Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hump Day Fish Porn - late vintage

I don't exactly remember how this all started, I'm just glad it did.  Sometime this past May, my buddy Brooks and I were kind of moping around, feeling a little sorry for ourselves.  As good as May started with mild temperatures, the second half of the month had kind of gone to shit.  The excitement of the pre-runoff fishing (which was pretty good this year) was seriously waning, temperatures took a dive and we were already jonesin for some fishing.  Fuck we're spoiled.
One thing we knew for certain was that shit seemed to be happening a week or two early this year-peak flows were the first week of May (or at least we were keeping our fingers crossed), and there was rumored to be a muffled conversation of  "my cousin's sister's boyfriend knows a guy who overheard a guide in the bathroom at Charlie B's after one too many instert name of current beer-du-jour for douchebag guides who are trying to look cool here or PBRs, a solid-if not completely safe to the point of making me want to puke choice for someone who is afraid they may accidentally order last year's cool guide beer, slip up and tell his equally drunk buddy that he had seen an adult salmonfly on lower Rock Creek earlier in the day". 
After hearing a solid tip like that we were more than ready to drop everything and haul the raft up to Rock Creek and start slamming the banks with giant orange foam "flies".  Well, as it turns out, and as it is wont to, one thing led to another and the instructions got all fouled up..... anyway last minute turned into very last minute and before we knew it we had decided that the report may have been a little too "second cousin once removed on Uncle Slayton's side" to completely trust, so we called an audible and decided to hit the lower Blackfoot.  We had convinced ourselves that the river was probably dropping back into "fishable" levels, I mean it had been a full 24 hours since that inch-and-a-half of rain downpour we had the previous afternoon. 
And  so it was decided, even though we had hemmed and hawed all morning and half of the afternoon, that we could still get the boat on the water by 2:30 for a short float.  OK, stop by the house, throw my shit in the trusty 4runner and head south.  Halfway to Missoula...."damn, did I remember to throw in my 8 wt?   Fuggit, too late now.  Wait, there may be an upside to this...didn't Brooks tell me he bought an Orvis H2 in 7 or 8 wt?"  I hope so.  This could turn into a good thing. (I swear that's how it went down Brooks, I didn't 'forget' my 8 wt. on purpose). 
Regardless, after meeting Brooks and dropping my rig off at the takeout, we rushed upriver to get the boat on the water.  The whole way up the conversation went down like this:

Me:  So, do you think the water has gone down?

Brooks:  Um, yeah, maybe a little.... I mean, ok, yeah it has, some.

Me:  There's at least, what.... 2 feet of visibility?

Brooks:  Well, foot and a half anyway.

My first step into the water, my flip flops and maybe my ankles were covered with water.....shit, really?  I can barely see my toes!  More like 4 inches of visibility!  I was in my flip flops because not only had I forgot my 8 wt., but my waders and wading boots as well.  At least the sun was out and it was pretty warm. 
Soon enough we were on the water and all worries suddenly aside.  Anticipation was high, I've caught some big browns on the Blackfoot, especially in this time of year, so I put on a streamer and started looking for any inside soft water.  The slots were almost non-existent, the Blackfoot was still a BIG river at the moment.  There were some, but they were small and we were rocketing by them in a hurry.  One shot at each spot, if I was lucky AND made a good cast. Fuck's sake, this fishing was asking alot out of my limited skill set.  As luck would have it, Brooks had indeed bought a new Orvis H2 Helios 7 wt., and without turning this post into a thinly veiled endorsement in hopes that, against all odds an Orvis rep will read this and think not only is the greatest blog and also the most epic story he's ever read, but deicide that at all costs he must find me and not only hook me up with some rods, but pay invite me to write for the Orvis website-let me say that money spent on this rod is well spent.  (Allow me to clarify that if that indeed were to happen, I most certainly wouldn't bitch!)   Even I could make semi-accurate and at least Mary Ann-cute if not Ginger-beautiful casts with this stick! 
Halfway through the float we had landed a couple of respectable browns, with Brooks having brought a solid 20 inch plus buck to hand.  Brooks had told me to be at the ready, he thought there would be a good slot around this next bend, with some skillful oar work, he set me up to lay a medium length cast to a promising looking slot amongst the willows.  "Dude, don't fuck this up" I thought to myself, it was as fishy of a looking spot as we had seen all afternoon and something told me I needed to make this one count. 
Ok, strip out a little extra, lift, lay it out.... nice cast if I say so myself.  One twitch and whoa, it just stopped, like completely stopped.  I instinctively lifted to set, whether it was an unseen log or a fish I was going to take the "set first and ask questions later" mentality. 
It didn't take long for the fish to answer that question for me!  "Brooks!"  I half shouted, half squealed, "I've got a big fish on here, a REAL big fish!"  The fight was most definitely on.  Fortunately for me there wasn't much visibility and I wasn't able to see the fish until right as Brooks was getting it in the net.  "HOE-LEE FAWK dude, is that what I think it is?" 

meet Mr. Blackfoot Bull Trout

"No shit bro, big bull trout".  We were right at the bank as Brooks netted the fish. I jumped out, wet my hands and nervously hoisted the fish just long enough for Brooks to snap a couple of quick pictures.  I eased him back into the chilly waters of the Blackfoot, thanked him and wished him well.  With an indignant flick of his tail, he retreated to the murky depths of his river haunt.  After an obligatory high-five and hand shake with my buddy, I quietly reflect at the beauty and power that was the rare and wonderful opportunity I just held in my hands momentarily.  My ancestors have plied these very same waters and subsisted on these fish for time immemorial, in my own tiny insignificant way, I have shared a moment with them.  My soul is replenished and my bond with these waters is reaffirmed......

Thank you Mr. Blackfoot Bull Trout, and hopefully many more generations will be fortunate enough to have the same experience I just did.

Friday, July 26, 2013

summertime, and the livin's easy

It must be full-on mid-summertime, daytime highs have been over 90 degrees for almost all month, bugs all over the windshield...  I ain't bitchin' though, I'll be shoveling snow before I know it.  For now I'll kick back, enjoy the heat and the long days.

Fuck yeah.

Another sure sign of mid-summer, foam hoppers on the visor.  I know what you're thinking "Really dude?  Really?  Flies on the visor?  Don't be that guy!".  Trust me, the extent of douchery this tactic exudes is not lost on me.  It's just sooo damn easy and handy!  Get back to the rig well past dark after an evening of fishing, you're tired and probably have to work the next day, whaddya do?  Clip the fly and stick it to your visor, voila! Plus if you forget your shit the next time out, and by shit I mean your fanny waist pack and your fuckin lanyard (I don't think I can pull it off so I'm not on the lanyard bandwagon.....yet.  So for now, on certain people, in certain circumstances, I'm calling the lanyard a douchy move.... refer to next paragraph)

So the lesson learned here is (pay attention Brooks Jessen) even though people may do douchy things (i.e. the flies on the visor) doesn't necessarily mean they're douchebags.  On the other hand, someone can just be a douchebag and not necessarily do douchy things - You keeping up?  Wait, maybe I'm not even keeping up.

Actually, (and most of those that know me personally will attest to this), I'm a nice-as-fuck guy, and only refer to people (mostly some of my friends) as douchebags, out of pure love. 

Well..... fuck it.  Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stealth Mission

Every year I look forward to the summer full moons.  It's become somewhat of a tradition for me to hit my home waters late in the evening of a full moon.  I usually get on the water an hour before sunset or so, the magic hour when the sun is off the water and the bugs are popping.  I start off with a small dry, maybe a purple haze or an x-caddis.  I work my way upstream throwing to risers, my anticipation level rising in direct correlation to the sun setting.  Soon after the sun sets, the full moon climbs over the mountains........

I'm not necessarily out there fishing after dark to become a bona fide night fisherman, from what limited knowledge I have it seems that they typically wait for the dark of a full moon, many of them throw mouse imitations in hopes of very few but very large fish.  I'm there as much to enjoy even more solitude than usual, and to immerse myself in the river and bond with the fish in a different level as I am to catch more or larger fish.  I typically continue to throw dries as long as fish are actively feeding on the surface.  As corny as it sounds, something changes after dark, my senses heighten.  My vision becomes crisper, my hearing sharpens, etc.  Another transformation also takes place.....the feeling I have that the rod, line, leader, tippet and fly are an extension of my hand and arm increases along with my senses.  I lay out a cast and even though I may catch a fleeting glimpse of the white parachute of my #16 purple haze, it's quickly out of sight.  I instinctively move my gaze downstream as though I can still see the fly.  When my timing is really good, I lay out a cast in cadence with the rising fish, I track the drift without seeing my fly, and everything comes together and the fish rises on cue.  I lift the rod and feel the familiar heft of a fish.  It truly is a zen-like experience.

Once the surface activity begins to die down (which in my experience and in my neck of the woods usually happens to be somewhere between 10:45 and 11:15) I switch to an unweighted muddler minnow, one of my go-to flies, especially for evenings and after dark.  This particular night I go with a #4.  I begin working my way back down to a favorite run.  Two casts in with the muddler and I'm tight to a scrappy 14" brown.  Halfway to the run and a dozen casts later I have another brown to hand, this one in the 17" range, a respectable fish on any Montana river and especially on my rather small home river.  As I approach the top of the run I want to end up on, I miss what seems to be a rather small fish.  Typical.  (One thing that I've grown accustomed to whilst fishing a muddler is a fair number of fish, especially smaller fish, short-stroking my fly as the swing apexes, or after I've begun to strip the fly back upstream).  I methodically work down the run-nothing.  I move back up to the middle of the run and mix things up-stripping speed, casting angle etc.  After a good ten minutes of working the run over I lay a cast downstream at approximately a 45 degree angle and almost immediately as the fly begins to swing i feel the tug of a good fish.  I set the hook with a downstream sweep when all of a sudden the world erupts.  Before I know it the fish is in the middle of it's third jump, easily clearing the water each time by three or four feet.  After a few strong runs I have the broad shouldered rainbow to hand.  It stretches just beyond the 21" mark that was hastily made on my rod with  hemostats a couple of years ago (another story).  I snap a couple of quick pictures without completely removing him from the water, after all it's late July and the water temps are hovering in the mid 60's even at 11 pm.

I look at my phone and it is only 11:10.  I have brought a total of 7 fish to hand and farmed a few others, a decent night in anyone's book.  After a moment of reflection, I decide to clip my fly and head back to my rig.  Every so often there are obvious signs that it's time to call it a night......

I might fish a night or two on either side of the full moon but it's not quite the same, enjoyable regardless though.  One thing is for certain, even though my home river is not crowded by most people's standards, I'm beginning to run into quite a few more people lately.  It probably sounds ridiculous, but even if I can just see someone else while I'm fishing, they're too close!   Luckily I've yet to run into anyone else after the magical time-after the sun sets but the west sky is still pink and the full moon ascends in the east.

Another summer full moon stealth mission accomplished!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


So I've been on an unannounced, self-imposed and indefinite hiatus.  To both of you that enjoy read my blog, I apologize.  Rest assured I plan to continue writing, albeit at my own leisure.  I didn't want my blog to turn into one of those blogs that posted every week for the sake of posting.  You know, posted every week on a Wednesday in the afternoon, since statistics show that is the prime time to create a new post so it is most likely to be read, or some bullshit like that.  Regardless, I didn't want my blog to turn into that (don't get me wrong, there are plenty of blogs that post weekly, if not multiple times a week, and many, many of them are great reads).  I write this blog first and foremost for myself.  I don't censor content, I write about whatever the fuck I feel like (for the most part it is flyfishing), I post pictures I like and I am unapologetic about any of it.  The second I began to feel the slightest bit of pressure to post, I quit.  Granted it was a knee-jerk reaction but I feel it was the best one for this situation.  With that being said, I welcome you back to my realm.

Meanwhile, the dude abides....

fine cigar by Arturo Fuente

This is a shot from early this spring on the Bitterroot.  Photo courtesy of Joe Cummings from Classic Journey 

I hope everyone is having a great summer so far.  Rest assured the writing bug is hitting me again so I should be posting on a quasi-regular basis.