Sunday, January 17, 2016


Today was a snow day.  And, I'd made plans to fish.  I got up early and did the requisite shoveling, then left, hoping that there would be less snow over the hill.  Nope.  I was pushing snow with my bumper when I got to the creek.  Ok, so it's a little Toyota with a low bumper.  Getting stuck was a concern.  I decided "what the hell" and went for it.  I'd deal with getting back out to pavement later.

With all of the fresh snow it was a beautiful morning.   It was quite a show when the sun started to peek through the clouds.  I'm always content to snap photos.  And I never tire of scenery.  The same scene on any give day is different.  And, some days it changes constantly, in moments.

So, I started the morning off by nymphing, grudgingly.  I got a couple of fish, and, that was enough.  I proved to myself that I don't care to nymph. That's not what I came out for.

Well, the light just kept getting better.  I went for a stroll and took more photos.   I was content to bide my time.  I'd wait.  Maybe, just maybe. 

And then.....

I found a few fish dimpling in some slack water. 

"Well, hello there" I thought.  I've missed you so.

It was bye, bye beadhead.  Sayonara Thingamabobber  (that's all the Japanese I know Satoshi!).  I promptly swapped leaders.  Thirteen feet or so, tapered to 6X would do.  Overkill?  Well, it's standard for summer use.  Might as well get reacquainted with the fine rigging.  And of course, tipped with a nice juicy midge.

Now, there wasn't much for bugs on the surface.  Nothing drifting in the water either.   Something got the attention of at least a few fish.  The midge would have to do.  And, it did.

It was fun time. A bunch of little cutthroats kept me entertained.  A few rainbows.  A small brown. A few bigger fish cleared the water occasionally, but they never surfaced with any regularity.  No matter, I'd be back and we'd do a little business when the bugs started hatching in earnest in a month or so.

All in all, not bad for a couple of hours work.

By the way, I had a new toy to try out.  A Redington Classic Trout in a three weight.  It's an eight and a half footer.  Let's just say that it's "lively".  I like it.  It loads with ten to fifteen feet of  three weight line in a double taper, and, that thirteen foot leader.  I'm pretty sure that the size twenty midge adds significantly to the loading.  A fourteen inch rainbow bends the rod clear to the reel seat.  That's my fancy review.

Birds for the day.  Mallards.  Chickadees.  Some kingfishers. A couple of snipe.  Robins too.

Oh yes, I saw the first blue-winged olive of the year.  He disappeared in one of those dimples.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Keeper

Brittany puppy

The last pup left tonight.  It was quite a process.  A lot happens in eight weeks.  Watch them be born, grow and then be gone.

A choice had to be made.  It was easy getting it down to two.  Picking between them was tougher.  They're both good looking pups.  Heck, all of them were good looking pups.'s just her mama. The decision was a no brainer.  

She and her sister got to play in the snow with the big dogs today, albeit briefly.  Little dogs get cold quick.  They got scooped up and put back into a nice cushy kennel in the cab of the truck while the big dogs finished their run.

Brittany puppy in the snow

Her name is Katie.  She's a sweetie.  Just like her mama.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Cold Day In Paradise

It was nine below when I pulled out of the driveway on  Saturday, the second day of January. Moments earlier, my wife had remarked that it was thirty-six above in Fairbanks.  Who'd of thunk it?  Forty-five degrees warmer in the interior of Alaska than in Montana.  This bit of trivia means little other than in passing conversation.  It assumes some greater significance for us in that one of our Brittany pups would soon be boarding a plane, destined for a life of chasing ruffed grouse and ptarmigan in the far north.

So, frigid temperatures notwithstanding, I decided to take a drive.  In the least, I'd make a token appearance creekside.  It was to be a brilliantly clear day and  I didn't want to miss it.  I planned on a day of thinking about fishing rather than wetting a line. When I arrived at the creek it had warmed nicely, to two below. Thank God for barrel stoves!  I wasted no time in crumpling paper and stuffing kindling and bigger wood into the stove.  My fingers were thoroughly frozen by the time I struck a match.

As the temperature in the hut climbed, and the feeling returned to my fingers, I stepped out and snapped a few pictures.  In moments, my fingers were again club like.  I returned to my refuge, the temperature inside now a toasty twelve.  Eventually, it rose to a tropical seventy-five.

The outside world was absolutely stunning.  There was "smoke on the water."  Myriad ice crystals hung from the trees and bushes.  The day was a diamond.

But, there would be no fishing today.  A few hardy souls would later show up, try their luck, and devote considerable time to keeping line from freezing to the rod guides.  Me?  I'd wait for a forty degree day.  I was content to read, drink tea an toast my sandwich.  I'd occasionally step out to check the status of the ice crystals. 

Absaroka Mountains, Montana, PhD pool, DePuy spring creek

It warmed to twenty-one by the time I left in early afternoon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Annual Report

rainbow trout, midge

This is the infamous year end summary, sort of along the lines of the Christmas card with the letter stuffed inside.  I'll omit the photo of the dogs with fake antlers.  Some of you may remember Gene Hill . He was a well known outdoor writer,  and, I'd wager that he's still popular with the wingshooting crowd.  He occasionally wrote a piece for the sporting magazines titled "The Annual Report". I'll credit him with the title of this piece and absolve him of any responsibility as regards the content that follows.

Well, let's see, I still fish with a camera slung over my shoulder, and rarely hike without it either. Admittedly, packing an SLR is a pain, but I still think it's worth the hassle.  When I look back over the year or years, I can pinpoint dates that an event occurred.  Aha, fish that day, bugs that one, a seventy degree March day and so on. So, I can plan out my annual fishing trapline based on my meager experience with hatches, water conditions, etc.  The time stamp on the photo is useful too.

The year always starts quietly.  Winter in the Rockies is a matter of biding time, waiting for a forty degree day with tolerable wind.  There were a few in January, more in February.  Most days were, solitary, reflective.  I spent many winter days poking at  a fire in a wood stove, reading, thinking, drifting off into a flame induced hypnotic state.

Midges, I can't seem to keep from tying the darned things.  They're hard to see, but if the fish want 'em I'll tie 'em and deal with the attendant difficulties of attaching them to the leader when the need arises. There were some productive midge days early on.  And, the fish were willing to eat them clear into March and April.  I'd even dare say that the fishing was outstanding at times. There were days when I thought that I was a good fisherman.

I tied more flies throughout  the winter.  That's no big deal for most of you, but I took it upon myself to fish dry seriously, relatively speaking.  No purist I, in fact I'd hardly fished a dry fly before this year.  Now, I can hardly bring myself to stare at an indicator.  Scratch that, the lead fly is an indicator.

Observing and trying to make sense of hatches was most enlightening.  There was a day on the Firehole when I watched blue winged olive nymphs drift in the current, float towards the surface, and then wriggle and break from their nymphal shuck.  Simultaneously, others were crawling up the legs of my waders.  I erroneously thought that they too were nymphs.  Six months later, after re-reading a July 2008 article  in the Fly Fishing & Tying Journal (Baetis:  The West's Best Hatch by Jim Schollmeyer) I realized that the insects crawling up the legs of my waders were likely female spinners laying eggs.  And, just to make the days fishing more challenging, it seemed that no two fish were feeding on the same insect stage. It's the problem solving and hatch deciphering that makes days on the water so interesting, especially when each day is different.

Likewise, PMD's took up tying time, fishing time too.  I'll say that the PMD hatches that I witnessed were more productive fishing wise than the blue winged olives.  Fortunately, the patterns were pretty much the same, just a matter of playing with size and color.

By the way, why is it that I don't have the "right stuff" for tying any particular fly.  It seems that I'm continually off the the fly shop to pick up some little bag of fluff.  Hundreds of little bags later, I still need more.

After the dry fly foolery subsided, there were late summer trips to the high country.  Lugging a pack gets a bit harder each year.  But, the scenery is reason enough for going.  I still crave solitude and appreciate the reward that goes along with making the effort .  Serene timberline camps.  Epic sunrises and sunsets.  A few fish.  One day I'll no longer be able to make the haul. At least there will be pictures to look at.

camp, Beartooth Mountains

Cutthroat trout, Montana high country

Jo's garden turned out to be a mixed bag.  Tomatoes and potatoes were hit early by some malady that caused the leaves to wilt.  They never really recovered.  Zuchini, as per usual, were quite productive.  Squash that volunteered from the innards that had been tossed into the garden the previous year did extremely well, much to the dismay of the dogs who saw their kennel overrun by errant squash vines.  One blighted apple tree was removed and replaced by a plum.  The production by our other trees was nil.  Six plums total, that was six more than we expected.  Meteor cherries produced zip.  The other apple tree, nothing either.  The dogs inspected the garden daily, and snacked when Jo wasn't looking.

The dogs had a good year, and a better autumn.  Birds were plentiful, thanks to superb (meaning dry) nesting conditions in June.  Jo and the girls got lots of exercise.  Lots of points, some shooting, and, a few huns made it into the game bag.  A wayward rooster pheasant made a tactical error and was invited to dinner as well.

October, glorious October.  It's always good.  This year was too good, and still, there wast't enough of it.  The fishing trapline was extended to include the Firehole, Gallatin, Madison for trout, and the Clearwater, Grande Ronde, and Salmon for steelhead.  I tailed a few fish and discovered that it's impossible to hang onto the "wrist" of a steelhead's tail while simultaneously uncasing the camera, focusing and trying to frame a shot of the fish with the other.  I had a witness for at least one of the fish, but he's unavailable for comment.  Never did trust those mergansers anyway.

Angler, Clearwater River Idaho, sunset

After many years of vacancy, the freezer once again is home to an assortment of packages that bear the label, venison 2015.

November came and went unceremoniously.  And now, December is slipping away too.  I'm still biding time,  hoping for that forty degree windless day.

To top it off, my wife decided that four bird dogs were not enough.   We now have eleven.  Well, seven are pups.  One will stay.

Brittany pups

There are never too many good memories of days past or too many dreams of good times to come.........................Gene Hill in A Listening Walk

Here's to good memories and dreams...................Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Three Weeks

Brittany puppy, three weeks old

The pups are three weeks old. Their palates are hardening.  The first teeth are starting to poke out of their gums.  Mama isn't happy.  Tender teats and little needle like teeth don't mix.  Last night the big boy was introduced to formula.  A little on the finger, he lapped it up and found his way to the dish.  This morning, five a.m., the little guy was hungry too.  Formula time. He got it figured out.  Looks like weaning time is near.   The hell raising stage is about to start.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Process

Hunting.  The natives call it making meat. For me it's a process.  The kill has always been secondary.  For some that's all it is.  Pity.

Years ago, I'd take weeks of vacation to pursue elk.  I often hoped that I wouldn't be successful, just so I could continue the hunt. Hiking, climbing, sitting, waiting.  Alternating between sweating and freezing.  All, part of the process.  Most days I returned to the car with clean fingernails and a light pack.  But I was happy.  I could go out again.

Then I burned out.  I quit hunting.  My rifle was replaced with a fly rod and camera.

I uncased my rifle a couple of weeks ago.  Just out of curiosity.  Was a flame rekindled?  I wondered how I'd react when I saw game?  Better, how would my back respond if I completed the task?  I saw a few elk, some deer.  A buck.  Interesting.  When I got home, I left my gear in the car. A sign.

Two days later I went again.  I saw no game. Got soaked.  Again, the gear stayed in the car.  Well now.

Another two days passed.  I went again.  At first light I saw deer, antlers.  My pulse quickened. The thrill was still there. There was no denying of instinct.

A moment later there was work to do.  Initially, I was greatly saddened.  I immediately swore this would be the last time my finger touched a trigger.  But then I started the process. Making meat. Skinning.  Quartering.  Carefully stowing it into cloth bags.  And then, packing.  Two trips.  I learned long ago that dragging game is, quite literally, a drag.  So, I packed it out on my back, that's the only way I know.  An old familiar sensation, my legs burned, back tightened.

At home, the process continued.  I carefully trimmed the meat, then cut it into distinct portions. A couple of roasts, some steaks. Odds and ends went into the burger tote.  I ground the meat, mixed it with beef fat.  Then, there was wrapping and labeling.  The result?  A freezer of meat for the winter.  I knew where it came from.

So, the process had resumed. I felt the old dormant satisfaction. Maybe next year I'll continue.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why Wait?

Week old Brittany puppy

What to do on a cold snowy day before Thanksgiving? Can't do much outside other than take a short walk.  Maybe tie a few flies.  Take a few puppy photos.  Avalanche game tonight.  Until then?  

Well, we're both home. So, we might as well do Thanksgiving today.  That's right, turkey sandwiches tomorrow!

The pie was baked this morning.  Ok, it's a Marie Callender pie.  At least I'll take credit for unwrapping it and turning the oven on.

The potatoes are peeled.  The squash has been gutted.  The turkey has been in the oven for hours.  The plan is to cook it low and slow.  

The turkey wrapper says that the serving size is three quarter to one pound per person. 

Let's see.

Fourteen pound turkey.

Two people. 


That comes to about seven pounds each.

I hope it's enough.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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