Friday, January 29, 2010

Pointer Sisters, Annie & Katie

Not to brag but we're talking here two pretty good bird dogs (OK, most of the time anyway). Year and a half old Annie is the rookie, very much still a puppy, she can be a bit erratic at times but when she's on she's really on. Meanwhile ten year old Katie is the steady veteran of the crew. She doesn't go at it anymore quite like she did awhile back but then neither do we. Slowing down aside Katie has pointed everything there is to point in Montana, chukar and valley quail in Idaho, all three Arizona desert quail--Gambel's, Mearn's and Scaled--and even retrieved a few ducks. Annie, despite her tender age, is off to a good start having now pointed most of the upland stuff in Montana and two of the three AZ desert quail--no scalies, mostly because we didn't hunt them last time down there.

Talent aside both are about the best dogs one could hope for around the house and as companions; as road warriors they have few equals. Annie mostly sleeps as long as the truck is moving while Katie perched atop the truck consul alternates between cat naps and intensely watching the road ahead. On the road, from the beginning the sisters have never been a hassle, taken to living in our small camp trailer almost as if they were born to it. Last winter we four spent 35 nights in the trailer and not once can I recall even a slight chaos. Actually Gale and me were surprised as hell how smooth the operation unfolded. Our only complaint is we didn't get to do it again this winter...damn!

Katie is a German Wirehaired Pointer while technically speaking Annie is a Deutzche Drahthaar, in other words a hoidy-toidy GWP is all. But hey, you gotta admit DD does have a certain ring to it...Right? Right.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Obnoxious Machines Irk the Hell Outta This Ol' Boy

Anybody who hasn't heard me rail long and loud on the out of control invasion of obnoxious machines currently over-running our fields, woods and waters is either deaf or just doesn't know me. For those who haven't yet had the pleasure let me just say how I absolutely and unequivocally HATE, yes in caps, ATVs, Jet Skis, Dirt Bikes, Loud Pickups and all the other many contrivances modern mankind seems hell bent on perusing mostly it seems just to see who can make most goddamn noise, disrupt the soothing natural sounds some of us happen to love--dare I say it?--even way beyond bagging the biggest trophy buck or bull or fish or limits or whatever. Believe it or not some of us actually enjoy QUIET...No kiddin'!!!

Anyway I'm not so out of touch with reality to think such nonsensical BS is about to dry up anytime soon--certainly not in my lifetime--in fact I'd say it's sure to get only worse. And after reading about the tricked out jet ski in the above photo, what must surely be "the most wonderfully obnoxious" machine yet--a jet skier's ultimate fishing machine...I wouldn't feel too shaky betting the entire farm.

A little further digging--ain't the internet just a wonder--revealed jet ski fishing is one of fishing's fastest growing segments--actually all the rage in such far flung spots as New Zealand and in the U.S. on both the east and west coasts.

FYI, the above rig's inventor is a guy who calls himself Jet Ski Brian. The rig is a highly modified Yamaha PWC complete with rod holders, cooler, batteries, VHF radio, a GPS/sonar rig, and more--what the ingenious inventor calls the ultimate “personal” fishing machine, fast, stable, runs cheap, easily trailered and launches just about anywhere."

What's not mentioned is how friggin' LOUD but given the poor bastard's no doubt long since gone total deef, how would he?

Monday, January 25, 2010

How-To Photograph Flying Upland Gamebirds in Winter

Recipe: To (2) bird-crazed German Wirehaired Pointer(aka Deutzche Drahthaar aka GWP) Sisters, Add (1)snowy sagebrush sea. Stir in one to several sage hens. Allow Sisters to Cover as much of the sagebrush sea as necessary in order to uncover the sage hen(s)and establish staunch points and/or a single staunch point with classy back. With SLR camera in hand, armed with 200mm lens and ready to fire, stride quickly into position and upon flushing bird(s) fire away...naturally at will since the more you shoot the better your odds of getting at least one passable shot. It should go without saying but should you fail at first by all means send the Sisters, try and try again. Good luck!!!

And yes the winter is indeed already starting to get a little old...not a crisis mind you just a bit irksome.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


...dries,emergers, nymphs, midges, leeches, buggers, streamers,salmon, steelhead, eggs, flesh, trout, bass, pike,spey, saltwater, carp, shad and I'm not so naieve as to think these are it--but you must admit such a long is certainly a good start. How many styles and patterns are out there? Hell, I couldn't even begin to guess. In the mid-90s Charley Waterman made a stab and guessed at least 20,000 commercial patterns and probably double that number concoctions never made it much past the inventors' door. Right on or way off one thing sure in the 15 years since both numbers would have swollen exponentially as no season I know ever passes without boucoup new patterns hitting the streets. If I were to make a wild guess at updating Charley's commercial guesstimate...well, what?...30,000...40...OK, lets just say one hell of a bunch and get on with it...Really what's the point anyway since no mortal fly flinger can even begin to collect or, more to the point, tote 'em all to the crick anyway.

But that doesn't mean some of us can't try. A PA pal claims his "western trout" boxes hold somewhere in the neighborhood 4000 dozen...Yes, it's true, each summer he brings with "as near as I can figure" 48,000 flies give or take a few dozen of course. While I can't prove it one way or the other, having seen the collection up close and personal can't/won't argue either. And remember we're talkin' here only "western flies." I've never seen his "eastern trout" boxes and then too he also fishes saltwater and occasionally steelhead and salmon so...How many fly patterns in the TOTAL COLLECTION...Again I really can't say and no I ain't gonna ask... some things being...you know...just too personal to pry.

Oh, by the way, for what it's worth the above fly box represents my personal stillwater ( for trout living in lakes, ponds, etc.)fly collection in its entirety...admittedly pretty damn skimpy but what can I say.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Feds Grant Montana $20 Million to Combat Mountain Pine Beetles

While lodgepole pines such as the dead one on the right in the above photo are bearing the brunt of the current mountain pine beetle infestation the ponderosa on the left is not out of harm's way by any stretch. Compared to much of western Montana the stately ponderosas are sort of rare around here, yet I know of several beetle killed individuals and no doubt there are many more out there. Currently about 3 million acres of pine forest across western Montana are under seige with apparently no end in sight. Who knows what $20 million will do if anything to stem the tide but it sure beats sitting back, wringing hands and doing nothing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

FWP Approves Montana's First Bighorn Management Plan

FWP Commissioners approved what seems to me a much overdo state-wide management plan for bighorn sheep. Biologists say about 5700 bighorns in 45 herds scattered across the state could be expanded by as many as 1000.

As with just about everything involves Montana wildlife, or anything else for that matter, the news received enthusiastic boorahs from some and loud boos from others; still others on both sides the fence took a more cautious wait and see approach. No news there, eh?

The biggest hurdle to expanding the bighorns' range is the very real hazard the wild sheep come in contact with domestics--which carry a lung infection fatal to wild sheep but harmless to the carriers. Wool growers are of course concerned about losing public land grazing leases. But there is a line in the plan says FWP will not lobby federal land managers to remove domestics to enable bighorn expansion unless ranchers involved are on board. Quentin Kujula, FWP's biologist point man on such issues says, "Without that collaboration expansion is pretty much dead in the water in most cases."

The Safari Club has gone on record as feeling the plan does little but maintain the status quo...in other words hardly worth the paper it's printed.

John Helle, major domo Dillon wool-man, says, "We're not opposed to wild sheep just the propaganda and attempts to remove us from lands we've been ranching for generations.

Jim Weatherly, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, basically approves the idea, adding concerns for needing rancher approval are largely unfounded since given how much land they control expansion is impossible without it.

And the beat goes on...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gray Wolves Continue to Make Headlines

Gale shot these wolves recently and I'll bet a lot of ranchers out there would have preferred she'd used a rifle instead of a camera. It seems in 2009 in Montana wolves killed a record number livestock--cattle, sheep, horses. To the tune of 365 animals, one per day or enough to break the Compensation Fund bank. The largest single kill was of course the 148 sheep Dillon ranchers Rebish and Konen lost in August. I don't know the final payout for that slaughter but from all the many rumors floating about town whatever wasn't near enough. From what I hear the Fund pays ranchers "fair market price" which in this case would be around $300 per. Nowhere near the actual value of the rams lost given R&K has been working for 75 years to improve the genetics of the herd. Which, by the way, now produces some of the world's highest quality wool.

Meanwhile ranchers and ADC agents have killed about 300 wolves thought to be preying on and/or harrassing livestock. Added to the 72 reported killed by hunters in Montana's initial wolf season. Or put another way just about one wolf for every livestock kill. Is it enough? Well I can tell you finding a rancher or a hunter for that matter thinks so would be a difficult hunt indeed. About 1650 wolves are thought to roam the region--Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Only Wyoming doesn't yet have a hunting season thanks to the prevailing good ol' boy redneck thinking which essentially continues to flip the bird at the Feds. Who of course are more than happy to return in kind.

Wolves are impacting hunting ops here in Beaverhead County as well. At least one rancher withdrew thousands of acres from the Block Management Program in protest to what he called "inept wolf management, MTFWP isn't managing wolves they're playing politics and cow-towing to enviro whackos who for the most part just don't get it."
I'd say he has a point. To his credit despite continued cattle losses he has not and said,"I will not" ask for compensation. I just want wolves managed like just about every other wild critter out there." Amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sage Hen Alley, Antelope and Rabbit Trails

Sage Hen Alley lived up to its handle big time today as the Pointer Sisters pointed an estimated 40 or so during a couple hour loop through the snow-covered sage. While we only saw two antelope you could not take a step and not trample a track; ditto rabbit tracks(jack, cottontail,pygmy). Sage hen sign, tracks and droppings everywhere. Yesterday we saw far more rabbit sign and way less sage hen and antelope sign, no sage hens or antelope sighted and just two rabbits, a whitetail jack and a pygmy. Curious since today we were actually just over the ridge from yesterdays hike. Good thing our goal wasn't to shoot sage hens since they were about as wild as sage hens get...several times the Sisters locked up long range and each time the birds boogied, like right now. I saw one big cock stretched to full height gawking our approach; watching cautiously he stood his ground until we closed to about 75 yards. When he flushed so did 4 of his buddies and as they flapped to put distance between another single flushed wild, at least 200 yards off. All in all I would have been lucky to kill even one bird...so much for the piece of cake reputation you so often hear bantied about, eh? Believe it or not but if there are any other critter tracks in the above rabbit thorofare I could not identify any.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Musing Black Bass of All Things

I must confess it's been awhile since bass, any sort of bass, occupied much of my thinking and even less, my fishing days. But I guess since I sort of grew up fishing smallmouth (the crick ran literally through our small northeastern PA town was infested)and for a time spent a good deal of the late summer and early fall fishing bass around PA and ME and southern Canada I've never quite been able to completely let the idea go.

A few years ago we did a book on some of the great fishing spots around the region (On the Fly Rocky Mountains) so I was excited to include whatever bass fishing I could simply because once more I'd get to chase the rascals. It turned out just as much fun as I'd imagined and vowed to do more in the future...Alas hasn't happened but hopefully there is still time so...

Anyway I can hardly stand to watch (even think of) the so-called pros in their ridiculous patch laden jumpsuits and glitzy bass boats most of which I'm sure cost way more than our first house...Why? Hell I don't really know maybe just because of the message sent...you know all about roaring here and racing over there, catch the limit as fast as humanly possible and at any cost. No way of even thinking of competing unless you are willing and able to spring for the biggest fastest machine...No way the entire circus ever even mentions let alone preaches the concepts of lazy summer evenings, hush on the water, witchin' hour, and well, hell, to me it just ain't fishin'...no news there, eh?

But the jumpsuits can fish and catch the magnums by the proverbial barrel full and all so it came as no surprise to learn that on July 2, 2009, one Manabu Kurita caught a 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth that tied George Perry’s 1932 all-tackle world record. Though I was practically floored upon learning it came from Japan’s Lake Biwa. Did you know Japan even had bass? This pilgrim sure did not...

So I did a little digging and low and behold not just Japan but largemouth now swim in 61 countries, many got their visas as far back as the late 1800s!!! Historically largemouth bass finned only in the eastern U.S., southern Ontario and northern Mexico. Today largemouth fishing exists in every state except Alaska and are said to be available to more U.S. anglers than any other fish...Imagine. Oh by the way the pic is courtesy of IGFA and while obviously a whopper I've no idea if THE whopper.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pointer Sisters in Action

That's Kate backing little sister Annie. However, yesterday on our near daily afternoon trek to the sagebrush north of town it was Annie who stole the entire show. First she nailed a single sage hen, then she bounced a whitetail jackrabbit, which she did not chase... good girl Annie. But sometime later must have had second thoughts because when a second whitetail jack jumped she did not even hesitate and took off in hot pursuit...To her everlasting credit however it only took a half dozen or so raging NOs!!!! on my part to end the chase. Whereupon she came in tongue hanging, chest heaving and sporting that inimitable wide grin of hers...obviously quite proud and no I don't think for a moment the delight had anything to do with obeying master's rants...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Moron Slaughters 8 Bighorn Sheep

I am saddened and more than a little enraged by the recent report of 8 Montana bighorn sheep senselessly slaughtered on the highway between Anaconda and Georgetown Lake. A rant not only for the loss but for the idiocy allows such obviously brain-dead individuals to continue terrorizing our highways. To have not been aware sheep might indeed be on the roadway he would have had to miss two large flashing signs. OK, either he had his head so far up his you know what or he was distracted NOT tending to driving after all but dare I say it? perhaps jabbering on the GD cell phone or worse TEXTING or hell, maybe instead he was merely reading the morning paper or brushing his friggin' teeth or any of the other zillion so-called distractions you see and hear of supposed drivers DOING...One thing sure the moron was NOT doing paying ATTENTION...To make matters worse he offered the lame-brain excuse the "sun was in my eyes sorry man, didn't see 'em...yeah right! At 11:45 in the a.m. even in Montana the sun is way too high in the sky to blind...But he did get a ticket for disobeying a traffic signal...big whoopeeee! That'll teach him...you betcha.

According to FWP two of the sheep were trophy rams and "might be mounted for display locally." As a sort of added byline to the tragic story FWP also muttered something about the possibiity of hunters losing the opportunity at 8 ram tags next season and in the foreseeable future until the herd recovers...Now where have I heard that one, all of us losing for the pathetic actions of a single moron...nah, can't happen, right? WRONG

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Proposed Changes to Opening Day Shed Hunting

Fish and Game Commish is considering a proposal to limit opening day shed hunting on Montana WMAs to foot traffic only and two sheds per person. An attempt to eliminate the circus like atmosphere of opening day (May 15)which has been likened to the great land grabbing stampedes of the homesteading era. Another reason is putting a crimp on poachers who sneak onto WMAs during the closed season (Dec 1 to May 15), stash sheds and then go in opening day with pack strings to haul out the contraband. If passed, whether or not the change would apply to all WMAs has not been decided.

FYI, we discovered the above elk shed a couple winters ago in the Gardiner River in YNP--off limits to shed hunting anytime but the scene of many dramatic moments in the past. Such as the guy who drowned after his loaded with antlers raft upset in the Yellowstone River awhile back. Like most things these days they just seem to get whackier and whackier...to say nothing of getting way out of hand.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Montana Land Trust Buys Idaho Grizzly Habitat

A Missoula based land trust,Vital Ground Foundation, has bought 57 acres of grizzly bear habitat along Reeder Creek in northern Idaho's Bismark Meadows, giving the foundation 160 acres in the area. An effort to help protect the area from encroaching development.

The 1,100 Bismark Meadows is a meadows and wetland complex is part of the USFWS Selkirk grizzly bear recovery area. The Selkirk Range in northern Idaho and eastern Washington is home to 40-50 grizzlies. It is also ground zero in the continuing fight by enviromentalists, such as the Sierra Club, to keep grizzlies on the endangered species list.

As many as 8 grizzlies have been known to use Bismark Meadows in the spring. Last year a sow and two cubs as well as an adult male were seen in the meadows.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bugger-men KNOW... Do You?

Woolly Bugger

In 1967, seeking to imitate a hellgrammite (dobson fly larva) Pennsylvania fly-tier, Russell Blessing, added a marabou tail to a Woolly Worm; a simple act, but one quickly spawned a cult-following. A cult whose mantra, “when in doubt pitch a bugger,” caught on quickly and soon became gospel to fly flingers around the world. I personally know anglers so far gone their fly boxes contain little else. And make no mistake Buggers do catch fish and not just trout either. Bugger-men routinely catch a wide variety species including bass, pike, carp, steelhead and, well, the list is long and no doubt growing even as we speak.

Like the Adams and the PT nymph the variations are endless—bead-head Bugger, Crystal Bugger, cone-head Bugger, lead-eye Bugger, Electric Bugger and on and on. It seems every season a hot-new must-have model graces the catalogs and fills bins of the local fly-shops. Still, as new buggers come and go the idea any bugger works so long as its black lives on.

The best thing about buggers is you can hardly fish them wrong: dead-drift; down and across swing, wet-fly style; add a jigging motion to the retrieve; pitch it quartering or straight up; strip it fast, moderate or slow. The trick, if you can call it one, is to just keep it wet, since sooner or later any method works. Popular thinking dictates “buggers work best in low light, murky water, etc.” True to a point but since bugger fishing is after all fishing; probably a really bad idea is to bet the entire farm.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Like a Timex the PT Nymph Just Keeps on Tickin'

Pheasant-tail Nymph

Of hundreds of mayfly nymphs it seems the large majority are some shade of brown; little wonder then the PT nymph gets such high marks from both anglers and trout. Unlike the all-American Adams, an Englishman, Frank Sawyer, spawned the PT. In his 1958 book, ‘Nymphs and Trout’ Sawyer revealed its unique construction. Using fine copper wire instead of traditional thread and cock pheasant tail-fibers, he spun the two together and wound them on the hook forming the abdomen and thorax as well as the wing case—no legs. As fly patterns go about as quick and easy as it gets.

Apparently too easy, for in no time flat, American-tiers unveiled a new “improved” version. Same pheasant-tail abdomen and wing case but instead thread-wrapped, featuring wire-ribbing and legs (usually omitted in smaller sizes, say, sub-16), but the biggest change was a thorax concocted of peacock herl. Style aside, like the Adams dry, in no time flat the PT-nymph became standard fare in angler fly boxes anywhere trout swim.

While the Sawyer style is far from dead the American version is by far the most popular. But with flash-backs, half-backs, epoxy-backs, copper-versions, brass and tungsten bead-heads in gold, silver, copper and black—soft hackles and what not it sometimes takes a vivid imagination to impart a PT origin. And with new versions seeming to drop from the vice almost before the head cement dries on the last “latest greatest, recognition isn’t about to get easier anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Only Dry You'll Ever Need

Novelist and sporting writer, Thomas McGuane, described it as “gray and funky and a great salesman.” Gray? Certainly. Funky? Perhaps. But as a salesman—considering its number one ranking among commercial dry fly patterns now stands at an unprecedented 87 years and counting—albeit these days the parachute style is all the rage. But style aside, day in day out, as dry flies go, the Adams has few peers.

Asked to explain its origins, Michigan fly-tier, Len Halladay, wrote: The first Adams I made (1922) was handed to Mr. Adams, who was fishing a small pond in front of my house, to try on the Boardman (River) that evening. When he came back next morning, he wanted to know what I called it. He said it was a “knock-out” and I said we would call it the Adams, since he made the first good catch on it. The rest is, as they say, history.

Most anglers I think would agree the best thing about the Adams in a pinch it mimics a wide range of insects—close enough anyway. A trait that makes it one of the best searching patterns out there. Adams himself is said to have thought it best imitated an ant. Almost magically it becomes a caddis, a midge, a pmd, a baetis and well, just about whatever. In the backcountry it just may be the only dry fly you’ll ever need. Asked to name his three favorite hatches, Art Bivens, veteran Montana guide, replied with a sly grin, “Baetis, golden stone and Adams.”