Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve Hunt { Sharptails }

It was warm day for this time of the year in Montana, (40*) Christmas Eve, 2010. I was going to start my day with a brisk walk and a quick hunt, to allow my black lab "Pearl" a chance to get out and run. She has been house bound due to the crusty snow cutting her shins a few weeks back. I awoke early as usual, it was a beautiful sunrise, music playing, drinking coffee, and, working on the computer. After a few phone calls, text messages, and, more coffee, it was getting close to mid-day. Not a good time to hunt on such a warm December day, it would be better towards the very late afternoon when the sun is lower on the horizon.
It was around 3:00 pm when I finally tied the last lace to my hunting boots, Pearl was watching every move I made , and barking with protest in her voice that I was moving much too slow.
We had the farm to ourselves that late afternoon, the question was, which direction should we start? I did not think it would be very productive hunting, but, it was good to be out and Pearl was ready to have a good run. The snow was not too deep, only 3-4 inches covering the base of the "CRP" grasses, walking was OK. It seemed too late in the day to go for a long walk , so I decided to just walk the fence line , who knows , in the past Pearl and I have run into Pheasants, Sharp-tails, and Huns . We entered the field, and much to my surprise, thrusting upward out of the uncut grasses flew a Sharp tailed grouse, then, 3 more in staggered rises. All four birds were just out of range, typical of "Sharpies" that have endured substantial hunting pressure. They flew toward the thickest part of old "CRP", which is comprised of native grass, with clumps of alfalfa, inter mixed with wisps of wheat here and there. Pearl saw the birds fly, she ran to where they had risen to investigate the smells, and to see if there were any left overs. Once she caught the scent, she started working the area as quick as she could, zig zagging the area to make sure there were no sharpies left in the parameter. She then came back to me to assure me that this part of the field was empty. She was so excited, wearing a grin so large that her white teeth glistened, and her big red tongue hung off to the side of her mouth. I don't know where pearl learned this, but you know how athletes celebrate by jumping in the air and do a "body slam", either chest to chest or side to side. Well my dog after getting on scent always runs to me and jumps into me, not upward, but a body slam into my thigh and waist, with the side of her body. Then, she races off to start looking for more birds. Hey, I don't mind enthusiasm, better than having a dog that is not that into it!
We followed the Sharpies to the thicker part of the tall grass, pearl was showing lots of sign that birds were in the area, they must have been running, I thought. As I looked down to look for tracks, I noticed what appeared to be an area that was just disturbed. Mmm, I thought, maybe a covey of Huns, those four birds could not have made a disturbance this extreme. Just then, pearl started running with her nose attached to the ground, she must be right on a running bird. I was watching pearl work a bird, when out of the corner of my eye; I started to see Sharp-tails getting out of the grass to fly to a safer spot. At first, I saw what I thought were the four that showed earlier, then, I saw a few more, out of range and to the right, then, way over on my left 10- 15 birds got up, all out of range. Wow, many more birds than I'd ever seen here, then, right in front of me, just out of shooting distance, there must have been 25-30 sharpies that pretty much arose in unison. I did not have a good shot at any of them; all I could do was watch in amazement, of the spectacular sight, of sharpies getting up all around us. Pearl was running like crazy back and forth, picking up scent in all directions, my job was to watch and see where they were landing. They did not fly too far, pearl and I were in pursuit, but, birds kept getting up off to my right , of course just out of shooting distance. We worked our way over to the right, and as we did, more birds were getting out of the grass on the left side of us. It was a sight I will never forget, I wasn't even disappointed that they were out of range for shooting, it was just incredible to witness.
Pearl and I worked our way toward the main area where most of the birds landed; I was thinking this might be ideal situation to be able to shoot "singles".  But, it appeared that the majority of the covey had either kept running off the property, or flew again, and I did not see them, but the majority of the birds had vanished. I did manage to make a long shot on a single, and brought him down. It felt good to at least, have a "bird in hand". We started to work our way back to the car, there was plenty of acreage left to hunt. I saw a few flush off to the left and fly off. We walked for quite a while not seeing any more birds, then, pearl diverted off to the left in hot pursuit for around sixty yards and then stopped. I was standing just above a small gully looking at pearl work and then stop. As she stopped, a "rooster" exploded from her feet, flying like a missile, dissecting the gully, flying from my left to right. It was a difficult shot, but I fired both barrels regardless, not even ruffling a feather. (Merry Christmas Mr. Rooster!)
The sun was setting, the car was still 20 minutes away, and it was time to head home. On the way back, pearl would catch scent, then it would fade, we would keep moving fast toward the finish line. I'd given up and was ready to call it a day, and what an absolutely amazing late season hunt it turned out to be, when, just near the car where we had started, another sharp-tail rose to flight, this time he was too close. Pearl proudly retrieved the mottled colored bird to hand, and it was a great finish to an incredible experience.
Merry Christmas, I'm having sharptail for dinner!
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pheasants, dogs, and end of the season.

                                        ( The King )
It is fast approaching , the end of the Bird hunting season, always a time to reflect. This was a great season, despite the bird #'s being off in some areas. Last April, we had a huge snow storm come through Montana,  dumping in some parts upwards to 3-4 feet of the white stuff. It seems like the Spring snow storms do not effect the Sharptail Grouse as much as Pheasants , or the Hungarian Partridge, both seem to have a much tougher time of it, when the winter storms arrive in Spring. One of the reasons for this , is the fact the the Sharpies, tend to spend alot of time in trees when there is snow around, not wanting to deal with soft , difficult snow. Pheasants too will be tree dwellers at times, but the Sharptail is very comfortable, even perching very high in large trees.
One of the places I hunt Upland birds, has 2-3 covies of "Huns", a good population of Pheasants, not great , but good, and quite a few Sharpies. The other day , I was driving by the property and saw around 30-40 Sharptails, all sitting in trees , in an area of about 3 acres. It was very cold, around 2*, sunny, and the ground was covered with around two feet of snow. The snow was soft on top , so it was easy to sink through and it made walking very uncomfortable. My black Lab "Pearl" was even having a time getting around, and the crusty snow under the soft was cutting her "shins".
I have not been out in a couple of weeks, allowing her cuts to heel , despite her protest of barking, and jumping around every morning , trying to convince me other wise.Tomorrow, we are going to see how it goes, she is not happy staying at home , and, feels a need to run, and , I have a need to walk!
Foloow along @ ( DALY BLOG )

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Way Back...

It's over, the shortest day of the year for us living above the Equator. We are on the way back, the days are getting longer. Spring is not that far off, all we have to do is survive January. If there was one month I could have a vacation, go some place warm, it would be in January. After that, the days are noticeably longer, fish are once again enticed to feed on the surface,. On the Missouri river , that means Midges, I look forward to some great midge fishing, usually beginning mid February, and continuing through April. In May, the Baetis and Caddis begin, and the focus is toward the larger bugs. Also, in May we start with the March Browns, one of our larger Mayflies. Most fishermen will be concentrating on the larger three flies, but, the trout do feed on midges year round.
In the late 1980's while fishing on the Malleo River, in Patagonia Argentina, I noticed that the fish were keying in on the "balls " of midges , rather, than the individual midge. This is when I started fishing with large Griffiths Nats in sizes up to #14, aka midge cluster( shown above). With these larger flies, midge fishing became much more visible. The trout on the Malleo would "bust" a midge cluster, and ,it did not matter if the fly was floating with a perfect drift. Midges form balls on the surface ,climbing on top of each other to stay warm, and to mate. Most "balls" are about the size of Ping pong balls, but, I have seen some the size of a Tangerine, floating and bouncing along the surface of the river.
These larger flies "show" quite nice , and are very easy to see. I usually will fish this "cluster" with a either a zebra midge # 18, or a cripple midge #18 , on a very short dropper, usually around 4 - 8 inch's below the larger fly. The idea being that a trout will move to investigate a "cluster fly", once there, will either take it , or take the smaller imitation which might appear safer.
February is not that far off, you have plenty of time to get tying and be prepared for great midge fishing.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

(December 2010) Looking back at the summer of 2010

 Hi , and welcome to Cascade Outfitters! It's December 2010, and I am just starting this site. This will be a Fly Fishing and a Real estate site for the area's of Wolf Creek Montana to Ulm Montana and the Missouri river . I will be having photos of New listings of Riverfront properties, and homes and land in and around the Missouri River Montana.... Hope you enjoy.
This past summer of 2010 , we had some of the largest trout caught in the history of this section of the Blue Ribbon Missouri River. There were more trout caught over 20 inch's than I can remember and I started fishing here in in the early 1980's! Here are some examples of what I talking about Below..........

This was a really beautiful "hen " brown that was 24's in length...

                               It was a very heavy fish, with a tremendous girth, perfect condition!
It was an unusal season, first starting out with very low water in the Spring. In the months of Febuary, and March , all indications were that we were going to have a " low water" year. Then, April and May both were quite wet , with a tremendous amount of snow, and later with rain. By June most of the rivers all around the State were bank to bank full!..More later....
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December, summary of the Trilogy

I wrote this story as I remembered how that day , started and  finished , no exaggerations on fish numbers or sizes. My wife at the time ( Magdalena), was a good sport about allowing me to fulfill, and complete a fantasy day fishing . I was very glad she came when she did, for one ,to be able to share at least the climatic finish to an absolutely unbelievable fishing day. And second, for helping with the taking of the photos, I'm sure  it would have been a very disappointing , on the wet shore , laying on it's side , flopping around with no real scale for size , photo of the best Rainbow trout I've ever landed. For that, Thank you Magda!
Just so you know, even on this river, I have never seen the fishing as good as it was that day. All the Planets and Stars where in perfect alignment, the weather , water level, time of the year, and the run of fish , all happened on the same day. I did try and repeat that day , over and over , fishing as hard as possible. I went out the next day, and everyday for the remainder of the week. I had very nice fishing , and did catch some good trout. But, pale in comparison to this day.
later that year, or maybe the following year , Ted Turner purchased the La Primavara , the ranch that boarded the other side of the  river. Since then, the fishing has never been the same on the World Class Rio Traful, that story is for another day...
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

(December){ Part 3} Sun, Fun, and Huge Trout?

Happy angler in the (La Tranquera ) Gate Pool. 

Right behind Barbara is where I hooked all three "monsters". This photo was taken in Febuary, when the water is much lower.(Gate Pool)
Now ready with some really strong tippet ( 20lb Maxima) I waded back out on this fine December day to see if I could land one of the" big boys". I started where I left off , casting up stream with the special Prince nymph tied on a # 6 saltwater hook. I was not getting the action I was earlier , the flies were floating downstream , without being molested, I started casting up and out toward the middle of the run. The sun was straight up above , the light was penetrating and breaking through the surface of the water illuminating  everything in it's path , straight to the bottom. I could now see some log like figures holding on the bottom looking like missiles , their elongated shapes moving ever so slightly to take in a passing stonefly nymph. The clarity of the water made the depth difficult to determine, but , I could see the darkish green flies were just not getting down to the correct level to be seen. I added some weight , and cast further upstream to allow the "bugs" to  bounce  along the boulder lateen bottom. It took some cast, but finally the line tightened, the fish who did take was not one I was watching , but rather another trout who was further up stream. I could tell it was a very heavy fish, it would not budge , it was in deeper water than the last trout who sped off to get out of the shallows, this one was moving right to left nervously, not knowing where to go. I was in waist deep water in an exteamly  heavy current, I wanted to move back into more shallow water in case I had to follow this brute down stream. As I step backward, I slipped , on one of the "greased bowling balls", but caught myself before falling. My movement allowed the line to come up slack for a second , as it did, the golden beauty leaped  eight feet sideways toward the bank on the other side.  Another brown trout, an equal to the last, but looked heavier and shorter in length. It made it's run cutting through the water downstream, at a  diaganol, dissecting the pool and heading for the shore behind me, in a very deliberate move.
    I thought at first this was strange behavior, why would it head toward the shore and not try to escape downstream. Just then ,the line became much heavier, it was wrapped around the only log in the entire run. The huge golden colored brown trout was slashing and jumping until it became free. There was nothing I could have done, the fish won, it was the second fish in the last hour that kicked my ass, both being the two largest trout that I'd hooked up to that time.
Upon examining the equipment, I quickly noticed that the fly was still attached, at least the tippet held, but looking more closely, I noticed that the saltwater hook was completely "bent out" Shit, I can't win today, I guess somethings got to give, I was beginning to take this personally, I needed to focus, how many chances could I have?
I looked into my fly box and saw a fly, that was similar to the flies I was using earlier, but it was tied on an extra stout hook, made for large steelhead. With this fly and the 20 lb  maxima, I felt like I had my "mojo" back and was ready for bear! I waded back to the spot where I hooked the last monster and saw the others  that were holding near the bottom. I was working on one of the elongated shapes, casting upstream and watching the the new fly that was nearly in the zone. Just as I cast somewhat further up stream to get the bug down to the correct level, I heard something behind me. It was my wife at the time, Magdalena, "Que Tal Che", she greeted, Catching any? She had her rod in hand and was  heading quite noisily toward me wading out to where I was watching this grey ghost starting to notice my dark green bug. Whoa, Magda, wait, I'm just about ready to hook this really big trout, he's... just then, the line tightened, Damn , said Magda, you have been fishing all day, and I haven't even had a cast. She stormed out of the river, and was pacing on the bank . I told her to get the camera, this would be the largest trout she ever saw, we need pictures! She got the camera and just then , it came out of the water, straight up , at least five feet, it looked like a Tarpon, bending and slashing continuously until it landed on it's side throwing water in every direction.  My god! exclaimed Magdalena, what is that? She started taking photos of the water in hopes of another spectacular jump. I told her to wait, there where only a  a few shots left ( film, not digital). I had to concentrate, I wanted this one, I'd lost two earlier, this one was a rainbow, not a brown, this was a true trophy.
I decided to hold my ground, not follow downstream, it was making a very long run , all the way to the end of the pool, I was getting near the end of my backing. I bent my rod parallel to the waters surface, and toward my side of the river, this was it, either it was going to stay in the run, or it was gone. I held my ground and bent the small Sage to it's breaking point, I could hear the graphite start to really stress, what was going to give this time ?I asked myself, what this time?. Just then, the Goliath turned and started back up into the Pool, it made three jumps in a row, with over 100 yards of bright red backing slicing through the water with each jump. I knew I had him, he was not getting away, not this one, he was going to be mine. I put the heat on him knowing that I had 20lb tippet and a extra stout hook, what else could go wrong? Then it hit me, the fly could "rip out", Shit, I'd better be careful, just then rrrrreeeee... went the reel and he was off again, jumping and running, all the way down to the very end of the Pool, I turned him once again, and again he came back into the Pool. I moved over to the bank to get a good angle on him, and direct him over to the shallows. I told Magda to get ready, this was it, I had to land him now, or that big fly might just rip out. Again I stressed the 6 weight Sage near it's breaking point, and the giant rainbow complied, and held in the shallows. I grabbed the tippet , dropped the rod and took  the gentle giant by the tail and put my other hand under his pectoral fins. As I lifted him gently out of the water, the fly fell from his mouth, it was landed just in the nick of time. Magda shot as many pictures as were left on the camera, six, as fast as she could. I then gently returned the beauty back to safety of the rushing water. He swam away strong and steady, and  my ex wife and I  looked at each other , and both said the same thing, Wow.
{The Rainbow, 33.5 inches in length, 24 inch girth}
When I woke that morning , I had a feeling it would be a special day on the river. I had no idea that I would be able to experience anything of this magnitude. It was without  a doubt , the finest day trout fishing that I have experienced up until now. Ask me again in twenty years, who knows?
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(December ){Part 2} Sun ,Fun, and Huge Trout?

                (Nice brown caught below the "Falls" , low water)
I ended yesterday with  fishing the "Pisci" just above the Gate Pool, and what a wonderful experience it was,  to have been able to fish the "Traful Wasp", and take so many large trout on the surface with a dry fly. Now, it was only around noon when I finished my Dry Fly fix, and it was time to try for some very large trout. In December on the Traful, large "lake run" fish are passing throughout the river system . The Traful is a good sized river, but it is only a tributary to a much larger river the" Limay", which also is "born" from a huge lake, south of here around 38 miles near the town of Bariloche . So, the Traful river starts from a lake ( Lago Traful) , and it is a relatively short river , around 20 miles long before it enters into the Rio Limay, inwhich started up stream from a lake around 38 miles. Now, where the Traful enters the Limay, is yet another lake formed from a dam just around ten miles down stream, the actual moving Limay river is south or, up stream  just a couple of miles , but , all three lake systems are connected. A trout born in Lago Traful , or a tributary coming into the lake, can swim down stream, and swim back upstream through the Rio Limay to enter an enormous lake with rivers flowing into it, they are all connected. The two older lakes are eco systems within themselves, with lake trout, brook trout , brown trout, and rainbow trout. Funny, they tried in the early 1900's  to introduce " Whitefish", but they did not survive , because their mouths were so small and could not feed on the local crayfish ( Pancora crabs), that are found in amazing abundance, in Chile and Argentina. Due to the abundance of food , and the enormous size of the lakes, the fish grow to incredible sizes. The brook trout use to be caught up to 15 lbs, giant brown trout and rainbows are caught every year. On the radio going into Bariloche , I remember hearing about  somebody who was fly fishing ,had caught a brown trout in the mouth (Boca) of the Limay river, that was well over 20 lbs. Fly fishing is a big sport in this part of the world, it has a long and rich history, much like our American West.
I decided to fish the Gate pool with heavy, good sized nymphs. I know what your thinking, why not dry flys, com'on, whats with the nymphs. But , we are talking about very large trout, the problem was, that the water was moving with a heavy current, most of the bigger fish were in the "slots" where the water was deepest, holding on the bottom, and you could see them from time to time move and take a nymph. In order to allow the trout to see the fly, in  this deeper, fast moving water, it made sense. I had developed  some "prince"  style nymphs that were tied on very heavy curved hooks ( size # 6 and #8),with the largest beads made to help get the nymphs down to the fish. ( This was before Tungsten was available). The problem was , the water is "gin clear", the fish are feeding on stonefly nymphs, but the hook needs to be heavy enough not to bend out, and the tippet must be strong enough to hold the giants. Indicators needed to be small not to spook the trout, but float well enough to be able to get a decent drift.
There were alot of factors going into the preperation of the equipment, and I felt like I had it all together.To give the fish a chance , I was using a Sage 9-#6, a light rod for this type of fishing, but perfect for the fish I was catching earlier.
I started from the shore and cast into the first current line , this run usually holds quite a few fish, and this day was no exception. I hooked and landed four rainbows from 3.5 lbs and the largest was near 5 lbs. In this run the water is a bit slower than out in the middle and on the slot just off the far bank. The depth is varying from 3 ft to 5 ft. Just on the other side it shallows again to around 2.5 ft, where you can wade up and down the pool. The entire pool is 100 -130 yards long , with the top of the run and bottom both being the most shallow.
After releasing all of the four fish , I slowly waded in where I just fished. The water came close to the top of my waders, but I stayed dry and made it to the shallow gravel  bar  and started casting upstream with the xtra large prince nymphs into water that is very fast and shallow, but most of  time holds good sized  trout.  It was amazing ,the amount of fish holding in the shallows, nearly every cast I was hooking up, most bolted out of shallows throwing the big hooks, and jumping free, again and again, like the fly was still attached. But, I managed to land 3 or 4 that were all nice sized , 3-6 lb trout, one brown and the rest rainbows.  I had on a stonefly I'd tied with a saltwater hook , just to make sure it would be strong enough, and I was using 1x maxima, for insurance. I made a cast upstream and a little more towards the middle , but still in the shallows, the line tightened and I really set the hook. At first, I thought it might have been the bottom, it was heavy like I'd hooked a boulder, then the boulder moved, I knew it was not an average fish. The monster was 20 ft upstream of me , and I could not even budge it. I started moving towards it and reeling fast, knowing that it would be making a quick move to get to deeper water , I was ready. The giant copper colored brown came straight up and out of the water 3 feet into the air,  bending and shaking , I can remember seeing the red flaring from it's gills, it seemed like the fish was in the air for along time. When it landed , it ripped line off my reel so fast , all I could do was hold on to the 6wt. and wish I'd brought a much heavier rod .In less than a few seconds the monster was 80 yards below me, 3 feet out of the air once again, then, the line went slack. I was numb, all I could do was hold the rod and watch the Goliath jump, and jump , and jump further down stream with my #6  prince nymph hanging from the side of his mouth. For a second I felt sick, then I caught myself, com'on, it's not like your having a bad day! But, I'd take one monster over all the other trout that I'd released earlier that day.
My best estimation of that Brown was it had to be at least 18lbs, it was the largest trout that I have ever hooked. I brought the line in to examine what could  had gone wrong.  On the trouts first run , it was so powerful and strong , that 1x maxima was no match for the boulders that the lay on the bottom of the river. I knew that I was going to have to step it up a notch  to land one of these truly enormous fish. I went to shore to and found some 15lb maxima, and after digging around the 20lb appeared. Ok, now, let them try to break this, 15 lb might be too light!Tommorow I'll finish the Gate Pool...Tune in!
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(December ){Part 1 }Sun, Fun, and Huge Trout? Start here....

Ok, some people just love the month of December, Christmas, snow, shopping, and for some, the start of the Ski season. If I had to rate it on a scale from 1-12, 12 being the bottom, for me December would right there, near the bottom. Maybe not on the bottom , but close, more like # 11, January has to be the worst month in the Northern Hemisphere. Thats right, only half the globe lives in the darkness of winter, and, December is the darkest month of all . So, why would I rate December over January? The bird hunting season closes Jan 1st, so, there are still some hunting days left in December, of course weather permitting...
Looking back at the this "dark month", it does brings  many memories that have nothing to do with darkness.
I can remember many Decembers, that it was the beginning of summer, long, warm, sometimes extremely hot days, going to the beach in Australia to watch a bikini contest, or hiking in the Mountains of New Zealand, sitting lakeside in southern Chile swatting enormous black and orange 'horse flys', drinking wonderful wines and eating empanadas, and, of course, fishing in Patagonia Argentina. Walking and casting up stream to rising trout sipping on Mayflies in back eddy's under the intensely green willows that grow along the rivers edge.
For half the planet, this time of year  is summer, the longest days of all twelve months. I have spent 14 out of the last 20 seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoying the warmth of long summer days. Still, I would have to say that December ranks near the bottom on the scale of 1-12. From a fishing perspective, December can be the best month to have incredible trout fishing in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the equivalent to our June here in Montana. Some years June is by far the most productive month, it is dependent on one thing, water levels. It is the same for December in the S.H., water levels are crucial for trout fishing. It is a real hit, or miss circumstance, that can be epic when it all comes together. Case in point, I was living on the Traful river in Southern Patagonia in 1997, it was in December, about this time of the month. There were no clients staying at the lodge, and no body was scheduled for another week or so. I awoke that morning to a perfect sunny, high pressure, windless day. I was eager to get down to the river to start fishing, and decided to walk the mile or so to the rivers edge and work myself down stream and end up at the best pool, the "Gate pool".  (La    Tranquera). I was married at the time, and told my wife (Magdalena) that I'd be at the gate pool at 2:00 and please come and pick me up for lunch. She said she would, and she would come early to do some fishing there as well.
It was one of those 'magical" days, if you fish long enough and hard enough , you might get to experience something like this day, if you are very lucky!
I started the day in a "run" that holds land locked Atlantic salmon. This river has some that have been caught, up to18lbs., most are in the 4-7lb range, a large Salmon would be 8-12 lbs . In this run, I have never seen any Salmon over 5lbs, and on this wonderful morning I was lucky to land two in the smaller size, both around 3lbs. It was a good start, but, I felt like it was going to be really a special day so I kept moving downstream. I passed on some water that is difficult to get a proper drift, and concentrated on only the 'hot spots". The next run down, I  "bumped" another salmon, but, I was too wound up, and, set the hook to soon, so I kept moving. Just below here I rolled another salmon, then caught my first rainbow of the day, a 4 lb hen that fought very nice. I moved down and made a good cast down and across the run and quickly was into a good sized rainbow buck of around 5 lbs. I was really wound up by now and had to" reel in" and walk around the "'falls". I stopped to look at the white cascading water crashing over the terraced granite outcroppings forming the falls. What a sight, and what a spectacular day. I was thinking, maybe I should just skip this water and walk down to the "Tranquera" and try for some huge trout. I had been fishing with a hi -d sinking tip, and was thinking of changing lines to a floating Weight Forward. This would allow me to either nymph fish, or fish large dry flies. For now this water below the falls would be much easier to continue with the sink tip, and I did. First cast, 3.5 lb rainbow, I got him in quickly, and made another three cast, boom, a gorgeous brown that was close to 4 lbs. after several more cast, nothing, time to move, I didn't want to waste time just fishing water, it was not a day for that.
After the falls, the water is a long quiet pool for around 300 yards, it holds nice sized browns and salmon. The water was just a little bit high to get in and fish it properly, so I skipped this stretch and moved down toward "La Tranquera". It was about another 10-15 minute brisk walk past riffle water that would have been also just a little fast to fish and get a drift.
I changed lines by the side of the river, just above the gate pool, out of the wind , to rest just for a minute, and, to look at the water near the shore known as the "Pisci". Here if one takes the time, one can see huge mouths coming to the surface to feed on stoneflies, mayflies and caddis, but, one has to really look to see them. The surface is broken riffle water and the bottom is covered in a dark colored moss. It takes a trained eye to spot these trout in between the small waves created by the water pounding over the "bowling ball" sized rocks. I tied on "Traful Wasp", in a # 8, a black rubber legged, foam fly with a elk hair and crystal flash wing. It was 1997, we were fishing alot of similar flies, and, developing many other patterns that have different names today.
I started at the bottom of the run, it is only around 50-75 yards long, at times the fish are stacked in this area. The water is shallow, at the deepest maybe 3 ft deep, most of the run is between 1.2 -2.5 ft in depth. I took 6 very nice trout, 5 rainbows  and one brown , all between 4-7lbs, on the "wasp" in around 45 minutes. It was the best I'd seen in that run, it was just the day, and I had not even cast a fly into the best water, La Tranquera pool . Tune in tomorrow...You can click on the link  (Daly Blog)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oct - November - December...{ Missouri River Montana }

By Mid October, normally the Hopper and Caddis fishing gives way to the small bugs, Baetis and Midges, this season was an exception, we had them all. The weather in the late Fall made up for the extremely wet summer, we enjoyed a mild, dry Fall,  right up until waking up to winter. It changed that fast , one day I would consider a float and hunt ( Cast and Blast ), then , the next day, thinking this is the coldest I've seen in November in many, many, years. The blizzard of 2010 hit and stayed for weeks, snowing and blowing giant snow drifts that made getting in and out of my driveway a serious challenge.
Funny, just the day before the "blizzard" came, and shook our souls, my yard was inundated with hundreds of hoppers. It was uncomfortable for my Lab " Pearl " to walk through the barrage of  hard shelled jumping bugs, hitting her face and under belly with every step.What was suppose to be the" plague" we heard about at the start of the season, did happen , it just came late . The Farmers must have felt a sigh of relief  when the rains started in late May, keeping the  numbers of grass chewing bugs to a minimum. Without all the moisture throughout the summer, it well may have been a disaster for all the crops.
The "blizzard" did last until the beginning of December, now we are experiencing  what is know as the "Chinook". In the Northern Rockies we get warming trends that  usually follow very extreme weather patterns, and, like this Chinook, melt away most of the snow, warming to the 50* and sometimes even warmer.
That brings us up to date, December 12th 2010, another storm is on it's way, Winter is knocking at the door....
It was  a season in which we saw some of the largest trout, on average, being photographed by anglers and guides up and down the entire river system. The size of the fish in the river in 2010 was truly impressive, and next season should be equally as productive. You can tell people not to miss out , oh yes, this year the fish are huge, but, a picture is worth, a thousand words!
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Sept- Oct { Missouri River Montana }

As the dry fly action turned pretty difficult some days during September, other days were great. The good news during this period was the fact that most days you could always get some really nice big trout on hoppers, maybe not numbers, but , quality fish that would make any angler proud ( see above). The amazing part of this time of the year, is that most guides go up to the Dam and do " row arounds", sometimes all day long, nymphing the same water over and over ( yawn). This year, the Canyon was empty, the fishing was really good, and not having other guide boats around was a bonus. The weather was warm, dry, and very pleasant,  extremely comfortable fishing days. Hopper-dropper was the winning combo, and this stayed true all through Oct.and even into the first ten days of November, until the weather changed , and it became winter! But in Oct. the afternoons were full of rising trout, and nice pods of trout eating Baetis , and Midges. My other combo that was a top choice was the parachute (pink top) Adams ( #14) with a baetis cripple dropper in a # 18, or, a midge cluster dropper. ( see ) { Fly selections}
This time of the year (late Fall), is great for those who enjoy to "do it all", fishing dry's, shallow nymphs, big attractor dry flys, or, streamers, it all works, take your choice! I do not have many clients that like to throw streamers, but, for those who do, it can be a blast, and very rewarding ( see below)
This beautiful brown chased and pounced on a # 4 yuk bug, always a good late fall fly for huge browns.
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August- September { Missouri River Montana }

Like I said earlier, the hopper fishing seemed to "peak", around the first two weeks in  August, it was a time of the season where just about everything came together, water levels, water temps, flows, and really for the first time all season, the weather. We had seen some very inconsistent weather starting in April, and it continued right up through August. It was the coolest summer we have seen , since, 1993. It really did not get "hot' until August. We would have a day here or there where it did get pretty warm, but, over all it was a cool, wet , summer.
It was a season of anticipation, and expectation, that both fell just a bit short. In the Spring, most of the buzz in the Fly Fishing world was about the 35 year plague of Grass Hoppers that was going to invade the Mid-west and Western  North America. Some Fly distributors were boasting incredible sales of hopper patterns , and warning fly shops and outfitters to "buy now", or you could be left short by August...About that time is when the rain and snow started, and  for the next three months , we saw a deluge of water , peaking around the end of June. Most of the Islands in the river were completely submerged, for weeks at a time, becoming much too wet for hoppers to live and grow. The hoppers were in great numbers on the "banks' of the river, but not out on the islands, which changed the fishing strategy for many who like to fish the shallow waters around the islands , and the middle of the river. The Missouri is a shallow river, the only place from bank to bank where the fish cannot see a dry fly is the deepest part, the channel. Yes, trout do feed on the surface here during intense hatches, but, out of the channel, the water is shallow enough for a trout to see and feed on flies floating above them.
It would have been the greatest hopper fishing in the history of the river , if we would not have had the high water , and the islands would have had the grass hoppers in great numbers. This would have opened the entire river to hopper fishing, not just along the banks, or, a few spots where the wind blows the hoppers out into the river.
This past August did have very good surface activity, and hatches of Pale Morning Duns, Caddis, and Tricos. Most years, August is a slow month, too warm, too many bright sunny days, but , this season it was prime. Fish were feeding on red ants, hoppers, beetles, some black ants, due to the water levels and temps both being better than most years. Black caddis were showing in good numbers in the lower river, and the hopper action in the upper river was really great some days. By the latter part of August, the fish were getting very difficult, spooky, as some would say "terrified!".
September was a month that was sunny, warm, and more consistent water flows. The caddis were still in good numbers, but the PMD's were over, and the Tricos were good on the less windy days...The hopper fishing was good some days, but , it was hard to string two or three days in a row. One good day, one great day, one slow day...Funny, by now the fields along the river were alive with all different sizes and colors of hoppers...
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

July - August { Missouri River Montana }

By the end of July, the water levels should have been perfect for fish to " pod up" in great #s and really get feeding . Everything was in perfect order, water temps, air temps, water level, hatches, but, the problem was that the water flows were changing on a daily occurrence. Why this was taking place, I cannot tell you, but, it had a significant out come on the numbers of rising trout throughout the entire river. Yes, we did have some "pods", but nothing like it could have been, the dry fly fishing should have been stellar, it was just "fair'.
The one part of the summer that was really wonderful was the hopper fishing. Many huge fish were taken by all different types of hopper patterns, and this seem to come to a peak around that first two weeks in August. At this time, just about any hopper pattern that was , good sized, and had some kind of rubber legs, seemed to work. The trout were really looking for just about anything that resembled a hopper, and they were not shy about eating them! Huge "toilet bowl flush" takes were common, it was really fun to see just how many different ways a trout will take a hopper.
 My favorite, and I think for most, the take that is the most difficult , is when the the trout comes all the way out of the water to take the artificial on the way down , much like a cat pouncing on a mouse. For many anglers as soon as they see a trout move toward the fly they start to set the hook, which in this case is just the wrong move, as when the trout is coming down on the fly, the fly has moved. I remember a day on the Yellowstone River , in 1988 (year of the fire in the Park), when I was guiding a single, young man, who was from Livingston, he had moved to New York, and had made enough money to return, and fulfill a life long dream of having a guide take him Fly Fishing on the Yellowstone. It was perfect weather and in August, hopper fishing was full on, so we went to "3 mile" just North of the Park and I put my boat in to start the day. There were hoppers everywhere, it was going to be warm, sunny, just a bluebird day, great hopper weather, things looked perfect. We started out fishing hoppers right from the get go, but, a few hours had passed and we only had one to the boat. This young man was pretty new to Fly Fishing, but, only one to the boat in this water seemed a bit off, even for a beginner. By lunch , we had only a couple of trout and the day was just about half over. Of course I was trying different sizes and patterns of hoppers, but the results were coming out the same. The problem was that the trout were coming to the fly, but , they would bump it with their nose, or, flash under it, or, jump over it. I kept trying different flies, even gave the Trude a good run, same results. By three in the afternoon, we were both a bit on edge, we had landed only a few fish. I then told him" we need to get some, lets go with a Girdle bug, or a Yuk bug and catch a few , we can try dries later". It worked, thank god, we were both getting testy, and he did get some lovely big browns,  that help take the pressure off. On a normal day , I would see 40-60 trout , to the boat, so you can imagine how I felt , it was 4:00 pm and we had less than half a dozen. Then, I remembered, there was a full moon the night before, and it was high pressure, no clouds, clear all night! I said, " lets try hoppers again, the sun has dropped enough were they might be feeding now, they must have fed all night , they must be ready to start again". Well, sure enough, first cast the trout came without hesitation, this went on for the next two hours. we ended up with a respectable day , we landed over 20 nice trout, Rainbows, Cutthroats, and Browns, and he even got a Brookie, a Yellowstone 'grand slam".
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

June - July 2010 { Missouri River Montana }

The water remained high even over the 4th of July, first time we have seen that, but , the fishing was still very good. By the beginning of July we were full on with Caddis and PMD's , Baetis were still around, and the Tricos were just getting going. Despite the high water, those who were really looking , found great dry fly fishing, and huge fish eating on top. There were not that many places to find good top water activity, and most guides were watching the colored balls floating along side their drift boats, hoping they would be pulled under. That left a few of us to hit the dry fly spots and we were getting fish ( shown above ) that were truly enormous on very small dry flies,( sizes # 18, and # 20's). It was just after the 4th of July weekend , in which the water started to drop some, and the fishing would have been , maybe , the best we have ever seen. The only reason it was not was because of the un steady flows, the river was going  "up and  down") on a  daily basis. In order to have great fishing, the flows need to be constant, or the fish cannot feel comfortable with their surrouding , contracting and expanding. The  unfortunate  timing  and water flow inconsistency, led the way for what could have been a "super July into a "good" July, the trout just could not get into a feeding rhythm. Those "in the know", were aware that those very large trout started eating hoppers  very early in July. As things turned out, we did have one of the great "hopper" seasons for the past 15 years. And , we were catching good #'s of fish well into November on hoppers! The size of  the trout that were eating hoppers was  incredible!
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Early season 2010 { Missouri River Montana}

( Check out the boat in the left hand side of Photo)
In June, we did have great nymph fishing despite the very high water. At one point the river did reach 19,000 fps, normal water flows during the summer is around 4000 fps. But, June is a month in which we have the great water temperatures, the river really comes alive with Baetis, PMD's, and the Caddis are full on; Crane flys, Crayfish, and  the Leeches are very active. With the high water  Earth worms are being eroded into the river from the crumbling river banks, and the trout gorge and grow like crazy during this  warm wet month. The largest of the trout in the river are very susceptible to being roped in from wild eyed anglers...Near the end of the month , the Tricos are getting going and one can start to see the vast clouds of what appears to be smoke above the bridges and banks of the river. In the Mornings , the Tricos hatch , and in just a few hours , are mating in great numbers , dancing up and down forming the " smoke" above the  river banks , "put ins" , bridges, and  islands in and around the river. After mating , the female Trico lays here eggs on the water and then dies,( spinner fall) creating a smorgasbord of trout food that float right to the feeding lanes of the awaiting and hungry trout. There is such a vast quantity of the dead Tricos ( spinners), that the trout group together in "pods" ( safety in numbers), and lay just below the surface of the water, just having to raise their heads to take in the carpet of Trico spinners.  I have seen some trout 'heard" with their mouths open, for up to 3-4 seconds, then gulping down the banquet, feeding like pigs at a trough, taking in as many as they can fit into mouths. Most, feed taking in just one or two at a time, usually in a timing rhythm, of a one,  two,  three,  four. This will continue as long as the spinner fall last, usually dependent on how strong the wind is blowing, or, a if a bird fly's over the pod, or, if a fisherman makes a bad cast , landing the line on top of the feeding trout. When this happens, the pod, "blows up", or jolts the trout to move quickly and swim downward and get off the surface of the water as quick as possible, throwing some water as they descend. If there is a enough 'bugs" floating over the trout, they will return to feed in just a few seconds, if the numbers of  bugs are not as thick, it can take much longer.
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