Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to almost flip your boat

The MO continues to drop and the dry fly fishing continues in get better. As I write this the MO is in the 6000 cfs range. Last weekend was good and I caught several fish and had several tugs that I didn’t hook up with. The majority of the fish were 20+ inch bows. I big event was me learning how to flip a drift boat on a flat river. No I didn’t actually flip the boat but it was close. I left the oars dangling while putting some gear away and the down stream oar hit bottom and wedged itself in the oar lock. It then lifted the boat up and almost over. I had to use my spare oar to pry the oar out of the oar lock and all was good after that. No more letting the oars dangle on their own.

Tomorrow is my last day at my current job and I will start a new job on August 9th. This gives me a little more than a week off. I am taking a Montana fishing road trip. I plan to fish the MO, Madison, and Yellowstone rivers. I may fish a few small streams or other rivers if I get the whim to do. No set schedule or destinations just stress free and enjoying Montana. The only definite is that cigars, bourbon, and fly fishing will be involved.

I have been researching different options for my road trip and have come to realize I could spend a lifetime in Montana and never see all it has to offer. The more I read other fishing blogs the more I appreciate how fortunate I am to live where I do. Montana is a great place to live. I enjoy meeting others who appreciate this great place and am always glad to help others enjoy the great opportunities Montana offers. If you ever find yourself in the Helena/Great Falls area or thinking of coming this way let me know and I would gladly share a boat with you on the MO. I will post a report on how the road trip went when I get back.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The River Drops

In case anyone has noticed I changed my display name to Montana Wooly Bugger. Skeeter was my nick name when I was a kid. I thought it might make a good display name but it just didn’t feel right. With my beard I figure I look a little wooly and I live in Montana. The wooly bugger is my go to fly that usually will work for me when all else has failed. This wasn’t the case yesterday. I fished the MO which recently has dropped to 13,400 cfs. I hoped fishing would be a bit better as a result and it was. I started out with my usual routine of deep water nymphing and then running a streamer over the water before moving on. Early in the day I lost the wooly bugger I was using to a bad snag. A bad snag is one where you can’t get the fly free and resort to breaking it off. You get a lot of snags deep water nymphing or in this case streamer fishing. If you aren’t on the bottom you aren’t going to catch fish. So after losing the bugger I decided to try a flashy coffee colored streamer. It was fish on from there I caught a couple on the nymph rig, but the streamer accounted for the vast majority of the fish caught. Like the nice brown, and a 21 inch rainbow. I had probably 25 to 30 strikes and hooked around 20 fish. I landed somewhere around 10. It seemed like every time I tossed the streamer into fishy looking water I got a tug. I’m not counting on spot that about drove me nuts. I fished a spot and got a tug on every second or third cast but when I tried to set the hook there was nothing there. I did notice a few small (really small for the MO) fish probably 6 to 8 inches rising and figured it was these small fish hitting the streamer which was about half as big as the fish. The fish probably weren’t able get the hook into their mouth. Whatever was going on I go a bunch of tugs but only once was anything there when I set the hook. That was the one time I did feel something solid. I think I just pulled the hook out of the fish’s mouth because I hadn’t hesitated to allow the fish to turn after the strike. A great day of fishing and catching was had. The usually cigar and bourbon on the porch at the end of the day was had of course. Thanks to anyone taking the time to read this and if I can stop fishing long enough I’ll figure out how to put picture in here to make this a little more interesting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do I still have it or just how good am I?

While hanging out on the porch at Headhunters fly shop after a day on the MO one of the owners asked when I was going to start guiding. I asked a few questions about how to get started as a guide and eventually asked how many fish a guide would be expected to catch in current high water conditions. The answer was 10 to 20. On my best day lately I have caught 5. Mark, one of the owners and a guide himself, told me that 10 to 20 is “to hand” and that you could expect to lose just as many. My 5 are hooked, not necessarily to hand. So I told him that right there would rule me out as a guide. Mark assured me he could teach me to catch the 10 to 20 “to hand”. He said it was a totally different program fishing as a guide and that as a guide you would oar the boat back up river to re-fish a run several times making changes to the setup being used until you figured out what would work on that run at that time. He implied this was not what the typical recreational (do it yourself) fisher would do and was why a guide would catch more fish. I’m not a competitive person but have been known to go to some pretty extreme lengths to catch fish. I’m not competitive but I do love a challenge. So this last weekend I decided to see just how many fish I could catch if I really put forth the effort. Saturday was my dad’s 75th birthday so I did fish but didn’t have the time to “really put forth the effort”, that had to wait until Sunday. Saturday was a short version of my typical day on the river fishing the usual spots but spending less time at each. I managed to catch 2 fish “to hand”, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. A great time was spent with dad, friends, and family. Sunday I showed up at the put in ready to give it my best effort. I fished the usual spots and spent more time at each. I also wondered a bit and tried some spots I haven’t fished before, at least not in this high water. I changed my set-up several times and tried several different flies. Including some I had purchased over the years that where highly recommended or just looked good. Some of these flies have been sitting in the dark recesses of my fly box for years waiting for me to deviate from my tried and true and take a chance on the new guy. I even drank a little less to spend more time fishing and to keep my mind sharp. I did smoke the usual number of cigars though. At one point I took a channel that in normal summer flows is to shallow to bother with. I anchored the boat just inside the channel and the water was flowing pretty fast. I thought to my self that the water was probably a little to fast to find a fish in but decided to give it a try. On the second cast I hooked up with a beautiful rainbow. It would have been close to the 20 inch mark. I didn’t bring him “to hand”, but I know how beautifully colored it was and how big it was because the channel was narrow and the fish leaped from the water several times giving me several good looks at it before my knot failed. It was spectacular and a sight that is well burned into my memory. It was a huge disappointment to have lost such a fish on such a day because of a rookie mistake, but I still have the memory and after a day of fishing really memories are all you have any way. Well at least it sounds good. The final body count was 5 hookups with 3 to hand. I fish solo most of the time as was the case on this trip and anchor the boat to fish. I was talking with one of the guides that night on the porch and he said that not having someone oaring the boat is why I didn’t do better. He said you need to get the long drift to get the fly down and keep it down for an extended period of time. It makes sense and I do use more weight than most to get the fly down quickly. At any rate as I said at least it sounds good. No matter how many fish I catch I am always happy when I am on or near trout water. I have had many 30 fish to hand days over the years and the body count is not the issue most days, but it is fun to see just what can be accomplished now and then when you really apply yourself. Maybe I’ve just become an old guy that needs to see if he still has it or not. Either way fishing is always good, it’s the catching that is better or worse and the catching is just the bonus anyway.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

4th of July Weedend

My brother’s birthday is July 2nd which fell on Saturday. My dad has a place on Holter Lake (which is actually a reservoir) above Holter Dam. The Missouri flows out of the dam, currently at a rate of 22,000 cfs rather than the normal 4,000 to 6,000. Dad was grilling steaks at the cabin and dinner was at 5pm. My wife Gigi was away for the weekend to a family gathering. I decided that it would be better to leave Friday after work and head to Craig and drink bourbon with the gang at Headhunters, than to sit at home alone. I planned to fish the river Saturday and get out about 4pm giving me time to be at the cabin in time for dinner. I left the bar in Craig at 11pm or so after the usual cigar, bourbon, and BS. I crashed for the night at the cabin and got up and headed for Craig, with a mild hangover, about 6am hoping I could find breakfast, Gaitoraid, and some form of analgesic for my headache. Nothing was open when I got there. I snoozed in the truck waiting for something to open. Mark, one of the owners and guides at Headhunters fly shop stopped by the shop early to grab a quick coffee before heading back out to shoot some early morning photos. He graciously gave me a complimentary Gaitoraid, and asked if one was enough. Gaitoraid is one of the primary ingredients of my standard hangover cure. Food is the other. Mark also had some aspirin in his rig and gave me some for the headache. By this time a trailer dispensing food had opened across the street so I bid Mark a farewell and went across the street and got a cinnamon roll for breakfast. I had arranged my shuttle the night before, between bourbons, and was set to head for the put in. It was a typical day of chucking heavy artillery in high water which rewarded me with two rainbows. After which I made it to my take out at Craig by 4pm and made it to dinner at the cabin on time. I enjoyed a great meal and some quality time with dad, mom, and bro. My dad and brother would shuttle my vehicle the next two days. Sunday was pretty much the same as Saturday with lots of splash and gigglers on the river. Again two rainbows were caught. The one difference from Saturday is that a family floating the river had taken a channel with a low bridge that could not be floated under at current high water levels and ended up flipping their raft. I managed to rescue their cooler which didn’t even have a beer to reward my effort. Someone told me no one was injured in the mishap. One other event did set the day apart from the previous one. As I floated silently around a corner approaching one of my usual fishing spots I saw a drift boat with no one in it on the bank. I looked to see where its occupants were and no one was in sight. Then a young man stood up out of the tall grass with only a pair of shorts on. He was then followed by a young female (both were in their 20’s) she was similarly attired. She had on a bikini bottom but no top. She casually looked around then spotted me spotting her. We starred at each other much like a deer stares into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle just before being struck. Then a look of realization came across her face and she plummeted back into the tall grass. The angler in me over rode the gentleman in me and I stopped just down stream to fish not wanting to pass up one of my usual fishing spots just to save the vanity of some young damsel. One must have priorities and one of mine is fishing. I fished again the next day and did a bit better in the body count department catching 3 trout, 1 walleye, and a sucker. It was a great time on the river with a lot less pressure than was expected for a holiday weekend. Cocktails on the porch at Headhunters were great with Mark doing his usual great fob of cooking up dogs and burgers on the Weber grill. I am looking forward to another great time on the river this weekend. It will be my dads turn as birthday boy as he will turn 75 this Saturday. The party starts at 2pm so I will pass on the hangover this time and get an early start on the river. Not sure that I will pass on the cocktails though since Gigi will be attending another family function. Here’s hoping everyone has a great time fishing and the river drops soon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fly & Drive 2011

OK so Fly & Drive 2011 is done and over with. It is always good but could have been better. The dam guys let out 2000 more cfs just before we set out on our first day of fishing. This made a mess of the water and really put a damper on the fishing. I did manage to hook into a fish with a streamer but didn’t land it. It was my first 30 inch brown and I didn’t even get a look at him. (That is a joke by the way) a guy on the porch at the fly shop wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was saying and got all excited for a bit. His friend laughing hysterically must have clued him into the fact that I was pulling his chain. So as you have surmised by now fishing was good but catching was slow. Day one was spent working what soft water we could find, but to no avail. Towards the end of the float there is a side channel with a low bridge that in high water, as we are currently experiencing, can not be floated under. While casting in vain trying to get a fish to take my streamer Gigi said “isn’t that the channel with the low bridge?” I said yeah as I looked up and saw a boat floating well into it. We watched as the boat stopped and some poor bastard started rowing his ass off to get back up the channel. They did finally make it. Day two, and still fishing, we had a pretty uneventful day, but the same drift boat with the same 3 guys again provided the day’s main entertainment. I had seen the boat and three guys across the river. They had anchored the boat and where standing on a bank a few feet above the river. (This bank is usually five to eight feet above the river) They were casting except for one guy I saw running along the bank with his dog chasing after him. My first thought was that he was playing with his dog, but then I noticed the drift boat drifting. There wasn’t anyone in the boat. I didn’t think they would be able to retrieve the boat with the water running at 22,000+ cfs. Worst, I was afraid one of them would drown in the attempt. I put my rod down and told Gigi to get ready to haul ass. I was the only other boat in sight and figured I would have to chase the boat down and possibly rescue someone from the high water. Just as I was about to pull up the anchor one of the guys grab the boat while standing in waist deep water. He got back to shore ok with the boat. We wrapped up the second day of fishing early and went to the bar-b-que and festivities in Craig. A great time was had talking with some tourists and product reps, and then we took in the movies on the outdoor deck. We spent the next two days in Ennis, MT on the bank of the raging Madison River. Fishing was not an option so we played golf, and spent too much money in the shops in Ennis. It has been a great experience being married to Gigi for the last 19 years. I am lucky to have such an adventurous and fun sole mate. I can’t wait to see what great adventures await us in the next 19 years.