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  • Friday, March 30, 2007

    IF IT LOOKS LIKE A CUTT . . . .

    VERY SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS
    The Bad News
    The Worse News

    if it's not the genes then we're all doomed
    ..The Westslope Cutthroat was denied protection again by a Federal Judge. The sad thing about this case is that the USFWS won the court battle. They don't believe the Westies need any protection. The details of this case - and decision - can be found in the online version of the Great Falls Tribune.
    .. The BAD NEWS is that the USFWS & the state of Montana believe that a fish is a Westslope Cutthroat if it looks and behaves like a Westslope Cutthroat. If it has 80% Westslope genes - it's a Westslope!
    .. Some new equations: cutbow=cutthroat - or - cutbow=rainbow - or - Rainbow=Cutthroat. How about this: Beefalo=Buffalo - or - Bison=Cow? This is the thinking of our paid public servants - and there is no outcry!
    "At 80 percent, a fish “looks and acts like a westslope cutthroat trout,” Interior spokeswoman Diane Katzenberger said when the lawsuit was filed in spring of 2005. Federal Judge Sullivan ruled in favor of the morphological approach, in which the appearance and behavior of the fish determines how to classify it.

    .. This is not a "Fence Issue" Where is Trout Unlimited??? Maybe they like the idea of Trout Limited!!! Or is that Limited Trout?
    .. The WORSE NEWS is that the Interior Department is also looking at changing it's definition of what a species is. This in addition to the, (until recently,) secret changes in implementing the endangered species act could make it nearly impossible to save or recover endangered or threatened species -Plants or Animals.
    .. If the changes currently being discussed would have been in effect 12 years ago, there would be no wolves in Yellowstone. If the changes being discussed are combined with the current USFWS perspective, it will only be a matter of time before there is only a couple of species of trout. This homogenization is an interesting and a bit startling outcome.
    .. A bare bones review of the problem is found in the Casper Star Tribune. A more thorough review is found in Solon.com. PEER has a series of articles including a side-by-side comparison of the proposed changes with the current Endangered Species Act.
    .. The ramifications of this move could remove all possibility of saving fish such as salmon, cutthroat, steelhead, grayling, and others. After all - "If it looks like a . . . . . .
    .. The logical outcome is that house cats will soon become the lions in the environment.
    .. And all bass will be just bass - not wipers, stripers, white, black, smallmouth, largemouth, Kentucky, etc. After all - "If it looks like a . . . . .
    .. This concerns us a bit more than just a little.

    Weather Returns: Brings Winter With It

    VERY NEARLY CONSTANT
    WATER TEMPERATURE - GOOD

    Nasty Weather - Good
    new book published - ARGHH!


    .. The weather never fails to disappoint in Yellowstone Country. Vengeance for a solid week of gentility was obtained by splattering us with hail, freezing rain, snow and temperatures down where the thermometer shivers. Must be springtime in the neighborhood.
    .. Happily the fishing has been good, and the larger fish are gliding into the Madison River below Hebgen Dam. There will be another couple of weeks and then amore de piscine will begin - We'll leave them alone then.
    .. The fish are beginning to become territorial in anticipation of the spawn and takes are a bit more positive than just a week ago. They seem to be keying more on nymphs than streamers right now, and the various caddis imitations are a sure bet. In a week, or so, the significant territories will be established and streamers will be slaughtered as a redd protection, and dominance behavior. This phase of the pre-spawn signals the end of our visit to this locale for about 6 weeks. Other fishers begin to get thick about this time.
    .. An excellent fly in this tailwater fishery is "Jacklin's Green Rock Worm." It can be fished from now through late July with good results. Size 8 - 12 is about right for this time of year, and should bring you some good fish.
    .. Other nymphs for the stretch from the 'Discharge Riffles' through the 'Campfire Run' (see map below,) are the Stiff Hackle, Feather Duster, Yellow Montana Duster, and the ever popular Prince. Bead head varieties are in fashion and producing well.
    .. Late in the day a Yellowstone Badger can be loaded with grease and floated in the gentle sections below 'Awkward Bend' and even into the 'Choice Hole.' The shadows make this tough fishing but the rewards can be great.
    .. The gear and worm fishers have a pretty firm lock on the area below where Beaver Creek debouches into the Madison River. Just walk down and introduce yourself and catch a fish or three. It's kind'a like a social experiment. This is the place to dredge the deep slow pool with a Yellowstone Winter Grub.
    .. A safety note for the wise: park as far off of the road as possible. Icy roads are still possible and travelers are often working hard to negotiate this section of the highway. There's no need to add crumpled fenders to your Spring adventures.
    ------------------------
    .. From Protect Your Waters comes a note about a toad larger than Paris Hilton's . . . errr . . . pet dog. This invasive species is toxic, but a blender makes it into just good fertilizer. You can read the full story in CBS Sci-Tech.
    .. Yvon Chouinard, (of Patagonia fame,) is also mentioned as "A Real Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! Hero." You can read the whole story in a FORTUNE article.
    .. For those of you living in California, this may be old news; but for the rest of us a $1,500 federal boat permit might sound just a wee tad too expensive. It could happen if the California court decision means anything. This is going to bear watching as close as a fence across a stream in Montana.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    The Spring Fly Box

    A BAKER'S DOZEN + 1
    .. This is as close as we come to recommending flies for fishing. We have used some of these patterns for 40 years or more - really - and they continue to work. They do not satisfy the need for experimentation, nor do they tickle the fancy of feather merchants, nor are they the latest and greatest; they just suit us.
    .. Other flies work fine, and other ones may even work better. One old local fly fisher was fond of asking and answering a question in the same breath: "Why are there so many flies? - Because they all work!" We agree.
    .. Spring fishing in and around Yellowstone National Park is weather and runoff dependent - no surprise there. The weather can be brutal well into June, and the runoff can keep you off of the water for days, (or weeks,) at a time. The flies shown here are designed to work well in a variety of conditions and in that sense are "generalized flies." There are some that could be considered 'imitative,' however most will fall into the 'attractor' class - that's O.K. with us. Gott'a attract a fish to catch it.
    -------------------------
    THE FLIES

    .. Montana Duster: We use piles of these all season long and start the Spring nymphing with it. This pattern, and the original Feather Duster are staples in our Spring assortment. The yellow color is most popular. However, about this time each year the pink makes an appearance - probably taken for an egg - who knows? Sizes: 6 - 18.
    .. Yellowstone Coachman: The occasional day in early Spring that allows a good hatch is an unanticipated joy. The fish are seldom very selective, (well - sort'a,) and this fly works wonders. Sizes: 10 - 18.
    .. The Yellowstone Cinch: This is our other early choice for early Spring dry fly days. It is a local adaptation that floats like a cork, and can be quickly tied at home or on the water. Size is the key to this and other early season flies in Yellowstone. Later the fish become much more selective. Sizes: 10 - 18.
    .. Yellowstone Spruce Fly: This fly was developed by some neighbors that use a bubble on a spinning or casting rig for Fall fishing. It is an exceptional fly when casted with a fly rod in the spring. It's a bit gaudy for many of our purists, but with a nice slow presentation in the cold waters of the early Spring it looks like a big sack of groceries to hungry trout. Sizes: 4 - 12.
    .. Yellowstone Morning Glory: This is an all season fly that we like to keep handy for fishing in the film, or slightly submerged in the Spring. It is a traditional 'early morning' fly for those that find the right foggy morning after the rare early Spring hatch. In the Summer it's a useful attractor. There are many flies similar to this local variant and most will do - we use this one. Sizes: 10 - 16.
    .. Yellowstone Winter Grub: This looks like nothing other than something to sample - or some such. We fish this all Winter and carry it into the Spring. It's a heavy fly, though it casts well, and is useful for 'dredging' those big fish that you know are there. It's apparently an old fly from the Salmon & Challis area in Idaho. We usually have this in a variety of sizes for the desperation moments. Sizes: 4 - 10.
    .. Woolly Worm: Spit the words out of your mouth if you must - it's a great Spring fly in Yellowstone country. Sometimes we use small ones on the surface when the snow flies are out. Black or yellow seem to be the colors of choice, we've got more yellow ones. Sizes: 10 - 18.
    .. Yellowstone Badger: This prickly little devil is one that serves a multitude of purposes. Float it, sink it, splash it, strip it, or just dap it - it is a winner. This fly is similar to the other nymphs that are popular around here - the Pheasant Tail, and the Hare's Ear. We use them all, but keep coming back to this one. Sizes: 12 - 18.
    .. Stiff Hackle Nymph: This variant of the soft hackle variety is not a favorite among many folks in the fly fishing community. It does work and it is used by some of our 'more mature' neighbors. We've used it since the 80's and found it to be a useful resource - but we tend to forget it too. This is an all season fly that we just put in the fly box because we have them. Sizes 12 -18.
    .. Deer Hair Caddis: This little fly we borrowed from Jason Neuswanger over at The Trout Nut. We fished it all last year along with the local versions and it was a standout performer. It's a dark fly that is consistent with some of our early Caddis hatches and we like it very much. Sizes: 10 - 18.
    .. The Quick -N-Easy is one of those flies that makes many a fly fisher cringe. It is gaudy, flashy, big, and effective. It is famous for its spectacular refusals, and that's it's purpose. Tie it on early and then fish the fly that the fish are taking. This will show you that there are really fish in the water, and it may even catch one or two. Sizes: 8 - 14.
    .. Hellifiknow: This pattern is reminiscent of the Black Nose Dace and Micky Finn patterns. It is useful when the water is murky and you need to get a bit of twinkle down deep. It's a Spring staple and often a 'what if ?' kind of fly for prospecting. Sizes 4 - 12.
    .. Scarlet Ibis: We've carried this fly since the early 60's. Bit of color never hurts the old fly boxes. This traditional wet fly is one that we fish for fun. It may be taken for an egg, a flying saucer, a cowboy's bandanna, or "who knows ?" - but it takes a few fish every year. Sizes: 8 - 14.

    ----------------------------
    .. From Protect Your Waters comes additional news about the accident at Accident that we mentioned in the last post.
    The number of trout destroyed by the Department of Natural Resources to curb the spread of whirling disease has risen to 136,300, the state's director of freshwater fisheries said Friday.

    You can read the whole story at WTOP News.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007

    Springtime: Gallatin Canyon


    IT'S NOT THE PARK BUT IT'S FISHING
    Snow Line At 320 Ranch
    Whirling Disease Planted By Fish Pros

    .. On a brief run down the Gallatin Canyon on Saturday, we stopped to visit with some neighbors at Red Cliff. It seems that they have been fishing the Gallatin River for over two weeks and said not a thing - true friends indeed.
    .. The Gallatin River has enjoyed little publicity this year and is not experiencing heavy runoff yet; levels are up, and above average, but the water is still clear. Taylor Fork is running clear, (which is a key ingredient in less turbid water for the Gallatin,) and the fish are in a cooperative mood.
    .. Fishing from the Bozeman Valley floor to the Yellowstone Park line is producing fish from mid morning to late afternoon, and is attracting fly fishers from the surrounding area.
    .. Almost all reports are of nymph and streamer success, although the area around the West Fork has reported some early Baetis, &/or Caddis - (is this a spoof?)
    .. We had taxes to finish and an important visit to make and didn't test the waters. Almost all of the 'fishing spots' were populated by fly folks, (or kayak trailers,) and we felt left out. There was a large crowd of neighbors and their families enjoying the sunny day around Taylor Fork. Mepps, worms, Panther Martins, and woolly buggers were all successful. We promised not to tell.

    Gallatin Flows

    ------------------------------
    .. From Protect Your Waters comes a note about an accident in Accident. Maryland state biologists inadvertently moved some fish infected with Whirling Disease into a state facility. Read the accounts in the Baltimore Sun, and WJZ.com.
    "The state should stop the practice of rearing and stocking infected fish," said Pavol, now a vice president of Trout Unlimited, a conservation group. "Now we have a problem that's more extensive than it was. It could have been contained."

    .. March 31, is the start of "put-n-take" fishing and this will impact some stocking programs.
    .. The historic Bear Creek Hatchery is well known in aquaculture circles. It participated in the distribution of fish across the United States by "FISH CAR," including some early transplants to Yellowstone National Park.













    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Spring Has Sproinnged

    THE PARK IS GETTING READY
    Fishing Just Down The Road
    plan now !!
    (between the lakes still hot)
    nps photo
    A FEW PRE-SEASON NOTES

    .. Six days above 40 degrees and counting. As the neighbors like to say: "Don't get used to it!" But it sure looks like Spring. Forget the 10 foot tall snow drifts, the roads are clear and dust covered. This is wonderful for now, and we're enjoying it.
    .. The park is closed - well not really. If you have a bicycle, skateboard, rollerblades, wheel chair, or just plain feet, you can access Yellowstone and use the roads. It's a wonderful spring ritual for the neighbors and the locals. A free park with no cars, snowmobiles, or other motorized contrivances -- just the occasional "administrative travel," and the work crews. What a pretty place.
    .. Check the Yellowstone Fishing Regulations now. The official web site hasn't been updated yet so they may be the same as last year. We'll keep you posted, (Yellowstone Fishing Page.)
    .. If your blog, web site, or business page includes advertising, and you use a picture from Yellowstone National Park -- You need a photo permit. Otherwise you must use public domain photos. The permits cost $$$$ and take about two weeks.
    .. It is illegal to fish with a guide in Yellowstone that does not have a park permit. There is a crackdown about to happen this year. Check the Yellowstone "Permitted Fishing Businesses" page for authorized guides and guide services. Don't go to jail for a trout. Don't encourage un-permitted guides.
    .. As an aside, your outfitter for back country fishing must have an EIA Certificate for stock that is used in Yellowstone. As part of your reservation contact conversation, you should ask about this - and if they will be feeding certified 'weed-free' hay.
    .. Why do we mention these things now? Because it's time to start making your reservations. Maybe it's even a bit late. The best dates and the best outfitters are already getting bookings. Don't be slow and miss your dates.
    .. General news and press releases about Yellowstone can be found at the Yellowstone National Park NEWS page.
    .. Beaver Creek at it's confluence with Quake Lake is holding some nice fish. There are also some fish above the campground and the highway. These are a remnant population of spring spawning Rainbow Trout mixed with some very aggressive Brown Trout.
    .. The creek above the beaver ponds will hold fish for as long as the flows remain high enough to keep their interest - perhaps until the regulations allow us to fish for them. The same fish seem to cluster just below the discharge plume in the transition from the Madison River-Beaver Creek confluence to Quake Lake. Many of the neighbors use mostly worms for these big fish. A Dark Spruce Fly, or a big brown Marabou Leech will bring the same results. Fish the edge of the silt plume and watch for a slow take - wait a bit longer than you think you should. These are hungry fish - not dumb fish.
    .. From Protect Your Waters comes news of more invaders headed west. This is a virus that has proven deadly in the Great Lakes and may soon hit inland waters. It's name is "viral hemorrhagic septicemia" or VHS.
    .. VHS has been called the "Ebola for fish" because it causes them to hemorrhage, killing them, much as the Ebola virus has killed humans in Africa. Read about the threat at StarTribune.com.
    .. This has already caused some real concern in the Pacific Salmon fishery. There is a less virulent and a more virulent strain. The more virulent strain has cost Europeans about $40,000,000. It nearly cost the Pacific coast fishery 4.5 million fish. To find out more about this virus you can see what the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is doing. Or for real scary stuff check out the USGS note about Saving Salmon.
    .. Mid Current lets us know about the impact of Whirling Disease on the Bitterroot. The full statement is more than just a bit disconcerting. You can find out about it at the Montana Forum. This will not go away, and it's impact will be greater by the year on the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers and their tributaries.
    ----------------------
    P.S. The flap about the delisting of Grizzly bears is all over the wire services and the blogs. Our 'Boundary Street' grizzly is in town and it's about two weeks early. If you take a walk in the park - sing loud ribald songs. It'll keep the bears away and other visitors as well. Take bear spray and avoid dead things; like elk, ducks, bison, moose, etc. Spring fare for hungry bears.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Slow Easy Groceries & Google Earth

    HEBGEN STILL FROZEN
    Neighbors Out In Force
    single utah tag observed
    ..
    The Madison River Between The Lakes has awakened with a roar during this recent warming trend, and the neighbors have staggered and 'postholed' through the snow to get to the hungry fish. Our cool days and cold nights mean that brunch is a good time to start your day, followed by a leisurely 20 minute drive to the dam.
    .. We've had various degrees of overcast, but the mid-day brightness has brought midges to the surface, and fish feeding just below the film.
    .. The larger fish are just now entering this year 'round fishery, and spawning will start soon. The giant fish will be along in about 2-3 weeks. The fish are strong but sluggish; and the present, (about 900 cfs,) cold flows are ideal for leisurely subsurface drifts. The stretch of river from Hebgen Dam to the Island Bend is the most accessible right now. This is an excellent place for Spruce Flies, large Hare's Ear Nymphs, and Stone Fly Nymphs of various sorts.
    .. Fish the slower holding water and the deep glides between rocks. Near the dam a fast sink tip with a size 6 - 10 Light Spruce Fly will dredge up some monsters if you have a 40 - 50 foot roll cast in your repertoire.
    .. This is a good time to use generalized flies such as a Hornberg. Start it dry, and then let it get good and wet and fish it on the swing, or strip it like a streamer. It's a good choice and avoids the numbing sensation when tying on several different flies.
    .. Another local favorite is the Llama, once a featured fly of the month at the Federation of Fly Fishers site. In these parts we substitute Yellow Bellied Marmot fur, or Badger, or even Red Squirrel Tail for the wing. The original recipe can be found HERE.
    .. We caught the neighbor, (we know that ratty old Dodge,) in the road channel at Island Bend - with a fish hung behind a rock. This channel gets to be nearly dry at low flows and even grows some terrestrial vegitation. Now is an excellent time to fish this rare water. For some reason the fish were taking a size 16 Elk Hair Caddis, it started out as a dry fly but was being fished on a twitched-drift midway in the water column and taking some nice fish.
    .. At the tailout of Island Bend is a broad swift glide that is best fished from the shore, or the tip of the island. The area is full of generously sized rocks with a bit less generous spacing between them. A herd of fish can hold here if undistrubed. We caught another angler standing where he should be fishing - did we mention the Utah license plate?
    .. Between the Island Bend and Awkward Bend is the Campfire Run. Some intrepid locals trudge down here and fish the narrow and quick stretch right by Campfire Lodge. This is an excellent place to use Golden Stone Fly imitations or even the Rubber Legs variety. Fishing in this stretch is excellent right now with fish to 16" being taken with satisfying regularity.
    .. Our favorite is, of course the Montana Duster, and the Yellowstone Spruce Fly.
    .. The snow is a little deeper between Awkward Bend and 'Quake Lake, but it's worth a hike in the shadows to get to the Choice Hole. This deep undercut bank holds the pods of fish as they leave 'Quake Lake, and if you hit them in the nose they will respond. In a few weeks smaller & more imitative nymphs will be the preferred fare, but now it has to look like slow, easy groceries.
    .. If the day is right and the Snow Flies abundant you may be blessed with surface feeding trout. Pick your favorite midge cluster and return home with a "shuldabeenthere" story.
    .. Cabin Creek near the road is still frozen with snow on top. There are very few holes to aim at. Below the road and near the confluence there are good opportunities for short drifts in thin holding water.
    .. How was the fishing? We don't count - and, anyway we don't know numbers that big. There was a neighborhood party between the Island Bend and the Choice Hole. Not that fishing was good, but side casts were ruled out.
    .. The first substantive local fishing report is from our neighbors at Madison River Outfitters. They live and fish here. And usually get there first.
    ---------------------------
    .. We'll be using a combination of Google Earth, and Platial Map Maker for illustrations this season. Verbal & written directions to places often fail for one reason or another. Although the maps are not 100% congruent, they are very close. Geo-referencing is exceptional and getting better by the day. The new version of Google Earth was released in January and is FREE. The map at the bottom of the page will stay there until it gets too full of places or notes. Maybe we'll break it down into river sections - who knows?
    Below is a comparison with this year's shot and last year's shot.


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    -- While flying around the world we spied a place that looked a bit fishy --
    Recognize it, Tom?