Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hatch browns: The year tubers came early to the lower Madison

No hatch is completely predictable, but the brachycentrus, or Mother’s Day caddis hatch, in the Bear Trap Canyon of Montana’s lower Madison River, at the time, was known to be fairly reliable.
But that year was disappointing. The water temperatures were right and the water was clear, but that one year, most fly fisherman actually spent Mother’s Day with mom.
When the bugs did eventually come off, it was certainly no blizzard, and the trout were particularly skeptical. Chalk it up to the mystery of fly fishing, I guess.
Anyhow, it was pleasant to be outside. Air temps were in range, grass was green, potatoes were drifting along the riverbed, and the sun was warm. But something seemed off.
“Why are there so many cattails on the riverbed?” I wondered to myself. “They must have raised flows enough to knock ‘em down er something.”
When I nearly turned my ankle on one, I decided to have a closer look.
Upon inspection, I realized what wasn't right – it was the potatoes. They shouldn't be there, and there were bushels of them.
Spread throughout every depression and bucket, were many Thanksgivings' worth.
You could actually see them slowly bouncing end over end along the bottom, reminiscent of the Stay Puft marshmallow man.
I recalled that the road that mimics the river had been closed a week prior, so I assume a potato truck had rolled into the river (not an impossible occurrence due to the nearby Dutch farmers and winding canyon roads).
I don’t really know why it tickled me so. There was nothing particularly funny about it.
It’s probably because there were potatoes in the river.
I returned a couple weeks later hoping to find rising trout. I found a few, but nothing terribly exciting. The potatoes were still there.
Bored with fishing, I picked up another tuber. This time, the ends of them were without skin, and they had clearly been chewed on. You'll have to take my word - I promise.
Suddenly, the lack of a Mother’s Day hatch made sense. Both predator and prey had lined up for the buffet, and, amidst this paradise, neglected to live their normal day-to-day.
The fishing sucked, but hey, I like potatoes too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blind guys and dry flies

Getting Guided Blind Guy from 406 productions LLC on Vimeo.

The whole time I was dying for the guy to bring a trout to hand - SPOILER ALERT - he does. None of us "seeing" fishermen and women got no excuse no more.
This is the kind of fly fishing television of which I would like to see more. No hot spotting, no hot-shot dip-shit hosts, more than just a guy reeling in fish wailing about how beautiful the fish are and how it doesn't get any better than this, etc. Compelling, interesting, funny - all around entertaining program.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bully for me

If only I was referring to the Salvelinus confluentus. All the same, I won a pair of Costa del Mar shades from Trout's Fly Fishing fly shop in Denver. They do a weekly "Name that River" contest on Facebook, typically for a $25 gift certificate or a fly line. But as luck would have it, the week I knew the river, it was a $150 pair of Costas - and they fit perfect. They even sent it Fedex Ground to my house, which was probably another $10 or $12. Bully for me - and thanks to Trout's!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Community Service

Tuesday I had the opportunity to help a local 5th grade teacher introduce her students to some aspects of fly fishing. Specifically, I went to help the students identify bugs they found in the Gallatin River, which is about three blocks from the school. 
Buddies Will and Brady joined me. We split up into four groups and looked for bugs to identify, sketch, record what phase of life they were in, what type of water they were in, and other things.
Turns out, these kids know their bugs. To an extent. When we arrived, I got nervous that the kids might actually know more than I - they had bug-identification books, several seines, river boots, fly rods, bugs in vials, and had some tough questions about how to tell insects apart. One young man asked what the difference was between a honey fly and something else is. I responded that one's bigger and different color, having never heard of a honey fly and trying to avoid losing my credibility. When in doubt while streamside, what they'd found was a March brown nymph (although most actually were rhithrogena or baetis). There were some crazy mottled tannish mayfly nymphs that I was unable to ID, but on Tuesday, those were March browns too. We also found a few big stonefly nymphs, some midge larvae, dozens and dozens of cased caddis, a couple free-living caddis, some cranefly larvae, and a couple sculpins, among other myriad bugs.
It was good to connect with my community and its kids. I don't get enough interaction with kids. We might get invited back in a month or two to help them actually fly fish - here's hoping!
With knowledge of what bugs were active, Will and I fished upstream after school. Neither of us had fished that bit before, and it was good.
The March brown emerger (soft-hackled Pheasant Tail) was the fly of the day. Thanks Mrs. Wilson's class!

Monday, April 11, 2011

What do you think? Is Montana no. 5?

There is a fair deal of ethnocentrism about the fishing here in Montana, but I've always been skeptical whether Montana really does have the best fishing, and if the rest of the world sees it that way. I haven't been around enough places to say for sure, but the guys at Field & Stream probably have, and they ranked Montana no. 5 for best fly fishing states. Incidentally, they ranked Bozeman no. 4 in the best fishing towns in America in 2008.

We like to consider Montana, and especially the Bozeman/Livingston area, "mecca", but is it? Or are we over-zealously proud of our fishing? Are they guys at Field & Stream a bunch of crack pots, or are we fooling ourselves?

Here's what I can tell ya - we've got thousands of miles of trout-filled, pristine water, a generous stream-access law, hatches that, as far as I know, rival anywhere in the world, and big, wild trout.

What do you think? Make a case. (I certainly won't be offended if you argue against Montana.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rotenone again

Even after last year's debacle at Cherry Creek (lower Madison trib - see current Montana Sporting Journal for more on that), Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is proposing to poison three more streams this year to reintroduce Westslope cutthroat trout: Dyce Creek (tributary to Grasshopper Creek which dumps into the Beaverhead), Cherry Creek (near Melrose, tributary to the Big Hole), and McVey Creek (dumps into the Big Hole near Wisdom). The FWP press release.

An article in the Montana Standard by Nick Gevock details this.

My favorite quote from that article: "While projects to remove invasive sport fish including rainbow and brook trout are sometimes controversial, Nelson said FWP has had good success at the efforts. A prime example is a different Cherry Creek located west of Bozeman, where FWP nearly a decade ago conducted a similar poison and plant operation.
Today that creek is thriving with thousands of native cutthroats, he said."

I would actually argue that that's the worst example. The poisoning went awry, and hundreds or thousands more trout died than they intended. Read about that here. If that weren't bad enough, rotenone has been linked to Parkinson's disease, so when it spreads to sections of river that weren't intended for poisoning, we're put at risk.

For more about the dangers of rotenone, click here.

FWP is seeking comment on the poisoning projects for this summer.
Send your comments to Lee Nelson:

I am not urging anyone one way or the other about whether or not we should restore native cutthroats - you can make that decision yourself. I am urging folks to consider commenting to FWP about finding a better way to do such a thing than using rotenone.