Friday, February 26, 2010

No Spring Fever Yet

While Will and his cohorts are fishing the big rivers like the Bighorn and the Missouri, cussing the ice on their rods, there are still some of us that are embracing frozen water.

I have always enjoyed introducing newcomers to ice-fishing. Most folks envision the activity as sitting by a hole in the ice, being bored to tears, shivering in the frigid temperatures. But, with some planning (and a lot of gear, i.e. auger, shanty and heater), fishing through the ice for trout, walleye, pike or perch, can be a lot of fun and is a nice winter break.

I had first put Laura on some perch on a local reservoir and she quickly picked up the knack of hooking the tasty little fish, as they nibbled on the waxworm/ teardrop jig presentation. We enjoyed a thermos of a warm beverage and listened to the local radio station, as we jigged next to the propane heater in the canvas shack. She was hooked.

The next adventure was a hunt for big trout-fishing that would provide less action and require more finesse in trying to get the feisty rainbows onto the ice. The adventure started out ugly; we drilled holes by hand in blizzard, white-out conditions. But, once inside the shack, the heater was on, and so was the action. The clear water allowed us to watch the occasional fish cruise by, with Laura quickly landing a nice 20" fish, with very little advice from the "know-it-all". Spring fishing can wait for a few more weeks. Some of us are still catching fish through eight inch holes drilled in the ice.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Off to a Fine Start

February is a slow time of year for sportsmen in Montana. Waterfowl season has closed, we're still two months from spring turkey season and an ice auger is needed for most fishing endeavors. I've been spending a good deal of time tying flies in anticipation of spring, but all this tying and talk of fishing makes my cabin fever even worse.

Going against my better judgment, I've been out fly fishing a bit recently. It's difficult to be self-motivated about getting out on the river at this time of year. Fortunately a couple of my friends have no qualms about bundling up and wading icy rivers in an attempt to shake the winter doldrums.

A recent afternoon outing on the Gallatin River with my buddy Matt was an exercise in futility. Much to our surprise, by the time we fished our way downstream to the run that was our destination, we found a couple of anglers had beaten us to it! This on a weekday in February...must be the economy. As the smell of skunk intensified over the course of the afternoon, we lowered ourselves to sight fishing for whitefish...with no luck. But it was a beautiful afternoon with snow flurries mingling with shafts of sunlight.

Last Friday I got out for a few hours of fly fishing on the Lower Madison River, a local tailwater. On this trip I was accompanied by Josh, the fly fishing columnist for MSJ and his friend Brady. Brady was into fish almost immediately and continued putting on a clinic throughout the day. I was a little slower to catch on, landing a couple of rainbows on an egg pattern early on before hitting a serious dry spell. Fortunately Brady eventually took pity on me and furnished a fly he calls, the "Lower Madison Special". As it did on this day, it never ceases to amaze me when the fishing goes from ho-hum to great after simply changing fly patterns.

Winter fly's not all bad.

On a separate note...a quick reminder to get your Smith River permit applications into MTFWP by Feb 16.