Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prospecting for Trout , Tactics,( Part 5 )

                        (Madison River Outside of Bozeman MT)
 By the time I was in my last year at the U OF M Missoula, I was starting to travel outside of the home waters and exploring secret creeks, and some of the other famous rivers throughout the State.One of the rivers I was spending as much time as possible, was the Madison river near the small bustling town of Ennis MT. This is classic riffle water, where prospecting for trout is the "norm". Most of the water near town is filled with nothing but boulders, broken white water. Most of the boulders are the size of bowling balls, but there are some the size of Volkswagons , perfect trout habitat, The trick here is to use a fly that will float high and be very visible. The trout lay just where you'd think, drop offs, behind the larger boulders, in the deeper slots, and under the cover of willows hugging the banks. It is great water to learn how to get a proper float, the presentation  is not as important,  due to the "broken" waters surface.
At this time, 1979, the Madison was the most popular river in the State, guide boats by the hundreds would bobbe up and down as if in a parade, the participants dressed with sun glasses, large hats , and vest, with rods in hand, waved to on lookers as they passed. Here I learned about the H & L variant, a white winged fly , that also had a white tail, floats high and long, easy to see , and trout like them just fine on the broken waters of the Madison.
                                          ( H & L Variant )
That summer I camped at "slide Inn" for a few day, and found that there were a number of the other campers who had made a yearly pilgrimage to fish the upper section of the famous Madison River. My first day I'd had very little luck, and returning to camp found, that I was the only angler who was not ecstatic with their outing . There was talk of five pound brown trout, 24 inch rainbows, all of this made my head spin, " I had a monster on , right to the bank , and he slipped off, " a thin, older, well dressed gentleman exclaimed. Really I asked, where were you fishing.  " right above where you have your tent", he said, no kidding, I was puzzled. Of course I had to ask , and what were you using?  The zealous angler barked, " a big ol black stonefly nymph, size # 4", " I tie my own, and the key are the black rubber legs". Oh, you are nymphing, I said, how heavy are the flies, I asked? Just then , the lean , white haired angler displayed his Fly rod, on the leader he had three 'Split shots" about a foot above a large black stonefly nymph , with black rubber legs , protruding out it seemed in every direction.
 I'd been fishing with large dry flies, salmon flies, the "hatch " was still  just getting going, 40 miles down stream near the town of Ennis. That evening , after fishing  I was invited to the "camp fire" in which most of the couples who were camping , joined in, to spin tales of the days adventures. It turns out, that the other eight couples all had met camping the same week , many years prior , and , looked forward to see each other the same time each year. What I learned that evening was that this upper stretch of the Madison was best to nymph, this time of year, bigger , heavier the nymph , the better, it was called , " chuck and duck ".
I did have luck the next morning, caught a couple of  nice 20 inch rainbows , but decided to head to the Henry's Fork. The "River Rumor,"( before the Internet and instant river reports ) was that the the big trout of the "fork" were eating salmon fly dries, this was something that I found to be a fantasy at this point of my fishing career.
I drove south into Idaho to the small village of Last Chance, stopped by the fly shop that was then owned by Mike Lawson, for information and flies. I was told that there were in fact some salmon flies in the lower part of the canyon, and there were some large fish being caught, but, most on stonefly nymphs (ol mister,Chuck and Duck ), well, I knew how to fish those, thanks to my new friends on the upper Madison.
I drove to the base of the canyon, and walked along side the World Famous Henry's Fork river, some what in Holy reverence, like the Muslims going to Mecca, or Catholics visiting the Vatican, for a Fly fishermen, this was the " high church'. In those days,  anybody who trout fished  either, fished on the "Fork", or wish they had. The "ranch" water was packed with anglers fishing like a picket fence, shoulder to shoulder, waiting for the famous Green Drake Hatch. When I saw that, I knew I did not want to get involved with that mess, and was glad to be fishing the canyon water.
I tried some of the new Dry flies I purchased , to no avail, the water was high and cold, and the fish were not rising, even to the giant stonefly drys. I saw a angler hook a nice sized trout behind a large boulder, it jumped two, or, three times and then came undone. The water in the canyon was fast, strong and powerful, one had to be careful while wading. I saw what the man who just loss the trout was using, a heavy , black , big n' ugly , stonefly nymph. I decided to put away the dry flys and concentrate on the chuck and duck. I moved downstream from three guys who "growled" at me when I was attempting to walk near and watch their methods. This overall, was the least friendly crowd of fishermen I had ever seen, or been around, and I'm not referring to the three who just growled, I mean all over this river. I choose a spot that was in the shade, this stretch also had large boulders, I felt both factors were positives. I made some short cast before wading in, nothing doing, I entered the river to find the wading challenging, but, I wanted to get my large "bug" out and behind a huge boulder that slowed the strength of the powerful runoff. Once in position , I steadied my legs and started with casting upstream, mending my line to allow the splitshots to sink and bring my fly to a level where the trout could feed. After many cast , finally my line tightened, it caught me off guard. I was in waist deep water, I leaned forward and nearly fell in, but caught myself, and turned to head back toward the bank. The whole time my line was screaming off of my reel, I had no idea what sized trout I'd hooked , with the power of the rushing water , it could have been almost any size, who knows, maybe I'd foul hooked it. I managed to climb back on shore , the trout still in tacked,  it had stopped running and was holding  behind a large boulder in the middle of the river just downstream. The noise from my reel had caught the attention of the three "growlers" up above me , they had stopped fishing and were all three watching my every move. Being on the bank, I moved quickly below the resting trout and I was able to "put the wood" to big unkown, and see if I could land it. The trout made another run , but, using split shots and heavy nymphs, ment that I had very strong tippet, what ever it was , it was not going to break off. It finally did succumb to the constant pulling , and , I could just see the outline of the trout through the turbid water. It was a rainbow,the largest trout I'd ever seen,  funny, it never did jump, I put my rod along side the beast to measure it, 27 inch's. It was by far my largest trout I'd ever landed, I took the beauty out of the water to show one of the "growlers" who had moved down into the same spot in which I 'd hooked the monster. I asked the angler if he wouldn't mind taking my picture with this Goliath trout. I could not hear his reply due to the rushing water, but his body language ( middle finger of his left hand ) indicated , probably not.
                             (Henry's Fork of the Snake, Idaho)
I released the beauty, then, sat on the bank for around fifteen minutes to enjoy the glory of landing such a wonderful creature, and returning it back to where it belonged. While resting , I noticed that the growler who moved quickly into my spot, had hooked up, he was landing a 14 inch whitefish. I saw his head turn abruptly in my direction to see if I was watching, he caught me in a laser like stare right at him, again, I was awarded the middle finger salute. I laughed, and decided to leave these miserables, I reeled in knowing I was done for the day, it was not going to get better . I went back to see what the word was at the Fly shop, Mike Lawson was there sporting a colorful Hawaiian shirt, he said that a guy caught a ten lb rainbow on a dry , and another guy said he'd caught an 11 lber, on a  stonefly nymph. I guestamated mine at around 7lbs, so, there I was , having to dredge back out to see if I could break the double digits. That was the old days on the the "Fork", where I was learning to prospect with more than just dry flies.
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