Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stand thy ground

Not positive what it is, but I suspect it's that I don't shy away from notorious places (Mitchell Slough, the Ruby River, Ted Turner's properties, etc.). I'll even admit I sometimes enjoy a good ranch-hand/landowner encounter fishing within Montana's high-water marks, but most often it's a shit-show that can ruin a good day.

I've had two so run-ins so far this year (one with multiple encounters), and have had a good number over the years. They're often confrontational and angry - it's always a big "here we go again" moment when I see someone on their way.

But since I fish these places, it's important to be sure that when approached I am doing things legally and I am armed with knowledge. I encourage everyone to patronize any fishing spot you've heard is patrolled, but know the law (for the record, it's not 10 feet nor two feet - both of which I've heard anglers say - it's WITHIN the high-water mark). The enemy wins when anglers avoid.

Some tips for such situations:
  • Know the law and be within it. Be able to explain the law accurately showing that you are not ignorant and/or wrong (click here for a primer).
  • Be polite but firm, and try to deescalate the situation. 
  • If the Napoleon-complexed wiener won't let it go, it might be best to take off for the day. Maintain, however, that you are in the right and come back another day.
  • Avoid taking photos, tempting as it might be, of the confronter. This will definitely escalate tensions.
  • If any threat is levied or weapon brandished, get the eff out and notify the authorities. 
It's easier to avoid these places sometimes, but there's often decent fishing to be had where others fail to go. For good fishing and defense of our rights, go fish.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Me and Joe" Story

Although veteran Missoula outfitter Joe Cummings tossed me from his boat Sunday (ok, the spill was completely my clumsy fault), we had a great time dry-fly fishing the Bitterroot River's October hatches - baetis, tricos and mahoganies - as I researched the river. Action was steady all day, although the fish became real "assholes" as the day got older.

We floated the middle Bitterroot, which is apparently where anglers have the best shot at a trophy, but also where fishing can be tough. No mammoths were landed, but a couple big fish were moved during our limited streamer fishing. The top-water action was strong enough that we didn't venture much into the sloughs.

Cummings, a hulk of an oarsman and a guide through and through, is a retired NFL linebacker and former Belize outfitter. He's got years of recollections that accompany sports down river. His photography and writing skills are helmet and shoulder pads above most fishers and his blog rarely disappoints.
To be guided for trout was new for me. I'd been guided on a saltwater trip, but to see exactly how hard Joe worked and how many fly changes he used was enlightening. Made me feel lazy - normally, if the trout don't like what I'm using, I try to find some that do. I don't stick with fishy water if it ain't working, and I learned that maybe I should - they're in there and they're probably eating something. I should probably also increase my fly selection to be prepared...
Thanks to Joe for the help - if you need a guide around Missoula, check with him.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall color

Driving across northern Minnesota on highways 200 and 34, I was confounded by  the leaves. We don't get that color in Montana - maybe some bright yellows juxtaposed against the conifers, but nothing like the reds, oranges and yellows of Minnesota. It was a great start to a great trip to help an old friend celebrate his new life...
In between reunions, I had the chance to fish up the North Shore - something I'd never done when I was there in college. My research told me there should be pink salmon in the rivers, as did the the gentleman at the fly shop off East Superior Street. I planned to bead (HEY! - I only had one day and since they don't really eat anyway....) but I was told that's illegal in Minnesota (good for Minnesota) so I was forced to work with what I had. Some Glo-bugs and various other offerings....
Sho 'nuff, there were about 30 to 35 pink salmon in every other hole or so. They're small - a pound to pound and a half - but still cool. So I threw my double Glo-bug rig through the hole. And again. And again. And again. And again....Nothing. So I worked upstream, and finally, one small pinker slashed at my Egg-sucking Leech and I got one! Probably about 15 inches, but nonetheless... Slept well at Tettegouche State Park after a Jimmy's Pizza....
The following morning I got two more on a stripped General Practitioner - there was no hatch matching - and I was happy. Breakfast at Betty's Pies and I was on my way...
Pinks, reds, oranges, yellows and the tannin-stained water in Lake Superior tributaries light up fall in northern Minnesota like few other things. Just wait until you see the northern lights from Duluth...

A few more: