• Visit: The Trout Underground
  • Visit: Moldy Chum
  • Visit: Buster Wants To Fish
  • Visit: The Horse's Mouth
  • Visit: Chi Wulff
  • Visit: Parks' Fly Shop
  • Visit: Montana Cowgirl
  • Saturday, March 28, 2015


    Almost Ice Out
    almost visitor invasion

    .. The Föhn winds rake our village and the trees groan and squeal. Neighborhood fishers squiggle into their breezy gear and rush to the recently revealed catching water on Hebgen Reservoir.
    .. Whisky Bay and Beer Bay are both ice-free. The estuaries of the South Fork and the Madison River are bright blue and inviting.
    .. Many of the neighborhood fly fishers ignore this early opportunity. They are busy hobnobbing with the early arriving summer residents and the big talking counter help at the feather merchants. It's easier to talk about the upcoming warmer days than it is to get out and fish in the wind on a day that is warmer than some in June: but very windy.
    .. Postcards, outdoor catalogs, and other mysterious influences have convinced many folks that fly fishing is a riverine activity. They have ignored or demeaned the lacustrine aspects of the pastime.
    .. Of course the gear and worm folks are not easily impressed by the snooty attitudes of the elite fraternity of fur flingers. Worms are enticing fish to the hook right now. Panther Martin and Mepps and Kastmaster are in the mix as well.
    .. Some of the neighbors, (unimpressed by fair weather rhetoric,) are taking fish at this very moment - with all manner of terminal tackle. In our village there are the neighborhood fishing friends and the other kinds. Friends go fishing. Gear and style are secondary to catching. Catching is secondary to "getting out." And so it goes.
    .. Worm fishers and fly fishers share the same bit of open water with each other. Gear folks and fly fishers brave the mud puddles together and quaff some liquid together as they take turns on the limited open water.

    .. The other kinds of fishers are still at their tying benches or, casting aspersions at their customers from behind the counter of their comfy, feather merchant, warm dens. They seem to chant in unison: "just wait."
    .. In this part of the high country waiting means missing some spectacular catching opportunities. The fisher folk amongst us chant in unison: "why wait?" Off they go. Wind, ice, mud, snow, or difficulty aside; there's fish to be caught. The others are still waiting and smirking.
    .. For the non smirkers and non waiters flies of a giant size or a miniscule size are the rule for the bits of water available at the reservoir.
    .. There is a symbiosis between the gear flingers and fluff floaters that goes unnoticed and unmentioned by "purists" of either fraternity. Fish, despite our rhetoric, are capricious, wily, and opportunistic feeders. They are curious and investigative. Their food memory is ephemeral and focused. Reject the fly - take the spoon. Shun the spinner - gobble the streamer. Just what was most recently eaten? Our neighbors know this.
    .. In addition to the bays and estuaries there are some other beats and seats that are producing fish right now. Spawning is in full swing between the lakes in the Hebgen Dam Tailwater. Those that must catch fish the easy way are elbowing each other out of the way to tromp on redds and gall a hormone laden trout. We'll pass.
    .. The boat ramps and the outlet of Quake Lake present some fine opportunities for taking large and gullible trout. There are some midges amongst the trees next to the highway. Precision casting is the rule.
    .. The upcoming few days promise to provide us with excellent catching opportunities. There will be a bit of rain, a bit of snow, some sun, some wind, some clouds and other mixtures of Spring weather.
    .. We're going to call-in sick - or some such.

    Friday, March 20, 2015

    The E Z Stuff

    The Rivers Are Near
    breakfast is served

    .. There are those that spend the winter in anticipation of summer fishing. There are those that would rather tie flies and fill their boxes. We tie our flies and anticipate fishing all year long.
    ..  Montana has fantastic access laws and liberal fishing regulations. Most rivers and streams are open most of the time, for most of the year.  Only fair weather fishers wait for summer.
    .. We're more lucky than most. There are only two ways out of town and both lead to fine fishing - quickly. The roads are used by interstate trucking all year and the finest plow crews in the state keep them open. So, when the time is available, we go fishing rather than moaning about the weather.
    .. This year there has been even less cause for moaning than usual. The winter has been mild and our neighborhood rivers have become destination fisheries for aliens from such foreign countries as Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and California. We smile. We fish.
    .. Right now the Gallatin River just north of Yellowstone National Park is providing some very fine catching on these mild days. Nymphs are the rule and it's just fine to allow the counter help at any feather merchant to sell you some. They all work perfectly. We're lost when it comes to new inventions and fancy materials. We use the stuff that the neighbors use. They work too, and are easy to tie - or "borrow."
    .. There are bits of open water on Hebgen Reservoir and Quake Lake. The neighbors, "worm or fly," are moving down the secret trails to these choice spots. The fish are happy to see them and enjoy the workout.
    .. It's coming on time to abandon the barrel of a tailwater below Hebgen Dam. The spawning trout are very thick and it's time to leave them to their revelry and debauchery.
    .. There may be a week or two left and then the density of redds will demand that the pestering of fish be curtailed. Sad but true, it is seldom the case.
    .. This week the neighbors are using small streamers and wiggly flies with rubber legs and scraggly bits of fluff that animate the flies. The fish are becoming angry: they are not yet aggressive - or are they?
    .. Over on the South Fork of the Madison River there is still a small snowpack. Neighborhood sled-heads and sled-doggers are still using the trails for access to the South Plateau.
    .. Where the South Fork meets with Hebgen Reservoir the ice has slipped away with no notice by the invading fishers from afar. The trails and tracks to this bit of water are through the trees. The trees have saved some snow - and allowed some puddles as well. Snowmobile access is messy but - - - - - VERY REWARDING!
    .. We're borrowing a sled.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    Saint Patrick Was An Englishman

    Sold Into Slavery
    forced to herd sheep and swine

    .. Last evening, and this morning has been soft and damp. Drizzle has blessed us and hastened the melting of the snow. It's just perfect for Saint Patrick's Day. The celebration as seen in the United States is a wonderfully American Tradition, (LINK.)
    .. America invented the celebratory day and all the boozing and hoopla that is associated with it. In Ireland it was a very solemn observance through the mid 20th century. In fact, Irish pubs were closed on the feast day until the mid 1960's. The 35,000,000 folks of Irish descent in America continue their tradition and pretend that it's Irish.
    .. They eat corned beef and cabbage, drink green beer, wear green garb, and kick up their heels, (no arms please,) in celebration of the feast day of an un-canonized saint. It's all good fun and most bewildering to the Irish of Ireland.
    Boiled Irish bacon and cabbage. Black and red
    potatoes with carrots. A parsley and white wine
    sauce with shallots and cabbage bits.
    Now that's Irish for the feast day.
    .. The traditional food for the feast day in Ireland is boiled bacon and cabbage. Usually served with a Colcannon Mash, some soda bread and a red ale or  tea.
    .. Irish bacon is a different cut than American bacon. It includes both the pork belly and the loin. It is cured similar to our bacon but without the smoke.
    .. It is sliced, (thick or thin,) perpendicular to the way ours is sliced and is a true treat - boiled or baked or grilled or fried. We make our own.
    .. Great aunt Cafleen would scold you soundly if she was guest at your table for the feast day and you served corned beef.
    .. Just where did the corned beef come from? Simple enough. If any Irish family in the old country was lucky enough to have a cow it was viewed as a factory for milk and cheese.  Don't eat the cow!
    .. Pigs, roots, and sheep were for eating. The landed gentry, (most were Irish but many were English,) kept cattle on the good pastureland and shipped them to England for Bully Beef.
    .. The Irish family generally depended on a meager root garden of spuds and other delicacies along with a pig or two. When the blight hit  --  and hit again  --  and persisted, starvation forced a population movement to better places. America was one of those better places.
    .. The poor immigrants settled in the scruffy parts of New York - and thereabouts. The Irish were just one part of the ethnic stew that settled in these base environs: Jews, Germans, Italians, Catholics, etc.
    .. The best butchers in these communities and neighborhoods were most often the Jews who were meticulous about butchering and observing their kosher laws. Of course there was no Irish bacon for the feast of Saint Patrick.
    Colcannon Mash is comprised of a few kinds
    of potatoes, a turnip or two, a parsnip,
    and some parsley and cabbage and
    mild onions or shallots.
    Boil the cabbage and shallots in some milk
    until tender. Use the milk along with the
    shallots  and cabbage to mash the roots.
    Add a bit of parsley and cinnamon along
    with copious amounts of butter and 
    salt and pepper to taste.
    Make a well in the top and add more butter
    and place under the broiler to melt
    the butter and crisp up the outer layer of mash.
    .. There was, on the other hand, corned beef and pastrami. Beef, the upper-class food, was plentiful and nearly affordable. It boiled up pretty good with cabbage - - - soooo! Early Irish immigrants made the substitution without batting an eye.
    .. Contemporary American culture pretends that corned beef and cabbage is a wonderful Irish delicacy. More power to that folklore --  burp.
    .. Even today root crops are a staple of Irish cuisine and it's not uncommon to see several kinds of potatoes served in various ways with each meal The Colcannon Mash is absolutely scrumptious.
    .. So as you gobble your corned beef and cabbage, and quaff your umpteenth dark and bitter beer and pretend that the Irish invented revelry to go along with a saint that isn't; remember that there were no snakes in Ireland and that even today it is one of the modern world's most hospitable places for rats.
    .. Tomorrow you will be stuck with more cabbage than you can stomach and boiled corned beef that makes only a poor Reuben sandwich.
    .. The left over Irish bacon, on the other hand can be fried. The mash can be fried. Bacon and potato pancakes sounds fine to us.
    .. Saint Patrick finally escaped from his Irish slave masters and returned to England where he devoutly became a Catholic cleric.
    .. He then returned to Ireland, and brought with him Christianity. Turn about is fair play.

    Monday, March 16, 2015

    A Different Place

    Empty Roads And Buildings
    abundant critters and vistas

    .. The west entrance to Yellowstone National Park is now closed to vehicular traffic.
    .. As roads are cleaned and cleared and, as facilities are made ready for the Summer visitors; the park is transformed into a different place for 3 or 4 weeks.
    .. Despite rumors to the contrary, the park is not closed. In fact, over the next few weeks folks will cruise the west side of Yellowstone on bicycles, roller skates, roller blades, skateboards, and even by walking.
    .. Few folks, even many neighbors, are aware of this wonderful transition. Even yesterday the park felt abandoned as we leisurely cruised to Old Faithful.
    .. Fish on both the Madison River and the Firehole River were rising to a couple of small caddis species and midges as well. It seems the trout are enjoying the break from winter visitation and cold weather as well.
    .. Down the deserted roads we went. Twenty-five miles per hour is a pleasant pace for sight seeing. And the pace is also conducive to shedding the burdens of daily grinds and groans.
    .. It becomes a gentle immersion in a place vastly different than the usual. Truly a pleasant change.
    .. Pausing to watch the elk, or bison or wolves, or coyotes, or the myriad waterfowl was as simple as pulling over. No condominiums on wheels were creatively parked. No visitors gawking and screaming.
    .. No hoards of visitors crowded the viewing areas. No army of photographers marched along the rivers edges trampling the stationary onlookers,
    .. Yes, it's a different and spectacular place. Fish noses poked through the surface film as if to defy a bit of fur and feathers.
    .. Catching and fishing these streams is still some time off. The trout, for now,  will enjoy a period of R & R.
    .. Minimal park staff and even fewer concessionaire employees are available to greet the visitors, We had the visitor center at Old Faithful to ourselves.
    .. That cavernous structure echoed to our footsteps. The sounds were so loud that whispers were the mode of conversation. They seemed loud too.
    .. Although not a planned event; we were treated to a private showing of the showcase geyser in Yellowstone Park - Old Faithful treated us to a long eruption.
    .. It was as if the whole geyser basin welcomed us. Beehive Geyser roared and played noisily, Castle Geyser erupted through a full water and steam cycle, and the hot springs splashed. No eyes but ours enjoyed the display - rare it was indeed.
    .. The early morning and late afternoon light in Yellowstone transforms the place into magical and mysterious nooks and crannies that demand exploration. With energy and/or a camera it is possible to snuggle in to these places.
    .. The magic that draws millions of visitors to the park in the vacation seasons is even more apparent when there are no visitors. Soft sounds of the running water are amplified in the stillness.
    .. Broken clouds in the overcast sky allow shadows to play and dance across the spooky landscape of the thermal areas.
    .. The famous colors of the bacterial mats leap into the eye and change hues as light and shadow change moment by moment. Not a sight for bright Summer days - nor, for that matter, the heavy gray days of winter.
    .. In the popular mind, Yellowstone National Park is a giant petting zoo where it's illegal to do the petting. There are critters to be seen and admired, no doubt at all.
    .. There are wolves, elk, ravens, bison, eagles, coyotes, trout, bluebirds, pikas, voles, marmots, geese, ducks, swans, and myriad other fauna to be seen.
    .. There is too, the reason for the park's initial creation: more geysers than anywhere else in the world. Thermal features and their rare associated biota. Very young and very old land forms greet the eye at every turn. Land that is being eroded and exploded, Land that is being built and expanded.
    .. This place was set aside as a geological wonderland. Indeed, it is.
    .. There is a dynamism in Yellowstone that goes unappreciated during the summer and winter rush to "SEE" the animals.
    .. It takes a moment, (or never for some folks,) to understand that the animals are just the frosting on a giant stage that shows the grand scale of geologic and ecological change that is taking place. The critters are fun. The geology is spectacular.
    .. Fly fishers love the Firehole River for it's friendly trout and insect hatches. The trout are easily available and the scenery is different that your typical trout stream. The Firehole River valley is composed of several basins where geology and geologic processes are raw, apparent, diverse, and spectacular - for those that bother to see rather than look.
    .. Within a few dozen yards, in Biscuit Basin, erosion and deposition are taking place at the same time. Explosive deposition is set in juxtaposition to slow accretion.
    .. Dry land processes meet riverine processes. Stability and dynamism are reflected in vegetation patterns, river course, river depth, river speed, topographic variation and other bits of geology.
    .. There are fish too - in a stream that was devoid of fish prior to our introduction of these invasive species. Recreational fishing takes precedent over geological wonder in the fly fisher's eye - in the popular mind as well.
    .. Perhaps it takes a scene without fishers for most folks to appreciate the underlying structures and processes that make transient recreation possible. Then, again, probably not.
    .. We are blessed with the opportunity to visit this place. More so, to do it in a leisurely and contemplative fashion. Not in a bus or a tractor or other quick and dirty tour.
    .. We are thankful that fishing, (even without catching,) affords us the opportunity to become immersed in the processes that occur here and, around the world, that make our planet.
    .. The civilized processes of high rise, congestion, air pollution, crowding, and hustle are foreign to this place, (for a couple of months each year,) and we take advantage of the opportunity to escape.
    .. By the way, fishing at Snowflake Springs on the Gallatin River is producing outlandish catching opportunities if you don't mind the stench and stink and roar of large trucks and speeding automobiles.

    Saturday, March 07, 2015

    Not With A Ten Foot Pole

    1,700,000 Tons/Year And Growing
    eating poop, pellets, mud & weeds

    .. Over the last 20 years the tilapia has become the number four fish eaten in the United States. It has recently caught up with trout and salmon.  Canned tuna is more popular. Tilapia is farmed around the world and is one of China's leading exports.
    .. From pharaonic times to the present the Nile Tilapia has been the foundation of widespread aquaculture. The other North African species, (Mozambique and Blue,) have recently been added to the genetic stew of fish farming around the world. There is even a Rocky Mountain Tilapia, (Nile tilapia + blue tilapia hybrid,) that tolerates cooler water temperatures than the original tropical species. The free hybridization among the various species and hybrids has produced fish adapted to a wide range of conditions.
    .. There are tilapia in the Salton Sea of California that thrive in salinity that would kill pelagic fish of the oceans. The hybrids are fast growing, eat mostly anything, are easy to catch and have been subjected to sex change tactics to enhance size and reduce unwanted female fish.
    .. Most of the farms in China and Latin America are crowded fin to fin and produce enormous negative environmental impacts. The fish are often sick and frequently fed chicken feces and pig feces as well as corn and soy. The farms are producing fish eaten by us using practices that are illegal in the United States. There is probably a frozen sack of shi.. tilapia in your neighborhood supermarket.
    .. Eating a farm raised tilapia is worse for your health than eating bacon  --  for those that care. Methyltestosterone is widely used as is a whole suite of antibiotics designed to keep the fish alive in their toxic environments. The possibility of salmonella strains resistant to antibiotics is looming on the horizon.
    .. Contemporary efforts in the United States, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Canada are pushing the limits of "clean" fish farming of tilapia. With, of course, governmental support. Perhaps tilapia is the fish of the future.
    .. Feedlot cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, etc. are the mainstay of the American diet. They are full of both good and bad things. The detriments are forgotten because a rib eye steak in no way resembles a cow rolling around in it's own feces. Pork shoulder and ham steaks look far more appetizing than some swine wallowing in their own muck. We love it and we eat it.
    .. Contemporary industrialized tilapia processing is quick, efficient, and ultra sanitary. Processing in many countries around the world takes place on kitchen tables, in drainage ditches, or other less than appetizing environs. It behooves the consumer of any farmed tilapia to know the source. And, know the source beyond just the country of origin.
    .. We prefer not to eat the fish: given the practice of dressing it up and calling it fancy names or spiffy monikers. We have been lucky enough to procure some very fine factory fish from a known source, with known processing, and with quick freezing technology. Of course it was delicious.
    .. On the other hand, we certainly wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole the  sacks of shi . tilapia in our neighborhood grocery store.
    ===>  Tilapia Is Worse Than Bacon

    ===> The Perfect Factory Fish

    ===> Many Sorts

    ===> Omega-6  vs.  Omega-3

    ===> Is There Any Truth About Tilapia ??

    Sunday, March 01, 2015

    Rare Indeed

    Asphalt In February
    vehicles with skies locked out

    .. Despite rumors to the contrary; Yellowstone National Park is open year 'round. Access varies with the season and transportation varies with the snow conditions.
    .. Currently the west entrance is only allowing vehicles to enter that have motive power presenting "Rubber To The Road".
    .. This means that snowmachines, and other vehicles with metal skis, grousers, or cleats cannot enter the west entrance. Those vehicles, on the other hand, can enter the south and east entrance where snow still covers the road.
    .. Snowmobiles, van conversions, and vintage tour vehicles with skis are parked at Madison Junction for those visitors that prefer those modes of transport to Canyon, Norris, Lake, and other points in the interior of the park.
    ..  Depending on the mountain range and exposure of our neighborhood snowtel stations we're showing somewhere between 70% and 84% of our seasonal mean snow pack. Not too terrible considering the warm spell we just endured.
    .. Fishers and foresters are keeping a close watch on weather systems. Should Springtime bring warm rains in the coming weeks the snowpack will diminish considerably. Should the grasses grow rapidly in the absence of snow and should the Summer dry out there could be a precarious fire season. Fishers are constantly concerned about runoff, stream flow, and discharge rates. We'll keep you informed.
    .. These mild winters are easy on most wildlife. There are not too many elk with prominent displays of ribs, nor too many bison with slow gaits. Both predator and prey seem to be doing well. There are fish rising in the west side rivers and so far the shallows look to be deep enough to allow hatching and nursery habitation.
    .. We're headed up the road. It looks like some of the estuaries are open enough to allow legal fishing. If not then dances between the lakes will be entertaining.

    Sunday, February 22, 2015

    Winter's Comfort