I woke this morning in a haze of confusion, unaware of where my head had fallen the night before. Something had just bumped into my legs and was hovering over me. My eyes opened up to see the shaggy face of a dog, now inches from my nose. Moments later Stella wet the side of my face and put her down on my chest. It was then I realized …. I was in West Yellowstone, at home. Shooing away Stella at 5 am, I rolled over for a couple more hours and enjoyed some much needed rest.
The 2014 Guide Season is officially over. All that remains is the boat load of paperwork sitting in my office. Most of that isn’t due for two months, which makes plenty of time for getting outside and enjoying what’s left of Fall. To all those who came out to fish with us this year, we would like to extend a huge THANK YOU! Without folks like you, Greg, Earl and myself would not be able call Montana home. We appreciate the business and are already looking forward to 2015 – which just so happens to be our 10th year of providing top shelf fly fishing trips in Montana. Ten years…..let’s hope the next ten takes longer than the last ten.
Today was a good day.
Snow, rain, some coffee, a bit of wind and enough sun to make one think that sunshine would be a good thing for a few minutes of the day if only to warm one up and keep one from thinking that rowing is a good idea. Manning the oars is something to be left to those who do it naturally, without thinking. When I row the boat and I have an angler who slips the fly in the spot just as I am thinking how sweet that spot is, everything clicks and the line slides tight. The fish is thrashing, running and jumping and ripping line. It might jump, it might not, but it’s hooked up and the pull is right.
Today was a good day.
The fire next to the kitchen table is keeping all of us, both hounds, a kitty and myself warm on this ultra wet chilly morning. Once again, we slept all night through the pouring rain and woke to the same soaking from above this AM. In a couple hours I will be packed up and ready for the four hour drive to Craig, the self proclaimed fly fishing capital of the world, (however we all know that West Yellowstone will forever hold this title) for my last push of guide trips of the 2014 season. The next month will find me living with Kuhnert and Courtney….tying flies at night, watching play off baseball mixed with some EPL and rowing a boat during the day. Twenty-two trips in total and I can only hope that cloudy weather and cool temps continue to be in the forecast through late October. Greg Falls has been working nearly everyday up north and providing me with weekly reports – they’ve had solid fishing and each day it get’s more Fall-like. The Missouri gives me a chill, it always has and it always will……
An old friend, exceptional fly tyier and fellow guide passed away a few days ago after a two year battle with cancer. Nick, you will be missed by us all….over ten years ago you showed me the $3 dip – that fly changed my outlook on flies and guiding. You were a ghost amongst the rest of us and I very rarely knew where you were fishing. When I did happen upon your rig, I always made a mental note but never went back there with clients. Thanks for being a friend to young guide trying to figure out the way down the river.
August and September were wet as wet as anyone can remember in recent history. The photo above was from early September and our first snow of the year on the level. That was a particularly windy day, out of the north, and I don’t think I ever made a back stroke on the oars all day long. The fish have stayed hungry through September, mostly eating nymphs and streamers, but there were several days of solid dry fly fishing. Small flies like $3 dip, Black Crystal Dip, the DOB, #12 Prince, Olive Serendipities, Pink SJW and #10 black rubber legs were my best flies down in the Madison valley over the past few weeks.
Big Trout are running up the Madison in YNP as I write this. The flows have been higher than normal and the daytime temps cooler as well. What that really translates to is more trout in the system for a longer period of time. October will provide some solid fishing opportunities around West Yellowstone and I look forward to seeing photos of big browns in the month to come. While I love guiding and fishing the Missouri River in October, I will miss swinging flies for the grab of a migratory brown who has been lurking in Hebgen Lake all summer long.
You will very rarely see me all tuxed out like this……my wife is stunning….me? Well, I just look good cause she is standing by my side.. See ya soon Molly! Can’t wait to fish with you on the Missouri.
Just recently, I’ve spent a little time on the river outside of guiding anglers. After all, it’s still summer for a few more weeks and one must take advantage of the time off. Yes it’s true, when not guiding anglers, tying flies or sorting through mail from the past six months, I enjoy fishing completely on my own. I don’t even really want to talk anyone else, except for that pretty blond at the West Gate of YNP checking passes or the nice lady at the gas station who has sold me beer and fuel for what seems like for ever.
It was chilly outside this morning as it had cleared up after last night’s deluge of a rainstorm. Sprinkles fell again late morning, then it cleared up with sunshine and fish spotting weather for a few hours only to pour cats and dogs this afternoon into the early evening. Around ten o’clock I found a familiar run to sit by and watch for awhile. Cars rolled by at forty-five miles per hour, hardly seeing what they were after, with only a few folks stopping to check out what Wonderland had to offer. While I keep telling myself that summer hasn’t left yet and that we have plenty of warm weather ahead, I realize that wearing waders and layering up felt darn good. With my boots laced up, both rods in hand and rigged with wet flies, I made way way across the river and into the lodge pole pine forest. The sun, supposedly behind me through a thick veil of clouds, was trying to poke out; it was hard to see them below the surface, lying on the bottom of the river, but they were there. A window appeared and a fish darted around another and then about a half dozen slid forward together and back again. One of em’ was big, much larger than the others and sitting a foot or so behind the rest. These trout weren’t rising, but they were eating nymphs in about waist deep water. Sunshine burned off the clouds, a few more rain drops hit the water, but it stayed clear enough to sight nymph. Sight nymphing is a tough game, and something I don’t get a chance to do all that often – I need more practice with this technique for certain. For the next hour or more I picked off a handful of nice fish with a #16 green price nymph, tungsten beaded. A few caddis began to pop and that helped my chances as fish were eating the green Prince on the lift.
That big fish, sitting behind the others was a large brown trout, that I didn’t land…..I saw it jump though.
Snow is melting at rapid pace up high in the mountains all across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. One glance at the flows online will show rivers on the rise, some of which are almost double for this time of the year. The white stuff is still pretty deep in the high country, but the last week t o ten days worth of warm weather mixed with some rain has brought a big push water. Wet wading has been standard protocol, but we aren’t wading much on the Missouri, just getting our feet wet from time to time. Anglers should expect this to be the case for a while now, but it’s hard to say just how long run off will go this season. It all depends on the weather. More sun and rain will push it out, cooler temps and no rain will slow it down. Pay attention to the weather and you too can guess when the Salmon flies will hatch on the Madison. I’m still not throwing a date out for this…….too hard to figure this early into run off.
I’ve been living on the Missouri for the past month, but have managed a handful of days back in West Yellowstone. TAKF was held on May 20th and I got a couple days of fishing in around West Yellowstone and Idaho as well. It’s been a very busy May for us and June is right around the corner. The next few weeks will find us hanging out on the Missouri guiding anglers with a another visit home and then back to the Missouri for mid and late June. With any luck, we’ll be fishing the Madison River a month from now.
Flows on the Missouri below Holter Dam are holding at 8790 cfs and down below the Dearborn it hanging around 10,000 cfs. This is quite a bit larger than a year ago right now, but it’s a welcome change of flows and this fine river will fish well into August in 2014. It’s been cooler more often than not, with a prevailing north wind which has brought some moisture up high and down in the low country as well. This afternoon, the sun poked out and life began to warm up a little bit – the goslings are appreciating every ray of sunshine they can get.
The BWO hatch that rolled down the river yesterday could have been considered, in some circles, a blanket hatch. A few fish were up in a couple places, but most of these mayflies drifted down without a fear in the world. I saw some March Browns in the canyon stretch today, but not much up on them at all, except for a few random blow up rises that may have been a skwala eat.
We fished streamers throughout the day, but only the morning bite produced interest for us. For the most part, nymphing was king.