Monday, August 30, 2010

Fly Fishing: Big Hole River

Floating the Big Hole of late is more a drag...literally...than a float trip. But the good news is most days the fishing is pretty good. Yesterday dawned chilly, with heavy cloud cover rain seemed to be more a matter of when than if...

Joe is one of the better fly guys around and like many of the good ones prefers to fish dry. So when I rigged up a bobber and nymphs, while he didn't say so he was clearly disappointed. But as we made our way painfully (for this ol' boy) and ever so slowly down the skinny river it soon became clear the trout were not much interested in munching nymphs. 

To me switching to dries seemed an even worse idea but since Joe had voiced his displeasure in having anything to with streamers why not...

Well so much for bad ideas...almost from the get go it became evident the trout were indeed looking up. And the top water action continued pretty much non-stop all the to the take-out. Though the curious thing most of the takers were on the small side...But with so many takes Joe could hardly quit grinning long enough to bitch...How many? Who knows for sure but I'd say at least 40, maybe even more...all in all turned out a fine day to cast dries and yes, there were a few hefty enough to put a severe bend in the ol' fly pole. Even caught a grayling and a couple whitefish, imagine. And we did get rained on but the brunt of the big storm went elsewhere...thank you rain and thunder gods.

For me though the day's real highlights were five moose sighted...three, a cow with two little babies in tow, I nearly hit when they burst up from the willows onto the frontage road below Melrose. Then on the way home in nearly the same spot another cow and a yearling calf...thank goodness this pair stood their ground on the field side the fence. Been sort of moosey actually as a couple days ago we spied a bullwinkle and few days before that two big bulls. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Big Hole River Fly Fishing Report...

The river is dropping like a rock...litterally. Ten days ago, with the upper river running above normal at about 400 cfs, we rowed the hard boat from Troutfitters to Dewey and touched nary a rock. Yesterday the river now running just barely above 200 cfs, we more or less drug the raft from just above Troutfitters to Jerry Creek. Spent almost more time dodging rocks than casting flies. In one of the many rock gardens below Wise River one of the clients lost his balance, nearly went overboard, and came within an eyelash of flipping the raft. Combine that near disaster with the equally harrowing near miss of a couple days ago when we crashed a rock and sent the guy in the front the hard boat airborn...spectacular, though also scary as hell. How he missed landing on a boulder instead of deep water is more than I know or care to contemplate, really lucky is an understatement.  Anyway that's about it for me as far as guiding the Big Hole until the river rises which usually happens in early September once irrigation ends in the upper valley. As for the raft we are pretty much done period. In other words it's for sale and at a bargain price...so if you are interested in a small Aire raft (unsuitable for guiding too small) with or without the NRS three seater fishing frame give me a holler....

Too bad the river is so low up there because its fishing really well...Tricos, mayflies, spruce moths, various attractors and even hoppers...All day, all topwater, if it weren't for the pain in the butt conditions...hell, can't hardly beat it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hunting Season Officially Arrives Tomorrow and...

...as usual I can hardly get my head around the idea of big game hunting in mid-August. But yes, it's true with a 900 antelope archery tag in hand come dawn Sunday morning you are good to go. Most years the season opener dawns way more summer-like than fall-like but if yesterday is any indication this year could be different...like 180 different as the temperature struggled to climb even into the 60s and as mentioned previously snow in the high country was the prediction...don't know if that really materialized but mid-60s in mid-August...well as I said felt pretty much like mid-October is supposed to feel.

Alas this time around I won't be participating, having somehow totally forgot to apply for any big game tags...that's right none, nada...thank goodness Montana law allows me to buy a deer/elk tag over the counter or for the first time since I turned 12 many, many moons ago, no big game hunting for this lad. Scary as hell, you got it but hopefully not terminal.

Taking advantage of the chilly day we took the sisters to the woods hoping they might get into a blue grouse or two...did not happen but they did uncover a roost site in a bunch of pines...several days (weeks) old but still...we declared the mission a success of sorts and after all we did get a little workout and the heady smells in the damp pines did get our juices flowing for what surely will turn out a fine fall bird season...don't they all?who needs a moldy ol' elk or deer anyways...right? Right.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Montana Wildlife Continue to Grab Headlines

  • Eight bighorn rams, ages 3 1/2 to 8 1/2, dead after being struck by lightning on Wild Horse Island in Flathead Lake.

  • Grizzlies spotted grazing a wheat field near Brady, a small farming community 50 miles north of Great Falls. Hardly your typical griz hangout but one not so uncommon  as the Rocky Mountain Front grizzlies have been spotted in recent years even farther out on the high plains. Which, by the way, back in Lewis and Clark days was the horrible bears' preferred habitat.

  • In Red Lodge a black bear is currently on the most wanted list, having eluded capture despite some 20 break-ins in recent weeks. The last incident the bear was caught (not literally) inside a house munching pizza after breaking into a freezer. Comical, eh?

  • FWP is investigating reports a wildlife photographer may have been baiting grizzlies near the forest service campground outside Cooke City where the recent maulings took place. If true, proving yet again there's a bunch of nuts out there and they ain't all locked up...right? Right.

  • In something of a radical move to get around the recent return of the Idaho, Montana, Wyoming gray wolf to endangered status state wildlife officials are considering a "research hunt"...Hooray, and take that you whacky bastards...

  • Pathetic but saddly true, YNP announced July's vistor numbers set an all-time record at 957,000...Sorry folks, but to my twisted way of thinkin' that's just way too many of us to even think about enjoying anything close to a quality experience. Do you suppose just maybe the time has come to cap the daily onslaught at something a bit more reasonable? 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Weird Weather and Wolf Issue Heats Up

My first thought when I looked at this photo taken in the upper Big Hole well into June was these three sandhills could hardly believe how much snow...like c'mon it is June right? Anyway according to the local forecast the confused birds might just be in for a bit of deja vue all over again, as Yogi might put it. Actually it snowed some over at Sula night before last and the forecast this weekend is for unseasonably cool and SNOW in the high country...like c'mon it is mid AUGUST right?

The wolf debate is heating up big time. The consensus seems to be hang the bastard Judge Molloy....I could not agree more. Yesterday's paper was pretty much all comments from various mad as hell politicians...they probably ain't really...but sounds good....and you know might get 'em a few votes come re-election time. FWP and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as well as several anti-wolf hunter groups (can't blame 'em hell the wolves are killin' what hunters hunt for cripes sake) put in their heated two-cents also...good on them right?

Anyway the beat continues, the Big Hole went over 700 cfs yesterday, sort of hard to believe but I for one will take it any day...over and out...gotta go row the boat you know...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fishing Report, Wolves Once Again Ruled Endangered and Other Gems of Interest

Big Hole River Brown

Clark Canyon Reservoir Rainbow

Overall the past seven days fishing has been good; though one day the Big Hole sucked was more than made up for with excellent fishing earlier on the Beaverhead and later, yesterday for example, on the Big Hole. The day Tom caught this hefty rainbow the reservoir was slow but later in the afternoon we floated High Bridge to Henneberry and lost track how many hook-ups.

At times the dry fly action was pretty good but over the long haul it was down and dirty bobber and nymph stuff. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is how the Big Hole is still cranking...over 600 at Maiden Rock the entire period. Yesterday Terry and me rowed our hard boats from Troutfitters to Dewey smacking only a couple rocks and dragging the boat only once the whole way...for sure unheard of for near mid-August. 

On another track the other day good ol' bunny hugger federal Judge Malloy once again cowed-down to his whacko Missoula cum California buds and declared the gray wolf once again an endangered species despite reams of evidence to the contrary. Love 'em, hate 'em or straddle the fence wolves, like every other animal species on the planet...including yes indeedy man his ownself...need a sound management program based on "science" not politics and certainly not founded on the over the edge whims of a bunch of city kids who know far less than squat what the hell goes on in the outside world. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks of course will appeal the ruling...good luck on that one, eh?...meantime, maybe forever, wolves will go on munching down livestock, creating bloody mayhem, or worse wiping out altogether big game populations such as has already occured to the moose in the upper Big Hole...where by the way a few short years ago biologists felt comfortable issuing 25 or more permits annually and now...guess what just two and the local biologist in charge feels even that low number may be too many but...well you know we can't just shut down the season all together...and the beat goes on. 

On another yet far lighter track here's a few enlightening and entertaining quotes from the whacky guitar man his ownself...that would of course be the one and only T. Nugent:

“If you want to save a species, simply decide to eat it. Then it will be managed – like chickens, like turkeys, like deer, like Canadian geese.”

“Look what venison does to a goofy guitar player from Detroit? I’m going to be 54 this year and if I had any more energy I’d scare you. ‘

“Mankind: A quality of life upgrade is available to each and every one of you. It should give you a quality of life upgrade, which means no drugs, no alcohol, no fast food – unless, of course, it’s a mallard.”

“There are hundreds of millions of gun owners in this country, and not one of them will have an accident today. The only misuse of guns comes in environments where there are drugs, alcohol, bad parents, and undisciplined children. Period.”

“Vegetarians are cool. All I eat are vegetarians – except for the occasional mountain lion steak.”

“I don’t partake in assembly-line convenience. I don’t say that killing things is bad while I hire people to kill things for me.”

“If you want your body to be healthier, get off the salmonella, e-coli, mad cow, assembly-line toxic hell train! God I love that statement. What did I just say?”

Eloguently spoken my man, couldn't have said it better myself.

So there you have it folks...until next time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tough Walking, Tougher Fishing, Troublesome Mosquitoes But...

...all in all seems a small price to pay for the chance to gaze handsome trout such this one. The best of the best of high country cricks is often found in the meadow sections. Many of the best meadows are wet, full of holes, some deep and large enough to swallow a moose and worse, hidden like land mines amid the tall grass. Little wonder Gale carries a big stick, eh?

Some meadow streams are wall to wall trout, many on the small side due I suppose to overcrowding a mostly sterile environment. Others, such as this one, hold fewer but fatter trout on average. 

Not many, however, produce trout quite so handsome as the cutthroat pictured above. 

Yesterday we spent a couple hours stumbling about the mud and hole-pocked meadow, amid a nasty swarm of hungry mosquitoes. All told we spied probably only a dozen or so brookies and cutts, managed to not spook and actually cast to about half and landed only about half those. No where near the sort of fast fishing we've come to expect from most high country cricks but you won't hear us complaining. For sure, the skeeters were thick and troublesome, the hidden holes frightening but check that trout one more time...I rest my case.