Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fishing With Heroes

While too much of the magazine business involves business, this past weekend was a very humbling and rewarding outing. It made me more appreciative of our state, our country and the veterans that sacrifice so much, to give us our freedoms.
Sales Director Will Jordan and I met up with Libby-based Camp Patriot and their director, Micah Clark on the Kootenai River. We had the privilege of fishing with two disabled veterans who had accepted the invitation to try fly fishing on one of Montana's famed rivers. We were all the guests of Dave and Tammy Blackburn at the Kootenai Angler. Fishing was fair, considering it was still March, the water running cold and clear.
But, it wasn't about the fishing. It was about the veterans-young men who were injured serving our country. The Camp Patriot slogan is "Giving back to those who have given". Hopefully, the trip to northwest Montana did give back and provided the veterans with a new look at the life ahead of them - a life that can offer new challenges such as catching wild trout on a majestic Montana River. They deserve it, they are truly heroes that we can all be proud of.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Look for an article on the Kootenai trip and Camp Patriot in the May/June issue of Montana Sporting Journal.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Love For Lake Trout

For some folks, lake trout are on a list of the most despised creatures, to some, only trailing wolves and Bernie Madoff. Lakers, Mackinaw, Macks-whatever the moniker - are labeled by a few as voracious , non-native bullies, that deserve to be treated as an invasive species. In Yellowstone Lake, where they were illegally introduced, they are being netted and poisoned as fast as possible to protect native cutthroat species. On Flathead Lake, fishing tournaments are held throughout the year, with the hope of culling a booming population of smallish lakers.
Lake trout are an aggressive fish. Aggressive sport fish on light to medium tackle, can provide wicked fun. And when those fish start reaching the 15 pound barrier, landing one through an 8" hole in the ice is harder than it sounds. A recent outing provided just that: fish from 10-15lbs that would just about rip the small rod out of your hand. Once hooked, they shook their heads like a marlin in mid-air.
Lake trout do have a place in some of our Montana reservoirs. And they don't belong in others, especially when introduced by a self-serving bucket biologist. But, for those that seek big, strong fish, lakers are one of Montana's best.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A New Adventure

After reading in a number of publications about the rebirth of rabbit hunting, I thought I’d give it a try. Wind has been keeping me off the rivers and a hunting itch is really starting to scratch again. Besides, I’d just seen an episode of "Iron Chef" where these world-renowned cooks made amazing meals from rabbit.

Of course rabbits aren’t exactly a rarity in Yellowstone County and I knew a trip out to the farm would likely get me some shooting. And I know those rabbits aren’t any little Peter Cotton Tails, there are some serious Boone and Crocket bunnies out in the boonies.

I’ve never shot a rabbit and not sure exactly what sort of ethics of fair chase or the preferred weapon of choice would be. To tell the truth, I wasn’t exactly sure how to pose for a picture with a rabbit either, do I crouch down to show his ear spread or do I hoist him up to show his whole body. Finally, I’m not sure I have enough block and tackle set-ups to account for the half dozen hares I hoped to bring home!

I pondered all this as I made my way to the hills with a small arsenal of weapons, the least of which was my Daisy slingshot. As I got closer to the bluffs I still hadn’t decided what hunting method to use. Why doesn’t anyone hire out as a bunny guide to tell me these things?

As I opened the gate I noticed three coyotes working toward the coulees and in about ten minutes I was close enough to get two pretty easy shots on them. I dragged them back up the hill and loaded them into the back end of the truck and drove home and watched Bugs Bunny cartoons with my nephews.

I never knew rabbit hunting was so perplexing. . .

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Got Neoprene?

My cabin fever has been running high throughout the month of February. While we could certainly stand to be building on our mountain snowpack, I won't complain about Ma Nature providing us with a reprieve from winter over the past week or so. On a sunny afternoon last weekend I worked the banks of the Stillwater River with a fly rod and low expectations in tow, I did the same yesterday. On days such as these when I'm grateful just to get out, feeling a tug on the end of my line is a bonus. It turned out that the fishing was pretty good considering it was still February. I managed to pick off a few rainbows, which were colored up nicely and were most likely early runners out of the Yellowstone. I arrived at the river mid-day yesterday to find slush ice from bank to bank, reminding me that it's still winter - thankfully it melted off within an hour of my arrival. Sporadic midge hatches occurred throughout the afternoon, but no fish were rising in the icy water. The Montana license year expired yesterday, it was great to be able to squeeze one last day of fishing out of it...the trick will be remembering to buy myself a new annual license before my next outing.

Think snow.