Sunday, July 31, 2011

Beaverhead National Forest: Poking Around

Heavy duty guide schedule of the past couple weeks so tired the ol' boy all desire to rant was put on temporary hold...lucky you, eh? But of course we did muster up enough gumption to take advantage of a couple days off, do a little poking about in Canyon Creek--a place we haven't visited in several years. Carved by the lively, gin clear crick, towering limestone (and other rock we have yet to ID) cliffs, soaring golden eagles and the very real opportunity to glimpse all sorts of wildlife, including the resident goat herd (alas no goats this time) the awesome canyon itself is reason enough to go but...

Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns
...the presence of these 23 (several restored) charcoal kilns makes it unique--one of a kind so far as I know.  The kilns turned wood into charcoal to fire the smelter at Glendale five miles east of here. Between 1894 and 1900 the smelter produced more than $20,000,000 from silver and lead ore mined in the surrounding Hecla Mining District—among the most productive in the state.

 A few miles further upstream the public road ends at this gate offering up a pretty nifty view of the still (mid-July) snow-splashed peaks of the East Pioneer Range. The ranch, by the way, is part of the Merewether Ranch which is currently in foreclosure so I assume CCGR is also? At any rate this day the place was abandoned. The nearby USFS campground is also closed at the moment to remove mountain pine beatle killed trees.
Gale could not resist (who could blame her?) tempting the crick's colorful brookies to sample her favorite Orange Stimi--obviously a ploy worked to perfection.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fly Fishing: Record Runoff Over At Last

Bert Gildart Photo (click to enlarge)

At least it would seem that way as the Big Hole has dropped about 2000 cfs in the past 5 days and barring unforeseen downpours should continue to do so, although maybe not quite so dramatically. Still the flow is roughly 3 times the historic average for this late in July. While for me the lower flows are indeed welcome, i.e. the big water is just too damn hard on this ol' boy, I can't say it has done much for the fishing as recently more days than not have been on the slow side, afternoons especially. That said, I would say overall there have been more big fish in the net so far this season than any I can recall, especially common on the upper river have been browns over 18 inches and fat brookies in the 14-15 inch range. Curiously with all that water it would seem the "moskeeters" would be really thick but except for brief periods that has not been the case. Not so, however, the deer flies...yesterday my boat was litterally covered (like zillons enough to nearly obliterate the green paint)...somewhat mystifying Doug's gray boat hardly had a bug...deer flies find green attractive? Who knows...Anyway most experts predict above average flows should continue maybe even into the fall...that so expect the fishing to ramp back up as well.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fly Fishing: The Lunatic Fringe

You are no doubt wondering  just what the hell a hen pheasant has to do with the following rant...

...and the answer is absolutely nothing...just a tired old fly fishing guide trying to rid his mind of the lunacy (childishness would be another way of putting it) of the past several days. In the guide/sport world strained relationships are of course not uncommon, hardly earth shattering news actually part of the price of doing business. And yes I do know the illwill flies both ways, tis what makes the world round.

But this time around it was them got under my normally thick hide. Them as in four 30-something school teachers, supposed adults holding down responsible jobs, acting it seemed to me way more child-like than most kids do half their age. It got to the point yesterday after three long days of constant "YAHOOS!" "How many did you catch?" "I got 6 and you only GOT one!" "Hey dude look at this ONE (even a whitefish in the net brought ear-shattering YAHOOS, raised the yell-level several notches). Such foolishness I found myself yesterday afternoon seriously contemplating putting the two current yahoos in my boat out on the bank and rowing merrily down the river...like peace and quiet AT last... OK, as I say maybe tis just me but you really had to be there to fully grasp the lunacy...Really...Sorry just had to get this one off my chest...

Despite all I did manage to tune out at times, add to the season highlight reel...two bullwinkles, several eagles, a nice whitetail buck, one the heaviest sally hatches of the season, a curious badger, a big elk herd, fields of colorful wildflowers, a guide way older than your reporter...Imagine! Singing bullock's orioles...Hell now that I think about it maybe twasn't all that bad after all...over and out...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fly Fishing: Rookies Get the Slam...

...well sort of. Yesterday, thanks to a rather complex plan I had the pleasure of guiding 3 Norwegian rookies...none of which had ever held a fly rod before...to a Big Hole Slam...sort of...Catching brook, brown, rainbow trout, grayling, whitefish and the "sort of" part, at cuttbow which I would have liked to call a pure strain cutt but in all honesty could not...though I doubt the Norwegians could have cared less, did not really understand the long odds of 3 rookies accomplishing even a "sort of Big Hole Slam" on their first ever venture into fly fishing and all on dries no less...OK not really a big deal but damn nifty in my book...
Arctic grayling, this one taken on a soft hackle another day by the way...
I am pretty sure all three enjoyed the experience, were elated at their success, remain somewhat mystified at some of the many nuances involved in becoming a complete fly fisher, not the least of which coping with a strong afternoon breeze which we all know makes anything like an accurate cast, proper drift, etc. damn near impossible...but to their credit the trio hung in there did the best they could and even hooked a few more wind be damned...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fly Fishing: Big Hole River

How's the fishin'? As good or bad as the fishermen, replied the harried outfitter. And that sort of sums up my take this past week guiding the Big Hole...Day after day Big George Peck for instance really nailed 'em while his partners...to remain unnamed of course...basically struggled. Why? Because Big George is a really good fly caster, puts the fly where it belongs, cast after cast, keeps his flies in the water not in the air or worse in the bushes, rarely experiences a tangle and as another outfitter likes to say..."gits 'er done."

Daily the river continues to drop if ever so slowly. As does the view out my office window, the awesome peaks of the Pintlar Range slowly morphing from winter-white to late spring snow-streaked rock, and yes the change is late as summer is now well along and...well you what is really just around the corner.

 Wildlife sightings are always a highlight and one the Big Hole serves up better than most. Last week for examples we spied an elk calf lying so close to the water even the slightest wave action splashed its side. Several times we gawked elk and mule deer grazing above the river but a couple moose/calf pairs drew the most oohs and ahhs. One day we spooked a hen merganser and about 15 ducklings from the grass; three days later in the exact same spot, a hen merganser escorting a brood of 9...same outfit? Who knows? But if it is Mama Merganser might better double up the guard duty or in no time end up an empty nester...An idea I  imagine has the local trout grinning fin to fin... Two immature bald eagles, a big female golden eagle and a fish-mongering osprey also provided daily entertainment...between bites that is...

Fly fishing the Big Hole...can't beat it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fly Fishing: Big Hole continues to slowly drop and..

...And this is the good part...Get a little better fishing each day...For the past 4 days I have been rowing the boat for Al at Great Divide Outfitters (bigholetrout. com). Each day someone in the group has landed on dry fly a significant brown trout (read 20+ inches) and most of the group has managed to land a fair number of trout, mostly on dry flies...the only way so far as Al and me are concerned.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fly Fishing: Big Big Hole Brookie...

...ranks as my biggest brookie ever from moving water in the U.S.. I have caught a few larger in lakes and in Canada. Since I have only been fishing brook trout for about 60 years would seem to reflect either a lack of talent, bad luck or...and this is of course my hope, just not all that many such brook trout swimming the countless creeks and rivers I have had the good fortune to explore all these many years. A quest that has taken me from Maine to Georgia...to Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and perhaps another spot or two long forgotten.

The brookie, in case you are interested, ate my friend, Art Biven's Conehead Pumpkin Bugger creation in, what shall remain an undisclosed location in the Big Hole...OK somewhere between Notch Bottom and Jackson...And yes that is all you need to know...over and out...Chuck