Saturday, May 23, 2015

One Mo Day

It was a heavenly day on the Missouri.  Warm, comfy.  No wind.

It was a good day to watch geese too.  Adults and variously aged and sized goslings were out and about in abundance.  I stumbled onto a nest too.  Goose eggs are pretty big.

Fishing wise, it was slow going, at least as far as surface activity goes.  I sight nymphed a couple of fish early on.   After that, I bided time, waiting, hoping for some sort of hatch.  I was determined to catch fish on top.  

I watched one rainbow on and off throughout the morning.  It was positioned right up against shore, strategically hidden from view by brush.  Not well enough though, I was looking for him.  I could see other fish too, some close to shore, others farther out.  This particular rainbow fed actively.  I could see it move from side to side, its mouth opening and closing, obviously grabbing stuff in the current.  It would rise occasionally too.  

I got him a couple hours later.  It took a bunch of casts.  I put him down once. I left for a while, worked some other uncooperative fish, came back and worked on him some more.  Stubborn? Why yes.  You can't catch rising fish that aren't rising.  And, this was the only one in the neighborhood that decided to poke its nose through the surface film.  So, I stuck with this one and got lucky. 

Later, I drove along the river, scouting for potential new spots to fish.  Along one section, I noticed some subtle rises.  First thought, whitefish.  But no, I know better.  I jumped in, well below the risers, and found several dimpling the surface steadily. 

The next couple of hours would be great fun, following moving pods of fish. Rainbows, when hooked, went berserk.  There would be an immediate and decisive line ripping run towards mid-river, then a jump just to show off their size.  I'd reel like mad, get my line back, but had a hell of a time holding them. The hook would pull out at the critical moment or they'e jump the net. Barbless hooks are good, quick release nets the same.  I never laid a finger of the biggest fish. But, even with the searing runs and jumps, no fish broke the 6X all day.  That was a surprise. And while the Missouri contains mostly rainbows, the days catch would primarily be brown trout, of better than average proportions.  Another surprise.

An admission.  I've never been much into fishing the dry fly. What's kept me away?  I'm patient to a fault, but keeping the fly afloat is a pain in the wazzoo.  It's a tough problem, I know.  Catch a fish and complain (not much though).   I've got fly floatants stuffed into several vest pockets.  I'm still not sold on any one, how about you?

Regardless, it was a most productive dry fly outing.  I found out how brief and spotty a hatch and surface feeding activity can be.  Had I quit early and not gone exploring, I would have missed out.  I also found out that I really like dry fly fishing, floatant issues notwithstanding.  Catching fish is ok too.

And finally.....

While driving along, I noticed a backlit angler.

  Anonymous, and a nice subject to add to this scenic image 

which would become

A memory and a cliche

And, a river runs through it.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Morning Fix

Just a short jaunt this morning.  I needed to scratch the small stream itch.  A couple of hours would suffice.

It had rained recently, snowed a bunch too in the high country.  Quite a change from recent weeks.  

A short drive put me onto some surprisingly low clear water.  Little rainbows, quite willing, eagerly snapped up my offerings.  It didn't take long to catch enough.  Nor did it take long to get chilled on this raw mountain morning.  Silly me, I'd underestimated how cold a mountain stream fueled by snowmelt can be in May.  I'd dressed for wading the Madison.  Next May, long johns! Maybe a thermos of coffee too!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Worth the Walk

I took a little hike last week.  Twice.  The first, a shakedown walk of sorts to test the legs.  My expectations were to only get a mile or two up the trail.  But, the snowline had retreated hastily, the trail was clear.  I arrived to find a thawed lake, sans fly rod.  Two days later I returned packing fishing gear.  

The fishing?  Well, slow.  I got a few, but had to work for them.   They were surprisingly spooky already.  A bead head prince got a couple, the rest liked a soft hackle.  Pretty fish all.  Well worth the hike.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Madison Caddis

Caddis along the Madison

The caddis made their inaugural appearance of the season this week.   Normally, I find no need to hurry out to the river.  You can if you like.  Arrive too early, and its too bright, and surprisingly, a bit warm already.  The last hour or two is the best time of the day.  Once the wind settles, clouds of caddis fly en masse.  It's an incredible sight.  I think that you'll agree.

This week, I went twice.  When I arrived at the river, a few tree swallows busily flew over the water.  They're a good indicator of the presence of winged insects.  In this case caddis!

Once fishing, I stuck with adult caddis patterns.  Basically an elk hair type.  I also use deer, caribou and antelope for the wings.  They all work.  The antelope and caribou hair is more brittle though.

On the first night I had a devil of a time trying to spot my imposter on the surface of the water. So, after I got home,  I tied a few with a fluorescent post.  That helped a little.

Interestingly, the real bugs, backlit and in flight, looked quite light, tannish.  At hand, they were dark, gray black bodies, dark winged.  Flush on the surface, in waning light, they were tough to spot.

The water was somewhat clouded on my second trip of the week.  No matter, fish greedily gobbled up the drifting caddis.  And, the intensity just increased into the evening as more spent bugs settled on the water.  Fishing wise, it wasn't a slam dunk.  The trout simply had too many naturals to pick from.

Often, I had fish rise within four feet or so.  This, while I was trying to pound out a ten foot cast to a more distant riser.  That they continued to rise, so close, indicated that they either didn't care, or had such a narrow feeding window, that they couldn't see me.  No doubt, the waters murk helped me get close. Any closer, and I could have netted them.  That would have saved a good deal of squinting.  Sometimes, I could see my fly drifting along, surrounded by naturals.  Fish would rise within an inch or two of the fly.  It was hard to resist setting the hook.

I tried several spots.  Anywhere the water slowed was good enough to attract and hold feeding fish.  Rainbows stole the show both nights.  I did get one lonesome brown.  And, just for grins I tied on a humpy.  The fish liked that too!

A Madison River Montana rainbow trout.

A leisurely stroll back to the car.  I took time to drink in the evening.  No need to hurry.  I just savored the waning light.  I stopped often, to watch and listen.  I saw the first bat of the year. Distant lightning.  Crickets chirped.

It was time to put the river to sleep for the night.  The caddis, after a busy night of flight had called it good too.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Never Enough

Another winter season on the spring is coming to a close.  This would be an all day trip.  I wanted to squeeze as much out of the day as possible.  The day got off to a frosty start.  No messing around today, I decided to forego usual fire starting ritual and dressed outside. Did I say that it was chilly?  And, the temp continued dropping while I was rigging.  The old fingers were a bit frozen and clubby by the time that I was ready to go.  Now,  I'd packed a bunch of those instant warming packets for years.  Yesterday, I finally gave one a try. Tucked into my wader hand warmer pouch, my fingers were at least comfortably thawed by the time I reached my chosen fishing spot.

I waited a bit for the sun to creep down the west facing slopes and into the valley.  Once it did, it didn't take long for the morning to warm.  Midges would be the main item on the fish menu. Well, at least that was what I was serving.  A nice cutthroat came to the net right off the bat. Then a nice rainbow, soon followed by a creditable brown.  Ah, the spring creek trifecta.  No whitefish today, but I was eye to eye with several and deliberately avoided casting to those.  After that it just got better.  Fish willingly gobbled my offerings.  I thought, geez, today even I'm a good fisherman.  The morning, as my guide friend Dax Messett would say, was epic.  I quit at noon.

Along the way, I ran into Satoshi.  We compared notes on the mornings action.  We, unfortunately, would not get to fish together later as planned.  

My break was rather short though.  I found fish rising in a spot that I'd always avoided.  It was a slow moving shallow flat with an even, sandy, mucky bottom.  The fish, quite exposed, not surprisingly, are spooky as hell. Fish were cruising lazily, picking bugs off of the surface. Eventually, I was able to fool another nice brown.  That was pretty gratifying.  Another couple of hours passed quickly. Now, it really was time to knock off for a bit.

Brown trout, DePuy Spring Creek, Montana

Later.  Another little run.  A slight breeze blew, enough to ripple the waters surface.  When it stilled, the noses showed.  Gulpers.  Post spawn rainbows, now off of their redds, were making up for their period of fasting.  They too were cruisers, never staying put, never rising in the same spot.  It made for a fun, challenging, and rewarding afternoon.

So, as far as bugs go, it was midges mainly.  There were a few blue-winged olives.  An odd caddis or two.  Even a small stonefly.  But again, midges ruled the day.

And perhaps the real star was the scenery.  The mountains were out today in all of their glory.  I never tire of the view and always find time to stare.  It's cost me  a few fish.

And since the clock never stops running, the day, as all eventually do, wound down.  I didn't want to miss a moment.  So, I stayed 'til dark. I was a bad boy.  I missed supper at home.  Instead, I grabbed an apple and drank in the the view.  And so, with this sunset, another winter season came to an end.  When the apples ripen again, I'll return.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Few Casts

Morning,frost,Depuy Spring Creek, Montana

Twenty-six inside the fisherman's hut when I arrived yesterday (it was seven on the pass and icy as hell).  So, a few sticks in the barrel stove were in order.  There was no need to hurry, it would be awhile before the sun burned off the frost and the bugs got going.  No matter, I was rigged and ready for the anticipated midges.  Blue wings?  Well we'd have to see.

I heard a vehicle pull up.  It was Satoshi Yamamoto. Angler, guide, and all around nice guy.  Our paths had crossed over the past few years but we'd never had a chance to visit much.  This morning we caught up a bit.  I won't rehash the conversation, but he has a great blog with lots of useful fishing info (  His personal bio is quite interesting too. And, I was most pleased when Satoshi graciously allowed me to take a few photos of him fishing.

Satoshi Yamamoto, fishing, trout, casting, DePuy Spring Creek

Once it warmed, the morning turned into a stunner.  No wind, fish rising.  Just pinch me.

I walked back to the hut and retrieved my fly rod.  Several rising fish got my attention, and I scrunched to my knees (bad for the back I know, but a low profile is necessary).  I prefer to get as close as possible to the fish, and use as short a cast as is feasible.  If I can see 'em and watch 'em eat, so much the better.  An alligator jawed brown capped off my short fishing session. 

Still wanting a few more photos, I walked downstream and got Satoshi.  We crept to the stream edge and watched the cruising fish rise.  Satoshi went to work on the now more picky fish. Here's how it went........

Satoshi Yamamoto, brown trout, spring creek

The conditions for fishing stayed perfect 'til one o'clock or so.  Then the wind arrived.  I took a break, ran into Livingston and made a small "donation" to Dan Bailey's fly shop.

The wind was still blowing when I got back to the creek.  So I took a walk, grabbed a few photos. I hoped for a late day lull in the wind, but it never happened.  I called it good shortly before seven.

All in all another swell day.  Thanks Satoshi!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March 30

That a size twenty-two hook can hold a fish is remarkable.  How does such a small hook stick to the corner of the fish's mouth or tip of its snout?  Even more remarkable is that 7X tippet can hold up against the frantic stop and go runs of a fish.  And then, perhaps the biggest miracle of all is being able to attach the barely visible leader to said fly.

Today would be heavenly.  Seventy degrees.  In March. And for once, the wind was not commensurate with the temperature.

Fish were dimpling.  But not taking on the surface.  Close though, a tail or back would show. Today, something small, suspended barely, would be the ticket.  

With a long leader, I need some sort of indicator fly to clue me in on the location of the main fly.  Something small, with a dab of fluorescence for a post works ok.  Sometimes the fish eat it too, but usually its the dropper that they take.

The morning was most productive.  Browns.  Rainbows.  A few cutthroats too.  Sometimes they like what you're serving, or how its being served.

The midge pupa worked today.  Thank you to Rene Harrop and the CDC pupa.

Once, a rather large rainbow took up a position, less than a rod length away.  I watched as it moved side to side, picking off feed.  Occasionally it would rise, barely breaking the surface.  It was too close for a cast.  So, I drew in my fly line.  That left only leader outside of the guides.  I dropped the fly near my feet and let it drift towards the fish.  When the top fly was near the fish it moved slightly and opened its mouth.  A raise of the rod confirmed the eat.

By one-thirty it was break time.  I'd been on the water since eight. It was time for a sandwich. Then a nice stretch and a nap.  After that, a walkabout with only camera in hand.

Even though fish continued to rise throughout the day, the catching was a bit tougher by late afternoon.  But, as the shadows fell, the best was saved for last.  This brown had a bagful of tricks.  A sudden downstream run.  Quick, swap ends and swim upstream as fast as possible. Then, the old dart under the log trick.  He tried it three times.  I didn't let him get away with it. I applied as much pressure as I dared and turned him each time.  The 7X held.

I stayed late.  Not so much for the fishing, but for the sunset.  I wanted to squeeze as much out of the day as possible.

Few days are so perfect.

Fish and fishing.

Sunshine and warmth.


Rising fish.  Sometimes even, willing fish.

It was, unequivocally, the best March 30 of my life.

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