Monday, October 31, 2011

Activism at its Finest

I came across an interesting article a few weeks back about a group of activists who painted a giant pair of scissors and dotted line on a dam in California.

Matilija Dam/ reservoir on the Ventura River has served as a water supply for over 60 years since its construction in 1948. Now the reservoir, filled with mostly sediment, serves no purpose and people want it taken down. It has caused a huge decline in steelhead population and with the removal of the dam steelhead will be able to spawn in the upper river where they once could reach before the construction of the dam. The group of activists who painted the scissors and line are anonymous. Either way, its quite the message. The dam is scheduled to be removed in the coming years. For more information check out the website for the Matilija Coalition......

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bitterroot Afternoon

Headed out to the Bitterroot this afternoon with Chris and Cody. It was a beautiful day in the Missoula area with clear skies and a high of about 55 degrees. Chris and I were going to streamer fish(like always) and Cody brought out the dries. It looked like a nice day for dries and there was a good number of bugs hatching, mostly mahoganies.

We decided to fish the access where I landed a 15 inch brown a few weeks ago. About 15 minutes into fishing Chris hooked into a nice fish. I was pretty far downstream but both Cody and Chris later explained that it was a beautiful brown of about 16 inches with some nice spawning colors. I wish I could have been there for a picture.

Chris and I crossed the river and found some great water downstream. I hooked into a nice bow of about 16 inches on about the third cast in the run we were fishing. The fish fought pretty hard for its size. I had Chris snap some pics of me with the fish.

We continued downstream finding some more great water. The view of the Selway-Bitterroot mountain range was amazing on this stretch and it made me appreciate how lucky we all are to be able to be here and fish, every single day...........

                                                  Chris chuckin' the big stuff

                                                     Cody in his element

Cody managed a couple of smaller fish on dries. I was surprised not more fish were rising today. I missed one more nice fish in a big pool and then we headed back upstream. It was a great day even though the streamer fishing wasn't too amazing. Chris and I managed to end our 3 day fishless streak. On the way back I showed the guys where I saw a bunch of whitefish on a side pool. I convinced Cody to tie on a nymph to hook into one of his favorite fish (just kidding Cody).

                                                       Always messing around

Clark Fork/ Rock Creek 10/29

Had an interesting day today on the Clark Fork with Chris and Riley. We fished up near the confluence of Rock Creek. We faced 30mph wind gusts the entire time and being on an "open" river with no tree cover made it almost impossible to cast when the winds were high. I got nailed in the neck with my streamer and also had my hat blown right off my head by the winds. Chris also got hit by his streamer. We fished a section near the railroad tracks and fished down to the where Rock Creek dumps into the Clark.

                                                        Chris and I on the way to the river.

All three of us never had a grab. We decided to drive up rock creek a ways and fish some deep pocketwater with streamers. There was far less wind up in the canyon and it felt good not having to duck on every cast. We fished for about an hour and a half with no hits. My confidence went from the highest to the lowest and I quit early. I waited for Chris and Riley and then we began to drive home. On the way back down Rock Creek Road we saw what looked like a bunch of mule deer standing to the left. I stopped the car and as I looked in my rear view mirror I could see 3 or 4 more Big Horned sheep crossing behind us. I got out of the car to get some pictures.

I've only seen Big Horned sheep one other time in Montana and this was the first time I was close to them. It definitely made the day better, even though none of us had hooked up with any fish.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Back to fishing

Had a tough week of academic work. I had 2 exams today and now I'm finally free to fish. I called up one of the local fly shops today and got some intel on what areas are fishing hot. I headed over to the Clark Fork to fish a small section that I've never fished before. The water looked good but the area was crowded with 3 other guys. I waited for one guy to leave and I then fished the same long riffle/run with no results. I fished for a while longer but didn't have any takes. I think that the stretch is a popular one with easy access and if you're not the first one on the day to rip some streamers through it, then you aren't catching anything. I debated going to the car and getting my nymphing rod but decided against it. Chris and I fished the Clark Fork above Missoula yesterday afternoon and had an alright day. I had 3 or 4 good grabs but just couldn't connect with any fish. I think that the upper Clark Fork will be the key this weekend along with the Bitterroot. That's probably where I'll end up.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back from Washington

The trip to Seattle this weekend was a great one, even though it was a short trip. We started off driving around 11:30 on Friday. Little did we know we were in for a little bit of hell once we got to Snoqualmie Pass. Construction on the pass caused traffic to back up for over 20 miles. We ended up being caught in stop and go traffic for 2 and a half hours. By the time we finally got moving, it was past 8pm.

We got to Bellevue and dropped Riley and Chris off around 9pm. We still had some time to kill before we caught the next ferry to Bainbridge Island so we met up with Cameron's older sister and had dinner at a burger place in the heart of Seattle. It was really cool being right in downtown and I was surprised that the driving wasn't that bad. However, I did have to conquer some of the steepest hills I've ever had to stop on with my manual VW passat. After dinner we got on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. There was an awesome view of Seattle from the ships deck.

We got to Bainbridge island and drove about 15 more minutes to the town of Poulsbo. We dropped off Connor and his friend Chris and then headed for Cam's house. When Cam and I got to the house I was amazed to learn how old the house was and how long it had been in the family. The house was built by Cameron's great, great grandparents in 1889 and is one of the oldest houses in the area. It reminded me a lot of my own house in New York which was built in the early 1900's. The property overlooks the Puget sound and on sunny days (very rarely), you can see the Olympic mountains.  
We woke early the next morning to an overcast day and a nice view of the Puget Sound. I was excited for today. We planned on heading up to the Olympic Peninsula to fish a couple rivers for salmon. Cameron's brother Brendon decided to come along so I rigged up rods for the three of us. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that the cohos were basically done running as well as the pinks but the chums should be arriving pretty soon.

The first river we decided to fish was the Dosewallips River. Once a very good winter steelhead fishery, the Dose(as locals call it), has had declining steelhead numbers for the past 20 years. Some say that the run is down to zero steelhead. Some fisheries biologists disagree. All that is known is that there has to be some serious restoration efforts to bring the fish back.

We drove up as far as we could on the access road and started looking for fish. It was difficult to present a fly because there were many leaves and the water was a little high. We drove downstream looking for spots where fish would hold. We found a big pool where I was sure a fish would be. Sure enough I spotted a pink salmon deep in the run. I got my rod out of the car to swing something at the fish but when I returned to the spot the fish had moved.  The river was really beautiful and the pool looked like a perfect steelhead pool and I continued to think "how could a river like this lose all or most of its steelhead?"

After checking a couple more spots we headed down to the mouth of the Dose and found a few zombie pinks. I tried swinging to them but they wouldn't take. A park ranger pulled up as we were leaving and explained to us that the nearby Quilcene was open and had more fish than the Dose. Since it was on the way home we stopped to fish on the way back. Brendon immediately spotted a nice coho resting in a small side pool of water below the bridge. It was an ugly fish, but it was a fish. We went down to look at the fish and discovered 2 more in the small pool. It was cool to see and I got some good shots of the fish.

Cameron and Brendon walked downstream on the trail and I got in the water and started looking. I saw a big spawning salmon on the far side and continued on. I was walking down a fast riffle/pocket water section and saw a big red coho. Unlike the fish I had seen so far, this one was pushing its way upstream. I hooked up with the fish on the first cast. I was very surprised and the fight began. The fish went a little crazy at first and then I saw the fishes head emerge from the water trying to throw the hook. It was a BIG coho. Bigger than any one I've seen in Great lakes tributaries. I fought it for a while longer and then Cameron came to help. I brought the fish in the shallows and just like that, Cam tailed the fish. "This is a big fish" he said. Just as he said it the fish flopped right back into the water. The fight was on again for about another 5 minutes and then the hook just pulled out. I wasn't disappointed though because it felt great to fight a fish from the ocean. I have to say they have a bit more power than their relatives of the great lakes. I continued downstream with Cameron to find Brendon casting at a fish. The rest of the time we fished I didn't see any fish that were moving up. The rest of the fish we saw were pretty ugly and not aggressive whatsoever. After a while of casting at those un-aggressive fish we decided to call it a day and head back to Poulsbo.

That evening we attended a birthday party for a family friend. Everyone at the party was extremely welcoming and were very interested in what New York is like and how the fishing went. After the party we went to ice cream with more family friends. The politeness and generosity of all the people really amazed me. No offense to you east coasters that I know, but overall....people in the western united states are just plain nice compared to the majority of east coasters. Everyone just seems to be so happy, no matter what.

The next morning we didn't have too much time to fish. We wanted to leave at a reasonable time to try and avoid traffic on the pass. The ferry ride back showed a great view of Seattle in the daylight.

The trip home seemed to go on forever and we made it back to Missoula around 10pm. It was a great weekend and I enjoyed seeing a new state and even hooking up with a nice Coho. I hope I can return to the state soon to do some more fishing. Maybe someday I'll even be able to do a research project there. Cameron is pretty interested in the restoration of rivers and fish populations also. It would be funny if we worked on the same study someday.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Headed to Seattle

Tomorrow morning Cameron, Connor, Riley, Chris L. and I will be headed to Washington. For all of the guys it'll be a trip home, for they all live in the surrounding areas of Seattle. For me this will be a whole new experience and I'm looking forward to just seeing a new place. From what they've told me, Seattle is the greatest city in the world. On Saturday we plan on fishing a couple rivers on the Olympic peninsula(only about 45 minutes from Cameron and Connor's hometown). I'm very excited to fish a few rivers in the Olympic National forest. The scenery is beautiful and hopefully we'll run into some native rainbows and some sea-run cutthroats. Salmon (chums and possibly kings), will also be in the mix. I'll be bringing the 7 weight just in case. It should be a great weekend, even though its going to be rainy, which of course is normal for Washington. We'll be back Sunday evening when I'll have a full report for this weekends trip. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bitterroot Afternoon

This afternoon Chris and I headed to the same stretch of the Bitterroot that I fished yesterday. Chris fished the same run where I caught the nice brown and he hooked up in the first 5 minutes. It was a nice brown also but as he brought the fish towards the shallows the hook just pulled right out. I was surprised because I though he had the fish hooked well. Chris was pretty disappointed but I told him that.....shit happens. Which is how fly fishing is. While he continued to work that run I headed up to the bridge and worked the water downstream of a big pillar. I few casts in I could see my fly coming back upstream and I saw a huge brown trailing. The fish didn't take and it disappeared into the pool. It was a nice looking Brown and I spent a few more minutes trying to entice the fish to strike. No luck. I headed upstream with Chris. We made it to the still water braid and of course, fish were rising. I crossed to the gravel bar and started casting with dries. After a yellow sally imitation didn't produce any fish I switched to a size 22 baetis nymph. I saw one fish come up and miss the fly and I landed 1 small white fish. The fish were picky today. I decided to head upstream where Chris was working a nice run. I went up further and found an awesome looking pool. I worked it for a long time with no strikes. I met up with Chris who told me he had snapped off a fish on the hook set. It must have been a pretty big fish to snap 3x tippet. The sun was setting and the river looked awesome. It gave me a feeling of why I love it out west. There's no place like it.

I headed back down to the bridge to give that fish one more shot. It didn't happen but while I was waiting for Chris I managed to pick up a small brown in a shallow run on the baetis nymph. I also caught the biggest rainbow of my life....................

It was an alright evening of fishing. I will either be back on the Bitterroot tomorrow or its back to my favorite river, the Blackfoot. Either way its going to be a good day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Went to fish the Bitterroot after my classes today. For the past 2 weeks I've completely neglected to even think about going to the Bitterroot. I've been so wrapped up in the Blackfoot lately that I've missed some really great fishing. I started at an access spot that I've been to before. Unlike the past 2 weeks, I brought the dry flies out again today. It was a beautiful day out and I knew there was going to be some hatches. When I got to the river I immediately saw fish rising in the flats upstream. I could see some yellow sallies hatching so I tied one on. I had one fish boil under my fly but didn't take it. I wanted to move downstream because there was some great water but a guy was fishing it. I got the streamer rod out and started working a log that created a nice pocket. No strikes so I moved downstream. I was working the bank and had a fish hit my fly. I missed the fish but after twitching the fly a few more times the fish smacked it a second time. It was a nice brown trout of 14 inches.

After waiting for another half hour for the guy downstream to move I decided to head up-river. I drove about 10 miles up and parked at a very popular launch site for drifters. I waded out to mid river to fish a run. About a third of the way through the run I had strike. It felt like a good fish but I missed it. I worked down the rest of the run and then walked upstream. I found a really nice braid of the river which was basically still water. I spotted tons of fish in it and some of them were feeding.

I got on a gravel bar which allowed me to make some great casts to the rising fish. The first fish that took my yellow sally broke me right off. Looks like I was a little trigger happy and a little rusty from the few weeks I've taken off from dry fly fishing. I tied on a size 16 parachute adams and started working the bank again. In the next 15 minutes I managed to land 2 bows and a nice fat cutthroat on the adams.

I saw a lot of really nice fish in the braid and a couple were better than 20 inches. I may try to go back and nymph it with very small nymphs. The fish were stacked in there. After most of the fish stopped rising I headed back down towards the access. It was getting dark but I decided to give that mid river run one more shot. It was a great decision on my part. About 10 casts in I felt a fish bump my fly. I kept stripping and the fish hit again. This time I connected and the fight was on. The fish put in some good head shakes and then jumped.....It was a brown and I was surprised that it left the water. I got one more jump out of the fish and then brought it to the bank. It was a beautiful fish of 17 inches.

It was a good way to end the evening. Now for the next couple of weeks I've got to hit both the Blackfoot and  the Bitterroot. This is just about prime time for streamer fishing and it will probably only stay this good until November.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chris is Rewarded

My buddy Chris has had a rough last couple of weeks. He has just come into the world of streamer fishing. I must say he's been doing everything right but sometimes even presenting your fly perfectly won't land you a fish. We've basically been fishing our asses off these past 2 weeks and after Friday we decided we'd make a day trip to the Blackfoot. "Today is your day" I said to Chris as we walked out the front doors of our dorm. It was about 9:30 am as we headed for the Blackfoot. We got to the stream at about 11am and the temperature outside was 35 degrees. It was going to be chilly to start.

The first section we decided to fish was the section where I had the 26" bull trout attack my rainbow trout in August. We fished for a little bit and then I had Chris come down to where I was to fish the deep slot where the Bull trout attack had occurred. I waded out to the edge of the slot with Chris and watched as he worked the water well. We moved down a couple steps and he experimented with different stripping techniques. We were about to move down again and the fly was about 15 feet downstream. All of the sudden Chris screams "woah!" I looked and saw that Chris's fly had been hammered. It was a small bull trout but Chris was more excited than ever. "That was so awesome" he said as we neared the bank. Chris brought the fish to shore and posed for a picture with his first fish on a streamer and first Bull Trout ever. He was happy as can be.

Chris released the fish and got right back out on the water. It was great to see him so excited. Now, like Garret on the Missouri a few weeks ago (see Streamer Express post), Chris loves streamer fishing. We fished down the run for a while and each of us had no more strikes. We got back to the car and drove to the section where I caught the huge Bull Trout on Friday. We fished for a while up near the access point. I missed a fish while reeling in. Then we headed downstream to the section where I saw plenty of fish a few days ago. We fished the deep boulder pockets and about 10 minutes in I hooked up with a nice colored bull trout of about 18 inches.

We continued on downstream. I missed another fish while reeling in and I was getting frustrated that I wasn't connecting on my hook sets. We fished for a little while and just as I told Chris we should move down, he hooked up. The fish was decent and I could see it flashing deep in the run. Chris fought the fish well and kept it from moving downstream into faster moving water. He got the fish close enough to the bank to where I could grab the leader. It was a nice Bull Trout and Chris was stoked. It was the biggest fish he's landed so far in Montana.

After releasing the fish we walked downstream and fished a little more and then started to head back to the car. I fished a deep run up near the access and then went up past the bridge to find Chris who was fishing nice pool. Not to my surprise, he was hooked up again! I guess it actually was somewhat surprising that he was nailing the fish today. After going fishless for a while and then having an amazing day of streamer fishing, it was pretty awesome to witness, especially how ones attitude goes from having no confidence in streamer fishing to having all the confidence in the world. It was about a 15 inch Bull Trout and the fish had some beautiful pale orange spots.

What a way to end the day. The two weeks of fishless outings and hard work had finally payed off for Chris. I've never seen him happier and I had a great time today just watching him land some nice fish. Landing 3 fish on a rainy and cold day is a good day of streamer fishing. It was very cold today and we didn't see the temperature rise above 40 degrees once from when we started to when we ended. The Bull Trout (obviously), are very active now as they are in pre-spawn mode. I'm hoping to hook up with a big brown on the Blackfoot soon. Bowrns are also pre-spawn and should be very aggressive into November.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day Off

Took the Day off from fishing today and decided to go to the Griz game! It was the greatest football game I've even gone to. The grizzlies came back from a 21-10 Portland State lead to tie the game at 24. We stopped PSU on defense and then kicked a field goal to take the lead. The game ended with an interception by a Griz player. We pretty much went nuts and it was a great ending to the game. I'm very glad I went today. Its a game that I won't ever forget. Me and some friends will probably be heading over to Bozeman for one of the last games of the season in a few weeks. The U of M and Montana State rivalry will make for an awesome battle. I'm definitely looking forward to that one.

The River Wolf

Years ago I learned of a salmonid species that will eat just about anything. The Taimen is the largest salmonid in the world and is capable of growing to 6 feet in length. They are vicious predators and I have read many stories about their more than aggressive feeding behavior. For example stories told by the local inhabitants about dogs and small children being eaten. The Taimen has been given the nickname "the river wolf" for its voraciousness. Such a fish would be the ultimate catch for me. The last stronghold for the Taimen is in Mongolia and parts of Russia. I hope that someday I'll get the opportunity to hook up with one.
Until then I have found my own river wolf. The bull trout. Also known for their aggressive behavior and eating fish up to half of their own size, these fish are at the top of the food chain. They also look very much like the Taimen and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they are somewhat related to each other. Their over sized head and mouth make them the ultimate predator in rivers in the Pacific Northwest. I've been fortunate enough to land a few bull trout and it seems like that's all I can catch lately. I streamer fish for browns and rainbows and I get Bullies. Like I've said in the past though, its perfectly fine with me.

Today I fished a new section of the Blackfoot River with Chris and Riley. We arrived at the access area around 4pm and started fishing. It looked like a great section with many big boulders and short deep runs. I decided to head downstream while Chris and Riley stayed upstream. I missed a fish with an olive streamer in the first 10 minutes. I switched to a brassy colored streamer and moved downstream. I found a very nice stretch of big boulders. Each one of the boulders created a deep pocket downstream of it and I started working the pockets. I made my way to the center of the stream. The current was pretty swift so I stood right on the edge of the drop off before 2 big boulders. I casted my fly directly downstream and stripped it up through the current. My fly got hammered and I missed the fish. I casted again and it was hit again. The fight was on and I could see it was a nice rainbow. I landed the fish, took a few pictures and released it.

I got right back out in the stream and positioned myself right upstream of another set of boulders. I casted to the end of the pocket and began stripping my fly very fast. A pretty decent fish swiped at my fly and missed. I kept stripping and another fish came up and missed. I continued to move the fly up the current and when my fly hit the white water right near the boulder a big head broke the surface and slowly came out of the water. It was a Bull trout and it was pretty big. I estimated it was probably more than 23 inches. None of the fish hit after that. I decided against changing up streamer colors because the fish were definitely reacting to the gold/brassy fly that I had on. I fished the next pocket and hooked up with a nice bull trout. It was a decent fish of about 17 inches.

I was very surprised that the streamer fishing was so good in this short section. I had gone about 50 yards and hooked up with/ missed at least 5 fish. I fished a couple more pockets and then the river flattened out. I could see some more pocket water downstream so I started walking down the bank.

I came to a deep pocket/run and began casting. On about the third cast I let my fly swing out and then began stripping it through the slower water on the side. I could see my fly very well and I watched it closely. When the fly got about 15 feet from me I watched as a 20+ inch bull trout came flying out of nowhere and swiped at my fly. He had bumped it and I set the hook. The fish left as fast as it had come. I had a bunch of adrenaline going from seeing the big fish and I quickly made a cast out into the current. I did the exact some thing and let my fly swing out before stripping it up through the current. I stripped it faster this time watching closely. The fly hit the same spot where the strike occurred and then it happened......A huge grey slab shot from the depths and engulfed the fly right in front of me. I almost had a heart attack. The fish was HUGE. Really huge. And the head on the fish was gigantic also. It was a monster bull trout.
The set was as good as it gets and the battle began. The fish made some huge head shakes and then bolted itself in the current. It was a very powerful fish. Unlike a smaller bull trout, I knew this fish was in control of the situation. The fight continued the same way for a while with the fish bolted in the current like an anchor. I was getting pretty tired and the fish was becoming a real challenge on my 5wt. I kept the pressure on and began to try and turn the fish towards shore. I neared the fish to shore a couple times only to have it slowly move back out into the current. The fight went on for what seemed like forever and I tried yelling to Riley or Chris in hopes that they might hear me and come get a picture. All I knew was that I needed a picture of me and the fish. For me it was the fish of a lifetime (bull trout wise). The fight continued for a while and after not spotting Riley or Chris I knew it was up to me to get the picture. The fish was tiring out and I turned my rod sideways and neared the fish to the bank. I quickly tailed the fish and took a quick picture. It was a sight that I'll never forget.

Huge head, pale orange spots, huge pectoral fins lined with stripes of white. The fish was perfect. Its giant mouth and huge "upper body" gave the impression that this fish was a dominant force. I went to remove the fly and noticed the many sharp teeth. The fish was going into spawning mode and was starting to develop a kype. After taking a good look at the fish I put my camera on self timer and placed it on a nearby boulder. I wanted to return the fish ASAP so I only had time for one picture. I was hoping it would turn out pretty good and I didn't look at it until after I released the fish. It was.....exactly what I hoped for. 
                                                       My River Wolf

The fish swam off strongly. After watching the fish disappear into the depths I stood up, put my hands to the sky and screamed as if I had just won the Olympic gold medal. I was overrun with excitement and adrenaline. I couldn't help but notice not only my hands were shaking, but my legs too. I estimated that I probably fought the fish for over 20 minutes but it may have been even longer. I know that when you're in the moment of the battle, time flies and time is no longer a factor for anything. Fighting a fish and being in that moment is actually one of the few times in life where time doesn't matter at all, and I love that feeling.

I took a few moments to chill out and then returned to the top of the run. I made the same cast once more and watched as that same 20+ inch bull trout trailed my fly and then drifted off into deeper water. Did he not just see his bigger friend go nuts? I guess not. The fish didn't go for my fly again so I decided to head back upstream. I met up with Riley first who told me he had caught a nice cutthroat. He asked me if I had caught any. I replied with a "Yup. A rainbow and two bullies. One was pretty good sized." I decided to wait till I had both Chris and Riley together to show them what I had caught. While we were taking off our wading boots I showed both of them and explained the story. I don't ever think I've been so excited to show my friends a fish picture before and explain how I caught the fish.

All the way back to campus I replayed the moments in my head. The cast, the chase, the take, the set, the battle, the landing and most of all.....the release. I will never forget this day for as long as I live.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Clark Fork Afternoon

Fished the Clark today for a few hours. I had back to back hits (probably from the same fish) and no other strikes. Saw a few fish rising and some mahogany duns hatching. Other than that fishing was pretty slow. The weather was very nice though and it felt good to be able to actually feel my fingers while fishing. Checked out some rocks to see what was on them and found plenty of baetis nymphs as well as some golden stones.

                                                       Golden Stonefly Nymph

The water clarity in the Clark right now is a little tinted and silty looking. That might be the reason for the fish being less active. I think that the river is in its transition phase and once it does get colder, then streamer fishing will get good. I also need to start looking for new sections along the Clark Fork because another problem might be that I'm just not covering the best water. Whatever the case, fishing should improve soon.

Until then I think I'm headed back to the Blackfoot. Garrets dad Gary is here for the weekend and hopefully I'll get the opportunity to fish with him and Garret before he heads back to South Carolina. Tonight Gary generously took Cody, Garret, Chris and I out to dinner. We all had a great time talking about fishing out west compared to saltwater fly fishing (which Garret and his dad do all the time). It was very interesting hearing about the different species and how fishing for them can be extremely challenging. It sounds like a blast though and I hope someday we'll all be on our way to the flats in search of tarpon or permit. Being an upstate New Yorker, anything south from NY would be a tropical vacation for me.

I want to thank Gary for his generosity and wish him and Garret the best of luck wherever they end up fishing this weekend.
We'll see what the weekend brings. Hopefully some big fish. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blackfoot Afternoon

Went right to the same slot where I missed that big bull trout yesterday. I fished it for a while with no results. I did spot 2 bull trout lying deep in the run while I was standing on a big boulder. The fish wouldn't budge for anything. I continued on upstream. I fished behind some boulders for a while and had one take but missed the fish. I kept going upstream and found a huge pool that was extremely deep.

I fished it a little and made my way to the head of the pool. I was casting along some slack water and had 2 cutthroats follow my fly right in only to turn away. I made another cast and stripped the streamer really hard. I paused when it got close to the bank and then stripped it one more time. A small bull trout of about 10" nailed it. The fight didn't last long at all and I eased the fish to the grassy bank. I had hooked the fish on the outside of the mouth on the gill plate so I released it quickly without a picture. I fished the head of the pool and then called it a day. On the way back I found some pretty fresh tracks of what looked like a big wolf. Not sure if it's a wolf or a coyote but all I know is, whatever made the tracks....was a big animal.

I also know that whatever made the tracks was there last night. Yesterday there were no tracks in the sand that I walked on. Today I found many tracks including smaller ones. Maybe a pack of wolves? Who knows. Pretty cool to see though. I fished the big pool right above the bridge and didn't have any hits. I considered hitting a stretch down the road on the way back but it was getting dark so I decided against it. It was an OK few hours of fishing today. It was just nice not to be poured on like yesterday.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blackfoot- Afternoon

Fished the access road again this afternoon. I found a closed road that went up the river where the main road cuts away from the river.Spotted a nice pool to start on and began fishing at the head of the pool. On the third cast I watched a fish streak through the water, missing my fly. A split second later my fly was smacked and the fish was on. I could tell by the way the fish hit that it was a bull trout. It was a decent sized bully and had some nice colorful spots. The fish also seemed to have a kype forming.

I released the fish quickly and fished down the rest of the run. After, I continued upstream and found another big deep run. The run was hard to fish from the side I was on, so I continued on. For the next half hour I got poured on and basically stood in one spot casting until the shower passed. I spotted a huge pool upstream and walked up to it. There was a huge rock formation with high cliffs that led right down to the deep part of the pool. From where I was, it was pretty much impossible to reach the other side with a fly.

Upstream from the pool was a small section of rapids which led into a deep slot. I made my way to the top and started working behind some boulders. On one of my casts my line got looped up. I messed with it for a few seconds and got the small knot untangled. By the time I did, my fly had swung almost directly downstream of me. I started to strip it back through some slower shallow water on the edge of the deep run and all of the sudden a big bull trout came out of nowhere rocketing towards the fly. The fish turned away at the last moment. I had stopped stripping so I stripped it one more time. The fish turned and took another look and then returned to the slot. I made another cast and gave the fly some sinking time. I saw the fish follow one more time and then disappear. I changed up flies after a few more casts and fished for a long time working the entire run. I switched one more time and after completing the run once again I called it a day. I think that tomorrow I might head right back to the same spot to try and get that fish. Overall the Blackfoot is still producing fish on streamers regularly. However, all that I've caught in my last few outings are bull trout (which is fine with me.) I'll remain on the Blackfoot until I find a reason to fish somewhere else. The stretch of river I fished today was one of the most beautiful stretches I've fished out west and to top it all off, there's no people. That didn't make me feel more comfortable about being in prime grizzly habitat but I kept making noise throughout the afternoon. Hopefully the day never arrives when I come face to face with a griz.

Blackfoot Morning Report

Woke early today to fish the Blackfoot. I fished a couple runs that I've previously fished in the last couple of days. Didn't even have any takes in the 2+ hours I fished. I switched up colors and everything but couldn't get any fish to take. I did have a bald eagle fly directly overhead though. It was pretty cool to see and made the outing worth it, despite not hooking up with any fish.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Clark Fork Report

The Clark fork is up a little from recent rain and slightly tinted. I fished above campus today with some brighter flashy streamers. About half way down the run I had a big rainbow come up and swipe at my fly about 5 feet in front of me. The fish missed and I stripped the streamer again. The fish smacked it and I set the hook. It was a pretty lame hook set on my part and the fish spit the fly pretty quickly. I worked down the rest of the run and then walked back to the top to throw a different colored pattern. No results. I headed back to the rapids near campus and fished the deep run on the main channel of the river. I fished through the whole run twice with no results. Riley who fished below me for most of the time did well on a pink panther variation of mine. He landed a couple whitefish and missed a few other nice trout. I need to go explore the Clark Fork more because I'm really getting tired of the same old water. Possibly tomorrow. Although I'm basically falling in love with the Blackfoot. Nothing beats the setting and the fish have remained active for as long as I've fished it. I still have a lot of that access road to explore also so I'll probably be on the Blackfoot tomorrow morning. Like I said, nothing beats the setting......

Bull Trout Madness

The past few times I've fished the Blackfoot have been on a dirt road that provides tons of access away from the main access points on MT 200. The great thing about it is that you can find your own water to fish, as long as you're willing to walk upstream or downstream a while. Today Chris and I stopped in at the Kingfisher fly shop to pick up some streamers before heading to the Blackfoot. It was a really nice day out. We picked up some flies and headed to the river. We fished above an access that we fished a few days ago and about 20 minutes in when I was ripping my streamer behind a boulder a small fish smacked my fly. It was about a 10 inch juvenile Bull trout. It was a nice little fish that fought for about 20 seconds.

We got back in the car after a while longer and headed upstream again. We found an awesome looking pool near a campground and decided to fish it. I was very surprised nobody was fishing it. I started at the head and Chris at the tail. I missed a nice fish that swiped at my fly right in front of me. Chris spotted some fish rising so he switched to dries. I decided to head upstream where I could see a nice deep run. I got up to some big sub surface boulders that created some soft pockets. I tried some different stripping patterns other than ripping the fly through. No results. I went back to ripping the fly really hard and on the second cast a fish nailed my fly. I immediately could tell by the wide head of the fish that it was yet another bully. It was a better fish of about 14 inches.

I released the fish and watched it swim to a boulder right in front of me. I got a nice underwater video of the fish sitting in the current.

After taking the video I got back to the same spot and kept ripping my streamer. I took a few casts downstream and on the next cast another fish smashed my fly. Another bull trout! I was pretty surprised and this fish was a little better than the last. I neared the fish to shore and took a couple pics. I could clearly see that the fish was starting to develop some spawning colors. It was much darker than the other two smaller Bull Trout and had some nice orange spots. It was a beautiful fish.

What I've come to realize about Bull Trout is that what they lack in fighting capability they make up for in their strike. Each bull trout I've caught so far (excluding the one that attacked my rainbow trout), have hit extremely hard. If they want what they see being ripped above their heads, then they'll get it. The fun part about it is that you can fish as aggressively as you want to. I've come to love ripping streamers as fast as I can and having fish smack the fly so hard that they almost rip the rod out of your hands. There's no feeling like it.

Another realization I've come to today is that there is a secret to streamer fishing. And not to brag, but I have streamer fishing down to a science. I developed a quote today that I think every fly fisherman in the world should start applying to their streamer technique...... "Fish as aggressively as you want the fish to be." By fishing aggressively I mean that if you see a spot on the river that you know holds fish, then by all means, whatever way possible, get your fly to the spot. Don't rush, but fish actively and work new water after completing a few casts with different stripping patterns. Now it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to rip streamers as hard as you can like I do sometimes. All of my other time fishing streamers is spent using other stripping patterns that are a little less active, like twitching. But by fishing aggressively, you're presenting your fly in the fishes strike zone and will have a better chance at getting a reaction strike from the fish. You also cover more water with more casts. In a way you're moving through a run or a pool quicker than usual, but in another way you are covering more water.

After meeting up with Chris again he said he had landed 2 cutthroats of about 10 and 12 inches on a BWO pattern. We went to the car and drove up the road further to fish one more spot. We fished a deep pool and I had one follow from a nice bull trout who turned away at the last moment. We called it a day after a while longer and started to drive home. On the way back on the dirt road Chris said that he saw Garret fishing. We drove back and sure enough it was Garret casting to a picky cutthroat. We stayed with him and watched as the fish continually picked off midges on the surface. He put on the smallest nymph he had called the purple slushy and began casting at the fish. About 20 casts later the fish came up to eat a midge and Garret landed his nymph right where the fish was rising to. The fish adjusted its path and took his fly. It was an awesome thing to watch and a nice cutthroat. After that Garret was satisfied we all headed back to campus.

Today was a great day, even though the trout were not very active for streamers. The bull trout sure were though. I was happy to catch a few of my new favorite species and get some good pics of them. I'll be exploring more of the access road this week, in hopes of landing a monster brown or rainbow.....or another Bull trout. Either of the 3 would be great.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tough day on the North Fork

Went early today to the North fork of the Blackfoot with Chris G., Chris L., and Troy. It was Chris L's first time fishing with us, although we've all been good friends since college started. Being on the football team has left little time for him to fish with us. We decided to fish a lower section of the river. The colder weather over the past few days has really affected the fish. We learned that pretty quickly today as the fishing was nothing like it was last weekend. The fish were way less active and I noticed that many of the fish were now sticking to cover like logs and big boulders. This made it very hard to target fish because today they were pretty much in random places. Chris L. and I fished some lower pools while Chris and Troy went upstream. Fishing was slow to begin with and in the first hour I only had 1 follow. Chris L. missed a nice fish and I had a few more takes on a bright flashy streamer pattern before we met up with Chris. He had hooked a bull trout earlier of about 18 inches but lost it. Troy had landed 1 little cutthroat nymphing but other than that both of them hadn't had much action either.

                                                               Troys Cutthroat

Now that I can finally post videos here is one of the many great shots that I got while out on the river today....

The rest of the day went alright. I finally picked up one cutthroat on a streamer that fought like crazy in some fast moving water. It felt good to just get on the board.

                                                        Photo credit: Troy

We continued hiking upstream finding nice pockets. Each of us missed a couple fish and Troy managed to land 2 more fish nymphing.

Farther upstream, Chris and Troy found a really nice pool upstream that was stacked with rising fish. There was a good hatch of small tan caddis and sulphurs in good numbers. Many fish were rising but they were very picky. After each of us gave it a go I found that Chris L. had a sulphur imitation in his fly box. I kindly asked to borrow it and he complied. He should have used it himself! It took many casts but eventually I managed to entice 1 cutty to strike. I got a very good head shot of the fish.

After we fished that pool for a while we decided to call it a day. It was a pretty long day and we got in more than 7 hours of fishing. It was a good day trip but the fishing was pretty tough. I was hoping to help get Chris L. hooked up with a big Cutthroat but it just didn't happen. Hopefully next time.

Vids are Back

When I got to the University of Montana, the internet (for some great reason), wouldn't allow me to upload videos to the blog. Now for some reason or another, I can. Great vids coming....

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Streak has Ended

Since being out west I have not gotten skunked once. Every single day I have fished I've managed to land something, even if it was small. The streak is now over. This afternoon Cody, Chris, Riley and I headed to the same stretch we fished yesterday. When we started fishing the wind was whipping and it was pretty cold (about 43 degrees). When we reached the big pool that we skipped over yesterday I missed a nice little fish right in front of me. The rest of the day was tough. Riley and Chris spotted some fish rising and Cody and I headed upstream to a deep run. We found a nice big boulder and Cody started working the water behind it. About 10 casts later a nice fish hammered his fly as his stripped it pretty fast. It was a beautiful brown of about 17 inches.

                                                              A nice Blackfoot Brown

Cody landed one more smaller fish a little further up the run. I couldn't manage to hook up with any fish at the head of the run. It was a tough day but the streak had to end eventually.
Chris caught a couple nice rainbows downstream on dries. He was very happy that he had landed more fish than me.....for once. But congrats Chris. You outfished me fair and square. I'll just have to show him up tomorrow. He, Troy and I will be headed to the North Fork of the Blackfoot at 7am tomorrow morning. Can't wait to hook up with more of those fat cutthroats. Stay tuned for the report......