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