Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some Thoughts on Nymphs

Dry fly fishing this time of year can be inconsistent. Well, let's face it, it can almost always be inconsistent. In the event you find yourself plumbing the depths and watching your Thingamabobber or Fish Pimp, here are few pattern recommendations.

First, nothing says T-Bone to a big trout like a big stonefly nymph. Here's the main pattern I use, Billy P's Improved Brooks Stone. It's a tribute to the godfather of western nymph fishing, Charlie Brooks. I leave the gills out to simplify and add some rubber legs. The fly is tied in the round so it looks the same to trout even if it's spinning in the current, an unnatural motion. This is one of my golden stone variations:

Hook: #4-12 3X long streamer hook
Thread: Brown
Tail: Brown or Yellow Goose Biots
Rib: Med Black Ultrawire
Body: Antique Gold Squirrel Dubbing
Legs: Yellow/Black Silicon
Hackle: Grizzly Dyed Yellow Saddle

Secondly, never doubt the old egg pattern. Rainbows are in the midst of spawning and cutthroats are right behind them. High water flushes eggs out of redds and the fish are aggressive. Browns will move in behind spawning fish as well. These patterns are effective throughout the year but especially in the spring and fall.

Finally, if you know me you know I love Gary LaFontaine and the cranefly larvae. This fly is easy to tie. Just put a bunch of translucent gray and olive dubbing on a weighted streamer hook in a sausage shape with some ribbing. Cranefly larvae burrow into the soft undercut banks common to the Upper Clark Fork, Upper Blackfoot, and Upper Rock Creek. The high water flushes these larvae out and I've had great success on the Little Blackfoot and the Upper Creek with this pattern. You can really weight it so it makes a terrific point fly.

Good luck and remember, set the hook on anything!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bill and Entz's Top 10 Things to Do During Runoff

10. Complain about the runoff.

9. Sit at the casino, drink vodka and watch the Lakers kick the crap out of the other crappy western teams.

8. Go mud boggin' and trail blazin'. If you've never done it, we can't explain it.

7. Teach your friend's children to tie San Juan Worms and pay them illegally low wages. "10¢ a dozen, kids!"

6. Shoot some gophers!

5. Go down to Brennan's wave with a PBR tallboy in a paper bag and make fun of the kayakers.

4. Stop by all the fly shops in town and ask them what flies they're taking on Rock Creek. Act astonished when they start to lose their patience.

3. Figure out new techniques for enlarging the fish in your pictures on Photoshop.

2. Spend extra time circling the oval at UM enjoying the view of the M. And other things.

1. Two words: bocce tournament!

We have our own domain name!

I just bought it. It will eventually redirect people I believe but you can also update your browser if you want. Easier to tell your friends about too!

This Week

The water continues to drop in response to the cold weather in the mountains and it looks like we could be receiving some snow up high tomorrow. This is good news for the rivers. Both the Creek and the Upper 'Root look like they would fish today with nymphs and or streamers and the Upper Clarkie and the Blackfoot should be in shape in a few days for hucking junk. Get out there if you can because when it warms up we will be right back to the Mudfest. Larger stonefly nymphs will catch fish tight to the bank.

I would also be prepared for the Mother's Day caddis. Too many times in early May I've been caught without my caddis box while surrounded by slashing trout. Size 14 and 16 olive or peacock caddis emergers will keep you in business, although it could be a week or so before we see the bugs popping. It all depends on the water temps. It's always right on the verge or in the midst of the early runoff. March browns, gray drakes, Baetis, and skwalas will continue to be important as well once we get enough clarity for dry fly action to pick back up. The window is going to be short so get it while you can.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Missouri Report

Just got back from the Mo Mo. I learned several things today. First, I am now totally convinced that trying to fish a streamer out of a one-man cata-raft is a waste of time. Second, the Mo in the spring exhibits a pattern: lots of bugs with very few risers. They're spoiled and if it isn't just right, they don't come up.

The weather looked perfect. Low 50's and cloudy with a slight wind. 6710 cfs, a little high for this time of year. Little Prickly Pear was dumping a bit of color in, but I've seen it way worse. I pulled in at Wolf Creek Bridge and the Baetis were already starting to pop with occasional scattered risers. I was optimistic.

I met a lovely couple, Dave and Stacy, who let me ride along with them for a shuttle. I gave them a couple beers in return. I love the Mo' hospitality. A bit different than some other places I fish. For the first two miles, I stayed committed to the streamer and failed to move a trout. The sinking line was tangling around every nut and bolt on the frame, I couldn't slow the boat enough with my fins, and my rod angle sucked. This was my first attempt and it was not going well. I caved and got out the nymph rod, rigged with a small Olive Hare's ear and a silver Lightning Bug. I immediately started whacking fish. The best of the day was this big hen brown from the end of an island that took the Hare's Ear. The seat of my boat is 21 inches across:

I finally did get a fish on a streamer in the evening. I was rowing out of an eddy with my rod between my legs and 15 feet of line out, when a 19-inch brown started jumping around the boat. I soon realized he was hooked on my streamer. This proves that if you're going to try and fish a streamer out of a cata-raft, you might as well just troll. Screw trying to strip it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weekend Preview

Everything is still pretty much toast, but with the cold weather, things may improve early next week. Look for the Upper Creek to be your best option if you aren't working or in school. Or if you can skip school, which I cannot. The Missouri looks primed to turn on for Baetis and I will likely be going over there to scout tomorrow. It's supposed to be mostly cloudy with little wind which sounds pretty damn good to me. I'll let you know how it is. In the mean time keep tying bugs or go hit some pike spots. Hopefully this cold weather will stick around and do its thing so we can have a few more days before the main melt.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Billy's Baumer

Here's the first try at this. Sorry some of the pictures are out of focus and the backdrop is super low-bagger. I promise to get better. Pause the slide show so you can see the steps. This fly is articulated and I use a #6 streamer hook for the rear hook and a larger salmon hook for the front. I use backing, not mono, to connect the hooks.

Tail section first...

1) Tie in a piece of barred yellow straight-cut rabbit strip, leaving enough tag to bring to the front of the hook.

2) Tie in some root beer cactus chenille and wrap a body up to the eye

4) Pull the rabbit forward over the back and tie it off. Whip it and glue the crap out of the head.

5) Thread a loop of backing through the hook eye from the top and loop it around the whole fly. See the pic.

6) Tie the backing onto the front hook starting at the back, then double it over and wrap back to the bend of the hook. Super glue it. It won't pull apart, I promise.

7) Tie on some dumbbell eyes. I put them on the bottom of the hook for this fly, although for most others I like the hook to ride upside down and put them on top.

8) Tie in two yellow grizzly marabou feathers as a rear wing.

9) Tie in some more root beer cactus chenille and wrap a body up to the eyes

10) Tie in 2 more grizzly marabou feathers and two drake side feathers dyed yellow on top of them for the front wing.

11) Spin a brown deer hair collar and head, trim it down, glue it.

Now catch a big trout and repeat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One option for high water fishing

Hi folks. Here's one cure for the high water blues. I fished the Bitterroot just outside of town yesterday. I was shooting for some pike and ran into a bunch of them on a couple of backwaters. After a long walk, I noticed that one of them was actually spring fed and held some big trout. Next time I'll bring a lighter trout rod and some scuds (and more sunscreen....ouch). I fished the two backwaters by the humane society parking lot about a mile up from Buckhouse. The closest one held trout, but you have to cross it upstream and walk it back down to get into the them. One trib is dumping mud into it, but upstream of that the water is crystal clear (so far) and low enough to cross in one spot.
This a good time to get out google earth and explore these backwaters, since everything else is shot. You will definitely see pike and may have a shot as some sweet trout.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The End Times have arrived

Is runoff upon us already? I think so, although we might still get another window if it gets cold again. The Creek is over 1,000 cfs which is very big. Clarity or not these are very challenging conditions. By the looks of things, we are going to set some maximum flow records in the next few days.

Yesterday afternoon, my buddy Kiel and I made a valiant effort to streamer fish the Blackfoot before clarity and water levels made it impossible. We didn't make it in time. We moved three fish to our flies but all in all the float highlights were a few bighorn sheep and some kids walking a pet pig on the bank. There were no large trees passing us but we did ride some nice wave trains and we drank a bunch of beer. It was a beautiful float, even though the fishing was non-existent. For the record we tried a variety of sizes and colors, even dead drifting black buggers.

Our friend Chris Williams reported that the Creek was still fishing yesterday, which is surprising but not likely to last much longer. Things are going vertical quickly and we are going to see some serious water in the next few days. Time to tie bugs, go hiking, wash the truck, clean out the boat, or actually spend some time with your significant other before the fishing gets good again, which I'm thinking will be sometime in June, unless you want to go for a drive or hit up your favorite pike spot. However, I'm a pessimist and there is a chance we could get a week of some freak snowy weather. This is Montana after all, but don't bet on it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's coming! Run for your lives!

A shot from Great Falls, a sign of things to come!

I'm just being a sensationalist, I know. Still, the flow forecast is looking pretty ugly folks. The hydrograph will soon look like the side of Trapper Peak with three straight days in the 70s predicted. This will bump things up quite a bit and it's likely to stay that way. Cool weather returns on Friday, but can it stop the deluge? I don't think so. This is the beginning of the end, folks.

Time to talk about the past. I hit the lower Blackfoot with Coates last evening and moved several nice fish on my articulated thing that I haven't yet named, until we lost it in some willows. Damn. Need to tie more of those. No fish to the boat, which was kind of a bummer, but after yesterday who cares. We saw some big guys though, which is always exciting and I got to drink a beer on the Blackfoot. Zang!

With all this high water soon to shut down the fishing, what shall we talk about? Flies of course! Over the runoff period, I will try to focus on some tying tips and patterns, with help from others hopefully. For all those who like me did not tie as much as you would have liked this winter, seize this moment. In the mean time, dust off your kayak if your into that sort of thing. The rest of us will tie up some more of those ridiculous nameless articulated streamers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Here it comes

Yesterday was a great day to be out on the river! March Browns galore although we fished a pretty riffle-heavy stretch of the Creek so not much in the way of risers, but friends on the Hog Back said it was kickin'. JB and I hit the Walquist Stretch around Mile 20 for the first time ever and it was a blast. Fishes kind of like the Madison, never more than 3 feet deep and trout just about everywhere. Productive bugs included Olive Double Bead Stones #10, the old Black Warbird #10, PTails, red Copper John's, worms and eggs. Some pockets were just silly and we caught 6 fish on our walk back to the car.

If you're headed out today, everything is on the rise although not too steep yet. The Creek will still fish lights out and the 'Root should be good as well with the afternoon March Brown blitz. Today and possibly tomorrow could be it until we get some crappy weather. If it doesn't cool down, it will be time to get prepped for Salmonflies. The Brooks was already producing well for me yesterday and it took several browns over 14 inches. Good luck and get out today if you can. It might be your last chance until the next cold spell, unless it stays hot, in which case we'll see you in June.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I saw this Josh Keyes piece on This Is Fly. This month's issue just came out and you should dig it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Weekend Preview

The water's dropping. Holla! But it's going to be super sunny. :(

A mixed bag for us this weekend, although there should be some fast and furious bursts of good dry fly action. Often on sunny days, mayflys are able to get off the water too quickly and the hatches are shorter in duration, which means not much for Baetis. March Browns will still draw
fish especially on the Creek and Upper 'Root. I've been catching my largest fish right up in the inside bends right at the base of the riffle, provided they haven't been disturbed by another angler or a boat.

Should be decent stonefly fishing and the skwalas still around will be flying all over the place in the sun. Contrary to some belief, there are plenty of skwalas on the upper part of Rock, just not as many in the canyon stretch. We saw plenty crawling around on Sunday. This could produce some excellent late afternoon fishing once the sun angle drops on both the Bitterroot and the Creek.

The Blackfoot is still tetering and trying to decide if it wants to drop. I'm just dying to chuck some junk up there so I've got my fingers crossed. I really don't dry fly fish it much until the bigger stones start hatching in June. I'm looking for a big boy! Have fun out there and as my grand pa would say, leave some for the rest of us.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rock Creek

Heading up there tomorrow. I'll have a full update. I haven't decided yet whether I will head to the upper stretches, or somewhere between The Dalles and mile 5 (~mile 46 from the top). I will be on a time constraint due to other obligations in the evening. I would concur with Entz catching them in "puddles". It seems over the last week or so, beginning last Wednesday and Thursday, the best fishing has been close to the banks in holding water/eddies next to current, or at the tail of merging drifts. Most of the time I have found myself fishing from the bank or in ankle to calf deep water. I have found most of my success with #12-14 skwala patterns, #14-#16 march browns, eggs, San Juan's, pheasant tails, bright colored prince nymphs, double beaded stonefly (in green mostly), and the reliable Russian River Special.

Armstrong Spring Creek April 2009

River Update

With snow falling in the mountains today, river levels are starting to drop. The Clark Fork is still pretty much a non option due to the sediment coming down from Milltown and the high flows. Rock Creek is probably in the best shape as far as clarity goes, although the upper 'Root is also looking better. Water temps have crashed though, so even with the improving clarity the fish are going to be moving pretty slow. Always a good idea to check the temp before you tie on a fly. If it's below 40, streamers need to be rolled very slowly and nymphs need to scrape the bottom. Water levels will improve more quickly the higher up the drainage you go, but as you increase in elevation the weather and water temps can be more challenging. Look for springs and groundwater seeps. Entztrix caught several trout out of "puddles" on Upper Rock over the weekend.

As far as pattern choices, I'd recommend the old SJW, Princes and Double Bead Stones in #8-12, eggs, red Copper John's #14, darker Buggers and the like. As far as dry fly action goes, it's going to depend on the water temps. March Browns, Baetis, Skwalas, and Nemouras look to be your go to patterns, mayflys for the picky pods and stones for searching in the afternoon. I've been liking a pheasant tail halo emerger for the March Browns and a foamy ugly Skwala. I'll be getting out somewhere on Friday, and if the Blackfoot is in shape to streamer fish, that will be my first choice, which is probably the opposite of what you'd hear elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So Long Milltown, Hello Bull Trout

So long, old girl.

(stock photo taken on Blackfoot)

For anybody out there who needs a little proof that bulls are already loving the dam coming down, I caught my first big bull on the Upper Clark Fork near Clinton last week. He took my new articulated chew toy, which I will post some pics of sooner or later.

While I've talked to guides who've seen some bull trout in that stretch before, this big male was the first I'd seen in 8 years of fishing the Schwartz Stretch, and I chuck streamers up there A LOT. He was probably close to 25 inches. Took a swinging fly on sinking line right at the Junction Pool. On his way to spawn up the Rock I figure. So, if they manage to survive the chemical soup, they'll be reproducing for sure. BTW, the pic above is not the fish I caught, but from the Blackfoot a few years back.

If anybody else has seen promising signs let us know. Also in case you missed the Missoulian article today about the new fish ladder going in down at Thompson Falls, click the link.

Bitterroot trout distribution, ect.

Hey Bill. Just thought I'd post my first little tid-bit.

I just looked at a lot of the population data for the Bitterroot with biologist Chris Clancy. Maybe you all know this, but the stretch by Darby has considerably higher fish densities than the rest of the river. On average, there are twice as many fish up there than in streches below Hamilton (Over 1,000 fish per mile).

As for Jason's post;

The East fork of Bitterroot has much lower densities than the west fork. It is also on a lot of private land until you get further up into national forest land, so access is more limited. I know a grad student at UM is looking at some of the few migratory bull trout up there.

If you're that far up, Skalkaho if worth a stick if you're into nice cutts.

More to come..

Just trying out the photo option. A spring rainbow from the Bitterroot a few years back, courtesy of Jason Coates and the Micro Mayfly Nymph.

Water is Stabilizing

You wouldn't know it by looking over the Higgins Bridge, but area rivers are beginning to stabilize thanks to the cooler weather. If this keeps up there could be really good fishing by the weekend. I have my eyes especially trained on the Blackfoot for some streamer action. I've added links to the hydrographs as well as NOAA River Flow Forecast page. Check em out and I will be putting more content up as the week progresses. Tight lines.

Well, here goes...

So I've been lamenting the lack of blogs and good info on our area rivers for some time. I've taken action. My goal is to get all the bad ass anglers I know to contribute. We'll see how it goes.