FAS – leased Fishing Access Sites may not be renewed

It seems as if the folks in Helena who represent the good people of Montana aren’t listening very well these days.  Below is a list of fishing access sites, FAS, that the State of Montana leases out from private property owners.  HB 403 has limited MT FWP’s ability to lease these sites out for the upcoming season.  This means that none of your license fees can be used to pay for these leases.  Do you like to wade fish on the Ruby at Alder Bridge?  How about floating from Notch to Pennington on the Big Hole?  Wade fishing at the Bull Pin on the Missouri is mighty popular as well.  This morning HB 403 is being heard, so cross your fingers that this money will be approved for these sites, otherwise, they will most likely be closed.   Read below for a full list…..

FAS STATEWIDE FEE LEASES

FWP REGION

SITE NAME RIVER DRAINAGE LAKE OR RESERVOIR
1 Beaver Lake FAS Beaver Lake
1 Elmo FAS Flathead Lake
2 Browns Lake FAS Browns Lake
2 WW White FAS W.F. Bitterroot River
3 Alder Bridge FAS

Silver Bridge FAS

Ruby Island FAS

Ruby river

Ruby River

Ruby River

3 Daily Lake FAS Daily Lake
3 Pennington Bridge FAS

Sportsman’s Park FAS

Big Hole River

Big Hole River

4 Lone Tree FAS

Bull Pasture FAS

Little Muddy Cr FAS

Truly Bridge FAS

Missouri River

Missouri River

Missouri River

Smith River

4 Eureka Reservoir FAS Eureka Reservoir
6 Faber Reservoir FAS Faber Reservoir
6 School Trust FAS Missouri River
7 Black Bridge FAS

Far West FAS

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

Check us out on Instagram…

This past winter I started an Instagram account to help promote the business and also cause I really just love taking pictures.  What I like most is that Instagram is about capturing images of everyday life with your phone.   Taking photos, for me, goes back to childhood.  Growing up, my father took A LOT of photographs of our outings with a Nikon film camera, that, at the time, was a great camera.  Those printed photos are sitting in the basement of my folk’s house back in Quincy and are super fun to look at when Molly and I make it back to the homeland for a visit.  To me, photos are a visual time line that mark periods of my life.  Periods that can almost be forgotten as the memories stack up over time.  As I get older, capturing these moments is almost as important as the moments themselves.  When I’m old, gray and no longer able to row a boat, I’ll have photographs to remind me of the good ole days.

Hebgen Dam Update….is the fat lady gonna sing?

Way back in late August of 2008, Hebgen Dam broke.  The day it happened we sat there and drank beers, watching the lake drop six inches in 24 hours.  A month later, PPL Montana got the situation “under control”, but none of us thought it would take this long to complete construction.  Where is the accountability?  For the past seven years, the angling could be hit and miss, more so than before the failure of the intake structure. During the past two seasons, it seemed as if the trout have come around to the warmer temps and fishing was pretty darn good.  However, the dry fly fishing wasn’t nearly as consistent and most guides in the float stretch relied on nymphing.   I’ve written about this quite a bit over the past seven years, so have others like Mike Lum down in Ennis.  We’ve been pretty hard on Northwest Energy (formally PPL Montana, this change happened in the fall of 2014) and only in the past couple of years has anyone at NWE really paid attention.  I’d like to give that credit to their biologist, Brent Mabbot.  Brent is a diamond in the rough and is putting in some time with regards to getting out and talking with the locals who have spent their lives on the Madison River and care for it deeply.  While we don’t agree on everything, he at the very least will listen and react.  Brent went to bat for the river and I personally have noticed the change.  While some of us would’ve held on to more water this winter in Hebgen Lake, at least we are sitting at a higher elevation that in past years…it’s not much higher, but it is better than it could be.  Trout in the Madison River are spawning and it remains to be seen how they’ll do with the recent drop in flows, which is a double edged sword.  Why?  Well, the lake is gonna need all the water it can to be filled by the end June and our snow pack is quite low (72% for the entire Madison Drainage, slightly lower locally).  Hopefully, this drop in flows (currently 654 CFS)  is early enough to catch the pre-run off snow melt that is occurring right now and also to not cause the spawning channels to become too shallow, too soon.

So, cross your fingers, cross everything really, as they are almost finished with Hebgen Dam project.  On or around July 1, 2015 NWE is going to begin testing the new intake structure.  This will take some time as they want to make sure everything is functioning properly.  Once this is the case, they will start to remove the coffer dam.

This is when things get tricky.

You see, there is roughly 56 degree water down at the intake, which is about 10 degrees cooler than what comes off the top of the lake.  In August, there are times when the top of the lake is 70 degrees.  If NWE switched out the flow from the warmish water on top of the lake to the cold water beneath the thermocline, this could “shock” the fish.   Mabbot would like to slowly introduce the cold water to the fish and plans on mixing the top water and bottom water for a little while to gradually change the temperature of the river.  Against the coffer dam sits quite a bit of silt and nobody knows exactly how much.  This silt will enter the river once the coffer dam is removed.  Will it blow out the river completely?  Who knows, but the river betwix the lakes will get some color.  With any luck, Quake Lake will act as a filter and the river from the Slide to Ennis will be green.  By August 15th, or earlier if all goes well, the Madison will once again have clean, cold water.  Honestly, nobody really knows how the river will react to this change, but the one thing we all know is that cold water is better than warm water.  When I talk about change, I mean go back to the way it was.  Back to when one needed waders to fish betwix the lakes in August.  Back to when most of us fished dry flies ramp to ramp with good success no matter how skilled the angler was in the boat.  This change will take some time as the river will adjust the way all ecosystems do – at their own pace.



I boldly predict that the fish, post runoff, will enjoy the river as they normally do.  However, when the river begins to warm up, like it has the past 7 years in late July, it will continue to be cold because Hebgen Dam is functioning properly from the depths of the lake.  Maybe, just maybe, the larger trout in the river will still be holding in the shallow riffles and boulder strewn runs through the month of August and early September and not retreat to the deepest, darkest and coolest runs in the river.  Sixteen years ago, I started guiding on one of the finest rivers in the world.  Some of the best advice I got was to learn the river by floating long stretches and fishing a dry fly against the banks, around the boulders and throughout the mid-river gravel bars.  Float long and fish it dry.  This has not been the most productive technique since 2008, with the exception of late June and early July or the random day they decide to eat it all day on top, but I want this back more than about anything else in my angling world….and I am not alone.

Winter will return

For three weeks now, the Madison River drainage has seen mild daytime temps and hardly any snowfall.  The valley is void of snow and it seems more like April than February.  With that in mind, I must say, Winter will return.  The boat ramps in the Madison Valley are free and floating is an option in the upper river till she closes in a couple weeks.   My new boat from RO Drift Boats is not quite laid up yet, but next week I plan on spending some time with Robert at the boat shop.  Yes! I’m getting a new boat for the 2015 season….exciting stuff is happening on this front.   More to come in the next few months.

Today I sat and watched a pair of  golden eagles play on the thermal air around Palisades.  Nothing says, sit back and watch, like two giant birds soaring hundreds of feet above you; cupping their wings, diving straight down and then pulling out, ascending back above the cliffs.  At that point, who cares about the fishing, the trout.  They will still be there in five minutes.  It makes one realize how important these open spaces are to us all.  Palisades is BLM ground – Federal land that belongs to each of us.  Let’s keep it that way.

The Firehole has been alive with rising trout, some of which I watch prolonged and then realize that all but a few folks on my snow coach tour could care less about them.   With the warmer than normal winter, I can’t help but fish on days away from Yellowstone National Park .  Lots of anglers are drifting flies throughout the work week from Reynolds Pass down to Ennis and through the Beartrap Canyon.  Go downstream for solitude, being alone on the Madison does wonders for each of us.  Stella has become quite the fishing dog, sitting beside me to observe the scene no matter how deep the water I wade.  She loves to sit in my wake and stall out on a boulder just large enough to get her chest above water..  Today she snapped up a large whitefish from the river as it was released.  Her head went full on under the river and she was udderly proud of her catch, looking at me as the tail smacker her fury cheek.

While the snowpack is low, there is still plenty fo time for it stack up…keep up the snow dancing though, we need every inch.  Stay tuned for more updates on snowpack and winter fishing reports.  We are bound for Cody, Wyoming once again this Spring for a little golf and March/April angling. Cody is a little gem that is getting harder to keep under the hat.

it feels like early november

The valley is void of snow.  Not trout though, they are there.  It’s been warm thus far in December and the rest of the week looks to be fabulous fishing weather.   All this snow melting and general warmness has given me the itch to fish and with a world class trout stream like the Madison, just a short drive away, I figured it would be a good plan.  The river was empty today, as it is so often this time of the year.  Rigged with a single dry, I walked way down below Three Dollar and poked around for an hour or longer and found not a head – the hatch was light too.  After fishing blind for a bit longer, I made the switch to a shallow nymph rig and caught fish till I felt that everything was right again.

If I didn’t have guide training for YNP beginning on Friday, I would pack up Stella and head to eastern Montana till the snow fell.  Most of us are wondering when Winter will actually begin.   The West Gate of the Park opens on the 15th, but we won’t be driving a bombardier in Yellowstone anytime soon.  Recently, I’ve come to the realization that Cody would be a grand place for Molly and I to live, however, this would only be for the months of November and December…the bird hunter in me has come up with this plan, but at this point it’s just conceptual.  I also want a second draht, an airstream that comes with big sacks of money and another shotgun.  It’s not that Cody is a bird hunter’s paradise, it just happens to be a bit closer to bird hunting paradise.


The other 1%

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day.

I did not serve in the United States Military, my grandfather did in World War One.  I have no possible idea what his experiences were like as he passed before I was born, but sitting on my desk are two spent .30-06 cartridges from his funeral.  There were times growing up when there was an overwhelming feeling to join the Military.  Frequent trips to Army Surplus stores throughout my youth yielded various backpacks, fatigues and other camping gear; patches were my favorite pieces to collect.  At one point in high school I sat down with a recruiter from the Marine Corps and asked him some questions.  He asked me a few and once he realized that I had blown my ACL playing soccer, he was less interested in my service.  That was alright with me, I was actually more afraid to enlist than I was of heading off to college.  Two high school friends enlisted in the Marine Corps, during my freshman and sophomore years we wrote letters back and forth – I still have those letters.

Years later, I find myself saying “thanks for your service” to men and women I’ve never met; it happens in parking lots, at gas stations and just about anywhere it can.  I can’t really help it, it just comes out and immediately they light up and are very appreciative. There is something inside me that wants to know more about their service and their time spent defending our freedom, but those are personal feelings and experiences that I am not warranted to know. I have a large list of fishing clients that are serving or who have served in the US Armed Forces. Some of them openly share, others just want to unwind and not discuss “work”. They come out to Montana, not for the fishing, but for the peace and quiet our great state offers. In the drift boat I witnessed grown men, with more clearance than most folks will ever have, completely breakdown and lose their shit. That story in it’s entirety will never appear on the pages of this blog- it just wouldn’t be right. I get it though, really, cause the stress that these men and women are put through is nothing like what the rest of us Joes have to deal with. It’s similar, but not the same.  One can’t relate, one can only try to understand and respect it.  There is a common phrase used in society today – “the upper 1%”.  That’s typically used for the ultra wealthy, but “the other 1%” is now being used for those who served in the Military.  Nowadays, only one percent of Americans have served in the Armed Forces. That’s actually quite disturbing and is the real reason why the general population of America doesn’t understand what’s going in the world today.

Another client, who became a friend (as many do), is a co-founder of a program/organization called Words After War.  Brandon Willetts is a Navy Veteran and a writer.  His father and grandfather are both Veterans as well….it runs in their blood. Brandon and his business partner are trying to bridge the gap between Vets and the rest of us.   Their program is gaining ground. One day not too far down the road, they will be the ones who figured out the way to make us understand what’s it like to be a Vet trying to assimilate back into society.