Friday, May 16, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Rites of Spring...

Each spring, along about the mid-May, we head for a favorite lake in the Beaverhead Mountains (upper Big Hole River valley). Some years we make it into the lake first try; other years snow drifts curtail our fishing until later in the month. A couple weeks ago we got as far as the forest boundary; then yesterday, following a string of warm days and not so chilly nights all but the biggest drifts disappeared and though we found the road flooded in spots the drive in was uneventful. Better still the lake was open and not a soul around.

After stretching our legs we gobbled down our usual road trip lunch fare--crackers, leftover meat, cheese, peanut butter and jelly and a shared cookie for desert. The best fishing is usually at the inlet, a short hike through the woods. Annie led the way, hoping no doubt for spruce grouse but had to settle for a few scattered bunches ducks and geese, a spooked muskrat and a few tweeties.

As I rigged a pair of soft hackles--size 12, Orange Fish Hawk and a size 16, Red Ass--Gale announced, "they're raising, same spot as always, right off the sand bar." Since I had the rod, took first dibs and...first cast hooked a spunky grayling and...For the next two hours we took turns hooking fish after fish. Most were grayling such as the one above; every now and then a fat brookie ate our offerings and we even landed a couple cuttbows and one rainbow. We cannot recall ever landing anything here but grayling and brookies though as I might have mentioned before in this rant and elsewhere...well, our recollections ain't so hot anymore...what can I say.

Anyway, just for the hell of it, we tried a couple dries and though we both had trouble hooking up the fish didn't seem to discriminate...All in all I fun afternoon. General fishing season opens tomorrow so stay tuned...  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Montana Wilderness: 50 Years Old and Counting...

Absaroka/Beartooth Wilderness
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

— Wilderness Act of 1964

Early advocates such as Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall led the fight; Congress Voted and in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson penned the Wilderness Act into Law.

Today Montana is home to 16 designated wilderness areas, comprising roughly 3.5 million acres (about 3.75 percent) of the state's lands. They include the highest peaks in the Treasure State, as well as low-lying marshland suited for wildlife refuges. These wilderness areas are home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, a number of them threatened or endangered. Sad but true, despite millions acres qualified land parcels, thanks to the usual culprits--developers, mining, logging, motorheads and such--have been designated wilderness since 1983.

Montana Wilderness By The Numbers

Total Acres in Montana 94,109,440 acres
Total Square Miles in Montana 145,556 square miles
Total Remaining Montana Wildland Base 9,839,100 acres
Total Wilderness Acres in Montana 3,443,038 acres
Percent of Land Base 3.7%
Total Number of Wilderness Areas 16
Total Unprotected Wilderness Acres in Montana 6,397,000 acres
Percent of Land Base 6.8%
Total Acres of Public Lands in Montana 27,378,247 acres

Percent of Land Base 29%

Wilderness Areas

     Custer NF 345,599
     Gallatin NF 574,744
Anaconda Pintler  
     Bitterroot NF 41,162
Bob Marshall  
     Flathead NF 709,356
     Lewis & Clark NF 300,000
Cabinet Mountains  
     Kaniksu NF 44,320
     Kootenai NF 49,952
Gates of the Mountains  
     Helena NF 28,562
Great Bear  
     Flathead NF 286,700
Lee Metcalf  
     Beaverhead NF 107,694
     Gallatin NF 140,594
     BLM                        6,000
Mission Mountains  
     Flathead NF 73,877
     Lolo NF 32,976
     Helena NF 80,697
     Lewis & Clark NF 84,407
     Lolo NF 74,832
     Bitterroot NF 241,676
     Lolo NF 9,767
Welcome Creek  

     Lolo NF 28,135
Medicine Lake  
     Medicine Lake NWR 11,366
Red Rock Lakes  
     Red Rock Lakes NWR 32,350
UL Bend  

     UL Bend NWR 20,819

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Out With Old; In With the New (Old)

Ron Evans bought Ol' Greenie last fall. I agreed to paint and do whatever maintenance I thought necessary. Friday he and Kris came to Dillon to pick it up and asked us to join them for a short float on the Big Hole.

Ron Evans photo

We'd actually planned to test drive our recently refurbished Hyde later that day anyway. Kris and Gale did the fishing, while Ron and I manned the oars. As turned out the fishing was slow but with the river running around 2400 cfs the rowing was easy. We put in around noon at Salmon Fly and took out at Browne's Bridge around three...near record time to be sure but not such a bad way to while away the warmest afternoon yet this spring. Because of the weather and that the river has been fishing well most of the spring we expected a crowd; instead I think we saw just two other boats.