Sunday, October 28, 2012


What a difference one week makes.

It's really starting to feel more and more like winter here in Western Montana, several mornings we have awoken to snow in the valleys, and some days have been downright cold.

Hoping to recreate last weeks success, Alec and I headed back to where we had great action only a few days ago.  Things were definitely different, the water was much lower and super clear.  The fish must have been cold because even with the heavy cloud cover, they were not in the mood to chase streamers.  We still managed to get a few good grabs, including a brief hook up with a big brown,  but overall there was a lot of casting and walking.  Hey, that's the life of the streamer fisherman sometimes. 

Both of us managed to land one fish though, and when that one fish looks like this, I guess you can't complain too much.
Bitterroot River Rainbow Trout
A Nice Specimen
Bitterroot River Rainbow Trout
Rainbow Release

Bitterroot River Brown Trout
Love Those Colors
Slowly but surely winter is coming, you can really feel it.  Most of our leaves are on the ground at this point and before long most folks will be trading in their fly rods for skis.  It's just about time to get the fly boxes and the tying bench organized, and figure out what bugs need to tied this winter.  When I make my winter "to do" list I find out what patterns were the most and least effective during the year.  How do I do that?  Simple, the patterns that I am out of are the ones that usually work the best, the patterns that I still have a dozen of, well they probably didn't work to well or I just didn't fish them.  Over the years I have definitely simplified my boxes, for instance I only fish about 12 different nymph patterns all year.

Making a List and Checking it Twice.

Today, the rain and snow got me in the mood for taking pictures, rather than throwing streamers or starring at the "bobber."  It was nice to take a morning walk up one of the Bitterroot canyons.  I almost forgot how much I like it up here, especially this time of year.  As a hardcore angler I don't get out and just enjoy what Montana has to offer without my fly rod as much as I should.  Another reason why all fishermen need winter. Come February however, I will be more than ready for it to end, but for the next couple months I will enjoy it.  Enjoy the shift.

Kootenai Creek

Kootenai Creek
Kootenai Creek
Kootenai Creek
Kootenai Creek

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Montana Morning

Took this shot on my way to work this morning. I know, my morning commute is just horrible right?  It's days like this that I am really thankful that I live in Montana.

Gold Leaves, Blue Sky, White Mountains

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meat Eaters

This weekend Alec from Fly Fishing Life and I headed out for a day of streamer chucking on the river.  We were hoping to find a few carnivorous browns and boy we did!  After a slow start to the day, the kill switch was turned on and the big boys started to hunt.  One of the better afternoons of streamer fishing I've had in a while.    

Oh yeah, and Alec got this dragon, one of the biggest browns I've seen all year.  Not a bad day I'd say.

kype jawed brown trout
Yeah Buddy!

brown trout close up
 Did I mention that the morning was slow?  For several hours we failed to touch more than a couple fish, we were feeling a little low.  The sun was high in the sky, it certainly didn't feel like a streamer sort of day. Then like a switch was flipped, the browns all decided to start crushing streamers.  In what we likely will forever call "the magic run," on my second cast a nice hen pounded my J.J. Special.  Five casts latter we had landed five solid fish.  After that it was game on for the rest of the afternoon.  In every likely looking spot we either stuck a fish, had a grab, or at the least got a follow.

Getting in on some of the action.
  There was nothing subtle about the eats either.  I experienced some of the most violent takes I've had streamer fishing.  The best grab, interestingly enough, came from a 14 inch cutthroat, he almost jolted the rod right out of my hand.  Fun stuff.

The Colors of Fall
I love the colors of the fall browns, the reds, golds, blacks, blues, and everything in between.  It looks like they just jumped straight out of an old technicolor movie.  These aren't your chromed spring fish, there are few things prettier in fly fishing than a fall brown.

Bitterroot Mountains
What a Day
The Zen Master at Work
Montana Brown Trout
One More Grip and Grin for Good Measure
Brown Trout Release
See You Latter

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Montana Wild Goes Yukon Fishing - Video Roundup

Well I tried...

A couple sweet Montana fly fishing videos from the Yeti and the boys over at Montana Wild.  Great work guys!

What Can Browns Do For You? from Yukon Goes Fishing on Vimeo.

WILD & CLEAR from Montana Wild on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Photos

It's the best time of the year in Montana.

Even though the Baetis didn't materialize with the cloud cover this weekend, all was not lost.  Stripped streamers and managed to stick a few on dries anyway.  You can't beat a day on the river in October.  The cottonwoods are putting on a show, there are plenty of osprey and eagles to look at, and even a bull moose a few yards from the takeout.   

Hope you are enjoying it.

This is what we came for
Golden leaves on the lower Root'
Hey There
Kyle throws it right.
Moose on the loose
Fall, get it while it lasts

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fishing Grass and Saying Goodbye - Photo Essay

Yesterday was a special day.

I very unceremoniously loaded up my old beat up bamboo rod, a few dry flies and headed up to one of my favorite places on the planet.  This small stream is known for it's abundance of 12 inch cutthroats, but in this particular stretch, tucked back from the road and requiring a hike that few folks undertake, it's not uncommon to tie into several 16-18 inch native cutts on any given afternoon.

The fishing aside, there's something special about this place that I love, there's a bit of magic here.  I try to fish this stretch several times a season but I never seem to get up here as much as I would like.  Fall hit hard this week with our first real cool days of the year and I knew that I had to get in one more dry fly day up here, to properly say goodbye for the winter.

There's no better way to do so than with a bamboo rod, throwing big October Caddis dries for lazily rising cutthroats.  I love fishing grass but don't do it as much as I should.  Bamboo forces you to slow down, to wait for the rod to load properly, it makes you cast the right way.  Bamboo doesn't forgive sloppiness the way graphite does, that's why I think some folks don't like fishing grass, is forces you to be patient.  I love watching those loops slowly unroll though, and feeling the rod flex all the way down to your hand when you hook a good fish.  To me a grass rod somehow just feels more alive, has more personality than a graphite rod, sure they all have their quirks (just like us!), but that's what makes each one unique.

As for this stream and it's cutthroats, I'll be seeing you next summer.

“They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.” - John Gierach

The bums bamboo, not the best, but it throws a good loop.
Jumped this 4 point bull, very cool.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One Good Fish

Fall fishing.

This time of year I get nostalgic.  I find myself fishing slower, taking the time to appreciate the view, the changing colors, dry fly fishing, and the last few times I can actually comfortably wet wade.  I love fall but it is always a bit bittersweet.

As the dry fly season begins to wind down on our freestone streams, one by one, starting with the mountain creeks, and working it's way downhill to the big rivers, my early season thirst for a bunch of fish gives way to the urge just for one good one.  One big head, coming up to eat a dry fly.  One fish to remind me in January that yes, trout actually do eat dry flies. 

Little Fly, Big Bow.

On the small streams I find myself passing up the riffles and runs that I know will give up a bunch of average fish, and instead head to the pool where I know at least one good one lives.  On the rivers I walk the banks looking for that one head, that big riser.  Something about fall makes me this way, every year I find myself slowing down, taking the time to carefully cast tiny spinners to big sipping trout. 

Forget the bobber strike indicator.  There will be plenty of time for that once the snow flies.  For now give me my 4 weight, some dry flies, and just a whole bunch one more good fish. 

Tools of the Trade
No rain in Western Montana for over 40 days, yikes!  C'mon rain, my BWO's are ready and waiting!

My Tuesday Just Got a Little Better


Monday, October 1, 2012

For A Good Cause

The Bum recently volunteered at the Bitterroot Trout Unlimited Chapter's annual banquet in Hamilton.  The Banquet is the big yearly fundraiser for our local TU and raises thousands of dollars annually which funds all sorts of programs and restoration efforts throughout the watershed.

Good food and friends, made for a great evening.

Montana Trout Unlimited, a great organization.
Afterward I got to thinking about how much we fly fishermen and outdoorsmen in general here in Montana take for granted.  Here's a short list I compiled, feel free to ad your own in the comments section.

               1.  Amazing stream access laws that are to my knowledge the best in the ENTIRE COUNTRY, where we are free to float and wade nearly every flowing water, up to and including the high water mark.  Incredible!   
               2.  Some of the best trout streams on planet earth.
               3.  The longest un-dammed river in the U.S.  (Yellowstone River, about 700 miles)
               4.  The largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states.
               5.  The first state in the union to stop stocking it's rivers with hatchery trout.  Every trout stream in Montana contains only wild fish.
               6.  Lots of open space, intact ecosystems and clean water.
               7.  Dozens of conservation organizations, and the hundreds of people behind them who fight to protect water, fish, and wildlife everyday.

Royal Humpies tied by a future fly fishing guru.  This was made possible by the many hours volunteered by members of the Bitterroot TU Chapter to teach kids how to tie flies.

It's easy to lose sight of the battles that have been fought, and continue to be fought in order to protect the fish and rivers we love.  It's easy to take things for granted.  It takes something such as the Pebble Mine debacle or the current Utah stream access fight to remind me that our valuable resources will never be completely safe.  Montanans, remember when they wanted a cyanide heap-leach gold mine to be located at the headwaters of the Blackfoot not to many years ago?  Remember the so called "ditch bill" last legislative session?  Remember, the reason we have such great hunting and fishing is because many good people are out there fighting for what we hold dear, are you?

More Valuable than Gold.
I'll get off my soapbox now.  I just want to encourage everyone, if you are not already involved with your regional and local conservation organizations.  Consider giving up a few weekends a year to re-vegetate a local stream, or fence off a sensitive riparian area.  Donate a few bucks if you can, stay informed, vote.

"Water has no taste, no color, no odor; it cannot be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself. It fills us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses."
                                       - ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY (1900-1944), Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939
Below are some links to local (Western Montana), conservation organization websites, as well as a few larger ones (such as TU, and Save Bristol Bay).   I am undoubtedly forgetting many great organizations.  The thing is to just get involved!
- Clarkfork Coalition
- Five Valleys Land Trust
- Greater Yellowstone Coalition
- Montana Audubon
- Montana Trout Unlimited
- Northern Plains Resource Council
- Trout Unlimited
- Fly Fishers of the Bitterroot
- Bitterroot Water Forum
- Save Bristol Bay