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!