Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Of shorter days and longer trips

It seems that October has lasted about all of a week.  I've been fishing a fair amount and writing very little.  A couple of weeks ago I made a quick trip to the upper Salmon.  No steelhead were harassed during my short stay but I had a good time fishing new water.  Last week the plan was to head back to the Clearwater for a couple of days then meet up with my buddy Mike on the lower Salmon for a couple more days.  The weather had taken a turn for the worse and with falling snow and rising rivers, I hoped this would be the trip that would turn my steelhead luck around.

Lolo pass was covered in a blanket of fresh snow and as I crested the pass and began my descent into the Lochsa the ever present and all too familiar obsession for steel and the draw of the Clearwater became almost overwhelming.  Damn Idaho and it's 50 mph speed limit on highway 12! 
Having packed the GoPro, the olympus waterproof digital and the trusty iphone, I originally planned to document the entire trip, complete with the campy travel scene video cruising down the highway with the soundtrack straight from my stereo blaring in the background (did I seriously just admit that in writing?  Fuck it, I'll still include it when I get around to making my "movie").  I had visions of self-shot GoPro video of the sloppy spey casting, the hookup, the fight and the release.  Some artsy abstract closeup stills of the tail, maybe the eye (wait wasn't that in the last post?  Again fuck it, this would be a steelhead so I would pull out all the stops)  Splash in some scenery and mood footage and maybe a short bit about Poppy and the Red Shed, hell I might even post it on vimeo and who knows, maybe it would end up on Moldy Chum but I digress.
The longer I paralleled the Clearwater and finally rolled past Kooskia, nearing the first run I planned on fishing, I began to get the feeling that the steelhead gods may not appreciate my greed for glory and recognition.  It harkened back to last year and how after pampering ourselves with soft beds at hotel rooms and promptly getting skunked, Marshall and I decided it was time to suffer a little and see if it would please the steelhead gods.  On the very next trip and after an uncomfortable night in the back of the 4runner, I raised a steelhead to a skated fly and although I didn't hook the fish, I was hooked and consequently knew that our bit of sacrifice the night before appeased the steelhead gods.  With that thought in my mind I pulled over, got ready and promptly left all of my camera equipment (even the iphone) in the 4runner on purpose.
As I hurriedly walked dashed to the river, my excitement was palpable (hell maybe it was the gut-bomb burrito from the convenience store in Lolo, steelheading requires sacrifice and sensible eating habits when you're hurrying to the Clearwater is one of them!)  Regardless I was excited to once again be plying the waters for steel. 
Being fairly new to steelhead fishing and having never fished this run, I guess I started at the top of the run and was mildly impressed with my ability to "read" steelhead water.  As I fell into the familiar rhythym-cast, mend, swing, two steps- I found myself waiting for that tug.  It's absolutely true; The Swing is the Thing and The Tug is the Drug!  Every cast brings another fresh batch of anticipation, and when the din of monotony and repetition begins creeping in a muffed cast is surely a sign from the steelhead gods.  The sign manifests itself as a voice inside my head "wake up, you're about to hook a steelhead" and my anticipation is full-on once again.  A few casts later I recognize a slight change in the run, a slightly different chop, perhaps a tiny change in pace and my excitement somehow elevates another notch.  I'm into what I'm pretty sure is the "bucket" of the run.  At least it's where I feel that if I'm going to feel a tug, this is the place.  Sure enough, some words of advice from Poppy, Dale and my buddy Mike creep into my head "slow down, pull with the bottom hand, make a good stop" and I manage a decent cast in anybody's book and one I'm downright proud of.  Midway through the swing I feel "the tug" and I undoubtedly have a steelhead that not only has hooked itself, but has gone well into my backing on the take and subsequent run downstream.  I somehow manage to make it to the bank without swimming and begin following the fish downstream.  After I get back to my fly line and almost parallel to the fish, I start to lean on it a little to gain more line.  This prompts a scorching upstream run and some impressive aerial displays and I am once again into the backing.  After what seems like an eternity but in reality is probably no more than 10 minutes or so I am now charged with the daunting task of trying to land what I guess to be 3 feet and 14 lbs. or so of a bright Clearwater b-run hen steelhead that is thrashing near my feet.  Before I get to make myself look like too big of a dumbass trying to land the fish, she manages to spit the barbless hook and defiantly fin back to the comforts of her run.  I sit down and spend a couple minutes replaying the whole scene in my mind. I'm completely in awe of the sheer power and beauty of this fish and although I didn't handle it, I'm satisfied in knowing that I hooked the fish on my terms.
Although this is not the first steelhead I hooked this year (I hooked up twice in one day on an earlier trip) this is by far the closest I have come to getting one to hand.  It is still satisfying to know that I have brought each one of the magnificent fish to my fly on my terms. 
Even though I haven't fished the entire run, I decide to call it good for now and head back to the rig.  With only a little daylight remaining I drive downriver and make it to another run in time to fish part of it before darkness settles in and I call it a day.
While I don't know for sure, I like to think that I played a small role in my success by my conscious choice to not bring a camera to the river with me, that I made yet another sacrifice and was therefore rewarded by the steelhead gods.  More than likely I luckily bumbled into a player and somehow put the fly in the right spot at the right time, but who knows?  Not to worry, I'm not swearing off of pictures and I fully intend on one day posting some hero, grip and grin shots, if and when the opportunity arises.  I'm just happy that I don't need that justification.  For now, I know, and that's good enough for me.
 After a celebratory dinner out and a cramped night in back of the 4runner, circumstances arise that preclude me from finishing my trip so I pack up and head back to Montana the next day.  Although I am truly happy with the trip and my obsession is once again satiated for the time being, I know it won't be long until I make plans to return and search for steel and feel that tug of a fish that has come to my fly on my terms.... 

Monday, October 22, 2012


I know I've been relentless not only in my pursuit of steel, but also in rambling about it.  Don't worry the dude is still obsessed.  However I have recently felt the need, not the desire but the NEED to ply the waters closer to home, to re-connect not only physically but spiritually with my home waters.  So with a sky firmly in the grips of autumn and the trees in all their colorful glory I found myself slipping back into an old rhythm, one that I had, dare I say, neglected as of late.  I brought my 5 wt. and a few streamers to my little home river and I have to admit, it all fell into place.  With perhaps an hour of daylight left I walked the tracks to a favorite run.....

Upon entering the water I got the feeling that the river was almost welcoming me home.  I assured the river and it's denizens that I would not forget my roots, no matter how much time I spent elsewhere.  I am connected to this land and these waters.  With the sun setting in the southwestern sky and the leaves in all of their brilliant hues, I knew the time of year had come when one can toss caution to the wind, put away the delicate dry flies and tie on a big gnarly streamer (not that there is no more hatches, just that one has this option and I for one look forward to it).  Sure enough, halfway through the run I got a violent take at the apex of the swing.  After a spirited battle I brought this beautiful brown to hand, 17 or 18", a nice sized fish on most any water and a great fish for this river.  After a quick picture I wiggle his tail once and he disappears to the depths....

My reconnection complete, I sat on the bank and watched the sun dip behind the mountains, completely satisfied with the one fish and truly happy in that particular moment. 
As I walked back to my rig in the dark my thoughts drifted down to the Bitterroot, up Lolo Creek and over Lolo Pass, down along the Lochsa until it meets the Selway and becomes the Clearwater.  At that moment I realize that is the same path my Ancestors made from time immemorial, to ply the same waters and trade with our friends the Nez Perce, and that I am following in their footsteps.  The realization hits me that although this is my home, and these are my home waters, I also have deep physical and spiritual ties, I even dare to say (albeit somewhat shallower) roots in Clearwater country...

As I write this I am preparing to once again retrace the steps of my Ancestors to satiate my obsession in my continued quest for steel....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Still chasin' steel

It seems lately every weekend is another trip over Lolo pass to the Clearwater, I guess that's because every weened in September so far has been a trip to the Clearwater.  Admittedly it's been a difficult year for most people I've talked to.  To say this year has been difficult for Marshall and I would be an understatement!  Every trip we learn something though, and every trip we're confident.  With each trip so far proving unsuccessful, we know that we have banked more credit in the steelhead karma bank and it's only a matter of time before we can cash in on that!

Marshall skated up a boil in this run as the sun peeked over the ridge through the smoke, what a rush!  It was Marshall's first experience with a steelhead on the surface and he was STOKED!!

Another bright note was this stick was incredible!  There were numerous tasty stogies enjoyed on this trip, thanks Mike!

This was also the last trip that I used my single-hander, but that's another story I'll share soon....

It has served me well.... I also met a guy that had quite an interesting story on the green pack.  Saturday afternoon I decided to try a promising run we liked to fish.  After we crossed the side channel and crossed the island we found a couple of guys already working the run.  Oh well, who could blame them?  Just as we approached one of the guys decided to take a break.  After exchanging greetings we sit down to shoot the shit with the guy.  Turns out fishing had been very slow so far this year for them as well.  The topic went from fish to gear, and finally to my pack.  The guy commented that he used to have a pack just like that but one of his kids had lost it.  I admitted I found the pack on the Clearwater last year, that definitely piqued his curiosity.  He asked where I found it, I told him ironically just about where we were sitting, under the power line.  He asked what kind of gear was in it but he already knew, it was his pack!  I offered it back to him but he declined, stating that I had a new pack and he had a great story!  What a good guy!  I offered him to at least take some flies in return which he also declined.  He was glad a fellow fly flinging steelheader had found it and was putting it to good use!
I'm  hoping this only adds to the steelhead mojo, but for now we are still just chasing steel.....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Temporary reprieve

So I admit that since my burgeoning steelhead obsession is slowly taking over my flyfishing life (which is a very large part of my overall life!)  I have spent less and less time plying the waters of my home state for resident trout.  Last week I decided it was time to rectify the situation, as short-lived as it may be.  Never the less I managed to get out for an afternoon/evening of what I cut my flyfishing teeth on, trout fishing in Montana.

Just as I suspected.  I missed the intimacy that comes with fishing for trout in smaller waters.... waters that are easily read and dissected-no guesswork here.  No surprises, just straight forward trout fishing.  I spent the first part of my trip just observing, looking for rising fish to cast to.  Other than a couple of tiny fish smacking caddis emergers I didn't see much surface activity.  So as the sun dipped behind the ridge I decided to try an old standby of a fly and hit a favorite run.  It wasn't long before I was rewarded with an ambitious take as my muddler skated along the foam line on the far bank, soon I brought the scrappy 12 incher to hand.

At that moment I realized what I had been neglecting and missing out on.  I realized that regardless of the amount of difference between this and chasing steel, they were both fun....not only fun but I'll stop just short of saying they're both necessary for me.....

With balance brought back into my life i let the fish slip back into the stream while my thoughts already  began drifting downstream like the yellow cottonwood leaf floating by, downstream to where steel lurks and I once again feel the inexplicable tug in the bottom of my gut.  The obsession grows...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Steelhead Obsession ver. 2.0

So it's been awhile since my last post.  Sorry about that, but since it's my blog deal with it... Shit happens and life happens and blah blah blah....

I have now officially entered my 2nd year of Steelhead obsession.  To be more precise-Surface Steelhead Obsession.  To be even yet more precise, Single-hand Surface Steelhead Obsession. Apparently I couldn't have picked a more fickle, yet more rewarding river to feed my obsession on than the mighty Clearwater in Idaho.  Had I known going into this I may have chosen a different river, perhaps the Ronde, promised by many to be as easy as a drunken somphmore prom date... or perhaps the Methow, with fish as willing as any in the lower 48 to grab a skater.... Alas the Clearwater and all her glory caught my fancy.  The proximity of the Clearwater to Western Montana where I call home, the possibility of her giving up a magnificent 20 lb. b-run steelhead, whatever the reason matters little.  I am in too deep now. 

Many factors pointed to last weekend not being the best time for a steelhead trip; less than stellar steelhead counts, the fact that not many had gone over Lower Granite dam yet, flows still in the 10,000 cfs range (not exactly ideal), forecast for hot and sunny weather.  Ultimately none of it mattered when the calendar rolled over to September and the ever-intensifying burning in my gut took over, a trip to the Clearwater was the only way to satiate my almost-out-of-control habit.

It took hardly any convincing and I had suckered my son Marshall into making a weekend trip.  The stage was set.....

Upon topping Lolo Pass on highway 12, we were promptly greeted by a thick haze of forest fire smoke.  Descending into the thick of smoke was almost a trial in itself.  Almost ritualistic, descend the depths of fire and smoke to reach the steelhead oasis that was the Clearwater. 

A quick stop by the world-famous Red Shed Fly Shop in Peck is always in order.  Poking our head in the door, Poppy, the junkyard spey guru himself, was nowhere to be found.  A good omen perhaps that there were enough steelhead in the system to tempt Poppy into an afternoon swinging jaunt.  The report was just as expected-not many fish in the system, probably only worthwhile staying below the hwy 95 split and really the lower the better, hot and sunny weather making it pretty much a very early morning and very late evening type of affair.  Nothing we weren't expecting anyway.

We made it to the "Hippie Camp" hole, as we've come to know it by (actually a whole story in and of itself, replete with a broken down van and an armpit hair rockin' hippie chick that informed us, among many other amusing factoids, that she was packin and knew how to shoot) by about 4 0'clock.  Just as we were wadering up, a guy pulls up all ready to go and promptly headed for our run.  Well fuck.  What do ya do?  We give the guy a half-hearted wave and bid him good luck anyway, you never know when the steelhead karma gods are keeping points....

With palpable anticipation we wet set out for our re-baptism.  Upon arrival at the run we noticed the guy had chosen to start about halfway down, leaving us the top of the run.  Either he's a hell of a guy or he figured we would low-hole him and beat us to the punch.  I like to think it was the former, besides the run is plenty big for the three of us, things were starting out ok after all.  We were wading the hallowed waters chasing steelhead after all weren't we?  Shit was starting to feel right in the universe at that moment....

Having been a few months since I tossed my 8 wt., the first few casts were clumsy and unnatural feeling.  Before long I was into the rhythm... cast, mend, skate, wait, step, step, repeat. Marshall fell right into the groove as well...this was going to be a good trip, I could tell. 

To fish for steelhead, one must have the right mindset, or at least it helps a helluva lot.  Steelhead fishing is tedious.  They're not called the fish of a thousand casts for nothing.  To flick flies for steelhead is even more a cast of eternal hope and almost complete disappointment.  To flick floating flies with a single-hand rod in the Clearwater seems it's own special kind of crazy.  Regardless, as I continue my cadence, the constant thought running through my mind finally seeps completely into the conscious part of my brain.  I actually expect a take on every cast.  So much so that i find myself narrating the take.  First I imagine a take the second my fly hits the water.  Soon it changes to different points during the skate, natural progression lead me to imagine a take on "the dangle", and finally I imagine taunting a steelhead into a take by "popping" my fly just before I strip to make my next cast.  The funny thing is, even though I honestly anticipate a take on EVERY cast, my imagination even knows better than to land anywhere near 100% of these fish that take my fly.  In fact I realize that I've only imagined landing maybe 3 or 4 of these out of probably 150 casts that I made that evening.  Even funnier is that fact that Marshall informed me on the walk back to the parking lot, well after dark, that he imagined a take on every cast...interesting.  I confessed how my imagination had taken the same liberty with me.  Alas our imagined takes never materialized and we were left to spend the night dreaming of our first steelhead take on a dry. 

Dawn broke earlier than expected the next morning and we got a later start than we wanted.  Admittedly the enthusiasm factor was low from the start and with not a cloud in the sky, the opportune time to skate up a steelhead passed quickly without so much as a boil.  Shitfuck, with morning one in the books we decided to retire for a short nap before grabbing lunch.  Over lunch we decided to try "Hippie Camp" hole again.  One thing we've been told again and again, whether it's skate, swing or nymph,, fly selection or run selection, one of the most important factors is do what you have the most confidence in.  Even though we have yet to skate up a steelhead this particular stretch of water is the one we gravitate to early in the season when the fish are down low.  Any little bit of confidence can be a game changer. So we arrive quite a bit earlier than the day before and find we are indeed first in.  Oddly we feel like starting part-way down the run, whether it's again a karma related decision or simply where we subconsciously think we'll have the best chance or a combination of both we just kind of silently decide to start near the power line.  Again we slip into a comfortable rhythm and again I imagine a take on every cast.  Again we are left to wonder what that first surface take will be like...

Oddly enough, after about an hour of cast, mend, skate, dangle, step, step, repeat we are broken from out trance by voices.  Sure enough, near the top of the run, 3 have fallen into the same cadence, only they are actually talking with one another, perhaps they're alot more seasoned than we are.  Who knows, but for whatever reason and without really discussing it, Marshall and I tend to remain silent while we work a run waiting for that boil.  Maybe subconsciously we feel that talking will affect our focus and that we need every bit of Jedi mind power we can muster as we try to WILL a steelhead to grab out skater.  Anyway, another session of skating dries had yet to yield any results and we are left to deal with an ever-growing obsession.  I did manage to snap a nice photo during a quick break at sunset, sometimes it's the little things that add to the experience and ultimately help ensure that a return is imminent.

After dinner and another discussion of the imagining a take on every cast, the endless scenarios that played out from a mere boil, to losing one at hand to finally hoisting a giant b-run triumphantly for a quick photo op before releasing it back to the depths, we decide to arise considerably earlier the next morning to ensure maximum opportunity to skate up our first steel....talk about a fitful night.

With only the early portion of the next morning to fish (real world dictates that we get back home before too late Sunday) sure enough we are teased with a cool, partly cloudy morning.  As ideal of conditions as you can hope for this early in the season.  I can't think of many better ways to greet a sunrise....

We stayed longer than we originally planned because the conditions were so good compared to the previous two days...still to no avail.  Our fist steelhead on the surface will not come on this trip and that only serves to intensify my desire...

By the way, the three guys from the night before turned out to be from Bozeman in our home state of Montana.  We had a nice chat with them and learned that one had indeed caught a steelhead the day before, on the surface skating dries.  Turns out he was not actually one of the group originally.  The other two guys happened to make the almost mandatory stop at Poppy's and turns out the third guy's car had broken down just a little earlier when he stopped by to say hi to Poppy.  How cool is that?  The guy left his broken-down car to hop in with a couple of kindred spirits, choosing to deal with real-life shit later on... Fuckin A, I like his style.  And then how sweet is it for the two guys to offer this other guy a spot in their ride, to share their camp and to fish together for the weekend... I imagine that was a rather large deposit into their steelhead karma bank account, right on guys......

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hello Kitty

So one day this past winter my buddy and I were getting cabin fever.  It was February, the days were getting longer and the temperature was in the double digits, pretty decent conditions for February in Montana.  Even though the days were getting longer by the time I threw my shit together and picked my buddy up we had maybe 3 hours of daylight left.  No problem, we probably wouldn't want to wade more than a couple of hours anyway.  When i got to my buddy's house (he only lives about 10 minutes from our home waters) i opened the trunk to the trusty dudemobile (the 4 runner was in the shop) to load my buddy's junk.  Upon closer inspection I noticed my wading boots were nowhere to be seen.  Mother....fucker.   That moment of realization hit me.  Driving back to my place wasn't an option, waste too much daylight.  On a winter day like this not going was not an option, we were itching so bad it was worse than a case of crotch crickets (not that I know personally, strictly for effect!)  My buddy come through with some winter pac boots.  Fuck it, I thought, I'll make them work.  So it was down the road for the short drive to our home waters.  Once there i realized maybe they weren't such a good idea after all, rubber bottom boots, in a freezing ass river, not a good sounding combination.  Upon closer inspection of the trunk, I managed to find a pair of insoles from some tennis shoes.  Hey, these just  might work for some traction.  Now if I could just find something to secure these to the bottom of the boots, I would have some decent makeshift wading boots.  What transpired would have never found it's way onto these pages had I not taken photographic evidence.  My buddy delved into his fishing tote and as you can see, produced a roll of duct tape.  Not just any duct tape either.........

Hello Kitty

What kind of guy carries Hello Kitty duct tape in his box o' fishing shit?  Well wonder no more....

I think we even caught a couple of fish that day.  By the way, the tape only lasted half hour tops.  I didn't fall in though thanks to my superior wading skills!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dude schwag!!

I apologize, it's been quite a while since I've posted.  Even the dude has to deal with real life issues occasionally.....
Fortunately, I'm back and proud to unveil the dude's first official logo....

To celebrate this momentous occasion, the dude will hold a small contest to get some official flyfishdude stickers in the hands of my faithful readers. 

The first ten people to comment with the correct answer to the following question will become the proud owner of a flyfishdude sticker, sure to dirtbag up your favorite drift boat, laptop, toyota, coffee mug, toilet bowl and any number of other items that just generally are too squeaky clean looking and/or feeling.  So delve into the archives and answer the following question:

Which fly did the dude use to pop his cherry on surface steelhead?

Good luck!

btw if you REALLY want a sticker and you are too lazy to look for the answer or too late, comment anyway and if I like what you have to say I may still send you one.  Make it amusing!

For now I'll give away these first ten or so and the rest will go to close friends who have put up with the dude over the years.  Depending on demand I will consider printing up more and charging just enough to recoup costs, probably $2.

One last thing, Dave from pilecast.net and Cameron from Fiberglass Manifesto, your stickers will be on their way soon, and thanks again for sending the dude some schweet schwag!

Monday, February 27, 2012

March Madness

As we close in on March, the familiar rumbling in the pit of my gut tells me it's about that time again.  (Granted it may just be gas from the gut bomb burrito I just ate but the calendar assures me otherwise)  Time to load up the 4runner with my son Marshall and whatever two of my dirtbag fishing buddies decide they want to drop over the top of Lolo Pass with us.  Drop over the pass not only into Idaho, but into the (at times) whiskey-soaked shitstorm of steelface blood-fueled debauchery this now annual spring trip can usually devolves into.  Whether it's the last minute addition of Hungus automatically putting us into two rigs-twice the gas bill, and two motel rooms-twice the price.  After watching Hungus swill cup after cup of booze in a certain Kooskia dive (is there any other kind of bar there?)  Marshall and I are actually happy to pony up for our own room.  It was almost worth stumbling around the South Fork going 0-fer on even touching a steelhead to watch Hungus, all wadered up mind you, literally laying on the side of the road too fucking hungover to fish.  Yes you read that right too fucking hungover to fish!  He struck out with the floozehounds at the dive the night before so why not keep a perfect record huh?
It could also go the way of the last winter trip we made over, sitting in the same motel tying up egg "flies" while it drizzles some chill-you-to-the-taint concoction of rain/slow/slush that one is only lucky enough to witness a few days a year, and i'll be damned if it doesn't descend into the Clearwater valley almost the entire two days we were there.  Brooks actually brought one fish to hand that trip and had another one or two fish on briefly.  On the other hand I had but a single fish on momentarily.  This is also the trip that Brooks chose to get cute with me by offers such as this "Fish on!  Hey Craig do you want to reel this one in for me?  I just thought that maybe since you haven't caught one yet you might want to.  It's up to you"  "It's gonna be up something" I mumbled under my breath.  Well we all know that karma, especially steelhead karma is a filthy bitch, just ask Brooks how his next trip went.  How did that one work out for ya buddy?  No hard feelings though, I'm sure my next miserable shitbag of bad steelhead karma is boxed, labeled, barcoded and shipped express to (insert name of 1 star motel here) room 6 in Koosia, waiting for me to crest Lolo pass and drop into it's lap like a sweaty trucker at the local strip joint waits for a lap dance from the "twenty-something college girl dancer" that looks suspiciously like a pushing forty "therapist" from the parlor across town.  Yes Brooks, you don't even have to re-grief me in your next literary offering, I've officially beat you to the punch.
Oh sure there was the trip last spring, which was relatively mild in comparison.  Hell there were even some highlights.  My brah Bill did not leave the South Fork with his steelhead hymen intact I'm proud to say.  It was also a pair of firsts for his "real life bro" Neal.  He bought a fly rod (hallelujah, his first)  and went steelhead fishing (but with his gear, fuck) for the first time.  Didn't pop his cherry though.  Not to worry, who wants to be known as that big of a slut anyway?
The same trip we started with four of us in the 4runner, but we met up with Graybeard (don't worry Bill, soon) at Lolo wherein Bill jumped ship if for no other reason than to keep Graybeard company and whiff some secondhand.  Come to think of it, maybe too much secondhand.  Promptly upon arrival in Kooskia we exclaimed how crazy it was to see a cow elk laying literally on the shoulder of the road.  So close to the road that one had to swerve ever so slightly to the center line to miss her.  There she was, ears up, alert chawing some cud.  The response out of Bill and Graybeard...."Elk?  What elk?  Whatever.  You're bullshittin us".  whatever is right dude.
Several steelfaces came to hand that trip, and a couple of them were slaughtered for the grill.  In fact when Graybeard "snuck off" late one morning we all figured he wanted some "scoobie" snacks, but damn if he didn't bank and bonk a hatchery steelface, bust out the table, the grill and the potatoes and cook us up what admittedly turned out to be one of the best shore lunches in recent memory.  And this out of the guy who is accused (only somewhat jokingly) of showing up for a 5 day Smith River float with a bag of bagels and a green pepper.
Where it went downhill was packing all five of us into the super 8 in Grangeville (I know what you're thinking, pussy asses, but it was cold out damnit) and promptly turning it into a mancave replete with March Madness blaring on the tube, plenty of Kettlehouse Cold Smoke and Double Haul (I know, i know) but also enough PBR tallboys to cancel out that high class shit.  Unfortunately some of the boys were a little soft and out of true "man" shape because the poker game never quite made it off the ground let alone any drunken primal mangrappling you know the kind where it gets violent and both guys being out of shape it calms rather quickly and then just before it gets too slow and intimate enough to get weird both guys break apart and posture about how the other guy was lucky blah blah blah then they continue to shotgun beers until one or more puke and rally.  THAT   kind of man shape.  To add insult to injury even though we were in Idaho the bullshit ISP listed us as a Washington address, and this just after Washington was one of the first states to ban access to Full Tilt along with other online poker sites, what the fuck?  No pot limit omaha for the dude.  It just made me survey the scene of half-drunk half passed out sea of out-of-man-shape fishing buddies with nothing but disdain at the moment.  All was forgiven and washed away the next morning though, as was the sin and bad karma of looking upon my steelhead chasin' brethren the night before with anything other than unequivocal respect when upon my maiden ford of the South Fork that morning I made a tiny misstep and was promptly baptised in the morning chill and the 37 degree water, well fuuuuck me!  Little did Marshall know with his laughter at my baptism, the fire was lit under the cauldron and his own batch of bad steelhead juju began brewing.  With my spirits lifted and renewed hope I did bring two steelhead to hand that day.  It didn't take long for the timer to ring on Marshall's batch of shit karma as he hooked up, played to perfection and brought a hefty b-run in close.  I took an ill-adivsed early swipe with the net and promptly watched the monster take Marshall down the run and around the corner to a stretch of water impossible to wade.  Already well into his backing Marshall had no choice but to palm the reel, hold the line to the rod and hope against hope to turn the steelhead.  He shuffled back upstream, head down feeling the sting of being that close to tailing the giant b-run hatch mutant and not closing the deal.  My mojo began going south at that very moment and was worsened when I managed to bumblefuck yet another attempt to net a South Fork b-run slab for Marshall within 20 minutes of the first one, in the same run.  Do you see a pattern here of synergistic toilet-bowl spiraling bad steelhead karma the likes of which my son and I may not have yet completely fought our way out of?
By the way, William Patrick wants a nickname so we'll solicit here for any suggestions.  There may be a little bit of future flyfishdude swag for the lucky reader if we choose to bestow your monicker on our buddy Bill.  Get creative...Here is a picture to help your imagination.
Like I said it's getting to be that time again...........
I can hardly contain myself.

Bill, in the glow post-steelhead hymen pop

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cabin Fever

Last week we had been having some quasi-shitty weather, nothing new for Montana.  I had been on a couple of solo outings and decided that  my continuous trout road-trippin buddy needed to get his ass off the couch and go fishing.  I called him and told him that one day inparticular looked somewhat promising, no snow forecast and a high above freezing, what more could we ask for, right?
After some serious prodding and griefing Brooks reluctantly agreed to go.  I loaded up the mpg-friendly camry for the trip to Missoula to pick up Brooks and head down the Bitterroot.  The bright spot came early on this trip when we turned off the highway into an empty fishing access parking lot.  It would all go downhill from there, literally and figuratively.
After gearing up we weren't 5 minutes into the half hour hike to the river when Brooks slid down a steep embankment and promptly punched a hole in the boot of his bootfoot waders.
Once our shit was rigged (i should probably not just use parentheses here because this little diatribe may become somewhat lengthy but what the hell-here goes.  I chose to go with a streamer out of the gates and Brooks went directly for the bullshit go-to setup of a turd and a worm.  I chose a streamer not just because of some recent success on this trip but because I can be somewhat of a stubborn bastard.  On the way to pick up Brooks I stopped by an unnamed fly shop in Missoula.  Don't get me wrong, this is a first class operation with friendly and knowledgeable employees.  But for whatever reason on this day the combination of whiny voice and overall douchiness of the guy working the shop that day chafed my ass to the point that I was going to fish a streamer, hence my stubborness.)  Anyway like I was saying, once our shit was rigged we weren't in the river a minute when Brooks realized the extent of the damage to his waders.  The dialogue went roughly like this "holy shit Craig, water is pouring into my waders!" "just hike up the skirt and fish sally"  "I don't know how long I can last" "for fuck's sake nancy, nut up!"
This went on for roughly half an hour with Brooks in and out of the water a half a dozen times.  When I finally watched him pour the water out of his boots and with the weather taking a turn for the worse we decided to call it a day.  Cabin fever can get pretty bad around these parts this time of year.
Oh yeah, once back at the parking lot Brooks and a guest gave us this gem of a report...... Enjoy!

Untitled from Craig Pablo on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Well it didn't take long after attending this year's installment of the F3T to get out on a river.  Last Sunday, despite the day's best efforts to keep me from fishing, I made it out to our local "big" river.  I had been keeping an eye on the flows and when they began dropping I figured it was time for a change of scenery from the "home waters" of my favorite little river.  Our local big river is not near as well known for it's trout fishing as most of our state's flagship rivers, and (for the most part) justifiably so.  It doesn't harbor thousands of trout per mile or boast prolific hatches.  It is better known as a place to chase pike, and more recently as a very popular smallmouth bass fishery, and with good reason.  The number and size of smallmouths has exploded in the last few years.  Although it has always held a few sizeable trout it has more recently shown a marked increase in trout population and has become somewhat of an as-yet  mostly undiscovered decent trout fishery for a handful of fly fisherman.  It is a welcome relief from dodging a seemingly endless string of drift boats on the Madison, some asshole wading every bend in Rock Creek or (perhaps) the never-ending flotilla of drunken tubers on the Blackfoot (on second thought, maybe not the last one as there is usually bikinis involved!).  However I suppose I digress seeing as how it is only mid-February and none of the aforementioned scenarios would be playing out quite yet.
Anyway, back to the gist of this story which was a couple hours of fishing the big river when I was jonesin' bad for some time on the water.
I chose a spot just a few minute drive from home and decided to fish at the mouth of a tributary.  As with most days on this river I had the place to myself, it was a balmy 34 degrees and the sun seemed to burn a hole through the patchy overcast just often enough to keep me comfortable.  Although the streamer fishing has slowed considerably with the true onset of winter here in western Montana I couldn't help tying on an olive conehead and working the slow inside seam of the riffle where the tributary dumped into the main river.  As I worked my way down the seam, sunshine repleatedly bathed the river in a welcome glow, if only momentarily.  I noticed a couple of fish began to rise somewhat rhythmically to pick small swarms of midges from the surface.  A cursory glance in my sling pack showed nothing but wire worms, beadhead nymphs, double beadhead nymphs, and conehead streamers the likes of which seemed to get progressively larger and uglier with each compartment of my fly box.  So much for hoping to get some surface action.
Silently chastising myself for not bringing any dry flies (I might as well be known as the dry-flyfishdude for shit's sake, I love fishing dries) I reminded myself of how lucky I was to be a mere minutes from my house alone on an beautiful river with a few big fish and with nary a soul in sight.  As luck would have it I didn't make two more casts and heard a truck rambling down the hill, encroaching on my little tranquil slice of riverine nirvana.  Are you shitting me?  Sure enough the piss-poor excuse of an exhaust system pukes out one last backfire and the next thing I hear is doors slamming.
I squint against the slanted rays of the afternoon sun and I'm able to make out two forms weaving through the brush that quickly transform into two carhartt coveralled, lawn chair-totin' rednecks (don't get me wrong, I rock carhartts and lawn chairs, just not when fishing) and immediately assume the worst, that they're bait-dunkin', carhartt coveralled, lawn chair-totin' rednecks.  My assumption is proven correct soon enough but not before insult is added to injury as they also see the rising fish below me and promptly figure that low-holing me is the correct course of action in this particular instance!  Un-fuckin'-believable!
I scrounge up the remaining scraps of my nice-guy-ness and force a part friendly, part "get the fuck out of my run" nod of recognition.  I also decide to fish out as much of the run as possible, fully intending to stop only when the arc of my swing carries my streamer into their taut lines (they had managed to rig up rather quickly and promptly plunked some bait to the bottom and had already found two forked sticks, or maybe they brought their own).
Sometimes the universe takes time out of it's busy schedule and recognizes a particularly vile instance of someone "pulling a shitty" and decides to intervene to bring karmic forces back into balance, and sometimes these interventions happen to good flyfishpeople and this particular time that flyfishperson was the dude himself.  Not far above the bait-dunkin', carhartt-coveralled, lawn chair sittin' redneck's claim I laid out a beautiful cast down and across the seam, made a couple of mends, let it swing and dangle as long as I could stand.  I secretly wished I could will a fish to take my streamer in front of these hillbillies.  Sure enough on the second or third slow strip I felt a tug.  The tug promptly turned out to be a 21" rainbow that, despite an obvious weight problem, promptly made a sprint downstream, sizzling line off my reel into the backing, making three acrobatic aerial displays along the way.  Once i was able to lean on him enough to turn him and start making progress he made two more graceful leaps clear of the water.  By now I absolutely cannot help myself and I am making somewhat of a scene.  I may have even resorted to letting out a couple of whoops and a holler.  The mad plank of 'bow at the end of my line wasn't done as he decided to make another run that almost took me to my backing again.  After finally bringing the fish to hand I had regained my composure and quickly snapped a couple of pictures before only having to wag his tail once or twice before he finned back to the comfort of the depths.

Karma.  I'm glad the dude abides.  I'm also glad the hippie guy at the shop in Missoula reminded me.  As I left a shop the other day, he simply pointed to the jar on the counter with an unassuming "TIPS" written in sharpie on some recycled cardboard duct-taped to the front.  While pointing to the tip jar he simply said (and I'm not shitting you one bit here)  "Dude, karma"   Thanks brah........

Saturday, February 11, 2012


So the F3T ver. 2012 rolled into Missoula last night.  First of all I have to give HUGE props to Western Montana for coming out in FULL force!  Marshall and I along with my father in law strolled over to the Wilma a little before 6 to get a decent spot in line and to our surprise they opened the doors shortly after 6 for us diehards (thanks dudes).  Within moments they were having to turn people away that wanted to purchase tickets at the door, nope ain't gonna work in Missoula folks, you gotta get 'em early cuz we SOLD THE MUTHAF*CKA OUT!!!
Also a big thanks to The Hackle for some great pulled pork sammiches and free beverages, thanks guys, it was tasty!  The pre-festival crowd at the Hackle seemed a little more varied this year, more of the (my guess anyway) non-fishing set.  Don't get me wrong the usual suspects were there too.
This year's lineup is the strongest yet.  Some highlights for me (and in no particular order):

Sipping Dry - what can I say?  A flick about a MT river?  oh yeah and it's about dry fly fishing?

Doc of the Drakes - Clearly a crowd favorite, everyone was pulling for Doc!

Geofish - Every bit the adventure expected and then some!  The Motiv crew didn't disappoint..

The Kodiak Project - High on  my list as both an adventure and species targeted... STEEL!!

Riding High - A sleeper in my book, after the first few scenes it's clearly a must see for the dude!

The Arctic - Another great mix of adventure and fishing told through great film making!

I don't want to go into too much detail because hopefully you get a chance to attend a tour stop.
The swag keeps getting better and better too.  Some lady was VERY stoked to take home a SAGE ONE rod, she was running down the aisle Price is Right style, tightcool!  I just hope she realizes what she got her hands on for the price of admission, damn!  My grandson was styling in the new F3T trucker
Braylon rockin' the new cap and scoping the Stonefly

 Although I ran into a couple of guide friends some familiar faces were absent, notably this fuggin' guy (sorry buddy, at least I linked to your blather blog).  By the way we did miss you guys.
Although the usual guide-jabbing-guide prattle was overheard, it even seemed slightly subdued compared to years past.  To the dude in the beer line (and you know who you are) you should have read my previous post prior to attending, you single-handedly upheld my faith in my "guides like freshman girls at their first day of high school" theory, thaks brah!
This was the first time my daughter in law (and mother and father in law for that matter) attended the F3T.  They were duly impressed.
Marshall is stoked, Braylon havin' some beverage of a different type!

Sooooo if the F3T makes a stop anywhere near your 'burg I HIGHLY recommend it, you won't be disappointed, for that it gets the "Dude Approved" status (disclaimer, this is not an actual review, besides like the F3T wouldn't get Dude Approved?!?   Puh-leez!)

And lastly the dude was able to snap a quick pic on the way out with none other than Jay "Graphite Samurai" Johnson, RIGHTEOUS!!!  Although I didn't get his beardbraids in the picture, he rocks two braids down the front dude-style!  Thanks for the picture Jay, hope to see you on a river somewhere pre-zombie apocalypse!
Fuckin' A

Damn I wanna fish........

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The countdown begins

It is officially less than 48 hours until the F3T hits Missoula, the anticipation is palpable.  Even though we've had better than average fishing this winter, the F3T kind of kicks off the countdown to spring and the first hatches and dry fly fishing of the year (even if it is only for a few hours in the afternoon on the 'Root in 40 degree weather!)  The dude will of course be there and will have a rather large contingent, the wife, son, daughter in law, youngest grandson who is 6 months old (you can never start 'em too early right?) and the in-laws (I know what you're thinking but hey, more chances at snagging the swag right?!?)
One bonus to attending is watching the interaction between some of the local guides, it's akin to watching high school freshman girls in their first day of high school.  The scenario breaks down something like this

Guide #1 (replete with fresh F3T trucker swillin a kettlehouse double haul) to Guide #2:  Hey Jeff, how's it goin' man?!?

Guide #2 (replete with "retro" yellow F3T cap from 2010, swilling a PBR tallboy):  Oh hey Chad, doin' good brah, been killin' 'em on the Mo this winter!

Guide #1:  Sweet, I spent 3 weeks in the Keys chasing bones!

Guide #2:  Right on, well hey see ya on the river!  (under his breath to his buddy...He's such a douchebag!)

Guide #1:  For sure, I'm already booked like 120 days (under his breath to his buddy...That guy's a chump, he couldn't catch the clap in a whorehouse!)

Yep, should be a swell time at the Wilma.

by the way, if you're a guide, don't even tell me you didn't chuckle at the all too true previous dialogue!

All kidding aside I'm an absolutely looking forward to it and hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mixed Signals

All week I kept an eye on the forecast.  Monday the weather service called for snow starting Tuesday, then it called for moderate snow by mid-Tuesday.  Monday afternoon the snow was bumped back and was expected to hit late Tuesday evening but accumulations were expected to be significant in the mountains.  I tentatively prepared to hit the slopes Wednesday.  Tuesday morning's check of the weather service website showed snow by mid-day Wednesday.  By Tuesday afternoon......you guessed it, the snow wasn't expected until Wednesday evening but now there was a winter weather advisory in effect for the mountains of western Montana.  I put the call out to my local Big Mountain guy Urban T. to see if he was down to hit the slopes Thursday.  He must've been checking the weather service forecast as well because his enthusiasm for a Thursday boarding trip seemed cautiously guarded.  The trepidation proved justified as Wednesday turned into Wednesday evening and hourly checks of the radar showed only slight precipitation.  Urban texted me Wednesday evening and said he was on the way to his yurt outside Whitefish and promised to let me know if it was dumping when he arrived.  By this morning it was obvious we had not received the winter weather that was promised so I did what  comes natural, I went fishing.
By the time I was free to go early this afternoon, the temperature was a balmy 45 degrees.  My plan was to hit the lower river and maybe fish to the mouth if I had time.  As I made the turn into the parking area I saw a car.  I'm thinking "what in the hell is this place coming to?  Someone else here?  On a Thursday afternoon, in February?  Are you serious?".  It just gets better, as I was making my way back onto the highway, I see two guys crossing the bridge with SPINNING RODS!  Now I'm thinking "Gearchuckers?  on MY river, in MY spot, on a Thursday afternoon?".  I quickly decided that I couldn't blame them, it was 45 degrees after all and with that I bid them adieu in my mind as I forced a friendly return wave.  Besides it was only a couple of miles upriver to my next haunt so off I went.
Upon arrival I will admit I was relieved to see I was the only one there. 
I decided to wade upriver first and fish my way back down.  With the temperature hovering in the mid-40s and the occasional splashing of sunshine I spotted a few bugs flying around.  During the sparse bouts of extended sunshine if I squinted my eyes a little to blur out the mountains I could almost imagine it was September and would strain my eyes a little harder at each new bend of the river.  It almost seemed like if I squinted just the right amount and wished hard enough, I could will a fish to the surface to eat.  Just as I was passing into a lull and was sure I was going to see a fish slurp a bug on the surface, the sun would roll over a peak on the southern horizon and bring me back to the realization that we were still in the clutches of mid-winter. My jedi practice segued into rhythmic casting as it usually does when I'm fishing underneath with no risers in sight.  It's a rhythm that lends itself to steelheading as well, cast, mend, mend repeat.....
Finally the indicator disappeared and I was eager to feel a tug.  I immediately knew there was foul play on the river's part as the line went taut, "Oh well, it was probably time to try something different anyway".  Drawing in the slack, I held the line to the rod and walked away, to my surprise, just as the line seemed ready to break the river let go and I was saved from re-rigging.
So here's my first catch of February. 

Under the bridge - the GoPro perspective

A score is a score, usually it's from a tree along the bank but when the river surrenders booty I'll take it.  At least someone else was thinking along the same lines as I was, so I decided to stick with the black stonefly and follow this unfortunate soul's lead and add a dropper.  A quick perusal of my limited nymph box and I thought I might as well go with two classics, so a beadhead prince nymph it was.
I was almost back to my car and the sun had only a small cloud to duck behind before hitting the horizon.  I was in no particular hurry and it was still fairly warm so I decided to fish out the rest of the run.  A few casts in and my indicator darted underneath and upstream, there was no doubt this time it was fish on!  The scrappy brown made a modest run upstream and then put on a little display of aerials, not once, not twice but three times!  It was a pleasant surpirse and for a moment I slipped back into my visions of September.  Upon bringing the fish to hand and feeling the cold water I was quickly brought back to reality and the fact that it was early February.  After a couple of quick pictures I gave the fish's tail a couple of gentle shakes and he darted back to his place in the river.  As usual I was also back in my place, as was everything.  Catching a fish (even underneath) just naturally puts everything into place for me in that moment in time.

Satisfied, I waded down the rest of the run, almost as an afterthought I decided to cast to a small pool near my parking spot where a small side channel re-joined the river, I had called my son Marshall to see if he wanted to join me on today's excursion.  He didn't answer and a few minutes later he texted me that he was in a meeting (poor kid) and wished me luck and to "catch one for him".  My first cast into the small pool and one mend later I was into another fish.  It was also a brown and although he didn't perform any acrobatics he put up a decent fight.  As I watched my second fish of the day fin eagerly back into the depths of the pool I again felt I satisfied that I had "caught one for Marshall" as well.
On the drive home my thoughts drifted back up the mountains and as i crested Ravalli hill the sight of the Mission mountains brought me full circle back to the complete reality that we are still in the grips of winter, even though she is handling us with kid's gloves this year.  
Talk about your mixed signals........

Monday, January 30, 2012


So the dude picked up a GoPro camera.  It's a neat little toy that I hope will broaden my multimedia offerings.  I was hoping to break it in on the slopes snowboarding but the weather has not exactly cooperated... oh we're getting precip alright, it's just that it is in the form of rain up to about 5500' elevation.  We live in the paradise known as Montana for many reasons-strong economy, good-paying jobs, short commutes to anywhere in the state..... One thing we do not usually have to deal with is shitty snow, if we wanted that we would move to Washington so at least we would be nearer the ocean and consequently the rivers that steelhead swim in.  So until our winter starts acting normal again I will play with my new toy elsewhere.  Oh yeah by the way it's not a GoPro2, I guess maybe our jobs aren't that high paying after all!  Anyway for now I have pretty much just stuck to still images (which is one of the drawbacks with this model-no lcd viewfinder).  Other than that it has proven to be quite user friendly.  I will share a couple of random shots for now, more to follow..............

My oldest grandson Landon, I gotta hand it to my son for letting his kids find their own style and fashion, rock on Landon!

My middle grandson Talon enjoying some pool time, and yes, that's my finger!

Trying it out underwater, my oldest grandson Landon again....

Yet another reason we choose to live here in Montana, new windshields every spring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Is this thing on???  The dude-surprise self portrait!

That's it for now, hopefully it will cool down enough to dump some more fluffy pow, although I'm probably going to be snobby and wait for about 3' of fresh to cover what is rapidly becoming what left coasters know as either "Cascade Concrete" or "Sierra Cement".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Time to get a little blacktail

Well after the continued crowing of the collective minds at the NWS and their insistence that la nina was indeed still hanging around waiting to crash the veritable fly fishing party that has so far been the winter of 2011-12, she blew into western Montana last week with a vengeance. 
Up until last week I imagined the snowpack on our local slopes more resembled what one expects on an  April morning during a spring below zero spell.....a melange of sketchy coverage on frozen, tracked up runs. 
By early last week forecasters were again calling for the season's first serious winter storm, 4-8' in the mountains and 1-3' in the valleys.  I greeted the forecast with a fair amount of skepticism, but by late Tuesday afternoon it was obvious we may be in for the dump of snow that was promised. 
After watching the snow continue to pile up from my office window ALL DAY long Wednesday, the call of the mountain was too strong.  I put the text out to the guys "Craig's taking a pow day tomorrow, who's in?".  My brah Urban T. BDW informed me he was already at his yurt outside Whitefish, prepping himself for a big day at Whitefish Mountain Resort, I informed him that as bad of shape as I was in I wouldn't do justice dropping all that change on a lift ticket there, so I declined.  A few minutes later my buddy Gary texted back, saying he was game so after some logistical planning and a glance at the weather forecast, we decided to meet up early the next morning to make sure we got freshies at Blacktail Mountain.
After a full evening of rounding up all my crap, finding my boots and board and a fitful night of sleep I woke up to the snow still falling and a pretty sweet looking snow report.  (sorry for the picture quality, it may be time for a new ipod!)

The driving conditions, while far from ideal, added to the anticipation of deep pow that was building up on the drive to the mountain

Gary and I got to the hill plenty early, bundled up and strapped down and with barely a soul in sight we took the first run of what would turn out to be an EPIC day!! 

Freeheler Gary slashin' some deep turns!

The pow was deep and tasty all day, even with a foot of fresh we NEVER had to stand in line at the lifts!

the dude himself surfing some deep

As I predicted my lungs and legs only made it until a little after 11 before I had to take an early lunch break.  During lunch I texted broseph Urban Tiberius Bear Don't Walk to check how things were going up north at Whitefish Mountain resort (it's still tough not to call it Big Mountain).  He informed me that he had come to the kind side and was trying out his new snowboard (congrats brah!)  He was a little miffed that we were mackin so much fresh and that Whitefish Mountain had only received 4" overnight.

A Mad Urban Tiberius

After lunch we rode out to find most of our tracks filled in, so the afternoon would be spent making fresh tracks again, truly EPIC!!  (at least we didn't rub it in too bad for Urban).  My legs only lasted until a little after 2 o'clock and with snow still falling I had to call it a day. 
On our way back home we made the requisite stop at local favorite M&S meats for some buffalo jerky, where my bro Gary struck a pose with a local.  Since M&S is just north of the rez line, I wonder if this guy is not a cuzzin?

All kidding aside, it was a great way to start out the snowboard season of 2011-12, even if it was as late a start as I can remember.  I can't wait for the next dump!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter for real.......probably

So it looks like winter is here in Western Montana for real, maybe...probably.  Anyway with forecasts of heavy snow, highs in the high teens and strong winds I will take this chance to post some memorable moments from 2011 as I wait for the pow to pile up on the mountain.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the spring of 2011 was wild to say the least.  Every river west of the continental divide was blown out.  Unfishable.  Period.  The winter of 2010-11 was longer than a.... well it was long and by mid-May my buddy Brooks, Marshall and I were jonesin' hardcore for some action.  So much so that we decided to load up our box with czech nymphs, wire worms and as many bobbers as we could find (a feat in itself since none of us care to fish underneath much, but that's another story). 
After the hourlong drive to Missoula, we picked up Brooks and hooked up his drift boat to my trusty Dodge.  After the requisite stop at Rattkesnake Trading Co. for a sandwich, it was eastbound and down to the Mighty Mo.  Visions of 20" trout danced in our heads, overshadowing the image of 12' leaders with an indicator, 3 split shots, a wire worm and czech nymph dangling from the end of our rods. 

After a quick piss stop in Lincoln, we stopped in at the ranger station on the edge of town to look at the famous 700 lb. grizzly that was hit and killed on the highway near Lincoln a few years ago.  A couple of ooohs and aaahs and it's back on the road, there are monster Missouri trout to be had after all, and by now we're almost close enough to smell them!  Did I mention it had been a long winter?

On the way up Roger's Pass I noticed the trusty dodge was running a little warm....oh well we're almost to the top and now we're even closer to all of those 4000 trout per mile.  As we drop into Wolf Creek, the weather clears and we glimpse the mighty Mo for the first time.  It doesn't look THAT much different than the Clark Fork, which is not surprising considering the absolute deluge that blasted the Missouri River corridor the night before.  It's HUGE but it is running clear, thanks to Hauser Dam.  We head downriver to Craig MT and Headhunters fly shop for some last minute advice and a shuttle.  Apparently the knob-turners (local jargon for the US Army Corps. of Engineers who control flows out of Hauser Dam) have decided today was a good day to dump another 3000 cfs over the dam in a attempt to keep up with inflows.  Well we're here, the water is clear-at least above the Dearborn, and there are 4000 trout per mile here after all.  After picking up a few must have flies, we heed the last bit of advice "don't be afraid to fish the hole on someone's lawn, just remember to wave as you float through".
Well the Missouri didn't disappoint, even for non-dredgers like Marshall and I.

Day one was spent getting used to chucking and ducking that long of leaders with that much weight.  It also brought quite a few fish, and as usual Brooks spent most of the time on the sticks (one advantage of a guide buddy, they fall into their routine so easily!  Just kidding Brooks, you know I'm always offering to row!)
Oh yeah, part of that routine is netting your fish and taking pictures.....

Day two dawned nice again, but again the knob-turners bumped the flows, oh well maybe now we'd be fishing soft water behind porch steps, but the fish were still there somewhere.  Nothing another 6-8" of leader and another little split shot wouldn't take care of.  Once again the Missouri gave it up like a freshman cheerleader on prom night to the homecoming king.

By the time we got to the takeout there were a few fish rising, after a quick round of rock-paper-scissors Marshall got to throw to the risers.

I told him he risked his built up dredging mojo casting to risers, but what do you do?  We hand't seen fish rise in almost 6 months.
With the boat loaded up we reluctantly prepared ourselves for the trip back over the divide and into the western half of the state and the biblical flows that were the reality getting ready to slap us upside the head.

It was tough driving away from the Mo and her rising fish.  After a quick gas stop in Wolf Creek it was homeward bound.  15 miles out of Wolf Creek my trusty-ish dodge began running warm again.  Damn, I was hoping that sh*t would have magically fixed itself during one of the shuttles, or at least waited until we were back home to really go belly up.  Well not only did it run warm, it overheated.  Not only did it overheat, it puked most of the coolant out the overflow tank.  There we sat, a long ways from home, and less than 20 miles from the Mo and her 4000 fish per mile.  I would be lying if I said thoughts of coasting back into Wolf Creek and fishing some more didn't cross my mind.  Unfortunately reason prevailed and after a phone call to my cousin he agreed to bring a trailer to haul my truck home.  Another call to Brook's wife and she agreed to come and rescue him and his boat.
Oddly enough, the toughest part of waiting wasn't worrying about what was wrong with the truck or what time we would eventually  make it home (I had to work at 7 am the next day and Brooks ironically enough was going to be back on the road EARLY the next morning to guide for a couple of days on the Mo).  The toughest part was sitting there, a mere twenty miles from 4000 fish per mile and not being able to do a damn thing about it!

We made it home sometime after 1 am the next morning.  Oh well, just another day in paradise!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter.......Sort of

Happy New Year everyone.  What a wild winter so far here in Montana.  We had a thunderstorm replete with lightning after Christmas (the first I ever remember that late in the year).  We were fortunate enough to celebrate a White Christmas (barely) thanks to a last minute reprieve, with little more than a dusting of snow a day or two before Christmas.  It has since melted and we rang in the new year with no snow and some downright balmy (even nighttime) temperatures.  I have since given up (well at least for the time being) on a deep pow day to strap on the snowboard.  With the forecast Wednesday calling for highs in the mid-50's I sneaked out of the office after lunch, picked up Marshall and hit the home waters for an altogether too brief of a fishing trip. 

After the short drive to what I thought would be the best stretch of winter water, we turned off the highway and  SON....OF......A.......BITCH,  there it was, smack dab in the middle of the small parking area, another truck.  Oh well, who could blame the guy, the temperature did read 57 at the bank in town.  Luckily our second choice was not far away and vacant as well.

The weather certainly cooperated. 

As we hurriedly rigged rods and wadered up, I even let myself hope for the possibility of rising fish.  After a frantic few minutes of scanning the water I resigned myself to the fact that any fish caught this day would almost certainly be caught dredging. 
As confirmed dry fly purists enthusiasts, my son and I rarely fish underneath and thus winter is usually left for more season-appropriate activities (snowboarding) and dreaming of the next season's hatches.  However with the somewhat recent passion for steelhead fishing we have decided to work on improving our nymph fishing and what better time than a shirtsleeve winter day?
I started off with a beadhead king prince nymph/pheasant tail combo, switched to a beadhead stone/san juan worm and continued through the detritus that is my nymph box, all to no avail.  (did I mention my home waters is a fickle mistress in the winter?)
Marshall on the other hand was into a fish by the second hole.

Apparently the fish was shy and knew I had my camera because it managed to spit the hook.  Home waters in the winter-1, the dude's son-0.
Undeterred, Marshall continued fishing behind me and was soon into another fish (at least I can say I taught him the majority of what he knows, although there's sparse comfort in that).

Home waters-1, Marshall-1
well, sort of.....
It was one of the biggest whitefish I've seen caught, pushing 18' and plump.   Nice job Marshall!!

All in all it was great to be on the water, even greater being able to spend part of a day with my son on the water and greater yet that he outfished me!