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  • Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Neighborhood Runners

    Big Fish, Small Crowds
    you'll be discouraged
    .. The Hebgen Dam Reservoir supports a large population of both stocked and native fish of various origins and genetic strains. Fish whose genes stem from such foreign countries as Germany, Scotland, England, and California cohabit in this shaky pond.
    .. Miscegenation and the need to spawn has produced several distinctive strains of both Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout as well as dwindling stocks of Grayling and Cutthroat trout.
    .. One thing that these fish have in common is the need for a proper incubator. One with clean, well aerated, flowing water and gravels to hold the eggs away from predators. These incubators are found on about 11 feeder streams. Four of these streams have sufficient water and gravel to support fishable runs of these trout.
    .. The spawning runs are 'clocked' differently for the various streams, and both cultural and environmental variables can affect the run. One of the requisites for a spawning run is an estuary of appropriate size for the fish to hold in and 'sense' the conditions upstream.
    .. Of course everybody wants to fish the Madison River. So be it. There are, however, big (or bigger,) fish in the other three streams. These have both Fall and Spring runs.
    .. You'll be discouraged from fishing these other runs by the neighbors, the feather merchants, and the Camber of Commerce - for many of the obvious reasons. You will find discouragement in the form of disparaging comments such as: 'There's too few fish,' 'The willows are too thick,' 'That's just a mosquito swamp,' 'There's no access,' and the usual one - 'The Madison is better.'
    .. Better for what? More crowds? Litter-filled parking lots? Long waits to fish low productivity water? The joys of comradeship in the gathering dusk? The chance to fish water where there might be a fish bigger than the rest? Have at it. Enjoy.
    .. The sunsets are the same, (or better,) from the other waters. There is more holding water on the South Fork of the Madison River. The fish are more closely spaced on Duck Creek. There are many easy lies on Grayling Creek. There are more elk and visitors in National Park Meadows.
    .. The neighbors tend to treat these fall fisheries as their own. They jealously guard the access points and parking spots with the ferocity of a wolverine in must. These are secrets that take years to discover. These are secrets that are handed down not to your children, but to your younger fishing buddies. These are secrets that when learned are guarded and whispered about in the solitude of a brief respite while letting your arms rest from landing fish too great for the tackle that you brought to the dance.
    .. We've made our peace with the neighbors about this annual post. No parking or access points will be divulged. No secret flies, techniques, times, or places will be revealed. Should you really want to explore the catching of large fish in the fall, you'll have to hang out where the locals do.
    .. The hardware store, the dark corners of watering holes, the gas-n-go's, the post office, or even the library would be good starting points. The neighbors are friendly. They enjoy conversation with visitors from the outside world. They may even mention the streams. The real trick is becoming 'local' in mindset and in demeanor.
    .. Anthropologists call it 'protective coloration.' Don't look or act like you are desperate to land the big fish. Be sure that your 10-year-old pickemup is dented and covered with local dust and mud. The neighbors can tell where you've been by the type of dirt on your sidewalls.
    .. Be affable and reveal a few of your own secrets. Offer a few flies that really work. Draw a map in the dust on the hood of your pickemup. Praise the dog in the truck next to yours, (curly coat, lab, yellow, black, chocolate, pointer, dachshund, Maltese, or whatever.) Talk about wet wading like you really knew what it meant, and the problems of getting to a stream and back during lunch hour. Then and only then, come back tomorrow and do it again. Eventually you'll become familiar enough that a small tidbit may be revealed.
    .. This is not the kind of process that can be carried out with the jovial clerks and guides in the musty aisles of a feather merchant. The important business of life is in the barber shop, the hardware store, the local bar, and a couple of restaurants. These are not places where fancy waders and new vehicles attracts candid conversation about fishing.
    .. One secret that is becoming known outside this cloistered little burg is that the fall run of giant fish on the South Fork of the Madison River is a few weeks later than that in Yellowstone National Park. The best fishing is usually the last week in November. Most of the time you need a snowmachine to get to where the fish are. You do have one don't you? Is it ready to go? No wet wading for this go 'round. Silk underwear under wool is the best. {{OOPS, you didn't mention polypropylene did you?}}