Monday, September 24, 2012

The Hatches I Love to Hate, and Why I Can't Get Enough

Tricos, Pseudos, Midges.  What comes to mind when you hear these words.  Do you feel a twinge of anxiety, dread, anticipation, excitement, hatred, frustration, fear, loathing, joy, or adrenaline?  Maybe a bit of all of these?

Big Boil on a Flat, Here We Go...
It happens every year, the little bugs show up, you are on the river and all of a sudden you see that bank feeder, the one you can't float past. The big head, rhythmically feeding.  You can't tell what he's eating but it's tiny.  He's in super skinny water, you get one chance, you need a 40-50ft. downstream reach cast.  You slap that fly down, or you have even a hint of drag it's game over, he ain't gonna eat.  You take your time, set up, make the cast, the drift, everything's online, he eats it, you set the hook...  What happens in the next few moments either makes you a hero or leaves you with your head in your hands with your friends yelling at you from the back of the boat.  Either you stick him or you don't, the tippet holds or it doesn't, the hook holds or with a shake of the head, or a leap it's all over.

One Of These Has To Work.

Welcome to early fall match the hatch dry fly fishing, it's not for everyone.  It can drive you crazy, leave you scratching your head.  Or, give you that fish you remember for a long time, the one you tell your buddies about.  There's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get from landing big fish on tiny dries.  If you landed that same fish on a streamer on 15lb. Maxima you would take a picture and be on your way, a nice fish.  Land that same fish on a Trico spinner and somehow it looks bigger, fights harder, and is a heck of a lot more memorable, and just because you know the whole time that the odds are so stacked against this moment from happening.  There are probably hundreds of things that can go wrong at any moment when you are trying to catch big trout on tiny flies.  

The Payoff
I know folks who love this stuff, can't wait for it, can't get enough of it.  I also have a friend who won't fish Tricos or Pseudos, hates them, and doesn't even own a spool of 6x.  Me, I guess I fall somewhere in between.

Bitterroot Bow
It's kind of like golf.  You can have a terrible round, hit bad shot after bad shot, and then finally have that one great moment.  You hit that drive, the perfect chip shot, or sink that 30ft. putt for birdie.  That's what keeps us coming back.  Same with micro dry fly fishing.  All the refusals, break offs, botched casts, missed hook ups, thrown hooks, and big lost fish.  We endure it all just for that one moment of perfection, that it all works right, and at least for a moment, we feel like a hero.

Hard Earned Mo' Bow.  Worth The Work.
I love it, and I hate it.  I guess that's what keeps me coming back for more.

Thanks to Alec from Fly Fishing Life and Chris from Vermont Trout Bum for a great Sunday this weekend.  We'll get 'em next time guys, ha ha!  Do yourself a favor and check out their blogs.

Straight up Gansta'.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bolero, Brown Trout, and a Couple of Careless Carp.

I love alliteration...

What's your idea of a perfect weekend?  Mine would consist of playing great music, and catching beautiful fish.  Turns out I had just such a weekend.  There's not to many places I can think of that a person can pursue both a career in music and still be minutes away from world class trout (and Carp) fishing.  Welcome to Montana.

This weekend I got the invite to play Maurice Ravel's Bolero with the Helena Symphony, a wonderful piece of music, and during my downtime I squeezed in some fishing, of course!

Helena Symphony, Getting Dialed In.
After a Saturday morning rehearsal I made my way out to Canyon Ferry Reservoir on the Missouri River to stalk some big Carp on the flats and (hopefully) catch a few.  Between the refusals, spooked fish, missed hookup opportunities, and tangled leaders, I managed to still stick a few.  Always a crazy as all get out good time.  Most of the fish hadn't got the memo that I had on the "Killer Fly for Canyon Ferry," but hey that's carp fishing, not for the faint of heart, or the sane......  I love it though, hmmm does that mean something?  My friends keep giving me strange looks when I get all excited, describing the adrenaline pumping action of fishing for carp with a fly rod.

Ol' Rubberlips.

With a look of perpetual bewilderment (The fish that is).
Saturday nights performance went off without a hitch and Sunday I looked forward to a day of fishing on what was one of Gary LaFontaine's favorite small streams.  I had driven by this meandering ribbon of water many times over the years and had never stopped to fish until now, boy have I been missing out.  What a beautiful place, and here fall is already several weeks ahead of the Bitterroot Valley.  Another cool things about Western Montana, if you want to fast forward into fall, just head east!  Anyway, this meant pre-spawn colored up browns ready to get after some streamers, and by streamers I mean a black wooly bugger.  After all, why should life be more complicated than it already is?

En Paradiso

What's Brown and Red and Gold All Over?

Please Sir May I Have Another?


Adios amigos.

Tell everyone you know, fall is here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend on the Water

I was able to float the upper Bitterroot both days this weekend and was lucky to have some great company.  Saturday's mission had more to do with collecting trash than fishing.  Myself and a few of friends from the Fly Fisher's of the Bitterroot picked up some interesting items and a few fish to.  Mostly the day included great conversation, friends, beautiful weather and a great party.  The Bitterroot Water Forum put on a awesome party for river clean-up day.

Without a Doubt the Best Piece of Trash Collected.  Free if you want it.

A Days Worth.

Some of the days best finds included a bicycle, 20ft. of irrigation pipe, car parts, carpet, tires, and of course a La-Z-Boy recliner that housed a wide range of aquatic invertebrates. I would encourage everyone to participate in their local river clean-up days, you'll be surprised how much trash is out there.
Oh yeah we caught some fish to.  Top snouted cutthroat.
Sunday's mission was all about fishing.  I went out with my buddy Joe who had never caught a fish on a fly rod, actually he had only cast a rod once before.  Joe took to the game quickly and was soon getting great drifts and consistent dry eats.

J-Funk's first fish on the fly, and on a dry!
 We got a few great fish during the day including some great sneaky water dry eaters.  Joe hooked a big cutty but we didn't quite get it in the net for a photo. 
Nice skinny water fish.
One of the more hilarious events of my fishing season happened as well on Sunday.  I was changing out bugs on the dry fly rod while Joe was working some nymphs through a good looking run.  After tying on and Ginking up the bugs I went up to check things out and left the flies dragging in the water while some Mergansers looked on.  Joe hooked up and I ran back to the raft to grab the net when I noticed the reel on the said dry rod was screaming and was almost out of backing.  That's when I saw the Merganser, flopping downstream struggling to get airborne while dragging 100 yards of fly line and backing!  Crazy stuff.  Not sure if he ate my flies or what.  Luckily after some tugging and some squawking, the flies came unhooked and we both parted ways, unharmed.  Good thing to.  Not sure I would have won that battle.    
Big slash.
A super weekend.  One that reminds me that it's not about numbers or size but time spent with friends on the water watching the world go by only as fast as the river will take you.  That's one of the reasons we fly fish.  Have fun and enjoy the last week few weeks of summer.

And watch out for those Mergansers.

Mergansers, pre-hookup. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bitterroot River Cleanup this Saturday!

Hey fellow Bitterrooters,  if you aren't already booked this weekend I would encourage you to participate in the annual Bitterroot River Cleanup.  This is a great chance to give something back to the river that has given us so much.

Check out the link to the Bitterroot Water Forum for more details.  If you aren't familiar with the good folks at the Bitterroot Water Forum please check them out.  They are an awesome organization that plans and implements numerous stream restoration projects throughout the drainage including the river cleanup.  This is from their website "BRWF is a community driven non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the traditions of agriculture, community and recreation by protecting, enhancing and restoring the Bitterroot Watershed through on the ground restoration projects and watershed education."

Cleanup is from 10am-4pm.  Afterwards at Angler's Roost there is a Barbeque and party from 4-7pm, with live music!

 Email or call Heather at 375-2272 to get more information or RSVP to volunteer! 

It's waiting for you. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sometimes You Get it Right

Most of the time I don't. 

The majority of my excursions up and down the many braids and side channels of the Bitterroot have me coming back empty handed.  Once in a while you find a few willing fish.  Sometimes maybe even a big one.

If you are really lucky, they eat dry flies.  Sometimes you really get it right.

Skinny water hopper eater.
Today happened to be one of those days.  A little research (don't you love Google Earth?), a few miles in the boat, and another on foot got me into some nice looking water.  Don't get me wrong, I've done this many times before with less than stellar results. 

Today however, the trout wanted the hopper, by happens stance I had one they wanted.  And a few of those fish happened to be respectable.

Bitterroot Brown - A Handful of Gold
Now the Bitterroot is my home river, but in no way do I have it figured out.  It's a fickle mistress as many folks will tell you, more so than many rivers around our area.  Today however the fish were up, and just about every cast in the right spot got bit.  Not sure why, water temps? weather?

Nothin' but Bow'
 Later in the day I floated past another side channel headed off from the main river.  Not much water, but enough?  Enough for a big brown?  Maybe, just maybe.  Chances are it will be a nature walk, but you never know.

Sometimes you get it right.