Friday, August 29, 2008

Game Time

Unless you work on a carnival or you don't fish, summer always flies by in the northern lattitudes. It seems like yesterday we swapped our flannel shirts and wool pants for t-shirts and Speedo trunks. Well, maybe not the Speedo. Regardless, here in MT, the nights are already cooler and the days shorter. And now, September 1st is looming.
While some archery antelope seasons open in August, September 1st is the real turning point for many of us multi-sport outdoor fanatics. Upland game bird season opens on the 1st, with archery big game to follow on the 6th. If you haven't already, it is time to get your bird dogs' feet toughened up with some road work and probably get your own mid-section slightly slimmer.
It is also time to start shooting some rounds through your centerfires. I vowed to shoot my .243 more this past summer than in years past, preparing for the antelope opener in October that always sneaks up on me. Now I need to do the same with the bigger deer and elk rifles. Monday will find me behind two dogs, looking for blue grouse. Wow, it is hunting season already. Bring it on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Local Discovery

I often lament the fact that I live far enough east in the esteemed trout fishing state of Montana to make a quality trout fishing trip just that, a trip. From Billings, the Madison, Gallatin, Missouri, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Blackfoot, Bitterroot, etc. - even the upper Yellowstone all require a multi-day trip to really fish effectively. Granted we've got a few trout fisheries within an hours drive, but they aren't secrets. I was in desperate need of a local, unpressured trout fishery. Impossible you say? I thought so too until recently.
I received a tip regarding the possibility of a local stream holding a few trout...I'd chased weaker leads before. With map in hand I pointed my truck south in search of this unlikely trout stream. After a few miles on pavement, followed by a few more on gravel I arrived at the waters edge. What I stumbled upon that day was a legit, high quality spring creek. More importantly the creek was teeming with trout, mostly browns and mostly small, but also with a few large surprises lurking in some of the deep holes. This location has the makings of a year round fishery and is close enough to home for the occasional nooner when I need it.
Energized by my recent discovery, I now have about a dozen local and easily overlooked streams circled on my map; all locations that I intend to explore with a fly rod in hand. While I don't expect it, one or two of them just might have a surprise in store.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Teacher

Have you ever taught someone else to fly fish? I’ve helped friends improve their fishing skills but never started from scratch with someone. My wife of six weeks was the student this past weekend in Yellowstone Park, and though I couldn’t have asked for a better student, where do you start?
For starters, I can talk about casting, mending, stripping, etc. but haven’t addressed where to cast, where the fish are, why they’re there, why we picked this certain fly, why I tied this knot, why this water is good and this one is bad, and so on and so on.
How do you expect to hand a person a fly rod, teach her how to get the fly into the water, and expect her to catch fish? It’s like teaching someone to throw a football and expecting him to throw a skinny post to Randy Moss and hit him in stride.
It surprised me on that cold, Soda Butte Creek that my wife is a naturally good fly caster, and she began to inquire about flies and where the water was good, and if she had enough line out, if she was mending right, and so on. I was so proud of her.
And I knew she caught on when she spoke those famous words every fly fisherman has uttered after getting shut out, "I don’t think there are any fish in this river."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

And I Followed you, Big River, when you Called

Until Sunday my only true fishing experience on the Yellowstone River involved terms like "setline" and "ling"—never had I done much fly fishing on the "big river" (subtle Johnny Cash pun) though I’m a native Montanan and a most avid fly fisherman.
For me fly fishing is something done on small creeks (and yes, Jay, I do say "crick") and rivers like Rock Creek, the Boulder, the Stillwater, and those wonderful rivers in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone Park. To me, fishing the "big river" means the Gallatin.
So many fishing stories offer great tales about looking beyond the big rivers for the serenity and charm of the small streams, and that despite the smaller fish there remains something unique about fishing those waters.
For me, the opposite tale is true. For a guy who basically uses the same eight flies fished in a manner of different ways on the same eight rivers, the trip on the Yellowstone with MSJ editor Jay Hanson and advertising guru Will Jordan was an eye-opening experience.
I hooked a number of good fish, even landed some nice ones and enjoyed one of only a handful of floating fishing trips I’ve taken in my many years of fly fishing.
I’ll never abandon my love for the smaller waters, but thanks to a good float and some good fishing, I won’t shy away from the "big river" any more.