Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hopper Season

As many of you know, in late summer and early fall, as the hatches begin to dwindle, trout look more and more to terrestrial insects for their surface fare. Grasshoppers are a mythical insect among Western trout fishermen, known for bringing large trout up for slashing takes. The reality is more often a gentle slurp but I always think about those explosions when I'm laying in bed awake on a late summer evening.

Here in the high desert, we have localized grasshopper infestations and when an angler locates one, he can be sure the trout are used to lining up just off the bank during windy afternoons, picking off the hoppers that don't quite make it back to land. These fish can get as picky as a big brown sipping blue-wings sometimes, because they know what a hopper looks like and how it twitches. This profile, motion as well as the myriad of colors, make it a tough bug to match sometimes.

Here's a great example of prime hopper habitat, on Slough Creek in Yellowstone.

As far as colors go, hoppers can be anything from white to florescent green. I think my favorites for exact imitations are cream, tan, and yellow, but a lot of the guides I know swear by pink. I've had good luck with pink as well, but when I'm wading my favorite hopper banks, the fish sometimes get fussy. However, if you're in the boat searching water, pink can be productive.

Gary LaFontaine is my hero, if you didn't already know and I loved his scientific approach to fishing. In The Dry Fly: New Angles he recommends two alternative tactics for hopper eaters. First, fish a sunken or weighted hopper. Trout, especially big ones, are less suspicious of big patterns if they're underwater. Second, fish patterns that have a lot of motion built into them. He fished a jointed bug on a Flex-Hook, but rubber and foam help give a pattern motion as well.

Now is the time to start chucking hoppers. All it takes is walking the bank and finding those localized infestations. If you're really sadistic, you can catch a few hoppers and do a little chumming. It'll amaze you how many fish will ignore your imitation, but slurp the naturals without a second thought. Good luck. Hope this takes some of the randomness out of your hopper fishing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

And we're back...

I'm back beeatches! Home internet is finally back up and running. July has been pretty fly, eh? In the next few days I want to touch on a few of the things that have been running through my head, among them water temperature, power boats on the lower Clark Fork :(, pink flies, and T&T season. That's Tricos and Terrestrials for the layman.

Hoping to hit a small stream today and then the big river this evening. Brin Mar's small stream article was right on. This is the time of year to explore. There are so many little tucked away gems that you can find with a little map work and 4 wheel drive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From an unnamed mountain stream somewhere in the Northern Rockies....

So, there is no doubt the temperatures have changed quite a bit over the past week, as Billy mentioned. This has had an effect on the feeding habits in most of the large streams due to rising water temperature and bright days. Most of the trout will be hiding under stream banks, shade from a willow or other brush, birch, etc. This also presents great opportunities for anglers throughout Montana: exploration of high mountain lakes within surrounding wilderness areas, tributaries, and small creeks. 

This takes some motivation, but not much preparation if you're willing to dirtbag it for a couple of days and sleep under the stars, live off of PB&J and other snacks, and generally work for your fish. I decided to explore some areas in the Upper Blackfoot region. I've posted some pictures for the imagination, as well as to drop a hint to the fellas that are familiar with the region. 

I had two of my best days of the season in terms of the scenery and solitude, the amount of trout landed (all on dries), and overall experiences. After the last couple of days I have now discovered one of my favorite small streams in western Montana, as well as my enduring appreciation for gin colored, cold, clear, wild streams. This, in combination with the simplicity required from the angler, as well as the selection of flies makes these trips memorable. For example, on the unnamed creek (you guys know how to find me and some of you already know where I'm referring to) I fished two bugs/patterns...for around six hours.  A PMD #16 in the morning and a #12 or #14 Royal Wulff the remainder of the day. It was not unusual to pull multiple fish out of one hole at a time. One of the highlights was hooking into four trout ranging in size from 12-16 inches and landing three. The added bonus was that I spent the whole day fishing my 3 wt. wet-noodle, which made  the fishing a bit more sporty. 

So, get out there and trail blaze, work for some fish, avoid the crowds, and enjoy the numerous opportunities to explore our public land here in Montana. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hot, much?

So it's hot out there. On the creek recently the dry action is noticably slower once the sun gets up above the canyon wall. No reports of Tricos yet but we'll let you know. Still no home Internet. At Opp
updating on the iPod. Arrrgh! Damn autofill!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Internet Woes and Other Stuff

Sorry, folks but the thunderstorms blew out our home modom and we are switching from Qworst to Bresnan, so I've got no home internet for at least another week, making posting very difficult. I've had a spate of bad luck with rods and just about everything else. Lost my summer fly box with all my July patterns, probably 10 dozen or so. Not good.

Fishing has been excellent with the cloudy days bringing the fish up to the mayflies. Caddis in the evening have been great as well. Rain in July??? Craziness. Enjoy it cause it will probably be a not so good winter. Hopper fishing has been picking up as well. If you want a little privacy try the small streams or the Creek. Everybody's on the 'Root. I'll try to get to a coffee shop this week and post some photos of my amazing 4th of July trip and other things. Later.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Independence Day Weekend

Here's your update, folks. The Blackfoot has salmonflies flying all over the place but the fish are not real interested. Too many boats. Sooner or later we will see some regulation, hopefully sooner. Over 60 boats were on the water last Saturday between the Canyon and Sperry Grade. Nymphing was still decent, but not a lot of interest in the big bugs despite the plethora flying about and hitting the water. Great caddis hatch going on and I whacked some really nice fish at the takeout while I waited for the shuttle. Gary LaFontaine I love you!!!

Fished Rock Creek on Sunday and it was spectacular. Great dry fly action with too many kinds of bugs to count. Yellow sallies, mid-sized goldens, green drakes, PMDs, caddis. A yellow stimulator with a pupa dropper kept me busy.

Reports are that the 'Root is picking up. West Fork is giving up fish on top, although according to our guiding brethren, it is almost as crowded as the 'Foot. I'm sure the caddis are thick in the evenings on the main stem.

Speaking of which, the Clark Fork came a long way in a week. Tons more caddis, PMD spinners and the beginnings of the Pale Evening Duns. Good to see so many bugs with the dam coming out. Fish are still grouped up and far between, but hey, it is the Clark Fork.

Warning to anyone fishing the lower areas of the rivers. The mosquitoes are as bad as they have been in 10 years. Any exposed flesh will get nailed and if you are wearing thin clothing, they'll go right through it. I'm not a big fan of DEET, but I think it is a necessity right now. I've also been using a Buff bandito face mask to keep them out of my beard, although it is pretty thin. It is really bad. Two nights in a row on the lower river, I had to give up fishing a pod because we just couldn't stand sitting still any more. Be prepared and it isn't quite as bad. If you go in shorts and T-shirt you are insane. They will pick you up and fly away. I'd also recommend leaving the dog at home. He will thank you for it.

That's all I got for now. Have a good 4th. LaNette and I are hitting the back country for a few days. Hopefully the ice is off the high lakes. Peace out,