Monday, July 25, 2016


Summer, hiking season.  Time to head to the high country and a visual drink of mountain scenery.  Recently, a couple of hours of steady uphill hiking brought me to the shore of a lovely alpine lake.  I'd been here before.  It was a check up of sorts, to see how the fish were doing.  Like going to a doctor, but hopefully more fun.

There would be a reprieve from the summer biting bugs.  The wind blew all day.  Just enough to keep the little blood sucking bastards at bay.  I never saw a mosquito.  The flies didn't have it in them to harass me either.  So, the DEET stayed in the pack.

There were a few fish rising when I arrived at the lake.   I promptly took a couple on a bead head prince that I twitched back slowly.  What the fish think it represents is beyond me.  A free swimming caddis with a shiny head perhaps.  Regardless, they eat it readily.

Most of the fish appeared to be two year olds.  Quite healthy.  Fat.  Colorful. Scrappy.  West slope cutthroats with a bright red band on the belly.  Simply exquisite.

But, I hoped to encounter survivors of earlier plants.  Four, maybe six year old fish.  There likely would not be many left.  But, those that remained would be notable.

I fished, watched, hoped for a sign.  Then, one swam by.  It's like the old saying, you know when the right one comes along......

Oh my, I'd like to catch that one I thought.

I caught a few more little ones, and wondered how long it would take "the fish" to do a lap around the lake.  Then I lost my prized fly.

What now?  I sat on a rock and rummaged though my fly box. A small black leech with a cone head looked good.  And then I did something I've never done while fishing a mountain lake.  I tied on a dropper, a small prince, no bead, about a foot behind the leech.

Back to fishing.  Cast, let it sink, twitch it back.  There was a steady pull.

Oh my, on the first cast.  There's no mistaking the better fish from the little ones.  When I pulled, it pulled back, with an equal and opposable force.

The fish streaked by.  I noticed a profusion of red.  This one I wanted, if for no reason than to get a closer look.

I'd always thought that char were the prettiest of "trout".  But a west slope cutthroat in full color is a serious rival.  I netted the fish and marveled at its color, shape and overall condition.  The little ones were splendid.  This one, perfect.   If I quit now, I'd be happy, the day consummated with the catch of a perfect fish.  The sundae had been topped with the proverbial cherry.

But I fished my way around the lake.
Mounds of heather (aka mountain heath) bloomed profusely and tinged the landscape with patches of pink.  I stopped often to snap pictures of the ever changing scenery. 

In making the circuit I caught several more fish, some were "nice ones".

Interestingly, roughly half ate the bugger.  You can do the math as regards the prince.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mr. Foster

I started this post this winter, while sitting and listening to the pop and crackle of a wood stove.  I was leafing through some magazines, occasionally looking out at the mountains, waiting out the wind. While thumbing through one issue, I paused and took note of the editors piece.  I remembered some old correspondence with this particular magazine editor.  Sometimes a brief distant collaboration will leave a lasting memory. His did.

Now, most folks tend to ignore the editors piece, but it's the first thing that I've always read when a new issue comes to print. Some years back I'd established a relationship of sorts with a few magazine editors.  That was back when they all required film.  I was just starting to get a handle on the medium, and was beginning to get a feel for what they wanted as regards photocopy.  But I digress.  David Foster, then editor of Gray's Sporting Journal and I had exchanged a few emails. I'd sent a few basic timid inquiries as to any interest on his part on a photoessay that I'd submitted.  He'd been known to be rather difficult and abrasive at times, other times incredibly warm and sensitive.  I must have caught him at his warmest because he was always cordial in his replies.  Once, he responded at great length about dogs and horses and his family.  At the time, I didn't realize that he was dying from renal cancer.  I was just thrilled that he took the time to answer. I wish that I'd saved that email.

Foster was a dog person.  And recently, the proud owner of a Brittany.  He also had a fondness for Montana.  Being that I'd sent photos of a Brittany, was myself from Montana and whose wife also happened to be hunting in Montana with said Brittany, he took interest in the piece and found it in his heart to publish it.  A year later he accepted and published another wingshooting piece.  Then he was gone, as are the dogs featured in those pieces.  

Time passes, but memories and images last.  Thanks to David Foster, I can still open one of those old issues of Gray's and relive those moments.  Lucy is still pointing blue grouse in some high mountain meadow.  Meanwhile, Zach  is pointing shadows in a willow patch in the Aleutians. 

He gave me a chance to at least briefly believe that I was a photographer who could produce something of value that would be worthy of gracing the pages of a respected magazine.

So here's to old dogs and Mr. Foster, and thanks....

Friday, May 20, 2016


I took a quick day trip to the Missouri earlier this week.  It was a glorious day.  Calm, bright, a toasty forty-seven when I got to Wolf Creek around eight in the morning.  A light sun hoody was all I would need.  Ok, pants too.

Blue winged olive nymphs and midge pupa were drifting in the current.  So, I started out sight nymphing.  A few nice fish were working the shallows.  The water was clear, the fish spooky.  No surprise.  I watched and waited, casting occasionally.  The fish took the pheasant tail, Rojo midge, a little red midge.  Its neat when you can see them eat.

I broke for a sandwich around two.  By then it was getting warm and was pretty bright.  My eyes needed a break from staring at the water.

After lunch it was time to do a little head hunting, so I went for a drive.

I found a few bank feeders.  It turned out that there were enough to keep me entertained for the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening.  Hatchwise, there were a few blue winged olive duns, but mostly spinners, not many but enough to bring up a few fish.  So, I stuck with a parachute Adams with an  RS2 trailer. My knots held.  My net got wet. I got a lot of mileage out of those two flies.

I'm always impressed when small hooks hold their bite and the tippet doesn't break.

Missouri River fish are quite strong and energetic.  When stung by a hook they realize that shallow water is to be vacated.  Now!  A couple of fish quickly got my fly line and half of my backing.

One fish came in easily.

That's it? 

Well no.  The fish sulked, decided it didn't like my looks and promptly swapped ends.  It then liberated all of my fly line and a bunch of backing.  The bigger fish usually have at least one good run in them.  

Another fish, steelhead hot, had to be chased a hundred yards downstream.  Its usually curtains when they get the upper hand like that.  But, the hook held and I slid the net under the fish.

Yes it was a good one......

After a few really good fish I was quite happy. More wouldn't have made the day any better so I called it good.  I drove along the river and enjoyed the rest of the evening. 

It was quiet and dead calm when I pulled over at the Wolf Creek bridge.  I lingered, took a few photos, tried to get just the right reflection.

And then I got the "I just want to be there" shot.   A lone angler in a driftboat, plying the water.

A most idyllic end to the day.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Madison Brown

Here is a bank sipper from a recent foray to the Madison.  A few caddis were drifting on the surface when I arrived in mid-afternoon.  Not a huge hatch, but enough to get my attention, and that of some fish too.  This fish showed itself.  I missed it, put it down, rested it for a while.  When I returned, it was back, rising, picking off the occasional caddis.  A few drifts later it exploded on my fly.  I might not get a better one this year, at least not on a dry.    

So, what was the fly du jour?  Lately I've taken to tying a variety of parachute type caddis. Anything that might be more visible is just fine for my aging eyes.  They are ties of Mike Lawson's EZ Caddis. You can see him tie the fly here. I've tied pink posted ones, some with white posts, some with a combo of pink and fluorescent yellow, black too.   A tan hackled, orange posted one got this brown.  

And, since a brown trout from the Madison River was the star of this post, I thought it appropriate to include a link to a song titled, Madison Brown.  After all, what fisherman doesn't like music?  How about a little fishing music?  This album, along with a companion, has been out for a while.  It's great listening.

 More info is available at:

Have a listen......

And then I let her slip away.......

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Midges of April

The past few weeks yielded several days of spring creek fishing.  It was primarily a midge game as the blue winged olives failed to show.  No matter, midging suits me just fine.

I usually arrived creekside just as the sun was striking the valley floor.  The midges were in no hurry to appear.  Funny how a season differs from one year to the next.  Last year I was into midging fish early.  This year?  Well, it seemed that the bugs and anticipated bulging fish didn't show 'til mid-morning.  It gave me time to dawdle, snack and have a cup of tea.

I often fished a single fly, something that I rarely do.  The main reason?  Well, it's tough to track a single small fly in the surface film.  A bright day, often the bane of trout fisherman, was a Godsend, especially when the sun was behind my back.  Overcast, regarded as good for fishing, created a rather funky maddening glare.  A little ripple on the waters surface further complicated tracking the fly.  When things got tougher, I ran the midge off of a parachute.  Sometimes that got tough to spot too.

For all the attention that long line casting gets, it doesn't apply to midging.  Not for me anyway. I cast mostly leader.  Sometimes that's a pain in the wazoo.  But, the shorter the line the better.  It increases my chances of seeing the fly and seeing the take.  Tell me, is there anything more thrilling than seeing the nose of a trout poke through the surface film at fifteen feet while it takes the speck that is your fly?

I passed on fishing one day because wind was in the forecast.  It turned out that the wind didn't blow.  So, I opted to fish the next day because calm was forecast.  Guess what?  A steady wind blew from the north.  I spent the majority of the day waiting for the wind to switch.  It didn't.  I found a few risers late in the day, and got them by casting mainly leader and a single down winged midge pattern. The wind rippled surface helped me get close and remain undetected by the fish. I'm still surprised that I was able to see the fly.  The light was just right though.

Then, Satoshi and I spent an absolutely wonderful day casting to midging fish.  The fish were primarily cruisers, but there were plenty of them, so we had a steady supply of targets.  We got fish, but they made us work for them. 

As for the fly or flies du Jour's?  Well, a variety of patterns worked over the past few weeks. Something that looked like a Trico.  The incomparable biot midge pupa.  A hackled down-winged adult midge.  Harrop's transitional midge.  And, a host of others.  The fish ate them all.  It's just that every fish didn't want every pattern.  Therein was the challenge.

Livingston area guide Brant Oswald wrote an article about fishing midges on spring creeks.  He indicated that he'd created the "perfect" midge emerger pattern a dozen times.  Humorous, but true.  Right when you think that you've got the fish figured out, well, you don't.  Yesterday they wanted vanilla, today it's chocolate.  Tomorrow, tutti-fruity?  His article, titled "Midge Fishing in Paradise" is a great read, it can be accessed here.

But, back to our day.  It took a while to get onto the fish.  Early on, Satoshi had a number of takes, but they came unbuttoned.  I missed several too, then brought three to hand in short order.  Then my successful streak of landed fish ended and I proceeded to lose a bunch.  The fish got my last two transitional midges.  I poked around in my midge box and settled on a cdc pupa. Some of the fish liked that too.

So, what were they really eating?  Satoshi got another rainbow and gently pumped its stomach. The results were most enlightening.  A bunch of midge pupa, many still wriggling were in the sample.  As we watched the pupa in the petri dish, some even hatched and flew away!

By early afternoon, we'd already done pretty well. We settled into a routine of fishing and watching rising fish.  Satoshi kept at it, I alternated between photography and fishing.  He'd catch one, I'd take a few photos.  Then, the sight of rising fish was too much to bear, so back to fishing I went.   

Satoshi reciprocated and snapped a few photos of me as well.  It's a valued rarity, as I have few photos of myself in the dastardly act of fishing.

Good days end but that makes them all the more memorable.  Fish were still rising as the shadows lengthened and the valley floor grew quiet.  What better way to spend the day than by casting to spirited rainbows with a kindred angler?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

March Winds Down

March, as I mentioned in an earlier post is a month of waiting.  Dry fly fishers wait for bugs.  We (ok, I) wait(ed) for nice weather.  Well, the first half of the month was pretty nice. The past couple of weeks, rather unsettled.   I had the opportunity to fish, or rather, endure, a variety of conditions.

I'd always wanted to fish during a snowstorm.  I did, and, let's just say that's an itch that I don't need to scratch again.  I don't care if the blue-winged olive hatch rivals the plague of the locusts. For the record, it didn't.  Even the olives had enough sense to stay in out of the snow.

Fishing in the rain?  Did that too.  Don't need to do that again either (unless I'm steelhead fishing in Alaska).   Lets just say that the novelty of being miserable wore off long ago.

So, on to fairer days.....

Today was a beauty.  It was dead calm when I arrived.  The sun had yet to hit the valley floor.  When it did, the wind kicked in.  Immediately.  Absolutely amazing.  It couldn't wait five minutes?

So I swapped leaders.  There was no need for a long one.  Something short and manageable would do.  I fished a short leash too, maybe three feet from the dreaded Thingamaboober to the bottom fly. 

For the record, nymphing works.  It's a deadly technique, rivaled only by drowning a nightcrawler.  You've heard the saying "show me the money"?  Well, for fish, it's "show me the nymph". 

So, I showed them the nymph(s).  The fish ate.  Moby showed up too....

I quit for lunch at eleven, as much to rest my eyes from the light, as to grab a bite to eat.  Who'd have thought that catching fish causes migraines?

Better after an hour break.  I again swapped leaders.  Comparadun and emerger time, I hoped.

But, there wasn't much doing, the wind was still blowing.

Early in the afternoon, I finally had a dry fly eat.  Wouldn't you know it?  I looked away from the fly for a moment, and, when I looked back, it was gone!  I waited all this time and then I missed the take.

Got the fish though.

And, that was enough for one day.  Easter Sunday.   A ham was waiting at home.  Maybe a piece of pie too.

So, a fine day, in spite of the wind.  Blue sky, warm.  Plenty of cooperative fish. 

I saw a few wayward olives. 

Some midges. 

And, the first caddis sighting!  A little guy, but he still counts.

And, as April nears.....

Blue winged olives.......  Soon!  Please.... 

My dry flies are still waiting.

The dogs are waiting too.........

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Watching, Waiting, Hoping......

Watching, waiting, hoping.  That's what I've been doing for the last month or so.  A few bugs, drifting aimlessly on the surface of the water would make my day.  Patience is a necessity.  At the mercy of bugs with no schedule, I'm on Baetis standard time, whatever that is.  So, I wait.

The days start earlier now, last longer too.  It makes no difference to the bugs, or the fish.  I leave home earlier, thinking maybe, just maybe this will be the day.  A fish feeding frenzy, right from the get go.  Heaven forbid I should miss it.  No worries, I don't.  Nothing doing.  All quiet on the stream front.

But there is activity.  Rainbows are in the creek now.  They chase each other, jockeying for position on the gravels.  Across the creek, a fisherman ambles through the grass, working upstream, alternately in and out of the water.  It's a mink.  Stealthy.  Doesn't seem to bother the spawning rainbows.  They continue their business, the mink continues hiking and swimming upstream.

It's a gray morning.  Perfect supposedly.  Little wind.  Bird sounds along the creek.  Robins, ducks, geese.  Meanwhile, the valley is greening up, the snowline is retreating up the mountain slopes. The Absarokas look cold though.  Camping season is still a ways off.

I take a walk, find feathers.  Mr robin should have been looking over his shoulder when he was singing.  I ponder the wing feathers and pocket a few for potential fly tying material.

Around ten, a few rises.  They eat the midge.  A few eat the parachute too.  Mostly smaller fish, ten, twelve inches.

A short cast to a barely perceptible dimple.  Probably just a little one I think.  Stung by the hook, the fish promptly liberates forty feet of line.  I get it back.  We negotiate the last fourteen feet of leader.   The fish gives a little, I give some back.  The negotiations continue.  We compromise. A couple of leader knots bink through the rod tip and I slide the net under the parachute eating brown. 

"Well now, you sly dog (or should I say, fish?), trying to imitate a little one, just to go unnoticed."

I move on.  Around noon, more rises.  Enthusiastic this time.  Somethings got their attention. A few errant blue winged olives drift by.  I switch to a comparadun, run an emerger off the back. Its not a big hatch, but a few fish dine on my offerings. 

I watch a substantial brown at work.  Tough spot.  I cast, get a short drift.  No dice.  I don't want to wade in behind it for fear of spooking other nearer rising fish.  A downstream drift is out too. I ponder his location, and file it away as a presentation challenge to be solved later.  Meanwhile, closer rises keep me busy, ten, fifteen feet.  Nice fish all.  Browns and rainbows.  I expect the browns, the rainbows are a bit of a surprise.  A few come to net.  Beat up, chewed up, maybe these active surface feeders have completed spawning.

The fish knock off around 1:30.  Me too.  Lunchtime. 

I let an hour slip away.  Satoshi wanders by.  We visit.  Compare notes.  Do a little plotting and scheming.  Soon its late afternoon.

One more walkabout just to see if anything is happening.  It's breezy.  If there are any bugs, they've been blown off the water.  No matter, it's been a productive day.

Its nearly spring.  The fish are starting to look up.  We're on the cusp of another season of dries. 

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