RANTINGS AND RAVINGS OF AN OLD MAN TRULY RUINED BY SPORT

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fly Fishing: Better Days Ahead...

Thanks to outfitter Mike Marsh at least the shore lunches were something to write home about...
...cause for two days the fishing, at least for our crew, pretty much sucked. Thursday we fished the Big Hole from East Bank to Dewey (George Grant). Just two trout in the net took high honors...nuff said bout that one, eh? Kind of curious to me since there were bugs galore--salmon flies, golden stones, yellow sallies, pmds, a few caddis to boot. True the river was roaring but the visibility was more than adequate, three feet at least add in mostly cloudy skies and...well hell shoulda been fishin, just weren't is all. There were a lot of boats out and I did not see a fish landed other than the one we landed almost to the takeout...

Next day we pounded the Beav from Henneberry to Grasshopper...little better but not much. Way too many boats, releasing water at the dam had things murkied up a bit but still...

Yesterday was better, way better in my boat, at least Mark did, hooking a decent number and putting all but a couple in the net. Others did OK as well although we guides as is our way kept the actual body count to ourselves...

John on the other hand...

...well you know like a picture says a thousand words...over and out...Chuck
On a way more somber note the Connecticutt guy who flipped his raft last week in the raging Big Hole is still missing and presumed to have drowned, no doubt trapped in one of the many log jams on the lower river...A damn sad tale but one seems to repeat itself all too often. The Big Hole and most other Western Rivers are nasty hombres during runoff...especially no place for rookies or those unfamiliar with the river. Again nuff said...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fly Fishing: Salmon Fly Madness....

...Big Hole style.                                    (click photos to enlarge)
Nothing I know of so lights a fire under even the most casual of Big Hole River Rats as news of the long awaited arrival of the insectus gigantus stonefly better known as the Salmon Fly...
Sometime in June the big three-year old nymphs begin crawling ashore and up into the greenery where they shuck their nymphal skins and emerge....
...as adults. After drying their wings the big bugs fly off into the bushes and trees. Mating occurs a day or so later and when conditions are just right the fertile females buzz out over the water crash land on the river, lay their eggs and perish.
...meanwhile hopeful fly chuckers chuck all sorts of god-awful big creations hoping of course to land...
...a gawdawful big brown trout...otherwise known as giganticus browntrouticus...or if you prefer...A By God Goddamn PIG!!!
So there you have it, time is now, place is of course the Big Hole. Start your hunt down below Glen and work up river a few miles each day. Cast your favorite offering, preferably in tight to the bank, drag free or with just the slightest twitch. If at first you don't succeed try and try again...And when you do finally hit paydirt I can hear it all now, "Like shucks weren't nothin to it"...Right? Right...over and out...Chuck

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beaverhead National Forest: Whilst Poking About...

...the forest a couple days last week hoping perhaps we might find a spot to cast a fly or two and not risk being swept away didn't pan out we did the next best thing and went exploring...


...last spring Gale shot a sow with two tiny cubs in tow in almost the exact spot I shot this bear a couple days ago...grazing the lush green grass it (I think a sow) it eyed me suspiciously turned and walked to a nearby tree, climbed up and...
...walked out a limb, turned around and lay down...While I hopped about below trying to find a spot to continue shooting it closed eyes for a moment as if to snooze then apparently thought the better idea was instead to keep eyes peeled on this strange acting dude...same bear? Who knows....A nifty encounter just the same...
A short time later Gale spied this moose. At first we thought it a cow and probably with calf in-tow. Since I've had all the run-ins with Mama Moose this ol' boy can stand I grabbed the camera and vowing to watch my ass this time around crept over the hill real slow and cautious like...Low and behold I soon stumbled upon not Mama Moose mind you but a rather strange looking Bullwinkle...sort looks a first glance like somehow a 2X4 drove twixt the ears, eh?
Exploring up a roaring crick we hadn't tramped before revealed a ton of unidentified mushrooms of several different varieties and this one lone morel...too bad since this baby I know to be dee-lish-ous but of course one shroom...well you know.
Roaring cricks are one thing you don't have to look far this spring to find; just lend an ear most anywhere and chances are you'll hear the music loud and clear

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fly Fishing: R&D Day 2...Upper Big Hole

Al Lefor, Great Divide Outfitters, pondering what to do with all that water...or just enjoying the view...or contemplating just how high the river might rise should all that snow in the mountains suddenly turn to...well, you know what....(click on the photos to enlarge)
We put in at Squaw Creek Bridge and floated to East Bank under mostly cloudy skies with a cool northwest breeze...right out the gate sort of I had three hits on a streamer, one I'm pretty sure was a nice brookie...Anyway a few PMDs and BWOs started coming off, a sparse hatch but...low and behold we found a few fish...most, if not all, grayling...rising. I rigged up with what both Al and I agreed was a suitable imitation and several dozen casts into it landed a fat grayling. Obviously what seemed to us "suitable" didn't exactly suit the risers...oh well.

Both of us pretty much decided beforehand it would be streamers or dries or more to the point dry/dropper; in other words no damn "bobbers" come hell, high water, even at the risk of eating skunk...
And to be fair we both did stick to our guns...well sort of anyway....
I did notice Al starting to slip a bit toward the end and in the interest of honest photojournalism felt obligated to snap this, ah shall we say "telling" photo...
Was it worth it, I mean risking an old man's stellar reputation? You be the judge...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fly Fishing: Beaverhead R&D Trip

Al Lefor, Great Divide Outfitters and your reporter did a R&D trip on the upper Beaverhead River today...while I would like to report gangbuster fishing truth is was sort of slow...Clark Canyon Creek had things mudded up again, not terrible but not so hot either...hey you know all us pro's can come up with a fine line of BS at the drop of a hat so...Anyway we worked hard, had a good time, enjoyed the nice day probably did not learn a whole lot but what the hell, tis after all fishin' OK  perhaps more to the point wishin'...whatever. (click on photos to enlarge) 
Yes, I know both trout are sportin'  San Whammys...what can I say other than we did try a bunch of other stuff including dries after Al thought he saw/heard a riser...true story, hallucination, too much sun who knows, who cares...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wise River: The Rest of the Story...

As the sign suggests first came the fur trappers, then the miners and early settlers. Pioneers such as George Pettengill, the infamous "Wild Man" of Wise River. Colorful and mysterious Pettengill roamed the area for about 40 years. Said to be harmless, a hermit who shunned civilization for apparent personal reasons still he struck fear in the relative few he allowed to get close enough to get a look. No doubt many of his habits are more fiction than fact he reputedly ate his meat raw, loved the fruits of the forest, lived in a brush wikieup in summer, denned in a cave over winter and alleged to have staked a mine over the mountains near Twin Bridges. Once promised "all the raw meat and fruits you can eat" he was put on display in the window of a Butte drug store. But too shy to face the throngs of gawkers he soon fled back home to Wise River. Later, so the story goes, an enterprising visitor tried to lure him to Chicago to be put on display in "a cage eating raw meat" but supposedly he declined the offer. Tall, lean, barefoot, dressed in rags, long red dreadlocks down to his ass one thing hard to argue ol' George left a lasting impression--a local legend for sure. (click photos to enlarge)
Just downstream from here, Joe Maurice, another early pioneer, left a considerable mark on the local history.  Maurice was a Belgian immigrant who moved his wife and two young sons into the valley at the confluence of Gold Creek, about the same time Pettengill arrived. From the get-go things did not go well. A horse kicked out one eye; then his wife grew gravely ill and Joe rode 60 miles to fetch a doctor; she was dead before they got there. Not long after the two boys died of diptheria. Undaunted Maurice persevered, kept the ranch going into the 1960s until friends moved him to a rest home where he died in 1963 at age 97.
At the headwaters beginning around 1919 Montana's largest and final silver mine began operation, and the town of Coolidge grew up around it. An ambitious and expensive narrow gauge railroad, the last such built in the U.S. carried the ore 40-miles to Divide. Barely up to speed the national economy took a downturn and silver prices plummeted. In 1923, the mine operation was in receivership. W.R. Allen lost his personal fortune and control of the property. In 1927 a Montana Power Company dam (Pettengill Dam) failed and water washed out twelve miles and several bridges of the mine's railroad. Five years later the mine and the town were essentially history.

Obviously, there is much more to Wise River than its fly fishing. Best thing is should you find the fish in an uncooperative mood well hell, poke around a little, as I say, there really is no end of things to discover...

...such as this...common ol' dandelion...right? No not quite, for this I discovered just yesterday is none other than a "false dandelion." Imagine!
And...and if you are real lucky and observant as hell, you might even get to gaze on this beauty...the western tanager. Whose arrival in June all true blue fly chuckers know is the harbinger of the long awaited, much bally-hooed hatch of all hatches...the SALMON FLY...Hooray. Sorry, I sometimes just can't help it...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Enough Grim Flood Stuff, eh? Let's Kick Back and Enjoy Some Good Stuff...

For a Change...

Rain, snow, sleet, hail no matter, you can bet ringneck roosters will be struttin their stuff come spring...
Pussy willows are a sure sign spring has sprung, livening up any visit stream-side no matter how high the water...
Wyoming ground squirrels must jump for joy amid all that fresh greenery after enduring yet another upper Big Hole nasty winter...
Gumbo evening primrose seems to further disprove the theory "sagebrush ain't nothin' but empty, lifeless, worthless wasteland..."
Believe it or not but many antelope bucks start laying out and defending breeding territories as early as March... for the uninitiated breeding usually peaks around mid-September.
Because of all the snow by the time we made it into the mountains many shootingstars  were already wilted...obviously this one we shot just a couple days ago beside Fish Trap Creek is a late bloomer...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fly Fishing: Big Hole Flood Tour

Once an upper Big Hole hay meadow yesterday morphed into Jackson Lake...
A few miles down river between Jackson and Wisdom swollen river has left hundreds of barn swallows homeless and no doubt drowned hundreds of nestlings beneath the bridge....
The flow here (yesterday p.m.) is plus 9400 cfs; far river right is the only way to get under Browne's Bridge at this level...good luck trying to get back across to the takeout... This morning the flow at Glen topped 10,000 cfs and if you are fool enough to be out there better take a close look here before launching upstream...
On another related track I heard yesterday from several reliable sources that Clark Canyon Creek is once again trashing the river below High Bridge. In other words combined with the muddy water coming in at Grasshopper the Beav is once more effectively kaput except for the short stretch below the dam. Have fun...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fly Fishing: Big Hole Once Again on the Rise...


video
The Big Hole is once again on the rise, 6470 cfs this morning. With rain forecast for the next three days no doubt it will go much higher. How high is, as I've mentioned previously, more than I care to guess. Obviously judging this video of Wise River any drop in the near future seems unlikely, rain or no rain...

The crick we had intended to fish was also in full flood mode. I did swing a couple soft hackles through a beaver dam and hooked a very cold brookie which got off just as I was about to slip the hook from its jaw. Further harassment seemed foolish so we took a drive to a nearby crick, also in flood, where for reasons still escape me I rolled up my sleeve and...reached down into the maelstrom to check the bugs...bad idea. I'm here to tell you plunging hand into a bag of ice could not be any colder. I mean my hand and arm went instantly numb...I know at my age should be way beyond such foolishness but...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fly Fishing: Guide Wars Part 1

Cased caddis were difficult to find in the Beaverhead River below High Bridge...
...following the countless tons silt deposited in the river from Clark Canyon Creek three springs ago. But thanks to a the powers that control the outflow from Clark Canyon Dam for upping the winter discharge and to Mother Nature's remarkable healing powers cased caddis as well as the rest of the indigenous aquatic insects appear to well on the way, if not all the way, recovered. At least that is my take after rolling rocks Sunday in between tending to John and Cleery who were enjoying a fine day of fishing. No hatch to speak of nymphs turned the trick: Ray Charles, Micro May, Serendipity, BH PT and well, just about anything in size 16 and 18 did the trick. As usual the big ones mostly got away and there were of course those did not quite make it to the net but as the man once said, "the catching is but a small part of it"...Right.


Bob had the hot hand yesterday, putting a feisty rainbow in the net at the launch while I got the boat ready...
Cleery I think would agree struggled mightily early yesterday and on the Big Hole Saturday but...
...to his credit persevered and around lunch time caught his first trout...
Which buddy, Todd, masterfully netted. Shown here lending a helping hand to his hard working guide, Wes. And from then on there was no stopping him as he hooked up several more between here and the takeout.


Saturday we fished the Big Hole. Conditions pointed to a great day but as we all know conditions are not always what they appear. While we did catch a few the hook ups were indeed few and far between. There were caddis around but the trout seemed uninterested. So we stuck to nymphs: SJW, Prince, BH PT, Caddis emerger, Pat's Rubber Leg. We saw little wildlife but a  baby moose, apparently all alone for mama moose was nowhere to be seen, wandering the banks bawling pathetically was sort of heartwrenching...hopefully both were soon reunited...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fly Fishing: Tiny Troublemaker Strikes Again!!!!

When it comes to dumping mud Clark Canyon Creek is one tough hombre...
Two years ago you might recall CCC runoff is what essentially trashed the fishing below High Bridge; hopefully this time around the silt job is temporary...
Just below High Bridge the mud line disappears and the entire river turns brown, sort of like weak coffee with too much milk added...
This is right below the dam, benign flow of around 300 cfs, obviously clear and good to go...
Now what do you suppose these three dudes are up to? You mean to tell me true blue "sports" such as these three would actually stoop to...Shuffling! NO WAY! 
Seriously, at least to my way of thinking, scenes such as this have become,  way, way too common of late. The "shuffle" (or San Juan Shuffle if you prefer) is no different than chumming and unless I'm mistaken "chumming" has never been, at least in the trout fishing circles I know, accepted practice. But as they "times they are a changing" and...Well hell, how's a fella expected to keep abreast... Who knows?...Who cares?...Right?...over and out...