Saturday, March 30, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Henneberry Homestead

Patented in 1887 by William Henneberry the so-called Henneberry/Ney House was built in 1905. Several years ago the BLM purchased the property, which sits beside the Beaverhead River, just below Pipe Organ Bridge. The initial restoration began shortly and is now nearing completion. When completed the plan is to rent the cabin and unless something changes the charge will be $75 per night. With the Beaverhead River literally within spitting distance no doubt reservations between April and October will be hard to come by. As far as I know no opening date has yet been announced but a peek in the windows last week leads me to believe "coming soon" is not too much of a stretch.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Montana Bird Hunting: Chuck's Corner

Announcing Chuck's Corner at Lion Country Supply (click photo at top right hand side) where I will be posting bird  hunting stories, reports from the field, Lion Country Supply product reviews (pros and cons) and more. The first post "Montana Sage Grouse Hunting" is up and running, check it out; feel free to e-mail me what you think, what you might want to see in the future and, of course, questions, rants and raves are always welcome.

On another track fished the Beav yesterday afternoon below Pipe. Despite fair to middlin' midge and BWO activity fishing was slow, only a couple risers and just one hook up top side. Streamers and nymphs worked better but not by much. Only excuses I can think of are damn chilly water no doubt due really cold (zero to five above at my house) starts past several mornings, really bright, low water and what with Annie Baby all fired up for the Boss to catch a few...well, just did not happen...tis after all fishin and wishin not always catchin...Right.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: 2013 State Legislature Update...

You would have to be hiding under a rock in the middle of the "Bob" to not recognize those in control of our legislature are engaged in all out war against hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists. Under siege is just about every program, every agency does not place oil and gas drilling, commercial development, mining and agricultural interests as top priority in public policy. The list of bills is nothing less than staggering and the negative ramifications to sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts mind boggling. Why, how these greedy bastards continue to get elected in a state where someone in just about every household either hunts, fishes, hikes, camps, whatever, our public lands and waters can only be blamed on one thing--apathy and the idea our rights are somehow inviolate--like me, many take the easy way out, let others do the dirty work as if somehow it'll all work out. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

For example, our notorious anti-sportsman, anti-FWP, anti-public access, privatize the crap out of everything and anything, Debbie Barrett recently got her long suffering bill passed which essentially guts FWPs elk management plan. Mandates elk numbers be cut to what ranchers deem is manageable. Here in Beaverhead County the Blacktail Herd currently stands at about 1700 head; under the new policy would be cut by roughly half; the Lima Peaks Herd, 2800 would be cut by about 2/3s--if not automatic 3 week extensions, any elk, any un-punched tag(s) good to go. Essentially taking management out the hand of professionals and into the hands of private ranchers who would like nothing better than to reap the rewards private lands, privatizing public resources. And it goes on and on... 

I've been stewing about these issues for sometime now but what really struck me how apathetic so many of us have become was reading the current "Trout Line" list of donors. I imagine like many my name is not on the list using the excuses already belong, paid my dues, live a semi-indigent life, in other words done my  part let others more well off do theirs. But the thing really struck me is how few names appear of the dozens, hundreds, thousands of us make a living (or at least part of one) flat out because we do have access to a wonderful collection public waters. Great access and fishing of course pads the bottom line for all of us. Thanks in large part  because TU ( and others such as Montana Sportsmen Alliance, Montana Wildlife Federation, The Public Land/Water Association) are up there in Helena stumping every day to guard our interests. 

Suddenly it dawns we've just never given much thought to the idea none of these organizations have hidden agendas to profit, any reason to fight except for the conviction that all this does belong to the folks and when it's gone then what?  Clean air, water and soil without it what's the use, eh?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Time to Start Rain Dancin'?

Last season was a great water year. Beaverhead and Big Hole trout and bugs responded in kind, overall one the best fishing seasons in recent years. 

But the Beaverhead, at least so far, things aren't shaping up quite so nicely. For starters low snow is nearly non-existent; especially grim in Beaverhead country. Yesterday we drove the Ermont Mine Road to the top and crossed I think two wet spots, no snow drifts and hiked around the sage looking for sage hens to harass on bare ground except for a few old, old snow drifts. Not good. The lower Grasshopper and down Dell and Lima way same story. I heard a couple days ago snow in the Centennial and Blacktail is all but non-existent. Checking Clark Canyon this morning pool sits at 75% full; inflow is 188 cfs; outflow 50cfs. Not so grim to hit the panic button but not so hot either.

On the other hand the Big Hole is sitting pretty; the basin wide average is running right around 100% of normal. Which given the area's history of cold, wet and/or snowy springs should get even better. This morning the river  at Maiden Rock is running 469 which is about 100 cfs above the long term average. The upper river is still frozen but below Wise River is open although there remains a ton of ice on the banks in most places. 

On another track, because of the sick bastard been posting way beyond lewd comments. Which I just discovered been going on for quite some time and worse apparently no way to block individuals no matter how whacked, sick, whatever. Thus yee faithful and loyal followers will no longer be able click comment and type away. No, now you must first e-mail the Administrator (me) for permission. I regret this change because truly enjoy hearing from you...Sorry just is what must be...over and out...Chuck

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Sight Fishing Tips...

Trout even in shallow water can be difficult to see. Especially at rest on a sunny day glare and light reflecting off the bottom rocks can render even large trout nearly invisible. A good reason to wear the best polorized glasses you can afford.

Trout live by the mantra "greatest good with least effort." Or more to the point to survive trout must  find a way to take in more calories than burned to consume them. This explains why trout are almost never found suspended off the bottom in heavy current even though the heaviest currents often carry the most food. But you do often find trout lying in a current break, such as the soft edge where slow and fast water meet. Darting briefly into the heavy stuff to ambush a nymph then back to the soft stuff requires less effort.

Trout feeding on nymphs usually don't move very far. Subtle tip-ups and slight side to side movements are the norm. But sometimes the only movement necessary is to simply open mouth and swallow the victim. In such cases the only clue is the instant the white inside the mouth shows. The easier scenario is a light hatch (drift) requiring the trout to move less subtly side to side and up and down.

Over the years I've spent countless hours sight fishing to trout gorging on nymphs. More, I've been lucky to have spent untold hours watching some of the best nymph fisher's on the planet do their thing. And as a guide I've coached (tried to) less gifted fishermen to git 'er done.

A couple things stand out:
1) The perfect, spot-on cast is rarely the best. Reason being the nymph drifts right down the pipe, mouth opens and closes briefly, fisherman misses the subtle movement, trout spits out fraud...Game over.
2) The best presentation is the purposely misdirected shot places the nymph a foot or so to the near side forcing Mr. Trout to move to the meal or go hungry...Such moves are much easier to spot and thus set the hook in time.  The more naturals in the drift naturally the more shots may be necessary. And here's where casting ability really pays off. If you can repeatedly make the close but not too close to spook the quarry...well, trust me, it does work.

PS. In my opinion the above nymph is "too fat, too heavily dressed." Real mayfly nymphs are like fashion models...scary skinny.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Field Testing...

...my new ghost net and an easy method for catching pre-spring runoff trout.

Beyond the tired, too often spewed cliche' you know "a pix is worth 1000 words" or was it...nah I got it right, what else can I say other than as advertised (obviously) the ghost net works and sure is a pretty damn thing, especially compared to the beat up ugly green net I been using for, oh say, 30 years or so...as for the really ugly black rubber boat job...well, not even worth going there so...Anyways this happens to be a real el-cheapo as landing nets, ghost or otherwise, go...Got it at Butte Walmart of all places...made by Cortland for the handsome price $19.50...true it ain't a Brodin but then is not near as heavy and sure not even close price-wise...as they say, to each his own...and for me this one's keeper.

OK, I won't hold you in suspense any longer...my super secret, hot, can't-miss pre-spring runoff (low, cold-water) method is this: To a standard floating line, rig a leader about as long as your favorite bugger chuckin stick (for what is worth mine is a first gen 9 ft. Sage graphite--like the now cast aside battle tested and well worn green net this rod really has been around the proverbial block a time or three ) tapered to 2X or 3X fluorocarbon depending on how big the trouts you might expect; bend on a Clouser (above) or a bright sparkly bugger (I live by the mantra bright day, bright fly, dark day, dark fly) or any such pattern you might have more faith. Toss whatever out there either quartering up (for deep fast current) or straight out or slightly quartering down (naturally for the slower, shallower stuff) let it swing around and...before you know trout on...or at least enjoy the many tugs, chases, boils and such as we all know happens frequently when fishing bait fish patterns. Be sure to target any deeper pockets and runs, any edges, and do not be in a hurry to strip in and re-cast...lethargic, cold trout often take awhile to make up their minds. Slow and slower usually works wonders. PS If you roll your own try tying in a hot spot. I add one to almost all my underwater patterns and since doing so have enjoyed an upswing in hook sets. Obviously the above does not and my only excuse is all the hot spot stuff  somehow failed to make the trip...old man's syndrome strikes again! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dillon, MT Fly Shop/Sporting Goods Store...

...Anderson & Platt Outfitters Opens April 1st...
Good Luck, John and Brad, on your newest venture...Based on Anderson & Platt Fly Fishing Outfitter's considerable success over the past 13 years growing a loyal clientele I have little doubt shop will not grow quickly into Dillon's favorite and best retail fly fishing and sporting goods retail outlet. Formally Uncle Bob's, A&P plan to carry a similar  inventory of top-name brands--fly fishing, hunting, outdoor clothing, archery and more. 

Next time you're in town be sure to stop in, enjoy a little transposed down-home southern, as in North Carolina, hospitality and humor, get the latest scoop on the local fishing scene, perhaps pick up that essential piece a gear you've been wanting but just haven't been able to find at the right price.

In case you forgot already OPENING DAY IS APRIL FIRST...and no I ain't foolin'...Oh, by the way, store is located just north of Dillon on Highway 43 (the road to Twin Bridges), look for the sign and the line drift boats outside, can't miss it.    

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Must Be Nice..

...fishing, doing what you love best and getting paid for it". A refrain I hear so often yet still leaves me at a loss for words to answer...calmly. For starters, let's say fly "fishing" is what I love to do best. But by definition at any given moment your "guide" is not "fishing" but rather engaged in one or more acts of servitude which granted are "fishing related" but can hardly be deemed actually "fishing." Right.

Take my typical guide day itinerary, for example. Up at 5:30 (that would be a.m.) gulp down coffee and a bowl cereal, load cooler with ice, water and soft drinks, clean boat of yesterday's garbage and left-overs, log-in mileage and other necessary info as required by IRS, Montana Board of Outfitters, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to make certain I can "prove" where, when, with who, how-much and so forth should suspicions (audits) arise the "what I love best and getting paid for" is indeed on the up and up. Lest you think the you  think the Guide Police stuff is made up, consider that I and all the guides and outfitters I know were checked by on an almost daily basis (a couple days twice) on the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers by the so-called river ranger and/or game warden . Who by the way of late seem to spend inordinate amounts of time and effort playing gotcha; in almost every case when one of us do screw up it is in all honesty a matter of poor book-keeping rather blatant dishonesty. Really.

Back to the daily grind.

Then around  6 or 6:30 its off to the gas station to fill up; on to the fly shop or lodge to pick-up guests and on to the river. Should said clients be holed up in, say, Twin Bridges and wish to fish the upper Big Hole, say Squaw Creek to East Bank; it's roughly 30 miles to Twin, 28-miles teeth rattling, trailer and tire busting miles across the High Road to Melrose and about 45-miles to Squaw Creek...100-miles and change in case your calculator's broke down. 

Where I get to rig up the guests, get the boat ready for launch...And now...At least now the guests can start doing "what I love best and get paid for" meanwhile I get on the sticks, do a little (lot of) coaching, take care of tangles, re-rig as necessary, net a few fish (hopefully), deal with the wind, get broiled many days well beyond well done and of course get to listen (and depending on subject) even participate in the endless B.S. for all fisher folk are notorious. And then after 8 hours or so "doing what I love best and getting paid for" I get to load the boat, de-rig, deliver the guests back (perish the thought they be too late for cocktails) and drive the rest of the way back home...Admittedly with the exception of Madison River sojourns the upper Big Hole, Squaw to East Bank is my longest drive. That said, still is a really rare day portal to portal is less than 12 hours and 14-hour days are not uncommon. Maybe half-dozen days a year I get lucky and find the day cut short for one reason or other. 

But I do have to admit also the view out the office window (see photo) really is kick-ass top shelf and I am  outside which I suppose in all honesty just being outside really is "what I love best"...Now if I could just find a way to "play" outside and pay the bills...Oh well...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing: Poindexter Slough

Walking the tracks to Poindexter Slough, a favorite early season fishin hole I hoped to find wall-to-wall hatching midges and rising trout...

Alas, no midges, no risers, not interested in dredging bottom, in deference to the low, clear water I added 4-feet or so 3X fluorocarbon to a 9-feet tapered leader, tied on this bright, lead-eye bugger (you know, bright day, bright fly) pitched it across to the far bank, let it swing down and across into an inviting looking green bucket, guarded by old beaver cuttings one side and a current cleaving rock the other and bingo...trout on. 

Bright sun and low flow, the hard part was finding pockets deep enough to both hold a trout and hide self. The easy part it seemed every time I managed to pull off both a willing trout was waiting to grab the bugger. Though I landed only a half-dozen or so, lost track of the many misses and the inevitable poor hook-sets fishing down results. Toss in a rather unweildy rig to cast and control and...well, what can I say. Anyway was fun. Note the nasty wound no doubt the result of a recent run-in Mr. Heron.   

Friday, March 8, 2013

Big Hole River Foundation...

...mission is to conserve, enhance and protect the free-flowing character of the Big Hole River, it unique culture, fish and wildlife. The Big Hole River Basin is home to the last self-sustaining wild population in the lower 48 of fluvial (river dwelling) Arctic grayling as well as 47 animal and 79 plant Species of Special Concern including gray wolf, wolverine, grizzly bear, golden and bald eagle, trumpeter swan, whooping crane, peregrine falcon, greater sage grouse and westslope cutthroat trout.

The social and economic mainstay of the valley is ranching, most of the ranches are large, family owned, established for several generations.

The Foundation has been and continues to be a major moving force and important partner in establishing and carrying on the many on-going projects involving research, conservation, education and outreach designed to improve, enhance and maintain river flows and riparian habitat which of course benefits not only grayling and trout but wildlife and the land itself. Non-profit, the Foundation operates on a budget of about $4000 per month or $50,000 annually. Donations, grants and fund raisers of course fuels the operation.

To find out more, or how you can help click on http://www.bhrf.org/

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing...

...as advertised temps yesterday soared into the mid 50s. Even up on the Big Hole at Maiden Rock the temperature reached 50, if only for a brief time. But even after the clouds rolled in still remained tolerable or would have weren't for the wind. No anemometer in the hip pocket I'd judge the gusts at around 25, sustained wind most afternoon around 15 or so. Anyways strong enough to kill off any chance at chucking midge emergers to rising trout--actually did not see a single rise though Gale did mention, "think I saw one." Thinking she meant "rise" I said, "where?" To which she shot me one those looks...how do I know, flying by...So no bugs, no risers, hellish wind, only thing left was to go to the dark side or...take a hike. Yet again showing our age I suppose you  might say we chose the latter...Oh well, maybe today...PS There is a surprising amount open water all the way from Glen to Maiden Rock...some spots lots ice piled on the edges, though some spots the ice is all but gone...hooray.