There are a several reasons that I have been a bit “thin” in my blog posts of late. (1) Jason and I have put book 5 in the Fly Fishing series to bed. It is at the presses and will be released on November 21. Watch for a pre-release sales announcement next week. (2) I have been writing and producing a video on fly casting. Every time I give a demo at a sports show or club, or do a fly fishing school or other event, people ask if I have a video of the casting, and I always have to say, “not yet.” Well, “yet” is here. At least the shooting. It will be completed today. Then comes the editing, and that will take a month or so. Announcements of the completion date to follow sometime. (3) I have been getting ready for a two day school at Rockwell Springs in Ohio and for the International Fly Tying Symposium—held November 22, 23, 2014 in the Garden State Convention Center in Somerset, NJ. If you’re within driving distance, come and say “Hi.”
The last couple of days I’ve been singing a slightly modified version of Pete Seger’s folk song, Where Have all the Flowers Gone. Mine is going like this: “Where have all the salmon gone, long time passing, where have all the salmon gone, long time ago. Where have all the salmon gone, gone in high water, every one, when will we every learn, when will we ever learn.”
There were kings shore to shore in the Lake Michigan tribs, but then we had a heavy rain (3 inches in 24 hours) and the river went from just under 100 cfs to almost 700 cfs in a day. It simply blew the fish out. Of course there were any number of us eagerly awaiting the falling water so that we could get onto the river because, most certainly, the mid season spate would bring in a fresh round of kings, cohos, and big browns. And boy, were we ready.
Hah! Did we get fooled. Not only did we not get a fresh run of fish, but the water, even as it fell under 200 cfs, has remained tannic colored. There’s simply no way to see fish any deeper than about 18 inches. So, we slog on, catching the odd king—and they must be odd to be in here when the others are all gone. Of course, hope springs eternal, and even with the rain the we are getting tonight, I’m counting on fresh fish tomorrow. We shall see!
In September, I conducted a fly fishing school for Young Life of Big Sky, MT. One of my hosts and fishing companions was Tom Juergens, a recently retired equine vet from the Twin Cities. I mentioned the salmon fishing in the Lake Michigan tributaries and told him he should come and fish with me sometime. So he did. The river was packed with salmon when we arranged the trip, but then came the deluge as noted above. Not only were the fish very few and very far between, but the water was tannic colored. Ugly, and hard to see the fish. Tom did manage a couple of kings, and I caught a few and did a lot of whining. Sorry, Tom. Still, we enjoyed the days together, and further cemented our friendship.
My friend, Theo Bakelaar, and I get a chance to fish for stripers and blues with our mutual friend Chuck Furimsky just prior to his International Fly Fishing Symposium in November (go here). The last time we fished, the weather was cold and windy, and fishing out on the ocean was not possible. We focused on the backbay, and found stripers under the bridge. They were willing—much more willing for Theo’s Eel Skin Rattle Clouser than for my regular Clouser. Three times more willing actually. He recently sent me these great photos for tying the fly—I’ll have them with me next month.
My friend, Scott Carver, President of PlanSource, invited me to conduct a casting clinic for some of his clients at his lodge, the Madison Valley Ranch, located on the east side of the Madison River, just downstream from Jeffery, MT. The clinic prepared his guests for a great day’s fishing on the Madison. And the lodge offered them unparalleled hospitality and gourmet food. Trust me, it was gourmet. The evening menu read like those in other four star restaurants. Yes, it was four star food.
The Madison was a bit reluctant to give up its fish, but the weather was excellent, and the guides were the best in the area. Everyone caught at least some fish, basked in the glory of a sunny day on one of the nations’ finest and very scenic trout streams, and reveled in the accommodations and the food.
The pond at the lodge held big Kamloops rainbows, and although they were not pushovers, they took a snail fly or damsel nymph very well. Of course they fought hard because they were big and they were Kamloops. I used my 1003 (10 foot, 3-weight) Hardy Zenith on them. It has plenty of butt strength to fight big fish and the thin line kept line drag to a minimum as the fish cut through submerged weeds. Great fun.
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.