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  • Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    Gnats To You

    Maggots Scarce
    Billings Hits 50 Degrees
    it's snowing here
    .. We'd like to believe that UFO's have brought Spring to the northern hemisphere -- but -- it's a bit of faux reality in the high country. Yes we did hit 29 degrees, and yes the sun shone during a snowstorm, and yes rumors of fishing 2,000 feet lower are true, yet ice fishing on Hebgen Lake is still the biggest game in this town.
    .. AND: they're biting. The local "GAS-AND-BAIT" stores have exhausted their supplies of meal worms, and maggots are in short supply. The water on top of the ice is becoming treacherous and clouds of exhaust fumes can be seen hovering over several select spots on the surface of the lake where the ice augers are doing double time.
    .. For those of you interested in the mania of the ice fishing finale; there are several places that continue to produce trout to two feet long, and whitefish big enough to smoke, (if you can keep them lit.)
    .. The ice at the 'narrows' at the end of the Madison River arm has so many auger holes it looks like Swiss Cheese and it cracks and crunches under each footfall -- fish here with small flash or bits of rotten elk burger for a chance at the early 'schoolies.'
    .. The shore-side portion of the dam-pool is constantly occupied by several neighbors who continue to dredge up fish in the 3# - 5# range.
    ..This area is closely guarded by three wild Labrador Retrievits and, if the new-comer is not careful he will be pounced upon and licked to death. These intrepid dam souls have the very last of the meal worms for fifty miles and are slaying the trout.
    .. The two bays on either side of the Happy Hour Bar continue to get attention from the hole fishers. This spot is melting fast due to the width of the basin. Slush and strange noises underfoot will greet you if you wander into the wrong area. Try to get there when an experienced local fisher is on the ice and follow his footsteps. For self protection do not use one of his holes to fish in.
    .. For the rest of us, including the ever optimistic undergrounder's, there is always the few bits of flowing water that are currently producing prolific hatches of snow flies. It's nothing new when we remind you that this is the time of year when the Griffith's Gnat has been dusted off and lashed to the end of impossibly thin tippets. (Illustration shown is magnified 10,000 times.)
    .. The Hebgen Tailwater continues to produce trout in the 13" - 18" range at the surface. These fish are located in the slow water near the bank and under the snow shelves. They are gobbling midge clusters at the edge of the shadows on warm bright days. There are plenty of fish for the angler that is willing to be slow and stealthy. The most successful neighbors are using giant sizes of 18 - 20, others are doing well with a very corky size 10 elk hair caddis and a gnat dropper - not too far behind, (4" to 8" is fine.)
    .. Soon, we'll abandon the Hebgan Tailwater as the spawners invade for their Spring dance. For now, however, it's worth the trudge through the snow and muck for the solitude and a chance to wet a line.
    .. Befuddlement reigns supreme in the minds of those who fish the high country - what's so good about Spring? The rivers are 'out,' the roads are icy, the foreign license plates are abundant, and the ice & snow are gone - what's the big deal?
    .. There are of course dangers to ice fishing as shown in the video below.