Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Signs of Spring

As much a sign of spring around this house as Skwala's and BWO's.
It's hard to write about spring when we didn't have much of a winter.  A transition wasn't clear, but it is still appreciated, and as the tailwaters drop for (too) early irrigation demands, the freestones suspend at the perfect level until the begin their spring swelling.  My friend Scott always speaks to the connection of baseball and fly fishing, and as a life-long lover of both I definitely think of the beginning of both seasons being conjoined.  My fishing doesn't stop in the colder months, but the first pitch of the season certainly tells my brain that it's time.

Editors Note: I started this post the other day and it snowed all day today.  It kind of took away the fun of writing some more about spring, even though its going to be back by the weekend.  Whatever, Montana.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Early Season Stones


Skwalas, the stonefly that gets everyone out of their winter funk, wrapping foamy bugs, and remembering that after a long, cold winter there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Although their the size of a small hopper, and most the patterns we fish could be just a dark hopper pattern, the behavior of fish in March and April is quite a bit different than in July and August.  Here are few tips to help you make the best out of throwing the first big bugs of the season.

Fish Slow:  It's was to tie on a Chubby and pretend like it's August and fish outside seams and hard edges all day when you're fishing.  While fun to pretend that summer is here, it doesn't do much in the realm of "actually catching them".  Every spring I am amazed at how slow of water fish will sit in, and shallow for that matter.  Think about water that is warm, has good cover, and will not force a trout to waste precious early season energy.

Fish Downstream:  This is actually a do-all-the-time thing(at least for fishing dries out of a drift boat), but is particularly important this time of year.   When the rivers are still fairly low, and the fish aren't 100% convinced that they should be saying big food, the last thing that they want to see is a leader.   When you combine this with fishing slower water (which allows for more time to look at your junk) it is really important to chuck it in front of the boat.

Watch for the slurp:  Slow water, slow takes.  Sure, occasionally you get the fish that body slams the fly with it's face, but most of them are going to sip it like it's a may fly.  This can take some getting used to, and when you're not expecting it a  subtle take can easily be missed.  Yesterday we had several fish that neither Seth nor I (over 25 years combined guiding experience) were confident were even fish until we pulled the trigger.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Attention to Detail

Recycled picture that I felt captured the title of "Attention to Detail"

Those of you who know me on a personal level are probably thinking that a post from me about attention to detail is an April Fools joke.  My truck is constantly a mess, my brain is scattered and you could likely fish for a week from the random gear strewn throughout my boat.  I often use the line in my boat however that the only control issues I have are manifested in my nymph rigs.  Even with a lot of my buddies who are certainly capable fisherman I prefer to do the rigging myself so that I can have control.  This attention to detail is critical to success, and part of the game that really gets me fired up.  When something as simple as a knot type can make a difference in your day, you don't want that responsibility left to anyone besides yourself!  Here are couple parts of the process that I really geek out about.

Knots-  Not only the type but making sure they are tied correctly.  I can't begin to tell you how many lefty's loops I've clipped because they are not the right size.  Always sealed with a lick, making sure that you're knots seat correctly (and knowing what this looks like) can make a difference in putting "the one" into the net.  Also having the correct knot for the correct application.  There are times for loop knots and times there aren't.  knowing when to use each is something I know with absolute certainty puts more fish into my net.

Depth-  Another one that i really just freak about. I want my depths the same, and consistent. Whether I'm bobbering 12' deep down the middle of the missouri or shortleashing the upper beat with a dry dropper, when I rig I want the same every time.  I constantly use my body as a frame of reference for this.  I am nymphing extended left arm to right shoulder, a lot.  knowing that on me that's my point of reference ensures that it's the same, every time.

Weight-  Just like both of the above, how much cowbell on the end controls your sink rate and speed. My mentor Braz taught me a lot about weighting and different places to put it on the line.  Certain rivers have certain styles that I use exclusively there (Pogo, anyone?).  Things like weighting above and below your fly, all below, and then distance above all impact the drift, which in turn impacts the fish that are impacting your net.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Perspective


Living in Twin Bridges is as close as one could possibly come to living a dream life as a fly fisherman.  Life at the convergence of 3 of North America's best trout streams leaves little to be desired as a trout fisherman.  Sadly, I all too often take this for granted and approach my time fishing with the mentality of a skier in a resort town. "only ski powder days, brah!"  A week in LA gives great perspective to the unique lifestyle that those of us in MT are able to live.  Being from Montana automatically makes you the most interesting guy in the bar, and the looks you get when you describe what life in the mountains is like range from pity to pure envy.  The anonymity of the city is alluring, and I love walking around without a soul knowing my name.  By the end of a week, gorged with exotic foods and expensive beers, there is nothing better than flying over the Headwaters of the Missouri, picking out each valley as you watch them meander north.  Flowing water is a great comfort, even if its viewed from several thousand feet in the air, and there is no better welcome home.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Crossing over


As a fishing guide you have to be a firm believer in the faith.  I have written about it before, but believing in what you're throwing is critical to success.  I have been incredibly fortunate to start saltwater fishing, and will be heading back to Christmas Island in just over a month.  That being said, a week of fishing there last year wasn't enough to really earn the faith in patterns, especially for the Trevally when you only have a couple shots in a week.  Big EP flies are cool, and I love learning new tying techniques, but they don't have the sex appeal that your typical steelhead fly (or trout bug for that matter) do.  I tied a wad of them, and they worked fine, but there was nothing that I was looking forward to tying before my return, much more of a tying out of necessity.

That thought stuck with me till I saw this post courtesy of the Chum.  flies with natural materials, hackles and flavor.  Not just a wad of synthetic on a big ass hook.  Surprisingly, finding good hackle tips have been the hardest part of the equation to find, but as I come across them I have been experiementing.  Part deceiver, part marabou and part Kinney's skagit minnow, I am pumped to see how they end up working, and hopefully I can get the faith.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stay Who You Are


As I started to write this post I recognized the instant hypocrisy.  I am as guilty as anyone for downplaying trout.  My instagram feed is nothing but intruders, my thoughts are of nothing else for a good portion of the year, and the views are substantially higher with every mention of steelhead and other more popular fish.  For some reason unless you're on the other side of the world doing it, trout aren't sexy.

I don't know why that is, and frankly I don't think I'm going to do anything about it, but as the days get long and the rivers thaw, the locals are all I can think about.  All it took was randomly flipping through one pic of a rainy spring day to jog the memory.  While far away shots at swung steelhead are often in my mind, there is a reason I live where I do.  Throwing flies to rising trout is still the pinnacle of fly fishing to me, and living where that is THE thing to do couldn't be better.

The memories of hiking mountain streams, getting carried by the back of my waders across the big rivers, and all the while trying to understand what was going on underneath is what my summers consisted of after age 12.  Maybe it's the lifetime of fishing for them that has ingrained trout into me, but I get as fired up every spring about it as the last.  Soon they'll be looking up, and the reason a few of us live year round in the middle of nowhere pays off.  It cannot come soon enough.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Swing and a Miss


I figured after a 2 month blogging hiatus I should make a return with something worthwhile, so figured a Technique Tuesday would the best return.  Since my last post i've mostly worked and been responsible, but I did get to go to Washington and see a bunch of old buddies including one of my best friends and mentors, Jeff Brazda.

The above fish was one of the cooler steelhead I have caught recently, not because of the veracity of the take, crazy fight or size, but purely because of the method in which it grabbed the fly.  After two fishless days I was with my buddy Andy on a run we debated on bothering to swing or not.  Two-thirds of the way through the run I finally felt the pluck that was unmistakably not the bottom.  Two quick taps, a small amount of my loop slid through my finger, and then nothing.  Fortunately after two days I had the wherewithal to not pull the trigger early.  This is where the technique kicked in.

First cast after the pluck I through a good long, straight cast to the same spot as the last one, didn't mend, didn't do anything and let the line rip through the zone.  This cast does two things for me.  One, if the fish is particularly pissed they crush it on this cast, which is awesome.  The second is it reaffirms to me that the subtle pluck wasn't a branch.  After a couple days without a tug are refresher in what a fish is never hurts.

My next cast is again without stepping, but I then sink it deeper than the cast that elicited the strike.  This low and slow swing provides ample opportunity for a picky fish to change it's mind.  It seems like this is often the cast that does the trick for me.

I follow up these two casts with a normal swing cast, just like the one that worked the first time.  I will typically do this once or twice depending on what I think the fish is doing.  If it was a very committed bite that I thought would come back quickly I make more than one.

After all of this and no love, I take 5-10 steps back up stream and start the process all over, trying to replicate what happened the first time.  With the fish above this is the move that worked the magic.  As I stood in the run and discussed comeback theory with Andy, the fish pluck two more times than the first time, and made it to commit time.  A fish that took a lot of work, a gorgeous fly (the last one I tied before I left) and a memory that I won't soon forget.