Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year in Pictures

The year 2010 offered plenty of fishing. Below is a slice of the pie, in pictures.
January: Yankee Jim Canyon on the Yellowstone River.

February: Montana steelhead.

March: A windy night on the lower Madison. Fishing was good though (for almost everyone).

April: Skwalas were everywhere this spring. This one is ready to spread her seed.

 May: As the ice peels back on Hebgen Lake, the trout get hungry. Clay is pulling in another slab.

June: Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park. No fishing in the inlet.

July: Big stoneflies in Yankee Jim result in many cutts brought to hand.

August: Accentrella hatch on the Clark Fork. There was also some crazy flying-ant hatch that day that got the trout excited.

 September: Charting lower Sixteenmile Creek. Beautiful area, but few and small fish.

October: Streamer day on the East. They still wanted the buggy Hare's Ear, though.

November: Upper Madison rainbow. The black Girdle Bug is all you'd ever need up there.

December: Darlington Ditch's S-curves. The section on which you won't get harassed.

Here's to 2011!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

These guys must be awesome - they have it pasted on their truck window.

I found this hilarious, so I thought I'd repost it: "Really???" I think they should just get it tattooed on their faces, so nobody misses how sick and epic they are.

The link is to Dan "Rooster" Leavens' blog. Leavens runs Stonefly Inn and Outfitters in Twin Bridges.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Darlington Bitch

I suspected I was in for a large dose of rubbish as the gray Ford Explorer pulled up along the levee.
"Do you know where you are?" the man asked.
"Darlington Ditch," I responded.
"No, this is not Darlington Ditch. This is Spring Creek."
"Yes. And you are trespassing. This is the Rice Ranch."
"No, I'm not. I'm within the high-water mark on a natural waterway."
"Did you cross that fence with the signs?"
"Then you are trespassing."
"No, I'm not. I have stayed within the high-water mark at all points. I know I'm on private property, but I have a right to be here."
"On the river, that's how it works (pointing to the nearby Madison River). But not here."
"Is this a natural waterway?"
"Look sir, I will get outta here, but I am not trespassing."
"That's all I ask."
Click to enlarge
It might be easier to let it go, but then ignorant harassers win. I knew I had a right to be there, it was obvious that I was in fact on Darlington Ditch as it was named on a sign just upstream (which didn't ultimately matter - anglers have a right to be there no matter what it's called), but he wasn't about to let it go. The Rice Ranch will be getting a letter from me explaining: that that particular creek is Darlington Ditch; the Montana stream access law; the fishing regulations on Darlington; and that I will see them again soon. I will be back with cell phone in hand, and will get Gallatin County's finest involved if necessary.

The creek itself is intriguing. The vast majority of the water is about 6 inches deep, with a slot here and there that gets to about 2.5 feet deep. It's very mucky in places (I fell through some ice into waist-deep black-tar sludge), and very weedy in true spring-creek fashion. There are a few tailouts, but eventually it turns into a slow, placid, featureless lake. There is a nice blurb about Darlington Ditch in the current Montana Sporting Journal in the "Spring Creek Tour" article.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Montana's brookies

Brook trout aren't typically thought of as being terribly ferocious. Voracious, to be sure, but not aggressive per se. They'll collect as many mayflies and midges as their stomachs will hold, but streamers aren't generally used when targeting them. But over the past year, I've learned that they can be quite predatory and will hammer streamers as much or more than brown trout in many situations.
In Montana, most of the best brookie water is kept under wraps. I can tell you a dozen places where rookies could have a good day with small ones, but big brookies are hard to find.
The best place that I know of (that's not a secret) for big brook trout is Georgetown Lake. I've never fished it myself, but I've heard reports recently that they're back with a vengeance (it has suffered in the past 10 to years, apparently due to whirling disease).
Check out this video from Blackfoot River Outfitters (the brook trout action is from about 1:10 to 1:50):

The biggest brookie that Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has surveyed there was about 20.5 inches in 2006. In 2007, about 60,000 4-inchers were stocked and in 2008,another 50,000 er so were added. By 2011, the population should be thinned out a touch, but their lengths should be getting up there. It might be a great year to investigate the brook trout bounty at Georgetown Lake.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yesterday my life was filled with clouds

so we decided to give the Jefferson another shot as conditions were ideal for a river that is basically a streamer show - clouds and rain, October, brown-trout river. Alas, it was a bust. We boated a couple dinks. Hooked a big rainbow, but only for a few seconds.
I went for a bike ride today, and as anglers are wont to do, gave every water I passed by the once over. I indeed found a couple ponds that were chock full of sunnies, bass and carp. The sunnies were feasting on midges as well as any trout I've seen, and the carp were eating something on top occasionally and plowing their snouts through the bottom when not rising. I will get back soon, with rod in hand.

To quasi-quote Dusty Springfield:
"The dark days are done
The bright days are here...

...Sunnies, one so true -
I found you."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

There's been a lot of talk...

timpanoga hecuba dun
...lately about the fall drake, aka hecuba, aka drake mackerel, aka red quill aka Snake drake. I've heard reports of them from the Big Hole, Yellowstone and Bitterroot rivers this fall.
I've only seen a good hatch once, on the Gallatin. It was a wet, cloudy late afternoon - September 10, 2008. No fish were rising so I didn't throw on a dry, but I probably should have. Hecubas are just shy of green drakes in stature, so it shouldn't take many to garner attention. They also have three short tails, and short stubby bodies like green drakes, so they're often confused for them. Their color is the main distinction, but season is another indication.
timpanoga hecuba nymph
They're a marvelous, beautiful, rare mayfly that are a treat to encounter. 
I think we're hearing and encountering so many more this year because of consecutive good-water years that provide the healthy rivers that certain rare bugs need to thrive. Check this out for more on that.
Should you see a hecuba, I'd recommend a big Royal Wulff or something similar. For more on drakes and Wulffs, pick up the upcoming issue of the Montana Sporting Journal
Go fish.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sweetheart, the noodly streamer rod

I literally pulled it out of the garbage of my old residence. It was in tough shape, but usable. I rewrapped a few guides and it was ready to fish. My old new fiberglass 7 weight streamer rod is a Wright and McGill Sweetheart, and it's a trip.

It's so noodly, you have to be careful, on the hike to the river, that the wobble doesn't gain too much momentum and quake the rod from your grip, off into the distance (if this happens, let go - the wobble is strong with this one). Long may you wobble, Sweetheart.
What better place to put the 'glass streamer rod to use than the Jefferson? The only fish to bend the noodle were small but it was fun.

The Jefferson is surprisingly scenic - I always thought of it as a nondescript, scrubby, warm-ish river, but it was gorgeous.
Here's to bigger bends in the noodle.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It must be September cuz I'm seeing October caddis

I think I saw my first October caddis of the year the other day. This is good news.
Fishing October caddis dries is kinda like fishing hoppers in that you have big fish eating big flies. More subtlety is required, but it offers similar-sized fish on dries.
Not every river gets a great hatch, but an outstanding emergence isn't required. If you see a couple big orange caddis, tie on an orange Stimulator with stout tippet.
I've mostly fished the hatch on the lower Gallatin, but was told by 20-something fly-shop guy that the Gallatin doesn't actually get October caddis (dicosmoecus). Ok, fella. He said that the Gally (as I'm sure he called it) actually got a bug that looked a lot like an October caddis, but wasn't a real October caddis. It does get that bug (see below), but it also gets the real thing.
And the fact is that for all intents and purposes, they're the same bug. One has lighter wings and is a tad smaller (size 8 to 10), and the real thing has dark wings with a distinct vein pattern (see below), and is size 6 to 8. Note the zig-zag vein going vertically about 2/3 down its side - that's a good way to tell if you've got an actual dicosmoecus.
They hatch in September (I've probably seen more in September than October), just like March browns that hatch in April.
 (cased dicosmoecus larva)
You can fish the pupae as well - just a big orange soft hackle should suffice.
If you see the big orange caddis, tie on a Stimmie and hold on tight.

Dickie to Jerry Creek

Floated the Big Hole from Dickie Bridge to Jerry Creek on Friday - it wasn't what we'd hoped for. We got a few on hoppers and a few on streamers, but nothing huge. Most of the fish were in the 14- to 18-inch range, which is pretty standard on that river. I heard that the stuff down around Maiden Rock wasn't much better that day, so we felt a bit better about that.
It was super skinny in that section (which we anticipated), but I'd go somewhere else next time. I want to get back to that stretch, but I think there are better sections right now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Foxee Red

Clay took care of business with the Foxee Red Clouser again on Friday below the Ennis dam. The more I learn about that fly, the more intrigued I am. Bucky, the shop manager at Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, loves it, I've seen it referred to as the No. 1 smallmouth fly of all time and one of the best streamers ever, it consistently puts the hurt on trout, and yet some people look at you like you're crazy when you mention it. It works in slow, meadow creeks, fast pocket water, stillwater, brown water, and probably in the salt. Highly recommended.

Camped at Hebgen last night. Didn't fish - just caught up with some old friends who were driving through. Did awaken to a beautiful Hebgen morning.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Understanding the fish gods' plan

I was all excited to fish Hebgen gulpers, but the fish gods had another plan for me. Got there early, they gulped sporadically on tricos til about 9:30, then the wind and rain came and the fish retreated. I checked in at Blue Ribbon Flies and was told today, there would be no gulping, for it was windy.

Instead, I was told to make the pilgrimage to Three Dollar Bridge on the upper Madison, where fish are plentiful enough to feed the multitude. It was good - actually fished a baetis hatch in August. There is a time for every hatch under heaven (baetis isn't usually August though). Caught a couple in the 17- to 18-inch range on a Sparkle Dun. Also got the Clouser to work, but not on big fish.

While I'm all about fishing new and/or small water, it was kind of nice to fish big, easy water. No hiking necessary and good fishing (almost) guaranteed.
Saturday we floated the lower Madison. Can't beat floating under the sun, drinking beer, catching lots of fi... - oh wait. We maybe boated three 8-inch trout, all on streamers, all by Jake. There were rises and chases, but few.
Why, fish gods, have you forsaken me?
Alas, we must have faith, for skunks are the devil's work.
Go in peace, catch some fish.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Bridges of Madison County: How Now Brown Clouser?

Remember that guy on the Ruby River who sued the state over its stream access law in 2004? We fished the river on his property on Friday. There aren't even any 'no trespassing' signs, nor are there any fences crossing the river. Maybe he's come around...
The streamer bite was good, but the surface bite was tough - only small fish here and there on Humpies and Chernobyls. It helped that that stretch was flowing at 83 cfs, courtesy of irrigation.
It felt good to fish the property of the old curmudgeon who wants to take that right away.

Don't let the man keep you out.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bighorn Creek

Finally got some pics from "Bighorn Creek" and permission to post them. In three outings over about 10 days, three guys landed 11 brown trout over 20 inches. These photos have not been altered in anyway.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I fished this weekend, but I can't say where.
Friday we fished a creek (we'll call it "Bighorn Creek") that has big brown trout, and is, with a few exceptions, unknown. If it were known, it'd get hammered cuz there are really big browns in it (in the past week, clay and brady caught five over 20 inches). No pics of the fish - they only play when they're sure their mug won't be posted on some jackass-fisherman's blog.

Saturday I fished a lake near town that gets very little pressure and has many and big cutthroats ("Bighorn Lake"). These fish are eager, plentiful and there are a couple huge ones that cruise. They have the brightest red slashes of any cutthroat I've ever seen - I kept thinking they were bleeding but it was just their vibrant slashes. Sorry for the lousy picture - they were slippery bitches.

This weekend I'm camping around a section of the state I've never fished. I plan on fishing the West Bighorn River, Big Bighorn Creek, and the East Fork of the North Fork of the South Fork of the Bighorn. And maybe Bighorn's Pond. Photos to follow. I won't always be this stingy about locations, but for now....
Formerly, I didn't really believe in secrets. I was happy to share what I knew, and didn't really think it'd make a difference. But that was before I knew of some truly unbelievable fisheries. You be shocked too, if you fished these special places. But you'll have to find them on your own.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I hear the owl cooing

When "daily maximum water temperatures reach or exceed 73°F at any time during the day for three consecutive days", Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks will impose Hoot Owl restrictions, meaning it'll be closed from around 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.until the water stays below 70 degrees for three consecutive days or September 15. We're very close on a few major waters, including the lower Gallatin (hit 73 once in the last week), the middle Jefferson (hit 71 already so the lower parts must be awfully close), the Lower Madison (71 twice this week), and the Big Hole (flowing below normal down low and has hit 72 for five straight days up high at Wisdom). The Yellowstone which is usually prone to high temps has stayed relatively low, maxing out at 64 at Big Timber last week.
We've honestly had about three weeks of fishable water on these waters (not counting the Lower Madison) and now they might be toast for awhile. Ugh.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

16 Mile to the Boulder

White were knuckles. White was the water. White were our faces as we glissaded over the rocks of Big Timber's Boulder River. But we survived, had a lot of fun, and have some funny stories. The river maestro Brady sent us down the right chutes and we stayed above the surface.
I only wish I had photos to share. My nice big camera got soaked, along with my expensive macro lens - collateral damage. Hopefully they'll dry out and be as good as new. But I'm prepared for them not to be.
On Friday it was small trout, huge numbers, and dry flies. My number was 23, and Clay didn't count, but I'm sure it was more than that. More fun than I've had fishing in a long time. A lark. Yellow Goofus Bug. Small Stimmies. Narrow casting lanes and hang ups in trees. It's all part of this game, and it's tremendous.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Joe's Hopper and Foam Beetle

I might be jumping the gun a little (cuz apparently terrestrials virtually always work well at the West Boulder Meadows) but hopper patterns where catching fish yesterday. The plague has begun.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trout Lake

Yellowstone's Trout Lake is quite a place.