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…
There's a scene that I admire whenever I drive the road that winds along the Lochsa River.
A wooden bridge spans the river and connects to trails that lead to the Idaho backcountry.
There should be a string of packhorses lined out along the bridge.
Mid-October on the prairie. Clouds and sky make a perfect backdrop.
This year, the birds, like steelhead, were scarce, but not nonexistent.
Here, the girls take a break. Note the attentiveness (of the dogs).
No food bribery involved.
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…
On a subzero Montana morning.
Perhaps my favorite image from 2016.
If for no other reason than it captures an idyllic moment.
It was definitely warmer.
Bugs in the air.
A lone angler casting to rising fish.
May is not so far away......
One recent day, with the days fishing done, I sat and watched this fellow as he munched on the streamside dogwood and willow. Isn't it amazing that an animal could get so big on a diet of twigs?
The young bull moose seems to have found the spring creek riparian areas to his liking. He's been a local resident for at least a month. I hope he spends the winter.
I noticed this big dead brown trout on DePuy Spring Creek a week ago. It was longer than two of my size 12 wading boots, and would have been the fish of a lifetime for most any fly fisher. I concluded that the likelihood of landing such a fish on a three weight, small fly and light tippet was virtually zero. At least I got my hands on a big one, even if it was dead!
I encounter a few such big browns each fall. They're covered with a white fuzzy fungal growth known as Saprolegnia, which attacks fish that are stressed and weakened. Spawning takes a toll as fish jostle on redds, chasing and biting each other, removing protective mucus and thus opening the door for the fungus to take hold.
Young, dumb and crazy. Not me anymore. I pulled the plug on a fishing venture the other day. I set out to hike to a mountain lake. I figured that it should have had a few nice ones just ripe for the catching.
Most of the hike was uneventful, as most trail hikes are. But the trail ran out. It was time to bushwhack. I made my approach and took the direct route, right up the outlet stream that ran through a defile in the mountain. It was plugged with a large snowfield. No problem I thought. I'll just cross the creek between patches of snow, go as high as possible. Surely there will be an opening and I'll be able to rock hop and squirt on through to the lake.
No go. It just got steeper. The rocks got wetter. Crossing the creek got a little more dicy. I eyed up the rocks. If its wet I won't jump. A couple of feet maybe. Six feet, no way, even with my long gangly legs.
I got across again. There appeared to be a gap between the rock wall and the snowfield. …
Hunting. The natives call it making meat. For me it's a process. The kill has always been secondary. For some that's all it is. Pity.
Years ago, I'd take weeks of vacation to pursue elk. I often hoped that I wouldn't be successful, just so I could continue the hunt. Hiking, climbing, sitting, waiting. Alternating between sweating and freezing. All, part of the process. Most days I returned to the car with clean fingernails and a light pack. But I was happy. I could go out again.
Then I burned out. I quit hunting. My rifle was replaced with a fly rod and camera.
I uncased my rifle a couple of weeks ago. Just out of curiosity. Was a flame rekindled? I wondered how I'd react when I saw game? Better, how would my back respond if I completed the task? I saw a few elk, some deer. A buck. Interesting. When I got home, I left my gear in the car. A sign.
Two days later I went again. I saw no game. Got soaked. Again, the gear stayed in the car. Well …
There’s a land where the mountains are nameless, And the rivers all run God knows where; There are lives that are erring and aimless, And deaths that just hang by a hair; There are hardships that nobody reckons; There are valleys unpeopled and still; There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back—and I will.
From The Spell of the Yukon by Robert Service.
In continuing with the recent slide scan theme, this is one of my all time favorite images. Nothing fancy, but oh the memories!
Twenty years ago my wife and I hunted the interior of Alaska. It was mid-September, and for all the world, could have been the middle of winter. The previous group of hunters had endured summer like conditions and biting flies. Conditions changed overnight. The landscape, now stark, was cloaked under a deep mantle of snow. We arrived in camp and were greeted by the outfitter and our native guides. One, an Athabaskan kid, guiding his first hunt, the other, an elder Inupi…
Not too many bugs on the water yesterday. A few clouds of Tricos midmorning. Then, a brief sparse spinner fall brought fish to the surface in one run. A half dozen fish cruised the run, lazily sucking in the tiny spinners. On a quiet morning, you could hear the fish smacking their lips. I just love the sound of a happily feeding fish. They weren't easy though. I continually reinforce the fact that fish in low clear water are exceptionally spooky. The flash of a fly line is death. Make a cast and the fish stop feeding. Guess what? Game over. Then the wait starts. Maybe they'll come back and resume dining. In a few minutes, or fifteen. I got one real nice one, on of all things, a small parachute Adams.
It was a great eat, followed by the usual anxious moments. A small fly, attached to 6X, attached to a fish headed downstream, attached to an angler mired waist deep in midstream muck. I wondered if the fish would stop. Then, would I be able to get it back? I d…
This photo brings color and cheer on a cold and snowy Montana morning. It is my favorite photo from 2014. No fish. No grip and grin. Just a pretty little flower and gorgeous mountain scenery.
The yellow bloom is an alpine sunflower (Hymenoxys grandiflora). Also known as "Sun God", the large blooms were said to absorb sunshine from the rarified air and while taking on the color of the sun. In A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Flowers (Craighead, Craighead and Davis) it was pointed out that:
"Compass flower might be a more appropriate name for they do not follow the sun around but continue facing east. The direction that any large number face is a far better indication of east than moss on a tree as an indication of north."
Now that I think back on it, these little guys were indeed facing east. Granted, it was a small sample size.
Most importantly, the fact that I was able to hike to the high country pleased me to no end. Hopefully more good days to come for …
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.
I wrote this one off years ago as just another fishless puddle. Alders crowd the lakeshore. Casting options are limited. I walked around the lake, stumbling over blowdown, cussing the aforementioned alders. That first visit, no fish rose. I didn't bother to rig up, It was a tactical error. First impressions can be misleading. There were some impressive piles of bear poop though.
A few years later I decided to take another look. Same scenario. No riseforms. No sign of fish. This time I strung my rod. Casting fruitlessly from a precarious perch, I was ready to give up. Then I saw the shadow. At least I thought I saw something. More casts. The shadow reappeared. Jaws junior came back and decided that it was time to eat.
Once a year we go back. Just to check on the fish. There aren't many.
We went back over the weekend. The fish were still there. Like us, a year older.
We saw a pine marten. Mosquitos. No grizzlies.
Horses, cows too, are an integral part of the western landscape. So, it's pretty normal to run into them while one is out fishing. Yesterday, I bumped into these two as they grazed on lush stream side grasses. I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a horse person. I do like to see them though. Montana and horses go together like hot dogs and mustard (sorry, not ketchup). So, when I crossed over to their side of the stream, they wandered over. One intently nuzzled the pockets on my fishing vest. I don't pack oats when I'm out fishing, so he had to settle for an ear scratch and a pat on the neck.
You run into some pretty neat stuff while heading to the field. Sometimes it's the high point of the day. Take this image for instance. It was recorded on film. Ah, the good old (if not less convenient) days of photography. I was driving through the Gallatin Canyon. A bunch of bighorn sheep were milling along the side of the road. I found a nearby turnout and pulled over. Sheep were busy grazing, some were in the river. Eventually, it looked like they wanted to cross the road. One ewe, then another. Up and over the barrier. Maybe the grass was greener. Maybe they just wanted to live dangerously and dodge traffic. It's a tough way to make a living.
While driving along the Missouri River early last June, I spied this lone angler at work. It was late afternoon. The PMD's were just starting to hatch. Fish were rising.
So, I drove up the road, found an open spot. Slipping into the water, I became part of a similar dreamy scene for passing anglers. The fish, so close, agreeably sipped the PMD presented barely at arms length.
Nirvana for me.
This photo brings back memories of a night spent at Thompson Lake in the Spanish Peaks a couple of years ago. It was August. A time of heat, dryness. When I hit the trail at sunrise, snow dusted the peaks. Five miles in, it started to rain. Shortly after, it turned to snow. August?
This was breakfast. Bannock. Simple and good, it's a staple and favorite. Low carb? Baloney (or rather, bologna for you purists). Not for me. When I crave fresh bread, which is often, I'll whip up a batch, even at home. For this batch, I'd measured enough mix into a snack baggie to make one bannock patty. First, I made a cup of coffee on the little alcohol stove. Then, mixed the batter, formed it into a patty and popped it into the pan.
My boots? They're an attempt at a windbreak and the inspiration for this post. More on this later. Thankfully I didn't burn down the tent. It was a one man structure. Still is for that matter, since I didn't burn it down. Too low t…