Saturday, September 19, 2015


Yesterday was a perfectly wonderful day.  I hit the road early to make the hundred plus mile drive to the Henry's Fork.  We'd had a few cool wet days this week with snow in the high country. This would be the first "improving" day with some sunshine and warming temperatures.  I got to Last Chance a little after eight.  Low clouds and fog hung over the river.  There was no hurry to get going, the bugs would take their time today.  I piddled around, poured a cup of coffee, got my gear together, eventually pulled on waders and prepared for a long exploratory walk.  Across the river, coyotes howled, then a bull elk bugled.  Meanwhile, various waterfowl did their thing, honking, quacking, flying up and down the river.

The clouds would be slow to depart but added immensely to the now autumn sky. The distant Tetons gradually appeared as the clouds lifted. Mostly, I reveled in the sounds and scenery. There was no wind either!  This was the first day that I'd wear my silk long johns.  Light fleece wading pants too.

Of course,  I hoped for some sort of hatch.  I dearly hoped for something big that I could see, like a mahogany dun.   There would be no such luck.  I eventually got blue winged olives, zillions of them. Now how was a fish, a smart fish, supposed to select my crappily tied imitation from among all of the  real ones floating by?  There must have been fifty real blue winged olives per square foot.  No kidding.  Add my fly and it would make fifty-one.

Regardless, the day passed much too quickly.  I stalked fish, fought weeds.  When I finally found a suitable, approachable fish, I cast futilely and without reward.  Late in the afternoon a fish ate my fly.  I promptly broke it off.

I thought about calling it good, but the day just kept getting better.  More blue sky, better light.  I took  more photos and laughed to myself about my predicament of having a fly hatch that consisted of too many bugs.  Then I found another fish that entertained me by busily gulping baetis.  He didn't want anything I offered.  Then he took off upstream, gulping bugs as he went.  I got out of the water, got ahead of him.  I was ready.  Here he comes!  I couldn't get the blasted fly unhooked from the guides.  When I did, no fish.

Much later, now evening, while walking back to the car, I noticed a half dozen fish rising.  These were the real deal, big ones.  I squinted while staring at the waters surface.  Should I?  A big dorsal fin sliced through the surface.  Why yes, I think I should.  So I re-rigged.  A small parachute, which I couldn't see, followed by a smaller floating CDC nymph.  They didn't want it. Mr. Big Dorsal appeared again.  I swapped the floating nymph with a size 22 dun.  I for sure couldn't see it, I hoped the fish could.  No matter, they didn't want it either.  Then the sun went down.   Game over.

And so, I got skunked on the Henry's Fork, for the second time in two weeks.  Another day wasted?  Heck no, it was spent  perfectly!  In another twenty or thirty years, I may get this fly fishing thing figured out.  Maybe I'll even catch one!

Monday, September 14, 2015


It's hard to beat the perfect day.  Is it late summer?  Early autumn?  Maybe the day is somewhere in between.  A September day that by afternoon noses into the eighties.   I spend it by hiking into the high country.

The miles go by, I hike quickly in the comfort of the cool morning.  Aspens are yellowing, so is the thimbleberry that carpets the stream bottom trail.  Huckleberry bushes that failed to produce fruit this year put on a show of crimson.  Its as if to say "sorry for the lack of berries, here's some crimson leaves instead."

I reach the lake.  Its calm, mostly.  I drop my pack, pull out a ground tarp to set on the soggy ground, and settle in the watch for a while.  Such splendor.  A clear blue sky.  An alpine lake. Mountains.  Bear poop. 

A fish rises, then another.  I watch.  No need to hurry.  My dates not going anywhere.  She'll continue to leave little rings on the lake surface.  She can't afford to miss a meal you know.  

And so I fish.  It's a reunion of sorts. Its been two years since  I last checked in.

I catch one, wait for it to settle down in the net, then take photos. I marvel at the delicate lines, the exquisite color.  Grayling remind me of those tropical fish....Siamese fighting fish.  Only prettier, and more sporting on a fly rod.

I catch a couple more, then call it good.  I  kick back and watch the little rings on the lake surface.  Hopefully they'll still be here in a couple of years.  Me too. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bink, bink, bink.....

brown trout, parachute Adams

Not too many bugs on the water yesterday.  A few clouds of Tricos midmorning.  Then, a brief sparse spinner fall brought fish to the surface in one run.  A half dozen fish cruised the run, lazily sucking in the tiny spinners.  On a quiet morning, you could hear the fish smacking their lips.  I just love the sound of a happily feeding fish.  They weren't easy though.  I continually reinforce the fact that fish in low clear water are exceptionally spooky.  The flash of a fly line is death. Make a cast and the fish stop feeding.  Guess what?  Game over.  Then the wait starts.  Maybe they'll come back and resume dining.  In a few minutes, or fifteen.   I got one real nice one, on of all things, a small parachute Adams. 

It was a great eat, followed by the usual anxious moments.  A small fly, attached to 6X, attached to a fish headed downstream, attached to an angler mired waist deep in midstream muck.  I wondered if the fish would stop.  Then, would I be able to get it back?  I did, but then, it went back downstream again.  I hoped the leader had just enough stretch.  I hoped the tiny hook would hold.  Where would an angler be without hope?

And then, there's the hand tied leader.  If you tie your own, you know the gig.  Twelve feet, fourteen feet. At some point the leader needs to be drawn in if the fish is to be netted.  Now, anxious takes on new meaning.  There's the loops at the line end connection, followed by the nail knots that make up the taper.  

One knot through the rod tip, then another.  The fish isn't ready.  It gives a pull.  Back downstream it goes.  Cautiously it's pulled closer.


The loop knots again tick through the rod tip.


Then they're through the next guide.

Bink.  Bink.

Get the head of the fish up.  Pull it closer.  Time to reach.  Got him!  Nope, he's out of the net.

He wants back downstream. 

Bink, bink, bink, bink. 

Thankfully, he doesn't go far.

Bink, bink, bink, bink.  

A nice fish, he poses graciously.

The hook pops out,  I dip the lip of the net, the fish eases out and swims away.

Hand tied leaders, just love 'em.  Bink, makes me crazy though.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015


I fished yesterday, the day before too.  Hoping to get in on a straggler PMD hatch, I got Tricos instead.  I ended up swinging a soft hackle.  The fish liked it. 

Yesterday, I was up at dawn, feeling my way to the river through the smoke.  The water looked good.  No bugs though.  Well of course not, it was too early.  No matter.  A few inviting runs begged for a streamer.  All I had was my three weight.  Oh, what the hell.  I found a streamer leader tapered with ten pound Maxima.  A single, lowly conehead muddler was keeping the Humpy's company in a dry fly box.  I tied it on.  This is what I got.....

Then the fishing got good.........

Friday, August 21, 2015


Welcome to Wyoming.  Nothing like a little scenery to go with ones fishing.  Camping too.  Take a hike.  Just a few miles to stretch the old legs.  Get out in the wind.  Blow the stink off as my wife would say.

Best have a fishing license.  You never know when Mr. Warden will show up.  Riding a horse no less.   Maybe talk about fish and bears and stuff.  Then, just like any good cowpoke, he'll ride away.  What a great way to spend the summer.

Like mountains?  Well, there's lots of 'em.  Better have a camera.  Keep it handy, you'll want to take a picture every few steps or so.

Smell that?  It's fresh air.  Well, maybe with a little forest fire smoke thrown in.  Then there's the sweet smell of grouse whortleberry.  What's a whortleberry?  I'm glad you asked.  It's a member of the blueberry or huckleberry family.  They're small, but good eating.  Go good in pancakes too. Gotta be patient to pick the little buggers though.

Grouse whortleberry, Wyoming Beartooth Mountains.

This is high country, brookie country.  They're not big, but there's lots of 'em.  Usually, they're willing to take a fly.  Sometimes you got to work a little during the day. But, when the wind dies down and the lake surface stills, the fishing gets good.  Any fisherman knows, one good evening hour can make up for a slow afternoon. 

Brook trout, Beartooth Mountains, Wyoming.

And, if you're lucky like me.  There won't be any bugs!  The little bloodthirsty bastards don't take too kindly to the summer snow and  cold.  Just not tough enough I guess.  Too bad.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Four Days, Forty Miles

An old cliche...the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  My feet don't know that one.  Nor do Forest Service trails through the western mountains.  Trails go wherever lumpy terrain dictates.  And, if you're a hiker like me, it's easy to get sidetracked and go cross country in order to investigate some out of the way body of water.  It's only a "few" extra miles.

So I bumped my way up the Boulder River road with the intention of hitting the trail and covering a few miles before dark.   But, I was played out from work. And, it was still warm.  Common sense prevailed.  I camped at Hicks Park instead.  Besides, I prefer to hike in the cool of morning.

Morning, true to form, I was much more chipper.  I broke camp, packed my pack and drove to the Box Canyon trailhead.  I was on the trail by 6:45 a.m.  My itinerary over the next few days would take me through some scenic high country.  Here then are some photos.  Enjoy!

Lake Columbine, Beartooth Mountains, Montana.

Sawyer water filter, alpine spring water, above Columbine Lake, Montana.

Columbine Pass, Beartooth Mountains, Montana.

I made it to Pentad Lake around 1:30 p.m.  And yes, I was glad to slip out of the pack.  I poked around a bit, checked out some possible campsites, found one I liked, and set up for the evening.  A couple of folks with horses were camped nearby.  There was another camp across the lake.  No matter, everyone was quiet.  

Fishing?  Well, of course.  I'll admit, the fish are the impetus for going and hitting the high country in the first place.  But, after I catch a few, I'm usually content to call it good.  Besides, is there any reason that anyone "needs" to catch eighty-seven ten inch cutthroats?  

Another reason for being in the mountains?  I just love sunrises and sunsets.  The first and last hour of the day offer tremendous opportunities for hunting lake reflections.

Evening reflection, Pentad Lake, Beartooth Mountains, Montana

Up early next morning.  I'd hike to a couple of nearby lakes to say hello the the fish.  Frost was just starting to settle on the grass as the sun poked over the horizon.  I could hear the soothing sound of horse bells nearby.  Like I said before, I don't care to ride 'em, but there's something neat about a high country camp where horses are part of the landscape.

Lots of nice reflections on this morning.  Got back to camp by ten.  I decided to move and check some other options.  Jordan, Sunken Rock, Martes.

Sunken Rock and Martes held little of interest, maybe a mistake on my part.  I decided to press on towards Wounded Man Lake.  I briefly entertained bailing off the edge of Martes into the Wounded Man drainage.  Superior intellect, a college education and fear of breaking my neck prevailed.  I retraced my steps to the big Jordan Pass meadow.  Just a "few" more miles.

I got to Wounded Man Lake around five and felt like kissing the ground.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  It's not that far, but the stretch between Jordan Pass and Wounded Man seemed to take forever.  My little "detour" took some of the starch out of my britches.

Nice camp again.  I shared the lake with another party.  No horses this evening.

On towards the rest of the "Lake Plateau".  From Wounded Man to the myriad Rainbow Lakes are many bodies of water situated in alpine country.  This would be a short day hiking wise.  No cross country adventures in the works for this "college grad".

As regards wildlife, I saw little.  All told, four mule deer.  A few chipmunks.  Some ancient piles of bear poop in the Sunken Rock/Martes area.  I did see an osprey snag a fish at Pentad, that was cool.

This last camp was a bit more sheltered.  Translation?  More bugs.  While they didn't really bother me, I never gave them the chance.  I wore long sleeves and long pants on the entire trip.   I have no problem using DEET on the few remaining exposed skin surfaces.  Then too, I built a fire, just to round out my manly aroma of sweat and insect repellant with that of woodsmoke.  Mostly, I wanted to piss off the mosquitos.

I expected a big flower show on this trip.  I was mildly disappointed.  Ok, I was really disappointed.  Sure, the the requisite monkey flower bloomed along streams, but the meadows?  Not so much.  Even Columbine Pass lacked its namesake flower.  I never saw a columbine.  

The last morning,  I was up at five.  This was the first morning with condensation on the tent fly.  I could have waited for the sun to dry things out before knocking down camp, but nah, I rolled it all up and stuffed it into its tent sack.  I wanted to be on the trail before the day warmed.  I was making tracks before the sun had rubbed the sleep from its eyes.

Distance notwithstanding, it's a popular hike.  Along the way, I met some nice folks on the trail.  One couple from Washington had completed the circuit in three days.  Hardy hikers they.  Another party from Arkansas had endured a whiteout when a "summer" storm swept through earlier in the week.  One of the fellas reported wearing his underwear on his head to keep his ears warm.  It pays to be ready and resourceful in the Montana high country, even in summer.

I made it back to the trailhead before noon.  The miles roll by when going downhill.  Back at the car I quickly downed a quart of Gatorade to rehydrate.  Funny, I didn't notice the bumpy ride out near as much as the ride in.  The proverbial carrot was dangling in front of my car as I drove on.  Next stop, Livingston.  Burgers!  Fries!  Chocolate shake!  

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