- Shame to ruin this area with my casting.
So, I have to decided to get into the two-handed game. We are seeing more spey and switch rods on Montana rivers and interest in the two-handers is growing in the shop all of the time. I am never one to miss out on a good fad- I can still tight-roll a mean pair of jeans. Of course, the problem with these spey people is that they have created such a staggering variety of styles, lines, and rods that you just want to crawl up in a ball and cry. After that refreshing cry, I decided to start by choosing a rod. Feel free to do just as I do and we can screw everything up as a team.
In my case, the rod will be primarily used for swinging flies for trout in Montana rivers. However, I would like a rod that could also handle a little light steelhead duty. So, now I must choose between the switch rod and the longer spey rods. The switch rod does not appeal to me for this application. I don’t want a jack-of-all-trades rod that can be cast overhead and also do some spey casting. Just like I don’t want a shotgun that is also a kick ass slingshot. I have settled on the 6 weight, 12 ft. 6 inch Prospector series rod from Redington… link here. The next step is to put the right line on your spey rod and get to work. We will cover that in our next installment. (Fair warning: I could be wrong about everything.)
Catch of the day.. with my bare hands.
With hunters in the woods the time is now to get your fall fly fishing fix in. The big game season has been rolling for a few days now while the upland bird and waterfowl seasons are in full swing. For the fly fisher that equates to riverside accesses devoid of others and the potential of delightful dry fly fishing. Your best chance to fish to risers is sliding down the lower Clark Fork below the confluence with the Root or fishing the lower Bitterroot itself. Don’t worry about getting on the water early but you want to be ready to fish around 1pm and expect to cut off around 4pm. For those hoping to lock horns with a big nasty fall brownie – look to lower Rock Creek or the upper Clark Fork (don’t take my word for it just check out the fish below!). Pitch double bunnies, JJ’s, or the sparkle minnow down and across and hang on. Lastly don’t forget to check out Georgetown Lake – that is only if you like the idea of catching 14-22″! brookies!… good luck.
Ok, It is the end of September and we haven’t updated the blog or even the fishing reports for three weeks. Yes, we are still in business and running trips every day. Yes, the fishing has been good all month and with the weather change today will be great in October. No, this guide didn’t really care as his mind was in Eastern Montana and dreaming of long hikes across sage brush flats and slipping down juniper jungle coolies. Longing for those stunning sunrises and sunsets, putting up hunting camp and taking mid-day naps on cool north facing ridges. And, with a little luck getting close and personal with the giant bulls that call this place home… And we did just that and on many occations making this perhaps my most memorable elk hunt ever!
And for the end results:
Needless to say the freezer is already filling up for the year!
If you don’t think the October caddis hatch is worth looking into – you might want to look again. It would take more than a few bwo’s to make up for the pre-winter protein just one of these bad boys packs on. Toss in a coupla those salmon fly nymphs and you have a trout smorgasbord! We took this pic only about a foot from the bank on the Blackfoot yesterday and did see a couple adults in the air. It is go time!
Rob Felton with his best on an incredible day on the Foot.
I got a little reality check on the upper Bitterroot a coupla days back. After you see a few of these bad boys… even after the water drops… it feels like it might continue on right through the summer. My guys had never seen the Root and wanted to check it out; this, after spending 3 days on the Missouri picking off a bunch of big bows sipping spinners. I told them that we weren’t fishing tailwaters here and to expect smaller fish. Really, I expected to surprise them with not only numbers but some really good fish too, on big dries and see fewer folks. In my little mind the PMD’s, goldens, and a few sallies should be enough to have all the fish looking up. They were going to be impressed with free stone fishing.
We ended up turning around at my first choice of put ins in light of the number of boats putting in only to find a similar number at the next (so much for seclusion). The pmd spinner fall was already in full swing and we were hooked up on the first cast. A small brownie to be sure but the day is young. Golden stones were all over the place by noon. About 8 hours and around 50 fish later, we had topped the 10″ mark about three times including our day’s best – 17″ brownie hooked in the tip of the tail. The boat traffic never did really become a factor (I don’t know where those folks ended up?). We had a great day to be sure but it I had to remember; this is freestone river fishing in Western Montana and you need to appreciate those juveniles…they are the 22 inchers we all dream about just a bit younger… and you never know when one will be on the end of the line on any given day.
Somewhere on the Blackfoot the unknown angler caught a trophy white fish — it is said to have an adipose fin the size of a quarter…Please be on the lookout for this individual as it is quite likely he has ties to al-Qaeda and should be reported to the authorities immediately!
Some folks think you can bring too much gear? We don’t subscribe to that theory…
(caption much funnier when said with a british accent) "I say James, could you hand me the 4wt medium action with the double taper for this hole?"
Unlike most anglers, many of our guides revel in swollen rivers. Not high and muddy but bank full and green. In fact I would argue that the biggest trout in a river are more accessible in high water situations than they are in low clear conditions. This is counter intuitive to be sure, Common sense says that the lower the water – the more confined the fish – thus the more easily they are to locate and catch. Reallity is that when a river is low and clear the fish are spread accross the river, anywhere from bank to bank and, they are spooky. Running full, river trout are typically very site specific. In wandering rivers like the Clark Fork or Bitterroot they are congregated in sandbar drop offs and slick deep slow backwater channels. In boulder strewn rivers like the Blackfoot, they find refuge in the soft inside corners and long slow moving banks. In both instances trout will be aggressive and disregard shadows overhead and oars splashing around them. Green water is good!
I am not saying that we won’t catch any more large fish now that the rivers are clearing and dropping. But the days of easy targeting top end fish will continue to get more callenging with each inch of dropping water and visibility. Now is the time when hatches matter more and weather tends to effect catching the top end fish more severly.
Speaking of catching … I need to go pick up my clients and prove this theory wrong! Good luck out there.
Father and daughter get in on maybe the last day of easy big days... One of plenty-a-big bow eagerly awaiting our offerings on sand bar drop offs recently.
It never ceases to amaze me how few folks we see on the rivers fishing in mid June. A little recap of my last few days of guiding to prove my point: upper Bitterroot – one boat, middle Bitterroot one boat (two guides on day off), upper Blackfoot – no anglers, lower Rock Creek- three wade anglers, upper Bitterroot – one boat, upper Rock Creek - one boat, upper Blackfoot - no anglers, upper Blackfoot – one boat, lower Clark Fork - no anglers, upper Rock Creek – three waders one boat. Wow, that is a bunch of driving, but more importantly in 10days on the water we only noticed 6 other boats and 6 wading anglers! Where is everybody?
Admittedly, we haven’t had very good dry fly fishing but for those willing to swing a bunny and a bead on the Foot, drop a worm below a chubby on the Root, double down with a prince on the Clark or fish a dropper tight to the bank on the Rock… expect some exceptional fishing in both numbers and size. Get out there!
"I want that" (Napoleon Dynamite) ... want one of these - you'll need to send in one of those.
Fellow procrastinators its that time again, you have till midnight tomorrow to submit your permit apps in for Montana’s special big three – Shiras moose, mountain goat, and Rocky Mountain big horn sheep. Ya, Ya, Ya, I know you never draw but as they say you can’t win if you don’t play. A bit more true here than in the power ball lottery – I am still sitting out for four more years before putting in for moose again after a successful application 3 years back - see your chances just increased for that one! Just Sayin’
Just realized that this is a fishing blog so I gotta get back to work – will do right after I hit the submit button on the Montana FWP application. Good luck!
Senator John Tester with Simms' marketing director Diane Bristol
I grew up in a town of less than 4,000 in central Colorado – stunning scenery, good fishing and hunting, and 2 hrs away from the hustle of Denver. No complaints there, simply an amazing place for a kid like me. But now boasting a population of over 5,000,000 (yep that’s six zeros behind the 5!), I can’t explain how fortunate we are to live and raise our kids in Montana – population knocking on the door of 1 million. A difference of 4 million people not only makes Montana more desireable for those venturing to the rivers and forests, by definition a single voice is stronger in Montana. Couple that with the accessability of our elected officials and even a fishing outiftter can make an small impression on a national stage.
Last week Senator John Tester was in Bozeman for a few meetings and heard that Simms was putting on their annual guide event so he dropped in to shake a few hands, say a coupla words and listen to concerns of his constituents. This is the fourth time I have had the honor of speaking to Senator Tester face to face at various gatherings. Always impressing upon him the importance of clean clear rivers, healthy forests, and public accessibility to those resources to our businesses and families.
This kind of personal connection to our national representatives might happen in Colorado but I doubt it. Just one more reason that Montana is a great place to live. Thanks Senator Tester, for taking the time out of your busy schedule and hanging with some fly fishing guides. We appreciate it no matter which side of the aisle we fish.
Last known photo of John Herzer
For those of you not currently using the Facebooks, we thought we would pass along this photo from the Simms Ice Out guide event this weekend. But, before we get to that, you seem to be a savvy internet user. Why no Facebook? Are you worried about somebody stealing your identity? Let’s face it, you are sitting around reading a fishing blog. Nobody WANTS your identity. Come check us out and join the fun. We will be happy to loan you our identity. Fair warning- we are all in some pretty serious debt.
The General, Bobby Knight, was a featured speaker at the event. He has been guided all over the world and gave a speech from this perspective with his own unique style. In true Bobby Knight fashion, he appears ready to climb through the camera and murder us all. The Simms Ice Out included a tour of the Simms factory, guide olympics, product demonstrations, a few drinks, etc. John spent the last few days in Bozeman at the Ice Out and we await a report upon his return. We have already cleared a spot at the shop for the 1st place trophy from the guide olympics. You won, John, didn’t you?
You're in good hands.
Everyone knows that the airlines are sticklers for regulation – especially since 9/11. Just try to check in without the proper documentation – even if your mother is there beside you making the convincing arguement that “Those are his feet!!!” in describing the two smudges on a birth certificate as happened once while headed to Mexico a few years back – it’s back of the line pal and don’t come back without a new birth certificate (huh?). Tying flies on a flight? No longer an option unless the tyer reverts back to kindergarten scissors designed to cut nothing in their path. Arrive at a gate 3 seconds late? Find yourself on the standby list on a future flight that is already overbooked, in spite of your earlier connecting flight arriving two hours behind schedule or that you are holding a fully paid ticket
I understand that we need to maintain safety in our skies, problem is it’s a one way street. When the airline screws up your baggage transfer or calls in 15 mechanics to fix the latch on a seat belt (ok, I might have made that up) which eliminates any chance of that flight matching up with connection… The customer has absolutely no recourse! It doesn’t matter that the bags they lost contained every last thing needed for your Montana trout trip. Too bad – so sad that you’ll miss a day or two at that expensive lodge and pre-arranged guide because your connections were unattainable. Yes, the very trip that you’ve been thinking about every day since the flight home from last year’s trip.
Twice this season already (realize it’s mid-April), our clients suffered theft of fishing days at the hands of the airlines. Am I the only one who thinks the airlines should come up with some sort of compensation for these losses? Not only are the traveling anglers losing coveted days off, but the guides, shops, lodges, hotels, resturants, and car rentals all absorb the costs that the airlines are so cavalier about squandering. I don’t think this is fair but my only recourse is to complain about it in this blog who’s readership consists only of those on the short end of the stick – the perverbial preaching to the choir. Guess I’m “just sayin”.
You may be able to determine from the title of this blog that I cannot come up with anything witty or worthwhile to blog about so I will let you just enjoy this nice picture from the Bitterroot River today. Get out there while the spring fishing is still good…..looks like we might have a bit of a bump in flows with this wonderful weather we’re having.
Brownie on the Bitterroot
Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months and you almost forget what it’s like to feel a connection to the world of fishing. Though some may brave the winter months on the river, most, like me, switch gears and look to make memories in the mountains. Inside seams of winding rivers are replaced by arching turns in knee-deep power. But soon winter fades and the itch returns. We migrate back to our rivers and feverishly drift flies in front of early season trout that are anything but eager to eat our bugs. And then one day, long after your attention has waned, you see something that you’ve decided never existed in the first place. A 17-inch cutthroat explodes on your skwala and you customarily yank it from his grasp before he has a chance to close his mouth—it’ll take a few farmed fish to shake off the rust. But it’s these moments, these punctuation marks on the river, which tell the story of your day. Cold floats and hours of fish inactivity aren’t the memories you carry with you, it’s the brief glimpse into a primal connection with that single fish. The moment when the drift, the fly and the fish’s willingness all align and you connect with your quarry face to face. And then…you slip him back into the river. So, while you’re out this Spring, remember that what you’re really in search of are these ephemeral moments of connection. Enjoy them while they last.