Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Simplicity

Sometimes a guy just needs to get back to the basics.

Small streams and fly fishing. Summer sun and mountain air. Wild trout and solitude. Wading sandals and shorts. Attractor dries and terrestrials. Reminiscence and realization.

Summer and simplicity.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Seeley Sampler

For nearly a year I'd been looking forward to my family's long planned vacation to Seeley Lake, MT. Last week all that anticipation came to fruition as we traded in the hustle and bustle of every day life for the beauty and serenity of the Seeley-Swan Valley. We stayed at the comfortable Seeley Cabin of Tamaracks Resort, nestled amongst the pines right on the banks of Seeley Lake, just a stones throw from the water. As I always tend to do with such trips, I had envisioned our cabin serving as a base camp for 5 glorious days of fly fishing, dawn to dusk. Had it been up to me, that's probably what we'd have done. For better or worse the majority of my family doesn't suffer from the angling addiction that has afflicted me. In particular my 1 year old niece and 3 year old nephew reminded me that there's more to life than chasing fins.

Thankfully though, we did find time to sample some of the fisheries in the area, of which there seemed no end. Hands down, the best fishing of the trip was on what I'll just call the North Fork (I can't give away all the secrets). Here we found a beautiful stream, full of healthy native westslope cutthroat that averaged 15-17 inches, with fish up to 22" caught...on dries no less. Big, big bull trout lurked in the deepest pools and harassed the cutts thrashing on the end of our lines.

We plied the waters of Seeley Lake itself on many evenings, working the channels, lilly pads and ledges...hooking fair numbers of northern pike up to about 30". We worked hard for bass, hoping there were still some holdouts - and surely there are - but to no avail. Seeley Lake is fed by the Clearwater River, a rather small, slow, meandering stream. My sister and nephew floated a few miles of the river with me in a canoe, some of the deep (10'+) holes surely held a few fish, but we saw just one trout and some small perch on our float. I wouldn't go out of my way to fish the Clearwater again any time soon.

I would however go out of my way to fish the Blackfoot River. The time we spent fishing the river was productive and relaxing, with lots of cutts, rainbows and the occasional juvenile bull caught. We even had a few exciting episodes of giant bull trout rushing our catch. We had good dry fly fishing at times, but picked up more fish when we conceded to dredging the runs with stonefly nymphs, pheasant tails, copper johns and such. We also spent some time poking around a tributary or two of the Blackfoot, and did pretty well for mostly native cutthroat (some surprisingly large) on these cold, clear streams.

That may sound like a lot of fishing to you, but it only wet my appetite for the regions ample opportunities. As we sailed right on by the Swan River and the Middle Fork of the Flathead River without so much as wetting a line en route to Glacier National Park, there was little I could do but grin and bear it. And then there were the high country lakes that we missed out on, and the myraid of big name fisheries within an hours drive such as the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Rock, Rattlesnake, much fishing to do and so little time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Reservoir

This was what I'd come for, I thought to myself as I released a 22" stud of a rainbow trout back into the calm, early morning water. My blissful thoughts were quickly interrupted by my fishing partner and guide for the day, Russ Kipp, who called my catch, "peanuts". I was insulted, that was one of the largest rainbows I'd ever tied into on a fly rod and I was beaming as I caressed that beauty. Of course Russ has fished and guided on this lake countless times and has seen countless more 22" trout pulled from its waters. I enjoyed the stories he told throughout the day, tales of truly monstrous rainbows and browns that prowl the reservoir known as Clark Canyon. Throughout the day those stories were interrupted by the ever so subtle dip of an indicator, followed by a bent rod and screaming reel. The chironomid sipping rainbows and browns typically ran 19" to 23", but that doesn't take into account the ones that got away. The hot rainbow that peeled out backing and never looked back, the BIG brown that smashed a bugger only to disappear into a jungle of submerged willows...those were the fish that Russ had come for and that I'll be back for.

The reservoirs of Montana are often overshadowed by the state's famous blue ribbon trout rivers. Russ has found that getting clients to fish Clark Canyon instead of the nearby Beaverhead or Big Hole is often a hard sell, the first time around. Once they get a taste of those big wild browns and hard fighting rainbows (quite a few of which are also wild fish) they're eager for more. There is definitely a local contingent of anglers that takes advantage of the reservoir's proximity to Dillon, but it's a big lake with plenty of room to spread out and explore the many productive inlets and channels.

Next time you find yourself in SW MT with a fly rod, give Clark Canyon a shot and give Russ Kipp a shout (406-834-3469,, tell him we sent you.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Staying Home

Maybe it's the fact that I put over 2,500 miles on my truck in May and June, or maybe I am just getting older, wiser, or just lazier, but lately it has been nice to stay home. Not at home on the couch, but at home, fishing locally.
From my home in central Montana, it is a half day's drive to a lot of the bigger, marquee rivers of western or southwestern Montana. While I cannot get a drift boat on the local creeks, good wade fishing for respectable trout or fishing on reservoirs via boat or float tube are options.
This past week I was able to get out a couple of times, with Scott Nelson. On Monday, we took the boat to a local "lake" and awaited the evening hatch, targeting rainbows cruising the shoreline. It was a beautiful evening and a nice reward after we both spent the day in our respective offices. Wednesday night, Scott's final night in town, I introduced him to some water on the spring creek that he hadn't fished before. We didn't hook any big browns on hoppers like I had hoped, but we did land some smaller rainbows as they went on a caddis feeding frenzy before we lost our remaining daylight.
My hope is to always have some hunting or fishing at hand, no matter where I live. The quick, simple little getaways add a lot to the quality of life quotient. Road trips are great, but sometimes just staying home, is pretty good too.