Saturday, July 12, 2014

Beating the Heat

A couple of weeks ago everyone was lamenting the cool rainy weather.  Would it ever end?  Hell, yes.  It always does.  And, it did.  The heat got turned on.  Temperatures promptly achieved their rightful place in the nineties.

Those same few weeks ago the mountains were still locked in snow.  It doesn't take much sun and warmth to drive it off. Once a few rocks get exposed, away it goes.

The fourth of July is a pretty traditional date to shoot for as regards getting into some alpine trout fishing.  Some years its still too early.

Yesterday was a good day for a walk.  I always try to start the day early and take advantage of hiking on a shady trail. Above 9000 feet, the snow was retreating rapidly.  There were still a few snowbanks. The lakes had thawed but I don't think that the ice had been off for long.

Best of all, the fish were in good shape.  Nice and fat, a surprise for so early in the season.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I wrote this one off years ago as just another fishless puddle.  Alders crowd the lakeshore. Casting options are limited.  I walked around the lake, stumbling over blowdown, cussing the aforementioned alders. That first visit, no fish rose.  I didn't bother to rig up,  It was a tactical error.  First impressions can be misleading. There were some impressive piles of bear poop though.

A few years later I decided to take another look.  Same scenario.  No riseforms.  No sign of fish. This time I strung my rod.  Casting fruitlessly from a precarious perch, I was ready to give up. Then I saw the shadow.  At least I thought I saw something.  More casts.  The shadow reappeared.  Jaws junior  came back and decided that it was time to eat.

Once a year we go back.  Just to check on the fish.  There aren't many.

We went back over the weekend.  The fish were still there.  Like us, a year older.

We saw a pine marten.  Mosquitos.  No grizzlies.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I'm going through a phase of Alaska withdrawal. It's been a few years since I've cast a fly in one of her waters.  I need to go back.

The above fish photo is of a pink salmon caught while on a float trip down the Talachulitna River (remember this one Larry?).  No, it's not an ad for Simms or Loop, although they do make good stuff.


Pink salmon are another underrated fish.  Where else but in Alaska could you catch a bunch of four to six pound fish and be disappointed.  Heck, guides floating the Madison would wet their pants if they could get their clients into a boatload of four to six pounders.

Pinks have the shortest life cycle of Pacific salmon, completing it in two years.  Interestingly, unlike other anadromous salmonids which may spend up to a year or two in fresh water before smolting, pink salmon fry make a run for the ocean soon after hatching.  Also, even numbered years tend to see huge runs of returning fish, while odd numbered years will show few returnees.  More info about pink salmon life history can be found at the Alaska Fish and Game website here. They are fished for commercially.  In fact most of the canned salmon found in grocery stores are pink salmon from Alaska (see Seafood Health Facts).

As for the fishing, it's not complicated.  Got a six or eight weight fly rod?  Fine.  Add a piece of leader.  Attach a nice colorful fly.  Marabou is good (remember Phyllis Diller?).  Go get 'em.

Also known as humpback salmon or humpies, they have a namesake bar in Anchorage (see Humpy's Alehouse). If you're in Alaska, make sure to stop in.  They offer great food and an impressive selection of micro brews.  Heck, any establishment named after a fish has to be good, right?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Along the Stream, A Western Scene

Horses, cows too, are an integral part of the western landscape.  So, it's pretty normal to run into them while one is out fishing.  Yesterday, I bumped into these two as they grazed on lush stream side grasses.  I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a horse person.  I do like to see them though.  Montana and horses go together like hot dogs and mustard (sorry, not ketchup).  So, when I crossed over to their side of the stream, they wandered over.  One intently nuzzled the pockets on my fishing vest.  I don't pack oats when I'm out fishing, so he had to settle for an ear scratch and a pat on the neck.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tale Of The Big Brown

brown trout tail in net

A little drive this morning.  Today would be a streamer day.  Browns like 'em.  I use a simple rig.  A short length of straight eight.  Pound test Maxima that is.  No 6X today.  Yay!  Tie on a cone head muddler.  That's it.

I like casting streamers on small streams.  A short cast to this bank or that.  Flip it under an overhanging branch.  No dummy!  Under the branch, not into it!  Oh well, all in a day of fishing.

One thing about small streams.  The fish will show themselves.  Invariably, if they show, and don't grab the fly, they won't come back.  Funny thing about fishing streamers.

Today, the fish were scarce.  Not many follows.  Few takers.  A few made it to the net.  Juicy looking pools that are usually good for a fish or two, yielded none.  

I was about halfway through the morning itinerary of pools.  And, I'd just worked through another, this one also apparently fish-less.  Then, a big splash upstream.

I turned in time to see the disappearing tail of a

 big brown.......


I wasn't the only one fishing today.

And, judging by the slowness of my fishing, he was probably having more luck!

Brown trout, cone head muddler fly

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Yesterday On The Creek

It's quite a change in venue, visiting the creek this time of year.  Especially when compared to the quiet starkness of winter that I'm accustomed to.  June.  Profusion. An explosion of life and color. Pastures green, trees and shrubs leaf and bloom.  Birds sing and chatter incessantly from the streamside vegetation.  A day on this, or any creek for that matter, is a spectacular experience.  And that is a woefully inadequate understatement.

In spite of verdancy, and the activity of myriad critters, one key element is lacking.  Insect life. The vaunted hatches that bring trout to the surface have yet to commence.  Other than a couple of wayward caddis, no bugs.  PMD's are allegedly still days to weeks off.  When they appear, so do the fisherman, expectant and hopeful.

So, in a day filled with hope, but lacking surface feeding trout, I nymphed.  Essentially the same gig as winter.  Dry dropper.  Beetle dropper (which I couldn't see worth a darn).  Finally, I resorted the dreaded "Thingamabobber."  A small one, but at least I could see it.  The fly(s) du jour?  The usual suspects.  Midge pupa, pheasant tail, small bead head whatever.  I think the highlight of the day was being able to repeatedly knot 6X to my fly, usually on the first or second try.  Well, that and getting my waders on.

The first fish of the day was, surprisingly, a cutthroat.  It was a first too in that I'd never caught one on the creek before.  The word is that a few, intent on spawning, run into the creek from the Yellowstone each year.  This one already appeared spent.

DePuy Spring Creek rainbow trout.

I finished the day stripping a streamer. I had a few chases, a couple of half hearted grabs.  The browns were there, but they didn't want to climb on for keeps.  That was ok.

I didn't expect to make it the whole day.  Eight-thirty.  A small victory, my first day out since February.

As the shadows lengthened, the fields filled with feeding deer.  Lots of does, plump with soon to be born fawns.   Meanwhile, last years unspotted fawns playfully chased each other in the high grass.  Carefree, as we should all be.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Where The Rivers Meet: The Three Forks Of The Missouri

A couple of hundred years ago, a couple of guys named Lewis and Clark decided to take a little trip.  Long before the days of Chevrolet, they decided to see a part of America that would someday be part of the USA (remember that slogan?).  They toiled their way across an expanse of wild country. Eventually, they ended up here, at the headwaters of the Missouri River.  They camped and did a little local exploring.  You can too.  They didn't have the benefit of a nice campground, trails, and interpretive displays telling of the local history, all courtesy of the fine folks at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  More park specific info is available at the Montana FWP website here.


I walked up the S.E. fork about a half mile and ascended the point of a high limestone cliff from whence I commanded the most perfect view of the neighboring country.
 Words of Meriwether Lewis, Saturday July 27th, 1805 in The Journals of Lewis and Clark by Bernard DeVoto.
This is a view of Lewis's S.E. fork, which they named the Gallatin River.

Gallatin River, Missouri Headwaters State Park, Montana

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