Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blame it on something

It felt good to be on my way while the stop lights were still blinking yellow. Morning Edition was just beginning - some browns had likely not yet returned to their daytime lies.

There was literally frost on the grass and my thermometer read 35 degrees (August 25) at the bridge on the Beaverhead River. For the first hour, my hands and feet were stinging and I questioned how long I'd make it. The high was scheduled for 80, so any minute now... Eventually the sun rose above the insulating, alpenglowing wildfire smoke and I felt better.

The fishing was mediocre - that section was more willowy than hoppery, and I like to reserve that last weekend in August for hoppers (my annual "hopper weekend"). But the water was cold and the river was vacant.

I got back to my car and opened a couple fly boxes to sun them  on the roof while I broke down (they'd gotten wet in my pockets). I made a mental note to not forget them, which apparently shifted my focus from my rods (one for streamers and one for hoppers). I didn't know it until I was parked in my Belgrade driveway - I left them. A Sage and a Winston with Orvis reels - none of it top-end, but all of it nonetheless expensive. FUG. Instead of driving back, I called Frontier Anglers in Dillon and a generous gentlemen offered to run out after work (about 30 minutes from the phone call) and grab them for me. Soon he called back - they are not there. Within three hours.

Sept. 11, 2007, Gallatin and Madison 014

Craigslist was littered with my "Lost & Found" posts, and local shops were notified. Frankly, I'm kind of surprised they were not turned in.

Fortunately, a flyfishing company is having a sale soon, so I have a rare opportunity to upgrade to some serious gear for a serious discount - seems the fishing gods simply didn't approve of my "cheap" gear.

At times like these, I find it helps to pontificate on some lines from a favorite decades-old lyric:

Cuz the rain don't mind,
And the rain don't care,
You got to blame it on something...

If only there was a cloud in the sky.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In the middle of the great park snakes a river like no other...

These words in the post title commence chapters 1 and 50 - the first and last - of Nate Schweber's recently released book, "Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park: An Insider's Guide to the 50 Best Places".  They reference the renowned Firehole River - one of the park's most iconic fisheries.

Schweber's book is a non-partisan (both Jimmy Carter and Dick Cheney share stories) look at special places and experiences fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park. It brings Yellowstone's fly fishing community together as if they were swapping stories over cocktails at Yellowstone Lodge on the first Monday in November. And as such, you'll probably catch wind of valuable information.

The author put in his leg-work. Fifty chapters resulting from finding the right people and interviewing them, and hiking about 300 miles to try to fish all of the included locations.

Tips on how to catch lakers, the reason westslope cutthroats are native to part of the east side of the continental divide, the real story of "Yellowstoner", and more stories and tips are sprinkled throughout, with a special emphasis on Yellowstone cutthroat conservation.

If you want a thorough where-to guide to fly fishing in Yellowstone, buy Ken Retallic's Flyfisher's Guide to Yellowstone. If you are interested in unique perspectives and intriguing stories on several fisheries along with good information, buy a second copy of Retallic's book and I'll lend you my copy of Schweber's (I work for a competing publisher) :).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Them hills.

A couple years ago I wrote in a column that I would never have the opportunity to fish for golden trout because of the difficulty in reaching them (being more of a "Chubby Chernobyl" than a "Skinny Nelson").
But since last Thanksgiving, I've straightened my diet out and put a little more effort into exercise and am down 65 pounds. Couple that with the fact that some golden-trout lakes in the Gallatin Range require a hike of only about 2.5 miles and elevation gains of only about 1,000 feet, and I thought it time to try.
The fact that I got lost at about 9,000 feet and couldn't find the trail for about a half hour after getting altitude-woozy notwithstanding, it was all pretty easy. Including the fishing.
We arrived at the first lake to find cruising and rising goldens. Already excited just to be in their presence, I picked one out and cast a Bloom's Parachute Flying Ant to within its radar. A quick twitch of the ant and the fish whipped a u-turn, swam directly for the fly and ate it. One cast. Granted, it was the only one I caught since we couldn't find fish in any other lake and the rest were quite spooky (as legends hold), but that's cool. And we made it back to the valley in time for 48 ounces at the brewery. Nice little Saturday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Family reunions, romantic getaways, respites from the mundane, drug binges, and more

National Forest cabin log books can be infinitely intriguing – mostly funny, but also weird, whiny, and sentimental. People use these former ranger stations for family reunions, romantic getaways, respites from the mundane, drug binges, and more I'm sure. I left my mark at the Porcupine Cabin on the westslope of the Crazy Mountains sometime around 2008 in photo form. No that's not John Goodman – in fact that's me.

Here are a few comments from the “HOW WAS YOUR STAY?” column in the East Fork Guard Station log book on the East Fork of the Bitterroot River:
  • Full emancipation from mental slavery
  • Scount.
  • Was hard to be here this time after losing our dog Max in April. He loved it here – we still enjoyed it.
  • !Sickbird!
  • Rats live under this cabin and want everything you have. Be wary. They will pack YOU off. Best cabin in MT...Love it long time. 
  • Fire, pizza, music, beers, good luvin' (in that order)
  • [Troup 94 from Darby]: It was prefick.
  • Great elk camp.
  • Don't eat red or yellow snow
  • Music, whiskey, food...repeat.
  • You know it was S-I-C-K-B-I-R-D!
  • We got our cow elk, saw a moose, caught some brook trout, all without getting lost , Plenty of “GAS” left in cabin. Axe needs fixed.
  • Leap year. Enjoyed our extra day. This was a gift we both needed. Read some Thoreau and Emerson – lots of snow and great friendship.
  • Except for the hard time getting my mask off, it's pretty fun!
  • Fish, fish, fish, eat, relax, aah! Thank you – the fire pit is awesome. Great fishing too.
  • Great stay! No bugs, super facility, no phones, lots of cutthroats and 3 less pack rats!
  • Great cabin, many fish and quite a ham!
  • Bigfoot stole my baby
  • The dogs went crazy for a very large rabbit under the porch. Had a relaxing time.
  • Loved drawing on the windows that had fog. Also did Jiffy Pop.
  • No phone, no TV, no work, no asshole neighbors, no nagging mother! This is heaven!
  • Great cabin. Fishing was excellent.
  • Beautiful. No fish though, might have found some gold or maybe it's fake.
  • Great fishing, wonderful time with family.
  • Still love the East Fork!
  • Not fun!
  • Awesome/great hiking! Fishing & togetherness! Don't tell anyone about this place! Nature always wins......perfection.
  • Herd lots of owls.
Obviously you'll want to herd owls. But most of them were nice comments about what great places the national forest service cabins are. And they are. And I learned that the kids say "sickbird". 

My comment? “This cabin retains temperature really well.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

Whitefish Weekend

I slammed on my brakes. The middle Big Hole was awash with concentric rings. A trico blizzard had incited pandemonium amongst a clan of whitefish, and I was helpless. I didn't have a great trico imitation, so I fished a size-14 Rusty Spinner in front of a size-18 H&L Variant (the bugs were probably about size 22). Both worked, but the big spinner was hot.
And it was like this up, down and across this stretch.  
Later, I got a couple whitefish on hoppers (and finally got my first fluvial grayling!). After staying the night on the East Fork of the Bitterroot, I stopped at Rock Creek and Flint Creek on the way home. Not to be outdone, Rock Creek's whitefish amassed for a family portrait, waiting to spoil the next fisherman's dreams.
Click to enlarge. I counted about 35.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

High plains drifting

I'm going where the water tastes like wine.
We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time.  - Canned Heat

This week, we visit outer Utah Creek where the ubiquitous wildlife keeps you on your toes. We saw a rattlesnake, two minks, a giant beaver, a garter snake, many deer, five moose, several trout, and a cow that momentarily looked like an African lion (it was hot).

Our herd of turtles floated 5.5 miles over 11 hours, with water temps rising from 55 to 68 throughout the day. There's nothing but bends and every bend has a riffle-tailout-hole. We fished as many as we could until the sunlight tilted, then we pushed through until a moose with a calf halted us.

We caught close to half a century of brooks, cutts, rainbows and browns up to about 18 inches. I had two (what I believe were) double hook-ups - a fish on both of my flies. Neither time did I land both, so  it could've been another fish excited by the hooked fish shadowing, but it seemed heavy. The streamer chase was red hot, but the bite was hit-&-miss. By evening, the small-fish hopper bite was steady.
The dusk bicycle shuttle up a rough gravel road was not ideal, but it's a small tax for days like that.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

2 p.m.

Heat can affect people, including inspiring poetry. A haiku: 

2 p.m. 
The sun takes its toll.
Dip your thermometer; look.
Fish another day.
[I didn't have a photo that corresponds.]
Maybe search for (what will assuredly turn out to be hallucinations of) Benicio Del Toro, or patronize the nearest brewery. Switch to your Type 10 sinking line and fish an impoundment, or lay in a field and let the sunshine take you to an Arcadia where trout serve you Manhattans as you wax philosophic with them. Or keep fishing, but consider your impact on our quarry.