothing and gear. I wonder what food I will scrounge up from the cooler today as I reflect on the fact that this has been my daily ritual for the last month. This is the life of a Nomadic Angler.
Working as a fishing guide in Wyoming during the summer and fall months, this is the time of year which I get to enjoy all the magnificent offerings of the West. As the guiding season ends (for myself and others) at the end of September, there is still an opportunity for big browns eating hard and heavy. I manage to squeeze as much fishing time as possible this time of the year while saving money by traveling around living, fly fishing, and photographing out of my quaint, but a roomy truck. This is an adventure I feel every serious angler needs to experience – you can see some of the most breathtaking rivers or simply enjoy our national parks while having the opportunities to fish them.
My advice is simple… Don’t be afraid to plan a trip like this because you don’t have a specific plan or it sounds like too much work. Personally, I like to find a couple of states (which included on this journey Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah) that I want to explore and fish during my adventure. I then look up/research different rivers and other attractions each state has to offer. Looking for national parks, monuments, and forests is always a must for me. In an effort to do this on a budget, I don’t stay at hotels, motels, or KOA campgrounds. Instead, I look for nearby BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas or national forests, where it’s free and a lot more secluded. Once you find and mark some of the places you want to go, get a map and start figuring out the route you want to take. Estimate how long you want to stay at each location, but don’t be afraid to leave a little early or stay a couple of extra days. The point of your route is to have a rough estimate of where you want to end up going but allowing yourself time for spur of the moment decisions.
Being alone on these road trips, you will learn a lot about yourself – including how bad you can actually smell after two weeks without a shower. Personally, I’ve been able to mark a couple of hot springs over the past couple years which has helped with this.
This annual “post-guiding season journey” is more than the size of fish I catch, but more about enjoying the weeks without internet, cell phone service, or a real plan. I have thoroughly enjoyed documenting it in my own style of photographs along the way as well as finding side detours showcasing the modern west. Being able to meet new friends, learn new styles of fly fishing, and catch up with old guiding buddies adds great camaraderie and memories that will last a lifetime.
I hope you found inspiration in this article to create your own memories this year.
Article and photos from Dan Towsley. You can follow along with Dan on Instagram at @dtowsley or on Vimeo.