Saturday, May 31, 2014

Caddis Festival 2014

I had a three day weekend over the 17th, 18th, & 19th which I spent camped out near the trout town of Craig, Montana. Saturday was the opening day of general fishing season and the annual Caddis Festival was being held in Craig. The Caddis Festival is a barbecue and street party held annually to raise money for the volunteer fire department. The festivities didn’t start until 4:00pm so there was ample time for anglers to get in some fishing without missing out on the festivities. I spent the earlier part of the day fishing with my oldest grandson, while my wife took our younger grandson on a geocaching adventure. If you don’t know what geocaching is feel free to google it. The short definition is a treasure hunt with a GPS. Fishing with the grandson is a new thing for both of us. He’s tried fly fishing only one other time which was last year. I’m not gifted with a great deal of patients with kids and was concerned how my nerves would hold up. Overall things went well. The only fish to hand for the day was caught by accident next to the boat ramp while I was giving some basic instructions. We fished with a wire worm and nymphs under a strike indicator, and the indicator did go down on many occasions. Most were probably caused by bumping the bottom but at least one was a fish that was on the line momentarily. It was a pretty uneventful day with slow catching. Saw bald eagles, pelicans, geese, and deer and I learned a lot about fishing with kids. The lack of fish caught was a bit disappointing but a good time was had. We got in at the takeout about 1:00pm which was earlier than I had anticipated. I usually fish alone and use the boat to get from one spot to the next stopping the boat to fish a run or hole until ready to move on. So I wasn’t sure just how long the float would take especially with the water running faster than normal at over 8,000 cfs. Everything worked out pretty well though. Our getting to the take out earlier than expected allowed time to load the boat, put fishing gear away, and for me to get out of my waders. It was at this point I discovered I had left on a three day trip and had forgotten my shoes. I put my waders on before leaving the house and left my shoes at home. I’d been considering purchasing a pair of wading shoes from Headhunter Fly Shop and the decision just became a lot easier. My memory just isn’t what it used to be; at least I don’t think it is. Maybe I just don’t remember how it was. Too many years and too much whiskey or is it not enough whiskey? After getting the fishing gear stowed away, donning pants and new shoes, and cracking open a cold beer I was ready for the festival even though it didn’t officially start for a while yet. About this time my wife and other grandson joined up with us. We chatted and gave each other accounts of our day’s adventures then the wife and both grandsons left to go on more adventures of the geocaching sort. I was left to drink beer, smoke cigars, mingle with the crowd, and in general allow my nerves to unravel. The festival was a great hit with way more people in town than usual. The weather was perfect and a lot of people where out including a motorcycle club and a Corvette club. I checked out all 3 fly shops and visited with the venders. My wife and grandsons eventually showed up and gave more accounts of their adventures. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the parade, which the grandkids where in, and eating barbeque. As it got into late evening my wife and grandsons headed back to Great Falls and I stayed behind to fish again the next day. I ran into some fishing buddies at Izaak’s and we drank beer together while discussing fishing & other manly subjects. A conversation sprang up with a group of gals and at one point a couple of the gals took my buddies onto the deck where the music was, to do some dancing. I was left there standing next to a really nice young lady named Molly. After a moment she struck up a conversation by asking me where I was from and what had brought me to Craig. I told her I was there for the festival and to do some fishing. She asked me what I was floating. I was puzzled not sure what exactly she was asking. Obviously I was floating the Missouri River. I asked if she meant what stretch of river I was floating. She said no, what boat do you float. So I went into my normal spiel about my drift boat which is a predecessor of the Adipose Flow. It struck me that only in a trout town in Montana would a sweet young girl ask a guy (even a well seasoned one such as myself) what drift boat he owned. About 11:00pm my buddies and I bid each other farewell and strolled off to our camps for the night. Here it is two weeks later and I have another three day weekend. This time I am taking the younger grandson fishing. We’ll see how it goes with the water bumped up to over 10,000 cfs. There’s supposed to be more cloud cover though so maybe the fishing will be a bit better. You can read about this adventure in my next post.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Day With Nick And The Fish Magnet

This year’s trip started the night before with us making sure all our needed gear and then some was packed and ready to go. We packed two 5 wt graphite rods; one was my old reliable workhorse rod a Sage RPL that has been with me over 25 years now, and the other my wife Gigi’s Winston. Then just in case this happened to be the day the fish started poking their noses out and sipping on midges and BWO’s I threw in the Sweetgrass Mantra bamboo rod I bought last October and haven’t had much opportunity to fish with yet. Then I gave some serious thought to throwing in the 8wt streamer rod for good measure. I couldn’t help at least thinking about it. It’s the streamer junkie in me. The rods where then followed with an assortment of other items deemed necessary for a day on the water in late April. Hats, gloves, handwamers, rain gear, and of course the condiments: wine (for her), bourbon, and cigars.

We arrived Sunday morning at 8am in the thriving metro Craig area, well at least the parking and driveway around Headhunters fly shop was thriving. To be honest I really didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the town except for a brief whimsical gaze in the direction of Joe’s Bar. We met up with Nick, our guide for the day, who was already there and exchange pleasantries, decided on section of river to float, and transferred gear from our vehicle to his.

We started at the Wolf Creek Bridge without incident just the usual trips to the little unisex room. I have to admit it is nice having someone rigging rods for you and putting the boat in the water while you light a cigar and enjoy the view. Or in Gigi’s case wonder around the area contemplating possible hiding places for a geocache reportedly in the immediate area.

The boat was launched and so began our day on the water. It was a great day of nymphing with a long leash and some scud imitations. Gigi as usual caught at least 2 fish to my one, and probably even better than that but who’s counting? On many occasions Gigi had a fish on before I even had my line all the way out. Chicks rule and she was a fish magnet on the water. The fish are definitely becoming more energetic with the warming water temps. Didn’t get a look at the backing but came close on a couple of occasions. We were into fish all day long with mostly sunny skies and cool temps 40 to 50 degrees. The big “W” reared its ugly head at times but had an adequate number of merciful reprieves to keep the day fun. Half way through the float I was thinking this was going to be to short of a day that we should have chosen a longer float, but by the time we reached spite hill to take out I had caught plenty of fish and was more than ready to bring a great time to a great end. Of course Gigi being the show off fish magnet she is caught one last fish as we headed in to the takeout.

Once again I ended a day of guided fishing as a slightly better angler then I started with a few more tidbits of knowledge added to my 35 plus years of experience. It never ceases to amaze me how little I know. After fishing the Missouri River 50 plus days a year for 35 plus years I still am learn new things every time I fish with someone else or read a book. This was my fourth guided trip in my life and my third on the Missouri and I have ended each trip a little better angler than when I started. Thanks Nick for a great day.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spey Lines What's The Differance?

One thing that has gotten really complicated in fly fishing is the fly line. It can drive a man to drinks trying to decipher all the differences. That reminds me I need a drink, but back to the subject at hand. One area that has been especially confusing is the choice of lines for two handed rods. These rods are often called spey rods which is a slang term applied because they are used primarily for executing spey casts, but that’s another story for another post. Those who are new to spey casting or thinking of giving it a try, often are overwhelmed with the different choices and terminology. It is my intention to clarify things a bit for those new to this really cool way to fish. There are three categories of spey lines with a variety of new hybrids being introduced at a rapid pace. The following information is what I have learned in the last several years of studying and learning this new genre of fly fishing.  Since I am too lazy to take the time to provide a list of my sources and the fact that I’m not even sure where some of this information was acquired I ask the reader to indulge me. Any corrections would be welcome as long as they are done in the spirit of good sportsmanship and don’t bore the hell out of me with a bunch of Latin bull shit. In case you haven’t figured it out yet I’m a keep it simple kind of guy that doesn’t get to philosophical until at least the fourth or fifth drink and it helps if there is a campfire present. Now that I have made the appropriate disclaimer to protect me from those smarter than me who might find fault in my words of wisdom I will get back to the bull sh… ahh, subject at hand.

The primary difference between the three categories is the length of the line with the weight of the line remaining constant. The first spey lines were double taper lines used on two handed rods on the Spey River in Scotland, thus the name spey casting and hence the spey rod/lines. Then someone, probably several someone’s most likely Scotsmen, started hacking up different lines and splicing together the various lengths, weights, and tappers to achieve the best casting dynamics for their particular rod and style of casting. Much like the marksman and big game hunters do when they reload their own ammunition for their particular gun and style of shooting. The right load for the gun as the right load for the rod. This practice of using two handed rods gained popularity and spread to other lands. One of these was Scandinavia and the another was the United States. The lines designed by the Scots are known as long bellied traditional lines. I interpret the term traditional as meaning first and not necessarily better, that is my opinion and the reader should take it as such. Then the Scandinavian’s got into the practice of hacking and redesigning lines that better met their needs. The lines they came up with became known as Scandinavian style lines later shortened to Scandi lines. Then some guys in the Pacific Northwest United States on the Skagit River made their contribution to the spey line foray giving us the Skagit line (pronounced Ska-jit). So what is the difference and which line should I use, you ask.

The traditional long bellied line is typically a one piece line with the head of the line encompassing the belly, front taper, and rear taper the head being roughly four times the length of the rod. For example on a fourteen foot rod the head would be fifty to sixty feet long. This head would be followed by a length of shooting line and its weight would vary. What weight you choose depends on the action of the rod being used. Being the longest of the spey lines it is the most difficult to learn to cast and requires the greatest amount of room behind the caster to accommodate the larger “D” loop needed to properly load the rod. The line is not typically stripped-in between casts and this gives the benefit of maximizing the time the fly spends being presented to the fish. In theory this will maximize the number of fish caught in a given length of time spent fishing. Another benefit, to winter anglers, is that the rod guides remain drier and therefore decreases icing of the guides.

Scandi lines are designed as interchangeable heads that are connected to a running line with a loop to loop connection. These heads are shorter than the heads of traditional long bellied lines of the same weight thus being larger in diameter. A typical Scandi line will be three times the length of the rod with the weight staying constant. For example an eleven foot rod will use a head length of thirty to forty feet. Scandi lines are used as shooting lines and are stripped-in between casts and are shot out on the forward cast allowing casts of the same length requiring less room behind the angler due to the smaller “D” loop required to properly load the rod. The Scandi line allows an angler to fish smaller rivers with brushy banks and to change head length/weight using the same running line. This allows the angler to use one reel spool rather than separate spools to change line length/weight for different rods or conditions such as needing sinking or floating lines. They also are easier to cast especially if larger flies are used and/or when wind is an issue. With these lines you must strip-in line between casts therefore the fly spends less time being presented to fish.  Also the wow factor is less as the loops in the line are smaller and less sexy so to speak.

To take it to the next level there are the Skagit lines. These are also a shooting head design that is connected not only to a running line but also to a tip. Do not make the mistake, as I did, of thinking that a poly or Ferrel leader constitutes a tip. A poly or ferrel leader could be attached to the tip or a standard tapered leader may be used as is the case with all spey lines. Skagit line heads are shorter than Traditional or Scandi spey line heads typically being twice the length of the rod with the weight remaining the same. The tip should be included in the length, but no weight of the line. For example an eleven foot rod would use a Skagit head including tip of 20 to 30 feet with an even greater diameter than the Scandi lines. Skagit lines being the shortest spey lines are the easiest to cast and accommodate the largest fly size and the tightest casting environments since they require the smallest “D” loop to load a rod. They will also cast better in more extreme winds. I use the Skagit line on my home water the Missouri River in Montana when the wind is at its worst. The Skagit line allows the angler to change from a floating tip to a super fast sinking tip, and everything in between, to accommodate a variety of water speeds and depths. It must be stripped-in between casts and is the least sexy of the spey lines to use. The loop is not as pretty as the Traditional or the Scandi line.

You need to decide what line to use based on the rod you use, the conditions you will be fishing in, and your personal desires. I use a Traditional long bellied line on big rivers and in extreme cold weather. I get the most satisfaction and enjoyment from fishing longer bellied Traditional lines because they have a greater wow factor with their big sexy loops. Most of the time I use Scandi lines on my home waters here in Montana because they accommodate the size of rivers and the flies I like to swing. The wind is always a factor here in Montana so I keep a few Skagit lines on hand for those days when it is more of an issue then usual. The best way to choose the right line is to seek recommendations from manufacturers and fly shops then try some demo lines. Head Hunters fly shop in Craig, MT has a good selection of lines they are happy to let you try so you can find the proper line in the best weight for your rod and casting style. I highly recommend them as they truly go out of their way to make sure you are satisfied and achieve your own personal desires from your fishing experience whatever your needs are. While on the Missouri if you see an old bearded guy smoking a cigar with a drink in his hand, say hi. The drink will be bourbon and the guy will be me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Back To The Blog

Like I say after swinging flies for 3 or 4 hours and finally hooking up with a fish “It’s about damn time!”. It has been a while since I wrote in this blog and I don’t have any good excuse except I just didn’t feel like it. Since I last wrote (or posted if you want to be more in tune with modern terminology which I don’t) a lot has gone on around here. I have been at my new job since August of 2011, our rental property was jacked off the foundation and a new basement put under it, my daughter and two grandson’s lived with us from January through August since they are our tenants and needed a place to live while the new foundation was being put in place, I spent a lot of time on the MO fishing of course, numerous boxes of cigars have been consumed along with numerous bottles of bourbon, my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by fishing the Yellowstone river and playing golf in Livingston, MT. which was incredible since we managed to be present for the first stone fly hatch on that river in seven years, and I went on my fourth steelhead fishing trip after not being able to go the last 3 seasons which resulted in catching my second steelhead (a thirty one inch fish).

Fishing on the MO this year was incredible since we finally had a normal water year after four high water years. It was a stellar dry fly year. The drift boat is still going strong, and I haven’t used my Watermaster kick boat since I bought the drift boat. The fish in the MO have regained their moxy with their return to making long powerful runs when hooked as evident by two fish taking me into my backing and several others taking me to my backing. We’ll see what next year brings. I didn’t spend as much time as I was planning fishing the river below Craig but did make several floats below Craig. I met a new fishing partner and we have fished together twice.

This weekend we are going elk hunting together. We’ll see how that goes. He has proven an excellent fishing partner (which means he rows at least half the time and does a good job of it). However I am suspicious of his willingness to share his elk hunting honey hole with me. I think he may just want someone to help get his elk out. That’s a small price to pay though if I also get an elk. At the least maybe he will share some of the meat. I consider hunting season a pain in the ass since it starts in October and occurs during some of the best time to fish the MO.

I am contemplating another steelhead trip maybe in February or March. I ventured to a new river for steelhead this year. Instead of fishing the Clearwater River I drove another eighty miles to the Grande Rhone River in Washington. A couple of guides I talked to at Headhunters fly shop recommended it saying that the catch rate would be better. I only caught the one fish, but it took me three years to catch my first fish on the Clearwater so I can’t complain too much. I met some great guys there and saw a lot of new country.

My cigar is almost done and the coffee (no not bourbon it is morning and I have to go to work soon) is getting cold so I will call this good for my first post in a while. I do plan to start posting again on a regular basis but no guarantees. Here’s to hunting season ending and a return to winter fishing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

First Float of 2012

I’ve been fishing off and on all winter, but last Sunday was my first outing with the drift boat since probably late November or early December. It was a windy day on the MO which is usually the case in March but it was good to get the boat out again. I diverted from my norm and floated from Craig down stream to Stickney Creek. For many years I have fished from Holter dam to Craig with the occasional float below Craig. This year I am planning to get to know the water below Craig better. Things started out a little slow which isn’t surprising this time of year with water temps at 36 degrees, but I was hoping for more of what I experienced the previous weekend which was incredible. Once I got on the right fly (an olive wooly bugger with black hackle and tail) I killed them. Well not really I did release them. The thing that pissed me off was there was a guy 100 yards down stream form me that had a fish on every time I looked up. I changed flies a couple of times trying to get it right but hadn’t found the right one yet. Then he finally got tired of hauling in fish and started walking back toward me along the bank. I had waded in to the bank and was again changing flies and trying to get some feeling in my feet. He stopped and showed the fly he’d been using which was a black bugger. He gave me one and wished me luck. I tied his fly on and picked up a couple of fish but still didn’t do as well as he did. This was probably because I was following him in the run and was fishing the water he had just fished 15 or 20 minutes before. I decided to break for lunch and a cigar then went to a different spot I had wanted to try. I tied on the olive and black bugger and after a few casts was in the game with a fish on every 3 to 5 casts. This last Sunday however it was not quit as good. There was still plenty of action as I was getting lots of strikes but for some reason wasn’t hooking up very often. The wind got worse and the day wore on and I was just about ready to bag it and head for the take out when the wind died down to almost dead calm and I started fishing a run I never tried before and  had several tugs and managed to hook up with a few of them. Finally the sun was getting low and some storm clouds were getting close so I called it a day. It was still calm and quiet. I opened a bottle of Fat Tire and lit a cigar then headed to the take out. It was a perfect ending to a challenging day of being battered by constant wind. After loading the boat I drove to Head Hunters to pay my shuttle bill. When I got there they were just closing up so I said I would catch them next time I came through. They know I can’t stay away long. Then the young daughter of one of the owners (about 8yrs old) looked up at me with eyes the size of silver dollars and excitedly informed me in no uncertain terms that she caught 15 fish that day which her mother quickly confirmed. I told here she would have to teach me how to catch fish some time. It was great to see someone so young get so excited about fishing instead of video games. It did an old fisherman’s heart good and gave me a little hope that maybe in 20 or 30 years there will still be some body around to give a shit about our rivers and the fish in them. If the wind isn’t to bad maybe I will get out and chase some leprechauns on the river then at Joe’s in Craig.

Best wishes & good fishing

Monday, January 23, 2012

A return from a two year hiatus and the birth of a new fly

Yep! You read right. I have returned to fly tying after a two year dry spell the result of a remodeling project several years in the making which has resulted in the invention of a new fly. You may have heard of the streamer called the Butt Monkey and the streamer called Krafty’s Kreelex, well this new fly derives its name from a combination of the names of these two flies and me trying to tie a fly I have never tied using material I have never used after two years of not tying a single fly. I have dubbed it the “Butt Ugly Kreelex”. The recipe for this fly is identical to that of Krafty’s Kreelex added is the feeble effort of a so so so fly tier. I have progressed with remodeling my den far enough to again be able to get to my fly tying bench and was looking forward to spending some quality time at the vise. Last year I had ridiculous success fishing the Krafty’s Kreelex on the MO until my favorite fly shop (Headhunters) sold me the last of their supply of said fly. None of the other fly shops in the immediate vicinity carried said fly so I have had to make due with other less ridiculously effective flies. After finding the recipe for Krafty’s Kreelex on the web and seeing a video demonstrating how simple this pattern is to tie I figured it would be no problem to whip out a dozen or two, the result being three “Butt Ugly Kreelexs”. Another result being the discovery that instructional videos while instructional are deceiving with regards to level of difficulty. My first attempt with to light a thread resulted in breaking the thread several times, cutting all material away with an exacto knife, and driving across town to acquire thread a bit to thick. The second attempt resulted in a really butt ugly kreelex. The third and fourth attempt, with the aid of bourbon and a cigar showed moderate improvement with some concern for the combination of a lit cigar and copious amounts of head cement. Not to mention the intoxicating effect of inhaling head cement and drinking copious amounts of bourbon. I’m am still unsure if the slightly noted improvements in the fly where a result of gaining experience or the use of good bourbon and tobacco. The flies would never catch a fly fisher looking to buy some flies but I suspect they will catch trout. As is the case with most, if not all, of my fly tying efforts these flies will never be the subject of macro photography or other forms of public display but will under go extensive field testing. Final judgment is in the mouths of the fish.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

It’s 0500 on Christmas morning and all is quiet, but I am about 80% deaf so that helps. I do love my silent world. No longer do I have the little ones at home to wake me every hour after the stroke of midnight on Christmas morn. Instead it is the ghosts of Christmas past that have dragged me from my slumber and kept me from sleep. Okay so my bladder had something to do with it to. I got up to take a leak and lay awake remembering when my children were children. Finally I succumbed to the restlessness and quietly as possible made my way past the guest room were, you guessed it, one of the guests is sleeping. Then past the other guest who is sleeping on the couch. I made coffee as quietly as one can with an electric coffee grinder and no ground coffee in the house. Bagel and lox will provide my sustenance this morn on which the Christ child was born. It’s to early for bourbon even for me but the coffee is quite good. I will soon be getting into the humidor to smoke my Christmas cigar which was a gift on my birthday a week ago today. First I will start with my pipe though. It seems that early mornings lend themselves more to the pipe than the stogie. Oh how I do miss the early morning ritual on the river. The pipe is my companion on the drive to the river but not until I have finished fueling the truck. Then once at the river I always begin with the lighting of the stogie. I then move on to rigging rod and line, and finish with prepping the drift boat. Several anglers arrive and launch in the time I spend getting everything ready. To me this is a time of transition that should be savored. Enjoy the cigar, relish memories of past trips, an occasional swallow of now lukewarm coffee, the sounds of nature until the next angler pulls up with boat in tow, and then a brief social moment until the other angler becomes absorbed in his own morning ritual. Some will show good manners and proper upbringing by asking my permission to put in before me since I was there first Others like some of the guides will show good manners in spite of not so good an upbringing ( at no fault of their parents who tried to get them to get real jobs). I recently read an interview done with Gary Lafontaine when he was near the end of his life, and he referred to memories of perfect moments. I guess that is what it is all about for me these days. It isn’t just the catching of fish but creating an opus of perfect moments to sustain me after I have made the last “last cast”. My wish for you my reader is that you will have a truly Merry Christmas and if you are not Christian then please do not be offended that I am, as I am not offended that you are not, and therefore are not bound by the social and spiritual obligations and can go fishing this morning. It pleases me to think that one of the great things about belonging to the fraternity of anglers is that it encompasses us all, and provides a common place for us to share thoughts, ideals, theology, beer, whiskey, lies, and etc.