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It's A Long Way To The Top...If You Want To Catch A Fish

Hot.  Dry.  Smoky.  Summer.
I woke to a hint of frost the past two Sunday's, camped as I was high in the mountains.  It didn't last long.  The frost was gone with the first touch of sun. 
I backpacked both weekends just to see if I still could.  Just to see if I still enjoyed it.  And to be in the high country. 
I missed the simplicity of camp life. 
Wherein life is reduced to the barest of essentials.
Find a nice level spot.  Pitch the tent.  Fetch water.  Take in the view.  Just be.
I needed to check on the last of the flowers.  And catch a few fish.












First Impressions...

It's deliciously cool in the pre-dawn of this summer morning.  I sip coffee and hastily pack a cooler for the day.  Last night I'd packed an inflatable pontoon boat into the back of my little car along with some fishing gear.
Hebgen.  After more than four decades I was finally getting around to wetting a line. I'd rolled the thought of fishing it around in my mind for a long time. Like the Henry's Fork or upper Madison, it was another backyard piece of water that I'd neglected for too long.
I'd heard about them, seen videos.  Fish cruising, vacuuming their dinner from the lake surface.
Gulpers.
How hard could it be to catch a few?  It was time to find out.
I hit the road early.  Driving along the Gallatin, then through the northwest part of Yellowstone on the road to West.  There was a bit of fog, the temperature dipped to thirty-six along a low-lying stretch of highway.
Out of the park and north of West Yellowstone, I turned onto gravel.
It was warm by eight,…

Unforked, At Last

Let it be known. The curse has been lifted.
I finally got a "real" fish out of the Henry's Fork.
One fish is no big deal for the fly fishing luminaries out there who stack twenty inch rainbows like cord wood.  My light doesn't glow so bright.
With clouds forecast for the day I made a run for Last Chance.  Overcast summer days are a rarity out here.  I hoped the fish and the bugs that they dine on would like the forecast as well.
A cloudy day invariably feels a hell of a lot more comfortable than a sunny one with similar temperatures.  The only issue is that the glare on cloudy days gives me fits. Sunglasses don't help.  There's no best angle to look at the surface of the water either. There's a uniform funky brightness caused by light reflecting from clouds to water surface that makes it virtually impossible to see and track a fly.  So, I squint a lot, guess where my fly is based on water speed and basically fish by braille.  I make a point of lifting ge…

Come Monday....

An opportunity. The creek books a year or more in advance for the prime dry fly fishing period. There was a last minute cancellation on the spring creek on Monday.  I grabbed it.

It's still PMD time. If they want to show.  By 7:30 a.m. spinners were dancing in the sun.  It took a while for them to start dropping.  Hatch?  So-so.  Actually not much.  I'd heard that it had been inconsistent. As far as the catching goes, it was no free for all.  By mid-July the fish have been worked over pretty good by a number of credible anglers.     The fish have seen all manner of patterns and presentations, some good and some not so.  I got some nice ones.  Pretty much all rainbows. But, as I said, I had to work for them.  No one pattern was the clear winner. 
I took a break at 1:30 when a squall came through. It was burger time anyway.

I was back creekside in an hour.  The squalls continued to roll through.  It rained and/or hailed, on and off for the rest of the day.  In and out of the ca…

MO

There's no shortage of folks on the Missouri now.  It's clear but still a little high for wading.  Just a tad over 8000 c.f.s yesterday.  I had to go and take a look just to see for myself what those water levels meant. Well, what it means is that it's fishable for a wading angler, although one needs to pick their spots.  Boaters on the other hand have lots of spots to choose from.



The biggest issue is not in finding fish, but rather in what happens after hooking one. They're just harder if not impossible to chase with the deeper water and flooded banks.  So one hopes, as I did, often, that there's enough backing.  One fish took me down to the last few turns of the spool before the knot gave out at the fly.  I was relieved to see the fly line after having recovered my backing.  That fish might be to Great Falls by now. 



So, it's PMD time.  Finally.  A sparse hatch yesterday, but there were plenty of spinners. They kept the fish interested and eating on top for…

After The Hail.....

I made an impromptu stop along the Firehole River a few weeks ago.  I'd spent the morning fruitlessly poking around the Henry's Fork.  Outside of seeing one good fish porpoise a couple of times, there was nothing doing.  So, rather than wait out the day and hope for some sort of a hatch, I pulled out and headed home.  I was driving through West Yellowstone around 4 p.m. and decided "what the heck" and detoured through the Park gate.
The Madison, as advertised, was running a bit high and off color.  I continued on to the Firehole.  I pulled over, made a sandwich and commenced to watch the water.  A few fish rose sporadically.
What the heck?  Might as well fish I thought.  After all, I felt obligated.  You see, I'd tied up a dozen soft hackles a couple of days earlier.
So, I rigged up and went for a little walk.   I found a spot with fish rising in nice soft bank water.  A few white miller caddis buzzed along the surface.  Just as I was about to step into the wate…

No Clue...

I tied a few of these a couple of weeks ago.  Not sure what I ended up with.  It's nothing unique, just another soft hackle, something that I rarely fish.  But, if a person intends to fish the Firehole, they'd better have some soft hackles.  No hatch?  Soft hackle.  It's the law.  I checked the Park regulations.  I'm kidding of course.
Regardless, the intent here was to imitate some stage of the white miller caddis.  It's pretty simple.  A blob of antron for a shuck, roughly wrapped thread body, hare-tron thorax, partridge hackle.  Do soft hackles have shucks?  Maybe it would be better fished as an emerger?  With a dab of floatant, maybe even as a PMD cripple?  Or, maybe it's just another fly tying disaster gone awry....

The First PMD....

I drove down to the Henry's Fork yesterday and spent a few hours poking around and taking pictures.  Here's the first PMD that I've seen this year.  I've tried to get a handle on cripple type patterns for a long time but  couldn't quite grasp the half nymph, half adult part of the imitation.  Well, this particular bug shows the justification for tying two toned cripples.  If anything, I've found that perhaps I should be tying the back end even darker.  














Last Minute Substitution

I didn't need the alarm this morning, I was up at 3:30.  Maybe I was excited to get out and go fishing.  I nursed a pot of coffee for a couple of hours. When I started the second pot, I knew that I wasn't getting anywhere.  Motivation?  Well, I got up didn't I?  I just couldn't bring myself to make the drive to the Park.  You see, the fishing season in Yellowstone was to open today.  With high water everywhere I had visions of hoards of anglers pounding the few trickles with any visibility.  At 6:30, I made a big breakfast.  A guy can get mighty hungry procrastinating.
So, I took a little hike instead.  I'd made a dry run earlier in the week with just a fanny pack.  I was surprised to find open water.  Naturally I'd neglected to bring the fly rod.



Different story today.  I had my pack, camera, rod, some munchies.



It was a little breezy when I arrived at the lakeshore.  I promptly rigged up and caught a couple on a Zug Bug.  Then, thinking that the fish needed …

Another Day, Another Spring Creek....

With the valley rivers blown, and several days off, I needed an alternative if I wanted to fish.  I'd originally planned to fish the Missouri, but it doesn't offer much to the wading angler when it's flowing near 9000 c.f.s.  Given my soft spot for spring creeks, I booked a day on Nelson's Spring Creek.  It was a first for me, as I've spent my spring creek fishing career across the Yellowstone at Depuy's.








Nelson's is regarded as being the most difficult of the Paradise Valley spring creeks. Now tell me, who doesn't appreciate a little challenge?  Surely I could manage a fish or two.  Well the first piece of water that I looked into contained hundreds, maybe thousands of trout.  Did I mention that they also raise fish commercially for local restaurants?  Oh well, these fish weren't nearly as standoffish as their  spring creek brethren.





I spent the morning exploring while waiting for some sort of a hatch to come off. There were plenty of fish.  The c…

Kirk Hill

I refer here to the natural area, not the guy.  
Us fisherman need to stay in shape, sniff a few posies too.  Fact is, with high water, our mid-May fishing options are limited. We still need to get out of the house, get a little air and stretch the old legs. 
Kirk Hill is a short low elevation hike near Bozeman.  It's a popular nature and wildflower hike.  Trail runners like it too.  I got reacquainted with this trail yesterday.











With the cool wet spring that we've had, we're relatively early into green-up.  But, there's still lots of early season flowers for us naturalist types.  Here then are the common ones, along with a few sights from along the trail.....