Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fly Fishing: Photo...Porn...

Big Spring Creek (Lewistown, MT) has been a favorite ever since the first time we fished it way back when. The photo is more recent, shot during our marathon two year odyssey desperate to at least wet a line in as many of the dozens of creeks, rivers and lakes we planned to include in Flyfisher's Guide to Montana. I can't remember what or how many we caught or did not catch that day but the highlight was all the wonderful stream improvement work ongoing. Successful changes such as these only serve to make great cricks even greater fishing-wise but fish and catch rates aside healing old wounds is just downright good for everything and every one...sort a like chicken soup for the soul...

The blue-winged olive hatch is among the best hatches at Big Spring Creek. Generally speaking the hatch comes off in March and April and then again in October and November. A couple sizes bigger in the spring, like #18-20s; the fall hatch is more like #22-24s. While I can't prove it bwos like pmds are trout candy and whenever the tiny bugs are around you can almost bet the farm trout are keying on them; at least some of the trout most of the time. Though it takes a keen and practiced eye sometimes to figure out just which stage the trout are relishing at any given moment...nymph, emerger, cripple, dun...and of course not all the trout are in tune to the same items and naturally trout being trout are apt to switch gears without notice. The good news is no matter how it all turns out all fun...Right? Right... 

Label this shot Gale captured high in the Beartooths: Yee intrepid reporter doin' his thing...in this case, as opposed to gittin' 'er done. Although it pains the ol' boy to confess, truth is the trout in this here pond done kicked my butt...Of the dozens slurping and swirling every direction, mad for some little itty bitty no-seeums I landed...oh maybe three or four...What's wrong with that you say? Well, nothing really just the trout were but a wee bit bigger than the nearly invisible hatch....OK maybe not that small but you get my drift, I'm sure...

 Not long after shooting this one at Cliff Lake in the Gravellys a whole herd of rainbows moved in almost on the beach, cruising around in plain sight, merrily picking off hatching callibaetis; an easy cast in any direction. Feeding with reckless abandon I think would about cover it.  Okay, we did not eat skunk but the licking those hungry trout put on us...But then as Gale said, Who cares about a slimy ol' trout when you're finnin' around immersed in all that wonderful blue water and a white sand beach besides...Hard to argue, eh?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday Steelhead...

Terry Throckmorton, Salmon River, ID, Steelhead 
Grab your rod, head over the hill to Salmon, ID, word on the street is the ice recently went out at Deadwater which of course means, steelhead are once again on the move and the fishing will heat up...for the next month or so steelheading will be about as good as it gets...which in past couple years has been pretty damn good...Most everyone I know seems to expect pretty much more the same this time around. So there you have it, ya miss it, don't say I didn't warn ya...over and out...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fly Fishing: Short Bamboo Rod...

...features not only a unique construction but is really short (4 feet, 2 inches stem to stern) by today's standards. While years ago I went through a short rod craze and built (fiberglass) a couple rods in the 4-5 feet range these days my "collection" includes not a single rod less than 8 feet. And if you've been following this rant for any length of time you know how much we enjoy fishing even the tiniest, brush-choked trickles.

From what I can find out from those who have tested these rods are capable of easily casting flies (I would assume lightweight flies) out to 60 feet or so. Not really surprising when you consider there are guys out there who can cast an entire fly line sans fly rod so...Anyway for more info paste the link below into your browser:

solitudeoutdoors.com/braided creek rod

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Random Shots

We rarely leave the house without a camera. Mostly we tote the camera to gather photos to support articles, this blog and, of course, our books. From time to time we sell a few stand-alone shots and we do shoot some for stock but as I say the vast majority are taken with some specific editorial use in mind. Naturally along the way stuff like the dried up henbane weed in the snow grabs us and every once in while we get lucky and end up with a pleasant surprise, which is afterall precisely why we try and tote a camera all the time, everywhere...like the man says, you just never know.

Scandia Luthern Church, built in 1916, in north eastern Montana, sits on a low hill, surrounded by empty prairie about 40 miles from the nearest town; standing on the porch on a clear day you can see forever and not one sign of human habitation. The part I remember is Kate pointing sharptails in the backyard though somehow the outcome escapes me.

We were cruising about the upper Big Hole one day not long after the first sandhills arrived which would make it around the middle of March. As I recall this shot was taken on the North Fork Road, which was snow free but really muddy. The spring thaw was in full bloom. Melting snow and icy-looking standing water everywhere; lots of ducks and other water loving birds; a herd of elk and, of course, cows and horses every direction.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday

Legend has it circa 1900, Idahoan Carter Harrison created the Trude fly; named it for his friend A. S. Trude. The original is said to have sported a red-brown body and wing, brown hackle and no tail. No peacock herl either which, of course, along with the down-wing (Trude style, if you will) are signatures of the many modern-day variations still evolving a century and change later.  

Sometime later it became de rigeur to include a tail; most often golden pheasant tippet fibers. But even that has more or less fallen by the wayside. These days I see more Trudes sporting woodchuck or moose body hair tails or even stiff hackle fibers.

The down-wing remains but even that has been much bastardized—calf-tail is probably the most common but I’ve seen and tied Trudes wearing bucktail, elk-hair and deer-hair wings and recently I saw some small one tied with the foot-hair of the snowshoe hare; very nice, by the way, and said to float better too, always a plus in my book.

Most popular in show goes to the Royal Trude, with the Lime Trude probably a close second. Not to be denied purple (imagine) made something a splash last season on the Big Hole, how long that rage will last is of course anyone’s guess. Also last season I had good luck during the Big Hole skwala hatch fishing a Peacock Trude; said to be a creation of Bitterroot guru, Chuck Stranahan; no surprise there being as the Bitterroot is generally considered to be ground zero for the mysterious skwala hatch which, by the way, is probably starting about now to awake from its long winter nap.

With exceptions for variations such as the peacock skwala fraud Trudes, like their upwing cousins the Wulff family, are tied as attractor patterns. As the years roll on I find myself fishing them more and more. A great option for pounding ‘em up in pocket water,  riffles, tight to the bank, even as lake flies. I’ve also had good luck at times fishing ‘em classic wet fly style…you know down and across. OK, not exactly wet because of the inherent bouancy more like damp and waking the surface…Bottom line Trudes flat out git ‘er done…one a those try it you might like it deals…I rest my case.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Golden Eagle....

There are some graphic (gory) photos currently causing a stir on the net showing a golden eagle eating and killing (yes in that order) an adult pronghorn doe. The eagle attaches itself to the back of its victim and begins eating...at what point death finally occurs is more than I know. But I have read reports of similar attacks where the talons eventually pierce the victims liver...how true again who knows.

On another track, being as Montana wolf hunters came up far short of the hoped for quota (220; 166 is the official body count) perhaps we should take a lesson from Mongolians and employ golden eagles to hunt and kill wolves?  As wolf killers goldens are said to be effective as in swift, sure and deadly. Seems to me a win-win situation...take the heat off wildlife managers for allowing mean, cruel, bloodthirsty human assassins to do the dirty work and puts it squarely on Ma Nature...you know survival of the fittest...hell, think about it, even PETA would be hard pressed to bitch...Right.

Anyway you bend it, goldens sure make our fishing, carrion-eating national bird look-like a bit of a wuss, eh?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fly Fishing: Poindexter, Opening Day...At Last.

For a lot of reasons I'd just as soon forget January got away from me and for the first time in long time failed to catch a trout to kick start the year--hell, I did not even go, not even once. Though I did think about going just about every day since flipping the calendar to a new year not until a couple days ago did I finally say the hell with it and...

...now I'm standing in the parking lot at Poindexter Slough, hopping about beside the truck, one foot in waders when the kid arrives, little yappy dog in tow, Zebco in hand, nods...

For reasons still escape me, I mumble something I've learned the hard way is generally a bad idea...How's the fishin'?

Forty-five. But you gotta get it down, bring it back real slow, right on the bottom. Ain't about to come up for it..no way.

Sounds like you had yourself some kind a fun, eh?

Apparently just the opening he'd been waiting, moves in close and cuts right to the chase. Mister, I only been fishin' here for about 20 years, I oughta know how ta ketch 'em by now.

Spying the partially rigged fly rod leaning against the truck mirror adds, Don't wanna bust your chops mister but ain't seen one raise all day.


I remember thinking, kid you really can't be much more than 20...must a got an early start...eh?

If I was you, mister, I'd put on a big, whatyacallit, ah-h, streamer, lots a weight and try and get 'er down, right on the bottom. Ain't about to come up even an inch, no way, and bring it in real slow...slower the better.

Sounds like a plan. Thanks for the hot tip.

That's when he spied Gale strapping on her Nikon.

Ma'am, you wanna awesome picture, follow me.

Tossing the Zebco in the back of his pickup he all but grabbed her by the arm and hustled her toward the frozen cattail pond in front the truck.

C'mon out here, ma'am, ain't that the most awesome beaver dam ya ever saw, make a really good picture, but ya gotta get out here past the bushes, he said, sliding his way on out toward the middle.

I took that as my opening to get the hell outta Dodge. I'll be up in the meadow, get on out there and...

If looks could kill...

Under the bridge I stop to finish rigging, naturally keeping one eye peeled...you know should the kid decide further tutoring is in order...And naturally I tied on a bugger instead of a the midge I'd planned on...After all, the kid did mention 45 trout; 20-years a practice; and besides, not a raise all day...Right.

PS Gale eventually did catch up. And I did think to ask about the awesome picture. And she did--I think--OK I'm almost certain...she muttered a nasty word...and maybe that's all I need say about that, eh?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday: Cut Glass Fish Art...

Fellow Dillonite and friend Eric Larson is crafting some of the most beautiful cut glass trout art out there. No two trout are exactly alike although (at least those I've seen) are similar to the size of this brown trout--about 21 inches-- framed in a rustic, barn wood frame suitable for hanging--like the trout no two frames are exactly alike although all are crafted of rustic, barn wood. Eric will make just about any trout and, for what it's worth, he recently completed a steelhead that will literally knock your socks off...If you are interested in obtaining one of these treasures click on the link above for further information, pricing and so forth...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Sheep Hunting, High Roller Style...

$300,000 for a big game tag?

 Yep, true story. And NO, not a typo. Fact is not even a record. While no secret if you want a record book sheep—a good shot at a new world record, Montana is the place. According to biologists there are several potential candidates running around out there right now but 300 grand for a tag? Sorry pal, but to my way of thinking there is something way wrong when fat cats are allowed to buy record book heads; while only way the rest of get the chance...well, the odds of drawing rank right up there with hitting the ol' lottery.

According to an Associated Press article: 
A New York man has paid $300,000 for a license to hunt bighorn sheep in Montana this fall.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that the special auction license was bought last month by James Hens of East Bern, N.Y., at the Wild Sheep Foundation convention in Reno, Nev.

With the license, Hens will be able to take a bighorn in any Montana sheep hunting district this fall.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission authorizes several groups to auction big-game tags. 

The groups get 10 percent of the money and the rest goes to FWP for research and habitat improvement for the species. (OK, there is some good comes of this for the folks but still don't make it right...in my humble opinion anyways.)

The most ever paid for a bighorn sheep tag was $310,000 in 1994.

I’ve met some members of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and to call them wealthy would be a gross understatement. Sorry…I know... You already figured that out for yourselves…Right! Anyway this is giving me a headache so…

Monday, February 6, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Remembering Kate the Wirehair

Yesterday our afternoon walk-about took in a place apparently ranked high among Kate's long list of favorites...Pure conjecture on our part based solely on how she would suddenly sit up and start talking as soon as the truck hit the gravel. She behaved similarly in all seasons but especially animated and talkative during the fall hunting season when she "knew" sage hens lived here and better yet were fair game. But I believe she relished our winter jaunts as well because then she "knew" the prospect of running into pronghorns (along with certain cows pronghorns got her talking also) and sage hens was almost a given.

This was her last point, a Hun at Wall Creek WMA on the Madison River last Labor Day weekend. Diabetic and blind Gale led her close on lead then turned her loose...obviously her nose still works as it did until the end...sleeping in the living room one day last week Gale came in carrying a bag of dog biscuits...Bam! she's awake on the bag like stink on you know what...Of all the dogs I'd say far and away she sported the best nose; bee-lining several hundred yards to nail a single bird; kicking brush so far ahead her point she just had to be lying...But NO...and on and on. Perhaps the best was the time I caught her belly deep in a little crick slowly sniffing her way upstream oblivious to my rant to "get the hell outta the crick and get on with it, for Christ's sake! we're huntin' birds not muskrats!" That's when I spied the duck's bill sticking up beside a drowned cattail. Undaunted she continued the investigation, plunged head under and came up with one very surprised hen mallard...Imagine. Ya little bitch...

Over the years, in season and out, she pointed many sage hens in a variety of locations. And while not much of a counter and a worse record keeper I'd put up the farm she pointed more here than all the rest combined. Just beyond the ridge the pronghorns are standing she pointed her first (age 7 mos) and one of her last (age 11 yrs); two memorable moments high on our thick list of Katie Highlights.

I can't prove it but by age 4 she had pointed literally hundreds birds--sage hens; Gambel's, scaled and Mearn's quail; ruffed, blue and spruce grouse, chukar and Hungarian partridge, California quail and pheasants across several states--Idaho, Montana, Arizona, North Dakota--and Alberta.

Of all the many bird dogs I've blown a whistle over none switched gears like Kate...ducks in the a.m., pheasants or you name it in the p.m. never missing a beat. Uncanny in her ability to figure out what we were looking for and then finding it.

Uncanny also how she seemed to know almost as soon as she left the truck whether or not birds were about; I know hard to believe but she was so seldom wrong that when she started bringing back bones (a faux pas  she began as a pup apparently to amuse herself in lieu of birds and one I never could fix); like boss this is clearly a waste of time...Well, like the old saying goes, trust the dog...time a pack it in and look elsewhere....On to the next spot...you guessed it... Kate hops out, puts nose to wind and...as I say...uncanny.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fly Fishing: Paring Down the Load and a Sad Day Indeed...

Hang the landyard, stuff the fly box, tippet spools in shirt pockets, tug on the waders, grab the fly rod and go for it...Quick and easy, just what the doctor ordered to sooth a simple-minded soul.

I know, I know here we go again yet another Fly Friday posted on a Saturday mornin'...sorry but yesterday for us was Black Friday...the blackest friggin' Friday maybe ever...I'll fill in the details later...but for now all I can say is Katie girl our bird huntin' ain't never gonna be the same....