• Visit: Moldy Chum
  • Visit: The Horse's Mouth
  • Visit: Chi Wulff
  • Visit: Parks' Fly Shop
  • Monday, August 31, 2015

    Opportunities Abound

    Hoppers On The Wing
    oinkers in the weeds
    .. On those rare mornings when the clouds are sparse and the wind forgot to wake up, Hebgen Reservoir is alive with sipping and slurping sounds of trout inhaling callibaetis on the surface.
    .. Just munching along like Pac-Man, are the gulpers of the still and quiet mornings on the lake.
    .. Although not necessary, a long and precise cast will bring more fish to net.
    .. Some folks park their tube, (or boat, or raft,) right amongst them and do fairy well too. Of course the gulping always stops too soon - damn the caprice of the bugs.
    .. Folks usually head to shore for an early lunch when the surface action stops.
    .. There are, despite rumors to the contrary, still fish to be had. They are in the same places. In the same weed beds that gave birth to the callibaetis so recently departed.
    .. These are not the "good fish" from the pods so recently dispersed. These are the behemoths of the deep. They may have joined in the recent surface feeding but, they have returned to their dark holes in the weeds.
    .. We've been given permission to show the fly that will entice and take these fish. Thanks go to Francisco "Paco" Valenti, an avid fisher and varmint hunter, for the permission to photograph the fly and present it here.
    .. Paco calls it the "VIXEN BUNNY,"  [zorro femenina conejito.]
    .. It's a fairly standard fur strip streamer. It's made from the urine stained, soft, inner thigh fur on a female red fox.
    .. It's tied on a hook with a spring-form weed guard. It has a stiff looped tail support. It probably imitates a leech - who knows?
    .. Fish the fly in the dark holes in the weeds. Fish right where the gulper action was and weeds are the thickest.
    .. Let it sink for a few seconds, (or more.) Get it in the weeds. Strip it in slowly, (figure 8 style,) all the way back to your boots. Move the low rod tip very slowly from side to side as you strip it in. You will take some "Hero Fish." You won't have to take an early lunch.
    .. You'll have to tie your own. The guides, feather merchants, visiting sports, and counter help don't have them. They are only interested in "good fish," not the resident monster fish. Besides that, an early lunch and a cold one are always on their agenda.
    .. Further up the road along the Gallatin River, (and it's seldom fished tributaries,) the hoppers are very active: so too the ants.
    .. Ants on the ground; ants in the air; ants everywhere. At least they are, when it warms up and the clouds part and the cool showers abate for long enough to warm them up.
    .. The fish seem to be in a most willing mood near the park line.
    .. Afternoon caddis are popping even on overcast days and even in the wind.
    .. The mantra for this part of the Gallatin River is "Walk a little; catch a lot." We walk a lot and catch a little - it's our curse.
    WALLPAPER:  OCCHI DI SANTA LUCIA [with semolina]

    Saturday, August 29, 2015


    Macho Fish For Macho Anglers
    be brave -- hunt big fish
    .. Into the psyche of a small cadre of fishers sneaks a defensive and secretive syndrome. It happens each and every year at about the time that a 20" fish is pricked at the Barns Holes on the Madison River.
    To Gull A Gulper
    .. The syndrome includes, in addition to furtive glances, a certain change in demeanor that smacks of a bantam rooster. Feisty defensiveness, slurred syllables, and flashing lightning from the eyes are required to accompany the spittle that is ejected from the blabbering pie hole.
    .. A total transformation of the persona is an entertainment not to be missed. It goes beyond mere braggadocio. The mighty have fallen to the mightier!
    .. The swagger is dripping with accomplishment. The verbiage is laden with superlatives. It's a ritual of Fall. It's beginning as you read this.
    Small And Simple
    .. Mighty fishers have dragged to shore horrific denizens of the deep in epic battles that need to be told. Grandiose and grandiloquent are the gestures and gesticulations flashing in the musty aisles of the local feather merchants' dens.
    .. It's early for the ritual. It's early for the run. It's time, indeed, to make sure that you've  tied the annual arsenal. There was indeed a decent fish taken at the gauging station run. Come to the river and become MISTER MACHO. It's nearly that time of year.
    .. We're taking the 4-weight for a walk deep into the willows of Notellum Land. There's still a beaver pond where some Rainbow Trout behave like Brook Trout. We can't enhance our ego by catching these fish. It's just too easy.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    Just So You Know

    The Coolest Madison River
    bits and pieces of water
    .. As the weather cools off a bit, stories of the coming 'Fall Frenzy' are surfacing in the evening pub chatter around town.
    .. It's a big event in the psyche of our neighbors. They have been scouting the Madison River for the past few weeks. They watch the ebb and flow of the river on a weekly basis.
    .. They note the changes in course and weed cover. They scan the bottom for hides and holes that provide parking places for incoming spawners. They note the recent changes in bottom topography and the extended or eroded sand and gravel bars. They plan strategies and, of course, tie new and exciting wonder bugs for the soon-to-be-here rush to runners from Hebgen Reservoir.
    .. One section of the Madison River is often neglected by visitors who come for the Autumn high jinks. It's that bit of water around Baker's Hole Campground, (LINK-1.)
    .. Right now the Madison River is very low, it's temperatures, (for the most part,) are in the marginal range for fish health, (LINK-2.)
    .. There are, on the other hand, substantial chunks of water that are plumb "cold." They stay cold because of the artesian springs in this, at grade, river segment.
    .. The fish with the most brains hang out in these cold water stretches. The fishers with only a few brains can figure it out. There are many fishers plying their trade in the warmer water segments  --  go figure.
    .. A few years ago we posted a note about this chunk of water. The guide books and counter help don't bother with the information about the artesian springs. Below is the repost of that note so that you can exploit the water to your advantage.


    worms and flies just feet apart
    segments seldom fished

    .. Just downstream from the Barn's Holes on the Madison River is a sinuous reach of this fabled river.
    .. The river, in this reach, is at or near grade and begins meandering as if it was in an enormous meadow.
    .. Giant sweeping curves with point bars and cut-off meanders characterize the river. This character is significantly influenced by the hydraulic damming effect of the bridge at Highway 191 and the lake level of Hebgen Reservoir.
    .. Artesian springs and surface seeps of cold water punctuate the bank with wet and sticky bogs. These are hiding places for fry and incubators for damselflies and dragonflies and mosquitoes. Fish food all. The cold water persists into the main stream of the river. These areas are refuges for mature fish in the warmest days of Summer.
    .. Additionally, the river is transected by the boundary between the Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone National Park. This line, drawn on a map, is marked on the river banks with clear markers.
    .. Two sets of distinctly different regulations and jurisdictions govern fishing and boating here.
    .. Although we've never tried it, it's possible to drown a worm with one hand and swing a fly with the other and be perfectly legal, (depending on just how wide your stance is.)
    .. The river is rich with weed beds and bugs. The gravel is well sorted and graded in this section as the suspended load of the river transforms itself into the bed load.
    .. Erratic boulders are few, but frequent enough to provide predictable hides and slicks.
    .. The horseshoe bends are delightfully deep and dark. The pools deliver clearly defined current streams and sort out the bugs for the fish. The banks are undercut and some of the holes are surprisingly cavernous.
    .. Dark holes, in fact, are everywhere. Foam lines and back eddy's are easily fished if the angler positions herself correctly. The major swings of the river channel are east and west.
    .. This allows fishing and catching at just about anytime of the day. Shadows come and go with the tick of the clock.
    .. It's possible to stroll back and forth along the banks and fish the whole river without getting wet, (except for getting to the correct side of the river.)
    .. The currents are tricky and the crossings can be treacherous. Spring is the hardest time to get position on the fish. The easy locations are often too sunny or too shallow, or too deep. This may be just the reason that so few fishers bother with this bit of water.
    .. Despite the exceptional catching opportunities, guides seldom take their sports to this water. It's just too close to town. There are travel trailers to walk past. There are no rangers or traffic jams. It just is not "The Real Yellowstone." So be it.
    .. That portion of the park/forest boundary that transects this water is just under a mile long. The river itself is just over 2 1/4 miles long in this segment.
    .. The river within Yellowstone National Park is about 1 1/4 miles long and is comprised of four distinct segments, (0.57mi. + 0.15mi + 0.27mi. + 0.24mi.) as measured by the Google Earth path tool.
    .. Much of the park water requires wading for proper positioning and catching. It's not easy, and the fish know what is happening. They are, nevertheless, not terribly spooky if wading is done gently and deliberately. A staff and good legs are prerequisites for success here in the spring.
    .. The fishing pressure, on the forest waters, from the Baker's Hole Campground is intense during the summer and fall. Not so in the spring. Flies, gear and worms are all used with varying degrees of success on the forest waters.
    .. Luck does not play a major role in this water. It's full of fish. What is important is the character of the bottom and it's relationship to the river level and discharge rate. Understand these factors and the fish just jump on the hook.
    .. Because of it's meandering character the river has a bottom with deep runs at various positions within it's main channel. These dictate holding water and food conveyors. Of course, they change from day to day, week to week, month to month, & year to year.
    .. We enjoy this water because it's possible to imagine that there really is some wilderness around the neighborhood. Despite the nearness of the campground, solitude can be found and enjoyed.
    .. As you read this, migrant throngs of fishers are enjoying the Firehole River and singing it's praises. Yet, probably less than a half dozen folks visit this park water on any given spring day.
    .. Saturday we fished for 4 hours and saw not a single other fisher and just a solitary hiker. Yesterday We had to share the park water with two neighbors and a visitor from Washington.
    .. Right now there are mayflies here, but the queen of the hatches is the caddisfly. There are stoneflies here, but a woolly bugger does a better job than a rubber legs.
    .. Come fall, the deep holes and undercut banks will hold an armada of submarines that run up from Hebgen Lake. This navy is well attended by gawkers and fishers on the shore and in the water. And, again, the park water is hidden from many because of regulation or difficulty of access.
    .. Osprey, eagles, moose, bears, ducks and geese are an ever-present delight. It's possible to have an osprey take a fish from the run in front of you while you dodge the frightened moose as it scatters the mergansers by running across the river to escape a hungry grizzly.
    .. There is usually nothing to fear from the Richardson's Ground Squirrels that inhabit the banks.
    .. This is a beguiling little river segment. It's in plain view. It's a pain to fully access. It's full of fish; and it's seldom fished. It's just about two miles from home.
    .. There's no traffic jam at the park gate. There's no gawker blocks watching critters. There's no visitors festooned with the latest and greatest gear splashing the water in front of and behind you. We like it.

    Friday, August 21, 2015

    Political Wildfires

    Should We Let Them All Burn ?
    small stream report too
     inciweb photo
    .. As we write this; in the Northern Rockies Geographic Area, there are 58 new fires, of which 15 are considered large incidents.
    .. There are 23 fires in Montana, only three of which are considered large incidents, (LINK-1.)
    ..  Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order Sunday declaring a fire emergency for the state of Montana. The declaration allows Bullock to mobilize more state resources and the Montana National Guard for firefighting, and to draw state funds to meet the costs associated with additional resources, (LINK-2.)
    GO TEAM !!
    ..  Of the 14 wildfires caused by lightning strikes in northwestern Montana only 10 are staffed by USFS personnel - or any one else, according to the Dillon, Montana dispatch center.
    .. In 1995, fire fighting and management made up 16% of the forest service’s annual appropriated budget. This year for the first time, more than 50% of the Forest Service’s annual budget will be dedicated to fire.
    .. With congress continuing to cut USFS budgets we need to ask the question: "will there be enough money to fight any fires, and what management practices will have to be cut or eliminated?"
    ..There is an informative post, (and attendant diverse comments,) about the trend in reduced USFS funding and services in the MONTANA COWGIRL (LINK-3).
    .. We all know the impact on headwater tributaries caused by wildfires. We also know that there are policy questions and ecological arguments about how to deal with wildfires - as well as lumbering practices in the headwater areas.
    .. The stress on USFS resources and personnel, the concomitant burden placed on the states, and the current political climate demand that fishers of all stripes be informed. Does your watershed deserve federal, state, or no protection when it comes to fighting fires?


    .. Yellowstone National Park has dodged the bullet these last three fire seasons. The headwater tributaries of some of our most cherished fishing streams are not burning and are still accessible.
    ..The road to the parking lot at Bacon Rind Creek is dry, rough, and dusty. Happily it's short. Hoppers are plentiful, as are spruce moths, beetles, ants, and caddis. Access is congenial, (save for a few willow thickets,) and the fishing pressure has been low so far this season.
    .. The upper Gallatin River, (above the confluence meadow,) is seeing frequent visitation by neighbors and visitors alike. Bear spray sales in town are reaching their Summer peak - good idea!
    .. Just a few flies will bring fish to hook and hand in the meadow and willow brambles. The bugs here are the same as Bacon Rind Creek, except that there are fewer, (if any,) spruce moths. Some of the neighbors ran out of beetle imitations and used sow bugs instead - worked fine.
    .. The parking lot at Specimen Creek has been crowded lately. It's been populated by photographers and hikers. Fishers seem to have avoided this little creek lately because access requires some thought and planning to get to the deep and sheltered water. That's a good thing for the stout and surprising fish in those places.
    .. This is a genuine "attractor stream." It's a good place to try your latest 'off-the-wall' creations. The fish are as unsophisticated as the wayward fishers that visit this water. We go often. We like Sierra Bright Dot variations and smashed caddis for our forays.
    .. Snowslide Creek and Daly Creek have been plumb forgotten - or so it seems. The streamside trails are still green and the local counter help have never seen them. Grab a few Prince Nymphs and a couple of Humpy flies and bushwack your way through some lovely country -- with bear spray in hand. You may even catch a dozen, or so, fish.
    .. It seems that even the neighbors have forgotten about Black Butte Creek. We've not seen a cell phone photo nor a whisper of any expeditions into this bit of tributary water. Sorry 'bout that.
    .. The Firehole River above Old Faithful is still a popular destination for folks, (neighbors and others,) that enjoy the delights of Brook Trout dances. We visited with some fisher folks from Pennsylvania last week, as we paused to look at the diversion dam. They said that the Brookies were more willing here than in the Poconos. My my.
    .. We note with some amusement that there is near panic among the folks that experienced the recent snow flurries in Arkansas and Tennessee.
    .. Up here it's been in the 20's and 30's overnight for the last week or so. We've had some snow flurries, hail, wind gusts to 40 mph, and heavy low clouds in the evening. The neighborhood kids are still wearing baggy shorts and swimming in the rivers and lakes. No one has mentioned that.
    .. It's supposed to be a blistering 60° tomorrow: rain and other stuff mixed in as well. We're headed back to Sourdough Riffles on  Notellum Creek. The trout are so lonely that they are hanging on to hooks with both hands.
    .. We've got the seven deadly sins in our custom fly box and know that the fish will enjoy our visit.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    It's Early But . . . .

    From The Smallest Of Streams
    take a trail to surprises
    .. There are absolute jewels of information to be gleaned from the casual conversations emanating from the dark corners of our noisy pubs.
    .. Just last week we scoffed at a couple of the neighbors for tying some unseasonably large flies. Shows what we know!
    .. Just down the road, on the small tributaries of the upper Gallatin River in Yellowstone National Park, there are fish of generous proportions in water scarcely skinny enough to wet a diaper. (Overheard in the shadows.)
    .. At the moment there are yellow leaves on many of the indicator trees around town. The neighbors' gardens are done with strawberries and the tops of onions are sagging.
    .. The sun is low enough to produce polarized light in the sky overhead and the wildfires are stinking up the air.
    .. There are roasted ears of corn to go with the charred beef and outdoor grilling has picked up a notch. Just some hints of Fall.
    .. Traffic has thinned in the village to a point that there are parking spaces left open and there's even occasional moments where the streets seem safe to cross.
    .. The Gallatin River is alive with elbows, hoppers, ants, spruce moths, and trout of the congenial kind. It's lesser known byways and tributaries have some interesting fish and some beautiful water.
    .. Then again, it's not park and cast fishing. Trails must be taken. Noisy groups must be marshaled together for alert strolling through bear country. But, you don't have to get your feet wet to gather up trout in crystal clear and seldom fished water.
    .. These are waters that can be fished with convenient tackle. Short, easily portable rods are the norm. Four and five weights are the numbers and some of the folks around here go up a line weight or two because of the needed control when casting to targets 10 feet away while lying prone in an ant hill.
    .. Short, stout leaders make things simple as do just a few flies. The trout in these waters aren't pounded into senseless and wary slugs. They don't have 'hook cysts' scattered around their proximal portions and, they enjoy a dance with fishers throwing garbage flies in their direction.
    .. Right now the neighbors are spending a lot of time around the confluence meadow where Fan Creek joins the Gallatin River.
    .. A few have wandered deep into the thick willow bear-meadows of the upper Gallatin River, others are wandering the burned pines of Fan Creek.
    .. On your first time into the willows you will be surprised at the depth of some of the bends where point bars have stabilized the meander loops.
    .. There are game trails through the willows. They are tight and demand an alert angler - or hiker. They are used by the moose and the coyotes, and the occasional bear. They are the trails that feather merchants and counter help don't frequent. Don't even ask.
    .. Well armed neighbors sing to the bears and carry their spray in their gun hand with their rod in their 'off' hand. Reel first through the thickets to the grassy patches on the inside of the bends trudge the intrepid neighbors.
    .. As soon as it's feasible to do so, they get on their knees. They have seen the shadows in the water. The shadows have seen them. Just a two foot leader and four feet of line is all it takes. That's all there is room for.
    .. Stealth is important. Vocalize! Talk to the fish, sing to the bears, but tread softly lest the shadow feels you coming. Disabuse yourself of the notion that they don't see you. They do.
    .. Move slowly, cast deliberately. watch the maw open with rapid deliberation. There's no real need to "LIFT !" The shadow darts from hide to food with a rapidity that defies belief. The water is thin and they need to return to whence they came with all due haste. Just be sure to hold on. The hook will be set with authority.
    .. Scream with wild abandon - it will scare the bear in the bush. Fight the fish to the bank. Release with a quick twist and watch. They usually return to where you first saw them. They'll sulk and remember the dance - for just a short time. They've come for sex and found fishers.
    .. On the other hand, why bother? There are cell phone numbers to exchange, big rigs to listen to, easy footpaths to follow, and parking spaces aplenty along the road to Bozeman. That's the "Yellowstone Fishing" that you hear about.

    Sunday, August 16, 2015

    Don't Breathe The Air

    Widespread A.Q. Alerts Issued
    kids and elderly warned
    .. With our spate of thunderstorms and gusty winds last Friday have come expanded wildfires and an air quality alerts for most of western Montana, (and Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, etc.)
    .. The dense smoke in northern Montana is the result of the Wolverine Fire in Washington, (LINK,) and our current wind patterns.
    .. The largest fire in Montana is in Glacier National Park: none are reported for Yellowstone National Park, (YET!)
    .. County officials in Yellowstone County have enacted a Stage I Fire Alert and it's attendant restrictions. We expect the Gallatin National Forest to do the same shortly.
    Montana DEQ Wildfire Smoke Updates
    Montana DEQ Air Quality Forecast

    .. The air quality alert is in effect until tomorrow and is issued for Beaverhead, Broadwater, Cascade, Deer Lodge, Fergus, Flathead, Gallatin, Glacier, Granite, Jefferson, Judith Basin, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Madison, Meagher, Mineral, Missoula, Park, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders, Silver Bow, and Teton counties.
    .. The air quality is currently very unhealthy in Missoula, Hamilton, and Butte. It's unhealthy in Libby Frenchtown, Helena, and Bozeman.
    .. Unhealthy air for sensitive groups, is reported in St. Mary, the Flathead Valley, Great Falls, Lewistown, and Seeley Lake.

    .. Our neighbors are finding that terrestrials are the ticket for catching dance partners along the Gallatin River in Yellowstone National Park.
    .. The grasshoppers are finally in full flight and finding the water with wonderful regularity. The ants are still on the wing and on foot. Navigation problems for both colony types provide attractive tidbits for trout.
    .. The frugal and creative fishers, (just down the block,) have taken to mangling and mashing up their leftover salmonfly imitations and then attaching a beetle as a trailer. Working good!
    .. We've seen cell phone reports from the Firehole River along the trail to Lonestar Geyser.
    .. It may be just a wee bit early but, it looks like the Brook Trout are in spawning colors. If this is the case, wildly aggressive fish will be encountered in this stretch of water.
    .. Eager fanatics and optimistic neighborhood fishers have started tying up the big uglies for Fall fishing.
    .. This obsessive behavior has been engendered by reports of large submarines in Hebgen Reservoir near the debouching Madison River. We've seen the cell phone pictures - giant pudgy fish with small heads and brilliant colors. An early Fall may be in the offing - who can say?