This weekend I conducted a fly fishing school for Young Life at Big Sky, MT. We had a great time, not just in the learning, but a chance to get to know each other. There is an expression in fly fishing that goes, “There are no strangers in fly fishing, only friends who haven’t met,” and this weekend was a great illustration of fly fishing friends meeting for the first time. We had planned to fish a bit, but a rather strong hail and rainstorm dirtied the waters rather severely. None-the-less, the classes went well, and the weekend ended with friends headed off in a number of directions to use newly developed skills.
Today—9/17/14—found us back on the Madison for a second day. The weather was a bit brighter, but there were still willing fish. Of course there were whitefish, as always. But today, there were more trout for me. In the early part of the day, I took several 10 to 13 inch rainbows. Tom Juergens found several of the same size and a couple up to 17 inches. Alan Johnson, fishing with us today, took a very fine 20 inch rainbow.
Then, later in the day. I caught an 18 inch brown on a size 18 flash-back caddis pupa, and shortly thereafter hooked a larger one on a big dark sculpin imitation. It was 20 inches or longer. I had it close enough a couple of times to see it clearly, in the heavy current and rock field I was in. I had my hands full keeping the fish clear of sheltering lies. It pulled off after a few minutes of twisting and bumping against numerous boulders.
The little Hardy 1003 (10 foot 3-weight) performed admirably, easily casting the nymphs or big sculpin imitation with two split shot. It has plenty of butt strength to handle fish of the 20 inch class, and plenty of reach to hold the line off the current while nymphing. Overall, it was a fine day.
Today, 9/16/2014 was spent fishing the Madison with Tom Juergens. The river is in great shape and the day was perfect: high clouds, the sun occasionally, and light wind. Tom had a banner day on trout with a 20 inch brown and a number of 15-17 inch rainbows, not to count a couple of big browns given an early release. I had a banner day, too, with the whitefish; I stacked ‘em up like cordwood. But I don’t mind so much. They fight very well, especially in the deep runs of the Madison. I managed a couple of rainbow in the 1-14 inch range, and one small brown, too. But, that’s fishing. My excuse: it must have been lingering skunk odor from yesterday’s outing on the Boulder. Be that as it is, tomorrow is another day, and perhaps I will find favor with the trout then.
My Hardy Zenith 905 handle the casting with two shot, two weighted nymphs and an indicator with ease. Likewise, it made short work of the fish, even in the heavy currents.
I came away with the fetid odor of skunk all over me today. I fished from 9:30 to 11:30 in front of camp without a touch. Nothing on the nymph and nothing on the dry. I’ll blame it on the cold night and extra cold water this morning—any excuse is better than none. Still, I did not see a single rise, and no insects on the water. I did see a mating swarm of midges, and that was fun to watch for a while.
I’m off to Bozeman today to fish for a couple of days and then up to Big Sky to do a Friday/Saturday school to benefit the Big Sky Young Life program. From there I head on over the Madison Valley Ranch for a private school for them.
The school ended on Sunday morning at 11 am. After lunch, Marc Williamson and I headed up river with a couple of fellow anglers go fish an area known as the Boulders. Most of the river is pocket water, but this area in classic riffle pool water.
The day was perfect. Beautiful blue sky, a light breeze, and crystal clear water. Caddises, a small mayfly (probably Baetis, but I didn’t catch any to tell for certain), and a small, pale green stonefly (probably Isoperla) were available to the fish; imitations of all three were successful. I caught a nice rainbow and a nice cutthroat on nymphs early in the day, but we used a bright yellow bodied Elk Hair Caddis with some flash in the wing for most of the day.
My 905 Hardy Zenith was the prefect rod for that water. I cast nymphs and shot with ease, and tossed tight loops with the dries, readily putting the imitations back under overhanging branches or curve casting them across stream for a perfect, drag-free float.
As one would expect, in such high mountain streams, most of the fish were small, but there were enough exceptions to keep the fishing interesting. One of the nicer cutthroats that I took was brilliant butter yellow, and the larger rainbows all boasted brilliant colors. Of course we caught brookies, too, large volumes of them. Marc landed a nice one of about 10 inches, but all mine were the classic “6-inch” fish.
All in all it was a delightful day that included a great hike, constant action, and delightful scenery.
The last two days, my friend Marc Williamson, and I have been teaching a fly fishing class at Clydehurst. It’s a wonderful venue for a school of this nature because it is right across the road from the Boulder River, south of Big Timber, MT.
Everyone in the classes has had a great time, and learned a good amount about our matchless sport. Some have been fishing already, and have done quite well. The fish, this high in the river, are not large, although some reports of 16 fish have come in. Marc and I plan to fish tomorrow afternoon and Monday morning before he has to return to Portland, OR, and I head on to Big Sky for another school next weekend.
Reports to follow on our fishing excursions.
It was a summer of travel and visiting our son, Jason, his wife, Kelley, and our granddaughter, Brooke. There was some fishing and a trip to Alaska mixed in, too. This week I am in Montana speaking to at two different Christian groups and at the Madison River Lodge. Today I am at the Clydehurst Christian Camp on the Boulder River, south of Big Timber, MT. It has snowed and the mountains are beautiful, but the air is cold. A bit odd, even for MT, in early September.
I received an email this morning from Chris McCall with a great photo of three cast off stonefly shucks. Lo and behold, the lowest shuck has another insect clinging to the right side of its abdomen. Whether this was before the stonefly left the water of afterward is not known, but it is an interest shot, to say the least. Thanks Chris for sharing this quirk of nature.
Our friend Theo Bakelaar, also know as Mr. Gold Bead, and now also as Mr. Eel Skin, has been at it again. These beauties are his latest sand eels tied with fish skulls. I can just see the stripers and blues zeroing in on these delectable looking, and highly-active-when-wet, tough-as-nails imitations. Can’t wait to see them up close and personal.
Nancy and I have been camping, spending some great time together in the wonderful forest lands of the U.S. In addition to the usual “camp chores,” there’s time for some needed reading, writing, lounging, fishing or course, and generally resetting one’s self. I also took some time to dress flies for a soon-upcoming trip to Alaska. I brought my “Jvise” because it has a wide span on the table clamp. Little did I know that the National Forest Service had conspired to make their tables a full 4 inches thick! Extraordinary.
So I clamped the vise to a short 2 x 4 (the vise has a full 3 inch gap on the clamp), laid the 2 x 4 on the table, and weighted it with a couple of big rocks. It looked a bit wild and crazy, and perhaps it was, but it worked great, and I was able to dress several dozen necessary imitations—some single hooks, some articulated on two hooks. They look great, and I’ll bet the rainbows of the Last Frontier will love the big articulated Black and Tan (sculpin imitation), Cop Car (black and white), black articulated Down and Dirty Leeches, Black and Green Down and Dirty Leeches—both articulated and single hook–and single hook Black and Blue Down and Dirty Leeches.
Who says camping has to be just about “getting away”?
The Great Lakes do contain fishable populations of Atlantic Salmon. They are not widespread, like the Pacific salmon, but they are in the Lakes and can be caught. Last week, my friend, Dr. Garry Sack, travelled to the massive St. Mary’s River that connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron and caught his first Atlantic Salmon on a fly. What a great thrill to hook and land Salmo salar on a river of this magnitude. Both Garry and the fish are smiling at this feat.
Another fishable population exists in Lake Ontario and runs up the Salmon River in New York. This river was named for the Atlantic Salmon, by the way, and not for the Pacific Salmon for which it has become so well known.