Thursday, June 25, 2015

Desperately Seeking The PMD





They're called pale morning duns, not pale crack of dawn duns.  Standing in the water at 5:30 guarantees that not much will  happen until let's say, ten.  I learned that lesson a couple of weeks ago on the Missouri.  Yesterday, different river, they arrived later.  Much later.  Like in the afternoon.  I was starting to sweat it, literally.  No bugs, no fish activity, it was hot as hell too. Thankfully the bugs eventually showed.  It's impressive when the bugs start hatching and the fish get on them.  A lifeless stream surface can suddenly bustle with fish breaking the surface. 




While waiting for the vaunted hatch, I watched and tried in vain to catch one sizable brown trout. For hours.  It was content to sway in the current and grab bugs as they drifted by.  I attached some fine netting to my trout net, caught a few PMD nymphs.  Actually the screen job was unnecessary, the nymphs were clearly visible.  I thought, piece of cake. I'll get him lickity split.  I tied on a nymph, and cast.  And cast.  And cast some more.  He didn't want it. He never stopped feeding, and never moved to avoid my fly.  He just didn't want it.  No problem, I thought.  I'll come back and get him when the bugs start hatching.  Guess what?  That fish never rose, even after the hatch got going. One tough picky fish. 




I was determined to catch a fish on a dry fly.  Early afternoon, the hatch finally started.  One pool that I had eye-balled earlier just said fish.  The bugs brought them up.  I eased into position, tied on a couple of different cripple patterns, picked a fish and dropped the fly near the riser.  It took, first cast.  A big pull, line peeled from the reel, a jump.  Holy cow, what a brown trout!  We parted ways promptly.  He looked to be two feet long.  I can still see him suspended in the air, upside down, chocolate colored, big black spots, hook jaw and all.  He's going to grow some by the weekend, my guess, to two and a half feet.  He was the biggest fish that I would see, and probably for a hell of a long time.

Well, that fish mucked up the pool.  It took some fifteen minutes for others to resume dining.  A couple of casts, bang, another nice brown.  We also parted ways.  

Fifteen minutes later, another fish rose.  Same scenario.  Bye, bye fish.  Then the pool went dead, and stayed that way. At least they ate the fly. 

By the way, somewhere in the past, I'd remarked that I didn't care for CDC.  I'd like to retract that statement.  Mr. Harrop's CDC biot cripple is a good thing.  CDC is a pain in the wazzoo to restore to fishing condition.  But, if the fish want to eat it, swell.  I'll rinse it, squeeze it, dry shake it, coat it with frogs hiney, whatever.

So, early afternoon it was.  And, the only thing that I'd netted was a few PMD nymphs. 

I got to thinking, "Can I have a fish please?   Just one for my patience and effort?"

"Is that too much to ask?" 





Of course not.  So, I kept hunting for feeding fish.  Thankfully, I found a pod of feeders.  They liked Mr Harrop's  fly too.  I caught a few, moved on, found another pod, took a couple of fish and moved on again.  No need to beat them up I thought.  Take a couple and call it good.











But, but, but, I just needed one more fish.  You know, the fish to end the day.  So, another pod, a couple more browns and then I spot Mr Gator lazily sucking in bugs under some hanging brush. I lay out the cast and, I'm feeling pretty proud.    I've avoided all of the brush behind on the backcast, and the fly lands on the water, neatly underneath the hanging brush. Nice drift too.  Mr brown, duly impressed, eats the fly.  He's the one out of ten that picks the Quigley cripple.  Sorry Rene.
    




I should add that I'd invested ten bucks in a waist pack that held two water bottles a couple of days ago.  It was a wise move.  With temps pushing ninety, this angler needs to be well watered to pose a threat to the fish.  I started at eight in the morning. It was five-thirty before I decided to break for lunch.  A little water goes a long way.  So does a well hydrated angler.







Sunday, June 7, 2015

Firehole Morning




Three o'clock in the morning.  Can't sleep.  Start coffee.  Well, since I'm up, might as well go for a drive.....to Yellowstone.  The drive through the Gallatin Canyon is eventful as regards wildlife. There's deer, loads of elk, a moose runs across the road.  I get to the park before six, vehicle intact.  

Along the Firehole River, it's early morning, the sun is barely up, barely visible through the high hazy clouds.  An ethereal mist hangs in the air, plumes of steam from the geysers that spew forth along the river.  I smell sulphur.  I smell bison, they're everywhere.

I walk the river, no particular destination in mind, I've never been here before.  I play tourist. The geysers and hot water pools are splendid, fascinating.  I snap a few pictures, bend over, stick a pinkie in the water.  Nice and warm.

Bison stream from a patch of open timber.  They mill along the river.  One jumps in, the rest follow.  Steam rises in the background.  It's an iconic Yellowstone scene.

After a couple of hours of poking around it's time to get to fishing.  Thus far, theres been no activity along the stream.   The bugs are slow, but eventually they begin to show.  White miller caddis, some smaller darker ones too.  Blue-winged olives.  Later, a few PMD's. 

I get fish, but its challenging.  No one pattern seems to excite the fish.  Get a few with one pattern, switch, get a few with the next, switch, and so forth.  It's as if the fish are talking to one another.  "See that fly?  Don't eat it, I did, it was a mistake."

I look at the contents of my fly box, critically.  Meanwhile, a few emerging blue-winged olives drift lazily on the surface along the weeds.  So fine featured, so delicate.  Hell, they don't look anything like the cripples that I've tied.  I look again at my cripple/emerger patterns and try to imagine how they resemble the real thing.  I really have to use my imagination.  I tie one on.  A fish eats it.  Then he tells his friends...."don't eat that."

Morning stretches into afternoon.  My stomach grumbles.  Throat parched, I head back to the car.  Eight hours have passed quickly....it's no wonder I'm thirsty.   



































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.





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