What would John Herzer want to do for his birthday? Duh. Drive two hours, eat a few advil, and throw streamers for eight hours… straight. He caught a few “presents” throughout the day, but no doubt his best gift was the last one he “opened.” One could sense the child like disappointment of not getting the “two-footer” he was begging for. Much like Ralphie in the Christmas Story, John’s red rider b-b gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time, would come long after all the gifts were opened (and released), in sight of the take out, on the final cast. (If you ask me it had a lot to do with boat positioning… ahem)
Happy Birthday Wind Knot!
Well... at least the fish is pretty
The head hanchos here at Blackfoot River Outfitters hit their namesake river again this past weekend with some friends. Above is a photo of Mark Elliot (aka Tailing Loop) holding the fish and Pete Vandergrift (Simms guide-liason-type-guy) on the right. They were fishing with mostly streamers and nymphs. There were some midges out and a few fish rising, but who wants to fish a midge? The girdle bug, worm, and little fleshy zonkers were the top performers. John and Terri tried a bunch of big, ugly, articulated streamers to no avail. Overall, several big fish were landed and a great time was had by all. Other rivers in the area….
Bitterroot… John had some clients on ‘Root yesterday and it was on the rise most of the day. It was cold in the morning and the fishing was slower. But the afternoon yielded some good dry fly fishing where the brown wing skwala out-performed the rogue skwala for the first time this season. Expect plenty of company on the weekends.
Rock Creek… The creek has been fishing well with streamers and nymphs. Stonefly nymphs and the san juan worm are hard to beat out there right now. Olive wooly buggers have been deadly, as well. With this warmer weather, we are just a short time away from the great early-season march brown and skwala fishing that is so good on Rock Creek. It has been rising but has leveled off a bit.
Clark Fork… We have had some friends out on the Clark Fork lately and they have been having decent luck nymphing with big copper johns and some stonefly nymphs. The streamer fishing has been decent, as well. We will keep everyone posted as the reports keep coming in to us.
Thank you for checking in with us and have fun out there. If you need a laugh, make sure to check out John and Terri’s last video fishing report.
Clients often call the shop in late winter from various states inquiring about booking a Spring river trip in Big Sky country.They frequently ask what they should expect the weather to be like that early in the season.When John is asked that question, he has been know to say that his “crystal ball is broken”. The fact is, you can expect just about any kind of weather at that time, often all in the same day. During the winter months, those of us that live here among the snow covered peaks and love to fish, tend to ignore the unexpected weather changes for a chance, any chance,to get out on the water. Sometimes just for the hour or two that promise to be the most productive. But the anticipation of Springtime, and trout rising to the first hatches is ever on our minds.The first warm(ish) days elevate our hopes and excitement of finding warming waters and larger fish anxious to fill their bellies. The cars are packed, and rods are rigged as we set out to find just such a day…but it is March in Montana, and we are fisherman…so what do we know? The recent roller coaster temperatures and an upcoming day off got the best of me this last week. The forecaster was calling for temperatures in the mid- fifties, so the typical cold morning air that met me at the door was ignored…fisherman remember…I.Q. about the same as the Fahrenheit temperature.
Hi -Ho, Hi-Ho…you know the rest of it. About half an hour into the trip it began to snow and within a few more miles the roads were beginning to turn white, so I wisely slowed down… a little. The road climbed in elevation and wth it deeper snow on the road…*$!$*!! Fish fever or not, some brain cells were working , so I slowed the truck down a little more, took a deep breath and came to the realization that bad weather or not, I at least had the day off and was heading to the river. Taking in some of the sights along the country side , it dawned on me the bitter sweetness of Spring. Cattle were in many of the nearby fields along the drive. Many with newborn calves close by their sides. A glimpse of new life peppered with the reality that many of those same newborns may not survive their early days due to the lingering cold or predators. Their outcomes were as unpredictable as the weather. Most will survive though, and like the improving weather,hope for better days ahead. Getting closer to the destination, the road began to clear somewhat, reigniting the fever again. On the water now, it’s still snowing and another fish to the net…sweet!! Things were looking up by mid- afternoon. The sun was out, the temperature had climbed to 44 degrees and the fish continued to take the offerings. Big Horn Sheep were feeding on the grassy hillsides above, deer and elk duds littered the trail along the riverbank. Remnants of glistening snow , warmth from the sun,sparkling water through riffles and runs,deer,elk, sheep and the prized fish…yep, winter almost forgotten…a beautiful Spring day in the neighborhood.
The shadows finally began to get longer and the realization started to set in that there would be the long drive home and then back to work, leaving me to dream and wonder again what the following day and the days ahead would be like on the river.
Spring time in Montana, full of unpredictability and hope…you know …kind of bittersweet!
This brown trout quickly showed us what he was eating. In hand is a living sculpin that the fish had recently eaten.
scul·pin, noun, /ˈskəlpən/
1: any of a family of spiny large-headed usually bottom dwelling often scaleless bony fishes with large fanlike pectoral fins
2: WHAT TROUT EAT
Fishing started out slow and the water temps weren’t in our favor, not to mention the sustained 20-mile/hr headwind. Lucky for us, little could keep this Blackfoot brown from eating.
In the slow diamond-chop of an inside bucket, this brown latched onto the end of Wylde-Kat Boyle’s streamer. Not long after finding his way into the net we had multiplied our fish count by three.
He had no sooner touched the basket than he puked up a stomach full of sculpins, one of which was still wiggling. This prehistoric fatheaded fish bore a striking resemblance to the bug Boyle was dredging in front of the trout’s face.
The day continued much like it started, except we were lucky enough to see the sun for the last two hours that we were on the river. There were a number of tugs and we saw a few more fish, but that spiny sculpin and his slightly poisonous spines were what I’ll remember from the day.
That’s right, the spines on a sculpin serve as a defense mechanism. Though only mildly venomous, the spines found on the dorsal, pectoral and pelvic fins inflict a painful sting that can leave you with redness and swelling. Though only a mild irritation for humans, the sculpin’s defenses can be much more severe for trout.
A trout can only eat a sculpin headfirst because the spines will lodge themselves in the fish’s throat and can cause the trout’s death. So, it turns out that the point end of our hook isn’t the only sharp object trout need to avoid. You learn something every day…
John took a couple of great clients on the Blackfoot River this past weekend. Chris is shown above with a nice cutthroat-that was actually one of the smaller fish they brought in that day. The size 6 olive bugger and the red san juan were the ticket, and the girdle bug was not its usual fish-slaying self. John let the guys know the fishing might be tough, but they were willing to put in the time for a chance a some big ones. They didn’t land a ton of fish, but they are all nice and there was solitude in abundance (which is not something to be found on the Bitterroot these days.) Hope everybody is getting out on the water. If you are reading our blog and have some feedback, we encourage you to leave a comment below. Good fishing to you.
Before Kooskia Idaho, fly fishing to me was a delicate and intimate showcasing of one’s angling skills. The art form took patience, practice, and a special connection to the water. The South Fork of the Clearwater stripped my rose coloured lenses lens right off my face. Welcome to the world of Steelhead fishing!
In late January, I took my first trip over Lolo Pass to the battle grounds they call the Clearwater. While traveling the winding road of Highway 12, I was warned of the horrors I may be up against. Frigid waters, sickening crowds, fish-less days, and overwhelming frustration accompying constant break-offs. The Clearwater was a notorious tease and has broken the hearts of thousands of fishermen. I was determined to outsmart and outfish the unforgiving South Fork.
After my third disappointing trek over, I was mad with Steelhead fever. With my seven weight in hand, I crossed my fingers that the fourth time was the charm. Reporting for duty in the popular Dumpster Hole, I began to cast relentlessly. Little did the B-run fish realize, this time I came with a new arsenal of weapons. My ammo box was stocked with top secret patterns that were guaranteed to kill. I casted out into the sweet spot of the current and mended. Then it was as if my fly tripped a land mine… BAM! My lungs let out a combat cry for the whole river to hear, “Got one on!”
That day, in the battle between man (woman, in my case) and fish… woman won.
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.
Feeding them skwalas on the 'Root
Given our experience on the Bitterroot yesterday, we feel confident announcing the beginning of Skwalapalooza. We had planned a big float, but we let work get in the way and got a late start. The trip turned into an afternoon wade instead, and the dry fly fishing was pretty good with skwalas. I had good luck with a particular pattern and brought several nice fish to hand. If you have been in the shop lately, you know which pattern we are talking about. If not, stop by and see us.
By about mid-March many Montanans are tired of the cold and snow and ready to pretend spring is here (most of the time it’s not). Skiis, sleds and snowshoes are replaced by waders, boots, fly rods and boats. March fly fishing can be exceptional with March Browns and Skwalas hatching on the Bitterroot, Rock Creek and Clark Fork rivers. With our somewhat mild winter this year folks were fishing as early as February – and doing quite well. The skwala hatch should continue strong thru about the 2nd week of April. As much as we love the sunshine, the fishing is much better during this hatch when there is cloud cover and a bit of rain. Some of the rivers get a tad crowded this time of year with everyone trying to get in on the first major hatch of the year, so be kind out there.
I’m just going to get this out there: nothing cuts into your fishing time like a job, marriage and kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love two of the three aforementioned realities of my life. Unfortunately though, I also really, really like fishing.
What I needed was a trip, just a short trip, a few days…, four at max. An opportunity to reconnect with some former fishing buddies, and maybe drink a couple of beers. Heck, maybe even drink a lot of beers deep into the night, then get up and head do the river, all the while drinking copious amounts of coffee and giggling like little school girls!
The idea was perfect, but the trip would need a name, something clever, something to really sell it to my wife. Something like, “the man trip.”
Now I’ll never know if it truly was the name of the trip, or just that my wife is super cool, but like a rainbow to a san juan worm she bit, and I’ve been doing yearly man trips with five of my closest friends since 2007.
Granted, I miss my family while I’m gone, but these trips allow me to exorcise the demons that are associated with being addicted to the sport. A chance to erase the oppression of winter and quell the overwhelming desire to drink multiple beers during a weekday with friends.
The trip is less than one week away and I think I ‘ll be back to normal when I get back. If you haven’t tried a man trip you should, you will probably be a little more tolerable to be around… I know I am. RIght?
Cheaper than the airfare
To those customers that have braved the gauntlet of spring pre-season orders on our floors- we thank you. It is that time of year again, and we’re struggling to receive the new inventory and counteract the garage sale vibe we’ve got going. While opening boxes of new gear from the likes of Simms and Orvis is always fun, it never compares to opening a box from Montana Fly Company and checking out the new patterns. We’re like kids in a candy store or adults in an adult book store.
We have increased our fly inventory by 30% this year( I made this number up.) We have added a bigger saltwater selection, bass bugs, pike flies, and a boatload of new streamers, dries, and nymphs. A friend of the shop built a new streamer bin for us to accommodate the bigger fly selection. Come on by and check them out if you are in the neighborhood. If you bring in a pop can and pretend to drink from it, you can drop flies in there and steal them ( I learned this in college.)
The better to eat you with?
You heard us correctly. The mining industry, E.P.A. and western fish and game agencies have collaborated to add an extra fly-eating orifice to every trout. Get your Montana fishing license on-line here and beat the rush… with promotions like these, they will be going fast.
Of course, we jest. The two-headed trout is probably a bad idea. Click here if you would like to learn more about this venture. Oh, and since it’s March, it would be a good idea to pick up your licenses.