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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…

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…

Bear Trap

It was warm.  Heat radiated off of the canyon walls.  The temperature on my car gauge stretched into the low 80's.
Geez, what's this?
Sweat.
I've avoided Bear Trap Canyon, outside of winter, for decades.  It can be hot.  Dry. Theres snakes.  The last summer hike that I took, I saw seven rattlers, on the trail.   That's plenty for one day, don't you think?
Then there's ticks, poison ivy too.
It's really not that bad.  One does need to watch where one places important appendages though.



Ah, poison ivy.  It's incorrectly been called poison oak.  What we have here is western poison ivy.  It  grows as an upright vine and can be found along the banks of the Madison.  While fishing, I've also seen it along the Missouri and Clark Fork Rivers in Montana, the Selway, Lochsa and Clearwater in Idaho, and the Grande Ronde in Washington.  I still have flashbacks to childhood summers spent broken out and itchy from rashes.  The rash on unmentionable body parts i…

About Time....

It took forty years, and then some.  I'd read about it.  Thought about it.  Driven by it.  Shot elk in the nearby mountains.  Regarded the flotillas of angler laden drift boats.  But fished it? 
Nope.
Until today.
I planned to hike up Beartrap Canyon on the lower Madison, but didn't stop. I kept on driving, all the way to Three Dollar Bridge. 
The upper Madison is, as they say, one big riffle.
And it contains fish. 
After all of the years, they missed me.
Thank you.

More On Fishing Midges...

I started one recent day by waiting out the wind.  The forecast said it would blow.  I hoped that it would stop.  I whiled away the morning by reading.  I had no choice. Lunch would have to wait because I'd bought along a portable barbecue.  And, wieners don't barbecue very well in a gale.





Well, sometime after two the water surface calmed and fish started rising.  
I got a couple right off, then couldn't get a sniff.  I thought that I'd found and tied the perfect fly.  Dummy me.  The fish deemed otherwise.  They kept rising, and ignored my presentations.  I dubbed these the "untouchables".  I kept trying, then moved a short distance and picked off a few more.





But, I couldn't resist one more shot at the "untouchables".  Still fickle, they had no qualms about resisting my offerings.  So, I moved on and played with some of their more willing brethren.   And oh yes, I got to barbecue.





Another day started and stayed windless.  Fish rose steadily thr…