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.