Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Lone Bull

Six days ago, Riley called me while I was fishing the Bitterroot explaining that he was staring at a huge bull trout resting in the current of a small pocket. The next day we went back and sure enough, the fish was still there. It was a very large fish, but when I moved up behind some rocks to take some underwater footage, I found out my camera was dead.

Today Riley and I headed for the Blackfoot again to fish. When we drove by the spot where we saw the fish, we decided to go look one more time. I thought to myself "there's no way that this fish could still be there". To my surprise, the fish was in the exact same spot. I managed to sneak up to within a couple feet behind the fish and got some great underwater footage. Enter the world of the Bull Trout....

We then moved upstream to find new water. We hit a spot that I did well in last year. The spot produced again and I landed two small bull trout and a cutthroat. Not a bad afternoon.

Tomorrow will be an adventurous day as Chris, Riley and I will travel into the wilderness and Griz country.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Hit the root this afternoon for a few hours in search of new pike water. The latest and greatest taped out at 32 inches.

Politics and the Outdoors

I have never been too involved in politics. Like many, I can't help but sometimes believe that our government is evil. But now being of the age to vote, I, as well as many of my friends, have had increasingly more interest as we near the presidential election of 2012. As it has boiled down to the most likely candidates, Republican Mitt Romney and of course our president, Barrack Obama, it's hard not to do some research on the two men who are most likely to be elected.

Being a fly fisherman and having a variety of other hobbies related to the outdoors has led me to follow closely, the environmental issues that our country faces. One specific issue, is the spread of the invasive species the Asian Carp. The species is well known for its fast reproductive rate, competing with native fish species and basically ruining various fisheries. The biggest threat now is that the Asian Carp are very close to the Great Lakes. Studies have found genetic material from carp in Lake Erie and many of the other Great Lakes tributaries.

Asian Carp leap out of the water in the Illinois River. Photo: Illinois River Biological Station via the Detroit free press

Now if you are not knowledgeable about the Great Lakes fisheries, then let me say, they provide some of the best fishing in the entire world for a variety of species, and also provide unique angling opportunities such as inland pacific salmon and Steelhead. If Asian Carp reach the Great Lakes, the entire fishery could likely be ruined forever.

These guys will be in big trouble if Asian Carp enter the Great Lakes

A little more than a week ago, Keep America Fishing came out with the results of eight questions that the organization asked both Romney and Obama about recreational fishing and the issues that impact it. What astounded me about the answers to the eight questions, was Romney continuously referring to commercial fishing instead of recreational fishing and also, attacking the Obama administration rather than simply answering the questions.

After sharing the article on facebook, not expecting anyone to say anything about it, a friend of mine disagreed with my view which started a chain of argumentative comments that ended up on the topic of Asian Carp and which guy would be better as our president for the future of our nations environment. The argument played out and we both went on with our lives. I commend my friend for the argument because had he not argued, posting such a thing would have probably been worthless. I was glad to see somebody with an actual opinion.

Just two weeks ago, a presidential forum was held as part of the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition conference. The forum was set up for the 30+ million Americans to hear their presidential candidates views on Great Lakes Issues. With the opportunity to speak about some very important issues regarding his home state of Michigan, Romney decided not to attend (or even send a representative) to the conference. A few days ago an article written by Jack Darin, the director of the Sierra Club in Illinois, was published online at the Huffington Post. The short article explains the importance of the conference and how Romney decided to "blow it off". The article can be viewed at Do yourself a favor and read it! You can also watch the actual forum on the same page.

Reading about this really gave me a sense of how much Mitt cares about certain environmental issues. He has already stated several times that as president, he would immediately approve of the Keystone Pipeline. He also aims to reverse many of Obama's environmental policies and it also wouldn't surprise me if he OK'ed the controversial Bristol Bay pebble mine, if elected. Make of it what you will, but as a fly fisherman and somebody who cares about the outdoors, conservation, protecting our fisheries, and the future of our environment, I know who I won't be voting for in the upcoming presidential election.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Crazy Pike

Seldom do I get tired of trout fishing. With so many techniques and fishing situations for one family of fish, targeting them is always interesting. However, occasionally I like to get away from the trout, for the sake of having some variety. Learning of the large pike that call the Bitterroot River home was an incentive for me to get out and target them. Coming from upstate New York, pike were a normal thing for me while I growing up. But when I came to Montana, the last fish species that I was thinking about was pike. It took a few tries before I landed my first Montana pike a few weeks ago, and today I went out in hopes of landing a few more. 

Finding a big pike is not like finding a big trout. You do not need to be nearly as stealthy. As in any fly fishing situation, presentation can be key. But on the first cast of the day today, as my big streamer slowly sunk in the slack water I was fishing, a large shadow slowly approached. The fly rested on the sandy bottom as the pike halted just inches from the fly. Then it was time.... One quick twitch and I watched as the pike inhaled the fly. The fight was on!

The fish made some awesome, drag screaming runs before I brought it to some shallow water. This one beat my first Montana pike for sure.

While fighting the fish there were also five or six more pike (a few of them being larger than this one), that were following my fish. I went right back at it again and it wasn't long before I enticed another fish, this time with an old streamer that my grandpa had given me. 

The fun didn't end there... I needed one more.

A toothy smile

Three pike in a couple short hours was definitely not a bad afternoon, especially after the everyday stresses of school. There's nothing like watching a big predatory fish crush your fly. Now to find the 40 incher...

Monday, September 24, 2012


Went and fished the Blackfoot this afternoon for a few hours with Riley. Yesterday, he spotted a very large Bull Trout. Sure enough, the fish was in the exact same spot, resting in the current just behind a boulder. It was cool to watch the fish in its element. Riley lost one Bully right off the bat and a few minutes later, I hooked into a decent fish.

After fishing the long run, we headed upstream in search of better holding water. We found a nice looking run and on the first cast, Riley hooked up with a nice cuttbow. The fish really fought hard but Riley played it well and was able to land the fish.

The Blackfoot is fishing well so we'll probably be fishing it more frequently as it gets colder. It was a good few hours on the water.

Selective fish, and good friends

On Sunday Chris and I met up with Bob of the blog Bum Trout. I first met Bob back in February while fishing the Mo. With Bob being so close to Missoula, we've managed to get out to fish a little bit in the past 6 months. We were definitely long overdue to get out on the water again.

We decided to float a long section of the Bitterroot. To sum things up quicker than usual, we experienced some very technical dry fly fishing. The trico hatch, which lasted longer than usual, made us feel like we were on the Missouri, not the Bitterroot. Only problem was that the fish were just like the big selective ones on the Mo. You need a perfect presentation, or else everything is ruined.

Sure we had our fair share of hookups, but landing fish was a complete different story. It was a tough day.

Bob doing his thing

Chris gettin' it done

The fishing got so technical, that at one point we spent more than half hour on one, consistently rising fish. After switching patterns about 10 times, Bob finally got the fish to eat. He fought the fish for a few seconds and then it was gone. I guess you can't win them all.

Sipping pseudos 

Despite having some very tough dry fly fishing, we all had a great time, especially working on our supreme dry fly skills. Fishing with Bob was a lot of fun and is always a rewarding experience because he knows his stuff. Hopefully we'll be out on the water again soon. Thanks for a great day Bob!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall is Here

It's official, Fall is finally upon us. I stung a few very big fish on the Clark Fork this morning on streamers. Don't know how I missed the number of fish that I did, but maybe it just wasn't my day. Awesome trico spinner fall from around 10:30-11.

Now it's time for the GRIZ game! Chris Lider has had a stellar season so far and today he and the Griz will play Northern Arizona. Good luck Chris, and lets go GRIZ!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Blackfoot Morning

Got up very early this morning to go and fish the Blackfoot. It was only 31 degrees when I got to the river, and I had to dress warm. It was strictly a streamer morning, but the fish were not that active. I managed two small cutthroats and a small bull trout.

After two hours of fishing I drove upstream to another access where I landed one small brown and lost two other fish. Streamer fishing is still not in full swing, especially with temps in the low 80's for this week. I know it may sound crazy, but I hope it gets colder soon.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fall is Coming

Although it is not officially fall yet, everyone knows that it is approaching quickly. We've had some very cold temps at night in the last week. Fall, by far, is my favorite time to fish and I've been waiting patiently for the streamer fishing to pick up. It's definitely not in full swing yet but I've been seeing some more aggressive fish lately, including this morning.

Kelsey joined me for a few hours on the Clark Fork this morning. We found a strong trico hatch and landed some small rainbows and cuttbows.

Kels hooked up

The youth of the Clark Fork

Although there was a sufficient amount of rising fish, once I stumbled upon some great streamer water, I couldn't resist. The result was fine with me....

We dry fly fished until the Trico's were all gone and Kelsey missed a big cuttbow twice. She was a little frustrated but at least she caught more trout than whitefish. It was a nice morning on the water. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of Mice and Men

It's something that I've wanted to experience for a while...the rush of hearing your fly being crushed by a large predatory trout, in complete darkness. Little did I know such an event would be so hard to create.

Fly fishing with mouse patterns turned out to be a tough gig. Last night around midnight, Cody, Garret, Chris, Riley and I (yes, that many people), all headed out in hopes of enticing a large brown trout to crush a mouse pattern. All of us had never done the midnight mouse thing, and we were excited just to experience throwing big flies in pitch darkness. We had done some research and talked to some people who are practically pros on the topic. The only thing left to do was try and put it all together.

Greeted by the glowing eyes of many deer, we walked our way carefully to the river. Splitting up was a must. Cody, Garret and I all went downstream, while Chris and Riley started fishing from the top. Even with friends, the darkness was a little creepy. The eeriness began to set in as we turned off our headlamps and began to fish. We ignored the sounds of deer running through the bushes as we fished for a trophy brown.

About an hour into fishing, it happened... I heard the splash of a fish taking my fly. I set the hook only to miss, and re-casted. I heard another splash of a fish but missed again. Then, nothing. It was quite the moment, to hear something hit your fly and not know what it was or how big it was. Could it have been the huge brown I was after? The world will never know.

Fishing in the dark was a whole different world. Despite not being able to see, it felt like I was casting a lot smoother than in the daytime. Eventually as you get used to not seeing where your fly lands, you develop a sort of sixth sense of how much line to cast with and the placement of your fly. It was a very cool experience. A while later we met up with Chris and Riley, just as Chris hooked up with a fish which turned out to be a large pike minnow instead of a brown trout. Still a very cool catch.

Chris with his pikeminnow (Photo by Riley)

The temps were getting colder so we decided to head back. Besides, it was approaching 4 o'clock in the morning. A lot more can be learned about this night fishing deal. I'd like to say that last night I learned a lot, but I know I haven't learned anything until I actually catch some fish. This surely wont be the last time we are out fishing in the middle of the night.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Big Changes

I have never been in Montana for a full year to see the changes that go on after each springs high water. This morning I really got a sense of how much things changed since last year, when Chris and I fished a section of the Clark Fork that we haven't fished for a long time.

New braids, new pools, new name it. The river was totally different. Fishing this morning was very enjoyable, simply because it was like fishing a whole new stretch of river. There was a nice hatch of tricos throughout the section and I found a few pods of fish to throw at. Most of the fish I found were small and readily took trico, BWO and midge patterns.

Towards the end of fishing, Chris and I found some nice slow water with plenty of feeding fish. They were pretty easy but there were no large fish that we saw.

Chris hooked up

Dry fly fishing seems to be picking up lately, especially when there's good cloud cover. Shouldn't be too long until mahoganies and Baetis start to show up in numbers on the Bitterroot. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bitterroot Pike

This spring I found myself chasing a species that Montana isn't known for; Northern Pike. I had seen many videos and heard many stories about how big these non native fish get in the lower 'root and Clark Fork. However, my efforts this spring did not pay off.

Chris managed to land a very nice pike a few weeks ago and today we decided to go for some pike again. We found some still water on the Bitterroot and spotted a nice fish. It didn't take long before one of the several fish in the area smashed my fly and put up a few drag screaming runs. It was my first pike in Montana.

A little later, Chris hooked into a nice fish that tied him up in some logs. Unfortunately he couldn't get the fish out. We tried at some more lazy pike but they wouldn't play. It was very fun to be able to target these fish in Montana. It makes me miss the pike fishing back home in upstate NY.

Chris working hard to entice a feisty pike

Classes are pretty much in full swing now. I think the Cell and Molecular biology pre-exam we took today scared us for the lectures that are to come later in the year. Hopefully getting out on the water will keep us sane. The weekend is looking beautiful with a lot of sun and temps in the low to mid 80's.

***The Pike is now eagle food, saving at least 100 trout per day***

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BC Paradise

On Thursday afternoon, Cody, Trevor, Garret and I embarked on what we hoped would be one of the best fishing trips of the year. Our destination was British Columbia. We had no trouble crossing the border and we arrived in the town of Fernie after dark.

Fernie is a very cool town and mostly known for its skiing and snowboarding opportunities on the slopes that surround it. Despite being a paradise for the winter sports enthusiast, the Fernie area also provides some absolutely amazing fly fishing for big cutthroats and big bull trout.

On Friday morning we decided to split up. Cody and I headed off to a small creek while Garret and Trevor floated the Elk River. Cody and I experienced some amazing dry fly fishing, with the average cutty being about 14 inches. Garret and Trevor had an awesome day as well.

Trevor with a colored up cutt from the Elk

On Friday night we found a place to camp, just as our friend Ben arrived with Trevor's car and drift boat. Our camping spot looked like an armada of cars, boats, and gear...

Too much gear.

What a great view to wake up to

On day two we all floated the Elk River. Streamer fishing proved to be really productive, even more so than dries because of the high winds. We experienced some huge chases from some big bull trout, including one that tried to attack a smaller bully that I had hooked in the first run of the day. Even though none of us caught a huge bull trout, we all had a great day and landed plenty of cutties. The Elk was a beautiful River and I could probably say that it's one of the most scenic rivers I've ever fished.

Trevor and Ben, both at work

Garret's cutty

A small bully for the Elk

Another nice cutt by Garret

On day three we decided to go for more of a wilderness experience into bear country. After driving on some forest service roads for a while, we finally reached the edge of a deep canyon. The river below is well known for its huge bull trout.

Because we didn't know much about how good the cutthroat fishery was in the river, we were all in bull trout mode with our 7wts, full sinking lines, and huge articulated streamers. Ben was the only person (smart person), to bring his dry fly rod. 

After bushwhacking our way down the steep slopes of the canyon, we finally set our eyes on the river. We decided to split up for most of the day and as the morning went on and we found that the bullies were not very active, it became more of a relaxed day on the water. I'm pretty sure all of us took a nap at some point.

Garret ended up landing a nice 20 inch bully, but Ben was the man of the day because he saw consistent action on dries, especially when some big drakes started coming off and the fish went nuts. 

Garret with a colored up bully (photo by Ben)

Ben with a nice Cutty (photo by Garret)

The greatest part of the day was when Garret and I stumbled upon a pool that looked like it belonged in a different world. Deep blue-green water that seemed to be clearer than glass. We began fishing the tail end of the pool when Garret told me to walk over to him. He pointed at a dark orange streak and as we watched it sway in the current, we were overcome with excitement. It was a huge bull trout.

With the sun high and the warmer water temps, the bull trout wouldn't eat a thing. We hiked up on the ledge above and looked down on the beast, as well as several other bullies that were easily over 30 inches. It was an amazing thing to see.

The big guy

We eventually found Trevor and Cody, who had done quite a bit of hiking. They hadn't landed any bullies either but still had a great day. The river was in my opinion, even more beautiful than the Elk, which only made the trip better, even though I didn't land a single fish on the day.

On our final day, we decided to fish a small creek again. The temps were a little bit cooler and we didn't get into as many fish as our first day. Cody did manage to land a very decent cutthroat.

One of the finest cutt's on the trip

Smaller fish did exist

It was tough to say goodbye to such a prestigious landscape and great fishing, but in the end we had to. It was an amazing trip and I think we all feel that it will be difficult to top this one. Maybe the only way to top it is to return in the future, which I'm certain we will. Thanks to the Elk River Guiding Company for all the helpful information. Until next time...Later BC!

On the road to nowhere