Monday, March 31, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Leave Spring Spawners Be

This morning it looks and feels a lot more winter-like than spring; a little too much winter-like for me to even think of actually going fishing but...Early spring is spawning time for rainbows, cutts and grayling. With weatherman promising spring starts next week, I, along with a bunch of you, will seriously consider kick starting the new season.

Spawning fish, as we all know, are easy pickings. Before run-off begins streams and creeks are running low and clear. Since spawning always takes place in shallow, well-aerated riffles the hardest part is usually the hike from the truck. Just about any fly, bait or lure drifted anywhere near an active spawning bed is likely to draw a strike. Good news for the lucky angler, not so hot for the already stressed and physically drained spawners.

While I believe strongly in leaving fish to spawn in peace (like would you enjoy being hooked in the jaw while, you know, spawning, I don't think so) it is not illegal. So, at the very least take care and DO NOT under any circumstance walk through a redd; whether or not you actually see fish in or around it, there are eggs in the gravel and once kicked loose, fish eggs do not do well. And please Do Not cast to actively spawning fish; ripe females almost always abort eggs during the ensuing fight and, from what I've seen, always abort what's left during the netting, handling, unhooking process.

In other words if you gotta fish in early spring, and I agree is almost un-American not to, why not check-out your favorite brown trout holes or better still check out one the many lakes and reservoirs where the large majority are hatchery plants and most of the spawning activity goes for naught anyway.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Birding Trails Montana...Coming Soon!!!

In the hopper for so long, I almost forget writing it but...After numerous delays I got word yesterday the "Galleys are on the way for your edit" Scheduled Upload to Printer March 21...HOO-OO-RAY!!!! Feel free to order the book by calling Wilderness Adventures Press at 1-866-400-2012

Monday, March 3, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Westslope Cutthroat Update...

Montana's State Fish, the westslope cutthroat trout has been in decline for decades thanks to lost habitat and hybridization, primarily with introduced rainbow trout. Here in southwest Montana biologists are determined to turn the decline on  its ear, help to ensure its long term survival. Westslope cutts are the only native trout in the Missouri drainage. Beginning in 2001 thru 2013 FWP biologists and staff have worked on 21 streams. Typically the projects involve removing non-native fish, constructing a fish passage barrier at the bottom end and restocking with genetically pure WCTs. The projects have begun to reverse the downward trend within the region. Collectively the work has added 167 miles of occupied stream. In 2001 westslope cutts were present in only 4.2%, about 11,000 miles of stream, of its historic range; today they occupy about 5.7%. And with many more projects in the works that percentage should continue to grow.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Montana Birds: Bluebird Turf Wars...

Mountain bluebird
Western bluebird

Interesting tale in the current Montana Outdoors. Seems these days "when the bluebird sings at the Lemonade Spring" assuming  the Spring is located in a valley west of the Continental Divide it will most likely be a Western Bluebird doing the singing; not the Mountain variety.

There are several reasons for this but the rampant spread of bird houses, fewer low elevation tree cavities due to increased fire suppression as western valleys became more populated, coupled with behavorial differences, especially differences in aggression (western bluebirds are far more aggressive on average) and that the more timid mountain bluebird males are more nurturing, feeding nesting females and helping to raise young and, perhaps most importantly, to survive high elevation spring storms.

There is a lot more to this fascinating story and another good reason to subscribe to Montana Outdoors--for just 12 bucks a year can't hardly afford not to...