Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Slowing Down

Its getting progressively colder here in the Missoula area and the fishing is also. I've been out a few times this week and have been skunked twice. The fish are definitely becoming less active and nymphing is now basically the only productive technique. I'll probably continue fishing on warmer days but for the most part I'll be focusing on finishing up my first semester of college. I'm very excited to head back to NY and see my family and friends. The weather there is still very warm and the ice reports from my fishing buddy Chris Stiles are not very good. There is literally no ice on the lakes or ponds right now and I'm hoping by the time that I get home there is at least fishable ice somewhere nearby.

I'd also like to get over to Vermont to see my sister Alison and my brother-in-law Jamie as well as my cousins. I might even get to fish a little with Chris, who lives in Northern Vermont.

My sister Kate and her boyfriend Tom, who I had the pleasure to fish with in Idaho a few months ago (see post: Great Weekend In Idaho, September), will also be visiting NY to see the family. I hope I'll be able to take Tom out on the ice and put him on some big upstate NY northern pike.

So many people to see in one month. I feel like I'll be pretty busy seeing everyone. Still, my goal is to have a relaxing break seeing family, friends and sitting on a bunch of frozen ponds, freezing my ass off. Some fish would also be nice.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wish I Was a Fisherman

Clark Fork Afternoon

Just hit the Clark Fork near campus for a few hours in between classes. I nymphed some nice looking water. Nada! At least its warm out (about 44 right now). I'll take all these warm days that I can get. Tomorrow's looking warm also. Later in the week however, its a different story. Temps on Thursday and Friday will be in the low 20's for a high. Not really looking forward to getting out on the water when its that cold.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Clark Fork in Good Condition

I fished the Clark fork today with Chris and had a pretty decent couple hours of fishing. We fished a section where I've gotten into a couple of fish lately. The section has some nice slow moving runs that are great for nymphing. I tied up some of my very own san juan worm patterns for today, made out of a pretty natural looking material. The fish found it pretty natural looking also.

We got to the access around noon. I left my boots in Chris's car overnight and had to smash the ice out of them. Before I could even get in the water Chris was hooked up with a fish, but the hook pulled out. I headed down to the run where I missed a big brown on Thanksgiving day. On the way I missed a fish and also broke off both flies. I wasn't having the best day so far. I fished through the nice run with no hits. I crossed the river and began to walk down the right bank fishing small pockets along the way. Then I came across a nice deep run that looked perfect for nymphing. I drifted my nymphs right along the edge of the sandy/gravel drop off and got nailed on the first cast. It was a nice colored up cuttbow of about 14 inches.

The fish had taken my san juan worm, and I was happy that I caught something on my own pattern. I went right back to the same spot. I set the hook on a fish but lost him after about a 5 second fight. I took a few steps downstream and hooked up again, this time with a rainbow that was about 10 inches. By this time the materials of the pattern that I tied were being destroyed. The chenille was falling apart but I was still getting strikes. I tied on a new one and headed downstream. I found another nice riffle run and fished through it. I ended up snapping my last san juan worm off towards the tail end of the run. My feet were pretty numb and my hands were cold also, even though I had gloves on. I decided to head back upstream towards the car. While I was waiting for Chris I managed one whitefish in the pool near the access.

Overall it was a good day and I've really come to like that section. The only thing that was bad was my feet. I'm bringing out the wool socks now (which I should have done back in October). I don't think I actually had feeling in my toes until a few hours after we got back to campus. Winter is no doubt here, even though there is a lack of snow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Successful Thanksgiving

My cousin Willie came up from Colorado to join me for thanksgiving break. On Wednesday Chris and I showed him our basic day to day lives. We headed up to Rock Creek for a few hours to try and hook into some fish. It was unusually warm on Wednesday (almost 50 degrees), and I was excited to see if I could hook into anything. We drove about 15 miles upstream until we hit a section of the road that was pure ice. We were sliding a bunch and once we found a forest service guy sanding the road and he explained to us that a car basically slid off the road and flipped over the other day, we decided to turn back. We found a nice section downstream and gave it a go. I decided to nymph for the day. A lightning bud and san juan worm were my flies of choice. It was the first time I've used a san juan worm out west and it really worked well. I had a couple of strikes in the first run we went to. Although it was warm, the edges of the creek were pretty iced up. It was easy fishing right off the ice and I didn't have to get in the water at all.

After fishing the section for a while we headed back to the car and went downstream further. Garret showed up to join us. We found an access out of the way from the main road and began fishing it. I hooked into 2 fish in a small eddy and lost them. There was a nice pool downstream so I told Willie to come cross the river. I had given him some really crappy wading boots (the only ones available) and he was slipping pretty often. I tried to cross with him. The problem was that it was some fast moving water. I made the mistake of trying to keep Will upstream of me. It wasn't the best idea I've ever had. It only took a few steps before he slipped and took me out. We were in the water and soaked to the bone. The water was pretty damn cold and we scrambled to the bank to get out. What followed after was about 2 minutes of us cracking up laughing. I've never felt like that much of a moron and I'm sure Willie hadn't either. We ran to the car only to find that it was locked. We walked downstream to get the keys from Chris. I was very glad that it was really warm out and I wasn't cold at all. We found Chris and Garret downstream and we talked with them for a while. Chris had a big brown follow his streamer in a few times but couldn't entice the fish to take. We witnessed Garret land a decent rainbow nymphing and then ran back to the car. Willie hadn't gotten too much water in his waders, but I was soaked. I had about a foot of water in each leg of my waders and I was getting pretty cold just standing there. We waited in the car for Chris and then headed back to campus. Even though we had fallen in the river, I still had a great day with my cousin. Me falling into a Montana river in winter had to happen some day and I'm glad I got to share the wonderful experience with my cousin.

Thanksgiving day turned out to be a warm one also. Not as warm as Wednesday, but still in the 40's. Chris and I agreed to go fish a run where I had a few strikes on streamers last month. The run was a perfect streamer and nymphing run. I stuck with the nymphs. We got there and began fishing a few small riffle runs with no strikes. I waded right down to the run and began nymphing it. About half way down the run I set the hook on a nice fish. I saw a big colored up brown come up to the surface. The fishes head broke the surface and then the worst happened.....the fish broke off. My indicator was floating downstream. The leader had snapped at the indicator. I was pissed. I chased my indicator down and re-rigged.

After Chris missed a take on a streamer I fished the run again with no strikes. I headed back upstream and fished the deep hole near the bridge. Surprisingly I hooked up with a nice little cutthroat who took the san juan worm. It felt really good to land a fish for the first time in almost 2 weeks.

I nymphed the pool for a while longer and then hooked up with something I never would of expected. A dead fish......

This was about a 24 inch river sucker. One of the weirdest catches I've had out west so far. Easily the most disgusting also.

After that we called it a day and headed for home. We ate our thanksgiving dinner at the Montana Club, which was very good. Overall it was a great thanksgiving. Sunday and Monday look to be pretty good with temps in the 40's. Chris and I should get into some fish. As far as streamer fishing goes, I'd say its almost over. From here on out I'm nymphing until I go home for Christmas break.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Report from Dad

For the past 3 days my dad has been sending me pictures of the many fish he's been catching. Right now hes in Cody Wyoming for work. From what I can see, the only work that hes been up to is fighting fiesty cutts, bows and browns. For the past couple of days he's been fishing the Shoshone River and doing very well, averaging about 20 fish a day. Today though was a day I think he'll always remember. He gave me a call this afternoon telling me he just had one of the best days of fishing he's ever had. He landed over 40 fish, all by swinging a purple prince nymph. He said the fish were just going nuts. It looks like my old man still has the skills. The pictures explain.......

Fishing here in the Missoula area has slowed down. Its been very cold and we keep getting dustings of snow. This past Saturday the temperature didn't get over 21 degrees. The banks of the Clark Fork are iced up. However, for the next couple of days we are going to see some warmer temps (even into the 40's). My cousin Willie will be joining me here in Missoula for Thanksgiving. Hopefully we can get out and land some fish. I haven't been out on the water for an entire week. This is the most consecutive days I've gone without fishing since I've been out here, which means I really need to get out! Chris is also here for Thanksgiving break so between the 3 of us, we should be able to land a fish or two, even if the fishing is slow. Stay tuned for a report from sometime this week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good News!

Recieved an email today with good news from my fishing buddy Chris Stiles in NY.. I almost feel like me calling Andrew Cuomo actually did something....but probably not. Nevertheless, looks like the hard work of thousands has for now saved the Delaware River Basin from Fracking....

The DRBC cancelled its meeting on November 21 where it was going to vote on opening up the Delaware River Basin to gas drilling. While all the facts are not yet in, it looks as if they cancelled because they just didn’t have the votes to approve. The DRBC is made up of representatives of 4 states – NY, NJ, PA and DE, plus a federal representative. They need 3 out of 5 votes to pass any measure. Prior to the meeting we knew that NY was planning to vote NO, and the day before the meeting Governor Markell of DE said that he was planning to vote against it.
Clearly the action that thousands of you took impacted this decision. We’ve won this battle, but we still need to win the war. There will be a rally and activist training workshops this Sunday and Monday in Trenton. Visit the Delaware Riverkeeper Network site for more information.

We have a great start.  According to the Wall Street Journal, at the Binghamton DSGEIS hearing yesterday our nearly 1000 anti-gas activists outnumbered the pro gassers by 4 to 1. At the Dansville hearing anti-gas activists outnumbered the gassers by the same margin. It’s important that we carry this momentum into the 2 last hearings on the permit conditions that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is proposing to govern fracking in all of New York State.

Please come to Loch Sheldrake, NY on November 29 and New York City on November 30.  Click here for the dates and times of the dSGEIS hearings.
IMPORTANT: If you plan to attend and/or testify click here for a summary of the major flaws in the dSGEIS to help you prepare.

If there is any way that you can get to either or both of these, please join us. We’ve seen what our combined actions can accomplish. Please help us to move ahead.
To let Governor Cuomo know that we don’t want fracking to ruin our health and our environment, please join our “DON’T FRACK FRIDAYS” call campaign.  Please call the Governor’s office, (518) 474-8390,  EVERY Friday to let him know that you don’t want fracking in New York State.
Forward this message to your friends, family and neighbors and ask them to forward it on.  Get educated, especially about the health issues and threats.
The Catskill Mountainkeeper website is here as a resource for you, please use it.
We are up against the richest and most influential industry in the world. Catskill Mountainkeeper and our allies have surprised many critics by being so effective to date. But it continues to be a long, hard fight and we need your financial assistance to continue. Please give as generously as you can.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Frack Attack! Save the Delaware

Hydro-Fracking is an industrial process where millions of gallons of highly pressurized fluid is injected into the earth to fracture rock formations. This process is used for the recovery of fossil fuels. The problem with hydrofracking is that the water used is laced with  many toxic chemicals that will contaminate waterways, affecting more than just fish. A plan to allow 20,000 gas wells in the Delaware River Basin will be voted on, on November 21st.

The Delaware runs through New York and is the border line between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It is known as one of the best trout fisheries in the state of New York as well as the drinking supply for over 15 million people. If the plan for the gas wells is allowed, the Delaware river and surrounding watersheds may be contaminated with hundreds of toxic chemicals. Hydrofracking also causes air pollution and land scarring. It is a full scale industrialization that will ruin the fishery and possibly put people in harms way. Check out this video on the fly fishing blog Moldy Chum about the proposed hydrofracking on the Delaware.......

Being a New York resident my entire life, after watching this video I decided to help take a stand against this potential environmental disaster. I called New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo and urged him to vote against the proposed fracking, explaining that it will not only ruin much of the aquatic ecosystem, but possibly the drinking water supply for millions of people. Being a University student, hopefully he takes my words into consideration. I must say, it really does feel good to take a stand and I urge you to take one too (if this proposition pisses you off like it did to me). The more people taking a stand, the better. For more information go to

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Good Shots

This year of fly fishing for me has not only been about catching fish in new places, discovering brand new streams that are rarely fished, and fishing as much as I possibly can. This year I've also focused on capturing those moments in fly fishing that make people so addicted to the sport. Here is a few shots from throughout the year that show the art, the beauty and the soul of fly fishing......

Early Morning on the Madison River

Chris Stiles casting on a remote Adirondack stream

A wild Adirondack Landlocked Salmon

Chris Stiles fighting a Battenkill River Brown

Cody M. hooked up with a Missouri River Bow

The Release

Cody M. on the Bitterroot River

Father and Son

A Miserable day on the Clark Fork

Cody, Garret and I met in the parking lot of the dorms this morning at 8:30. We began to discuss where we wanted to fish as we loaded our boats into the trucks, wondering if crawling out of bed this morning was actually worth it. It was actually quite warm and the snow dustings on Mount Sentinel had almost disappeared.

It wasn't until we stopped at a gas station that we actually decided on what section of the Clark Fork we were going to float; the exact same section as yesterday. It was a risky section. We had only landed a couple fish and overall there wasn't too much action. It was mostly sunny yesterday but today the weather was a lot different. As we headed west on I-90 we could see snow clouds developing above the hills. It was still above freezing and a very cloudy overcast day. Baetis is what drove us to do the same section and we were positive we would see more fish rising than yesterday. We arrived at the access and began putting our pontoon boats together.

The ice on the slough that we got stuck on yesterday had completely melted which saved us the extra walk transporting the boats to the main channel.

When we hit the main channel I fished the same riffle/run where I caught my cuttbow yesterday with no results. I stuck with the same colored streamer and I was very surprised that I had no takes. The water looked perfect. After fishing the run I played catch up and finally reached Cody and Garret who had not had any strikes either. About 45 minutes into fishing the snow began to fall and the cold began to come. It wasn't bad at first and we continued working the water hard with our streamers. There were still no signs of rising fish.

Cody working a nice riffle

                                                             Garret working below

We continued down the river for about another mile. Still no strikes. These fish were not being aggressive and the cold was getting progressively worse as to say, "you should of stayed home." We stopped for a short shore lunch and discussed how much the fishing sucked so far. Our negative attitudes and dampened spirits probably didn't help anything but I guess you've got to have a negative attitude sometimes or else fly fishing wouldn't be like life.

After lunch I decided that due to the fact that I couldn't feel my fingers (even with my warmest gloves on), I would probably not fish unless I saw some very good looking water. For now I would just sit back, relax and enjoy the float. After another couple of minutes I came to the realization that I just wanted to get the hell off the river. I was starting to lose feeling in my toes also. However a set of small rapids took my mind off the pain for a while. It was definitely my favorite part of the day!

The rest of the float was speedy quick and we basically rowed the whole time. I did fish a small riffle run for about 5 minutes. Garret and Cody spotted a small pod of rising fish but couldn't entice them to take a BWO pattern. When we reached our takeout at an incoming creek we spotted a few fish from the bridge and casted to them. I had a decent sized brown chase my streamer and then turn away. We also saw 2 small pike, the first ones I've seen in Montana.

Overall it was a pretty Miserable day. None of us even had a take and we easily spent more time rowing to get off the river than actually fishing. Even though the fishing sucked, something about freezing your ass off for a few hours without even a hit makes you realize that even the worst days, are good days.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Clark Fork Float

Cody, Garret and I headed to the Clark Fork today to do a float. We stopped in at the Kingfisher to ask advice on a good float. We decided to head to Frenchtown(below Missoula) and do a 9 mile float. We got in the water by noon. After rowing down a slough only to find it was jammed with ice we found another slough that led right to the river. We finally hit the main river and I immediately started working some nice looking water below a riffle. I started with a white and tan streamer and stuck to it. I had fished most of the riffle/run when I saw a fish trailing my fly pretty quickly. The fish turned away from the fly right in front of me so I let my fly drop. My line tightened up immediately and I set the hook. It was a nice chunky cuttbow of about 13 inches.

Not a bad way to start the day. By this time Cody and Garret were way downstream so I rowed hard to catch up. Cody had lost a very big fish that had made a big run. Garret had also missed a fish. The rest of the day was alright. Cody landed 2 fish, one of them being a bow of about 16 inches. It was a nice day on the river and I liked this section of the Clark Fork because there weren't many houses and we had all the water to ourselves.  We saw a few deer, and eagle and beaver along the way also. Some of the water was very nice with lots of deep runs and riffles, and some was frog water. The river here is much bigger than above Missoula so it is a little harder to hit all of the hot spots.. We didn't see too many more fish for the duration of the float.

Tomorrow we'll probably be floating the Clark Fork again and possibly even the same section. Stay tuned for the report.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning to Spey Cast

Yesterday afternoon I asked Cody to show me a little about spey casting. Spey casting is a technique used for casting flies long distances with a long, 2 handed rod. Steelhead season is prime right now and I'll probably be heading to the Salmon River, ID pretty soon to fish with my sister and Tom. Cody has some good experience with steelhead fishing and knows what hes doing when it comes to spey casting. Garret and Cody met me on the Clark fork behind campus to practice. What both Garret and I learned was that spey casting is not difficult whatsoever.

Cody showed us how to do the most simple spey cast, the Snap T. When your line is directly downstream you begin the cast by whipping your fly rod in a C formation upstream and then returning your rod to the same position. This causes the line to loop and fall parallel to the current. Then you swing your rod from a downstream point to an upwards position, basically ripping that line that is in front of you off the water. Your rod is then pointed upwards behind you and then you basically fire the rod forward while using your bottom hand to pull the butt end of the rod towards your body creating a sling shot of line that literally "goes the distance", that you want it to.The most valuable thing I learned was that its not the power that shoots the line so far. Its the loading of the loop of line and releasing it at the right moment. Sounds complicated but it is quite simple once you actually learn it. Garret and I picked up the technique pretty quickly and went from having very sloppy casts to being able to make a smooth cast almost every time. It felt great to learn a new technique. Thanks Cody.

As we were getting ready to leave an excited dog ran over to us and started jumping around playfully. I had put my rod down on the rocks to help Cody switch a line on his rod......and of course the worst happened. The dog jumped right on my rod and the tip snapped. I found the kid who was walking the dog and got his dads phone number. Hopefully the owner of the dog will compensate a little for the loss so that I can get the rod replaced and hopefully soon before I head to Idaho. Cody and I were planning on going to the Clearwater River this weekend but last night I got the stomach flu. Just my luck right?

I'm feeling pretty good now and will fish around here if I feel good this weekend. Next weekend there's a good chance I'll be putting my new spey casting technique to the test for some Salmon River Steel.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What can go wrong, will go wrong.

Chris and I were stoked to do a float on the Bitterroot this weekend. Everything was set up perfect. The weather was looking perfect, the fish (last time we fished) were very active and we even set up our dry fly rods in hopes of finding some rising fish. But even when everything is set up perfectly and you're expecting to have a great day on the water, the complete opposite can happen. As much as I'd love to give a full report of todays trip, I'm going to do mostly a summary of today, due to the fact that today just plain sucked.

We launched around 11:45 am, only a little off schedule. Our float would be about 6 miles and I expected we'd be done around 4 pm. We began fishing the first couple runs with no fish. I broke off one of my best streamers a few minutes later and had a tangled mess of sinking line. Chris had also lost a streamer. The only downside of streamer fishing the Bitterroot is that you'll probably lose a few flies. A while later Chris came downstream to where I was fishing a bend and told me that he had snapped his TFO 6wt. Long story. We moved on to fish the next run......

I had 2 fish in the run trail my fly, only to turn back into the current only feet away from me. It was a tease and I was really getting frustrated. While rowing in the next run my seat back for my pontoon boat that Chris had recently repaired for me, snapped. Its now officially/forever broken. In the next run I heard Chris yell something and I looked downstream to see what was up. All I could see was Chris frantically rowing to shore, against the current. He was going nuts for some reason and I just couldn't understand what the problem was. "What the hell is the problem!?" I yelled to him. The words "your fly rod!" came out of his mouth as he continued to row like a mad man. He had gotten snagged on a log and the rod was ripped right out of his hands. I thought for sure the rod was a goner because we were on a deep fast flowing bend. After looking for a while Chris found the rod still snagged on the log. I guess things didn't go completely wrong. A lost rod and broken rod would be the worst day ever. After breaking another fly off and getting another birds nest in my sinking line, I called it quits. I devoted the rest of the float to watching Chris fish and enjoying the views of the Selway-Bitterroot Mountains.

Now that I think about it, it wasn't a terrible day on the water, even though almost everything went wrong. However, that marks the last float trip I'll do this year. Floating is a great way to cover lots of water but at this time of year I think it'll be much more effective to work the water thoroughly rather than skip over good looking water.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bitterroot 11/3

Had a pretty good afternoon today on the Bitterroot with Chris. We fished an access that we had never been to before. We found a nice run as soon as we reached the river and began swinging our streamers. I began to walk downstream to find new water when Chris yelled something. He was hooked up. I waded out to him. It was a small sized brown of about 11 inches. Nevertheless it was a fish, and a fish is a fish.

I headed downstream while Chris fished the rest of the run. I was walking on a high bank right on the edge of the river. I ducked under a pine branch and almost walked right up on a huge brown. It was sitting in the shallows near the bank. The fish hadn't seen me. I was about 10 feet away so I stepped back a few feet and made a cast upstream and across from the fish. I let my fly swing right to the fish. Not deep enough. The fish saw the fly but wouldn't take. I made another cast and put the fly right in the fishes face, twitching it rapidly. The fish slowly trailed and I watched as my fly was sucked in like a vacuum cleaner. I set the hook and just as if the fish hadn't taken the fly at all, the fly came right out of the fishes mouth. The fish spooked and I was about to snap my fly rod in half. It was a big fish lost.

I moved on downstream. I fished for another half hour before I met up with Chris again. We found a really nice deep run where I had one fish chase my fly. About half way down the run I decided to put a split shot on and change my fly color from tan/gold to an olive streamer, my own invention. I let my fly sink deep in the narrow slot and then twitched it up through the water column. On the second cast I had a fish hit deep. I connected well and the fight was on. It was a chunky brown of about 13 inches.

The split shot had turned out to be a good idea. I stuck with it and fished the next pool. Chris moved up a braid while I went down the main river. I was walking downstream and I saw a huge grey bird fly from its perch. It was a great horned owl and I was amazed at how large the bird was. I tried to get the camera but it had flown out of site by the time I turned it on. It was a pretty cool thing to see.

After fishing a while in the same stretch I spotted a big bend in the river downstream. The sun was setting but I yelled to Chris telling him I was going to fish the bend real quick. I walked around a side braid that was slack water and spotted some huge browns swimming around. I eventually ended up spooking them and spotted one fish that was well over 23 inches.

I got to the bend and began fishing. I waded out up to my waist and then started working far bank. I casted and stepped down until the water started to get deeper. I made a cast and then walked back toward the shallow side of the river while stripping at the same time. I wasn't looking where my fly was and I was stunned as the rod was almost ripped out of my hands. I wasn't very prepared but I set the hook well. Immediately a big fish shot out of the water making a huge leap. A rainbow I thought. The fish jumped again and I could see it was a brown. Now I don't know what it is about Bitterroot River browns but, they like to jump. Usually browns don't jump and I've never fought a brown that has jumped more than 2 times. This brown.......jumped 6 times. I was really amazed by it. And these weren't partial jumps. That's 6 times COMPLETELY out of the water. It was an awesome fight and a nice looking fish of about 17 inches.

At that point I was done and more than satisfied. It was a long walk back to the car jumping over many logs recently cut by beavers. I learned a lot on the stream today including that brown trout can jump just as well as bows. What I really learned though, was that at this time of year it is very important that you get your fly down to the fishes level especially since they aren't as active compared to a few weeks ago. Even a couple feet can make the difference. Hopefully this weekend will bring some big Bitterroot browns.