Thorofare - update 2

Hello all,

We are back in Jackson and regaining our bearings in developed society. There is something about spending a week in the most remote place in the United States that makes a town like Jackson feel foreign. After walking through the crowded square, and navigating tourist traffic, the guys and I jokingly (kinda) agreed that we wished we could hike the 24 miles back into the Thorofare and live in a place free of roads, distractions, and those pesky little devices that buzz away in our pockets and drive us crazy. It truly was a special trip that none of us will forget. But it wasn’t all sunshine and cutthroat — a dusty trail and over 50 miles of hiking separated our group from the promised land. However, with our hearts set on personal best cutthroat and a place only the brave dare to venture, we put all the challenges behind us and one foot in front of the other. 

After 18 miles of hard work and mud pits, we made it to our campsite near Two Oceans Pass. The pass is unlike any other: Two Oceans Creek splits and creates Pacific Creek and Atlantic Creek. Pacific Creek drains into the Snake River and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Atlantic Creek drains into the Yellowstone River and ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. That night we prepared a quick dinner of campfire hotdogs and appreciated the miracle that these fish are. Every year Yellowstone cutthroat in Yellowstone Lake swims dozens of miles upstream to rear eggs in the same spawning beds in which they were born. They battled through raging river canyons and deep pools to make it back to the place where their life began. Their journey reflects our own: following an urge to make it to the Thorofare and fulfill a duty important to us. After talking it through, we realized just how lucky we were to even witness these fish in the first place, let alone to have the chance to catch one. Despite acknowledging that there was a chance we wouldn’t catch fish, everyone seemed at peace with the idea that just witnessing the fish was an incredible testament to the strength and will of nature. 

Upon arrival at Hawks Rest, we set out to finally catch the fish we had come so far to find.  Setting up a home base in the remote wilderness felt great, and the whole team was happy to rest their legs. From Hawks Rest, we had access to three world-class fisheries that all drain into the Yellowstone. Over the next four days, the guys explored all the Yellowstone Valley had to offer, enjoying the fruits of their labor. The crew started hot, catching 15 fish on the first night at Hawks Rest. Over the next three days, the group split up into three smaller groups and covered all the water they could. These three days yielded the best fishing of the trip. All groups succeeded in catching numerous 20+ inch cutthroat trout under blue skies in one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. After these three days, the group had caught roughly 100 fish, smashing personal bests and developing these young anglers’ skills. Each night we did our best to cook up backcountry delicacies and recover for another day of incredible/intense fishing. On the fourth morning at Hawks Rest, the group set their sights on the trailhead. Their young age did not hold them back; this group was made up of some of the most formidable hikers I have encountered in my four years guiding in the Thorofare. We decided that our hiking ability would allow us to push on to a favorite campsite of ours on the North Buffalo Fork River. The group spent the night relaxing to the sounds of a roaring river and even took a dip in some of its slack pools near camp. It is rare to see fisheries get better. Every year we return to fish this drainage, the fishing is a powerful reminder that conservation works. 

After returning to Jackson, we gorged ourselves on some much-needed pizza. In spite of our efforts to clean up in the river, we figured it was time to take a real shower at the Jackson Rec center. After washing the dirt of countless miles off our backs, we found it fitting to make the most of what the rec center had to offer. After some grueling pool basketball and a stop for some gas station snacks, the boys headed back to Gros Ventre Campground to enjoy some much-needed rest. At camp, the guys continued their trend of fishing mania and pushed their casting ability by practicing distance and accuracy. After some Caesar salad, bratwurst, and laughs, we all went to bed. The last few days of trips are always our favorites, watching blossoming friendships in full swing is just plain fun. Today we are spending some time in Jackson and will enjoy some time reacclimatizing to developed society. We took the last morning slow so everyone was able to sleep in and catch up on rest. We made our way into town for late-morning breakfast burritos and some time exploring the square. We plan on heading to a nearby park for a good game of ultimate frisbee, my personal favorite. Once we are exhausted from the competition, we will walk over to a burger joint for our final banquet dinner, one we will all be very thankful for. We are lucky enough to get to celebrate a trip member’s birthday on our final night in Jackson. He mentioned his love for chocolate ice cream so we will most certainly be spoiling ourselves at the local creamery. Once we are stuffed and happy from our evening in town we will head back to Gros Ventre. Tonight we will enjoy a final bonfire to reflect on the amazing trip we just had and remember how we grew as a group. The group plans on getting to bed early, as we have an early airport day. 

Thanks again for sending us such wonderful kids to work with! We hope to see these impressive young men continue to enjoy the outdoors for the rest of their lives.

Tight lines,

Cole, Mack, Owen, and the LFFE team


Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions was started in 2010 as a graduate thesis for my Master's Degree in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU. The operating premise was simple - by coupling amazing wilderness fly fishing camps for teens with environmental education and service learning we can help inspire future generations of fly fishing conservationists. We have been growing our unique list of trips and experiences ever since.

When it comes to choosing a summer program for your teen the options are endless. For the teen who loves to fish, be outside, and has a strong sense of adventure we have made the choice easy. We are the leader in teen fly fishing adventures and are dedicated to providing the best backcountry fly fishing experience with opportunities for teens to engage in leadership training, community service, and backcountry camping.


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Will Lillard, Founder/Director/Guide

Contact Us

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Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions
2540 King Road
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

(828) 577-8204