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Been A While......

It's been a while since I've written. I apologize.  I've shirked my duties as a blogger.  
It's been a while too since we've had occasion to use a hopper.  This one, patterned after Mike Lawson's Henry's Fork hopper, was tied with the intention of floating it in the Blackfoot.  Why the Blackfoot?  Beats me.   I just thought it was a good idea. 
Well, years passed.  The hoppers never saw the Blackfoot.  One day, this past summer, I found the forlorn hoppers in a fly box next to my tying bench. Their time had come.  I packed them off to the Madison. 
I've always liked the look of elk hair hoppers.  This pattern looks good on the water.  It floats like the cliched cork.  And, it's not too tough to tie.  
And, pray tell, how did they work that day on the Madison?  Well, pretty darned good.  There were no sippers that day.  The takes were pretty explosive. 
To quote Dan Holland from the Fly Fisherman's Bible:
A trout feels about a grasshopper the wa…

Salmon River Sojourn

The Salmon, it's our home river.  At least it's the nearest with sea run fish.  By the time they make it to Salmon, Idaho, they've come some six hundred miles.  And that's not the end of the line. Some sockeye salmon make it as far as Redfish Lake, a distance of over nine hundred miles and nearly a seven thousand foot gain in elevation.  The Salmon River also supports the longest steelhead run in North America, with fish making it as far as Stanley, Idaho.
Friday would be our day for a long road trip.  We got up early and hit the road for the two hundred some mile long drive.  It pushes the limits distance wise for a reasonable day trip.  As regards comfort, it's about as much sitting as a person can take.
Along the way, we crossed the Continental Divide several times.  It's a scenic drive up through the Big Hole valley.  Then, over Lost Trail Pass and down the "hill" along the North Fork to its confluence with the Salmon.   Here, the Salmon is a &qu…

Midge Morning

Get out early.  Beat the wind.  Fish midges.  That was the mantra yesterday.  I left home in the dark, driving eastward over the pass.  Outside of Livingston the temp was sixty-two.  A few miles to the south, forty-one.
I stopped along the Yellowstone and snapped a few photos before heading up to the creek. The morning sky was just starting to brighten.
I wondered...any midges this morning?
My question answered when I took a deep breath and sucked one in.  I wasn't the only one feeding on bugs.  Trout were rising too.
It was still calm when I waded into the creek.  Fish were rising actively.  I caught several right off. A few took a fuzzy CDC pattern that imitated a midge cluster.  I soon tired of trying to keep it afloat and switched to a nondescript midge pupa.  A few fish ate that too, then the action slowed, even though the fish continued to rise.





I moved downstream, found a few more rising fish and bided my time by trying to cast between gusts.  By now the fish had become qu…

Wild Ones

Anyone who takes up bird hunting believing that it's easier and more productive that hunting big game must be supremely mistaken.  Let me tell you, there might have been a time, many decades ago when that was the case. Here in Montana, big game has always been king. Birds? Well, they were an after thought for most folks.  Almost no one hunted them deliberately. Nowadays, there are quite a few avid bird hunters, both in staters and out.  Many have great dogs and hunt hard.  As for the birds, any that survive the opening day "baptism by fire"  dummy up quickly.  After a few weeks of pressure they get wild as hell.  Just getting within gun range is a major accomplishment.
Take for example our recent sojourn for sharp-tailed grouse.  We spent two days covering a lot of country on foot, trying to locate birds and get within shooting range.  When we eventually found some, they invariably flushed a hundred or more yards  out.  Often, they flushed nowhere near the dogs.  Whethe…

Something Missing?

Whats wrong with this picture?  Well, dumb ass  here forgot one important piece, no, make that two important necessary pieces of equipment for safe navigation on a river float.  Sure, I've got a check list, but unlike Santa Claus who checks his list twice, I failed to check mine, once.  Duh.
We dropped off my car at the takeout, drove back to the put-in, and just as we were inflating the raft I found the minor oversight.  My wife, bless her soul, was kind enough to drive home and all the way back to the river with the oars and footrest.
The only saving grace?  Well, the temperature was above freezing when she got back with the oars.  

The First Fifteen

I know that I'm not the only one that feels the seasonal sense of urgency.  All of us who live in northerly climes know it.  The clock is running.  The big W is around the corner.  We can't keep it at bay, but we can sure make the most of the remaining days.  
September?  Glorious.  There's just not enough of it.  Bob Garnier recently posted about it on his great little blog, Trout on Dries.  But then, as an Albertan, he knows about urgency and winter. As a Montanan, I appreciate Alberta.  Heck, they send us weather.
No matter.  Back to September.  It's an embarrassment of riches.  Back when I bowhunted avidly, I'd spend weeks wearing out boot soles by chasing elk in the high country.  Now, other vices have supplanted the pursuit of elk.  
There's birds and dogs to chase, high and low.  Trout to catch that now revel in the cooling water.  Just pick a river to fish.  And, heaven forbid, steelhead, if.....
So far we've spent a day in the high county where th…

Henry's Fork

It only took forty years, but I finally did it.  I drove to Island Park, Idaho and, instead of just looking at the water, I wet my line in the storied Henry's Fork.  Known for tremendous insect hatches, it's regarded as some of the finest dry fly water in existence.  It's a spring creek, a very big one at that.   A hundred yards wide in many places.  Size wise, it's quite a change from the Paradise Valley spring creeks that I'm accustomed to fishing.



I started off by getting a day pass to access Harriman State Park (available at park headquarters). Then, wanting to fish the middle section of the ranch, I backtracked and parked at the appropriate access point along the highway. From there, a pleasant mile long morning walk along an old ranch road led me to the fabled waters. It was quite a sight.



Bugs were starting to hatch when I walked up to the stream.  I can't say that it was a huge hatch though.  A few clouds of tricos, some blue-winged olives, a very few …

Beehive Basin

Labor day.  What to do?  A hike?  Something short and sweet.  One that didn't involve hours of driving to boot.  I settled on Beehive Basin up near Big Sky.  I've been all over the Spanish Peaks in the last forty years.  But, I've avoided the Big Sky side of the "peaks."  Why?  Hell, there's gobs of people.  But, today I made an exception.



It's an easy hike.  A couple of miles each way.  You won't want for company.
It was deliciously cool when I arrived at the trailhead.  Forty-two degrees. The clouds were just starting to lift.  I started hiking at nine.  Late for me, but with such nice conditions, and for a shortie hike, it was early enough.  Most of the many hiking folk would arrive later.
The trail, nice and wide, winds through open timber and meadow.  This late in the season, most of the flowers had withered. But, I can see this as a nice wildflower hike earlier in the summer. 
It is a pretty basin.  Open.  Easy to get around.
I hiked past the l…

Crazy

Insanity defined.  Repeating a task, and expecting a different outcome.  In this case, the error was in my believing the weather forecast.  Duh.  What was I thinking?  Everyone knows what zero chance of rain means. And, a cloudless blue morning sky confirms that zero chance.  Right?



It was nice and sunny when I arrived at the trailhead.  No reason to hurry, so I leisurely went about sorting gear and loading my pack.  This would be my first and maybe only backpack trip of the year.  And, depending on the old back, maybe the last, ever.  Just an overnighter, I'd try to go as light as possible. First I had to decide what was optional. Rain jacket?  Nope, won't need it. Extra socks?  What for?  Underwear?  Nah. My mother wasn't around to make sure that I had a clean pair in case of  an accident.  Breakfast.  Breakfast?  Oops, I forgot to pack it.
Ten minutes up the trail I noticed clouds curling over the mountain.  They ghosted their way downslope and soon engulfed the valley…

Pine Creek Dayhike

Story lines. How to present the days happenings?   I sorted through images from the other day to see where they might lead.
The underlying theme for the day was one of sheer beauty.  What a day.  It was another day for a high country hike.  I stretched the distance.  Now up to five miles.  This one, about 3400 feet elevation gain too.  Its not the longest hike, but with the vertical involved, its not a casual stroll.
First up, Pine Creek Falls.  It was quiet this early.  Later, it gets busy with day hikers wanting for a photo.  Not surprisingly, I was the first one on the trail.  Then again, not too many folks are up at three.




The Pine Creek area burned in 2012.  The fire took out a goodly amount of timber in the drainage, leaving charred tree skeletons.   A dense undergrowth of vegetation carpeted the formerly vacant  forest floor. Remove the tree canopy, let the light in, and stuff grows.  Bedstraw, arnica and spirea flowered profusely.  Their white or yellow flowers contrasted sha…