West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days 2017

Welcome to the information page of the

First Annual

West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days!

This event is the brainchild of Big Sky Anglers co-owner Justin Spence, and Sage/Rio/Redington rep Kurt Kruger.  This year we’re keeping things small and low key, and we’d love it if you can make it.  Our hope is that the event will offer folks a place and time to meet up, hang out, share knowledge and information, and maybe find a new fishing buddy or two.

Are you already into Spey casting and fishing for trout?  Maybe you have heard of it, but have never picked up a Spey rod, and are interested in getting involved in this super fun way to fish for trout?  This event is open to everyone, regardless of skill/experience level, age, fly shop or industry affiliation, etc.  We plan on having a selection of demo gear on hand for folks to check out, including Spey rods and lines from Sage, Rio, Redington, Echo, Airflo, Winston, Scott, and OPST.

Take a look below for our event calendar as well as a list of presenters and instructors that will be on hand.  We are super excited to have none other than Spey guru Simon Gawesworth headlining our list of instructors/demonstrators.  If you don’t know Simon, he is a world renowned Spey caster, instructor, author of three books on Spey casting, and a super nice dude. We will have copies of his two books (Spey Casting and the must have Single-Handed Spey Casting) on hand at the shop to purchase and have signed.  If you already have his books, bring ’em by for sure.

Event Calendar

Friday, September 29th, 4pm-7pm – At the Shop

Big Sky Anglers Fly Shop,  39 Madison Avenue in West Yellowstone
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Meet a host of experienced Spey casters,Trout Spey anglers, and instructors, and get dialed in to enjoy a whole new approach to trout fishing.  Everyone is welcome! Whether you are just beginning your journey with 2-handed rods and Spey casting, or you are a veteran with the long rod, please stop in and say hi, hang out, and talk rods, lines, casting technique, presentation, and flies used in Trout Spey and beyond.
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Kurt Kruger, rep for Sage/RIO/Redington, will be set up with a bunch of rods and reels to check out, and will be talking about and answering questions about them.
Jesse Robbins from Sage will be covering fly presentation and general discussion of line choice, MOW and Sink Tips ( with a table of samples set up )
Simon Gawesworth will be holding court at the coffee bar in the back of the shop and talking all things Trout Spey, and maybe signing a few of his books.
Justin Spence and Matt Klara from Big Sky Anglers will be around talking Trout Spey, and sharing a few stories and tips learned over the years.  These two actually started in Trout Spey together on the Madison back around 2000.
Big Sky Anglers shop staff will be on hand to help out with recommendations on where to fish locally, and set you up with any flies, gear, etc you may need.
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Saturday, September 30th, 11am-3pm – On the Water

Madison River Bridge at Hwy 191
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On Water Instruction and Demonstrations
Bring your own gear or try out some of ours!
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List of Presentation Topics:
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11:00am – 11:15am   Introductions and Welcome!

11:30am – 12:00pm   Keith Balfourd – Trout Spey and General Spey – The Basics

12:15pm – 1:15pm     Simon Gawesworth  – Trout Spey Presentation

1:30pm – 2:15pm       Matt Klara – Trout Spey with your single-hand rod – Dries, Nymphs, Soft Hackles, and Streamers

2:30pm – 3:00pm       Rick Wollum – “ Soft Hackles, Intruders and Tube Flies “ techniques and fly choice

3:00pm – 4:00pm       Casting sessions with all presenters.

4:00pm                          Head back to the flyshop for the BBQ!

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Click the Map for Directions

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The on water portion of this event is being hosted on the public lands of Custer Gallatin National Forest.  Thanks to them, of course, for supporting this event!

Saturday, September 30th, 4:30pm-7pm – At the Shop

BBQ catered by Beartooth BBQ at Big Sky Anglers Fly Shop, 39 Madison Avenue in West Yellowstone
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Book signing with Simon Gawesworth.
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Instructors / Presenters

Simon Gawesworth – World Authority on Spey Casting, T.H.C.I, and RIO flyline guru.

Simon’s father taught him to fish at the age of 8 and he’s been teaching fly casting professionally since the age of 16.   With over 35 years of  teaching experience, Simon is a highly sought-after instructor.  He has written 3 books on Spey casting.  He has both cast and fished for England in British, European and World Championships and was elected Captain of the England team for the 2003 World Fly Fishing Championship.  Simon is A.P.G.A.I. and S.T.A.N.I.C. certified in the U.K. and C.I., Master and T.H.C.I. certified in the U.S.  Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on spey casting, he has taught and demonstrated spey casting around the world.  Simon currently lives in South West Washington with his family and a water-loving dog!

Matt Klara – Neighborhood Authority on Spey Fishing and other random topics, Big Sky Anglers, West Yellowstone, MT

Matt’s journey into Spey casting and fishing actually began with trout back in 2000, on the Madison River just outside of West Yellowstone.  At that point, he was hitting the river with a borrowed 14 ft 8/9wt rod and an old Rio Windcutter line.  And by hitting, we mean actually hitting, thrashing, cussing, and occasionally putting one out there well enough to fool a fish (his words, not ours) .  Matt’s technique and understanding of two-handed casting and fishing have come along greatly since then, to say the least, and so has the equipment available for trout Spey.  He left Montana at one point for a 7 year stint in Oregon where 90% of his fishing was done with two-handed rods, but moved back “home” in 2015.  Currently residing in Helena with his wife and young son, Matt’s now the guy that folks here at Big Sky Anglers look to for help with their casting, gear selection, and more.  Whether its trout, steelhead, or salmon, on the two-hander, he is happy to teach and share what he’s learned on his own journey.

Backside Double Spey Video

Rick Wollum – Anglers West, Emigrant, MT

Rick started in the industry back in the mid 80’s and has since guided and fished his way across many of the West’s great trout waters. He later hosted Flyfishing America on ESPN and traveled across the country fishing some great locations from Alaska to Washington.  Spey casting are for both steelhead and trout are passions within flyfishing that have captivated him for awhile.  In his words, “Swinging flies for steelhead or their freshwater cousins is an exciting game, it’s the grab that is so addictive!”  Rick has been fortunate to have fished with many of the legends of Spey casting and fishing over his career, including Scott O’Donnell and Trey Combs.  He looks forward to sharing what he has learned from them and others with you at Spey Days.

Jesse Robbins – Far Bank

Jesse has worked for the Far Bank brands – Sage, RIO, and Redington – since 2011, helping bring to market a host of Spey and Trout Spey products including the ONE and HYDROGEN Trout Spey Rods and Skagit Trout Max lines, among others.  He has fished two-handed rods from New England to the Great Lakes, across the Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest up to British Columbia.  He is a certified casting instructor and frequent contributor to several fly fishing magazines.

Keith Balfourd – montanaspey.com, Missoula, MT

Keith is a transplant to Montana from the Seattle area.  Having “searched” the steelhead waters of the Pacific Northwest since 1976, he noticed only two things missing in Montana other than steelhead – nobody was using a two-hander and swinging flies for trout, and there was a dearth of knowledge available locally on Spey equipment and casting. That’s why he started Montana Spey in 2010 – to teach and share what he has learned from 25 years of long-rodding.

The Total Eclipse Chironomid

As you probably know, a solar eclipse was visible across the entire United States on August 21st.  The band of “totality” became a tourist destination as amateur astronomers, photographer, and thousands of interested citizens flocked to those zones to experience something truly unique.  The buzz was exciting to say the least.

https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/nasa_eclipse_map.jpg

In the Tetons they got totality.  In West Yellowstone, we experienced 99% coverage.  In Helena, we experienced about 93% coverage.  I took a break from work to observe it from my backyard.  Several things came to mind during the eclipse.  First, our sun is truly bright and powerful.  Even 93% blocked, there were deep shadows everywhere.  It got noticeably cooler.  The birds stopped singing for 20 minutes on either side of the peak.

Having seen photos, and heard first had accounts from those who were within the band of totality for the eclipse, I now wish I had made the 3 hour trip south into Idaho to witness it for myself.

What does this have to do with fly fishing?  Well, in the aftermath of the eclipse, folks are wondering what to do with their used “eclipse glasses” that allowed them to stare at the sun safely.  My answer to that question was to use the lens material at the fly tying bench.

Nothing fancy here, but the lens reflectivity and color reminded me of the color of chironomids in their early stage of emergence, down deep, before they fully inflate with air.  It’s a similar color to the anti-static bags that many have used in the past.  So, I whipped up a few using the following recipe:

  • Hook: Daiichi 1120 scud hook, #10-14
  • Bead: Red glass with silver lining, from the craft store
  • Body: Thin strip of eclipse glasses lens
  • Rib(s): Ultra wire, small, one red and one black
  • Thread: UTC 70, black

That’s it!  The Total Eclipse Chironomid.  Looking forward to testing them out soon, if the Callibaetis ever thin out.

Thoughts Regarding Callibaetis Nymphs

A while back I wrote a post about Callibaetis and Chironomids where the punch line was that my buddy and I wanted the fish to be eating Callibaetis but they were really on chironomids.  Well that was then, and this is now…

The trout aren’t the only ones who love munching on Callibaetis. Photo by Amanda Marquez

Callibaetis and damselflies have been dominating the trout’s menu on my local stillwaters recently, so of course they are also the insects that my mind has been feasting on.  In particular, the morning Callibaetis emergences have provided my friends and me with some really fun fishing opportunities.  The great thing about being into a great hatch over the span of a couple of weeks is that you really get to dial things in and experiment with what works and what doesn’t work as well.  So with that in mind, here are a few thoughts that I’ve been having as it refers to the nymphal stage of Callibaetis in particular.

Lake Habitat

It’s fairly easy to tell where the best Callibaetis action is going to happen on a lake.  These insects LOVE the weedbeds.  What’s really cool is that trout will often move into very shallow water to feed on the nymphs before the main hatch starts.  But when they go shallow, those big trout get really spooky compared to when they are out on deeper weed flats or off the drop-offs. If you can find the travel lanes that fish use through the weedy halls of their world, you have probably hit the jackpot.

Fly Selection

There are A LOT of commercially available Callibaetis nymph imitations out there.  I’m not really interested in going into which specific ones to use here.  What I can say is that there are a couple of important elements to fly selection that I have found to be rather important.

First, and most important, is size.  Match the size of the most prevalent size of nymphs you can see in the water.   That’s usually a 14 or 16 around here.  Sometimes a 12 will do in the early season, but that may be because the fish aren’t quite as dialed in at that point, rather than because the bugs are actually bigger.

Second in my order of importance (and I think the most overlooked element) is fly profile.  Mayflies in general and Callibaetis in particular are thin insects.  In fact, there aren’t many fat insect in the water aside from maybe dragonfly nymphs and giant water beetles.  So, those obese, poorly proportioned PT nymphs that you scored for $0.89 each in the sale bin of your local hardware store probably aren’t the best choice of patterns.  Slim and sparse is what you need.  In fact, some of the most effective Callibaetis nymph patterns that I’ve seen look not only anemic, but also downright absurd in their simplicity and material choice.

Third in my order of importance is color.  The usual grayish-tan standard usually does just fine.  On a couple of occasions, it seemed like color was more important than usual, so if you spend a bunch of time fishing or travelling to fish stillwaters that have Callibaetis hatches, you may want to carry other tones, including grayish-olive, brownish-tanish-gray, and rusty-tanish-grayish-olive.  Got it?

Retrieve

This is a pretty big deal when fish are locked in on the Callibaetis nymphs.  At least as important as fly size and profile.  Maybe more important.  Callibaetis nymphs are good swimmers, but they are also still tiny bugs, so that retrieve you use when fishing Clousers for striped bass needs to be left at the dock.  It seems to me like they wiggle forward in short bursts that can be imitated by a series of 3-4 inch pulls, or some quick hand twists.  But then, the nymphs almost always seem to stop for a bit to take a break before heading back on their way.  So, a nice pause after a series of strips can be the ticket.  I’ll do that most of the time, matching my flyline to the water depth – floating line and long leader in the super shallows, slow intermediate when I need a hair more depth.  Fast intermediate lines seem too sinky for most of my work as I find myself hitting the weeds too soon on every cast.  If you are finding fish down deeper than say 8-10 ft you may want one to cut down on your countdown time.

I’ve also heard that Callibaetis nymphs will swim up to the surface and back down to the weeds a few times before finally committing to hatching from the surface.  So, a rising retrieve followed by a sink seems logical as well.  I need to fool around with this more.  Maybe an indicator and floating line or a short sink tip will do the trick.

Lastly, I’ve had a lot of fish eat a nymph suspended below a Callibaetis dry fly.  Heave it and leave it.  It works well.

Alright!  I’ve got myself fired up to fish now.  So, hopefully when you are reading this, I’ll be out on the lake.  If you’ve got any thoughts to add, I’d love to hear them.  You can reach me at mklara@bigskyanglers.com

Take Care and Fish On,

Matt

PS – Like my last post, this one is running double duty both here and at Sexyloops.com

 

Poetry from the Water

Fishing isn’t just about catching fish for the vast majority of folks who enjoy the pursuit.  For many of us, angling is an excuse to spend time on the water, in nature, reconnecting with friends, or our thoughts, and soaking it all in.  It’s no surprise that so many anglers also have a bit of an artistic or literary side.  On the water, inspiration is everywhere.
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Big Sky Anglers shop staffer Connor Flynn is one of us who finds inspiration from his time fishing.  Poetry/song are his chosen means of artistic expression, and he’s been kind enough to let us share a couple of his efforts with you via the blog.  The following pieces exist in print as poems, but have also been recorded as songs by Connor, acting as his rockstar alter ego, Black Jack Davey.  If you enjoy these, you can check out what else he’s up to on Facebook .

 “Evening Walk” 

Out on an evening walk tonight

I gaze into the water.

Feeding city dulled eyes

that see in the stillness.

Left by the wind

which perhaps went chasing the cloud’s pagodas.

The clouds that billow in the water.

But looking up,

my real eyes see,

it’s the small waves.

Far away from the dissipating mountains

that lingers till it’s return.

A drifting fish out on an evening float

to gaze up into our world.

At the trees, and the mountains, and the clouds.

And the occasional rambler,

who only through peace can chase the clouds pagodas.

And the occasional rambler,

who only through peace can penetrate the surface.

 “Time Is But The Stream” 

Written in the Frank Church Wilderness, Fall 2015

Time is but the stream

I go fishin’ in.
Everyday I dream of you,
but time keeps drifting’ along.
When I see you in my dreams
I know there’s something wrong.
When you speak to me
you know just what to say.
So why don’t we turn back time?
I can’t take this current alone.
Time is but the stream
I go fishin’ in.
History is the bedcarved by the river of life.
I’ve been in this place way too long.
I’m beginning to question what is real.
Soon I know I’ll be next to you.
When that time comes I’ll certainly know.
Till then,I’ll keep singing’ this song.
Time is but the stream
I go fishin’ in.

Join Us to Celebrate the Shop GRAND OPENING – June 30 through July 2

Big Sky Anglers
Hi, friends.  Please join us Friday, June 30th through Sunday July 2nd to celebrate the Big Sky Anglers shop grand opening.  We are super excited to see everyone and share our new vision with you. We’ve got a number of things planned for the weekend, so be sure to check out the schedule later in this email.  Stop by the shop any time to get in on store-wide sales, giveaways, fly tying demos, fly casting, and more.  We are loaded up with new Big Sky Anglers hats, shirts, and other logo gear, and still have some classic Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop gear hanging around if you are looking for a collectors item or two.
Friday will be a meet and greet during the day for the most part, with tons of sales and giveaways.  We’ll have sales reps in the shop Friday evening, and be hanging out talking rods and lines, and maybe casting a bit over at the park.
Saturday will be the biggest day, with sales reps on site in the evening along with catered BBQ, spirits from Willie’s Distillery in Ennis, and live art from Mimi Matsuda during the day.
Things will wind down on Sunday with more time to meet and greet with us and our staff, more sales, giveaways, and possibly a few surprises.
Best,
Joe Moore, Justin Spence, and Jonathan Heames
Owners, Big Sky Anglers
39 Madison Avenue, West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Special Guests and Events Schedule
Friday June 30
  • 9am – 9pm  Meet and Greet with Staff
  • 9am – 9pm  Sales and giveaways. Tying demos, fly casting, and more.
  • 4pm – 9pm  Winston Rods and Scientific Anglers Rep Travis Morris will be at the shop. Product and casting demos.  SA Line trade in program. Flyline specials.
  • 4pm – 9pm  Montana Fly Company’s Jake Chutz and Kris Keller will be on site talking fly design, bugs, and showing off their awesome fly tying tools and fly boxes.
Saturday, July 1
  • 9am – 9pm  Meet and Greet with Staff
  • 9am – 9pm  Sales and giveaways. Tying demos, fly casting, and more.
  • 10am – 6pm  Artist Mimi Matusda will be in the shop painting live!
  • 1pm on –  RO Drift Boats will be here with a boat full of beer and laughs
  • 4pm – 9pm Simms Rep Nick English will be at the shop talking gear, fishing, and trail running.  He’ll have a full Women’s Waders “Fit Kit” on hand for ladies looking for a way to get dialed in.
  • 4pm – 9pm  Montana Fly Company’s Jake Chutz and Kris Keller will be on site talking fly design, bugs, and showing off their awesome fly tying tools and fly boxes.
  • 4pm – 9pm  SAGE/Rio Rep Kurt Kruger will be in the shop.
  • 4pm – 9pm  Winston Rods and Scientific Anglers Rep Travis Morris will be at the shop. Product and casting demos.  SA Line trade in program. Flyline specials.
  • 6pm – 9pm  Echo/Airflo and Hatch Reels Rep Brandon Prince will be in the shop.
  • 6pm – 9pm  Catered BBQ from Beartooth BBQ of West Yellowstone, MT
  • 6pm – 9pm  Spirits from Willie’s Distillery in Ennis, MT
Sunday, July 2
  •  9am – 9pm  Meet and Greet with Staff
  • 9am – 9pm  Sales and giveaways. Tying demos, fly casting, and more.

Early Season on the Henry’s Fork

The Henry’s Fork of the Snake River is one of the most diverse fisheries in the western US.  With over 70 miles of fishable water, each section has such a unique character that it is like having eight rivers rolled into one.  Water types on the Fork range from tailwater canyons to flat, technical spring creek water, with freestone canyons and low gradient riffle-run sections as a nice bonus.  The Fork also has great diversity in elevation above sea level, with its headwaters at Henry’s Lake located 6472 feet, and the lower reaches of the river down around 5000 feet.  In times of extreme weather here in the high country surrounding West Yellowstone (elevation 6666 ft), it is possible to head down to the lower elevation “banana belt” where you can find nicer weather and water conditions that make the fish and fly fisher both a bit happier.  Nearly the entire river is sourced from natural groundwater springs, the largest of which forms the river’s headwaters and is aptly named Big Springs.  Due to the strong influence of groundwater, the Fork experiences a very minimal runoff by local standards, and almost always has several fishable sections in the early season (April through the month of June).

All of us here at Big Sky Anglers are excited to have an outfitting license for the Henry’s Fork.  We are now the only fly shop in West Yellowstone with this license, and we are among only eight outfitters total that are license holders for the river.  Guiding on the Henry’s Fork allows us to treat our customers to great fishing opportunities at times when many other local waters are blown out, closed to fishing, still frozen or otherwise unfishable. And, all of this exists within a 35 minute to 1 hour drive from the shop here in West Yellowstone.

The lower elevation reaches of the Henry’s Fork in particular exhibit great diversity of geology, gradient, scenery, and fishing. Each section has its own unique character, ranging from sections with large average sizes of trout that offer chances at true bruisers on dry flies, to other sections that are home to larger populations of smaller fish that offer the an angler the chance to relax a bit, learn a lot, and bring a few fish to hand.  The beauty of the Fork is that there is something for every angler regardless of skill levels.  We feel that it has been a misconception for years that the Fork is an experts-only river, and while there are sections where even the most experienced can test their skills and wits, there are other areas where newer anglers can still have a good time.

Though it is legal to fish year round on many of the sections of the Henry’s Fork, the fishing really begins to shape up in April, with good baetis hatches and some March brown activity occurring in several sections.  Stable water conditions, a rarity in the mountain west in April, make for reliable angling conditions, even if the weather is still a bit unpredictable.  Nymph fishing usually dominates during April.  While hatches can be prolific, they are typically short lived.  There is also some good streamer fishing when water temps are warm enough.

The fishing during the beginning of May can be considered an extension of April conditions… until the salmonflies begin to hatch.  This usually happens around the middle of the month.  Because the Fork has numerous tributaries and springs that change water temperature between river sections, the big bugs begin hatching and reach their peak in each section at different times.  Often the hatch will appear in a section upstream on the river and a few days later will begin to happen in a downstream stretch.  Fishing with a guide who has been on the water every day affords visiting anglers a HUGE advantage for this very reason.   While targeting the salmonflies can be a bit tricky because of  unstable weather in May, there are typically 5-7 great dry fly days with salmonflies .  And when the dry fly action isn’t perfect, the nymphing with big stonefly imitations can be outstanding.

Nymph fishing and dry/dropper fishing gets us through the end of May and into the beginning of June when the most exciting hatches of the year begin.  Usually we start with golden stones, PMDs, and caddis, which overlap with small olive stones and yellow sallies.  Next come the flavs and green drakes, followed by gray drakes, which create some of the most exceptional match-the-hatch dry fly fishing of the year.  This is often a mix of blind fishing with dries while looking for targets.  For the angler who prefers to target and cast to rising fish, the combination of a reliable spinner fall in the morning, blending into a PMD hatch in the afternoon, followed by a flav emergence in the early evening, this is absolute paradise.  These hatches offer a real chance at some very large trout in some sections of the Henry’s Fork, and for those who are willing to trade quantity of smaller fish for overall size of fish taken using extrememly visual methods early June is tough to beat.

And remember, all of this happens before the Madison is even done clearing up from runoff for the year.  Once the fishing begins to wane at the end of June on the lower Henry’s Fork due to rising water temps, the salmonflies will have just begun to establish themselves on Montana’s Madison and the upper Henry’s Fork gets into full swing with a repeat of many of the same hatches described above.  We’ll be there and hope you’ll be there with us!

Best,

Jonathan Heames, Co- Owner and Head Guide

Big Sky Anglers Co-Owner and Senior Guide Jonathan Heames looks forward to early season on the Fork all winter long.

 

Callibaetis and Chironomids – The Trap

By now you’d think I could not be fooled.  You’d think that I’d know better after so many seasons fishing stillwaters.  But I still fall into the trap nearly every time.  And it happened again just the other day.

My fishing partner and I arrived at the lake around mid-morning and found the surface glass calm, save for the boils, swirls, and gulps of more than a few rising trout.  Nothing like the sight of that to motivate you to rig and launch the boat in record time!  A quick survey of the scene revealed plenty of adult chironomids flying over the bushes, and chironomid shucks on the water.  There were also a very heathy number of Callibaetis mayfly emergers and adults all over the surface, drifting helplessly like speckled sailboats.

Now, the Callibaetis is the sexiest mayfly of all in my opinion.  Its striking mottled wings, good (highly visible) size, bankers hatch hours, and ability to bring quality trout to the surface on stillwaters are what make it so appealing.  In the western US, it is by far the most important stillwater mayfly.

And so, when I see a bunch of Callibaetis mayflies on the surface, and I see trout feeding aggressively near the surface, I tend to scramble for my flybox and start deciding which of the numerous Callibaetis imitations that I should tie on.  Often, seeing what I have explained above does in fact mean the trout are eating Callibaetis.  But not when there is an invisible, underwater blizzard of chironomid pupae.

The trap was set.  And we fell for it.  After 20 or 30 minutes of fishing among numerous (extremely numerous, actually) feeding fish, using multiple Callibaetis tactics (slow intermediate and nymph, floating line and nymphs, dry fly and emerger on top, dry fly with emerging nymph dropper, etc), we only had a couple of hookups to show for our effort.  I knew we had been duped by the chironomids yet again.  Small, a bit ugly, and decidedly un-sexy insects – their abundance was essentially overwhelming the beautiful Callibaetis in the eyes of the trout.  And still, another 20 minutes went by before I switched to chironomid pupa tactics.  Each cast that wasn’t intercepted by a trout was punctuated by a comment along the lines of, “they must be on the chironomids”.   I didn’t want to believe that the trout would ignore all those beautiful mayflies.

But they did just that.  The rest of this story is fairly boring.  We finally switched to chironomid tactics, dialed in the pattern and depths, and caught fish after fish until we had to get back to town.  Fooled, but not totally foiled, we still had a great time, shared some good laughs, and reminded ourselves of the Callibaetis and chironomid trap.  Maybe we will actually remember it next time, or at least acknowledge it as we are tying on our Callibaetis imitations.

Take Care and Fish On,

Matt

PS – Today’s post is also appearing at Sexyloops.com

Big Sky Anglers, The West Yellowstone Fly Shop, and Jonathan Heames Fly Fishing Have Merged and Acquired Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop

This is the post we’ve all been waiting for folks.  We are thrilled to OFFICIALLY announce the launch of the all new Big Sky Anglers.

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Montana (April, 2017) –  Longtime local guides/outfitters Joe Moore (Big Sky Anglers), Justin Spence (The West Yellowstone Fly Shop),  and Jonathan Heames (Jonathan Heames Fly Fishing & Trouthunter) have merged and acquired Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop.

The entire operation, including outfitting and the fly shop, will move forward as BIG SKY ANGLERS, based here in West Yellowstone, MT.  The merger expands Big Sky Anglers’ prior outfitting territory to include the waters of Gallatin National Forest and the legendary Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho, and adds an awesome retail fly fishing space to the business.

With over 55 years of combined guiding and fly shop experience in West Yellowstone, Joe, Justin, and Jonathan are excited to continue the tradition started by Bud Lilly over 65 years ago, while adding our own unique voice and vision to the business. We have some great ideas planned for the shop and will incorporate all the wonderful things that have made each of us successful in our own businesses.  As always, customer service is our top priority.

We are on the web at www.bigskyanglers.com and can be reached via email at info@bigskyanglers.com and by phone at 406-646-7801.  We can also be found and reached on Facebook at facebook.com/bigskyanglers/ and on Instagram @bigskyanglers.

The fly shop doors will be open full time starting in the Spring of 2017, following completion of renovations.  We are currently available via phone if you’d like to talk fishing or book trips.  We also have plenty of gear available so don’t hesitate to contact us if you need anything.  Our multi-day grand opening event is scheduled for June 30 through July 2, 2017.  We’ll have lots of surprises in store, along with great guests, discounts, giveaways, and more.  We look forward to seeing everyone then!

With any change brings uncertainty to the customers of any established business, but there are a few important things we’d like everyone to know at this time:

We will maintain our commitment to providing the best guided fishing experience available.  Our staff will include Justin Spence, Joe Moore, and Jonathan Heames as senior guides and owners, along with veteran guides Travis Rydberg and Steve Hoovler, plus your favorite guides who formerly worked for Big Sky Anglers, the West Yellowstone Fly Shop, and Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop.  So, if you love fishing with Greg Falls, Jared Cady, Chris Herpin, Earl James, Donovan Best, Miles Marquez, or Mike Swanson, just give us a call!

Our home base will be in the classic location made famous by Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop at the corner of Canyon and Madison in West Yellowstone.  Stop in and see us this coming season.  We are excited to get to know so many more great folks who share our love for Yellowstone Country!  Our inventory will include: rods from Echo, Sage, Scott, and Winston; reels from Abel, Galvan, Hatch, Waterworks-Lamson, and Ross;  flylines and leaders from Airflo, Maxima, Rio, Scientific Anglers, and Trouthunter; flies from Fulling Mill, Solitude, Umpqua, and local custom tiers; waders and boots from Simms and Korkers, apparel from Simms and Columbia; nets and packs from Fishpond; and sunglasses from Costa del Mar and Smith.

We were able to meet with Bud Lilly in December of 2016 at his home in Three Forks, before he passed away.  We were honored when he asked us to share our stories with him, and explain our plans for moving forward.  He shared a few stories of his own, and graciously offered us his support and well wishes moving forward.

The legacy of Bud Lilly will live on here at Big Sky Anglers.  Bud is a legendary angler and advocate for conservation and protection of wild trout and their habitat in southwest Montana, Yellowstone Park and beyond.  His messages to fellow anglers rings as true today as they did when he started all of this over 65 years ago. We believe that the most profound of Bud’s ideals is that of being a well-rounded angler and participating in fishing for what he calls “The Total Experience”.  It’s not only catching fish that draws us to angling.  It’s the love of the fish and the rivers.   Enjoying our natural surroundings and unique geology, experiencing the local birds and wildlife, participating in our western culture, and doing it all in chosen solitude or in the company of friends and loved ones, is what completes the angling experience and keeps our passion strong.

 

Contact:

Joe Moore, Justin Spence, and Jonathan Heames – Owners, Big Sky Anglers

406-646-7801

info@bigskyanglers.com

Big Sky Anglers, 39 Madison Ave, West Yellowstone, Montana 59758

We Fish Everywhere Vol. 1 – NYC Stripers

Blog post author Miles Marquez with a beautiful bass from Jamaica Bay.

There’s nothing like the signs of spring in New York City to get my excitement up. For the last five months of winter, the hard, cold concrete of the City has been intertwined with a grey sky, and the shrugging masses drenched in overcoats dominate the streets. It’s not a Rocky Mountain cold – there is hardly any snow and some months are sprinkled with surprise warmer days. However the nights remain cold and keep the fish, whatever and wherever they might be, down and away from human contact.

Not even basketball is a suitable cure to the madness between tying flies for both a summer in Montana and a short spring run of striped bass. The Knicks have let me down season after season since I was a young kid in the 90s glory days. I’m too old to skate more than once a week. Everything seems pointless and slow.

With the only warning being the end of spring training baseball, consistent warmer days string together and life suddenly takes form and you begin to think with a purpose. Noreast is updated with daily reports, the harbor temps start to rise. You pick a decent day and ride the train just far enough outside the hustle and bustle of the city and begin to prospect. Bang! Fish on. The air is warmer but the water is still cold.

The tidal waterways in and around New York City stretching from the Battery to the western mouth of the Long Island Sound comprise a diverse and plentiful fishery for the salt water angler. It is home to various species of fish including flounder, false albacore (in the fall), and aggressive bluefish. However the most sought after species is of course the striped bass. Native to the North East coast, “Stripers” are bull dogs of a game fish and have been commonly caught upwards of 50lbs. Often over looked behind more popular species of salt water game fish like bonefish and tarpon, striped bass are beautiful and hard fighting in their own right. Chrome silvers mixed with purplish and olive hues all blend behind a foreground of pronounced black bars.

Striped Bass Closeup

The striped bass population is comprised of larger migratory adults as well as resident “schoolies.” The schoolies are what their name implies – smaller fish (ranging from 4″ to 28″) that cruise their naive inter coastal homes through the winter and until they reach the size needed to migrate with their older relatives in the open ocean. Even a modestly sized striper, especially in the cold spring water can feel like your fly has been hit by a subway car on the express track.

Going out and finding stripers in the spring requires a lot of searching. They move around following the first bait that arrives. That, combined with warming waters and moving tides, is a great start. Striped bass are ambush predators just like freshwater bass. Structure and deeper waters close by are always a good bet. However, sometimes they will chase and trap bait in the shallowest coves. A good early season bet is to keep your eyes peeled for areas with muddy bottoms as they tend to warm faster than sandy bottom areas that could be productive in the summer and fall. Tides, tides, tides!!! Visually learn how the incoming, slack, and outgoing tides affect a specific spot you are targeting to fish. Observe the structure exposed during low tide so you know how to fish it and walk around in it during the incoming, slack, and outgoing tides. Blind casting only works if you know a spot has already produced fish. Look for signs like nervous water caused by rushing baitfish, diving birds, actual top water slashes and eats.

Tying flies for striped bass is as simple and fun as fly tying can be. The flies are big and bright and typically don’t require many steps. Early in the season you don’t really need to match the bait hatch, these fish are hungry and will readily take a 1/0 fly that you can easily throw with an 8 weight rod. Clouser Minnows and Lefty’s Deceivers tied in Chartreuse over white are the most common flies you’ll use on foot.

A selection of flies for NYC Striped bass tied by Edwin Valentin

As the water temps rise to the mid 50s, more areas of water become fishable. Jamaica Bay, for example, is a massive salt water estuary located on the southern coasts of Brooklyn and Queens…Yes you heard me right Brooklyn and Queens! Jamaica Bay is best fished from a boat and many famous North Eastern guides have made their living on skiffs and small boats for over twenty years. Imagine standing on the bow of a boat minutes from central New York City strip setting a fly on a huge striper beneath jets making their final approach to John F. Kennedy Airport. The guided fly fishing in Jamaica Bay could rival your most fun trip to Andros or any other saltwater destination. When you’re out on the boat, a 10 weight rod and 350 grain sink tip can be vital to getting the hefty 10” – 12” flies into the fray of a bait blitz. Make sure to have a floating line handy as well to throw big gaudy gurglers for some exciting top water action!

The prime time to fish New York City’s tidal waters is between April and June and then again in September through November. The waters tend to warm up and fish become less active during mid-summer. The fall fun of striped bass is when the biggest fish tend to be caught as they start their migration back south along the Atlantic Coast. In September you have a shot at some exhilarating fishing when false albacore run close to the shores like little bullets. Not very large, a small football “Albie” will spool your 9 weight very quickly. Soon thereafter, the winter creeps back in as quickly as it left, leaving behind fisherman with itches that a fly tying vice can only scratch for so long before cabin fever sets in.

Never in my life have I experienced such a diverse fishery as the greater New York City area. From the fabled Catskill trout streams where classic dry fly patterns were developed to chuck and ducking massive Hollow Fleyes to a thrashing and turbid bunker blitz. Only in New York can you can wake up amongst towering skyscrapers, fight the aggressive striped bass in beautiful flats, and be walking through Gate 6 of Yankee Stadium by 7:05 to catch the Bronx Bombers don their own pinstripes.

Take me out to the ball game… after just a few more casts.

Two Casts

From time to time my daily schedule takes me along the river.  I don’t necessarily get to pick what time of day I’m driving past, or what the weather will be like when I’m there, so fishing conditions aren’t always optimal.  But I do always try to stop at a few turnouts along the way to see if there are any fish rising.

So it was one fine day last summer.  Mid afternoon, high and bright sun, little-to-no wind.  An absolute glorious day in Montana.  One of those days where a person can feel content just sitting on the river bank starting at the water and the sky, watching the fluffy white clouds, or their reflections, drift past.  The morning hatch was long gone, the water’s surface glassy and still, and the fish clearly back down looking for drifting nymphs.  First turnout – nothing.  Second turnout – nothing. Third turnout – nothing.  After about 5 minutes surveying the river at each spot, I was about to be on my merry way, but a subtle bulge and rings spreading on the surface well downstream caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks.

I’ve fallen for this trap before: gearing up to fish after seeing a single rise, only to have it turn out to be another “one-and-done” riser.  So I just stood there and waited.  Another rise.  And another.  Not in rapid succession, but enough to convince me to string up the rod.  Besides, I could tell it was a good fish, in a very challenging situation.  Well worth the effort.

Fishing is all about process.  I knew from experience that there was a very good chance that I would spook this fish before ever making a cast, so I decided to take my time with the approach, and soak up the simple joy that is watching a good fish rise on a sunny afternoon.  I took the long way down the bank, making sure to steer clear of the poison ivy and the electric fence that keeps the cows out of the river.  I found a good approach angle with a nice clear back cast.  A fat muskrat swam down to investigate what I was up to, and my fish stopped rising.  So I waited.

While I waited, I lengthened my leader and added a long piece of tippet.  The only bugs on the water were the dregs of the morning hatch and spinner fall.  My gut told me to go with “trusty rusty”.  A rusty spinner…  when you don’t know what they are eating, or when all else fails.

The fish came up again.  Closer this time.  In the high sun and clear water I could clearly see the entire fish, hovering a foot under the surface in the slow, gin-clear flow.  Oh, man.  Tricky.  Exciting.  I had a feeling this was going to be one cast for the championship.  There would be only two possible grades on this test – either  A+ or F.  Another rise in full view and I slowly pulled line off my reel.

I was feeling good as I made that first cast, until an unexpected gust of breeze came out of nowhere.  Oh, no!  The leader landed in a heap in the floating vegetation that divided me from the fish.  The cast was so bad that the fish didn’t even know it had been attempted!  Ha!  I retrieved the fly, cleaned the algae from the hook, regained my composure, and went for it again.

The fly landed with a light plop about 5 feet upstream of the fish.  Right on line.  It floated two feet and then fell through the surface tension, out of sight to me, but not the trout.  The fish pushed forward and up in a subtle, smooth, and confident stroke, and ate the fly.   Fish on!

A short run and a jump and the fly pulled free.  Silence and stillness reclaimed the river.  I looked at my watch to discover that forty-five minutes had past since I saw the first rise.  Two casts would be plenty for today.  I reeled up and drove home, grinning to myself the whole way.

NOTE:  Matt Klara is a good friend and our Social Media guy here at Big Sky Anglers.  He was kind enough to share this piece, which was originally drafted for his Front Page post on sexyloops.com.

 

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