Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thousands Elk, Deer and Antelope Descend on Dillon Area Ranches...

Recent cold snap, along with increasing snow in the high country and the end of rifle season have brought large herds of elk down onto Dillon area pivots. Where except for being harassed by PO'd ranchers and competing with cows for grass and hay rights...life, despite the harsh weather looks to be pretty good. All the above were shot almost within sight of downtown Dillon. Besides the elk Dillon area ranchers are feeding a few thousand mule and whitetail deer and several hundred antelope. The Matador is as we speak erecting tall electric fence around several cow pastures but last night apparently lured by the smell of hay elk knocked down at least one as well as destroying a bunch of barbed wire fence.   

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Water Rights Bill"--A Not So Veiled Attempt To...

...Handcuff Federal Agencies, prevent them from protecting our rivers and public lands from the usual pack of despicable greedy politicians whose sole purpose in holding office is to further pad bank accounts already brim full of big business payola. 

...Bert Gildart photo

From American Rivers via Midcurrent...

As winter sets in across the country and our outdoor pursuits turn to thoughts of cutting some turns on the slopes along with wetting a line on our local beat, an avalanche is careening downhill and the nation’s rivers and public lands are directly in its path.

H.R. 3189, the so called “Water Rights Protection Act” , introduced by Representatives Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO) in the House and Senator John Barasso (R- WY) , in the Senate (S. 1630) represents one of the most anti –environmental attacks in the 113th Congress. The legislation could mean serious impacts for anglers and boaters and the rivers and forests where they spend their hard earned free time.

The bill’s authors said it was intended to address a narrow water rights conflict between Colorado’s ski industry and the U.S. Forest Service. But somewhere along the way, the ski industry invited other big moneyed interests to join the party. The National Ski Areas Association worked with Big Ag and their lobbyists in DC to draft a much more expansive bill that would handcuff Federal agencies and prevent them from protecting rivers and public lands.

The ski industry’s bill would allow private water users to dry up rivers on public lands with impunity. It would tie the hands of Federal agencies tasked with providing flexible water management options on our public lands. If passed, the bill would prevent federal agencies from implementing reasonable safeguards to protect fish, wildlife, and recreational benefits in the nation’s rivers. It would gut any federal law, such as the Endangered Species Act, that permits agencies to place conditions on permits or licenses to keep water in rivers to support fish, wildlife, or in-stream recreation. For instance, the bill could prohibit the Forest Service from requiring water diverters to leave water in streams flowing through National Forests to protect native trout, or stop the Fish and Wildlife Service from requiring flows that attract shad, salmon, and other migratory to fish ladders so that they can safely pass over dams.

For the rest of this really ugly GD tale go to http://www.americanrivers.org/

Thursday, November 21, 2013

More Bad and Ugly News for Sportsmen...

Biofuels Devastating Wildlife Habitat

I often wonder why I should care about what goes on in Washington. After all, outdoors sports are about recreation, not politics. Why should I care what Congress is debating and doing?

One of the best answers to that question was given in a recent report in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, one of the nation’s most prestigious journals of scholarly research. The title of the report is as jarring to hunters as it is to academicians: “Recent land use change in the Western Corn Belt threatens grasslands and wetlands. ”

What South Dakota State University researchers Christopher K. Wright and Michael C. Wimberly discovered is what wildlife advocates have been warning about ever since Congress decided that ramping up production of corn-based ethanol could bring down our fuel prices: Skyrocketing commodity prices have led to the greatest loss of prairie wetland and grasslands since the Dust Bowl, posing a serious threat to a long list of fish and wildlife.
...Bob Marshall
Click below to read the rest of the story...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Norwegian Fly Rod...Coming Soon

Lest you think Sage, Orvis, Winston et al have a corner on coming up with what seems to me an endless parade of "latest, greatest, must have, can't live without fly rod innovations"...well think again.

The fly rod pictured above (note the weird handle) is the brain-child of Norwegian Robert Selfors who says "I found the recipe in the laws of physics."

Selfors explains the principles of his invention with a quick course in fly fishing physics:

• A fly rod is charged with energy by the flexing it undergoes in the casting action.
• The more the rod can be flexed, the more energy it can store.
• The greatest energy storage potential is in the lowest part of the rod. With conventional handles, some of this potential energy remains unused, because existing handles are built up from cork attached using glue, which reduces flexibility.
• In other words, the part of the rod whose flexibility is of greatest importance for energy storage is too rigid.

Selfors says, “I spent many long evenings designing a hollow handle. It has a hollow cavity in which the rod “blank” can move freely. This has been the core design concept throughout subsequent development work.”

On the drawing board for several years now with the help of Sintef, Scandinavia's largest scientific research organization--and Permafrost Industrial Design Studio in Oslo, Selfor's idea is soon to become a reality. The first 500 rods have been manufactured and were scheduled to hit the streets by end of the year but...the handles were deemed to be too slippery when wet demanding a solution which will apparently delay the unveiling until later when the 2014 fishing shows open.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Drones for Hunting...

...sort a leaves the ol' boy speechless but please do read on...

"In the future there might be no need to sit in a deer blind for hours, freezing and bored.

Instead, all you’ll have to do is walk out your front door, launch your drone, pop a cold one and wait for it to shoot dinner.

That’s the idea proposed by Bailey Hurt, whose “Critter Gitter” concept appeared in a recent issue of Wired, challenging readers to imagine devices of the future.

“It’s all very tongue-in-cheek,” admits Hurt, an art director who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. “But at the same time I’m trying to use that humor to get people to think about the larger implications of drones and guns.”

In all seriousness folks, I for one feel this one really sucks!!!

The Colorado Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers recently applauded the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission for showing national leadership in protecting hunting rights and fair chase from emerging technology of civilian drones.

“Hunters are America’s first conservationists and we have a century-old tradition of policing our own ranks,” said David Lien, Co-Chair of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “We’re pleased that the CO Parks and Wildlife Commission has stepped up to protect our hunting traditions, by ensuring fair chase and fair distribution of wildlife.”

Today, the Commission took an initial look at draft regulations which would ban the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for hunting or scouting in Colorado. UAVs, or “drones” are increasingly popular in civilian hands and there are videos on the internet of the machines being used to spot, stalk and hunt wildlife..

“Drones are poised to be very popular among civilians and there are many legitimate uses in science, agriculture and search-and-rescue,” said BHA Director Land Tawney, of Missoula, Mont.  “However, hunting should remain an activity of skill and woodcraft, not just technology. If drones take off in hunting fields, it will split the ranks of hunters between those who can afford and embrace the technology and those who do not.”


Your humble correspondent take on the latter action is, of course, “Kudos to the COPWC commissioners for getting out in front of this pathetic affront to ethical hunters everywhere…and hopefully this IS the last word on a very sick idea!”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sage Grouse At The Brink

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)k determined the Greater Sage-Grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but listing was precluded by the need to address other species first. One reason for the FWS determination was the “need for improved regulatory mechanisms” to ensure species conservation. The principal regulatory mechanisms for the BLM and the Forest Service are conservation measures in land use plans.

In 2011, the BLM and Forest Service joined forces to develop, analyze and incorporate coordinated, long term conservation measures and actions for sage grouse in their land use plans. These planning measures must be incorporated into land use plans by the end of 2014, to give FWS time to evaluate them before making a court-ordered final listing decision in 2015.

To date more than a dozen coordinated environmental documents have been developed by the various agencies and state advisory councils to provide a consistent approach to sustaining the species and its habitat across the West. Draft documents are being released for public comment as they are completed. Each draft is comprised of several alternatives that address sage grouse conservation issues using different management actions. For example, the Idaho and Southwest Montana Draft EIS includes six different alternatives ranging from no-action alternative to the Idaho Governor’s proposed plan.

For more information on what is happening in your areas of interest follow the links listed below:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fly Tying...

...goodie box arrived yesterday; as expected, inside were more than a few surprises. Like most things when it comes to tying flies I am long on tradition and way short on keeping pace with the recent explosion of new materials and, perhaps more to the point, the flood of new and improved tying techniques today's army of innovative tyers seem to unveil almost on a daily basis.

So armed with Hareline's extensive catalog I decided to take the plunge, live dangerously as it were, and order up a bunch of stuff I really have no idea what the hell to do with but...I do vow to give one and all my best shot over winter and hopefully come spring find my fly boxes brimming with the latest, greatest in trout fly innovations. I even got a bunch a spiffy new fly boxes on the way from Umpqua, you know just to keep the pressure on...Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Montana Fall Spawners

Ten Montana fish species spawn in the fall. Bull trout kick things off starting in mid-September; mountain, lake and pygmy whitefish spawn well into December. All of our fall spawners are salmonids, e.g. members of the trout/salmon tribe. According to FWP Fisheries Biologist, Jim Vashro, “I don’t know why but of all the fish families only salmonids spawn in fall. But I do know “ fall spawning can give those fish a competitive advantage over rainbow, cutthroat trout and Arctic grayling which spawn in spring. When eggs are laid in fall they incubate over winter in gravel and hatch one to two months earlier than eggs laid in spring. That gives those fry a chance to grow and outcompete spring spawned fry.”

The risk is eggs laid in fall must survive sometimes brutal winter conditions such as floods washing eggs away and shelf-ice freezing them out. Vashro speculates one reason no warm water species lay eggs in fall is warm-water fry eat plankton which is most abundant in warm weather; while salmonid fry eat insects which are plentiful year around.

Montana’s Fall Spawners

Bull trout, mid-September-early October
Brook/brown trout, Chinook salmon, October-November
Mountain whitefish, November-early December
Lake whitefish, October-December
Pygmy whitefish, late November-December
Cisco, late November-early December
Kokanee, lake trout, late October-November

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tenkara, Fly Fishing's Latest Rage...

...photo courtesy Daiwa

I’m not much on fads but must admit the recent surge in popularity of the age old Japanese art we call Tenkara has at least piqued my curiosity.  Apparently conceived to impart a simple, minimalistic approach to catching small fish (Tenkara) found in Japan’s small mountain streams. Taking minimalism to new heights Tenkara rods sport no reels, no line guides, even the flies are the essence of simplicity.

In the US and outfit calls itself Tenkara U.S.A. got the ball rolling. Offering a variety of telescoping rods, 11-15 feet in length extended (about 2 feet telescoped in),  tip the scales at around 4 ounces with thin responsive tips.  Lines come in two types: tapered (furled) in fixed lengths of 8-30 feet; and level lines which are sold in spools, three different weights to suit different rod actions. Lines are attached to the rod tip via a Tenkara knot (?) and depending on conditions affixed to that is a tippet of varying size and length.

Billed as a small stream rod, most of the videos I’ve seen show Tenkara anglers plying somewhat larger waters. Craig Matthews and cronies regularly produce action packed videos using Tenkara gear to fool Madison River trout—given the unwieldy rod lengths my first thoughts were “now that is more like it.”

While some outfits will set you back a pretty penny, others are modestly priced, like less than $200 for rod, line and several flies. Whether or not Tenkara Flies catch more fish than say your basic Adams or Hare’s Ear is more than I know. But I suppose if you are gonna jump in you might as well jump in whole hog…right!
As with most fads, once they cross our borders you can bet the farm some of us are bound to take Tenkara to whole new levels—check out Chris Hunt’s Eat More Brook Trout Blog and you will see what I mean. Like c’mon Chris, walleye? Pike? And no doubt by now many more species have bit the dust.

To get the whole skinny contact www.tenkarausa.com

Monday, November 11, 2013

Giant Whitetail Buck...

...found dead (presumably of EHD) last year in Kansas has been scored a whopping 312+ by an official Boone and Crockett scorer...If accepted the non-typical buck ranks #3 all-time. It's 51 point rack is the most points ever recorded on a whitetail buck.

Read more: http://www.northamericanwhitetail.com/2013/10/21/new-kansas-state-record-whitetail-tops-300-inches/#ixzz2kNgNlOKc

Monday, October 28, 2013

Montana Hunters' Most Common Violations

Every hunting season some individuals unwittingly or knowingly violate the state’s game laws.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials urge hunters to review Montana's hunting rules and regulations to ensure they act within the law and that they recognize when others violate the hunting regulations and related laws.
Here are some of the most common game violations:

•    Failure to obtain permission from landowners before hunting on private property.
•    Wasting part of a game animal suitable for food.
•    Failure to properly validate a license/tag or to securely fasten the tag in a visible manner to a game animal immediately after it is taken and before it is moved or transported from the kill site.
•    Taking game from the wrong hunting district.
•    Using someone else's tag on a game animal you killed, or tagging a game animal that someone else killed.
•    Shooting game animals on or from any public highway or public right-of-way.
•    Taking game without a license or the proper permit.
•    Failure to validate a big game tag.
•    Not leaving evidence of the sex or species of the game animal attached.

FWP encourages hunters to protect the future of their sport by hunting responsibly and reporting hunting violations to the toll-free 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668) number or report a violation online at fwp.mt.gov, then click "Enforcement".

Friday, October 25, 2013

Catching Up...

On the way home from chasing sage chickens the other day we spied these two sunning themselves it seemed taking advantage of yet another in a week-long string of Indian Summer afternoons. At first glance we thought "two young cows" but upon closer inspection (click to enlarge) turns out a couple young bulls just hanging out.

I bought Greg's old Hyde drift boat recently and now, of course, my equally well-used though still very much rowable drift boat "the infamous wood and fiberglass Greeny" is up for sale. The price is $2800, ready to fish it includes an Adams Boat Trailer, 3 Carlisle Oars, 3 life jackets and a 30# anchor. Add a little TLC, a touch or two of epoxy, glass and paint and the old gal should be good to go for years of more or less casual use.

Rifle season starts tomorrow, though I probably won't join in the fun and games until later when things quiet down a bit. Yesterday the town and the local highways were jamb-packed with rigs of every sort. Tary much longer and there won't be flat spot left to set up camp. Every season it seems fewer and fewer rigs show up not laden down with an assemblage ATVs and trust me this one is no exception. As my friend Andrew puts it...Like NO ONE WALKS...Amen.

Happy Trails and Good Hunting Until Next Time...Which I vow will be sooner rather than later...Yes, I know, heard that one way to often of late but...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Time to Clean House...and Senate...and Oval Office...Kick 'Em All Out and Start Over...

Regardless of your political affiliation or lack thereof, what’s wrong with this picture?

Glacier National Park Closed, workers furloughed without pay.

Yellowstone National Park Closed, workers furloughed without pay.

About 400 other national parks, workers furloughed without pay.

CMR National Wildlife Refuge Closed (at height of elk bow season no less, hunters and campers asked to leave, workers furloughed without leave.

More than 500 other National Wildlife Refuges Closed, no hunting, no wildlife viewing, workers furloughed without pay.

Thousands Waterfowl Production Areas closed, waterfowl and upland bird hunting curtailed, workers furloughed without pay.

US Forest Service and BLM offices closed, hunters forced to seek information elsewhere, workers, including Law Enforcement, furloughed without pay.

Even the friggin' toilets within all federal properties are signed closed until further notice.

Many, many small towns which depend largely on hunter money hurting big time, countless workers furloughed without pay until further notice.

800,000 federal workers furloughed without pay.

United State Congress et al, including President Obama and his White House Staff  Doing Nothing as Usual, still receiving full pay and benefits!!!!!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Is Catch and Release Over-hyped?

...Admittedly over-hyped is a bit too strong a term. The idea has certainly provided a lot of good fishing would have vanished decades ago were kill and eat still the populist thinking. On the other hand  seems to me more often than not catch and release is sorely abused, e.g. fish caught and released with life-threatening injuries caused by rough handling, large barbed hooks, barbed treble hooks, fish out of water way too long (how about bonked multiple times on bottom boat?) in order to satisfy way too large egos (hero shots, grip and grins call it what you like truth is threatens, if not flat out kills, way too many so-called trophies mostly just for cocktail hour bragging rights). Anyway here is what the scientists have to say:

Catch and release has become all the rage. Unfortunately too many of us take catch and release for granted. Righteous thinking being  “did not kill and eat therefore no harm no foul. Nothing could be further from the truth. For catch and release to work as advertised stress must be kept to a minimum.

  • ·          Use the proper gear (flies and artificial lures armed with single barbless hooks are less injurious than bait; circle hooks should always be employed by bait fishermen since hooking is almost always outside the mouth, virtually eliminating deadly gill injuries).
  • ·          Strive to end the struggle quickly (standard rods trump lightweights every time).
  • ·          Avoid handling fish with dry hands (wet hands and gloves are less apt to injure protective slime and scales).
  • ·          Avoid knotted nylon nets in favor of non-abrasive rubber  or knotless nylon.
  • ·          Forego hero shots all together (otherwise keep the fish in the water until hero and photographer are good to go); out of water time should never exceed 30 seconds; better still shoot the fish in the water (quickly) and let it go.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gov Shut Down...

...for many the current Washington debacle has caused serious financial woes...and not just you poor innocent souls kicked off the job. As Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership reports many communities, wildlife agencies, national wildlife refuges, national parks, conservation programs and what not are already feeling the hurt as well. Federal closures are limiting hunting opportunities, diminishing nation’s outdoors-based economy, curtailing vital conservation efforts. Most sportsmen’s groups have decried ‘piecemeal approach’ of House spending bills, not that many reps are listening. Our only hope is that sportsmen of every persuasion band together and toss the bastards in upcoming elections.

As the impacts of the ongoing federal government shutdown continue to ripple across the nation, the TRCP  is urging congressional lawmakers to quickly resolve the crisis for the sake of conservation, sportsmen and America’s all-important outdoors-based economy.

“The government shutdown is bad news for everyone, including Americans everywhere who value clean air and water, access to public lands and wildlife habitat restoration,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “In the name of conservation, our outdoor traditions and our economic well being, we urge Congress to unite in quickly resolving this crisis.”

Fosburgh noted that the shutdown will curtail vital conservation efforts taking place nationwide and effectively halt all legislative action, including action related to conservation funding. He affirmed that the TRCP will continue to advocate for the strongest funding levels for conservation through every means possible.

Impacts of the federal closures radiate far beyond the nation’s capital. Millions of sportsmen rely on publicly accessible lands such as national wildlife refuges to get afield or on the water. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 329 wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges. All are closed under the shutdown. With hunting seasons beginning to crescendo across the country, the impact of these closures will have a major effect, not just on hunters, but on the communities that depend on dollars spent by sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts. For more info go to www.trcp.org

On another more favorable track the Big Hole is currently raging at an astounding 1000cfs plus. No doubt unheard of, record flow for October. Fishing reports indicate the fishing is keeping up with the high water. Good news locally since the Beav is all but kaput for the winter coming out the dam this morning at a paltry 50 cfs...good luck trouts, yer gonna need it... 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Big Hole River Closures Update...

High time we leave the big river alone and head for the hills...

Melrose Bridge to Mouth of the Big Hole is now officially closed to all fishing as the river continues to fall to critical low levels.

Here are the current closures and restrictions on the Big Hole River:
- Headwaters to the mouth of the North Fork Big Hole - FULL CLOSURE
- Mouth of the North Fork Big Hole to Dickie Bridge - Closed 2pm to midnight
- Melrose Bridge to the mouth (confluence with the Jefferson) - FULL CLOSURE

Water flows on this stretch of the Big Hole have dropped to 150 cubic feet per second which triggers the Big Hole River Drought Management Plan as the point to full fishing closures.

Other restrictions to note: the entire Jefferson River and Lower Madison River remain under "hoot owl" fishing closures from 2pm to midnight.

Montana Fly Fishing: Update

Once again I must apologize for not posting regularly...once agin ace fishin guide worn to frazzle is my excuse...sorry.

Anyway been guiding of late over in the Ruby Valley on a couple private spring creeks and private access Ruby. The spring creeks as always are hot...tie on a hopper, stimi, PMX and go for it...no need to go techy just draw a fine bead, hit the targeted slot and bingo...fish on! Watch your backcast...

Ruby of late is another story...even early morning starts out pretty much DIW and is all downhill from there. Yesterday with a talented young angler in tow from around 8 a.m. until 9 not a single take...top water, dark side no matter...hordes of tricos went completely ignored except for a couple tiddler whitefish sipping no sign of life...thinking perhaps we missed something we went back after lunch...Over the course of a half-hour or or so Sean pitched a hopper in all the right places and once again came up empty...I did not have my stream thermometer along but one dunk of the hand pretty much proved up the river is way to warm and should be crossed off the dwindling list of open waters...In hindsight this morning I checked the temp chart and no surprise each of the last several days the afternoon temp has soared beyond 70; yesterday's high at Twin was 74...moral of story old man guide should wise up and heed his suspicions.

On another track the Big Hole is getting really low and barring a miracle will no doubt officially shut down...that happens I will of course pass the word.

The once reliable Beav is, at least in my experience, in a sort of a funky mood of late. Flow and good temps aside one day she fishes and next day...well, what can I say.

All that said the good news is the up country cricks are still, for the most part, A-OK...enuff said.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Brook Trout: Minimalist's Delight

The Minimalist's Delight...

...a couple spools tippet, a small fly box, floatant and you're all set for a day of fun and adventure. No fuss, no muss, no dealing crowds just park the truck and good to go. With literally thousands miles of cricks to choose where to go is as easy as closing your eyes pointing out a spot on the map and go for it. Tie on a fly tickles your fancy and chances are the brookies will be waiting and willing to help prove up your genius. Frustrations are few, more a matter of how well you deal with the brush and trees than head-scratching puzzles like why the hell won't these trout eat my offerings. Good country, pretty cricks, pretty trout, all fun to my way of thinking just doesn't get much better. Hot tip: for starters tie on any dry pattern sporting red or orange; bigger is usually better.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Drought Management

Low flows, high water temperatures and healthy trout do not mix; toss in added stress of fighting a hook and things can and too often do go wrong in a hurry. With most of our so-called blue ribbon trout fisheries are at or above the high 60s or worse during August afternoons why wait for officials to shut things down when you can enjoy the conscious free, worry free, fun fishing available all season long no matter how hot or dry on literally thousands of miles of mountain cricks--cold as ice, wild ass, pretty as all get out trout, never anything remotely like crowded, in some of the best country on the planet and no bobbers even.. now how good is that..try it you just might become addicted like us...To our way of thinking fly fishing little cricks really is the best fly fishing left in America...no kiddin'.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Promising Forecast

Weatherman's promise of cool nights and lower daytime highs over the next week or so should bring an end to at least some of the current hoot owl restrictions on Montana trout streams. On another track the dam operators appear to be slowly reducing the outflow at CCR which should make for better dry fly fishing in the near future. Whether or not the draw down is permanent is of course more than I know though I fail to see how, with the dam now down to around 40% full, the high flow can continue much longer.

The Big Hole flow is currently running 333 cfs this morning at Maiden Rock; I look for that to drop drastically as soon as all the hay is gathered in the upper valley and ranchers start irrigating again in order to insure a good cover crop come winter. Not so good news of course if you are thinking of a leisurely, drag free float anytime in the next month or six weeks or so.

By the way my old fisherman buddy, Steve, is hooked fast to what turns out a dandy brook trout in the above pix.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Little Crick-Awesome Trout

Click on Photos to Enlarge

Been a bit hectic around here of late, at least that's my excuse for not posting in awhile. Anyway when not rowing the boat Gale, Annie and me been off in the hills exploring a bunch a cricks most a you know little or nothing about...that is don't (haven't ever) appeared in print. So far as I know none are part of the usual gab heard in the local fly shops and since the trout  are "small" you know as in "got one, oh hell another minnow" ain't much chance of catching the whereabouts in the local pub.

Not that you might be interested but yesterday we fished a really little crick--yeah, even a might tinier than above--Brushy as all get out the hard part was gettin the fly in the water but...oo-ee-baby the cutts that swim there...knock yer socks off they will...well maybe not "your" socks but did ours. Couple almost big enough to gobble the one in hand...honest, cross my heart..well, you know all us fisher folk might a been born honest but...Sorry the girls swore me to secrecy...the rest of the story you will have to uncover your ownself.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Rods for Western Rivers...

Yesterday a guy showed up with a nifty bamboo rod, a well-crafted, beautifully fitted creation, a typical work of art created by the "Boo Boys" at Sweetgrass Rods in Twin Bridges. A fine rod to be sure but not one at all suited for the challenging, ever-changing conditions our big western rivers demand. At 7' for a 4wt. the rod ranks right down there with your 7' foot any weight as one the worst, if not "the" worst rods no matter what made of or who made it.

In my experience most anglers, especially those who land in my boat, have no idea how to cast such rods in the first beginning. Beyond that should the conditions warrant tossing big, air resistant bugs or, perish the thought, rigging for deep running...for-get-it. Experts perhaps but rookies and intermediates no way.

Back to yesterday's fiasco: Right from the get-go it was obvious this was going to be one of those days. Either get the fly in the exact right spot, with the exact right drift or suffer the consequences. My guy, though to his credit he tried really hard to get it right, never did. When he did manage to get it out there in almost every case the fly landed in a heap or three feet off the mark or without the proper mend in the air to control drag or worse...Worse being the more frustrated he became the worse his casting and many, many casts ended up in snarls which of course only worsened the frustration quotient. Stubborn to the end he refused to put the pretty rod away, get it on with a "real" rod and well, what can I say.

Trust me, you will have a far better time chucking bugs with a rod at least 8 feet long--9 or even 9 1/2 feet is better. A four or five weight works but a six--the forgotten weight it seems these days--is even better. Rigged properly and, perhaps with a little help from your guide, even if the fish don't cooperate you can at least take satisfaction in knowing you got-er-done as best you could. Better still unlike my guy who went home totally frazzled, actually arm sore, you can at least go home and enjoy the evening--physically and mentaly pain free, even...Imagine.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Big Hole Dropping Like a Rock...

The Big Hole continues to drop at an alarming rate. The flow at Maiden Rock this morning fell just below 1000 cfs (990); the median flow for this date is 1690. Unless we continue to get heavy downpours in the upper basin things are looking grim for late July, to say nothing of trying to float the river come August. For what is worth I had a tough time getting down this riffle below Fish Trap three days ago--can't recall ever having to drag the boat in June anywhere on the river.

On another track, hopefully with the end of this untimely heat wave, 94 on the truck thermometer yesterday below Dillon, cloud cover will return for at least part of the day. Falling river, high, cloud free skies, blindingly bright sun are not so hot conditions to try to fool Big Hole trout.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Getting the Drift Right...

We fished a small creek today and, not to brag, caught a fair number of fat trout, all on dry flies--hotspot caddis, yellow sally and parachute pmd. While we pitched several different flies, mostly just for the hell of it, it occurred in almost every case when we got the drift right we got a take. When the fly dragged or was not in the proper lane, in other words the drift just didn't cut it, the trout ignored our offerings. 

Several things need to happen to get the drift right. It all starts with the leader. Unless there is a reason not to, such as heavy brush or other obstacles, a dry fly leader should be at least 10 feet long, more if conditions, such as low, clear water and such warrant. The tippet should be at least 3-4 feet long "sized" to the "fly." Notice I did not say anything about "leader shy, phd trout and the like." For starters, 3X is about right for a big, air-resistant Wulff; 6X is about right for a #24 Trico; in other words consider fly size and air resistance and what size tippet will best turn over that fly. Properly built and properly presented the tippet should NOT straighten...if it does add to its length, change your cast or downsize, say from 3X to 4X. A straight tippet causes instant drag and in most dry fly situations DRAG IS EVIL...Kill it. 

If you can only learn one cast for presenting dry flies make it a REACH CAST or as I like to call it a MEND IN THE AIR. Whatever the cast is easily learned and with little practice you will be surprised how quickly your success rate begins to soar. 

Other things to consider: Stalk closer, rather than pitch across several currents or attempt a longer cast than your skill level warrants. Short, accurate casts make controlling drag easier. Try to position yourself so the whole cast lands in water of the same current speed. If for instance you standing below the lip of a still pool in fast water and cast up into the slower water the faster current will quickly rip the fly downstream, killing any chance for decent drift. While the easiest way to get close is to fish upstream, upstream does not always work. Study the situation first then move to the most appropriate spot; if it's downstream be aware the target is now facing you and don't get too close. Learn to check the forward cast, then drop your rod to something close to hip level. As fly floats down strip line in without moving the fly. If you allow the rod to remain high up it is almost impossible to strip without moving fly. When fishing downstream longer drifts are possible by carefully shaking out line while not moving the fly. Live by the mantra, "Make the first shot count, all the rest are warning shots anyway," and, trust me, your batting average will improve big time...Guarandamnteed.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Hot Fly...

When it comes to fly choice I'm pretty much old school, as in pretty much set in my ways. Traditional to the core you might say...Parachute Adams, Humpies, Stimis, Elk-hair caddis, PTs, Hare's Ears, Princes, Lightning Bugs...well you get the picture. Part of this behavior can be blamed on an aging mind just can't assimilate the flood of new patterns hit the streets these days like pouring rain. Of course every now and then one comes along just looks (even to me) too good to not at least give it a fair shot at gaining a permanent spot in my fly box. Such as the Bighorn Sally (above) which as its name implies is a pattern developed I suppose by a Bighorn guide (sorry don't know who) looking to come up with a simple pattern to mimic the Yellow Sally with a little twist to hopefully make it more appealing to the trout.

Based on the current "hotspot" rage--which by the way even I am slowly becoming a believer--the fly really is simple to tie--dubbed body, stack and tie in deer hair wing, tie in the hackle, ice dub the thorax, wind the hackle, whip finish and that's it.

The good news is of late it has become my go-to dry, far out fishing the old standby Elk-hair caddis, traditional yellow sally patterns and running neck and neck with X-caddis, a recent addition to my arsenal of down-wing favorites. The other day, after fooling several trout, I noticed the hackle had come loose so just for the hell of it I snipped it off, dried the fly and next cast my fisherman hooked another. Hm-m-m says I, so dried the hackleless version once again and soon found another in the net...My theory the hotspot is key, the hackle not so much, maybe even unnecessary...stay tuned. So far a #14 has been working best; but I've got bunch of #16 ready and waiting should the need arise to downsize the offering.

Anyway if caddis are hatching in your river give the ol' girl a go...I'd be surprised it doesn't at least make you think on becoming a hotspot devotee...over and out...Chuck

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Back In Action...

I haven't posted for awhile for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being a really long run (for an old man) on the sticks. Also I have been wanting to change the content from less a personal rant to a more one information driven. Assuming any of you once faithful followers are still out there, I hope you like the change.

For starters the fishing has been very good overall with a few exceptions, mostly due to changing conditions. For example a few days ago Ralph enjoyed a fantastic day pitching dries (X-caddis and Bighorn Sally were the hot ticket items) between Maiden Rock and Browne's Bridge (Big Hole). Except for one short period when the sun burst through the heavy cloud cover the action was pretty much non-stop end to end. Contrast that to the absolutely awful day before yesterday Burke and Chad experienced and, well it makes one wonder if perhaps there had been a fish kill; despite both staying totally focused we managed just a handful of trout, all but one on the small side, and even the whitefish (except for the 6-10 inchers) seemed to have vanished. If I were to guess what would have to blame the high, cloud free sky, bright sun and especially in the afternoon the river (Big Hole) seemed a little warm. Of course it could have been just me...feel free guys I got big shoulders and a tough skin to boot. Besides yesterday Terry reported nearly non-stop dry action in the same stretch of river and you guessed it cloud city once again saved the day. By the way they got the Big Hole Slam--brown, brook, grayling, cutthroat (cuttbow), rainbow and whitefish...an added attraction to be sure.

Not much to say about the Beaverhead other than if you ain't been you really should...great nymphing anytime and should the clouds roll in the dry fly fishing is really picking up.

Little creeks and Clark Canyon Reservoir are as they say on fire. Check the Anderson and Platt fly shop to see what's hot.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Wild country, wild water, wild trout, wild flowers...

As they a picture really is worth a thousand words...in this case about says it all, don't you agree.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Update on Call to Boycott Orvis, Scientific Anglers, Ross Reels....

I just received this letter from Bill Eyre, Orvis...apparently I wrongly accused the current CEO Leigh, "Perk" Perkins of being involved in the recent attack on Montana's Stream Access  Law...If so, I humbly apologize and retract my call to Boycott the above...I do however stand by everything said about James Cox Kennedy, United Property Owners of Montana and PERC, including "Leigh Perkins Sr.", the now retired head of Orvis...Here is the letter Eyre sent me judge accordingly...

Dear Mr. Robbins,

You’ve caught our attention with your blog post on Tuesday encouraging your readers to boycott Orvis. With all due respect, please allow me to set the record straight with a few facts:
Leigh H. Perkins (Sr.) is on the board of PERC. However, he retired as CEO of The Orvis Company in 1992. You have mistaken him for  Leigh H. “Perk” Perkins Jr., who has been Orvis CEO since 1992. We can understand the confusion since they share the same name, but thought you should know the difference.
Leigh Sr.’s role as a board member of PERC is personal, and does not represent the position of The Orvis Company.
In fact, The Orvis Company doesn’t and has never supported PERC, and certainly does not support its position on the issue of public access nor its role in the Montana Supreme Court case to which your blog refers.
Further, Orvis CEO “Perk” Perkins (Leigh Jr.) is on the Advisory Board of Trout Unlimited, widely regarded as one of the more outspoken proponents of public access. Both Perk and Orvis have a long-standing track record of supporting responsible access for the public. Make no mistake, Orvis has long been and will continue to be “pro” public access. A fine example of this is our 2002 customer matching grant campaign in which we partnered with TU and NFWF, raising more than $150,000 to preserve public access at the Three Dollar Bridge on the Madison.
We would kindly request that you retract your call to boycott Orvis based on these facts, and we would appreciate if you would set the record straight with your readers by affirming Orvis’ long standing record of support for responsible public access.
I would be pleased to discuss this with you further, if you wish.

Bill Eyre
Director of Branding & Corporate Marketing
The Orvis Company, Inc.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: An Endangered Species...

...Unless we act fast to curb the latest in a long line of underhanded, self-serving attempts by rich pricks such as James Kennedy, United Property Owners of Montana and Leigh Perkins, Orvis CEO who sits on the board of the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC) to overturn the Montana Stream Access Law you can pretty much forget such idyllic scenes as the one above. No more wade fishing, no more float fishing, hell if these bastards get their way you will be in violation breathing the friggin' air above any crick flows thru the hallowed fiefdom. You can start by joining in to BOYCOTT Orvis...Area businesses can help by NOT doing business with anyone even remotely related to Kennedy and his nefarious gang of thieves. Let him and them know they are NOT welcome...Read on for the rest of the story...

James Kennedy, United Property Owners of Montana and PERC are trying to Overturn the Stream Access Law

James Cox Kennedy, CEO for Cox Enterprises, may have done an outstanding job caring for fish and wildlife on his property, as Dennis McCoy stated, but Kennedy not only wants to keep the public off the Ruby River, he wants to keep the public off all rivers and streams in Montana that flow through private property were the stream beds are private. Kennedy, the United Property Owners of Montana and PERC have intervened in behalf of Madison County in the appeal to the Montana Supreme Court of the Seyler Lane access to the Ruby River. Kennedy’s lawyer argued that not only is the public not allowed to use road easements to access the river, but the public can not use the rivers and streams in all of Montana if they are non navigable. Kennedy’s lawyer skipped over the appeal case of access to the river from Seyler Lane and went right to challenging the 1985 Montana Stream Access Law, the Montana Supreme Court ruling on the law and the Montana Constitution that states “all waters are the property of the state for the use of it’s people”. Kennedy wants to take away our constitutional right to use and enjoy all waters of Montana. Remember Kennedy, United Property Owners of Montana and PERC the next time you are floating your favorite river, or wading your favorite stream, because if they get their way, you won’t be doing it any longer.

Leigh H. Perkins, CEO of the Orvis Company, is on the board of directors of PERC, "Property and Environmental Research Center. BOYCOTT ORVIS!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Montana: Fly Fishing a Grayling Lake and Cooking a Dutch Oven Burgoo

I haven't posted lately because been busy with other more pressing matters, article deadline, NOWA newsletter, getting boat ready and a new (used) boat trailer which of course needs a little tweaking to make it work for my boat. And since spring has indeed sprung (at last) there are the usual chores to tend to...

So Friday we took a much needed break and headed into the hills in search of a ice free mountain lake and hopefully a bunch of hungry grayling. Lucky us we found both and enjoyed a fine, mostly sunny, albeit a bit windy at times day hauling grayling (and a few brookies) much to the delight of all...Gale, me and, naturally, Annie...who I think might have enjoyed the sojourn even more than us....

Saturday it was back to the old grind but...We decided to get out the Dutch Oven and build us a genuine, traditional Kentucky burgoo...Elk, fowl, pork, enough different veggies to start a farmer's market booth (alas we did not grow the veggies, this is after all Montany), a dash of this, a dash of that, including Guiness stout, if you can believe it, 4 1/2 hours in the pot, adding charcoal as needed and...Well, trust me, this baby is a keeper...You ain't tried a burgoo sorry but you really are missing it...

Windy (isn't it always?) I rigged up our old smoker as windbreak, laid the prescribed number charcoal top and bottom of Dutch Oven, in due time (4 1/2 hours) Gale ladled us up a really fine feast...sorry ya'll weren't able to share it...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Montana Stream Access Law Threatened Yet Again...


Yesterday before an overflow crowd in a ballroom no less on the MSU campus the state's Highest Court was forced once again to consider the constitutionality of the Montana Stream Access Law...Which in the simplified version grants access to any moving water so long as access is gained from public land and that said accessee stays below the high water mark. 

Notwithstanding most landowners are good to go with this greedy bastards such as James Cox Kennedy and Huie Lewis--rich pricks beyond comprehension--just cannot stand the thought of someone enjoying himself fishing, for cripes sake, the fiefdom. Like HOW DARE YOU...So here we go again...No matter that this has been litigated to death (both the above DHs have lost countless times) over the past several decades the Chief Justice promised a ruling in the next two months or so...For the rest of the story click the link above...if you dare test your sanity that is...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: High Bridge Diversion...

...aka Beaverhead High Bridge Boat Trap finally got a much needed face lift. Thanks to a bunch of us finally saying "enough already" and sending off a barrage scathing e-mails to MTFWP officials and staff; rumor has it even Senator Jon Tester, Steve Bullock (current MT Gov) and maybe a few other high ups got our message. Anyway though we'd been bitching for several years once the salvo hit took only a few days to git 'er done...As you can see in the BEFORE shot above dodging the rocks took some doing and more than a little luck...especially during high water (here the river is running out the dam about 50 cfs; typical summer flows range around 800 to 1000 cfs. 

As an old nemesis liked to say..."Much Improved"...Sorry, inside joke, but I'm sure you get my drift...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Montana Outdoors: Sow Griz Mauls College Student

Less than a mile from campus a student at Salish-Kootenai College on the Flathead Indian Reservation was mauled by a sow grizzly with cubs; proving once again you really should pay attention when out and about in Griz Country...for the rest of the story follow the link below.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Young Hunter Scores Big Time...

 My 9-year old son, Garrett, shot his first turkey today and the excitement was something else. Today was his first time ever Spring gobbler hunting. The mentored youth hunting opportunities make for quite an adventure. The morning started with preparing all the necessary items to keep a nine year old boy content and concealed in the woods. We packed a lunch and drinks, two chairs, a pop-up blind, extra clothes (the temps were in the thirties with expected winds) and of course the gun, shells, and license. Wake-up was at 5:15 am and although tired, I think the excitement made for a quick rise and shine.
The walk to where we were hunting was approximately 35 minutes, but a little steep for small legs. We were finally approaching the spot where I wanted to set up the blind, when I noticed some silhouettes in the trees just on top of the ridge. We immediately stopped and back-peddled to get behind a small cedar tree along the edge of the field. The morning light was fast approaching and I wondered if I could set up the blind without bumping the roosted birds. I then realized my son would have a hard time keeping still like a seasoned hunter, and took that chance.
Now I have the blind set up, birds within site, and a very excited young boy. What else could two hunters want on the first morning of spring gobbler season. Not expecting this comment, Garrett says, "Can I have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Dad ? I'm a little hungry. We continued to watch the birds for fly down and Garrett quickly devoured his sandwich. Within minutes, we saw the birds leave the roost and land twenty yards from our set-up. I handed the shotgun to Garrett and told him to get ready, the turkey was coming around a blow down just in front of our blind. The gobbler walked a path right on top of the ridge and within seconds, was right in front of us.
Caught up in the excitement, I said "shoot him, make sure your aiming for his head and neck, shoot him". The gobbler walked behind some barberry shrubs and Garrett said " He's behind that tree." Several more steps and the Tom was in the clear, his beard dangling. The shot rang out, but afterwards neither one of us remember hearing the sound of the gun. With the Turkey flopping around, Garrett said "I got him, Dad !
A father and son high five, lots of smiles, and a moment where one realizes a memory had just been made. Despite the gun shot, the other birds that had flown down from the roost were walking around in the middle of the field and we just sat there watching five more gobblers establishing what seemed like their pecking order as they chased and flogged each other across the large open field. Once the birds were out of sight, we walked over and claimed our turkey. The bird weighed in at 21 pounds, eight and a half inch beard, and 7/8 inch spurs... not bad for this fine young hunter. One only hopes this is enough to start a lifetime of hunting memories with Dad.
...Story and Photo,  courtesy Shawn Nicewonger.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Montana: Springtime in the Rockies...

...is often fleeting. All sunny and warm feeling one day; downright winter-like the next. For the past while now it's been way more winter-like (cold, leavened with lots a icy wind) than even us hardened Montanans are used to...two mornings this week the porch thermometers dipped to single digits, day time highs barely made it into the 30s...wind chills...hell, who knows...who wants to anyway. But the good news  is some signs of spring...well even the worst blows can't hold 'em in check. Big Hole's open and fishing pretty good; streamers and nymphs rule most days but several guide buddies report outstanding skwala fishing--purple chubby seems to be the hot fly but please don't spread it around. 

Mountain bluebirds are back in force, ditto the sandhill cranes, long-billed curlews, ospreys, ground squirrels everywhere, ducks and geese are paired up and already settin nests...sage hens are all but done breeding, trees budding and wildflowers--while not many in bloom yet--still there are some and lots of green plants poking heads even despite a few scant inches of snow...As they say in Hell, North Dakota and, yes, even here in Montanay...

...Ain't spring yet but you can damn sure see it from here..stay tuned.