• Visit: Moldy Chum
  • Visit: The Horse's Mouth
  • Visit: Chi Wulff
  • Visit: Parks' Fly Shop
  • Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    South Fork Serenade

    Pure Delight, No Glory
    that's o.k. with us
    South Fork Madison River
    .. We fish the South Fork of the Madison River more than we mention. It's full of fish.
    .. It has untrammeled stretches. It's full of willow thickets. It has cute little meadow sections. It roars in places, (softly of course.)
    .. This little river is not the closest, nor most easily accessed river from our front door. It's not the best fishing in the area. It's not famous for anything. It is, however, the least visited and provides the most solitary fishing experience that is close to home.
    .. The spawning run from Hebgen Lake is late in the season and frequently requires a snowmachine for access.
    .. During that run there is the possibility of fish larger than 7 pounds, (the way the worm folks measure.) Normally the fish are around 10" to 12" with a giant in the 14" range possible. There are many 7" & 8" fish that provide nearly constant action if you find them.
    .. The river provides all the hatches of it's more famous siblings in the neighborhood. Right now the caddis are swarming and the hoppers are hopping. There seems to be more beetles here than elsewhere. Probably this is because there are only a few dirt tracks separating the forest from the water. Both spruce moths and white miller caddis are working as you read this.
    .. Surprisingly deep holes dot the willow runs and it's possible to kick the trophy fish out of them before you know it.
    .. If you wade the river a short rod is mandatory. If you don't wade, a very long rod is better. A strange beast is the 10½ foot four weight stick. We use one with a level 5-weight line. Works great for precision casting the short line over the willows. Bringing the fish to hand is facilitated by strong short leaders, (five to six feet long and usually 3x or 4x. The fish don't appear to be leader-shy most of the time.
    .. This is a nymph fisher's paradise. The upper reaches hold stoneflies and the lower reaches have weeds for the mayflies and caddis flies. We went up, (be sure that your vehicle has adequate clearance,) to the free stone section last weekend. There were little yellow stone flies on the grass and in the air.
    .. We fished the nymphs and did fine - even though there were fish on the surface. We dapped the flies next to the sparse willows and slightly undercut banks: took a couple of monster 10" fish. Fat little creatures they were. All of them had earned their wings and went airborne several times. Panic and pain is most probably a highly motivating factor for these seldom visited fish.
    .. We must note that there is an insidious notion that is fostered by the hatch charts of the experts. Most of the feather merchants have a hatch chart for your perusal. The charts let us know when bugs appear at the peak of their emergence cycle. We are led to believe that this is the only time the bug is around and we must buy the right fly at the right time to be a successful catcher of fish. Well so be it.
    .. The little yellow stone flies were happy to be alive and cavorting on the South Fork at least a month later than the experts would have you believe. Or, maybe they are extraterrestrials. After all there is a distinct resemblance between the two.
    South Fork Solitude

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Of Runts, Residents, & Runners

    Different Parking Places
    similar tastes
    .. Just knowing what it is that your fishing for is not necessarily enough to get the job done.
    .. Fishing where the fish are parked helps some. To state the obvious; lake-run fish are generally larger than resident fish and seek out more secure parking spaces. These are usually deeper, darker, and sneakier.
    .. To state the less obvious; the invading fish displace resident fish and a domino-effect takes place; (known as trophic displacement.) This musical chairs phenomenon works for many fish in any given segment of the river. The ultimate result is that some large resident fish are stuck with less secure hides, and the runts are scattered to hides you wouldn't normally target.
    .. Parking places for displaced fish need not be spatially very far from their old parking space. In fact they are usually close. This situation is currently exacerbated by the low water and slow flow conditions of the rivers on the west side of Yellowstone National Park. There are few good parking places for any size fish right now.
    .. In practical terms this means that runts can be in the same fly-presentation zone as the newly arrived interlopers.
    3 peas in a hide, (click for large view.)
    .. Some times the new arrival and the residents are separated by just a few feet or even inches if an intervening rock or snag shelters them.
    .. In the photo on the right three runts, (8" - 10",) share the insecure shelter of a single small boulder. They feed and return to the same place because other parking places are taken by larger fish.
    .. This phenomenon can be either a happy or sad situation for fishers. The question is often posed: "why aint I catching the big fish?"
    Everyone want a caddis fly.
    .. These three fish were very active and catching them would have been relatively easy. They were busy competing, not only for the parking space but for the food that is delivered to their location.
    .. Mega-swirls occur on the surface as more than one of them attack the same morsel of flotsam that passes overhead.
    .. The fish pictured are in about 14" of water, and only just 4' from the bank. We found them while looking for smaller fry that are usually parked in this parking spot. The fry are nowhere to be seen.
    .. Frequently, because of proximity, the large fish and the runts will attack the same bit of supposed food. The larger fish do not, (REPEAT: Do Not,) always win.
    .. If your presentation and fly are appropriately deceiving it might behoove you to fish the same parking spot repeatedly if the fish you have just taken seems under-fit to the location. Little fish will often attack large flies and even giant streamers. This is particularly true right now as many have been displaced and the fall feeding imperative is still strong.
    .. By keeping in mind that the river is a different place during the run you should increase your chances of catching - all other things being equal, (which they never are.) Of course parking places can be hard to find and even big fish are occasionally found in shallow water.
    A large fish in 10" of water; just two feet from the bank.
    A caddis swarm - where's the fish?
    .. With the continuing warm weather and bright afternoons the caddis are putting on a show. Both the Firehole River and the Madison River are enjoying this eruption.
    .. The Firehole River is hitting spike temperatures around 72° right now and mid day fishing is neither too successful nor desirable.
    .. Both rivers are running very low and it is important to seek the darkest water and shady banks for chances to catch fish in any numbers.
    .. As the days get shorter the prime caddis time is subsequently shorter as well. Nymphs and emergers can be successful from about 3:30 PM until the flies are on the water and in the air. From 5:00 PM until dark, (about 7:45 or so,) match the hatch. These guys are on the small side and a size 14 or 16 is not too small.
    .. The hoppers are fewer than just a couple of days ago, but still active. This is the perfect time to present a hopper/dropper to the residents.
    .. If you'd like a chance at both large and small fish, (we hate surprises,) drown both of them and fish on a slow swing with a fast sink tip line. Lift firmly but not too rapidly when you feel the tug. Flying fish are a distinct possibility with this combination and elbow-jerk reflexes.
    .. Reports are sparse from the meadow section of the Gibbon River. One cell phone photo from the narrow section around Tuff Cliff does verify that the runners have penetrated past the junction pool and are present at least that far up the river. A report of two weeks ago of a runner in the plunge pool of the falls is the only other instance of an early arrival and deep penetration.
    Just a pleasant afternoon in Yellowstone National Park.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Family Time

    Too Damn Sunny
    oh well !
    "I'll fling you in the boiling water if you're not good!"
    .. Fish can be caught on these gentle, soft, and salubrious days of late September - if you work at it. Yellowstone National Park is putting on an autumn show well worth experiencing.
    "Look honey, here's one."
    .. There are, sunny days, crisp nights, blue skies, bumper to bumper traffic, and elbow to elbow fishers. Come join the fun. There's another week and maybe more of this wonderful weather.
    .. The Baetis are occasionally present in all the usual places, particularly on the Firehole River. The caddis are small, prolific, and late during the warm afternoons. The hoppers are vanishing rapidly. The ants go marching three by three. The beetles are hiding until late afternoon. The runners from Hebgen Lake are taking their time moving up the Madison River. And; all is well with the world.
    Zephyrus embracing Chloris
    .. Catching on the Firehole River is steady and occasionally easy with a small caddis followed by a soft hackle. The hopper/dropper approach is good for some fair-sized fish, and small Yellow Woolly Worms dredged in the dark water can bring a large dance partner to the net.
    .. Along the Madison River fishers are abandoning the deepest darkest parking spots for conventional searching. The resident fish are very active right now and willing to take just about any properly presented fly. Success in both the morning and evening is drawing our stodgy neighbors to the river in unprecedented numbers. It's just too good to be true.
    "YEAH? - Your mama!"
    .. Friday's anticipated cloud cover blew away with stiff zephyrs about mid morning. The wind-riffled waters were tough on the surface fishers as the winds played with fly lines, leaders, and still pools. Cagey fishers sought out the sheltered water with apparent foam lines and found willing fish all day.
    .. A few persistent neighbors have stuck with their spey rods and there are reports and photos of runners being caught. There are also reports of fishers, (apparently unaware of the reach of a spey cast,) walking into pools being fished by the deep dredging streamers of the faithful.
    .. Remarks about courtesy should not be necessary - yet, the mystic of "FLY FISHING" in Yellowstone Park draws both the expert and the uninitiated. Confrontation is seldom violent - but verbal exchanges can be, and are frequently heated. It just might behoove us all to pause and see what's happening before plunging into the river with our nine best friends.
    .. Expertly fished nymphs are the key to numerous catchings right now. The old standbys are proving their worth. Prince nymphs, Hare's Ear nymphs, Feather Duster nymphs, Casual Dress nymphs, and the small 'dips and dipities' are doing well in attracting fish.
    .. Small R.A.M. Caddis and Goddard Caddis can be fished on the surface, in the film, and drowned like an old boot. All will work well right now in the afternoon and evening. Many rigs are showing a pair of flies. Big 'n ' Little, Same 'n' Different, Light 'n' Dark, etc. are all employed and seemingly all successful.
    .. Get here in the next ten days and enjoy the weather. Fish a little too, after all October is never this nice - but the catching is better.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Coming Attractions

    Persistent Gentility Reigns
    it's all good

    .. This has got to be a quickie! The weather and the fish have begun to cooperate. Elbows are proliferating throughout Yellowstone National Park at rates approaching those of rabbit procreation.
    .. Today and tomorrow, (and maybe Friday,) should be great for hatching bugs. The cloud cover will only last a couple of days - then a glorious weekend for tourons. Mostly sunny and warm with scattered clouds and thundershowers for the ending of September - rare indeed.

    .. The Lamar River has finally slowed down and is pumping out fish with reckless abandon. The short canyon section is, for some reason, a very popular stop for  eager fish & fishers. The cottonwoods are also the scene of great gatherings of anticipatory fishers.
    .. Deep pools hold the fish during this low water phase. Midge madness prevails in the AM, (check out Midge Man's Fly Box.) There are a few drakes and BWO's for the afternoon and evening. Terrestrials and extraterrestrials are a key to success as well. Exercise the whole fly box because the fish have seen most flies by this time of year, and their interest needs to be piqued with the unusual. Streamers on the small side have worked sporadically.
    .. Check the sidebar and call a fly shop for word on Slough Creek and Soda Butte Creek. We suspect that they are very crowded and that it's the fishers getting educated by the fish this time of the year.
    .. Grebe Lake has stayed consistent all summer and is now entering it's silly phase. If you've got the legs for a stroll in the woods, (armed with a lot of noise and bear spray,) you will be amply rewarded with dance partners of the gray variety. The iridescent colors of a spawning grayling are too hard to capture by photo. Go see for yourself.
    .. Schizophrenic weather for the next two or three days means that a wide variety of flies will be needed to entice the resident fish in the west side rivers. There are still hoppers, beetles, and ants - they will be active on the warmer afternoons.
    .. Soft hackles, nymphs and streamers may be needed if the grunge rolls in with darkness and dampness. The cherished baetis could make their first substantial appearance today & tomorrow. There have been a few small hatches recently, but a long cool, gray day will have them erupting like popcorn on the Gibbon River, Firehole River, and Madison River.
    .. Runners from Hebgen Lake have penetrated the Madison River drainage to the point that both sightings and catchings are being reported with greater frequency. This little burst of fall weather may be just the ticket for those anglers seeking the big fish of the invasion force.
    .. The faithful have dug deep and dragged out the big flies. You can see the neighborhood favorites HERE. Streamers are in far greater abundance this year than in years past. However there are still quite a few fishers using a pair of very large soft hackles. Sizes 2 and 4 seem strange numbers, indeed, when talking about soft hackles - but there you have it.
    .. You won't find them in the dusty aisles of the feather merchants - tie 'em yourself. Dark brown, hare's ear, green, and black are the current preferences.
    .. There is a continually growing hoard of fishers using the Baker's Hole Bugger. This monster streamer along with the Brindle And Hen are challenging the traditional Spruce Flies for supremacy in the minds and boxes of runner devotees.
    .. The population of anglers on our rivers right now rivals anything in recent memory. Be prepared to take your turn. Enjoy the wait and partake of the conversation and comradeship of the faithful. The crowded conditions demand sensitivity and courtesy. 100 yards is not too great a space to give your nearest fisher.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010


    New Heathens Latest
    Pnoto courtesy of Nate Schweber, Missoula, Montana
    .. Wide ranging songs and travels seem to be the watchword for the New Heathens. A band - no more, {for now.} Read the interview HERE.
    .. With a brief foray into Yellowstone Park & the Tetons completed The promotion stage of the production is underway. You may even enjoy the songs.
    ==> listen HERE. (( Just click on the album cover.))

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Too Damn Nice

    Sweeter Than July
    distracted & loving it

    .. We're in for another week of 60's and 70's with moderate evenings and  very gentle breezes. All visitors are loving it except the fisher folks - where's the cold, driving rain to wake up the runners from the lake? The widely scattered morning and evening showers are welcome, but the gentle days won't let us use the fallfoulweathergear [rough translation from the German!]
    -- Fear not, there will be more fish in the next 10 days. Our early warning system alerts us to the fact that a few neighborhood fishers with night crawlers are taking some nice dinner vittles from the Madison River just downstream from the park line.
    .. There are some very big fish already in the system and we have reports from the plunge pool at the base of Gibbon Falls suggesting that the gauntlet of fly guys in the park have not done their duty.
    .. Not all fishers have been sucked into the runner madness. Fishing and catching have been excellent on most of the neighborhood streams during this Fall's soft landing.
    .. All rivers are producing good early morning midge hatches. Bits of fluff in the 18 - 22 range will provide nearly continuous action from just after daybreak to about 10:30 or 11:00 AM. You need to find a quiet pool near shore with both sun and shadow. Wade, or crawl carefully and gently; the fish are already there.
    .. We visited with a fellow from Chicago Sunday morning on the Firehole River. He was standing still and taking fish after fish without moving much.
    .. The amazing success of this fisher intrigued us and we waited for 45 minutes while he cleaned the pool. As he headed upstream to a small quiet bend we accosted him in as jovial a manner as is possible for us.
    .. The result of the conversation was that he had stopped at a fly shop in St Louis, Missouri, and the girl at the counter had sold him two dozen "secret Firehole flies." He showed us a small tin with a bunch of things called a 'dandelion emerger.' He proceeded up to the next slick spot and within five minutes began to repeat the show. It's nice to learn new things.
    .. The Firehole River has spiked to 68° - 69° F on a couple of recent warm days. Either get there early or try the late afternoon. It's better for the fish and the catching improves as well.
    .. Caddis and hoppers and ants are successful during mid day and into the warm evenings. The persistent 'terrestrial bite' has provided some fierce action on the Gallatin River over the past few days. It should continue for a few more.
    .. Diehard surface fanatics have been deprived of their beloved  Baetis in any numbers. There are some sporadic Baetis hatches on the Firehole River and Nez Perce Creek but caddis, hoppers, and ants are being used by most fishers. A rig with a pair of small soft hackles is also showing up with some regularity.
    .. Fall should make a brief appearance around Wednesday or Thursday. A memo has been sent to Baetis community.
    .. Surprising success has been reported from the big meadows on the Gibbon River. The persistent beetles, ants, hoppers, and midges have attracted quite a few maestro's to this water. The creepy crawly things out in the meadows are fly fishers with the savvy to know that the fish are willing - but spooky. Floating a size 10 or 12 woolly worm is really all that's needed - provided the cast, landing and drift are picture perfect. Black or dark green seem to be the preferred colors.
    .. All 23 spawners are in Grayling Creek. Each has been caught and chastised for making an appearance so early in the season. They gave no reason or excuse for the slip-up.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    20 Years Later

    We Had A Visitation Last Month
    'bout time
    Photo courtesy of Center For Biological Diversity
    .. From New West, (via Trout Underground,) we learn that the USFWS is reconsidering it's previously misguided decision about the value and precarious position of the Arctic Grayling in the lower 48.
    .. We've loved this fish for years and had gone two years without a visitation until last month. Over the years we've posted a few notes about the plight of the gray ghost. Perhaps some sensibility has returned to the USFWS.
    .. The status review was initiated in October of last year, (LINK,) and is ongoing today. The Center For Biological Diversity has been a key player in this long struggle. Many Montanans have also been active in the struggle because of our precious Big Hole River population. We appreciate their work.
    .. Persistence has paid off and we're thankful for it. Read the finding HERE.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    So's You'll Know

    Frankenfishers To Follow ?
    what's next ?

    .. In a June post we noted in our "Pure Shit Department" that transgenic trout would be here before you could blink an eye. It's happening as you read this.
    .. According to a recent post in grist the FDA, (yes, our very own,) is about to accept the new fish as just fine for commercial production. These piscene  freaks are about to hit the waterways because of "Junk Science."
    .. We, (yes you, your neighbors, our neighbors, and us,) have allowed this to progress to the point of no return by failing to take action to protect our fisheries. This is an invasive species of the most heinous type. This is a threat that can't be solved by the cute switch away from felt soles on waders.
    .. When these critters are unleashed in the environment, (despite all assurances to the contrary - can you say Jurassic Park?) they will destroy both fresh water and marine fisheries. This is a situation about to make the BP fuck up fiasco look like child's play.
    .. As pointed out in an excellent blog post by Jill Richardson, ". . .  if sloppy and dishonest science is all that's required to pass a product through the U.S. regulatory system, what other disasters lie in our future?"
    .. Should you, like us, choose to resist this latest bullshit scientific advance, the FDA is accepting comments about it's stupidity decision. The note in the Federal Register a couple of weeks ago directs us to the morass of red tape we need to negotiate to make a comment.
    .. The conscientious efforts of Jill Richardson are laudable and we thank her for a concise statement of the "The Creepy Science Behind Genetically Engineered "Frankenfish" About to Enter Our Food Supply Unlabeled."
    .. In a move that shows great insight into the problem, Washington, Oregon, and Maryland have banned genetically altered fish in order to protect their native species. California on the other hand, is set to issue permits for research and production of similar critters - LINK.
    .. By the way, if you're not of a contrarian mentality like we are, please read the note on the FDA website about all the wonderful advantages that this development will bring to the world. Yes, our very own FDA just loves this stuff and has been touting it for 5 years. Does something smell fishy to you?
    .. Way back in 2006 we noted in a post the attempts of science to produce fish specifically adapted to Yellowstone National Park. That note explored the relationship between the pout fish, ice cream, and life at high temperatures. And the beat goes on!
    .. Change.org and Food & Water Watch have started a petition to curtail this action. This petition takes the form of a letter to the President of the United States. Should you choose to sign the petition to that effect just click on the widget below.
    Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

    .. For their take on the situation read the note HERE.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    West Side Adventures

    Just Plain Fun
    enjoyed by all


    Sunday, September 12, 2010


    Splashing 10-Inchers
    skittering may help

    .. The weekend was warm, still, and full of fisher & tourist folks. Fall is here in all it's splendor. Enjoy it soon; it won't last too long.
    .. Caddis and hoppers persist on the Madison. The hatches are being ignored by the increasing "Run To The Runners." Full report soon.
    .. P.S. -  this is a La Nina year.