Friday, July 25, 2014

On the verge

Three more weeks.  That's when we will start to see the first few geese headed the wrong direction.  As long as it takes to get here summer can never stay long enough.  It's strange to  think about it being gone when it's still July, but the reality is that in 3 weeks the sky will get that darker shade of blue, the mosquitos will finally die and fall will be knocking on the door.  From now till it completely goes away I'm going to get sunburnt, drink to much beer and shirk responsibility to extract as many rays of winter anti-venom as one can ingest.  Because once it's gone, it's a long time till it's back.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Christmas Island Report

Jesse, an awesome guide in Honolulu, with an amazing trevally.

Nei Debbie in waiting
It's been just over a month since I set foot back in the cool dry riverine landscape that I call home.  Returning from the trip of a lifetime that took over a year of preparation has it's downsides, but it was nice to be back.  It has taken that amount of time for the whole thing to sink in.  A trip to the other side of the dateline warrants a report that's better than something you write on the plane ride home, and nearly 6 weeks later I still don't think that it's all digested.  Christmas Island is a trip I have been wanting to make since I was 12 years old and saw pictures on the cover of the Kauffman's catalog, having really had no clue what I was looking at.  18 years later it didn't disappoint.

A little over a year ago my friend Larry and I were floating down the Big Hole when he asked me if I was interested in going to Christmas Island.  I know that I said something in guide mode like "yeah, that'd be great, lets do it!" but in my head I was thinking "Fucking duh, lets go!".  It then became official and we started recruiting anglers to come along.  The emails didn't go far before the trip was full, in large part to my friend Dave who unfortunately wasn't able to go.  His friends who joined on the adventure though were the type of guys that you shake hands with and know there will be many more trips in the future.

The first evening we were explained the program, discussed angling options with our guides, and set game plans for the following day, which for myself, Brett and my Dad would be our first day of flats fishing ever.  A hearty meal of fresh Ahi, Seared Ahi and Lobster and we settled in for a muggy restless night of sleep, with anticipation dripping off of everybody.

I guess you could say that even our highest of expectations were met quickly.  A short ride on the covered seats that lined the bed of a diesel truck/van led us to our boats, an outrigger manned by a smiling captain, a giant cooler and a few leaks.  These boats would be the taxis that shuttled us around the flats for the next 6 days.  On this first morning the boat dropped our friends Dan and Larry off, then putted across the bay to drop Dad and I off on a football field size flat, that was rapidly shallowing as the tide ripped out.  Exactly 3 casts into bonefishing and Dad had his first bonefish on the fly, a trend that would play out for the rest of the day.

Larry fishing a flat just outside of London.
Often trips begin with great expectations and then fly by in one blink.  This trip for me did not do that.  When the boat picked us up for lunch on the first day, after a morning of shot after shot (after shot!) at bonefish all I could think was "are you kidding me, it's only lunch time?"  Even by the end of the trip, the days sped up, but life moves so slow on Christmas Island that you are truly able to enjoy every last second of it.
Cruising back after a long, successful day.  

Brett Angel with a fish of a lifetime.

To list the highlights of our six days on the island would take a month of writing.  I think the impression that was left on all of us from Christmas Island was astounding, and not just simply because of the fishing.  A glimpse into the life of a third world island in the middle of the ocean is very humbling, especially when you are there to catch and release fish, a thought that was laughable to everyone on the island, including our guides even though they were polite enough to not say so.
Dad and T.J. stalking.
One of the best days of the trip was a cloudy, rainy day that resulted in us hooking exactly zero fish.  We had the opportunity to fish with Moana, the first guide ever on Christmas Island.  Moana began his guide career some 40 years ago as an employees of the department of tourism, tasked with taking 10-20 guests per day fishing along the flats for $2 a day.  It took him not showing up to work for him to get a raise, and his climb to legendary status occurred shortly thereafter.  Simply spending time around this amazing, knowledgable and highly intelligent guide was worth the trip.  His understanding of fish behavior and flats fishing was astonishing, that which can only be acquired through a lifetime of fishing. 
Coolest species of fish I have ever chased.
 Many milestones were achieved during our week as well.  Every angler caught a GT, which are far and away the nastiest thing I have ever touched on a fly rod.  In fact both reels that I brought limped home in my luggage to be returned for life-support at their respective companies.  The fish pictured above was one of the smaller GT's hooked, and was all my 12 wt set up could handle.  
Dad with a bigger GT than mine, truly amazing fish.
The only thing better than my grip and grin above was watching my dad land an even larger trevally.  As I have shared before on the blog some of the most special moments I have ever shared with my Dad are fishing, and this day was not different.  The energy on the boat ride in was overflowing, and the Heinekens tasted especially smooth as we zig-zagged our way out of the back country.  
No caption needed.
Our final evening, the prelude to a 7a.m. flight bcd to reality, included a luau and pig roast, our awesome guides sticking around for beers, and the perfect cap to 6 incredible days fishing at the end of the earth.  Just in finishing up this post I get goosebumps thinking about the trip.  Life nchanging may be a stretch, but then again maybe not.  We will certainly going back next year, with most of the same crew, a gift that couldn't be better.  And knowing what we are getting into this time, I expect it to be every bit as good as the first time, if not better.

Note:  If you are headed to Christmas Island or are interested in going feel free to shoot me an email ( and I'll send you some of the more technical stuff that would have made this blog post incredibly boring.  After one trip I am certainly no expert, and wouldn't claim to be, but am more than willing to share what we learned.  Also, a huge thank yo ufo all of my friends and the companies that helped outfit us with gear including Scott Fly Rods, Winston Fly Rods, Sage Fly Rods, Allen Fly Reels,  Nautilus Reels, and Rajeff Sports/Airflo as well as Modobi, Jersey Mike and Grey.

And last but certainly not least, a giant thank you to Dylan Rose and the crew at Fly Water Travel!  Their service from the first email to checking in after we returned was professional and first class.  You truly made our trip, and if you're thinking about any fly fishing destination you would be remiss without calling these guys.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Montana Summer

My friend Paul and I celebrating his birthday, properly.
Wow, over a month without a post.  A lot of fish have been caught in that time, including some new species from the Christmas Island trip.  Expect a report from there and some regular content again.  As the flows drop the posts will go up.  Promise!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A fishing guides wife

For every April Vokey (see that Google?) out there, there are a couple hundred women who fly fish for many different reasons than they just can't live without it.  My wife would be in the latter.  When it's nice out, and fishing is going to be good, she loves it.  Winter steelhead fishing will not be soon in our plans together.  That being said, when given the opportunity to have the bow of the boat to her self and the opportunity to feed some lonely early season trout some dry flies she is not one to turn it down.  If the Bozeman Mall had a Nordstrom's that might be a different story, but their loss is my gain.

Last friday we floated together without our daughter for the first time since she changed life in ways unimaginable.  A short float that my wife had never done before and ideal conditions made for a day we won't soon forget.  After a morning of good dry dropper fishing, clouds rolled in from the pioneers, kept their warmth, and made for the conditions we lose sleep about.  The bugs took notice equally as quick and the swallows doubled their activity now that their flight was being rewarded.

As we came about a narrow bend my wife threw our two fly rig into a quick slot that needed to be hit precisely before the boat ran it over.  Flies down, a subtle sip, and a fish is on that neither of us knew the size of.  We looked and debated if it was the bottom, until it moved. Moved down and across, and then finally into the shallows.  "We should probably put that one in the net" my wife said, in a tone that had a sense of urgency that is only reserved for times like this.  Not the same urgency as something that relates to our daughter, but enough urgency to know that this is like a perfect game;  the tension is there but we can't talk about it.

Unlike the last big fish I watched my wife hook, which I still lament 3 years later, this one hit the net.  A size 16 Purple Have stuck squarely in the corner of its mouth, we released her to swim free, celebrated, and then hastily hopped back in the boat, realizing that we had a long ways to go, and Harper to pick up before 4:30.  Arriving to town just in the nick of time, Ke'lah's big fish turned out to be the last cast of the day she made.  It's always good to go out on top!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oh I'll never leave Montana brother

C-Squad getting after it
Unfortunately it's not nearly that often that my brother and I get to fish together any more.  With him finishing up Med School in WA and me living in MT with a 1 year old daughter, the paths just don't cross like they used to.  This past Friday the stars aligned and we were able to meet over in Melrose for a short float during my favorite season.  After not catching anything in the first two spots, which was a giant surprise, we proceeded to put the smack down.  The best day that Rick had seen here, it was the perfect bonus to the fact that we got to spend some time in the boat together.

Testing out some new flies.  They work.
Fishing was good enough under the bobber that I switched it up and stripped some streamers around. I started with a fly from my friend Mike D. and as with all of his bugs, it was a winner.  Sadly I cracked it off with an errant cast into the willows, so one of mine was up next.  Ever since Dave @ Pile Cast sent me some craft fur closers last year I have been fascinated with his pattern.  Dave lives in Indiana, and so they weren't perfect for what we have here (I can't get brown trout to eat chartreuse), but the concept was awesome and with a simple hook and color adjustment i have ended up with a simple tweak on his badd ass pattern that has so far been very successful for me this spring.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Right now, from St. Regis to Sydney the state of Montana is joking about spring.  When is it coming?  Why is it still snowing?  When will summer be here?  My friend Brett has the best tweak on the old adage, "you know what they say about the weather in Montana?" "If you don't like it, go fuck yourself".  Much more to the point than wait 5 minutes, and the opinion shared by many if not in such a crude manner. We all know the truth, that until the calendar rolls over to July 1 it's a crap shoot.  Lately we've been having the cold weather that keeps the rivers in shape and the fish sluggish.  The first sign of warmth and we are going to see some seriously vertical graphs and a mass migration to those rivers that have been decapitated by concrete.  At least we have those, and the opportunity to hide under their shadows while the freeflowing streams carve new channels and redistribute cottonwoods.  If your living here or smart enough to travel here outside of tourist season though, you'll find the rivers and the fish lonely.  Waiting for company that will be here after the weather cooperates and the flows have subsided.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


It would be utter bullshit to say we've been seeing it coming.  The signs have not been there.  In fact it's been the opposite.  But finally it showed up.  The caddis are disturbed by my lawnmower, but the river is now brown enough for them to not be noticed as they land on the outside bend just beyond my fence..  The window of warm and clear has gone, and we now have warm and high and dirty.  But that too will soon change.  Clear would never describe it, more like clear-enough.  Clear enough for the fish to tip up, as the sun dips down, and provide those rings that we all look for. Soon.