Thursday, December 20, 2007

Montana - Day 3... God's Country

The highlights from day 3 and 4.... last few days…….

1. The hatch was on again

2. Nick's fly was named…. The "Nasty Nick", the fly of the trip

3. Nate's midnight creation worked!!!!

4. Nick falling in the river, getting soaked and close to hypothermia.

5. Nick rowing for life to get back before dusk.

6. Sunset on the water

Monday, December 17, 2007

Montana - Day 2... God's Country

Morning came early… a welcomed early I suppose. We stopped in the local shop, bought some flies and received some info, sipped some Joe and away we went. Unloading the car you could taste the Montana air. It was just as you picture it, crisp, cold and pure, it was good. Arriving at the water, the outside temp was freezing. We shoved off in anticipation of a better day.

Nate picked up a fish on a streamer and Nick banged one nymphing right away. Now nymphing is not my thing, I don't mind it but would rather fly the dry. I find it boring and blind fishing its not very fun for me, because I am no good at it. I'm more of a stalker of fish; sight fishing is more of my thing. Now upon watching the boys toss their weighted rigs and catching fish… I too tossed mine. In no time I was bored and eventually was in tangles… about 5 minutes later : ) But this time I didn't untangle it, instead I swore at it, returned to my toon and sat down in frustration. As fate happens, I happen to look up; there in the early morning stood an old timer way over on the other side. He was just watching the water, rod in hand fly on the keeper. I watched him as I clipped my nymph rig into 5.1 million pieces from utter love. What is he doing I kept thinking. He looked over at me, I waved, he frowned, I gave him the finger and laughed in hysterics… actually I didn't do that. I just smiled bigger and kept waving, but in my head I was thinking a lot more… guy must be from Utah I thought.

We pushed down stream, the entire float I couldn't help but think about the gray bearded fellow. I looked down stream and noticed a nice slow area surrounded by fast water, perfect. Everyone stopped with in eyesight and started fishing. About that time I saw a sipper, I looked closer, dorsal fins! So this is what the old timer is waiting for, are there midges? I positioned my self at the tail of the run, hidden behind a pile of rocks. I made the first cast and got a rejection, changed my angle and again rejected, so I switched flies. To my surprise the same thing happened. I retreated from my crouched stealthy position from behind the rocks. Sat down and thought it through. My conclusion is….???? And I busted out the bunny midge. No fish can resist this fly in a Midge hatch. After casting for 20 minutes and trying to coax a fish into eating the fly I was irritated. Stupid fish and a few other very choice words fish were blurted out : ) Oooh, ooh, wait… got a strike, I set the hook like a Bass Master and lost the fish. Crap, @#%$, *&^%$, that's really not what I said but you get the idea. Size 28 hooks require a more gentle approach to setting the hook, lifting the rod gingerly is probably best. After a few pricks and a few small fish, I was stumped. I scanned the water searching for bugs. I always think that I would use a seine if I had one but I don't ever think to get one when I am at the shop for some reason. All I saw were Midges, tiny Midges, big midges, stuck in the shuck Midges. I was moving around still irritated trying to keep my balance on the slimy bottom when I fell and racket my kneecap right on a rock as I was going down. It hurt so bad, almost like the time when I blew my other knee. I was a little wet but luckily I was all zipped up so I didn't take on water, a little wet though. My knee was throbbing, I was frustrated and really starting to get pissed ( I know getting mad and fishing, but for some reason I was) About the same time I was pondering what rock to pick up to toss in the hole, I saw something. Something so amazing that I just watched it float down stream not thinking of observing it a bit more. After I gathered my self I thought it might be an illusion. Then with parting clouds a beam of light came down and shine upon the…. stupid BWO, what BWO's. No wonder, all the pieces add up, the old man, the rejection of the fish, fish that taste it but don’t eat it and my frustration, if I only had a seine, I am an idiot!! So the next few hours, yes hours the river was in a full-blown hatch. Well, for some great reason we encountered a prolific hatch, big fish were feeding on top as well as the little guys. Soon the entire pool was up side by side. Fish in shallow water were rolling on them sideways. It was unbelievable… it was amazing. All fish are now up and feeding recklessly. At this point everyone manned their station and we stuck fish for the next few hours, working a hole and moving on to the next. Some great fish were caught and some great fish were lost. But it was a fantastic few hours. The fish were a bit picky though but it kept it fun and interesting, not easy though. Actually it was tough fishing. At the end of the day we grouped and discussed the hatch. Some patterns worked for a bit but no single fly killed it. We all went through a ton of patterns that day… a few stood out. One was an emerger that Nick had tied.

Back at the cabin we sat down to dinner and discuss the day. The conclusion was that the fish are keying on the BWO, duh…. but well after the hatch too. Nate busted out the vise and began to go through the less than par tying material we had brought. The hooks were the wrong type and size, the materials were not the right color or type of material etc. The end result was a drowned BWO. Nick sat down and tried to duplicate his go-to pattern, not the right stuff for both flies but they made due. We decided to take our arsenal and market the same run hoping for another prolific hatch.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Montana - Day 1... God's Country

Montana has always had a special place in my life. In the summers as a kid I worked the deep backcountry rivers in the Bitterroot National Forest doing Salmon Habitat Research. It was a lonely place for a teenager, but a good place for a kid to stay out of trouble. It has always had a mystic that hangs over this place. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about it. I will always believe it to be a great point in my life, a home away from home. That seemed just like yesterday, crazy to think it was over 15 years ago. This was a highly anticipated trip. It was my first trip to the Madison that I can remember, although I might have been there as an infant a few times tucked neatly away in the old mans pack : ) But I do remember Montana and the feeling that it offers to those willing to listen.

The rendezvous point was my house for the first pick up, then off to Nate's, a quick call to Matt to rub it in and we hit the open road, 11 pm. The drive consisted of a midnight run in the snow … its going to be a cold miserable trip, perfect for fall streamers! <> We stopped in for a quick rest and homemade breakfast at Nicks friend house in Island Park before we finished the last few hours before the Madison.

Arriving at the cabin we met the owner, awesome lady BTW, unloaded our stuff and left for the first float. I just discovered that the town, food and smokes, was the other direction and about 40 minutes round trip. Nick and Nate conveniently both brought food from home because we have a fridge, microwave, sink, oven, BBQ… basically a full kitchen, nobody thought of telling me, how nice. So I have no food, smokes, Red Bulls… anything. At this point I didn't care just wanted to fish.

Well, the river is not what I had expected. Its fast water fishing at its finest. Beauty of a river! We shoved off and away we went. Nate picked up a fish pretty quickly, then another and another. Nick and I are still at a zero when Nate lands a beauty of a Brown on his beloved "Woolly-Raider" pattern. We rowed and tossed streamers all day. Fishing was really slow. I had picked up a few on Cheech's articulated patterns but nothing substantial and overall numbers were down. The scenery more than makes up for the slow day of fishing, its absolutely amazing. Pulled over to enjoy the views, eat some much needed food and rested a bit. We pushed on, pushed a tad bit to far actually, Nate and I flew right by our extraction point. Luckily Nick found the car gave us a call and came and picked us up.

Back at the cabin we assessed the situation and made a decision to go up stream tomorrow…..

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cont...The Return to the Oasis - Day 2

Day two started bright and early, before dawn. Packed the car and headed to get Breakfast. Why is it that I eat nothing but junk when I go fishing, somehow I find myself shopping for food and the gas station… again? Grabbed some "I can't believe they call this a breakfast sandwich" sandwiches, gas and off to the Oasis.

Today we decided to hit a lesser know section in hopes of getting into a big one. We shoved off and started the morning warming up by tossing streamers. After yesterdays disasters I had one goal, to get a Kokanee. I had also promised myself that I would take the time to stop and target the sippers. You get to enjoy the surroundings a bit more. Ripping streamers and floating is great but you either target the approaching bank (that always looks good) or you can take a look around. I would like to say that I take more time to enjoy it but sometimes I get locked into the trace and before you know it four hours has whizzed by.

The first bend was a beautiful long right-hander. Classic set up, picture perfect. There was a steep embankment with the foam line gingerly flowing down the length of the curve. The opposing shore held slack, stale water with a larger than normal dead current. Nate was in front heading for the bend and I was following a fair distance behind taking the same line. We hit the bend with no success, great another one of these days. Nick took the left side with the slack water. Made a few casts… SLAM, the reel was screaming. He was mid river, the deepest section and the fish is running in every direction…. Again the drag is screaming, there is nothing he can do but hold on. Being in a pontoon has some advantages and some disadvantages. He gained control of the fish and headed for shore. After a good fight the brute was landed. What a fish… a fat, colorful Rainbow. After having a front row seat watching the fish, I was impressed with the smoothness of the Ross reel. There was times when it just took off, acting as if it was a fish twice its size. The drag never hesitated, sputtered or was slow to respond to the initial jerk… good ol' Ross. Well, the day might just pan out after all. We spent the rest of the morning picking up a fish here or there. By this time I had a few grabs but nothing to hand. Looking ahead I saw a sipper. I had nothing to loose and a 6" fish will at least get me on the board. So I rigged up with the trusty Ant trailing tiny midge. Figuring that they would sip the tiny #28. To my surprise the Ant was slammed right away. I'm on the board. Looking around I saw a few more sippers, feeding in a small faint foam line tucked away tight to the bank. The next few casts landed fish including a healthy little brown.

For the next few hours the float was great. Nick picked up another nice Bow and Nate had a few under his belt Including a beautifully colored Cutthroat and I didn't do to bad either with the sippers and two off a streamer. We pulled over for lunch, while eating I looked over and saw a few feeders. I grabbed my rod and proceeded to stalk these guys. Yep, as fate would have it I hooked them… and lost them. Oh well that's how my luck has gone lately. We pushed on and started to pick up a few more on streamers. Nate even got a Whitey on a streamer, Circus Peanut of all things. Around the bend I was scanning water, I swear I saw a jumping red fish. I yelled over to Nick and told him what I saw. Nick stayed in the boat while I ran up to get a better look upstream. I didn't see anything.. So my mind is playing tricks on me Nick thought I was loosing it. As I got back to my boat I looked down stream. There was a small split in the river, a side channel but didn't look like anything special. I had been checking side channels all day. The guides pushed right by this one or else they would have been here by the time we arrived. As I was giving it a glance over I noticed a sipper. I thought what the hell, it's been a slow day. So I yelled over to Nick once again and we made our way over there. At the split we looked down to noticed a red fish, then another. I am sure that we yelled out loud at the same time, KOKANEE! We got out of our boats and crept down the side channel, well I crept and Nick walks as quiet as Shreck : ) A big Trout scooted out, crap was that the sipper? I think I muttered something like quit spooking the fish or some gibberish like that. Walking a bit further from the boat we now saw the "sippers". Once your eyes got adjusted to seeing the entire big picture, the water was alive with red. These were not "sippers" but Salmon. Had to be a hundred of them, stacked side by side. I had never seen anything like it. They were going nuts, snapping their jaws at the surface, chasing other fish and just going bonkers. We walked the entire side channel it was choke full of these crazy looking fish. The other side of the island that split the river was also full of Salmon but not nearly as many. We ran to get Nate, yelling and screaming like idiots. This is why I came.

After rigging up we attacked with "four hours of not catching fish" fury. It was insane and Nate had the money Kokanee fly… so he handed them out to the rest of us. Making our way down stream I found myself standing above the outlet of the side channel. Like any jackass I decided to fish (casting a nymph rig) down stream. A few casts the line went tight and a rather large Rainbow was on! I tried to horse it across the fast water seam to my side of the bank to land the fish. That's right about the time when the line went slack. Man, my new found bad luck is really getting on my nerves. We proceeded to make our way over to fish the seam like smart people. Nate hooked into a healthy rainbow. He right hand is fast water and Nate was doing a good job of keeping the fish in front of him and away from the current. I grabbed the net and got into the river. I have no idea but somehow we managed to get this stubborn fish into the net. At one moment I thought that the fish was going to dart between my legs and I would somehow loose it for him, the downside of netting someone else's fish. What a fantastic fish, bright and healthy. We stayed fishing that run for a bit, taking turns hooking Rainbows. Every fish ran down stream and tried to make it to the fast water. I lost another good fish of course and Nate hooked a few more.

By this time it was getting late and we made the decision to push on and cover some water. Well, that wasn't the best idea due to the fact that we left fish to get no fish. The sun was setting and we were a little more than half way according to the GPS. So we rowed and rowed and rowed. It seemed like hours, oh wait it was. We finally made it back to the car, tired and hungry. The drive back home is was a long one. It was a great trip and I can't wait to go again.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Return to the Oasis - Day 1

4:00am any other day is a fine time to get up to go fishing but today it’s feeling early. Work was busy the night before, so I got home later than usual. I had to tie some flies just in case. Yes, I am well aware that I probably won't have a need for them or ever fish them but you never know. It has also been a great way to unwind after work. Its not like I can get home at midnight and go right to sleep with the night fast paced energy still going. The average guy who works 9-5 goes to bed after the evening news, five hours later…oh, and sleeps for 8, Wow, I am sleep deprived. I have a tendency to get involved when I tie, often I find myself tying something completely irrelevant to the original plan and before you know it, its 3:00 am. … The alarm goes off at 4:00am. So there I was, awake with one hour of "not really falling all the way asleep" sleep. Tired and anxious to get on the water I made it to the rendezvous, the front porch : ) The boys arrived bright-eyed and bushy tail… right… everyone was late, very normal for these two., LOL. By the time we all piled in and loaded the gear it looked like we just bought a small fly shop.

The open road felt good despite the lack of sleep. Arriving in town, we found our dive hotel, grabbed a few fishing licenses, debated on buying Matt a funny t-shirt, got gas, Red bulls and coffee. Matt is home studying for a school exam, poor Matt but smart Matt, Nick wanted to get him a souvenir and Nate and I agreed. The water was still an hour away. The drive seems like your in the middle of nowhere, maybe its because it actually is. The jagged mountains created a brilliant backdrop for the sunrise; the sky is long, open and unpolluted filled with colorful clouds that even an artist couldn't paint. It was a peaceful feeling think of fish and gazing at nature, the type of feeling that made the hair on your arm stand up. Looking across the flat plains you noticed small groups of trees. It was obvious that they were strong and has weathered timeless windy days and brutal winters. But the sky is what really caught my attention; it said a thousand words in one glance.

Gearing up on the river you couldn't help but feel the energy, we were stoked. Now we needed to unload the shop and shuttle the vehicles. This trip requires two cars. There was supposed to be four but Matt couldn't go, school thing. Someone had to drive along one way. Unloading the pontoon boats was rather easy, rigging three rods each was rather time consuming but we managed it. The day felt great, then two cars show up, clients out and guides unloading the boats. Great…. that's the second boat I have seen head down before us. This particular areas has very few fish, might not be a good thing for us. On the water excitement was flowing at full bore. We were all throwing streamers with furry. Cast after cast, strip after strip, we hit every bank, nook, cranny, shelf, hole and run that we could see. Four hours later the fish tally was at…a whopping 0, nothing, nada, zilch and that Italian name that I can't pronounce. It was amazing… simply amazing. But he scenery was nothing short of spectacular. Bald and Golden Eagles could be seen through out the day. Hawks, Owls and other birds were out and about.

After another few hours we all met up at the bend. Nate had gotten a few smaller guys on sippers and Nick and I had nothing, no tugs. Nate had thought that he saw something "red" down the river. So we shoved off and headed towards the sighting. As I walked up I noticed two red fish swimming around, it seemed as if they were playing "tag". I made a few casts, nothing, made a few more, nothing. Changed flies and hooked into a fish, finally. He jumped out of the water and you could clearly see this crazy looking red fish, with the fly in the corner pocket I might add. Well, there as a wall of rocks poking out, as the fish came closer he went right for the rocks, just like they always do. I did what any idiot that hadn't caught anything all day would do, I got anxious and tried to yank him over the rocks. That wasn't such a good idea. The fly came ripping back at me, fish off. I was shocked and then remembered they have soft mouths… that's the excuse I am using on that one, really I should have had more patients and landed him in the slow waster right in front of me. Waking to the rock wall you could see a dozen of them. We all threw at them; I had no luck and walked away in frustration. Nick finally picked one up, a beauty Kokanee Salmon (freshwater). Nate got into them as well. I re-rigged at the boat and then walked down stream… and back up. Went back to the spot where Nick and Nate were but I had no success. We pushed on in hopes of Rainbows.

To our surprise by the end of the day the numbers were shocking… less than a few fish. We pushed out in the dark, hungry and tired we made it back to town. What we found was that the entire town was shut down. No place to eat but the local gas station. The pickings were slim; this was not your city corner store with all the goodies. This was very, very disappointing to say the least. We made due with less than par microwave food. I grabbed a few Hot "not really food" Pockets that sucked, should have snagged twenty Snickers bars, at least they satisfy. It was pretty funny though, by this time I was loopy from being sleep deprived and tired from making 300.2 casts : ) Tomorrow is a new day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

El Sculpito - A.K.A Cheech's Articulated Sculpin

I am not exactly sure how it all started or why but for some reason I was on this streamer thing. I have a few trips coming up to a few choice areas that I will be tossing streamers, so I jumped in head first like any normal lunatic. Research lead to more research, pages mounted to hundreds. The more I read the more I kept going back to Mr. Galloup's theories, I was fascinated with Kelly Galloup's ideas, patterns and his willingness to think outside the box. It appeared to me that his patterns are very methodically thought out, perhaps years of creative testing. The book Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout by Bob Linsenman and Kelly Galoup caught my attention. Never have I been so determined to read and re-read this book, nor has any fishing tactic book been able to keep my attention. After studying my notes I compiled all my research together, to figure out what it is that I am after. With all these poorly written notes I don't know how anyone could make out a word but in the end I came to a few conclusions. First I want it to be big and ugly and second the action needs to be constant, sink on the strip and lift on the slack, lastly the colors, hummmm what to do....

I debated all this for... around two minutes before I called Cheech with the good news. The good news is that Cheech gets to tie a bunch of streamers; I like having a creative tier on speed dial. We discussed a few things and met at the shop to get the supplies. After a few dozen emails, a few photos of Sculpins, more photos of patterns, and a couple tutorials on different techniques for spinning hair, the moment had come. Cheech was off to lock himself in his dungeon and start tying. The good thing about Cheech is that he has massive ADD, so one pattern turns into something else and then something totally off the wall is produced in a few wacky colors, before you know it there is a fewundred to play around with and I know that there won't be two of the same flies. That works out great with my ADD, I like the challenge of narrowing it all down.

Cheech called…Finally it been like two entire days. "I got the fly's meet me at the shop". To my surprise there was 4-5 dozen streamers, all a bit different. It was like three Christmas's at once. I made the call to Nick, I got the proto's lets hit the Weber to see what happens. As the story goes there was some great fish caught. I watched the Brown leave cover and follow it through the shallows; it out ran the fly and then to my amazement hit it for the side, t-bone style, amazing, simply amazing. Watching the fish the entire time was exactly what I was looking for. The research was paying off and I felt good about wasting a few weeks tinkering with ideas. The full sinking line with a short stout leader worked best for me, along with Cheech's new Articulated El-Sculpito.

More info on El-Sculpito can be found on Cheech's Blog
Photo of fly by Cheech
Link...I tie, therefore I am

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Back to Football Creek

I have always enjoyed this special place... this particular day happened to be a holiday and boy was it crowded, really unbelievable. Oh, well we still got into fish. Tested some bugs, first hole it went two-for-two, and watched Curtis hook a football on top.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stillwater Sight Fishing

Nick and I decided to stop on and check a spot before we headed to the river. We had no expectations, just a random act. What we found was an empty lake, zero wind and oh, the glass. So we rigged up and set off for the trek to the back side. Now at first glance it would appear that you can just walk the edge of the shoreline, as usual. The shoreline was covered in what appeared to look like hundreds of small Grey mossy brain-head corral looking dry moon's. It also appeared that you could just walk on these sponge looking things, however we grossly underestimated these things. Under it is mud, deeper than you ever want mud. The kind of mud that you need to keep a fast pace through or you'll sink forever mud, absolutely no stopping. We made it, finally covered head to toed in mud, I think we both fell... a few times. SO, there we are 11 inches taller covered in mud laughing uncontrollably. We were tired and we were more excited to fish. The mud adhered to the dry grass each step, it would also stick to my boots each step. Now hardened, we scraped layers of Earth off our boots, packs any anything else exposed... all while rigging up of course.

Here is my problem, every time I spend hours and hours tying. I really like it, it keeps me out of trouble. But every time I arrive to the water the next morning I use something entirely different. Oh the struggle : ) So the standard what are you going to use comes out and the discussion of floating or sinking lines and weighted, bead-head or unweighted flies is toss around. I chose a full sinking line with an unweighted Red Krystal Killer, the old timer fly. Nick chose a sink tip and a bead head Red Krystal killer.... Lock and load...

After Pounding the bank for a few minutes I decided to take advantage of the low lake and climb up to a higher vantage point. It about 20 or 30 feet difference. At the top I turned around to find fish cruising the shore. At water level everything looks the same. The sipping Trout barely make a surface disturbance and are often overlooked. From my view I can see many fish cruising the foam line. They were staggered down the entire shoreline. He he he he... So we spent the entire day walking the shoreline spotting for each other. Some of the takes were quite amazing. With the Red fly you could see the entire event unfold. A few times the flies were on the surface and the fish would jump out of the to attack it. Who knows how many fish were caught, almost everyone of them was spotted and stalked. One would call out the fish to the other and we traded of running and down the muddy embankment. It was a workout for sure but wroth every step.

I returned there again with Scott and we got them on top this time. Sipping dries, sight fishing at its finest. But this time we walked around the mud field.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh the Provo ....

Hit the Mighty Provo with Cheech. The fishing was a bit soggy in the morning and the water was high, very high. So furious that I got stuck mid way across the river. My feet were slowly getting pushed back, my boots couldn't grip the slimy river bottom. I thought that if I tried to step forward I would be swept away. I yelled over to Cheech, he laughed at me then made his way out and handed me a branch. Few... I made it, good thing Cheech is not a little guy or I would have been swimming : )

Fishing was fun, I learned a lot. I am not a good nympher so it took me a bit to figure the early morning out. I was re-rigging, changing flies and to be honest, frustrated. So I did what any other guy would do, put on a PMD Grumpy Frumpy : ) We finished the day tossing dries to sippers.

Gotta Love those spots!!!