Monday, October 29, 2012

Big Hole River Facts

These guys like water!
If you haven't fished the Big Hole, you owe it to yourself and need to put it near the top of your places to go trout fishing.  With great hatches, lots of room, and plenty of big fish there are few rivers like the Big hole.

As some of you may know, I became a board member of the Big Hole Watershed Committee last spring.  A big part of my involvement with the committee includes a monthly meeting in Divide.  If you haven't heard of the Big Hole Watershed Committee it is a combination of all of the big hole river user groups (including a lot of ranchers) who work together to help protect and conserve the great resource that is the Big Hole River.  The work that they do is incredibly important for the watershed, and in case you didn't know this or not, fish really like water, and smart management!

At our September meeting we had a guest speaker, Jim Olson from from MT FWP.  Jim gave a great presentation and told us a lot of good stuff about the Big Hole.  Here are a few of the interesting facts from Jim, check it out:

1. Big Hole River Fish Populations
Jim has been looking through historical fish data for the Big Hole. 1981 was the first year the Big Hole had a slot limit and that limit was expanded in 1988. The change can be seen in the fish data.

- Big Hole River near Jerry Creek: Slot limit had no effect on rainbow mass. Rainbow numbers low in high water years because they are spring spawners and high water increases mortality in the redds. Brown trout responded well to the slot limit. Prior the slot limit there were few browns. Today the brown:rainbow ratio is roughly 50:50.

- Big Hole River near Melrose: Both the number and pounds of fish per mile increased with the slot limit initially, then numbers flattened as the section reached carrying capacity. Before the slot limit there were many fish greater than 25 inches. Now there are few fish greater than 25 inches as fish have become smaller and not as fat.

- Big Hole River near Hogback (Glen to Notchbottom): This section shows the most impact from drought. The population in this section is down 1/3 from the previous section; however, fish in this section tend to be larger, likely due to less competition. Rainbows numbers have doubled in the last few years while brown populations remains flat. Jefferson River rainbows may be migrating into the Big Hole to spawn and causing the increase in number.

- Big Hole River near Pennington Bridge: 700 fish per mile and 1/2 of the population in the Melrose section. Limiting factors are water quantity, water temperature, and lack of habitat. There are no tributaries below the notch, except Birch Creek (which does not reach the river). The river in this section is stabilized with riprap, preventing the river from moving to create new habitat. As a result,BHWC recently completed a Lower Corridor Report to review alternatives for fish habitat in this section. BWHC has also proposed this section as a Drought Management Plan section, for review in 2013.

Question: In Melrose, why are there fewer rainbows than browns? Ans: Whirling disease. Melrose has a high rate of Whirling disease in rainbows, while above and below this section there is little effect. This may be due to local geology creating conditions that are ideal for worm survival. Young fish less than 4 inches and prior to their bones becoming solidified are most affected.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Doppelganger

I'm in the Idylwilde catalog?
I walked in to the fly shop today and after a little catch up the Head Honcho mentioned that I was in the new Idylwilde catalog.  "Strange" I thought, I had no idea that  I was going to be.  I opened up the catalog, and sure enough on page 5 there I was.  Same red scott hat, same puffy patagonia jacket, same scott spey rod, same vanilla-gorilla-giant-step.  Everything looked like me except that I knew I hadn't been to where I thought the photo was taken in quite some time.

I looked into the bottom corner of the photo for the credit and it was shot by fellow Scott pro and exceptional videographer/photographer Bryan Huskey.  I messaged Bryan to find out if he knew my doppleganger of if Bryan was secretly hiding in the bushes last time I fished the upper Ronde.  Turns out I was wrong on both accounts, Bryan doesn't stalk me, and that wasn't the upper Ronde.  The picture turns out to be Bryans buddy "Slawdy" from WY fishing on the John Day.  Maybe one day I'll run into Slawdy on the river, and we can share one of those movie moments where it's like looking into a mirror because the resemblance is so close.
Scary resemblance

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Midge follow up

One of my recent posts about flies was a pair of midges that I have been fishing on the upper Beav.  The reason this post came about was to provide some info for my buddy Wayne as he was on his way out here the following week.  Turns out the flies paid off, as I received this picture upon his arrival back home, with the green/black midge right where it should be, the snout of a beaverhead brown trout.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Last trout day of the year

Yesterday was likely my last trout day of the year, and I got to enjoy my favorite stretch of river, without seeing another human being, let alone another boat, and fish chasing streamers from the launch to the put out.  I can't think of a better way to finish the season, and am ready to swing for steelhead back home in Eastern Washington.  I have a couple of guide days left open for fall steelhead, so shoot me an email if you're interested.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


As good as they get
Yesterday was the second big storm that we have had this fall, and hopefully one of many more to recharge our thoroughly wrung-out watersheds.  After a summer that felt like we were getting away with one given how good fishing was and how dry and hot it was, a big winter would be welcomed by all.  Yesterday's guide trip turned in to site seeing and beer drinking, but today it's off to the lower-somewhere for some wind, weather and streamer eating browns.  Only a few trout guide trips left, then time for rest and steels.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Oregon Chrome

Check out this excellent video from Columbus Leth shot last winter on the PDX steelhead rivers.  The guides featured are Marty Sheppard and Jeff Hickman.  I really dug the combination of cool shots and a very mellow soundtrack, along with some beautiful fish.  Makes me ready for winter.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Favorite Flies: Two Midges

Carlo holding the evidence of an effective midge

Fall in our part of MT means many different things, but if you are fishing the Beaverhead it means tiny, tiny flies when you're not lobbing the latest Kelly Galloup insert-your-sexually-confused-streamer-name-here under the willows.  This year I have two patterns that have stood out above the rest, and they both come from Idylwilde signature tier Jeremy Garrett.  Jeremy is a Dillon area guide, best known for his belly dancer series of flies, crushing huge fish and having what appear to be the most comfortable seats in any skiff I have ever seen.  The flies I mimicked in these patterns are called the "purple death" and "ribbed midge".  The changes I made were simple color variations, using green and black wire instead of silver on the "ribbed midge" and orange dyed pearl flashabou on the "purple death" (more of an orange-flashy death).  If you get to the Beav before the crank it down to winter flows go huck these bad boys under a bobber and hang on.  Oh yeah, I tie mine on Tiemco 2488H's, a strong heavy hook so those big Beav fish don't bend me out!
Black and Olive

Pink, Orange and Shiny!