Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Perfect Gear

I thought I'd follow up on Jay's recent post about our Smith River trip. As Jay said, the trip went very well, the fishing was great, the scenery was spectacular and the company couldn't have been better. It was some of the best attractor dry fly fishing for good size trout that I've experienced in MT.

As Jay also eluded to, we were fortunate to have quality gear along to help make this trip run as smoothly as it did. There were two pieces of gear in particular on this trip that really stood out. If we'd brought inferior products along, the outcome of the trip may have been much different.

1) Our Yeti Tundra Series Coolers really shined, keeping our food and beverages cold, and in some cases frozen, through high temps and relentless sun for 4 days; a fact that was certainly appreciated at the cocktail hour. Our ice retention techniques were fair, yet could have been improved upon some, even so the items remaining in our coolers were still cold at the end of the trip.

The Smith River is black bear country and many of the campsites are frequented by bears seeking food. In addition to Yeti's superior insulation and ice retention the Tundra series carries a recently acquired "grizzly-proof" (bear resistant) certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Comittee, a board overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. We didn't have to worry about grizzlies on this trip, but if a Yeti will keep a grizzly out (see photo), it will certainly hold its own against a black bear, we rested a little better at night knowing that.

2) The SOAR 16' inflatable canoe that we brought on this trip was an agile, quick, portable, weight carrying vessel that made a huge difference in the trip. We loaded the SOAR up with both coolers, two dry boxes, a large dry bag, firewood, two men and miscellaneous gear. Early on in the trip we were certainly approaching the boats 1,000 lb weight capacity rating and you'd have never known by the way it handled. The front passenger in the canoe was able to comfortably and stably fish from a seated position while the rear passenger easily maneuvered the canoe with a single paddle, even through fast boulder strewn runs and tight turns. When the paddler did make an error and hit a rock, the tough inflatable canoe shrugged it off in a very forgiving manner, a quality that a hard sided boat doesn't have. In low water such as that encountered on the Smith at this time of year, the SOAR really showed its worth - floating through water just inches deep. This was my second extended, low water river trip in the SOAR and I can now honestly say I'd be comfortable running most rivers of approx. 150 cfs and up with a moderate to heavy load in this canoe. That opens up a lot of possibilities.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Perfect Trip

We have all had fishing or hunting trips that didn't turn out like we had anticipated. Bad weather, faulty or forgotten gear, or just plain poor attitudes, can turn a great trip into a dreadful one. However, once in a while, everything goes according to plan, causing one to look forward to the repeat adventure, even before the current unpacking is completed.
This recent trip to the Smith River was the latter. We had four days of perfect weather for floating and camping along a picturesque Montana river. Flows were adequate for safe floating, but not too high to muddy the water or dampen the fishing. The feisty rainbows and chunky browns were cooperative, feeding on the surface on a variety of patterns.
Lastly, the company was great. Brian, Emily, Will, Andre and I, all seemed to complement each other nicely and the time in camp, as well as in the boats, was memorable. We were all able to leave our stressful daily lives behind us and pretend we were just kids again- swimming, rafting, joking, telling stories by the campfire and just simply enjoying life. The meals were excellent, the laughter seemed endless. Never has four days gone by so quickly.
As soon as I finish unpacking, I need to get out the calendar and start planning next year's trip.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Shirking Work

I've recently moved to Bozeman from Billings. The move was inspired by many factors, with improved big game hunting and trout fishing opportunities ranking high on the list. I unloaded the U-haul about a month ago, right smack dab during the middle of run-off, poor timing on my part. After being out of state for two weeks, I've returned this week to find the area freestone rivers dropping and clearing. I also returned to find unanswered emails, voice mails and a heavy load of work waiting for me upon my return. Despite that, or maybe because of it, I've had a tough time staying focussed in the office this week. I've tried to do the responsible thing and stick it out until 5 each day, but admittedly I cut out a little early on one or two occassions. I hate to brag, or rub it in the face of those less fortunate, but I've wet a line every evening this week and on one lunch break. You can't pull that off in just any town and there are few others where you can do it on such high quality water. And the fishing, well it's been great. Stoneflies are hatching, caddis are thick, pmds are in full swing and I witnessed my first full blown brown drake hatch on Wednesday. Streamers are finding their mark, this is really prime time for chucking big ugly sculpin patterns along river banks. Nymphs are still the most consistent producers on most rivers, but the fish are increasingly starting to look up, making a dry-dropper combo very effective. Basically any method you want to use is producing fish right now.

Here's to what is shaping up to be a fine summer of fly fishing in Montana and to making the most of it.