Tag Archives: North Platte River Fly Shop

The Case of the Bad Guys and the Renzetti Traveler 2304

The passenger side window on my truck was smashed in, my fly-tying vise, tools, and materials stolen from the front seat.  Think about that for a minute before I explain.

I parked my truck in front of my sister’s house in Pasadena, CA….the swankiest part of Pasadena on the San Marino border.  If you are not familiar with this part of the world let’s just say my brother in law has done well. I didn’t think anything of parking there. Huck truck is 11 years old.  It’s been broken into 3 separate times…by bears.  But, never by humans.  There really wasn’t anything in the truck of value….except for my fly tying stuff.  Also realize that Los Angeles is not the fly tying hot bed of the world.  My guess is that 1/10,000th of the entire population of LA would even know what fly tying materials and tools are.

I was to stay the long weekend at my sister’s house and have an awesome time with my nephews and niece.  And I figured there’d be a lot of down time to tie flies on their kitchen table and to show my nephews how to tie flies.  so, before I left our house I painstakingly cut up a bunch of foam strips to make huck hoppers, grabbed all the other materials needed, tools and vise and packed them into my brand-new Fishpond Road Trip Fly Tying Kit.

On Saturday morning I wandered out early to my truck to grab the fly tying stuff… and I immediately saw all the shattered glass.  My first thought was what in the heck was in there that these bad guys wanted.  Huck-truck doesn’t even have a nice stereo in it.  the speakers are blown out (thanks to my son Mark).  And it has a cassette deck.  I’m not kidding.  It has a cassette deck.  I immediately determined the only thing these bad guys stole was my fly tying stuff….because short of my garmin gps, which these bad guys ignored, that was really the only thing in my truck of value.  And then it hit me.  They saw the trendy fishpond bag with a flashlight in the middle of the night and thought it was an ipad or computer.  You can imagine the dumb asses faces when they opened it up and said, “What the F is this?!” as they threw it out their window or in the trash.

Huck-Truck with it’s window smashed so that bad guys could accidently steal my fly tying stuff

What’s interesting is that the Pasadena City Police Department sent a forensic unit to check out my truck. I had just washed it a few days before so the scenario was perfect for “lifting fingerprints” from my truck.  The officer took my finger prints (to distinguish them from the bad guys).  And then said, “See here.  There are some really good prints from them.  here’s how they broke your window.”   I was kind of skeptical until he said, “Oh yea, we’ll catch these guys.  It’s just a matter of time.  Criminals like this just aren’t that smart.  These prints will help tremendously.  I bet we already have these prints on file.”

And this is the part of the story where I learned about car insurance.  I thought to myself, “I have insurance.  This is nothing more than a hassle.”   how wrong I was.  It is true that USAA (who I adore) fixed my truck’s window at my house the very next day (after driving the 100 miles back home on LA freeways with what is essentially the window down).  But, with a $500 deductible, I learned when talking to USAA on the phone, I was basically out of $500 of fly tying stuff…including my vise.

Clearly, I couldn’t live without a vise.  But, the cost was going to have to come out of pocket because the insurance basically only covered fixing my smashed window.  It was hard enough this summer just keeping up with the fly orders coming in on my site.  So, I started the internet research.  Like everything else fly fishing in my life I start with the cheap stuff then upgrade through time.  I started tying on a $20 vise many years ago.  The vise I had been using was rotary, $125ish.  Through internet research I narrowed the choices (on the basis of convincing myself I deserve it) to vises that carried retail price tags between $200 and $300.  At that point I did what I always do: I wrote an email to my buddy Mark Boname who is the owner of the Platte River Fly shop in Casper Wyoming for guidance.  Mark recommended the a Renzetti Traveler.   “Ooohhh” I said to myself, “yea, I deserve a Renzetti.”  But, I was confused by that name “traveler”.  I didn’t need a travel vise; I needed an everyday like vise.  With a little more research, I figured out that the Traveler line of Renzetti vises are not really travel vises at all.  I wonder if I am the only one that got thrown by that?  from the Renzetti web site I could see they just released the “Traveler 2304 Cam Vise 6×6 Pedestal Base Model” which seemed perfect.  One email to Mark asking if he could sell me that one and boom!  Order placed on www.wyomingflyfishing.com/ within 10 minutes.

This is where this article turns into a product review.

The Renzetti Traveler 2304 Cam Vise 6×6 Pedestal Base Model

The Renzetti Traveler 2304 Cam Vise 6×6 Pedestal Base Model

If there is one thing I say a lot, quoting my dad it’s, “Timothy, in life you typically get what you pay for.”  And that is so true about this vise.  I don’t know how I have lived so long…tied for so long without a professional vice like this one.

Hooks don’t Slip

Firstly, the hook just simply doesn’t slip from the jaws….at all…  you have no idea how awesome that is unless you have tied for 25 years plus with a vise that slips.  And if you look at all the reviews out there about the Renzetti vises the not slipping thing comes up first almost in every one.  Renzetti says this vise can accommodate hooks from as large as a 4/0 to as tiny as a 28.  There is a little knob adjustment on the jaws that faces you that gives you the ability to adjust the jaws with precision from large hook sizes down to small ones.  This vice makes tying so much faster.  This feature alone, makes this vise worth it’s price tag.

Right and left-handed models

Wait, what?  Yes, this vice comes in both right- and left-handed versions.  This was so confusing to me I had to call Renzetti directly on the phone because I couldn’t find anywhere what the hell that meant.  And, of course, I got awesome customer service just like you’d expect from a company with that Renzetti’s reputation.  So, here’s the deal.  If the jaws of your vice point to the right as you are facing it, you are tying right handed; it’s a righthanded vice.  And conversely, if the jaws of the vice point left as you are tying it’s a left handed vice.  The reason is that Renzetti puts the controls in front of you for easy access (like the precision jaws adjustment knob I mentioned earlier faces me so I don’t have to awkwardly reach behind the vice to adjust).  So, I tie right handed; I purchased a right handed Renzetti vice.  Clearly, Renzetti thinks these usability things through….although I wish they’d let me write the content for their website that explains this stuff….

The Bobbin Cradle

I have to admit when I purchased the vice from www.WyomingFlyFishing.com I said to myself, “I’m going to have to figure out what the hell that arm thing does.”.  All my prior vices did not have a “bobbin cradle”.  Shoot, it wasn’t until I read the little parts list that came with the Renzetti vice that I even figured out what it was called.  So, armed with the search phrase “How to use a Bobbin Cradle Fly fishing” guess what came up as the first match?  a video from Renzetti on YouTube with over 10,000 views on how to use a bobbin cradle:


So, I’m one of over ten thousand people that couldn’t figure out what the hell that arm thing was for also….  As the video suggests it takes a while to get used to and configured for your preferences, but now I’m convinced I can never live without it.  Having the bobbin cradle has changed the way I tie flies and the speed at which I do it.  I don’t know how I ever tied flies without a bobbin cradle.  See the reoccurring theme here?

Notice how the thread is held out of the way so that i can wrap the silver ulta wire on the epoxied huck-midge


Well, I’m a good news / bad news guy and I just cannot find any negatives on the Renzetti Traveler 2304 vise short of it’s price tag which lists at $299.  IMHO if you are tying more than 100 flies per year, then you’ll adore this vise.

May, 2016 – The North Platte River: 546 Trout Caught and Released

The North Platte River - Grey Reef Section

The North Platte River – Grey Reef Section

For the last 5 years I have planned the annual “Get Locked!” fly fishing trip for a dozen of my buddies.  This year’s location was the N. Platte River near Casper, WY.  And my God did we have fun!  I believe everyone in the group agreed that of the 5 trips this was the best.  And it was the best because of where we stayed, the fishing, the outfitter and guides, The local fly shop, and the food.  We floated the Grey Reef section of the N. Platte.

The great thing about this trip is that the majority of the guys are beginner fly fisherman…. This trip is the only time they fly fish each year.  It’s a bunch of CEOs and such; a bunch of old married guys.  So how do a bunch of beginner fly fisherman catch 546 fish over 3 days?:  Answer: Guides; really good guides…  well, that and how effective for beginners, “the bobber” is…

Another 18" rainbow

Another 18″ rainbow

The Guides

So I might as well start the story here at the guides: Ryan Anderson and his wife Liz run WYOMING FLY FISHING GUIDE SERVICE – Gray Reef Outfitters on the North Platte River (307-277-6282).  And I highly recommend them if you are going to fish the N. Platte River in the Grey Reef section in the Casper area.  Ryan, (who is a big ‘ol bear of a guy about ½ my age, crying funny, and an awesome guide) enlisted 5 more of his guide crew (Mickey, Slade, Bean, Grant, & Keith) in a 6 boat armada to float us drunken old guys to catch and release 546 fish over 3 full days of fishing.  Sober and trying I think we would have caught 1000.  I will definitely fish with Ryan again.  I haven’t told my lovely bride of 27 years just yet, but I plan to make my way back to Casper in the fall with my son Mark to float with Ryan.

Bean sheepherding another double hookup with Tom and Doug

Bean sheepherding another double hookup with Tom and Doug

The Place

We stayed at Red Butte Lodge.  Really, it wasn’t really a choice.  It was the only place I could find in the Casper area that had 12 beds (short of a hotel).  But, we totally lucked out.  The Red Butte Lodge is awesome, quite reasonable in cost, and it has the high TripAdvisor ratings to validate it.  Ruth Romp owns and runs the place.  She is a kiwi (New Zealander) and is just a great gal.  Her lodge and cottage sit right on the river.  Although I barely fished in front of the Red Butte Ranch because the river was blown out there (downstream from Grey Reef), most of the year I bet you could just wade in right there and fish quite successfully the entire time.

The view at sunrise from The Red Butte Lodge.

The view at sunrise from The Red Butte Lodge.

The Fly Shop

I have written of the local fly shop in Casper (and it’s internet business) many times before in this blog.  It’s the Platte River Fly Shop located just outside of town on your way to the Grey Reef area of the N. Platte at 7400 State Hwy 220, Casper, WY 82604.  My buddy Mark Boname owns the shop and is a genuinely great guy.  I tell all my friends to buy their fly fishing stuff from Mark at: www.WyomingFlyFishing.com.  Mark and his staff, Gerri to name one of them, run an honest business and provide tons of guidance and help.  Plus, they have all the “good stuff” (Simms, Sage, Galvan, TFO, Patagonia, Winston, etc.)

The Pronghorn Antelope not affectionately called the "speed goat" is on it's way back to building numbers after being hunted to the brink for many years

The Pronghorn Antelope not affectionately called the “speed goat” is on it’s way back to building numbers in Wyoming after being hunted to the brink for many years

The Food

I had real trouble finding a caterer to do the breakfasts and dinners in Casper.  Then I stumbled on Caputa Catering.  Rob Caputa and I went round and round in planning in email and on the phone.  Great guy and I’m totally pleased.  Unique every day hot breakfasts with always fresh fruit.  The dinners ruined the diet, but exceptions must be made when the food is that good.  Rob, even purchased and delivered all the beer and alcohol.  He had his GM, Lashawn Wier helping him.  She was great.

Even if you don’t have the need to cater in Casper, you need to go to their restaurant, Prime Time.

Expert Angler Bill Scripps with just another of his many 16" - 20" rainbows

Expert Angler Bill Scripps with just another of his many 16″ – 20″ rainbows

The Fishing

On this trip each year I fly in 2,3 days early to set things up and to do some “real” fly fishing.  I prefer to wade.  I know it’s so much more effective in the drift boat, but there is a certain freedom and skill and hike involved when wading that I really enjoy.

I had some time on Sunday when I got to Casper, before sundown so I stopped at the North Platte River Fly Shop and my buddy Mark set me up with flies and steered me to the section of river between the dams because it was not blown out.  I did pretty well.  Great stretch of river.  I was really encouraged because I’d be fishing with Mark the next day.

On Monday, my first full day in town my buddy Mark Boname graciously offered to take me on a full day of wade fishing.  He took me to some of his spots on the N. Platte including the Fremont area of the river above the dams and downstream in the Grey Reef area and in the transition area between the dams.  We did pretty well in a rising river.  Mark dragged me all over that river and I didn’t find out until days later from him that he was totally sick…like puking sick.  He didn’t even mention it while we were fishing.  And we fished a full day.  That is the type of guy he is.

That night my buddy Tom O’Connell, CEO of Applied Information Sciences flew in and we hit the Silver Fox Restaurant in Casper hard.  This is the highest rated restaurant in Casper for a reason.  And its Casper; so the restaurant is very reasonably priced.  We sat in the bar and ate and Brian the bartender took care of us.  Brian later became of good me of me, tom and the entire gang.

This is a self Portait. i had to set the timer while the fish was in my net. i so rarely take trophy shots anymore. but, this fish from the Wind River was special.

This is a self Portrait. i had to set the timer while the fish was in my net. i so rarely take trophy shots anymore. but, this fish from the Wind River was special.

I Lost Another Fish of a Lifetime

The next day, Tuesday, Tom and I made the big trek to Thermopolis to fish the Wind River section of the Bighorn.  We hit the local fly shop in Thermopolis and got some great guidance, flies and the special permits to fish this stretch of river on the Indian reservation.  What we did not know is how big the river was.  Until we got there.  I have never seen that river so high.  Crossing was not even a consideration.  We couldn’t even wade.  Most of our fishing was done from the rocks on the steep banks.  I caught a really nice fish and Tommy hooked up a few times, which is impressive because it was really tough casting in those conditions and finding soft water for a good drift was really difficult.

The Wind River on the Indian Reservation just up stream from Thermapolis, WY. It takes a special permit to fish here.

The Wind River on the Indian Reservation just up stream from Thermapolis, WY. It takes a special permit to fish here.

But, what I will remember forever is hooking into another fish of a lifetime…and losing it.  I found 10 yards of soft water between two huge boulders in the river that I knew was holding fish.  Just like I was taught, I made a cast right on the seam, mended, got a good drift and my indicator went down with vengeance.  I set hard because it’s Wyoming; they use 3x at a minimum in Wyoming.  The fish reared and jumped right in front of me.  I gasped and then almost fainted because it was huge.  Honestly huge like a steelhead.  I bowed the rod just like you are supposed to do it.  The fish landed and sprinted downriver.  My reel was singing and I had the drag setting pretty tight.  But, now the horror set in.  The fish went into the main channel around the giant bolder.  I couldn’t chase her downstream because the line would have wrapped the boulder.  I tried in desperation to flip that line around the boulder, but it was like 10 feet tall and the fish kept running…for what seemed like an eternity.  I considered jumping in the river and swimming after the fish a number of times.  But the river was so high and raging.  It just was not safe.  And the fish kept running.  My backing was now scraping the rock.  I watched the backing deplete to about 20 feet from getting spooled.

I always hear and read about how great going into the backing is.  I’ve caught a lot of big trout in my time and I never seem to go into the backing.  I think if you fight them correctly you don’t need (or want) to go into the backing.  But now I’m not only into the backing, but I’m about to be spooled and lose the fish, the line and the backing.  I quickly considering pulling a “brad pitt from a river runs through it” by jumping in the river and swimming after it.  but, I’m wearing waders and the wind river is in an angry dangerous mood that day.  So I do what I have been dreading for minutes now: I tighten down.  I’m at a loss what to do now because I don’t want to hurt, most likely kill the fish, by reeling it backwards up a raging river.  I didn’t have to worry about it for long.  It only took a few turns of the reel before the fish got pissed, turned her head and snapped off the 3x.  sigh.

Question: Do you know how long it takes to reel in all the backing and the entire fly line?

Answer: An eternity after losing the fish of a lifetime.

I now have 3 fish that will haunt me for the rest of my life:

  • The Giant Blue Trevally off the cliffs in Mahaulepu, Kauai
  • The huge roosterfish in Guancaste, Costa Rica
  • The monster rainbow in the Wind River, Thermopolis, WY
Jay Hutton, aka "worst client ever" fumbling away another 18” rainbow

Jay Hutton, aka “worst client ever” fumbling away another 18” rainbow

Fishing Guided in drift boats with Grey Reef Outfitters on the North Platte River

The insanity started on Wednesday when everyone flew in to Casper.  We fished guided for 3 days; some of us 4.  Most of us drinking adult beverages in the drift boats the entire time.  And it was ridiculous good fishing.  Which is funny because the guides thought it was kind of slow.  I guess in Casper, 542 fish by 12 amateur anglers in 3 days is slow.  BTW, 95% of the fish caught and released were over 14”.  Silly.  Not matter what your skill level, if you want to catch a bunch of wild, hard fighting rainbows on a fly rod you need to call these guys.  Worth every penny

I cannot wait to get back to the N. Platte River.