• Visit: Moldy Chum
  • Visit: The Horse's Mouth
  • Visit: Chi Wulff
  • Visit: Parks' Fly Shop
  • Monday, January 31, 2011

    Wonderfully Deep

    Not Quite As Deep
    but deep enough

    .. The neighborhood is looking clean. Snow always does that. This winter is certainly not as cold or deep as just a decade ago.
    .. There's only been a couple of days below -30° F, and we've not been the coldest place in the nation as was common in the recent past. We've not seen more than a single blizzard. We've not seen a "2-foot dump." And we've not seen much of the sun.
    .. The Gulf Of Alaska Low has been fairly weak, the arctic air has stayed to the north and east of us, and despite the considerable grayness, it's been a salubrious winter by historical standards. Those low, gray clouds are mom's comforter.
    .. Time was when there were tunnels to front doors and thermometers broke in the week-long cold spells. Now there's barely 4' of snow on the ground and it's ablating rapidly in the warm dry air. Roofs are being kept clean and not a single one has collapsed in the last 3 years.
    .. The snowpack in the mountains is holding it's own and the rivers have only a very few small icebergs. Fish are leaping after midges, twigs, and bits of flotsam just like it was early spring. In fact there have been spring days colder than today: and there will be again.
    .. Starting tomorrow we will return to a brief encounter with a real winter: 7" - 10" of snow and temps falling briefly to about -20° F.
    .. It's been so nice lately that we took a moment to visit the neighborhood shops in town. It's novel to chat with the neighbors in a setting other than the post office, or the grocery store, or the hardware store.
    .. Yes, it's deep: wonderfully so!

    Saturday, January 29, 2011

    Just Like Falling Dominoes

    With A Complex Result
    see the ecological transformation of
    flathead lake

    .. By now, it would seem, that interested and informed fly fishers are aware of the Lake Trout situation in Yellowstone Lake. They are probably aware of the rapidly vanishing native species in Yellowstone National Park, as well.
    .. Sadly many of our neighbors, (guides and feather merchants as well,) have poo-pooed the need to do anything about the conservation of native species. They say, sadly: "A trout is a trout, is a trout. I just want to catch them."
    Opossum Shrimp

    .. Many of our influential neighbors and famous fishers have remained silent on the matter; avoiding the scoping meetings and public comment forums that the NPS has held on the current EA for the Native Fish Conservation Plan, (LINK #1, LINK #2.)
    .. We read with great interest the recent article in NEW WEST. The story is about the complex interaction of species in Flathead Lake.
    .. A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details how the introduction of a small non-native crustacean, (the Opossum Shrimp - Mysis diluviana,) has totally altered the ecology of a large lake.
    .. It has changed algae production, nearly eliminated Kokanee Salmon, enabled Lake Trout population explosion, and endangered the native Bull Trout.
    .. The paper details a classic example of a trophic cascade that has been well documented since it's inception in 1968.
    .. The excellent summary in New West informs us that the introduction of the shrimp to were to provide food for Kokanee Salmon which were planted in the 20's. As it turns out the shrimp devoured the Kokanee's food and proliferated.
    .. Their population explosion provided an abundant food source for the introduced Lake Trout and allowed the Lake Trout population to grow to the point where the Kokanee Salmon and the Bull Trout are now being eaten at a rapid clip by the Lakers.
    .. Another by product of the trophic cascade is the increased growth of algae.
    "After the mysis explosion kokanee disappeared, bull trout declined, and lake trout came to be the dominant top predator, according to the study. This led to an increase in algal production because the shrimp ate up larger zooplankton, decreasing their levels and allowing smaller types of zooplankton to proliferate, Stanford explains. He says this changed the way the zooplankton “mow the lawn,” or consume algae: smaller zooplankton are less efficient consumers and allow algae room to grow."
    .. We note that "simple" is seldom a concept that can be applied to ecological change. Both Yellowstone National Park and Flathead Lake, (as well as many other areas around the country and the world,) have suffered the consequences of actions in the past.
    .. "While the future might hold unexpected outcomes, for now fisheries managers have their hands full dealing with the legacy of shrimp and a misinformed decision from the past."

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    It's Just Nuts

    Fish Completely Bonkers
    the worms crawl in

    .. It is the best of times and the worst of times. Fly fishers below the ice, and fly fishers in open water are using the same flies and doing very well.
    .. It's so good that fish are jumping into waders. It's so bad that exotic license plates are outnumbering the neighbor's plates.
    .. The switch to artificial worms is early this year. There are some skeptics that poo-poo the San Juan Worm as not fly fishing.
    .. Well it may or may not be. Orvis sells them in their fly catalog. Orvis also sells several other "non-fly-fishing-flies." The neighbors love them. The fish eat them with gay abandon.
    .. Even the Gob O Worms has made it appearance early and is scoring fish in the 5-pound class, (through the ice.)
    .. And then there's the fly at the top of the post. We don't know it's name but it comes from England. We committed the unpardonable sin of stealing it from a neighbor's fly box while their back was turned, (toward us and behind a bush.)
    .. We have apologized and further humbled our self in the effort to find out the name and source for this segmented wiggler - to no avail. Our misdeed has sealed the lips of the former friend. The damn thing looks like it's molded of vinyl or some such and reminds us of a sunfish lure, (even though it's not yellow. Now there's a thought!)
    .. Several times each year we receive grief in major doses from the neighbors for revealing secrets of place or kind. This post is sure to bring down a flood of ire as well.
    .. For the uninitiated we show the various non-flies that the neighbors are using right now. These things are usually tied at home but, many are now available commercially. Even if you eschew their use, they will provide excellent conversation starters and stoppers.
    .. The San Juan Worm is often called THE DEVIL WORM. It has become a staple of fishers that want to catch fish. Many pretend it's an imitation of a Herculean blood worm. That may be. Perhaps fish dream of these things and lose control when one floats by. Currently the red variety is in vogue on the rivers while the purple or two-toned variety is being used under the ice.
    .. The Gob O Worms is a much disparaged cluster of San Juan Worms on the same hook. It has the distinction of being invented locally, (or so we've been told.)
    .. It can spark vile and evil outbursts from fishers that are usually friends, (LINK.)
    .. It is featured on websites around the region, (LINK,) and is now sold commercially by Idylwilde Flies, HERE. And sold as well by the Driftless Angler, HERE.
    .. Purple, puce, flesh, and red colors are all being used right now. The fish are inhaling these at a record pace.

    .. This year many of the neighbors that usually kindly provide us with flies have turned to the Orvis Catalog. There are some offerings that suit their fancy and they bought some for pattern prototypes.
    .. The Apps Blood Worm is the current favorite from Orvis, (LINK.) It turns out that the fly is just a San Juan Worm with some "flexi floss" tied through the body and separated at the bow and stern. The little red darling is not as effective under the ice as on the river. But on the river it's quite the phenomenon.
    MEDUSA (red)
    .. Another San Juan Worm variant from Orvis is the Medusa, (LINK.) This is, presumably, a fly that will not get you funny looks from your friends.
    .. It's supposed to represent a blood worm cluster, CLUSTER WHAT? It is sold in several colors which suggests that blood worms are chameleons, or have projectile tongues, or some such. This creation is yet another SJW variant with a fat body and clipped floss.
    MEDUSA (pink)
    .. The pink variety featured by Casters Online Fly Shop is doing well under the ice. It's being used with bits of garden hackle and the fish seem to prefer the artificial.
    .. Most of the neighbors, feel that both varieties are the same species and that the folks that tie for Orvis ran out of red and used pink.
    .. A minority opinion is that the red is male and the pink is female. As soon as we capture some in the seine we'll let you know.
    .. Orvis is kind enough to provide even another interesting worm imitation called the SHAKY WORM. It's similar to the rest of these SJW variants but has a pretty glossy body. It also comes with a bit of Phly Phising Philosophy.

    This is not fly fishing heresy. The fact is trout eat worms and not just the ones we fish with. Worms exist in the stream and imitating a worm with artificial patterns is no different than imitating an insect. If it works, use it. Trout fishing worm pattern in red.
    .. We suspect that if these things catch fish in the numbers that the neighbors are reporting that feather merchants across the continent will get in on the selling.
    .. It will be interesting to see if the local purists eschew profits for disdainful posturing. Now there's a can of . . . .

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Five And Counting

    Slow Start
    just friendly news

    .. We started this blog about five years ago to let our friends and visitors know what was happening during the open water fishing season in the neighborhood.
    .. It seemed easier than constantly answering the annual flood of email that started in April and continued through November.
    .. As is often the case, we were wrong. It takes about the same amount of time. But, it's a bit more fun.
    .. As a woefully inept computer jockey, we've come to appreciate the fancy blogs with many pages and glorious illustrations. We are awestruck by the daily posts of so many intrepid fly fishers and bloggers. We salute all of you.
    .. We've made a few friends along the way and noticed that our annual visitation is now about what Tom Chandler, at the Trout Underground, gets in a day, (about 130,000.)
    .. We've learned how to read statistical charts about visits vs. unique visits, (though we don't often do it,) and we discovered which other sites refer to this site with a link.
    .. There's even statistics about what pictures were downloaded and how often - my my. You may or may not be surprised by the images that appeal to our readers. They certainly are diverse.
    .. Some sites, "out there" were grabbing our posts and re-posting them with no acknowledgment. We wonder why?
    .. Pete over at Fishing Jones along with the good folks at Chi Wulff came to our aid and helped us figure out how to foil that sort of thing.
    .. Pete has gone through several site hosts and page layouts, (seems to be the norm,) and the folks at Chi Wulff have left the neighborhood but not the planet. We miss their detailed and insightful musings about our neighborhood fishing.
    .. One thing seems apparent, Blogs are becoming "in vogue," and "de rigueur." in the fishing world. Manufacturers, feather merchants, guides, magazines, fancy fishers and just plain fishers are getting in on the act.
    .. Thanks are in order. Thanks for reading. Thanks for blogging. Thanks for visiting. Thanks for helping.
    .. We've learned about videos and posting them, cameras and how to abuse them, multiple page sites, (ours are separate pages,) and many other things that are entirely useless but gently enjoyable time-wasters.
    .. We plan to keep it up. As we said, it's fun - and not too hard on the ego. After all, who really wants to know what happened yesterday? Who really wants to know about ice fishing with flies? We would have never guessed!  Thanks again.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    The Gnats Have It

    Buzzers, If You Will
    warm and periodically still

    .. Mom is fooling with us again. This is the time of year when we normally plunge to the depths of the freezer.
    .. Au contraire; despite the recent winter storm warning our high temperatures continue in the 20's and 30', (punctuated by an occasional 40-something.) The lows are not quite in the single digits and, the winds have slowed.
    .. Bright overcast interspersed with a bit of blue sky has the midges swarming.
    .. The Rainbow Trout are beginning their amorous phase, and fishing is good in the neighborhood.
    .. Drag out the "itty-bitty" box and fish any and all of the small nymphs and dinky floaters. Griffiths Gnat is the current neighborhood favorite for floating flies. The bi-colored Renegade is a close second place.
    .. Small dark nymphs, or small bright nymphs are equally productive right now.
    .. It's about time that the "real fly fishers" caught up with the "ice fly fishers." The hearty hole-drillers have been fishing very small flies for about six weeks now, (LINK #1, LINK #2.)
    .. The snow has been deep enough that only a dedicated few nuts fly folks have wandered around the lower stretches of the Madison River at Campfire Lodge.
    .. They report, (bless their young legs,) that a few, (probably a gross understatement,) fair-sized fish have been taken.
    .. These fish begin to leave Quake Lake about this time each year and spawn in the gravels of the Hebgen Tailwater. Right now is the time for fishing. In just a few weeks, (gadzooks the winter is flying by,) they will start building redds and it will be time to leave them alone as they engage in fishy frivolities.
    .. Because of the deep snow on the shoulders of the roads, parking places are at a premium. This is dangerous territory for wader-clad fishers. Please be careful about where you park. Leave an unobstructed width of roadway. Do it legally. Tickets and towing started last week!
    .. Below is the annual photo of the "Quake Lake Dancing Nymphs" - by popular request.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    It's A Kid Thing

    Hockey On Hold, (Briefly)
    'smores is more
    .. It has all the look of a medieval revel. The evening is warm, (18° F,) and the wind is a gentle zephyr that flutters the banners at the entrance to the town skating rink.
    .. "Official" parents and sponsors arrive about dusk and set up the tables and fire pits. The ice is checked for rocks, pebbles, twigs, and other debris, (a task made a bit more difficult than usual by the 1" of fine powder that fell in the morning.)
    .. This is the time for gossip and information exchange, (the post office is closed and it's dinner time for most families.)
    .. This is also the time for a bit of relaxed skating by mom's and dad's after a full Saturday at the beginning of the busy winter visitation season.
    .. Hockey is on hold for the week and there is a bit of hustle and bustle as the roads are plowed, the sound system set up, the graham crackers located, the chocolate unwrapped and broken, the marshmallows corralled, and the fires started.
    .. The kids arrive first, way before the 6 O'clock start time. They scramble for the best skates, (free for anyone under 12 years of age.) They sit in the snow and giggle as they pull on boots full of snow in their dash to get to the ice.
    .. Of course there's a few preteen boys testing the surface for "shoe sliding." (not too good with the fresh snow.)
    .. As the appointed hour draws near the "unofficial" families arrive to help with the finishing touches.
    .. Willow branches are loaded with frozen marshmallows, crackers and chocolate aligned, drink buckets positioned carefully on the tables, fires poked and prodded, and conversations started, (as more kids scramble for skates.)
    .. There is no "official program," no opening ceremonies, no band; just a gradual accumulation of the neighbors and a few curious tourists.
    .. There is a small glitch in setting up the sound system; someone put a lock on the power pole breaker box; (how big-city of them.)
    .. The first wave of skaters has abandoned the ice and is lining up for the marshmallows and other 'smores fixin's.
    .. Smoke begins to rise as the fires are poked and prodded into beds of coals for the perfect roasting arrangement.
    .. There are older kids now taking over the sledding hill and the ice rink. Some of the older kids give lessons in the art of burning, (or not burning,) marshmallows.
    .. Mom's assist the very wee kids with skates and as the gathering approaches the status of a crowd a low hubbub is heard around the fires and the rink as the mixing and mingling begins.
    .. This is similar to some of the few remaining block parties in the upper Midwest.
    .. This is similar to a stroll around the plaza in old rural Mexico. This is distinctly a neighborhood event; and in our case the neighborhood is the whole town. Bits of news filter through the crowd.
    .. "The traveling girls basketball team has posted a victory, the boys are down by 20 points."
    .. "There seems to be a gathering of large Brown Trout near the ice fishing holes at the 'narrows' out on Hebgen Lake. One of the neighborhood kids escaped serious injury after challenging a tree at speed with a snow machine."
    .. "The incoming, (and once previous mayor,) is taking the reins of the city and doing a fine job. He couldn't make it tonight because he's fixing a snow van for tomorrow's park tour."
    .. "The police chief is meeting with department personnel in an effort to settle some complaints within the department. He and the disgruntled will probably come together - it's not too big a deal."
    .. "Who is going to be the new judge? It's time to select the person to fill the spot for another term. Three candidates are being considered: the current judge, a former judge, and the city court clerk from Belgrade."
    .. "The state of Montana is considering managing bison as a big game animal." This is a bit of buzz that seems to keep cropping up as the marshmallows are roasted.
    .. And so it goes. The jungle telegraph is hot and heavy in the conversation groups around the rink. Skating, fancy and floppy is at full swing. Teen-aged girls cluster and giggle. The boys race and pound the boards. Parents and older folks take a twirl or two and "remember when."
    .. The evening is a success. Information has been exchanged. Gossip has grown and been smothered. The kids had a good time away from the laptops and TV's, and homework; the hockey nets remained buried in the snow.
    .. Then there's the clean-up. It's started by the "unofficial" families: picking up debris, candy wrappers, napkins and such.
    .. Then the "officials" begin: amidst the goodbye's, the sound system is packed, the drink jugs packed, the fires banked and watered. The nudging and clock mentioning is more frequent, and the tables are removed. It's a flurry of "see ya's" and "put-it-there's."
    .. Finally the rink is cleared, the snow hill is devoid of sledders, and only the dedicated remain. Lights out!
    .. There is an eerie silence and a few headlights pierce the clearing in the pines. The shadows are long and stark: it's now official - the skating season has begun.