Whitefish & the Madison River

 
 

Rick Welle lands another.

Over the past several years, anglers and biologist alike, have noticed a decline in Rocky Mountain Whitefish on the Madison River.  Some anglers believe that Whitefish are a plague to the Rocky Mountains and when this resentment comes aboard my vessel, I kick it to the curb.  Whitefish are just that – fish.  They dont eat shitty drifted flies.  And they are native.  And they need respect.   While their fight is not that of Rainbow or Brown, most anglers can’t tell what species of fish is on their line while nymphing.  Many times in my boat, while nymphing a rubber leg and a PT, anglers have unhappily exclaimed, “Damn, just another whitey”.  This comment drives me nuts……because, more often than not, it is a nice brown trout who has decided not to jump.  Said angler plays the fish, like it is wasting their time – slack line, rod tip anywhere but the sky, mis-stripping…….and the fly pops out, or off.   I actually love it when anglers do this and break the fly off.  Why, you ask?  Well, most of the time, a trout with a hook in its mouth will jump.  Even if it never jumped while on the line.  When the trout does jump after being broke off, as a guide, it is feels good to point out the jumping trout and tell the angler to hand you their line since that “whitefish” they broke off was actually a trout jumping with their fly in its mouth.   folks will look at the jumping fish, the to you, then to the fish again, then realize what you said about their fly and grasp at the line to see if there is a fly still on it.  I rarely try to be a smart ass, but that scenario is hard to pass up.

  Moral of the story – RESPECT – if something eats your fly, be happy. 

Montana FWP Region 3 biologists are begining to study Rocky Mountain Whitefish this summer on the Madison.  Whitefish research is relatively non-existent.  FWP doesn’t really know how many ther are in the Madison, as their shocking efforts (a type of creel census…if you call it that) are only focused on trout.   Whitefish spawn in the Fall: October through November and hatch in early spring……about right now.  Some can live past 10 years.  I have heard some old reports that the Madison, at one time, had 15,000 whitefish per mile.  From my experiece on the Madison, there is no where near 15,000 per mile.  The actual number does seem to be down as compared to the my early days of guiding some 13 years ago.  The decline most likey was noticed about 7 years ago…although it only seems like 4 or 5 to me. 

Trout prey heavily on juvenile whitefish during late summer when hatches are scarce.  Some theories say that the lack of whitefish could correlate with the decrease in trout numbers and trout size the past few seasons on the Madison.  Another theory believes that the number of whitefish in a stream is a tell tale sign of how heathy the river is. 

As more information comes to light, we will come back to this interesting study of Whitefish on the Madison River……stay tuned!

 
 

Looking upstream from Reynolds Bridge

 

Ditch Bill Update – HB 309

Recieved this today from FOAM:

House Bill 309, the ‘ditch’ bill, was tabled in the Senate Ag committee this afternoon.

Amendments were offered to strip the bill of any mention of redefining what is a ditch and related access issues and to update the Stream Access law to reflect corrections from the so-called ‘Galt Decision’ from the Montana Supreme Court.

Even while considering these wholesale amendments, committee members were wary that a stripped-down HB309 could be amended  back to the original language in the House or in a conference committee formed to iron out any and all amendments from both the Senate and the House. 

With this possibility in mind, Sen. Taylor Brown moved to withdraw the amendments and table the bill.  The committee voted 8 for tabling, 3 against. 

Sen. Brown may try to have the House suspend their rules barring introduction of any new bills at this late date and try to cobble up a committee bill to bring forward the Galt Decision language in a new bill, but the chances of an unused bill draft being available and the House suspending their rules to allow it’s introduction are sketchy.

FOAM will track the final throes of HB309, but today’s committee action may well be the end of this saga.

Robin Cunningham
FOAM

The Ditch Bill….

Robin Cunningham, the ED of the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana has attended every session in Helena as our ear to the grindstone for almost 2 decades.  Two weeks ago he informed those of us attending the Board of Directors Meeting in Bozeman about HB 309.   Robin has been keeping us informed all along the way.  There has been lots of coverage througout the web regarding this attact on stream access here in Montana.  The blogs Willfishforwork and ChiWulff  have been covering this quite well.  I, for one, have been writing emails to those in the House, Senate and the Governor opposing this attack on the Stream Access Law. 

Yesterday afternoon Robin sent out an email to the Board saying that HB309, the ‘Ditch Bill’, is scheduled for hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation Committee on Thursday, March 3, in Room 335 starting at 3:00 p.m.  Helena, MT.

Download the bill:  http://foam-montana.org/downloads/HB309.pdf

Email your Senators: click here to find them.

Felt Ban in Montana

These are about to be on the chopping block in MT.

The Felt Ban is heating up in Montana.  There is a proposed bill in the Montana legislature that will ban felt soled wading boots starting October 1, 2011.  There is tons of information out there to educate everyone about the serious issues of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS).  Google it and read about it.  Felt is the number one carrier of ANS, but not the only problem.  Laces, neoprene booties, gussets, and insoles help to spread ANS as well.  It is not just felt, should all boots with laces, gussets and insoles which get wet be banned as well?  The odds of someone spreading ANS around with non felt boots is still high.  Safety while wading has been a very talked about issue with regards to wearing rubber boots. 

What do you think?

Here is a link to the proposed bill on banning felt in Montana: Felt ban in MT

 NEW SECTION.  Section 2.  Use of felt-soled boots and waders prohibited. (1) A person may not use external felt-soled boots or external felt-soled waders in the waters of the state.     (2) The possession of external felt-soled boots or external felt-soled waders on the banks or shores of a stream or lake or in a boat, raft, canoe, or other water vessel is prima facie evidence that the person or persons in whose possession the boots or waders are found were using the boots or waders in the waters of the state.

     (3) The provisions of this section do not apply to a state or federal employee or emergency personnel, including fire, law enforcement, and emergency medical technicians, using external felt-soled boots or external felt-soled waders when acting within the scope of duty.

 What do you think?

Dryflies that work! simple & Easy to tie….

buzzball-cripple.JPG

The Buzzball Cripple

My buddy Mark Raisler, co-owner of Headhunters Fly Shop, showed me Lafontaine’s Buzzball a bunch of years while on the Missouri….he may have still been cooking at The Trout Shop Cafe at that time.  When I have fished the Buzzball on the Madison, well, you just can’t see it that well.  I have used the Improved Buzzball with good success, but my variation floats a bit better and trout love it.  Anytime one adds a Zelon shuck and elk hair wing, it can’t go wrong.

Stay tuned for a video showing how to tie the Buzzball Cripple.  To see a video of the Buzzball check out:  http://www.youtube.com/user/scumliner#p/u/3/7MTtTk-HM8M. Mark will show you how.