Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cliff and Wade

This past weekend I found myself in the region that is often called "The trout heart of America", which is of course West Yellowstone, Montana. As I was en route from Bozeman to W. Yellowstone I was kicking myself for not departing early enough to leave time for some fishing. The Gallatin River looked incredible above the Taylor Fork, flowing clear - and no doubt cold. And then there were the enticing glimpses I got of Grayling Creek, but again, I had people to meet and places to be. I was no less torn as I drove over Duck Creek and the Madison River above Hebgen Lake.

I did eventually find time to wet a line on the Madison River between the lakes on Friday evening. I fished above the Cabin Creek confluence, and had excellent fishing on a variety of subsurface fly patterns ranging from stonefly nymphs to midges. The catch consisted largely of rainbows, along with whitefish.

As the light began to fade I motored west, toward Cliff and Wade Lakes, where I had more business to attend to on Saturday. I pulled up to Wade Lake in time to witness an incredible sunset over the lake. I awoke Saturday morning to my first daylight view of Wade Lake. I could hardly believe my eyes...I'd seen pictures and had heard about the lake's beauty, but seeing it for myself was really something. Both Cliff and Wade Lakes are spring fed and have incredible clarity. Under the right lighting conditions the lakes have a beautiful emerald green hue to them.

I spent most of the morning photographing the lakes and visiting with a local lodge owner. Around noon a prolific callibaetis hatch emerged over Wade Lake, enticing its finned residents to the surface. The dry fly fishing would no doubt have been exceptional, but again, I had places to be.

I'm looking forward to getting back to Cliff and Wade Lakes this summer when I have ample time to fish. I learned much about the fisheries while visiting with the locals and I look forward to applying that new found knowledge.

Montana Sporting Journal's regular fly fishing columnist, Josh Bergan, will be educating readers about these unique trout lakes through a full length feature article in the upcoming summer issue of MSJ...stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Walleye Cheeks

On a recent fishing weekend at Ft. Peck Reservoir, I was given an impromptu invitation to sit down with my neighbors at their trailer and eat a lakeside dinner. As the sun was setting above the water's glass-like surface, I was told the source of the main entree; it was a ten pound walleye caught the day before. I was even given a walleye "cheek", a scallop-sized morsel behind the eye of the large fish. It is rarity, given the fact that any fish under 4-5 pounds is too small to make the trimming of the cheek worthwhile.

I was immediately perplexed. Really? We are eating a trophy fish? A fish that I have always preached should either be released to spawn again next spring or sent to the taxidermist, so the behemoth could be celebrated for eternity? The walleye was battered and deep fried and tasted darn good, despite the pre-existing sour taste in my mouth. I kept my thoughts to myself. Who can argue with people nice enough to invite one to dinner?

I enjoyed my share of the bounty, along with a smattering of salads and other spectacular dishes. I thanked my gracious neighbors and went back to my chores and preparation for tomorrow's fishing.

It wasn't until the next day that I nearly walked back over to my neighbors to apologize-an apology for my narrow-minded thoughts and holier-than-thou beliefs that every big fish should be released. A fish that would be released back into a reservoir in which very little natural reproduction occurs. Sure, the fish could be caught again if released, but maybe it wouldn't have survived anyway.

This was my neighbor's first ten pound walleye in 40+ years of fishing. She had a right to keep that fish and enjoy it anyway she pleased. My neighbor chose to enjoy the walleye by hosting her neighbors for dinner. Sorry Marian. And thanks for the great dinner.