Monday, November 16, 2015

Montana Stream Access Law: A How To

Nice to see this bridge without barbwire and no-tresspassing signs all over it.
Last week or so an article came out about a Montana writer who got fired.  This article laid out the facts about a landowner in our valley who has done his best to try to ruin stream access for all of us here in Montana.  I believe that if there is one unifying thing amongst most Montanans (natives and transplants, D's and R's) it's that we all love having access to the great outdoors.  I thought a good way to show some support for the cause, one that is particularly important  given it's proximity to home and importance to our state, would be to post a how to on accessing rivers, and especially the lower Ruby.

Step 1:  Find the river you want to fish.  This would be a river that is legally navigable and allowed for recreation.  This includes most big rivers, and many small rivers, such as the Ruby.  I would highlight recommend one that has fish in it as well.  Don't

Step 2:  If there is not a giant public parking spot (which are good to launch boats from and suck to fish at anyways) find a bridge.  By state-law there is a 60' right-of-way.  This means that when combined with the high-watermark of the river, you can get in and go fishing!

Step 3:  Go Fishing!  Keep your feet wet (below the high-water mark, wet feet is the easiest way to do this if it's a small river), don't litter, and don't trespass.  Thankfully, Montana isn't some dumb-ass state like Colorado or Wyoming where you can own the bottom of the river.  Public land and water in Montana can be (Gasp!) used by the public.  Be thankful that we have a Supreme Court who believes in public access and public land.

Note:  In no way do I condone trespassing, which would surely not help the case of the phenomenal stream access laws we have in this state.  Be courteous of the landowners who are generous with access, don't litter, and don't be a cox.  Also, think about where you donate those precious dollars to conservation.  The juxtaposition of DU's "conservation" and willingness to bend to one donor is frustrating, and certainly makes me think about the conservation organizations I give to.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The greatest steelhead year of my life.

First steelhead on a spey rod and likely my first (and last) goatee.
This time of year as guide season is over and tying season begins I always start to think about past steelhead seasons where I fished every day.  Or at least it felt like every day.  Either way, it was a hell of a lot more than I do now.  Driving in to work the other day a song from Death Cab for Cutie's "Plans" album came on, and instantly brought me back to the greatest steelhead season I've ever had.

Anyone who regularly fishes the NW would likely think that my best year was 2009 and the epic return of steelhead up the columbia.  While 2009 held a special place in my heart, 2005 still stands out as the top. I was a senior in college, I guided all summer so I actually had some money, and I lined up my class schedule so that I had Tuesday and Friday off.  That fall was when I went from wanting to catch as many steelhead as I possibly could to beginning the journey of appreciate the process.

Naturally as a 20 year old, when I first caught a steelhead all I wanted to do was catch more.  Any way I could, anywhere I could.  It took several years of this approach before i started to realize that this wasn't what it's all about.  This fall I swung my first several steelhead, all on a dry line, caught many bobber fishing, and learned a ton.  It was certainly the beginning of the end.  I also spent a lot of time with good friends.  We learned what is now my favorite river anywhere, all on foot, fishing from sun-up to sun down.  Many laughs were had, many fish were caught, and memories were formed that still come flooding back, with something as simple as a song on the radio.

Monday, November 2, 2015


 My friend Bob is one of the absolute nicest and fishiest guys that you will ever meet.  I say "friend" because although he lives two doors down the street from us "Neighbor" doesn't quite cut it.  My wife and I bought our first house this summer and Bob was instrumental in the majority of my renovations.  The typical exchange would go something like this "Hey Bob, can I borrow a saw?"  Bob-  "Oh yeah, and Im just sitting around, I'll come spend the next 5 hours helping you build a fence with all of my tools and energy and knowledge".  There is no possible way to pay back someone who is so generous, but Bob had one thing I could help him with, swinging his first steelhead.

A born 406'er, Bob has caught more fish in this state than most, and plenty of steelhead with a variety of techniques, but as a new spey angler had yet to check it off the list.  With a 1 month old boy running around my house the idea of a trip to some water I knew really well back home was not an option, so we headed out for the closest thing we've got, and tried to get Bob on the board.

About 2/3 of the way into our float I finally came tight to a fish in the middle of one of my favorite runs.  A couple of quick headshakes and it was gone, but it was a good reminder that we were throwing into an empty river.  We decided to row across the river and fish the same run from the other side, now that we knew there were some fish around.  I set Bob up about 3 casts upstream of what should be the money spot, walked upstream to some crappy riffle water to come in behind him, and of course promptly hooked a fish.  A short fight and a quick hatchery-fish-to-rock and we got Bob back out there.  No more than ten minutes later I looked up from re-rigging some gear and watched Bob's rod bending with the unmistakable pull of a a fish.  We put the fish in the net, dispatched of it as well, and shared a handshake that had been 2.5 years in the making since Bob started throwing a two-handed rod.  a handshake I was very happy to be a part of.