Midge Clusters

The Griffith’s Gnat has been the most productive midge cluster ever invented.  I use it in sizes #12-20 on rivers throughout the West.  George Griffith tied this simple pattern, it’s durable and productive which are characteristics of all quality fly patterns.  Peacock and grizzly hackle….simple shit….thanks George for inventing this fly.

So, last Spring, before a trip to the Big Horn with several buddies, I sat down at the bench to tie these up.  After cranking out a half dozen, I looked at the fly and a thought occurred to me –  why not add a wing, for visibility?  Lots of folks have done this in the past using CDC or tying this fly with a post and hackle, but I never really thought it looked quite right.  Since I had just finished up tying a couple dozen BWO Comparaduns, the idea of using a comparadun wing (for you died in the woollies – a haystack wing) sounded cool.  So, I tried it and also added a sparkle tail as well…why not….right?  I also clipped the fly, top and bottom, to give it a cleaner look – much like the buzzball.  On over cast days, I use a black comparadun wing as this shows up nicely in silver water.

We fished this pattern on the Big Horn with a ton of success, but since the trout were taking damn near everything we floated to them, the test was not really a test.  The entire season went by and finally a chance to test out this pattern arrived while guiding on the Missouri River in late October.   Tim (pictured above) had never thrown a dry fly.  He wanted to up his game and was tired of chasing the bobber from ramp to ramp.  We launched at Wolf Creek bridge and floated down a short ways.  I dropped the hook and started in on the instruction – measuring distance, reach cast, slack line, feeding line and of course the concept of first drift/best drift as the best course of action for him to take.  Tim, being the scientist that he is, caught on fast.  Rising trout on the Missouri can be some of the most picky sonsabitches anywhere, especially by late Fall.  We set up fishing to our first pod of the day, above the Railroad Trussles, and had seven or eight nice fish taking midges and spent BWOs.   With just one fly and some 5x, Tim went to work and managed to catch his first trout on dry fly in about two minutes.  His first fish moved a foot and half off it’s line to eat the fly.  He hooked and jumped a few more, then we moved on.  Well done Tim.  We spent the rest of day fishing streamers in between pods of trout.  The only fly we used for the pods, was my new twist on George Griffith’s Gnat.   Just after Christmas, I sent this pattern, and several others to Montana Fly Company for submission.  With any luck, they will add this my collection of patterns at MFC.

My twist on the Griffith’s Gnat – the Gnat King Cripple…..this was named after several beers while floating the Big Horn.

A winter day on the water


Arriving back at Alpen Guides yesterday evening from a wonderful day in Yellowstone with the crew from Headhunters Fly Shop, I found out that I had today off.  Unexpectly, there was a day to go fishing.  The weatherman had forecasted warmer weather with snow and some wind.  On Horse Butte, the wind was ripping but it wasn’t cold out.  35 degrees on the front porch.  Since one can’t catch a trout while sitting on the couch, I wadered up, rigged my rod and drove down to the Madison River.  It was dead calm……………..and 36 degrees.  Perfect.  Absolutely, perfect weather for winter angling.  You should have been there.  The snow began to fall and the quiet was great for the soul.  Just the sound of water rushing over rocks was all I heard for about two hours.   Fishing a bobber with a rubber leg and a red midge larve, I managed to hook over a dozen trout.  Most were smaller rainbows around 8 inches, but I did fool one 16 in rainbow and one 12 in brown.  Both of the larger fish ate the rubber leg. 

This brown trout was sitting in fast, shallow water.

Reynold’s Pass Upgrade

Just downstream from Reynolds Pass

Awhile back there was word that Reynolds Pass Fishing Access was going to have some renovations and that there were some elistist pigs folks who wanted to eliminate the boat ramp at Reynolds.  A bad Idea…….Why you ask?  Becuase there are some sections of the Madison River which are impossible to access, below $3 Bridge, without the use of a driftboat or raft.  No boat ramp meant the private landowners in the Big Bend would have the section of the Madison River all to themselves.  Access is key to keeping our rivers open to all those who want to fish.  Many anglers, outfitters and the general public, where outraged that a ramp which had existed for 40 years or better was going to be eliminated, therefore closing access to a couple of miles of river only accesible by boat.  This is America and the great trout streams of Montana are yours and mine. 

Since I happen to be an outfitter and well connected throughout the Madison Valley, I helped organize a movement to make sure this boat ramp was going to be reinstituted into the upgrade plans for Reynolds Pass.  The thing is, the ramp was in the original plans, but then it disappeared only to be supplemented with a “Hand Launch” type of ramp.  Driftboats and rafts were being eliminated from use.  Upon reaching out to anglers and guides alike, FWP was flooded with letters stating just how important access is to everyone.  Thanks to all those who supported the boat ramp at Reynolds Pass.  Below you will find the press release.

On the Madison River at Raynolds Pass Fishing Access Site 31 miles northwest of West Yellowstone on Highway 287 improvements were made to the portion of this site west of the highway. Crews there installed a new gravel boat ramp, constructed a new trail under the highway bridge connecting to the east portion of the site, and improved the parking and camping areas. After completing this improvement project, the portion of the site east of the highway is no longer open to motorized vehicles.  “The Big Hole and Madison Rivers are internationally renowned for their excellent trout fishing,” said FWP Regional Parks Manager Jerry Walker. “These improvements will enhance access for the public while protecting the outstanding resources along these waterways.”