A Day At Horse Creek Ranch

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John Girardeau wrestles a nice fish. Photo by Louis Cahill

John Girardeau wrestles a nice fish. Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

I didn’t know exactly what to expect.

I’ve pulled out of Denver plenty of mornings before sunup. Sipped my coffee as the band of shining blue fog rose in the east and the front range blushed pink to the west. I’ve found my boots in plenty of Wyoming water on days like that but Cheyenne never been more than a pitstop. A windswept dusty place I’d stop for gas or to refill my cup, but never to fish.

I know there’s plenty of good fishing to be had in the area. I have a list of invitations as long as my arm and I’d love to answer every one of them, but when Bob Reece called and invited me for a day at Horse Creek Ranch, I couldn’t say no. Even if it was Frontier Days and there wasn’t a bed to be found.

I’ll be honest, my expectations were tempered. To the eye of a southerner, the Cheyenne landscape can leave you aching for a tree. I know I’ll hurt someone’s feelings but I’ve never thought of it as a scenic place. It’s also been quite some time since I got excited about private water. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it and I’ve had good experiences and bad, but the shine wore off a while ago. However, Bob is as fishy a guy as you’ll ever find and if he says its worth a look, I’m in.


It didn’t take but about ten minutes’ ride from Bob’s house to see how foolish I’d been to judge the place. The landscape was beautiful and when we got to the ranch I found my tree. The largest living cottonwood in Wyoming, in fact. I’d have made the drive just to see that. I shook the hand of a fellow named Lawrence, who’s mustache hung a full six inches below his chin and watched a herd of two-hundred wild horses move along a ridge. Wyoming never disappoints me.

DSCF8221Horse Creak Ranch has a handful of streams but the real attraction is its seventeen lakes. With only three anglers per day allowed on the 60,000 acre property, you feel like you’re fishing virgin water. Not a sign that anyone has been there before you. That’s a good start on a great day. Bob rowed the drift boat over patches of aquatic grass, rich with insect life, and it wasn’t long before the action started.

DSCF8177Feisty rainbows and snakey cutthroat slid one after the other into the net. One almost jumped into the boat. Honestly, it was a blast. I spend plenty of my life working spooky pressured fish. It was fun to just wear them out. After a while we moved to a second lake, where the fish got bigger and tougher. We got some nice ones on leech patterns and I decided to try a mouse. I didn’t actually get one on it but I got several big displays.

A third lake proved to be even more challenging and hold even bigger fish. We didn’t land any of the ones reported to be over ten pounds but we worked at it. As we were loading gear into the truck I unbuttoned my fly and made a cast down a twenty-foot bank into a creek you could step across. A chunky rainbow about fourteen inches came up and crushed the fly. Not a bad way to end the day.

Over the course of the next four days we fished some of my favorite spots in northwest Wyoming. It’s hard to believe they are still having run off in August. We did well, but conditions were challenging. Turns out it was a good season to do some killer still water fishing. The place certainly won me over.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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