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Best of All...

“Best of all he loved the fall the fall with the tawny and grey the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills the high blue windless skies"

by Ernest Hemingway


I've waited a long time to have the time to enjoy my favorite season.  There's never been enough time.  Too many competing interests.  A longbow and rifle required regular mountain walks.  They now gather dust.  Work, well what can be said.  It demanded a lot of time and effort too.  Well, I've retired my counting tray and spatula and shut off the part of my brain that had been devoted to work.    My mind and body can now be re-purposed.  A fly rod beckons.  Make that several.  And fish.  There are too many uncaught trout.  If they're lucky, they'll stay that way.  I plan to have a little say in that matter though. 




So, two weeks into this next life what have I to show?   Well, gas.  You know, for the car.  There's been a half dozen trips to the creek.  Mos…

What They Eat....

In spite of all of the regional hype and hoopla, I'm not real big on fishing terrestrials.  I do pack a few simple hoppers to the river.  A few small black beetles too.  Ocassionally I'll even knot one on.  Ants? Never fished them.  Of course I've tied a few.  For a recent high country trip I tied a few more.  You see, I've never fished dry flies for high country trout.  Why bother I thought.  Too much work.  Those fish will usually eat anything.
But I'd read that golden trout were fond of ants.  And, on the first afternoon, with fish rising, I put the little ant to work.  Now, I'd seen no ants around the lake, nor any other bugs floating on the surface.  But, enough of something was getting the attention of those goldens.
As it turned out, I could have packed a single fly for the first day of fishing.  Not one pattern, but rather, one measly fly. A dozen or so scrappy willing golden trout enthusiastically ate it.  It seemed odd sitting lakeside, drying the fl…

Silver Creek Mornings.....

Last week it was time for another quick road trip.  Wanting to check out the brown drake hatch, I tried to get to Silver Creek earlier.  They came and went.  I didn't.
So, another good looking weather window opened.  An opportunity to chase clear water, do a little camping.  My tent erecting skills needed the practice.
The best thing about Silver Creek is getting there at sunrise and listening to the birds.  I love watching the hills and valley light up with the first morning rays.  Besides, what else is a guy supposed to do when he gets up at 4:30 and drinks all of the coffee?




First morning.  Blue-winged olives.  A smattering of PMD's.  There was a flight of what looked to be white miller caddis like those seen on the Firehole in Yellowstone.

Fish?  Loads of little ones.  Most chased the white miller.  A few on the olive.  Best fish of the morning was a brown that mouthed a small rainbow.  One credible brown ate the olive but it came loose when it rolled and I couldn't …

Window

In between rain drops, a spur of the moment road trip to scratch the fishing itch.  Our local rivers are flooding.  Angling options are few.  With dam discharges on the Bighorn temporarily curtailed to a fishable 6000 c.f.s. this presented a brief window of fishing opportunity. 








The reward for making the drive?
Midges, blue-winged olives and brown trout.  Enough to keep this dry fly fisher happy.



All Day Long

Some days are tough, the fish tougher.
On spring creeks, it's the season of in between hatches.
The day starts with great promise.
Blue sky.  Warm.  Calm.
It doesn't last.
The bugs fail to make their appointment.  It doesn't matter.  If they show they'd get blown off the water anyway.
Still, one doesn't quit for fear of missing something.  Maybe there will be a window.  An opportunity.
So you persist.
Squalls come through.  As if conditions aren't tough enough already.




But you hang in there.  You've made it this far.
Four o'clock.  Lunch time. 
Can't call it a day yet.  
Maybe the wind will lie down at dusk.
Maybe, anything.  A crumb.
Just one shot.
Please.
The sun pops out, now low on the horizon.



What's that? A dimple.  Up against the bank.
The fish eats on the first cast.
A gift.
All day for one shot.
It was worth it.




In Days Of Yore.....

Indulge me, I'm reminiscing.
We're looking at an old film photo from the late 1970's.  Kodachrome, just like the Paul Simon song.
This is Montana, before the river (and everyone else) ran through it.
The camera was set on self timer and rested on streamside rocks.

A selfie if you will.  I was way ahead of todays kids and their cell phones.
More nimble and quicker then, I had ten seconds to run for the water while making the resulting shot look like I was fishing.  I think that I was shooting around twelve feet of line.  Backwards.
Back then my dry fly arsenal consisted of a few crudely tied Humpy's.  Some folks called them Goofus Bugs.  For me, matching the hatch was pretty simple.  Open fly box.  Ponder.  Which one?  Hmm...   I think I'll pick a Humpy.  
Graphite rods were in their infancy.  I couldn't afford one made of bamboo by Orvis. So, the fly rod was fiberglass.  I built it.  Now really, who "builds" a fly rod?  I just bought the blank from D…

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…

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…

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…