Jolly Good Fishing
Spent the last four days with some awesome Father and Son clients Jamie and Nigel from the UK. Two polite and friendly englishmen who have been planning a trip to Monatana for many years and things finally came together this week. We were able to explore lots of the area's different water from floating the Upper Madison to some private creeks and lakes. Really cool to see a 75 year old man's eyes light up with joy when he caught a trout on his first, second, and third cast of the day. Even though i've grown up in Montana and fished these waters since i was a kid it never gets old showing what Montana has to offer to people for their first time out. Somehow we managed to escape all the nasty weather going on lately and find nice little pockets of good weather and good fishing so the fishing gods must have been smiling on us.
Wildlife on the River
It is so easy when you are out fishing to get so focused on the fly and the fish that you lose sight of everything else around you. I've written about this before, and taking the time to look around and take notice of all the wonder and beauty that surrounds you on the river. Spring is here in Montana and with it everything is green and beautiful, flowers are popping up everywhere and baby animals are everywhere.
Yesterday Ethan and I as well as my girlfriend drove to the Upper Madison. Reports have been good and all of us love that area of river up there. It is one of those that if it isn't on your bucket list it should be. The morning sky threatened storms but we decided to hit the road anyway. The drive up there is always beautiful, but it is especially pretty now with everything greening up. After a long winter with everything white (or brown in this year's case), it is always nice to see some green again. All the trees have leaves and the hillsides are starting to look quite vibrant.
On the drive we saw a lot of wildlife including elk, deer, antelope and the usual assortment of birds and what not. We even saw some baby antelope, which look so ungainly it's hard to believe they can even stand up or move at all. Fishing was a little slow to start, and rising brown trout frustrated our efforts to catch them. The rain came and went, but not before putting our GoreTex Simms jackets to the test. Weather like that makes you glad you have the good stuff.
All of us here at the shop are pretty diehard catch and release kind of people. There are very few exceptions to that rule. One of them, for me at least, is the stocked cutthroat in nearby Hyalite Reservoir. Hyalite is a really fun fishery that is close to town and is easily reached after work. The state also stocks it with native Yellowstone Cutthroat. While I would never kill a native cutthroat in a river, if it was stocked in a lake that’s pretty fair game. They’re tasty too…
Hyalite is the nearest stillwater fishery of any size and it can be a very productive one too. There are a lot of fish in it and they can be taken with a fly rod easily. In addition to the cutthroat, anglers can find brook trout, graying and the occasional rainbow trout. Lots of angling options.
Father Daughter Fishing
The last two trips i've had have both been father daughter anglers. The other day i was out with Tim and Ellie who is on her way to becoming an amazing angler. She is 8 years old and we had a blast fishing the lower Madison on Friday. We had clouds and some fish up on BWOs but mostly they were all about the zonker. Ellie got into a few fish and one of them made it to the net and her dad stuck a real nice brown towards the end of the float. Then we ate sushi at the boat ramp and called it a day.
Have you ever stopped to look at the tail of a trout? It’s pretty beautiful. The translucence, the spots, the way the light shines through it.. There is nothing in nature quite like it.
So often we catch a fish and are in such a hurry to get the picture, get the fish back in the water and get the fly back out there. If there was one fish in the hole there might be more, right? Hurry hurry hurry, don’t want to miss anything.
Take just a moment and enjoy the beauty in your net. If you pull the fish out of the water to admire it, be sure you’re not keeping it out of the water long at all and get it back in the net. Keeping a trout just under the surface of the water can really make the colors pop too. Get your pictures and get them back in the water.
Fish are always beautiful. I know I say this a lot, but take the time to enjoy what nature offers.
Happy Mother's Day
A big shout out to all the Mom's today and all the hard work they do. My ma Pam King has long been the heartbeat of the Bozeman Angler and definatley a huge part of what holds this place together. Thanks for being the mother to not just me and my sister but also all the other fishing bums, guides, and customers that make up the family of the fly shop.
Dry Fly Action
The last two weeks has been just beautiful for dry flies. Last couple weeks the Mother's day caddis were so thick i had to scrub the dead ones off the windshield after driving home from the river. Yesterday we had a real thick March Brown hatch with good BWO's in the afternoon after the rain came through. Just really cool to see heads coming up to the dry fly. A few Yellow Sallies here and there and we've seen a couple skwalas scattered about still. The Moose hatch was pretty good yesterday we saw a cow and a bull on the other side of the river just munching on willows doing their moosey thing.
Chasing the hatch
Been chasing the caddis hatch around a lot lately and the best piece of advise i have is to get upstream of the bugs to find the best dry fly action. The Mother's Day caddis hatch is so prolific the fish strap on the feed bag and rise in a frenzy. I watched a rainbow on the lower the other day rise 5 times in a row propelling his whole body out of the water and snatched caddis literally out of the thin air. With this many naturals on the water and in the air it can be puzzling how they can be eating with reckless abandon all around your fly taking no interest in your pattern. I had this issue the other day and finally switched to a olive body pattern with a dark wing and then it was game on. I have also had great success fishing more emergers and short leashed pupas behind the dry.
Don't Overlook the Crayfish...
The Mother's Day Caddis hatch is on on the Lower Madison right now. Dry fly fishermen can rejoice! If you want to throw the dry all day you certainly can and you can probably do pretty well with it. The fish are feeding on top the best in the afternoons to evenings. Fish darker patterns, blacks and dark olives, in smaller sizes like a 16. A dry dropper rig will really work well. Put an emerger or a pupa behind a larger dry and see what happens.
We've heard a number of anglers this week in the shop that have been frustrated with the dry fly fishing. If you aren't on the front of the hatch or if it's a really bright day getting fish to eat on top can be a bit of a challenge. If they aren't eating on top, then switch it up.
Being willing to fish the indicator rig can make the difference between catching just a few fish and having a great day on the water. If the fish just don't want the dry, then go deep. On the Lower Madison in particular, one of the best flies you can use is a crayfish pattern. Tan and olive crays have just been killing it right now. The fishing has been just nuts. Ethan was down on the Lower recently and they caught most of their fish on the cray. Use the larger Cray as a point fly and hang a smaller caddis pupa, lil spanker or caddis pupa behind it. You won't be disappointed.
Messed Up Browns and Hook Removal
Staff guide Ladd Hogue was fishing with his dad on the Big Hole a couple of weekends ago and happened to catch this strange brown. Pictures of similar fish have been circulating on the blog circuit and social media for a while earlier this year. While no one is absolutely certain what caused it there are a couple of good theories out there.
One of the more cogent one involves the fish being caught when it was young and careless hook removal damaged the jaw so much it was either ripped off or injured enough it fell off. Somehow the fish was able to survive without it’s top jaw.
Hook removal can make a huge impact on the survival rate of caught fish. You need to be able to take the hook out quickly and easily, and without tearing the jaw off the fish. One of the easiest ways you can do that is by simply pinching the barbs on your flies. This makes removing hooks so much easier.