The Rats Nest

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Montana 2011, A Brief Get Away.

Bighole Put In
So, where to begin.  I flew out Thursday evening and was succumbed to some hellatious layovers, one of which was 9 hours in Denver (totally sucked ass).  I ended up finally landing in Bozemon around 9:45 AM on Friday, and Mike was ready with new Hyde in tow.   Having already been out here for a week, he was already at ease and fished a number of days already on the Henry's Fork.   Both realizing that this was a year of unheard of snow pack with some regions experiencing 200% of normal conditions, we knew the opportunities were going to be limited.  With some inside intelligence, and willingness to roll the dice, we decided to float the Bighole on Day 1.

Starting the Trip Out Right
Being a true freestone river, and one that has the propensity to cough up a giant, not to mention the sheer beauty and size we thought we would give it a shot.  The conditions were high but clear and there were salmonflies reportedly hatching along the banks, giving ample opportunity to fish big dries up into the foliage.  We went over to Sunrise Fly Shop in Melrose and set up our shuttle.  Reports were that the fishing was fair, and the  rowing could be difficult.  With the suggestions of the Eric, we decided to float from East Bank To Jerry's Creek, 12 miles of good water with about a mile of really heavier stuff prior to the take out, directly as a result of another tributary (Wise River) dumping in major runoff. Eric advised that a fella from Connecticut had still been missing from a day prior when he capsized his boat.  This made me a little uneasy, but both Mike and I have rowed some pretty harsh stuff and figured we would be OK.  We geared up and headed up river.

Mike Searching For The Magic Bug
 As we made the trek upstream, we were in absolute awe of the scenic backdrops and sheer volume of the river.  The Bighole in one phrase is "No Joke", and not for the faint of heart.  As we learned later, just downstream of our take out in the canyon, there were currently 10 foot rollers and whirlpools that could eat a drift boat for dinner.  The fishing was tough but we managed about 8 or so fish on big rubberleg stoneflies and some giant stone and salmonfly dries fished in the bushes so to speak.  I managed to see my first salmonflies ever, and boy they are a sight to see.

Our View
 Having some time left in the day we headed back down towards Dillon as we had heard that the Beaverhead was fishing well.  We stopped in at Frontier Anglers  and spoke with friendly guide Cody Benzel, and owner/guide Tim Tollett.  Both were the consummate professional and very personable.  Cody offered up some great insight on where to float for tomorrow and even tipped us off on another streams current condition.  After setting up our shuttle for the morning, Mike and I headed over to Poindexter Slough, to try and find some heads.

Salmonfly Eating Brown

 We both had read about and heard from others that Poindexter was a great little spring creek right in the town of Dillon.  Figuring we had a few more hours of daylight we geared up and walked into this beautiful little gem.  We didn't see many risers, but the one's we encountered we either hooked and landed or hooked and broke off as these browns were very feisty specimens.  As the light waned the bugs became Nil, and we decided to make our journey to our first nights stay at the Slide Inn in Cameron, home of the ever famous Kelly Galloup, the guru of modern day streamer fishing.

The Slough
 We literally got to our cabin at the strike of midnight and were both operating on fumes.  Learning that one of our targeted streams, the Madison was blown and browner than a chocolate milkshake, we figured we'd better maximize our opportunities.

 Five AM came much too early and we set off back towards Dillon.  I managed to get my first glimpse of the Madison and it appeared to be everything I had imagined, even under less than desirable conditions.  The trek to the Beaverhead seemed to go on forever, but the drive through the pass out of Ennis made it all the more enjoyable.
 When we arrived stream side at the Beaverhead, we were like the 6th in line at the put in.  Looking at each other like what the hell have we gotten ourselves into, we wondered how well we would fare playing second, third and even 50th fiddle to all the runs.  Well, to say it didn't really matter would be an understatement.   We managed to hook fish all day and in just about all types of water.  At the end of the first day on the "Head", I can't really tell you how many fish were caught as it seemed our rods were bent continually for the better part of the day.

Pretty Spring Creek

Most of the fish we caught were between 14-17 inches with a few stretching the tape to 20 or so.  What I will say is these were some of the hardest fighting browns and bows pound for pound anywhere that I have been, as we lost equally as many as we landed, and a mere 12 inch brown fought like an 18 inch fish back home.

Caddis Everywhere

Our first float was in the middle upper section and we managed to take fish primarily on small to micro nymphs with consistency all day long, with some pretty good streamer action at days end.  At the end of the day we headed to the Lions Den for beers and Prime Rib.  Ending the first full day with a bang.

Beaverhead Bow
Day 2 came and we hit the "Head" once again, this time opting to float the upper section from the Clark Canyon Dam down to our put in the day prior.  We were told that the highest concentration of larger fish in the upper river were in this particular section so we decided to give it a shot.  Boy what a difference a day makes.  We were greeted to crystal clear conditions and copious amounts of large spooky fish.  We ran the gamut of flies for the first few hours only to hook and lose a handful.

Until we managed to create some space and get into a very good section of about knee deep riffled water did we begin to connect consistently.  After hooking and breaking off a mere 25-26 inch monster rainbow, I managed to land a nice 19 inch shouldered bow, and Mike one slightly larger.  A few browns later for Mike and I hook into a real stocky brown that peaked his head out of water upon the hook set and then proceeded to run downstream with all my fly line.  After losing several fish the day prior, I gave chase and a gracious guide lent me his net and bagged the beauty for me.  Feeling the pressure to be off, Mike and I picked off a few more large fish before the bottom fell right out from under us and the day was a virtual stalemate.  We broke early and headed back to town for a second round at the Lion's Den, and planned out our game plan for day 3.  Although the numbers weren't big the fish we managed were, so all was not lost.

And Another
Day 3 and we headed back to our day 1 float, deciding on the more productive and familiar water.  We literally struck gold instantly taking 6 browns out of our first riffle between 18 and 21 inches, the largest by Mike and a real beauty.  We stuck our early fish on giant size 6 CLN cranefly larva, and then as the day progressed it was back to the small stuff, once again putting a good number of fish in the net.  On a side note, the most productive nymph for the trip was a PMD variation that I came up with as a result of some advice from Mike.  I promise to get a video up on this fly soon as it was a real bread winner and literally accounted for 90% of our catch.

Thick Brown

As we meandered on down the river I took in the scenery for one last time, and wished I had more time to spend in God's Country.  I know for certain I will be back and maybe for good someday as Montana just has some sort of magnetic pull on your soul, something words just can't explain.

We got off the water around 6:30 PM or so and I had made arrangements with one of my wife Megan's cousins to meet up at Montana Ale Works in Bozemon for a couple of beers and dinner as I had to fly out the next morning.  We took the long and scenic way there and I got to see the lower Madison below Ennis Lake and I was completely blown away at the landscape.  Spectacular doesn't even remotely come close to describing the views, you have to be there to understand it.

Another Bow
Rolling into Bozemon around 9:30 ended up to be too late for a meet so we had dinner; Bison Tenderloin, (speechless), and a few cool ales that I have never had before.  Salmonfly Honey Rye Ale, and Troutslayer Ale were better than described and I ended up adding the likes of these two fine beers to my list of top 10 as they were that good.  After grabbing a room at a nearby hotel, we crashed for the night and actually slept in till about 8 before getting up and grabbing  a great breakfast at Main Over Easy.   The Bison Sausage Scramble was a nice touch to the morning before we hit up a couple of shops to kill time.

Porky Pig Sighting
Our first stop was the Bozemon Angler where I managed to set my wife up with the requested long sleeve white T-shirt and a couple of cool digs for Tessa and Nora.  Once again another nice bunch of guys in a really cool shop.  We learned that the lower Madison was actually fishing despite the conditions and were a little bummed as we both would have liked to have fished it.  Oh well, what you gonna do, I guess there is always next time right?

My Best of The Trip
After finishing up some spending we headed around Montana State University and then to Montana Troutfitters.    Being familiar with the shop as this was one of the sites I checked frequently for legitimate river reports, I was really excited to see the shop firsthand.  Out of all the shops I popped into on my short stay, this one left the biggest impression on me, as  I was fortunate enough to meet veteran tier Willy Self in person.  Let's just say Willy is a great guy and what one would call a legitimate outside the box fly tier.  After passing off a few of my Shimmer Stones, Willy opened up my eyes to some really cool tying stuff, and now the gears are turning again (lucky for you guys).  After exchanging emails and Facebook links, Mike dropped me off at the airport for a rather miserable couple of legs in the air.

Many Of These
Aside from that the trip although short, was a resounding success.  I will say this, you can bet your ass I will back soon, and the wife after seeing the pictures and hearing the stories has already inquired about a later down the road relocation plan.  If I have it my way, that will be a definite, but first, next year me and the girls will have to take a couple weeks together out there next year to see if the shoe fits us all......

Mikes Best Of The Trip

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Lower Madison

The Rig That Made Many Trout's Mouths Sore

More Browns

Ending A Trip Right

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011, And A Little About Me And My Family

Tessa's Card
 First and foremost, Happy Fathers Day to all you Dad's out there.  I hope each and every one of you managed to enjoy your day with friends and family, relaxed, or spent time doing what you love. 

As Good As Fishing....
  I am going to take some time here to bring you into my world, and give you a little taste of why this Father's Day was so special for me.  It all started with that little homemade card you see to the left.  My oldest daughter of 3 and change, Tessa, made that for me last week and it was the beginning of a very memorable weekend to say the least.  My wife Meg, and my two girls Tessa and Nora along with both of my parents spent the weekend in a cabin on the shores of my favorite Northeastern Trout fishery, the Upper Delaware river.  Now, I know, big surprise here, a guy who loves fly fishing, sweeping his family away to do what he is most passionate about right?  Sounds pretty selfish at first, but let me elaborate upon why this weekend meant so much to me. 

November 2002, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  I will never forget this day for the rest of my life, as it changed my father's life forever.  My father was in the front yard of their 4 acre wooded lot, cutting some trees for the ensuing winter, as he had some wind damaged birches in the yard that would make for good firewood in the year to come.   Little did he know that the tree he was about to cut was rotted in the middle and would snap at about eye level while he was doing so.  What happened next is what most call a widow maker, as it literally makes widows out of married women. 
Several Of These Taken On Dries

A Perfect Place
 The tree snapped and hit my father square in the face.  Being of tough Polish descent, he weathered what most would have succumbed to and found the will to walk blinded back to the back porch and to the aid of my mother.  Being the strong willed woman that she is, she found the courage to race my father to the Hospital for help.   I'll be honest with you, I've seen some pretty bad injuries in my life, and when I first laid eyes on my father I thought I was probably looking at him for the last time.  After many surgeries, two fused vertebrae, 11 Titanium plates in his upper face, no sinus cavity, a prosthetic eye, and the loss of taste and smell, he managed to pull through.  In three months time he was back to work pounding nails as he is one hell of a carpenter.  The doctors couldn't believe his recovery, and the term miracle was thrown around many times.  Not only did he make, a little different in appearance, but still the same guy, he managed to be there at my mothers side for my wedding day the following fall, and then later on to see his two grand daughters Tessa and Nora. 

Dad With A Pod Of Risers Right Out The Gates

Enjoying The Day

 Now I know this doesn't have much to do with fishing till now, more along the lines of how life can change at the snap of a finger.  My father was always a very dedicated and hard working man who taught me many good lessons in life, and is a big part of how I turned out as a human being, and I owe him a lifetime of gratitude.  Growing up, I spent a great many hours on the nearby trout streams that littered the hills I grew up on, and mostly as a result of my fascination with my fathers fishing gear I gawked over in my dads woodworking shop.

 Now, my father as told to me by my uncle Eddie, (my dads brother) always expressed to me that he learned everything he knew about trout fishing from my dad.  Fascinated by this, my dad gave me a rod, some casting lessons on the lawn and told me to learn from the stream at an early age.  It just so happens though, that while growing up as a kid, because of my fathers devotion to provide for his family, we never made it out onto the water together.  Don't take this the wrong way, I do not fault him in the least bit as he did what he had to do to provide for his family.
The Only Picture Captured Of "The Battle"
A Nice Sulfur Eating Brown
Dad Locked Up With His First In 40 Or So Years
 So for years now, I have been trying to get on the water and share something with my father that I didn't want to let slip away, and this Father's day weekend we finally did that together.   Last summer after Meg and I spent a few days at the Westbranch Angler, one of our favorite places to stay on the Delaware, we booked the weekend with this in mind.

We arrived late on Thursday night, almost Friday morning, and mom and dad showed up Friday around 10:00 AM. 
Close Up Of The Same Fish

Wasting no time, with my dad excited about fishing, and most importantly out of a drift boat, something he never had done before, we set off from the cabin after some good Intel from my friend and fellow guide Jeff Church, and floated down river about 3 miles.  Right out the gates we had rising fish, mostly on Sulfurs, then on Olives and we had targets to start our day.  Knocking off the rust, my dad managed a few smaller browns and the skunk was off quickly.  On our maiden voyage down the river we managed some nice fish, lost a few hogs but finally got the opportunity to share something that is a huge part of who I am, and once was for my father.

Ending on a high note, coming back to the cabin for beers and steaks capped off a great beginning to the weekend.  The next day we decided to float down to the cabin and brave the crowds, and boy were we glad that we did.

From the second the boat slipped off the trailer we had hundreds of sulfurs blanketing the water and this went on for the better part of four hours.  Within the first 100 yards of our day we struck gold.

My dad is nymph fishing this typically productive run when the rod bends in half and a barrel sized flush erupts on the water.  Dad is into a hog brown.  He fought the beast great, and my heart was racing as I was eager to get this fish in the net and grab a quick picture with dad, the icing on the cake.  We get the beast in the net, a few high fives and an embrace and we stand in awe at the beautiful specimen my dad just had the pleasure of playing with.  A fish of 23 inches is in the bag, and I'm on cloud nine as my dad gets a small taste of why I hold this particular fishery so close to my heart.  I Lift the fish out of the net camera ready, and show my dad just how to hold the fish for the photo op, all in the meanwhile explaining to him that the net will be at his waist in case he slips.  Camera ready, we go for the pose and the fish just ain't having it,  and jumps out of his hand and slips away into the abyss.   I think my dad was more upset, and trust me dad if you read this, It doesn't matter we had our moment.

Evening Honeymoon Float
We managed to hook more fish as the float went on and we seemed to be ahead of the curve all day with several fish on nymphs and dry flies including the buttery brown above.  The weekend was perfect, good laughs, some stellar times with family, good eats and some new friends made at the resort.  Tessa even got her first boat ride (pictures to follow), and Meg and I floated that evening after dad and I returned, experiencing even more fantastic surface fishing.  I guess you could say mission accomplished.  I know now, as my father said when we got off the water, this just might have been one of the best days of my life.  Aside from the birth of my girls and marrying my wife, I'd have to say you are right on dad, happy fathers day......

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June Is Here And So Are The Bugs.....

 Well despite some serious winds, this week was yet another productive round.  Another great father son duo came to town, and another youngster is well on the way to becoming quite the fisherman.  I'll keep the text to a minimum as the pictures vividly express the gist of how things went.  On the flip side of things, the bugs are getting very active, and from the pictures at the end, you can probably figure out what is on the menu under the surface.  A few more weeks of crazy and then it's my time to play.  

When that happens, I'll be sure to tell you just where I'm headed and what I'll be chasing.  Stay tuned for some interesting blog posts in the next few weeks......

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