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A Rat for the River Ronde

Don't tell my wife, but I've got a date.  It's with a pretty little thing, lithe with blush cheeks.  Like myself, she's come a long way for this chance meeting.

Actually, I've tied a fly that has a date.  It's the venerable Rusty Rat, hopefully destined for a date with a steelhead in the Grande Ronde River.  Better make that two steelhead, I'm an optimist.

The Rusty Rat is deeply rooted in the annals of Atlantic salmon fishing.  It has graced the kype of many fine fish.  I discovered it while leafing through Atlantic Salmon Magic by Topher Browne who indicated that:

"it's hard to beat  a Rusty Rat for sheer numbers of fish grassed"  
I took a liking to the pattern and decided to tie a few thinking that the steelhead might find it to their liking as well.

I think a swim is in it's future.  Hopefully it will grace the kype of a Grande Ronde steelhead as well.  And while I don't intend to "grass" any, a little interest from a …

To Autumn

Seasons change with little regard to the calendar.  What should have been the official first day of autumn disguised itself as just another summer day.  Sometimes the seasons are just tardy.  Summer managed to hang on for a few more weeks.  Midweek, autumn noted that it was October after all and enough was enough.  Finally realizing the error in its ways it was ushered in by a north wind accompanied by snow and cold.

It doesn't seem right to walk the grouse woods on dusty trails with sweat running off ones brow.  This at ten in the morning.  Better yet the day be cool, the woods damp.  Better for walking, and hunting.

While the changing of the season is welcomed, its abruptness is startling.  One day its shirtsleeves, the next its fleece, a windbreaker, gloves and a hat.  Just for spite the day has enough bite to leave one wishing for even more clothing.  So it was yesterday.

We went for an afternoon walk with one of the dogs. I had hopes that the sun would eventually shine and w…

A Visit to the Jack O'Connor Center

On a recent trip to the Clearwater River in Idaho I took an afternoon break from fishing and drove into Lewiston to visit the Jack O'Connor Hunting Heritage and Education Center.

I won't rehash O'Connors biography.  Suffice it to say that as a boy my curiosity in the outdoors and taste for adventure was fueled by the stories that graced the pages of the sporting magazines. A handful of legendary writers dominated the outdoor magazines of the day.  None were as iconic as Jack O'Connor.  His name graced the masthead of Outdoor Life for over three decades.  During that time he wrote hundreds of pieces about hunting and firearms.  The stories generated by his hunting adventures are an important part of hunting history and will educate and entertain sportsman for generations to come.  Out of print copies of his books fetch princely sums.  Fortunately, many are available as reprints.

The Center houses mounts of big game that O'Connor collected over a lifetime of hunting…

Clearwater Spey Clave

The Clearwater Spey Clave is an annual gathering of spey enthusiasts.  Organized by the Red Shed Fly Shop, it is held along the banks of the Clearwater River at the Lenore, Idaho rest area.  The eighth (2012) installment was held on Saturday, September 29 on a beautiful blue sky day.  It was extremely well attended. The lawn and parking area were packed with vehicles bearing license plates from throughout the Pacific northwest.  Several exhibitors were hawking their various spey wares.  An accomplished group of casters highlighted the day with their riverside casting skills.  The following images are from the morning session.

Doubtless, a great deal of work goes into planning such an event.  My sincere thanks to all who had a hand in putting this together.  Spey casters and fishers should pencil next years gathering into their calendar.

A Good Day

"I wondered for quite a while about the fascination of fly fishing.  Why is it that I can wade into a stream at 10 in the morning, look at my watch in a "couple"of hours, and find out that it's late in the afternoon" Gene Hill from A Listening Walk and other stories.
Today was such a day, albeit I started a little earlier and ended earlier in order to escape the heat.  It was one of those days when I couldn't quite decide what to do.  Inertia is unacceptable, so I started loading gear into the car.  I figured that four fly rods should do nicely. I could have taken more, but every man has his limits.

I ended up on the Madison.  My intent was to stop briefly, do a quick recon of a fishing access site, and continue on to the upper part of the river.  I never left.

I started fiddling with my camera and took a few photos of flies.  Satisfied, I pulled on waders and selected an old fiberglass fly rod that I built some 35 years ago.  To it I attached a…

Sharptail Country

September heralds the beginning the best time of the year for the hunter and fisherman.  It is also the beginning of the serious road trip season.  Last week Jo and I loaded up the truck along with her three Brittany pups (aka the Twisted Sisters - Addie, Emma and Maggie).  With trailer in tow, we embarked on a road trip in search of birds on the Montana prairie.

Every trip is an adventure, the results never assured.  Many questions.  Anticipation.

Will there be birds?  Snakes?  How will the dogs do?  The shooter?  Will I get any decent photos?

The first day as Jeff Foxworthy would say was pandelerium.  It seems that it takes a day for the dogs, shooter and photographer to get the kinks out.  By the second day we were better coordinated.  The birds were smarter too.  

Conditions dictated that we be out at dawn.  It was hot and dry with temperatures pushing ninety degrees.  Hydration is always an issue.  Three dogs drink a lot of water, as do two humans.  Fortunately we saw no snakes…

Opening Day

Saturday was the opener for the upland game season in Montana.  Traditionally hot and dry, temperatures often push into the eighties.  Uncomfortable hunting conditions at best, for man and bird dog alike.  This year it was pleasantly different.  A front rolled through on Friday night.  We awoke to a cool damp Saturday morning.  It was even cooler in the mountains.  Daytime temperatures struggled to get out of the forties.  The clouds rolled in and out and eventually decided to stay.  It spat rain.  There was thunder and lightning followed by a spirited hailstorm.  All in all a pleasant day.


I'm not sure where this blog thing will go or what it will look like.  I'll keep it simple for now.

I've got many interests.  To borrow from Anthony Bourdain's intro on his show No Reservations....... I hunt, fish, hike and I'm hungry for more.

For many years my outdoor activities were pretty much centered around hunting.  Sheep hunting became a passion.  It was a bad habit, but it forced me to stay in shape and employed.  After all, one must pay for his vices.

About ten years ago the flame that was my passion for hunting began to flicker.  I knew that I'd eventually get back into flyfishing.  I didn't expect it to come so quickly or completely.  Three years ago I hung up my rifle.

Coincidental to my renewed devotion to flyfishing was a niggling interest in fishing for steelhead.  Another bad habit.  Central Montana doesn't offer the most convenient access to steelhead water, but it is within a days drive.  I fished the Clearwater River in Idaho for t…

Predicting Steelhead Run Timing

It happens every year.  Come late summer Northwest anglers eagerly begin checking Columbia River dam counts in order to gauge the size and timing of the upcoming seasons steelhead run.  I've done it too.  Daily.  

I may have a more reliable predictor.  In our yard is a Mount Royal plum tree.  When the plums are ripe it's time to fish the Clearwater River in Idaho.  It's almost foolproof.  Ripe plums equal catchable numbers of fish.  This year the tree is loaded with fruit and the plums are already purple.  The signs are encouraging.

Two years ago I stood on a ladder picking the ripe purple fruit in the dark with the aid of a headlamp.  It was the 26th of September.  I'd waited as long as possible.  I had just got home from work and had plans to drive to Idaho the next day.  
Yes, there were fish.  Disclaimer...... I had help, Bryan Miller from Orofino guided me.

So, will they ripen early this year?  Who knows?  I think I'll head out on the 27th.