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  • Friday, May 16, 2008

    The Edges Have It

    ICE OUT AT HEBGEN LAKE
    Silt In On Madison
    neighbors enjoy near record highs
    fish now - weather coming
    .. Too much is happening. The USFS is burning the dense duff north of town. The neighbors are walking in the road. The lawn chairs are on the shore of Hebgen Lake. Snow is making the rapid and erosive transition to water. Land yachts are entering the port of West Yellowstone. The sky has reached a summer blue. All is right with the world - for a bit.
    .. Fishing is an edge effect right now, and the edges are disappearing fast. The Madison River below Quake Lake and above the West Fork is High, Cold, Clear, and OPEN.
    .. Below the West Fork the edge of the silt plume is where the fish are. This colored water acts as a conveyor belt for groceries.
    .. The debris and bugs from erosion are laid out for the eager trout and whitefish . . . They are loving it. Make sure that the guide you hire is not color blind. Fish the edge with something that looks like a sack of groceries. Something big enough to wiggle and squiggle and stand out in the hazy fog of a silt plume.
    .. Right now that means some sort of stonefly or rubber-legs creation. Your choice. They are working great for now. The good news is: the edge is well defined and full of groceries. The bad news is: the soaring temperatures will turn the whole river a beautiful tan color within the week.
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    .. Major fish and tourist activity is taking place around Hebgen Lake. The ice is receding rapidly from the edge of the lake and fishing has reached a frenzied pace. Very large pods of winter-starved trout are cruising the edge of the ice and gobbling the bits of flotsam that have been trapped in the ice for the last five months.
    .. Worm dunkers, gear heads, fly fishers, and kids with rocks are all taking large ravenous trout in the shallows at the edge of the ice.
    .. From the Hebgen dam to the Happy Hour Bar the open water is thin and scattered. Up-lake from the Happy Hour Bar through the narrows and into the Madison Arm the open water is growing at a pace to make even an Olympic skier jealous.
    .. Specific fly patterns are not too important for fishing the edge: technique is! Any tandem rig with a size 10 or 12 up top and a size 14 - 18 at the tip will do just fine. Lay the rig on the ice, (or as close to it as you can,) and wait until the ripples disappear. Drag the rig into the water and let it sink slowly.
    .. Hang on. The pods are very competitive right now and a double is possible. When is the last time you had one?
    .. In another day or two the mud will warm up and larvae will commence wiggling. Fish the bottom with a tandem rig on a sinking line, (or a sink tip if you have the patience,) let it get to the bottom. Up top should be a San Juan Worm, (size 8 - 10,) and on the tip a small fly that is well greased and will float. We use a well greased Yellowstone Badger.
    .. Let this rig rest between short and gentle tugs punctuated with an occasional jerk. Be sure to work a lot of water. The fish are cruising and not standing still. You can see them coming with a good pair of polarized glasses.
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    .. Traveling the roads around West Yellowstone is a dangerous chore at the moment. The danger will increase as we approach the Memorial Day opener in Yellowstone National Park, (Saturday, May 24, 2008.)
    .. Many of our neighbors have four legs and enjoy the sun, green grass, salt, and convenience of the roads. Many visitors jab the brakes and pause for a "Kodak Moment," on an instant's notice.
    .. You will be surprised at just what constitutes a "photographic opportunity."
    .. Additionally; the local, county, federal, and state gendarmes are out in full force. They are enjoying this brief spell of postcard weather too. The road from Bozeman to Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City is also heavily traveled by commercial trucking. Please slow down and drive very carefully. It's a dirty shame to catch a bumper instead of an angry trout.
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    .. Now then: about the weather. The opening in Yellowstone promises to be perfectly traditional. Blustery weather with high temperatures into the 40's and maybe the 50's. Showers and a bit of snow are both in the forecast for next weekend. The rivers will be mostly very high and muddy. The warmth of this weekend promises to guarantee some very challenging fishing for those folks that have made it a tradition to "get there first."
    .. We're going to cruise the park tomorrow and we'll let you know how bad it really is. We'll also let you know where the fishing will be good and not so crowded. Stay tuned.
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    Some of the neighbors agreed to pose for the portraits below.