12 Days of Christmas – Day Two – The Orvis Retro BSA Trucker Hat
Years ago back in Illinois, when I was just a wee lad, I was given a duck brown camo hat by my father Tom. In those days, duck brown camo was the only camo for waterfowl hunting. Wetlands camo wasn’t even thought of yet and each member of Tom’s duck hunting crew at Toe Head Slough wore duck brown head to toe. Each Christmas, I would flip through the Cabela’s catalog and order a new piece, sometimes it was overalls or a button down hunting shirt. As time when by this pattern pretty much disappeared as new innovations came upon the scene and other companies started making various waterfowl patterns. Several years ago Drake Waterfowl Systems brought the duck brown camo pattern back to life and then Orvis jumped in and helped revived it as well. Much to Molly’s despair, there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not rocking the Orvis Retro Trucker hat. She has however, convinced me to pick a new one off the shelves at the fly shop more than just once a year. Check it out in the online fly shop.
Opening Day 2010. You coming this year?
14 days and the Madison River will be open for the 2011 season! The river is in wonderful shape and most of the snow has melted away from the banks, except for the stretch of river inbetwix. From Quake Lake to McAtee Bridge, the options for Opening Day are limitless. Ofcourse Reynolds Pass, $3 Bridge and the West Fork Area will be the busy spots, so if you are looking for a bit of solitude – head downstream and find it. The Grizzly Bar will be open, starting on Mother’s Day, for all your dining needs. Nick and Katrina are back again making sure everything is just right. Need a shuttle for your float trip? Call Dan and Nancy at Beartooth for flies, tackle and shuttles – 406 682 7525. The rainbow trout are a bit late this season with concerns for spawning. Look before you wade!!!!!!!!!!!! Those big rainbows in shallow water stacked up like cordwood are NOT eating flies. Snagging trout is lowely and frowned upon in these parts.
The Float Stretch.
Looking for a guide trip on Opening Weekend? Not a bad idea – the river flows are higher than normal and wade fishing, while not hard, can be scary for some. The scenery on a Madison River float trip is as good as it gets. Lofty highcountry peaks filled with snow makes a sharp contrast with the rolling terraced hillsides along the river. We can fish a variety of different ways as nymphing, streamers and dry flies will fool fish throughout the day. My personal favorite opening day itineray goes something like this:
1. Wake up early, run the dogs. Make a breakfast sandwich, more coffee and head to the river. Check the wade fishing access points for anglers…make a plan.
2. Most likely float Lyons to Palisades and hit the ramp by 3.
3. Head up to the Wade Stretch, look for heads and bang a few more while wading fishing. Most anglers are finishing up their day by 4pm and the river seems to open up a bit allowing for some solitude.
4. Go to the Grizzly Bar for dinner and drinks.
The fly above will prove it’s worthiness when the Madison River opens up. Yes, nymphing will be king and dropping this fly off of a Rubber Leg Stone fly will work all day long. No need for light tippet this time of the year……… 6 lb Maxima to the rubber leg and 5 lb Maxima to the worm…….or skip the worm and fish the rubber old school – single fly. This allows one to play the fish quickly, land it and get it back in the water quickly. Which, brings me to another topic: Hook extraction. Fishing barbless is a moral/personal thing. Some believe that barbless hooks should be law here in Montana and yet others believe that extracting the hook is the actual problem. When I land a fish, I keep the trout in my rubber net and in moving water for a minute. This allows the fish to relax and revive itself. Taking the trout to the bank on dry ground and out of the water, is where most folks go wrong. Some will argue that a barb keeps the hook in the fish and doesn’t allow it to fall out and then foul hook the fish. On small trout, the hook is normally in the maxilla. The maxilla is prone to tearing if one is not careful. Once torn, this will never heal. DON”T just rip out the hook if fishing barbed. Use care and be gentle. Holding a trout upside down will make them relax. A barbless hook will be much easier to remove and sometimes falls out while the fish is in the net. When returning the fish to the river, be kind and release it near the bank in light current. Now a days, I don’t even use my hands to release the trout back in the river. The net works just fine for slipping the fish back to its home.
Stay tuned for more reports from the Madison, Missouri, Gallatin and Henry’s Fork. With any luck, there will be Salmonflies on the Henry’s Fork in a just a couple of weeks. Box Canyon is now open year around – all the way to the Log Jam – for the first time in years. There has already been some fantastic fishing around Last Chance.
April - sleeper month
I thought about this post for several days and almost didn’t write it. Fact is, there are times of the year which have always been for the anglers who live and work in Montana. There are even anglers who don’t fish in the summer as the solitude of winter and spring is what they seek. If you live here, you as an angler have the opportuntiy to fish on the warmer days, essentially one is able to cherry pick the choice dates. Days without wind, too much sunshine, rain, snow or the weekends. If a prospective client chooses to come to Montana for a springtime fishing trip, then they roll the dice and get what they get. Depending on how the weather works out, it can make or break the trip. When the weather does get shitty, like wind and snow, most of the local anglers head for their fly tying benches or their local pub. I have guided clients in April and May with snow and wind stinging us day after day. The fishing was great – dry flies, streamers and nymphing. We didn’t see many other anglers either. However, at the end of these trips, one of the groups said they prefer warmer weather and probably wouldn’t book during the springtime again. These trips aren’t for everyone. However, the fishing is usually pretty darn good. Should you try it? Atleast once……….
Holy shit Mister, that's a rainbow!
The month of March is tricky. The snow is still falling, hard at times, and the chances of the super cold arriving is like the Cubs not making it to the World Series. March is warmer than Feb & Jan and the fish are definitely waking up. This winter in particular, a few of our rivers have been at higher flows making them a couple of degrees warmer…every bit helps. This is a good month to go skiing and hit the river if the daytime temps are in the high 30’s. Taking a break from the Tram Line to get in a few hours of fishing in the afternoon is a great idea. OR skip a couple of days on the slopes and float the Missouri. March is midge month and they will rise if you search hard enough. Trout also love stoneflies, midge pupa, worms and pink flies….eggs if you will.
Daytime temps are getting warmer, still snowy in the highcountry. Will the wind blow? Of course, you’re in Montana. Deal with it. Can’t cast in the wind? Start practicing. Your saltwater guide will thank you too. Rivers across the state are warming up and hatches of BWOs are consistent. Sure, you can to the Big Horn, but everybody else will be there too. Rainbows are still spawning, but on some lower elevations streams they are coming off the redds and beginning to hold in summer type runs. On the Madison around Ennis, this is normally the month that the boat ramps are accessible, allowing float fishing to begin in our neighborhood. Rubber legs, midges, eggs. A dead drifted streamer will produce as well. There are channels which hold rising trout too. The small streams which are open offer great wade fishing as well.
$3 Bridge.....dry fly paradise.
This year, the General Season opener is May 21st. Yes, that is later than last season….a whole week later. The upside? More trout will be off their redds and the river should be a bit warmer. May still brings some cold weather and snow – gore tex is the most important piece of gear. Rain is more likely at lower elevations, but if anything like last year, prepare for the worst. Rain means clouds and warmer temps. BWOs love to hatch on days like these. Last May, on the upper Madison, we had some phenomenal dry fly fishing in the Wade Stretch. I expect this once again when it opens on May 21st. The word is starting to get out about the angling on the Missouri River in May. The Missouri is open all year long…….This is pre-runoff and the river is clear. The trout have really begun to move into the shallower waters and browns in the Canyon all the way down to Cascade are chasing streamers. The weed beds of late summer have yet to grow. The weather is still a major player in the game, but the flows in May are more predictable than June. If you like October’s weather, then May is for you . Nymphing is king, but the opportunity for rising trout is getting much better.
Casting Dryflies on the Upper Madison
Yes, this is a sleeper month…….most folks think that August is too warm and that the rivers are too low. If the last three years have proved anything, August is the new July. There are three things about August that I love: spruce moths, ants and nocturnal stoneflies. On parts of the Madison, August is proving to be less crowded and very fishy. The spruce moth hatch is gentelmenly and begins around 9:30 or so. Getting up early and fishing a nocturnal stonefly, close to the banks, is good clean fun. This allows you to get ahead of other boats and float into the spruce moth hatch. There definitely are sections of the Madison where these hatch more consistently. Remember – spruce moths are terrestrials and where ever the river bottom meets pine forests, you will find them. A#12 Elk Hair works wonderfuly during this hatch. There were several days last summer that I was able to fish the spruce moth ramp to ramp. Late in the afternoon I like to switch out and fish one fly. Either the ant or a hopper. Since there are nocturnal stoneflies around, the hopper can cover both insects.
Now is the time to start planning your trip. I have been on the phone with several clients discussing their plans for the 2011 season. In some regions, lodging is going fast. The Missouri is one of these spots. If you come out during the sleeper months, you will have your choice of lodging and good guides. If I were coming to Montana to fish, I would think hard about timeframe. Sure, everyone wants to fish when it’s warm, but why do what everyone wants to do. Broaden your mind. Fish when everyone else isn’t…..
Bison, photographed off the front porch.
This morning is warm, 33 degrees, overcast and not a hint of the W. I should be headed back down to the river, but the dogs are staring at me and I know what they are thinking……
I spent the last two days fishing the Madison in the wind and a chilly 25 degrees was all Mother Nature could muster. Breaking ice out of the guides, enduring cold feet, but catching trout none the less. The Madison, up high, is running about 39 degrees……..cold. Midges came off in droves on Friday afternoon and brought fish to the surface. Big fish…..but not stupid big fish. They were keyed in on emerging midges and thankfully, I had plenty. A nice 20 in hook jawed brown was my biggest fish of the day. Sorry, no pics of that trout…..so goes the peril of fishing alone. Who needs pics anymore? I can still see him, swimming towards me, nymph in his nose, with that oh so stupid look his face. That trout had probably eaten hundreds of those midges, but mine tasted a bit different. I should be heading back down to the Madison again. This is the weather, that I have been waiting for. What are you waiting for?
Spring anglers’s good buddy….Capniidae (Small Winter Stoneflies)
No, these are not Squala stoneflies. They are much bigger, about a #10 or #8. Over the years I have seen Squalas on the Madison, but not thick by any means. The stonefly pictured above is an important hatch in these parts during April, May and sometimes early June. They hatch on the Gallatin, Madison, Yellowstone, Big Hole, Missouri and most small creeks throughout Montana.
Quake Lake Trees….I just had to.
This spring is shaping up to be one of the best angling springs I have seen in about 10 years. The trout are hungry and feeding like it’s late May…….what will May be like???? After a 4-5 day float on Montana’s Smith River with the boys, I plan on heading to the Missouri River for as long as my wife will let me….I might not see her for a month….God bless Molly.
G. Falls and brown trout. Missouri River, May 2007. Is he wet wading???
May and June on the Missouri is what heaven should be like for any angler who dreams of fishing in the after life. Never been to the Missouri? You should join Big Sky Anglers and experience what downtown Craig, MT has to offer. Izaak’s (http://izaaksblog.com/) is quite possibily the best restuarant in a trout town that we have ever been to. Great food and great trout fishing……what else do you need?
Coming down hard.
The past two days have seen some decent snow fall in SW Montana….finally. We didn’t get much on the level, but it was sloppy and wet. Up at Big Sky, at the top of Lone Peak, it was thigh deep yesterday afternoon.
I received a great email this morning from a wonderful client, read below…..What are you doing this summer???
“63 more days till fly fishing paradise! I start looking forward to my trip to Montana and fishing with you and Greg the day I leave to go home from Helena! Everybody is getting excited about the trip!” – Kevin R.