Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Trophy Whitetails and Other Drivel....

 concerns life as we know it in the Great Outdoors....

Calling it "a story for all conservationists to celebrate," the Boone and Crockett Club reports its historic data indicates that trophy whitetail entries have increased 400 percent during the past 30 years of record keeping. From 1980-1985, hunters entered 617 trophy whitetails into B&C, compared to 3,090 from 2005-2010. For the latter scoring period, Wisconsin led all states with 383 entries. Follow the link below for the rest of the story:


No doubt I lead a sheltered life but "ice fishing rage?" Wow! I, for one, would have never thunk it.... The rest off the story is here:


Monday, January 30, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Dry and Warm Winter

...so far; makes for easy sleddin' and a few surprises along the way.

Apparently this beaver is enjoying the string of 40 degree plus afternoons as much as we are; you know sort a like munching lunch on the deck and catchin a few rays in the bargain...Now if wind the gods would just take a break...

Wonder if this young mule deer buck realizes by now he'd more than likely be belly deep in snow...belly deep in grass, end a January...c'mon.

OK, no secret bald eagles go to housekeeping early but January...no way...like Gale says, probably not settin' just restin'...I'll buy that...

Might be near 50 above in the p.m but as you can see in the a.m. at least up Browne's Bridge on the Big Hole still a might chilly...

Ice and a bit a snow in the shady spots along Moose Creek in the Humbug Spires but out where the sun shines...I rest my case.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday: Essential Flies

George Grant style woven-hair flies tied by Tom Harman....
Tom, as many of you know, lorded over Harman's Fly Shop, in Sheridan (MT) for many years...reputed at the time to house "the largest fly selection in Montana." Enough fly choices to cover any situation and probably enough left over to cover situations not yet invented.

The first time I laid eyes on all those flies got me to recollecting how in the past I had hit the crick, so to speak, armed with so many flies more than once I could not find the fly I wanted, yet knew damn well was in there somewhere? In there, as in one the many boxes, in one the many pockets of an overstuffed vest, such zippers and velcro closures no longer closed and weighed enough after a long day astream my neck and shoulders felt much like I'd imagine toting cinder blocks on a rope might.

Then one cold winter night in a moment of forehead slapping enlightenment as I performed the yearly clean-out and reorganization chore it hit me...like Duh...the vast majority, stupid, has never been wet, has never seen the light of day since dropping off the vice who knows how many moons ago...For me a monumental breakthrough and a life changing one at that...OK not really but I did start to pare things down big time and in the process made my fly fishing life way less stressful mentally and physically way less painful.

For many seasons now when fishing familiar waters I carry two boxes max: one for dries; one for nymphs and for those rare occasions I feel really desperate toss in a handful buggers...that's it. Of late, more days than not, I forgo all but the dry box...a personal choice you no doubt disagree but hey, tis what makes the big round ball round, eh?

The dry box contains (two dozen or so total in sizes 10-20) parachute Adams (Purple Haze), Iris and X-caddis, Royal and Ausable Wulffs, Stimis and Flash Cripples. Later I might toss in a couple ants, beetles and hoppers or during, say, Salmon Fly time a couple big Sofa Pillows; in BWO and/or Midge time I'd probably toss out most of the big stuff and add a few no-seeums to the brew.

Based on what I consider sound advise, e.g. Tom Rosenbauer (Orvis) advises, "you need at least 4 times as many nymphs as dries" thus my box contains many more nymphs than dries but the number of patterns remains, to my way of thinking, totally manageable.

In the full range of sizes 4-22 (like dries I do not carry every pattern in every size or even any pattern in every size) my selection is made up of skinny mayfly and midge type nymphs--PT, Micro May, Split Back, Zebra, RS-2 and such. Caddis larvae, pupae, emergers-- LaFontaine patterns, Rock Worm, etc. And other stuff Copper John, Rubberlegs, San Juan Worm, Hare's Ear, Prince (Variations). Most nymphs don't  take up all that much room so I can get a little carried way and still keep it all in one handy-dandy size box.

Both boxes, along with floatant, a couple spools tippet, nippers and split shot fit nicely in the four pockets of  a fishing shirt, snap the forceps to a pocket flap, grab the rod and good to go...as I say all you need for your basic neighborhood sojourn. Simple deal made to order for a simple-minded soul.

On the road? Well, that's another tale best told at a later date...

Admittedly Fanatic Minimalists are by now cringing (gagging) at my idea of paring down but then they did not see the vest or bear the pain either...I rest my case.

PS...Yes I know if don't soon get back on the straight and narrow no doubt the Fly Friday Po-lice will be a knockin...sorry.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday

Recalling good times, past times, is like chicken soup for the soul...
On another track, in case you haven't noticed cyber space fly fishing rags these days continue to just get better and better...OK some of the writing is, dare I say it? a bit too gonzo modern hip for this ol' geezer's taste but hard to argue the stunning photography is...well, stunning...what can I say? In case you wondered here are a couple links you might want to check out...in your humble correspondents opinion...that is....

Catch Magazine....http://www.catchmagazine.net
Ten and Two Magagzine....http://www.tenandtwomagazine.com
Southern Culture On the Fly....http://www.southerncultureonthefly.com

While not an online magazine, Craig Mathews, Blue Ribbon Flies, site offers a growing list short videos and articles--fly tying how-to, fishing, etc.--and John Juracek photos are top shelf.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fly Fishing: Air Travel 2

Before moving to Montana permanently over the course of several years we enjoyed (really) some of the best airline flights imaginable...Planes nearly empty, on time, no unexplained delays on the tarmac, no unexplained returns to the gate after cruising about the airport for an hour or so, no unexplained aborted landings, no setting down in strange cities for no apparent reason...None of it, just hop on commuter to Detroit, take a leisurely stroll to the appointed gate, show boarding pass, take off and land in Minneapolis, always on time, once or twice way early...Imagine! then on to Billings and...well hard to believe I know but that's how it was...piece a cake personified...

Then one night in Detroit on the way home our 6 p.m. flight was cancelled...who knows? rescheduled for 11 p.m. no really big deal but...for the first time ever instead of an almost empty commuter this one was packed...overbooked actually as several of us were offered deals to abort...we declined and that was that except...every time since the cancellation became SOP...you did not need to have an aerospace degree to figure what the deal was....

About the same time we landed in Minneapolis late...missed our connection and rerouted to Denver...with no apparent plan to continue on to Montana...after an interminable silence on the airline's part finally...a plan but...would be "few hours." At last three of us, yes that's it, 3 of us...Gale, me and a neighbor who we had no idea until we arrived at the appointed gate...small world, eh? were herded into a really small plane and off we went bound for Bozeman at last.  Actually this turned out one of the niftiest flights ever as the plane flew at low altitude such you could ID stuff on the ground no problem. Neater still, for me, we flew right over a guy's house in the foothills outside Cody...the guy and the house I had not seen in oh, say, 20 years...and then we flew right on top the Beartooth Wilderness, low enough you could have probably inventoried the lakes on the way past had they not still been locked in ice...early spring fishing trip.

The last time I flew commercial (Gale has several times since, poor dear) we suffered packed planes, run arounds and delays at every turn, a record setting wait in a long line beside the runway...but no take-off, instead we return to gate and start all over...But wait, the crowning is yet to come. Depart Billings for  Missoula or Butte I forget which...No, despite a clear as hell night, one seemingly perfect for air travel we land instead in Seattle! Whereupon we deplane, sit for half the night before eventually making the return flight in the wee hours...If any explanation I for one did not get it...So there you have it...The life and times of a used to be fan of the airways...over and out...Chuck 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday (Air Travel)

I'm no world travel by any stretch but have spent enough time in the air traveling to various fishing spots in the U.S. and Canada to have experienced a few thrills along the way and where commercial airlines are concerned...well, forget it, I done made my last trip.

The first time 4 of us hired a float plane to the headwaters of the Lady Evelyn River in Ontario. The flight in with square end canoes lashed to the struts proved exciting and uneventful unless you count the two big black bears and several moose the accommodating pilot took time to buzz so we could get a better look; exceeded only by the wonderful view of the wildest, emptiest country any of us had experienced.

Pointing to the map, a wide spot in the river,  the pilot said, "good luck and I'll see ya downriver in 10 days or so." The appointed 10th day and many fat brook trout later we dodged our way down a a long rapid, looked around, studied the map again and then again, looked at each other, shrugged, this indeed was the spot, but...As Alvie, a decorated WWII fighter pilot put it, "No friggin' way! Might get in but he sure as hell ain't haulin' our asses out!

Doubt spread quickly to panic somehow this could not be the spot after all, but just then the unmistakeable drone of a plane. Buzzing the landing spot twice the plane neatly just at the bottom of the whitewater and soon taxied to shore...Hopping out on a pontoon the pilot said, "See yas made it in one piece, how's the fishin'? Gonna be mite tight but I seen tighter, best make two trips, let's get one boat tied up and we'll give er' a go, eh?" There may have been more to the speech but those are the high points, at least all I remember...can't say what the others heard or said.

Heart a pounding and mouth way beyond too dry for spit, I took a death grip whatever was handy and watched out the window in horror as the pilot gunned the plane first up into the rapids, then spun us around and...Well, with trees hoving into view way too fast for my taste, thinking, no knowing for certain, we were goners but...suddenly I felt the plane lift, the nose came up sharply, all sky ahead, then we banked crazily to the left and while can't swear we came out upside down it sure seemed like it...And that was that...No harm, no foul as they say...And I didn't even wet myself, imagine!

Not long after take-off in a similar float plane on our way to a lake in Quebec, suddenly the pilot turned to me and said something in French Canadian I did not understand a word of but did not like the sound of one bit either...That was when the engine oil splattered the windshield and I about lost my you know what...maybe I did but too scared to realize.

For the uninitiated sitting up front (I always got the co-pilot seat cause I was bigger), in level flight you can't see anything but sky no idea what's ahead and below; out the side windows as far the eye could see nothing but beaver bogs, countless really small lakes, a big river mostly whitewater and countless smaller streams no way a plane could land any. Oh s...t! That was when pilot switched shut the engine off...double OH S...T!

Meantime he's on the radio yakking way too loud and rapidly I'm thinkin but...With the engine shut down the nose of the plane drops and...praise Jesus, praise the Lord, praise the airplane gods, praise any and every soul on the planet, behold a big lake, no make that a BEHOLD ONE BIG, BEAUTIFUL LAKE and to make a harrowing tale short, the pilot, praise him too, by starting and stopping the engine managed in due time and without further incident to set us down and oh so softly at that...trust me, without doubt the wonderfulest feeling ever.

Airline travel started off as more idyllic sojourns than anything harrowing or upsetting but course over time all that changed and not as we all know for the good of the flightee...stay tuned for a few highlights will be coming soon...over and out...Chuck

Monday, January 9, 2012

Montana Outdoors: EHD Hammers...

...whitetails along a 100 mile stretch of the Milk River between Malta and east of Glasgow...Biologists estimate  about 90 % mortality and predict the recovery will take years. This comes on the heels of the heavy losses of mule and whitetail deer and pronghorn following last year's devastating winter and record spring floods.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, EHD, is transmitted by biting midges. Results in internal bleeding that can kill infected animals within just a few days.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday

Anyone whose has spent much time on the sticks knows all about the old adage, You gots your good days and the not so hot...Who knows how the rest of you feel but in my case memories of the "good" fade fast while the "not so hot" moments remain vivid, the stuff of nightmares even years later...In no particular order here are a few of my best blunders and one, dare I say it, for the highlight film...

A chilly morning in early October at the bequest of my pal, Al Lefor, I hauled two guest to Divide Bridge, empty for once because of the late date I remember saying, "Boy, you guys really no how to pick 'em, looks like we got the whole damn river to our ownselves." If they only knew...A few minutes later I backed down the ramp dropped the boat and...The friggin' truck would not start, indeed would not even turn over...Panicked--because I knew Al would leaving shortly for Butte on business and Roger was done for the season meant no one would be there to answer the phone, no one to come to the rescue and tow the truck off the ramp--I trotted to highway, the only possible place to get cell service and...no dice. So told the guests to go ahead and fish, meanwhile I would hitch a ride to the shop and catch Al before he left. (fat chance I thought but kept it to myself). As luck would have it a cement truck soon came by, stopped and wonder of wonders did catch Al in time. No problem, pull the truck across the parking lot, get it started, move it to the shop, hook trailer to Al's jeep...and go from there. Naturally this did not work so...To make a long story short we never did get the truck started or out the parking lot either, the engine seemed to somehow seized...And after making arrangements with a Dillon towing service we finally launched not at 8:30 as planned but shortly after 1 p.m. The guests of course were somewhat miffed but to their credit pouted way less than maybe I would have...

Last season, I met two guys at Al shop, picked out a bunch of flies, made arrangements for the shuttle and headed upriver to Squaw Creek (highest launch on the river, half hour or so from the shop). Not until I reached Squaw did I realize I'd placed the fly box and outfitter tags on rear bumper and...Hang in their boys I'll be back afore ya know it...Sure I'd find them beside the highway I drove slow the last 10 miles or so...No but surely will be waiting in the shop the act of a good samaritan...No, some bastard heisted 'em only probably a hundred bucks or so worth a flies...Damn and double damn....An hour and a half or so later we finally launched and to say the guests were not happy campers would be an understatement...fact is hardly spoke a word until well after lunch...some guys you know just ain't got much sense a humor. Anyway this one turned out OK seems Al's neighbor found the box and tags, but had to run an errand first before turning them in at the shop...Tip was kinda light I thought even considering but...who knows maybe...well as I say who knows....

Twice or was it three times? in one season I forgot to put the truck key in the secret spot and could not get hold of George Goody on the cell phone to make other shuttle arrangements...nothing like after a long hot day on the river getting to take out and no truck, eh?

Another time I drove guests all the way from Dillon to Wise River, only about 50 miles, mind you, and, Yikes fellas, you will not believe this but I plumb forgot the outfitter tags...Probably best we leave the ensuing conversation to your imagination...Right.

I'm not naive enough to even think many guests over the years have not cussed me in private or under their breath but only one ever threw down his rod in disgust and yelled (quite loudly I might add), "You sonofabitch, if you put on the right fly I'd catch those fish!" Right. The guest in question had been flailing away at a string of trout sipping spent trico spinners for the better part of an hour and not one, not one cast mind, had come even close to the sort of proper drag free, on the money, cast needed to git er done. I, meanwhile, had done my diplomatic best to cajole the bastard to give it up as a bad job and move on but no...he insisted my several fly choices were to blame and thus the blow up...Pissed, instinctively (I guess) I grabbed the rod, false cast for distance and...considering state of mind and all, laid out what had to be the luckiest cast ever, the fly dropped perfectly, a foot or so above the target, surrounded by naturals floated down and disappeared...A few moments later I scooped up one very fat brown...nifty as hell doesn't begin to describe the feeling but the best thing was the silence suddenly engulfed the river...you...could...have...heard... the...goddamn...  proverbial...pin...loud...and...clear...Really.  By the way, should you have doubts as to this reporter's veracity, just ask Al...over and out...PS the brookie has nothing whatsoever to do with this rant, more a feel good thing...