Saturday, May 21, 2011

Catching Up

The spring this year in Montana has been unusual to say the least. Nearly constant precipitation and cooler temps have left our mountains brimming with snowpack. In many places we have seen over 200% of average. While this weather delayed the start of run-off by a few weeks, the high snow pack will undoubtedly extend it well into July. Before the rivers began to spike, I did manage to get out for two days of fly fishing on my local river, the Gallatin. We put some effort into walking into some of the tougher reaches on this river. There are some places that don't see many anglers, due to the lengthy walk with many crossings. It can be tough to find solitude on this river anymore, but we managed to fish a whole day without ever seeing another person.

The fishing was great. I caught several nice fish including a gorgeous 19" rainbow, and some good looking browns. I couldn't help but think though, that I haven't been out targeting native species for a while. It seems all I have caught so far this spring have been trout. Obviously, this is completely my fault for staying to close to home and not deliberately targeting some of the species on my list. Well, thankfully, while I was standing out in the river thinking about this issue I hooked into a solid fish which turned out to be the good ole' native whitefish. I was glad to see this fish in the river. Turns out, that there has been some talk going around about this species being in decline lately. Here is a link to a good article in the Bozeman Chronicle called "Where's Whitey?" Hopefully, this will get more fisherman to treat whitefish respectfully...instead of throwing them up on the bank or drop-kicking them back into the river.

As I sit here finishing this post, the rain is continuously falling and the rivers have spiked significantly. The Gallatin rose about a foot in the last 24 hours,and I know that I won't get out fishing the local river for quite some time. I planned a run-off fishing trip to Arizona this spring, and I will be heading down there to target some unique species. The other big news is that I recently accepted a job offer in New Zealand that will have me living on the South Island until October. So my quest to catch all of these native fish in Montana faces a delay, but I fully intend to continue the mission.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Tomorrow is officially the first day of spring. As I sit here writing, I can see that my driveway is completely ice free, as is most of the street except for small piles of snow that were once large plow berms. This is fairly unusual for this time of year, but a persistent warm trend this month has cleared out much of the low elevation snow. As every Montanan knows, however, more winter will undoubtedly come our way. The green grass is still hiding down in the ground, leaving a bleak landscape of brown, grey, and white.

This is a great time of year to get out on the of the best, if you ask me. The warming temperatures have the trout actively feeding, and the pre-runoff water conditions can make for some exciting sight fishing. The crowds of summer are nowhere around, and a guy can fish a whole day without seeing another angler and only talking to each fish briefly before releasing them. Unfortunately this window of great fishing can be cut abruptly short by the fury of the spring run-off...which I predict will begin almost exactly one month from now. With this year's stronger than normal mountain snowpack, run-off promises to be a spectacular and long-lived event.

During this time of year, I really enjoy streamer fishing. There is only limited insect activity as far as hatches go, and the fish really seem to be aggressive towards bigger flies. Jigging a big fly with white rubberlegs through slow and deep runs always seems to produce vicious strikes. For this technique, I usually use George's Brown Stone which is a big woven-bodied creation. I think my friend Will doesn't really believe me about this fly or method. Last week we were out fishing when I hooked into a nice fish using this technique...he looked at my bent rod in the evening light and just said, "Seriously?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Escape

The act of going fishing is, on a fundamental level, purely a practical endeavor. People go out and fish, and try to bring something home to put on the table. As every fisherman knows, however, going fishing is so much more than that. Fishing provides a valuable escape from the pressures and stresses of everyday life. Time spent on the water has a magical ability that allows you to temporarily forget just about everything else in the world. It is at this point, that actually catching fish really becomes a sideline for the day. Sometimes we fish to catch fish and recreate, other times we go fishing just to get away. Many authors have written about this, but I have always liked the quote from Thoreau. "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."

Recently, I have had to call upon these magical powers of fishing. It may seem strange to deal with a difficult situation by heading to the river, and in reality it may not solve a damn thing...but it does give you some precious hours of mental peace. Definitely healthier than the other alternatives.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A break in the long winter...

I don't get out to fish very often during the winter. It is not because of a lack of desire or an inability to cope with often miserable conditions. The truth is that I would love to spend more time on the rivers during this season, but along with fishing I have another time-consuming passion which hits full-swing when the snow falls. Skiing may cut into my fishing time, but the seasons are a cycle and so should be my pursuits. I have been teaching skiing full-time for several winters now, and I fully expect that trend to continue. It would be hard to imagine a winter anymore without spending at least 100 days on skis.

I recently, however, have had an overwhelming urge to get out on the river and to wet a line. Luckily for me, a recent warm spell coincided nicely with my days off and I made plans to go fishing. I met up with Will (111 Degrees) and we made the drive to a small, lightly fished river in SW Montana. The temperature was hovering in the mid-40's, a strange feeling considering a week ago it was about 50 degrees less. The fish responded to this, and we were catching fish actively feeding in riffles and aggressively chasing streamers. I almost forgot it was the middle of winter, as I comfortably warm hat, no gloves, and no ice on my rod or line. I landed several nice brown trout, essentially some of my first fish of the year.

I always feel lucky to live in Montana. This is a land of well-defined seasons, a place where I can pursue many different activities as the year progresses. Skiing in the winter, backpacking and mountaineering in the spring and summer, hunting in the fall, and then back to winter. Fishing...well, I just try and fish as often as I can, regardless of the season.