Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday...

Yesterday the wind howled; nothing new just another too windy day of no fishing (at least not the sort interests this ol' boy) so...What to do? In a landslide "pokin' about the nearby hills" wins. For us always a good choice no matter what the weather gods happen to be serving up at the moment. And poking about a mountain crick...Well hell, how good is that?

Pile a rotting shingles, a few well-weathered boards, back wall (no doubt to keep the mountain at bay) and this nifty stone fireplace are all that remain of what in all likelihood was a mine shack. Weren't for the howling wind who knows what secrets we might a overheard, eh? Note the Dorritos bag in the fire box, doubtless the remains of a more recent pack a hongry hombres...Elkacholics?

Spittin' rain down here but a might wintery lookin' up top...All in all a fine day for wishin' we was fishin' though doubtless the better idea was just pokin' about...Too bad ya missed it...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fly Fishing: Redington Sonic Pro Waders...

...passed the intial river test with flying colors...sort of....On the plus side the waders appear as advertised sturdy, good fit--e.g. roomy but not too, feet fit, not too tight, not too loose, five layer construction in all the right places, built-in gravel guards an extension of the wader itself, not the sort of flimsy add-on some other high end waders I could mention sport but won't and assuming the no-stitch deal really does work so much the better. Last but not least they come at great price...again Sonic Pros retail for about the same as the un-named brands previously hinted wholesale...How good is that, eh?

The flip side, for me at least so far, starts and ends with the zipper model I did not really want in the first beginning but had no choice (a rant probably more the workings of an old man's addled mind than anything useful so no doubt not worth repeating). In other words I would like the waders a whole lot more without but as I say...

The day and the river being way too chilly for this ol' boy to sink hisself sufficient to submerge said zipper can't say one way the other as to leakage problem or lack thereof...Though based on the many reviews I've read seems not an issue so...Having said that I am old school enough not to trust such modern  innovations...more like an accident waiting to happen which of course would not be sans zipper...Oh well, as I say they passed the initial test, time as they say will tell the rest of the tale..over and out.

PS The nifty (my idea) little (#8 2X long) feather streamer aside the logo is a fly I have a thing about tying (who knows) and have for many years. Admittedly a touch less than perfect still it has over the years duped many victims but...alas, on this day, one the Big Hole trouts ignored completely...go figure...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fly Fishing: Brief, violent storm...

...hit soon after Annie and I waded into position. Howling wind, rain and fingernail-sized hail pounded down such poor Annie put tail between legs, lowered nose to the river and sulked...I of course held onto my hat and leaned into the wind, desperate to remain upright and, perish the thought, not find self floating down river.  Then, almost quicker than the storm hit, one last really hard blast and it was over but...

...apparently so was the fishing. The midge hatch vanished, like no bugs, nada...And while I cycled through throwing buggers, drifting soft hackles and nymphs...except for a handful half-hearted tugs...

...landed just one rather skinny, though as advertised, pretty brown. As you can see the hot fly of the day, and I use the term loosely, was that old standby #18 BH PT...No surprise there, eh?

To say the river went dead perhaps could stand a bit of clarification...In the two hours plus while we fished Gale tramped around taking pictures, looking for birds and other critters: Sum total, a single Clark's nutcracker and two black-billed magpies, like this is end of March, migration is in full swing...two hours, three birds, Big Hole river, early spring...I rest my case.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fly Fishing: Are You A Trout Bum? A short quiz...

Whether or not Gierach first labeled us trout nuts "trout bums" is more than I know. But am pretty sure I were one long before the book hit the streets; whether or not the shoe still fits is at this late stage debatable. Anyway here's a little quiz to...ah-h test your mental stability, perhaps help you determine your chances of remaining socially acceptable...as if we really give a rat's, eh?

  1. Do you fish at least 200 days per? 
  2. Do you spend more on gear than food?
  3. Have you divorced more than one wife, citing lack of irreconsilable priorities?
  4. Is your fly rod collection worth more than your truck?
  5. Do friends constantly ask, How can you afford all that spiffy gear when you hardly ever work?
  6. Do you obsess over flies might not be the exact color naturals; your flies sport only two tails instead of 3, blah, blah, blah?
  7. Have you ever borrowed from or robbed a bank and/or sponged money off a relative or close friend to buy whatever or...perish the thought...a plane ticket to Alaska or some other spiffy destination?
  8. Have you ever slept on the ground or in the backseat rather than waste time pitching a tent...you know one more cast. 
  9. Forget skipping meals, you never miss happy/cocktail hour or that wake up cup a Joe...Right? 
  10. Have you ever missed Christmas morning round the ol' tree with wife and kids and...no you would never even think a that...of course not...I rest my case.
If you answered yes to...well, lets just say if you answered yes and/or right to even one...sorry pal ain't much hope. On the other hand pat yourself on the back cause from where I sit a whole bunch of envious, addled souls out there just a pinein' for the courage...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Spring migration heating up...

Clark Canyon is mostly open along the south shore and mouth of Red Rock River. Every piece of open water is more or less duck and goose city; swans, while not near as many, nonetheless are easy to find. Gale thinks this one we shot below the dam is a trumpeter but is just a bit too far to be sure...lack of big lens angst strikes again.

Mallards, teal, goldeneyes, mergansers and wigeon are most abundant; occupying a large part of all the open water and especially the river. Below the dam we saw our first big flock of mountain bluebirds since last fall. And more invasive starlings and european sparrows than seems healthy.

It seems not all that long ago goose hunters were crying the blues; sure ain't so these days. The ubiquitous Canadas are everywhere--on the water, in the stubble, in the air; nesting in the trees, in the great blue heron rookeries and in the grass. Many we saw yesterday were paired up but a lot more were still in gangs. With the warmer temperatures forecast this week no doubt more water will open up and make room for even more migrants...In spite of the recent snows hard to argue spring is indeed sprung...bring it on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Snow shots...

Biggest snow of the winter, all 5-6 inches of the white stuff, did make for a scenic backyard; with mid-week temps in the 50s won't be white long so I guess best thing is to enjoy while lasts...

Can't speak to all wirehairs but Kate loved snow, no matter how deep, no matter how cold, even the sight of it morphed her instantly to the "energized bunny." Annie, pictured here, is also very much the snow puppy...We took her out yesterday afternoon and she could hardly contain herself...bounding about at warp speed, leaping into the air coming down stiff legged, pounce, pounce, pounce, rolling, all four feet in the air and of course doing what we come to call "the wirehair thing"...rubbing whiskers too frenzied for words...you have to see it to believe.

 Bushes such buffalo berry with their many stems and limbs make for some intricate and interesting patterns...While I'm sure this one won't be the last and as I might have mentioned previously we sure did enjoy tramping bare ground all winter our high desert does not do well without adequate snowfall so...Bring it on...over and out...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Biggest snow of the winter and a couple critter shots...

Spring officially springs day after tomorrow and wouldn't you know it along comes the biggest snow storm of the winter; 4 inches or so Saturday night and at least double that last night. Though the bare ground was nice while it lasted I doubt the snow came as much of a surprise--at least did surprise us. Last winter while not quite so brown suddenly morphed to winter white as I recollect about same time. May and much of June seemed almost strange those days didn't snow. While it feels and looks really winter-like what with yet another afternoon raging wind, the sun is still already starting to do its work; melting off what I did not shovel off, the sound of water dripping off the roof, gone from the truck and almost gone on the camper roof. Weather man says after today we should be back in the high 40s, mid-50s, even 60s in some spots...A course think on it and not much different than most late winter-early spring snow jobs, eh?

Ground squirrels been out for a week or so and while no strangers to spring snow, I'd bet they'd just as soon not...Does this guy look forlorn or what?

Gale shot this red fox vixen taking snooze in the sun; no doubt taking a much needed break from a raucous nursing brood. We sort a doubt she much gives a crap but snow or no she needs to eat so Mr. and Mrs squirrel, ya best watch out ya hear...

Montana Outdoors: HB1521...Here we go AGAIN!!!!

How do you spell POLITICIAN?

If your answer is P-U-B-L-I-C...E-N-E-M-Y...N-U-M-E-R-O...U-N-O take a bow. If your answer is ECO TERRORIST take a seat at the head of the class. If your answer is MAJOR A_ _ _ _ _ E...I hearby nominate you for Sainthood in the Loyal Order of Hunters, Fishermen and All Rational Thinking Regular Folks dedicated to the idea of to hell with you crooked, greedy, land grabbing, lying bastards; tis high time you drop the ideas of lining you and your rich billionaire cronies pockets and once and for all look out for the folks you once solemly swore, right hand up to GOD, to represent. Fat chance, eh?

Hey Rehberg and the rest of you clowns, listen up...25 Montana sportsman's groups oppose HB 1521 aka Wilderness and Roadless Areas Relief Act which of course would insure free reign for developers and motor heads to flat out ruin the last good country and pound the final nail in the coffin of what we all once thought of as "the Last Best Place"; 86 % of hunters polled and 83 % of fishermen oppose HB 1521 and...can you HEAR US, ARE YOU DEEF? Or just plain DO NOT GET IT? Or more to the point JUST DO NOT GIVE A RAT's ASS...

And Tester you are not off the hook either; just because you have not yet publicly jumped on the bandwagon let us not forget your so called Forest Jobs Act also takes aim on removing protections of WSAs...In other words...politicians these days don't much matter whether "Ds" or "Rs" all pretty much fit the above...So there you have it, you want our public lands as is, or you want it even more an industrial wasteland than much of it alread is...over and out....

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fly Fishing: Winter

I began fly fishing in winter a long time ago. So long ago I forget just when and have no clue why, other than I liked to fish, it was legal and it pretty much beat the alternatives such as staring down a hole in the ice, watching Lombardi's Packers kick the snot out yet another NFL patsy and of course grouse season was over so...Why not?

Trout streams back then were only crowded in April and early May or until the stock trucks quit running so I can't use that as an excuse but if I were just starting out today, solitude would indeed rank high. Granted tossing flies in a snowstorm is more popluar today and some spots draw a crowd of sorts anytime, especially when the sun shines but still, here in Montana I can't recall ever seeing the kind of mayhem summer routinely features.

I don't fish as much in any season as I once did--too old, too lazy, too whatever--but weather seldom plays a role in my decisions one way or the other. Though I do often look out the window find the wind howling, hurricane force and decide to run the dog instead so wind being weather I guess you could say I do wimp out now and then.

In the old days I think the relative handful of participants probably did it more to impress than anything but I don't remember ever actually putting it that way. Some of my adventures certainly raised a few eyebrows. Such as the Christmas morning I awoke to a couple feet of new snow, temps way below zero--if I told you how low you would not believe me anyway so--and the limestone spring creek out front (which only froze a couple times in the 20 odd years we lived there) frozen solid except for slim rent about 2-feet wide by maybe 15-yards long. After shoveling out I decided to tie flies--what you might call a sane move, eh?. But all morning as I tied could not keep my eyes off or mind from thinking do you suppose.

Finally around noon, the time predicted to be the day's high, still way below zero (in case you wondered) I replaced the bobbin with the already strung up rod, announced to the wife "
Goin' fishin' be back in awhile," (sorry you don't need to know Gale's lurid remarks) plowed through thigh deep drifts, out on the ice, pulled a short length of line from the reel, dropped the pair of nymphs at the head of the "run" and a couple drifts later hauled a very cold acting (looking) brookie onto the ice. But not before neighbors Art and Larry drove by, stopped, rolled the window down and one of the them said something to the effect,  "Thought I'd seen it all but you my friend are flat out friggin' INSANE! tooted the horn and drove away shaking heads and laughing. Near hypothermic would be the more accurate assessment  (please don't spread it around) I slipped the hook and booted the hapless brookie back and called it good.

One of the victims from yesterday's excursion at Poindexter; hoping for a midge and/or bwo event instead greeted by hurricane force wind, no bugs...nada...and the highlight of being mired in muck such that at one point I thought might need to call in search and rescue...true story. Anyway the hot fly, and I use the term loosely, was this conehead woolly; which of course I lost just when it seemed the trout were really getting into it; and of course did not have another woolly on me so...Oh well,  crick all to my ownself, at least until I was about to quit, watched a pair of courting red-tails, got more than a fair share fresh air, did manage to haul a few trout anyways all in all a fun way to spend winter afternoon.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday: Rubber vs. Felt...

About the time Simms announced they would no longer manufacture felt soled wading boots, I took a chance at the Ennis Fly Fishing Festival on the above rubber soled jobs and, wonder of wonders, won the draw.

The next weekend we fished the upper Big Hole for two days and while I liked the hell out of the fit and comfort hiking around on dry land, alas wading the river...well to put it bluntly pretty much sucked.

Okay, the traction was a cut above boot foot rubber soled hip boots but not much. Without the aid of a stick no way would this ol' boy have been able to stay erect unless of course I shuffled around at a snail's pace amid the good graces of the wading gods...No matter how careful each step my foot slipped and, trust me, a bad deal given gimpy geezer knees.

But they were new so I thought just maybe over time would get better...The rest of the fall and winter season I tested them in mountain cricks, the Beav, Poindexter and a couple more Big Hole excursions. Overall traction did not improve.

My ratings: Good to go for Poindexter. Okay, if you're careful and stay out of the real heavy stuff, in the Beav. Not so hot on bouldery mountain cricks; adequate for those lacking algae; and as I said, hands down better than felt for hiking around.

Which brings us to the Big Hole. Where, to my way of thinking, lacking studs the boots are next to useless, if not downright dangerous...So there you have it...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fly Fishing: Tying and fishing as you like it...not neccessarily what's best...

When I began tying some of the first patterns I mastered (relatively speaking) were traditional wet flies...you know the winged sort. How-to info being scarce, I pretty much relied on Ray Bergman's Trout for fly recipes. For the uninitiated, the fly plates/recipes in the book show dozens, if not hundreds, of patterns...If there were any left out, I can't imagine not being able to come up with a suitable substitute.

Traditional wets are, to my way of thinking, just about the niftiest trout flies around; only traditional salmon flies can match their gaudiness and tied right seem to me come about as close to art as any.

Naturally I fished most what I tied best. But after awhile it became clear the best fish getters were wingless...soft hackles. Though I don't think were called that at the time, at least not in our neck of woods. I'm pretty sure we just lumped them together as wet flies. Label aside, soft hackles were way easier  (for me, getting the duck wing slips just so was a bitch to put it mildly) and since, at least in my mind, worked better tying wingless was something of a no-brainer.

These days I tie flies of every sort--dries, emergers, cripples, soft hackles, nymphs, streamers, you name it. I like tying dries and soft hackles best. I like fishing both equally well. But, especially on small streams, our usual SOP is to fish dries up and swing soft hackles back down. Yes, I know, not the best way to max out the body count but...As a wise man once noted...a lot more to it than just catching fish...or something like that...

On another track, I use Zelon in a lot of patterns these days. And for what it is ( seemingly readily available synthetic and all) thought it rather pricey. This winter as I poured over the J. Stockyard catalog preparing my annual re-stock order I discovered a substitute (MFC) which is considerably cheaper...being a bona fide cheap skate in such matters I thought to order a hank...Bottom line I really like the stuff--cheaper, way more material,  looks and seems to work just as good...can't beat it.

PS If old news please note: A by God geezer...I do claim the right to being, you know, slow on the uptake....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Montana Outdoors: Photography

Way back when, desperate to break into the better paying hook and bullet markets Jack Samson, then editor of Field and Stream graciously took the time to pen a personal rejection (as opposed to the stock one liner: "With deepest sympathies we regret to inform your piece, How to (fill in the blank) does not fit our editorial needs at this time."

In essence Samson's letter read: You write pretty good but... Your idea, however, to somehow change Field and Stream's editorial slant does not and will not work...Study the style of the many writers we publish regularly and resurrect your pieces to mimic same. Above all, get a decent camera and LEARN  HOW-TO USE THE DAMN THING; Erwin Bauer's Outdoor Photography is a good place to start. Enclosed is a copy of my book Successful Outdoor Writing: if interested feel free to read and study it. Good luck.

And so as I was wont to do in those days, instead of heeding his expert and spot-on advice, in a fit of rage (like who do YOU think YOU are...) I tore the letter to shreds, vowed to never again submit to F&S...Like so there, your loss not mine. And of course the rejections just kept pouring in...Oh maybe one in ten got published but except for the random home run every now and then most paychecks sure didn't put a lot of bread on the table.

But while it took awhile eventually I got it...sort of. I bought a decent camera, learned how to use it at least good enough to know a properly composed, decently exposed image that also told a story. I came to study the style of the magazines and get a go on a query letter before even so much as turning on the typewriter (no word processors back then). While I still sometimes submit a finished piece to, say, a magazine I've not written before, the odds of acceptance go way up when you submit an idea (query) meshes with ED and he says's "let's see it."

So while I never made it big time and never will, I did eventually come to terms with rejections as nothing personal, just the way the outdoor writing/photog gig works.

Which brings us to the two photos above and the two below: None of which have much, if anything to do, with the included rant: Just two photos I shot on our recent birthday tour (Gale's) of the upper
Big Hole--where unlike our valley where seems spring has indeed sprung (winter never happened actually) up there still very much locked in winter.


The top two are pretty much as shot, as came out the camera. So there Jack, you no doubt would have no time for the subject but c'mon man admit it not all that shabby, eh? The last two are course well-doctored in Lightroom. No neither one has much (if any) editorial value or any value for that matter but damn ain't the pair sure purty...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday...Mountain Whitefish

Mountain whitefish aka rocky mountain bonefish; whitey; aw shucks "just" a goddamn whitey; and many other largely unprintable labels. A Montana native; a member of the salmonid family (e.g. trout/salmon), eats our flies, fights good enough the average fisher man really does not "know" what is on the end the line until he sees it; is delicious and so...

Whitefish probably average around 12 inches in the rivers I fish most--Big Hole, Madison, Beaverhead and so on--but many are much larger--18-20 inches even--the state record is over 5 pounds and was caught in the Kootenai River, in case you wondered.

The surest way to catch a whitefish is with small nymphs--16-20--Prince, PT, Hare's ear, midge--but I've caught many on dries--usually during a hatch but not always. I've netted whitefish for guests hooked on just about every sort of fly, a few caught on spinners and, of course, many (mostly geezers but not all) target winter whitefish for smoking and/or grilling with all manner of bait--meal worms and maggots rank high. And you do know the "trick" to keeping said bait from freezing, right? Like a pinch between cheek and gum works like a charm; but then you knew that...Right.

This one does not challenge the state record but a whitefish this size puts a distinct bend in the ol' rod and seems to me that being the precise reason most of us claim brung us to the dance in the first beginning... pray tell then just what the hell is there not like?  

Must be those lovely lips perhaps fit for only suckers or carps...sure don't cut it for us real trout fishers that's for sure...

 As someone once pointed out beauty she is indeed in the eye of the beholdin...or something like that.

Okay, so I failed to sway your vote one way or another; but should you find a dreaded whitey has gobbled your offering please give him the respect he deserves and whatever your feelings whitefish do deserve at least the respect of "trying" to put him back unharmed (or bonked and invited home for dinner) as you wish.

Really whitefish are too good to be bonked and tossed for coon/skunk bait as some I know and have seen of late are obliged. Nasty, nasty and totally over the edge...at least to this ol' boy's way of thinkin...So there you have it...over and out...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fly Fishing: Fly Friday... MT Fishing Access Field Guide...License Renewal....

One way to beat the crowds is to avoid fishing the famous places at the popular times, e.g. weekends, July and August, just before, during and immediately after the expected arrival of, say, the Big Hole River salmon flies and perhaps all season long should one us nefarious outdoor writers hotspot your pet rivers.

Another way is to download the Montana Field Guide. Featuring over 300 Fishing Access Sites--streams, rivers, and lakes--I mean, hell man, can't be all overrun...Right. FASs provide public access to some surprisingly high quality waters, many of which, remain under the radar of the thundering herd; offering not just great fishing. with at least the chance of relative solitude, as it used to be and should be but places to canoe, raft, bird watch and many even provide good hunting. Do it....http://fwp.mt.gov/fishing/guide/fasGuide.html

On another track March 1st means we need a new fishing license and while you would have to be living under a rock to not have heard by now the new deadline for applying for deer and elk permits is March 15th...I know has not one thing a do with fly chucking but I thought maybe if I just wrote it down, I would not forget...sorry but us geezers can't be too careful when it comes to...well, you know...over and out....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fly Fishing...The Movie....Montana Wolf Update...

An interesting article on the 2012, 20th Anniversary of the infamous "Movie" which, by any stretch, forever changed the face of what was at the time truly the "Last Best Place" into something...Well, let me just say "different" and leave up to you to decide good, bad or indifferent. That it also changed forever fly fishing as  we once knew it is of course not up for debate. Also hard to debate is the increased interest in fly fishing spurred on all sorts of good stuff for rivers, trout, etc. That it also made a lot of folks rich and famous...well I guess if you are one a them, all well and good...for the rest of us? My vote all things considered...you know, Californication, land grab, today's Bozemans, Missoulas, Kalispells as opposed to PM days...locked gates, constant court fight to repeal the wonderful Montana Stream Access Law by bastards--Kennedy, Lewis, et al wielding more money than God, to say nothing of the State..Traffic on some of our antiquated two-lane roads nothing less than downright friggin' deadly...well all in all, I must vote Not So Hot...but then what do I know? Right.

You can read the article here...http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/article_b07d873c-6039-11e1-b043-001871e3ce6c.html...by copy and paste into your browser.

Interesting article on the Increase in wolf numbers following the recently ended wolf season; which by all rational thinking is looking more like a failure with each passing day and would seem, assuming the idea is to really bring numbers down to reasonable biological (and not political) limits, another game plan is indeed in order...to read the entire article copy and paste:  http://www.idahopress.com/news/state/montana-wolf-population-up-percent-in/article_e65de121-eaeb-5979-b4b0-104d36e016ec.html