Another Montana trout season is in the books, Rooster is chasing fur and feathers, Joeis mopping up every last brown trout, Gary is sanding and building hot rods, Bubba is chasing a different tail at Montana State, Brett is of guiding elk on some mountain top, myself ,I am off to do what I do best,,,catch steelhead on the river of my childhood.
I will have to wait till November to fish with big Joe and Brett Seng aka Hollywood, they are coming out to hit every steelhead pool west of the Clearwater, that I am jealous of. I hope to head back to MT in late November-December for some Goose and Duck hunting but we will see how the steelhead runs hold up.
As I fish my way closer to the age my Grandfather was when he planted the fly fishing seed into my life of angling. I realize that this whole jurney is that of a lifestyle choice, friends, family and most of all fishing clients and guests make it all possible.
As I think back on the season I acomplished all that is required and most of that is not: forgot my luch and did the hike back, left the bugs I spent hours tying till midnight on the desk, lent out the rain coat and needed it, ran out of 3x (this can be brutal with big dries) and on the final day I was left with a fine anglers waders in the dry box UPS loves that one.
This is to thank all of you at the Stonefly Inn and especially my comrades for without them the journey would not be the life it is.
June 7th I left for the season to Twin Bridges MT, (a full 10 days late) I new it may be short so I packed light in hopes of finding a place to live with plan b as a back-up (the fifth wheel). With no luck in five days rental hunting, three days guiding and 300% snow pack now melting off, found me right back in E-Burg packing the trailer for plan B. As luck would have it Rooster calls yesterday with Andy Nye standing in his office plugging a great two bedroom rental smack dab in the middle of Twin, guide shack number 12 has been found!
As for the 3 guide days? Jay Virnooche, Steve Wagner and myself pulled a full grown rabbit out of the hat three days in a row. The Mo was fluctuating every which way, the lake turned over and the brown streak from Prickly Pear to Craig had every boat in the county fishing RIGHT bank. We managed a dozen good Mo Bows each day and met some new friends and visited old friends, quite the resurection of the Winging it theme. Headhunters fly shop was there usual accommodative self right down to the shuttle drivers waiting on my 2:30 put in the first day!
The second stroke of luck is the Salmon fly has not hit full on yet and I may get my chance at season seven of the BIG BUG on the BIG HOLE. Funny how nature works, the calendar says June 21 but the season says Salmon fly a full 12 days later than average. Who knows it may still be a great hatch with a little more fisherman’s luck thrown in.
If your the wait and see type, tye up some big orange foam and gas up the go cart and head for Twin as its going to be a barn burner!
With the coming of winter the Methow river froze up by November 23 this year a full month ahead of last year. That does not bode well for any guide days in December unless a complete turn around ensues quickley. I left just in time, November 21 finds me at my brothers cabin in Yak Montana and -15 degree weather, I arrived late to find it occupied by hunting buddies from the not so distant past. They had one day of there hunt time left and we were on a mission to fill one last tag left. With the moon full the rut was in motion and the cold weather was playing on our side. That day we seen two shootable bucks one stands out as the finest whitetail I have ever seen, of course the one tag holder in the gunning position we have missed and then missed again. I hunted on my own the next few days passing smaller bucks each day. I did drive a private area road to take a looksy and of coarse the big ten point buck is nailing a doe two hundred yards past the no hunting sign, I swear they can fricken read.
As I leave for another area of Montana my four wheel drive acts up and I white knuckle it five hours to the repair shop, seeing fatality crashes and a bear of all things feeding on what looked like a horse somewhere between Libby and Kalispell, I thought they hibernate in the winter.
I make it to Twin Bridges through the snow and all that, to find a warm and cozy cabin at the Stonefly Inn, Rooster is ready to go and Weasle is on the way for a few days of hunting, nick names are big in the world of mens sports especially in MT. Snowy Blowy and -25 degrees with about 200yds visibility, not the best day for hunting. BY noon the weather lifts and Weasle heads into the cotton wood bottoms and emerges with a smallish six point buck while I pass on another two bucks and a running shot at a 140 range shooter buck. Shooter is a term they use in Montana, when you have so many to look at through out the day we divide them by shooter or not. Another day on the F350 stand and another two passed shots and a bad timing on a the biggest buck of the week, by now I am learning the sizing lingo so I will say a 142 yea 142 at least, pfft like I really know:). Danno,,, ah Rooster makes the call and we get hunting permission on a few pieces of land from the ranch manager. We had already scoped out a big shooter with tall horns and a big body at one spot and another two bucks hanging with about a hundred antelope in a wide open field. Thanksgiving morning was my lucky day we drive to the antelope field and sure enough three bucks and five does and what seemed like a million anti-goats, even the animals get nick names…There way too far and not a possibility of a sneak where they are, we drive off knowing we will be back later.
Not sure why but thirty minutes later the deer moved five hundred yard to the north and the big boy is 350 yards out, Rooster knows they are heading for a bed down across the road and into untouchable lands, and we decide to make the move on them. He sets me up to slide out on the move RAMBO style and hop the fence keeping a pile of hay between me and the deer, he said they should watch the truck and not see me, like I need that with my scooby stealthiness. Well,,, ah thank god they watched the truck as me heading through the fence was a comedy in itself, not sure but I’ll bet Rooster damn near ran into the ditch with laughter. SO I do the Elmer Fud fifty yards into the field keeping the hay between us, the deer have moved way out, my heart sank, then I see through the side bale one buck had actually moved closer, steady rest, sniper breath and one shot, 250 yds done, best deer of my life.
Thanks Dan and Tyler for the help, nothing beats local knowledge!
Very rarely do I get the opportunity to fish TOTALLY new water with a client, water that I had never even seen. The type that you carry a map in the river and keep track of mileage and bridges so not to pass the GET OUT. It is definitely not something I would ever do with a paying client had they not totally understood that I had no idea of what was around the next bend.
Earlier this week I spent three days on the Missouri river by Craig Montana when all the good water in SW was a raging torrent. Of course we could of went to the Beav and jammed our boat between thirty others and fifty bankies but I would rather T-BAG a chainsaw than do that. Chuck Keenan, Harry Lee and his son Chris where up for the adventure of traveling north to the big rainbows of the Mo. Now, I have spent a few weeks above Mid Canon in the last two years and had a good handle on that water but below that was just the Atlantic Ocean as far as I knew. Of course as soon as we arrive the same snow melt issue was traveling there and the Mo was rising a couple thousand cfs a day, NOT what you want for the blind mission I was on.
With the best advice we could find from Headhunters fly shop, we headed into the great beyond with some crazy ass new RAINBOW CHEK NYMPH and the GAFF a SW pro guide special. It really felt like fifteen years earlier when we would road trip it to far away rivers in hope of finding what we had recently read in some shiny dream laced publication. Loaded with enthusiasm of a pointing dog on opening day of pheasant season we hit everything hard and found fish on most corners and drops, probably the best scud fishing in a river I have ever seen. Soon we were out of the CHEK nymph and scratching out a few on felt penned ray Charles.
Every year I add to the list of clients that will do anything that it takes and Chuck Keenan was on the top of that list, a very educated and seriously calm hearted man with a lust for gods natural beauty that makes us all proud to just be a human. We had a stroke of genus the next day along with some in-tel from fellow guide Scott Wison a few days earlier and headed for the never seen stretches down from Mid Cannon. Armed with ten different worm patterns and more Chek nymphs we hit the insides at four to seven feet deep and semi slow to slow. Pumped a few fish that were full of 18 PT’s and nothing else, and no they did not eat PT’s. It was worms or nothing, and the bite was ridiculously soft to the point of NOT hooking the bite, none of them. Harry Lee was totally on point and ripping them at a twitch of the bob he landed 7 or 8 before lunch and Chuck and I were shooting blanks. Just when diving head first into the next rock pile seemed like the best thing to do, I go desperate and pull out another new fly (if you can call it that) the gummy I had ONE,, mostly as a novelty. Oh yea you know what happens, drift thirty feet and two foot of Rainbow trout is skipping all over the river. The trout where hanging onto that THING like it was gold on wall street. After the initial shock hitting the EASY button I remember that we only have one, out comes the 1X and all knew knots. 10 fish later and a few reties we loose the gummy to a giant Brown that left us holding on a little too tight. With that action came the overwhelming confidence and a certain speedy reaction that gave us another good chunk of fish on the Gaff.
The float down from Mid Cannon is breathtakingly beautiful, the rock formations, evergreens and big trout are certain to see Chuck and myself again and we may just have to go farther to repeat Winging it!
Montana Fly Fishing Page on my BRAND NEW web site at www.brazdasflyfishing.com.
I’ll be reporting on my blog as often as I can what’s happening here. Join me in Montana for a great Montana Fly Fishing Vacation. Comfortable accomodations will be available at the www.thestoneflyinn.com in Twin Bridges.