Thursday, September 25, 2008

Call 'em in

As I was lying in bed last night fading to sleep, blaring sirens from passing emergency vehicles on the city streets kept me awake. Only twenty four hours earlier I'd been sleeping under the stars in the high country with nothing but elk bugles keeping me awake at night. Trading bugles and wilderness for sirens and city life isn't all bad, but it definitely makes me long for my next trip into the mountains.

The wapiti in SW Montana are definitely in full rut right now, in fact where I was it may be on the decline with many bulls already busted up and content with maintaining their large harems. This time every year I vow that I'll be shooting a bow by next fall, but again I find myself without a bow in hand this September. Instead I opted for a little catch and release elk hunting with my camera. Calling bulls into close range is a thrill and challenge even without an arrow nocked and is a great way to get stoked for the upcoming general season.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Big Country

Sales director Will Jordan and I made the trip to Denver last week for the annual fly fishing retailer show. The show was impressive, but we had our fill of big city traffic, paying to park and car alarms blaring.
Regardless of our disdain for the concrete jungle, it amazed us just how many people at the show wanted a piece of Montana. The average fly angler we spoke with spent at least a week each summer in Big Sky Country; a lot of those guys would reside here permanently, if they could.
I felt a little guilty for taking Montana for granted, needing to be reminded how great our state was, reminded that we have resources that many sportsmen would die for. On the drive home from Denver, I vowed I would fish those rivers that I ignored this summer and hunt the big, wide-open spaces that are made for a man, a dog and a gun.
On a recent hunt since returning from Denver, the birds were not as numerous as past autumns, but the views were sweeter. And more cherished.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Summer or Fall?

This is definitely still the transition time between seasons in our outdoor pursuits. I left town with the A/C cranked up in the vehicle, headed for the hills as it was pushing 80 degrees and too hot for my liking on the prairie. I had heard of some remarkable hatches of late on the local spring creek and considered going fishing instead of chasing birds. Thinking of the dogs, I chose the latter. And by the time I loaded up the dogs and headed for home, I had the heater running to take the chill off. When the sun goes down in the mountains, it cools off pretty quickly.
This was a combination mountain grouse hunt and elk scouting trip, however, it is a lot to ask to see any elk (or hear the occasional love sick bull scream) while shouting commands at the dogs and firing the occasional volley at a flushing bird. We moved both blues and ruffed grouse in the afternoon hunt, so I can't complain too much. Fishing might just have to wait until next spring.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sometimes the Fish Wins

Last Friday advertising director Will Jordan and I left Billings early to head up the Stillwater River for a pre-noon fishing trip. Although we each landed a few mid-sizers, the most intriguing fish were the ones who wouldn’t play the game with us.
A small, almost unnoticeable riffle ran through a deep, big area of calm water and on the far edge of that riffle were the constant pops of fish rising to the surface. To cast straight out to them required a little more line in the back-cast than the trees and bushes would allow (in fact Will found evidence of other fishermen in those very bushes) and the pool forms right off the shore so wading out closer is not an option.
Letting the fly drift down to them isn’t much of an option either since the area above the pool is fast, deep, and not very accurately described as "still water". Casting from below the pool wouldn’t provide any better chances as the inability to mend the line properly or get the right drift would ruin any chance of fish. And no way could a fisherman get enough leaverage to utilize the roll cast.
I finally made my way out to a rock, cast upstream and whipped the rod slightly to the side just before the fly touched water in an effort to basically mend the line in the air. The drift was then good and the fly could hit the areas I wanted.
Still, that deep, slow pool gave any fish in there plenty of time to look at my fly, the knot, the line, and perhaps even discuss it with the other fish before deciding to go after it. I had one raise as a result of all that figuring, though that's one more than I had with any other method.
There are reasons why fish get so big—they manage to avoid getting caught and the beasts in that pool certainly have seen their share of enticements.
In my mind, I taught myself a new trick to fishing a difficult piece of water like that. It didn’t pay off on this trip, but I’ll save it for another day when the opportunity arises.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Get 'em involved

As we all know, getting the next generation interested in the tradition of hunting and fishing is crucial to maintaining our sporting heritage. Exposing our youth to positive, fun experiences in the fields and streams at an early age is undoubtedly the biggest factor in their becoming future sportsmen.
This weekend I went along on a fishing trip with my nephew, who is not yet 3, and his father. While some anglers might have viewed young Samuel's presence on the boat as a distraction, he didn't detract at all from the trip. Hearing his laughter as he "turned in" the reel on each leaping fish and watching his amazement as the fish was brought to hand was well worth the little bit of extra attention he required. A healthy supply of powdered donuts and snacks went a long way in keeping him happy when the fishing slowed or he grew tired of playing with the worms.
Samuel is already looking forward to his next trip and has developed the tell tale trait of waking before Mom comes to roust him on mornings when a day of fishing is in store . To say he gets excited when his Dad hooks up the boat is an understatement. He is lucky to have someone to provide him with these early experiences in life, not every child has such opportunities. Take a kid fishing.