That's what one of my friends who guides in Montana told me about streamer fishing for big browns in the fall. So in preparation for my trip over to the Missouri headwaters I've been tying up some monstrosities. While I'm not looking forward to casting these beasts, they sure are fun to tie!
I used Trina's Sculpin Bulletheads with 30 lb. wire connecting the trailer hook. I took this fly out for a test run last night and it reminded me of a jointed Rapala, lots of wiggle!
Source: "Go Big or Go Home"
Here are a few pics from my trip to a little tributary of the Clark Fork. The smaller fish were taking big foam bugs, while the big boys were hunkered down on bottom because of the bright sunlight. Nothing a little tungsten bead soft-hackle couldn't cure though! The size of some of these trout surprised me because this creek is only 20 feet wide in most places, but has plenty of deep runs for big fish to hide. I can't wait to fish the mouths of some of these tribs this fall when the browns are getting ready to spawn. It should be good...
I met up with my friend Josh last night to check out a farm pond I heard about that might have some bass in it...
The grass around the pond made casting a bit challenging. Check out all the damselflies around me!
The evening started off with a bang when our poppers were greeted by 8-12" bass on nearly every cast.
As the sun got lower in the sky the big boys came to the surface to play. We landed quite a few nice bass during the last hour of fishing and I also caught a "bonus" fish on my last cast of the night.
Another nice little spot 15-minutes away from my place!
The water in the Spokane River is finally at a fishable level after a very wet spring/summer, so I decided to head out and give it a go after work last night. When I arrived a family of Merriam Turkeys and caddis fluttering around my truck greeted me. Not a bad way to start...
Having never fished or seen this stretch of river before I wasn't sure what to expect. When I got to the bank I felt like kissing the ground because it looked like prime water, the best part is its 15 minutes from my house and 5 minutes from where I work! The river has a solid population of redband rainbows, whitefish, brown trout and squawfish. I didn't see any fish rising when I got to the first run so I put on a caddis emerger and soft-hackle PT under an indicator. It wasn't long until my bobber was darting under the water. My first Spokane River fish was a solid rainbow that put a good bend in my 4 weight. I caught a few more on nymphs and once the sun got lower in the sky the caddis really started to pop. X-caddis did the trick...
The steelhead counts on the Columbia River have been very encouraging thus far so I've been sitting down at the vise every night to fill my boxes. While I enjoy swinging flies for steelhead with a spey rod, there's no question that nymphing is very effective. If I'm on a run with no other anglers I'll often swing a fly through the run and then work through it again with a nymph if I don't hookup swinging. I've been using Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot Hooks size 1/0 for most of my nymphs with shorter bodies. It's a heavy wire, wide gap hook with a needle-sharp point and should work great for holding a cartwheeling steelhead.
Now that my nymph box is full it's time to move onto swinging flies. Post and pictures to come next week...
Life has been a bit hectic the past few weeks for me with family gatherings and work, but I was able to sneak away last Friday and do a little fishing in Northern Idaho. The North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River is a pristine mountain stream that has an amazing Westslope Cutthroat fishery; especially in it's upper stretch above Yellow Dog Creek. Trout Unlimited and Idaho Fish & Game have done a great job protecting this resource by improving the streambed habitat, and making it a catch & release fishery.
The beauty of cutthroat is they rise to dries with reckless abandon, and really like big foam bugs like Chernobyl ants. On this day I landed a couple dozen fish ranging from 8-16 inches on dries and never saw another angler on the 6-mile roundtrip hike.
This area was so beautiful that my camera decided this was the place she wanted to die after 4 years of faithful service, and thousands of images taken. I was still able to get a few shots of the river before she passed away. RIP my Olympus Stylus 720SW, I hope your new 14-megapixel cousin holds up as well as you did.
Confluence of Independence Creek and the North Fork. The cutts and whitefish were absolutely STACKED in this 10-12 foot deep pool!
Little spots like this usually had a couple of willing fish hiding under logs and the cut-bank.
Gin-clear mountain water
This video woke me up quicker than my normal 2 cups of coffee this morning. I've caught steelhead skating flies on the surface but I haven't tried any "popping" flies yet. Looks like fun!!!
The Ska-Opper was designed by Scott Howell specifically for this purpose.
I tied up a few Guitar Minnows along with a dozen Clousers for my friend in Maine who was in desperate need of some striper flies. The Guitar Minnow became one of my go-to flies when fishing the surf. If you don't tie your own flies you can find them at Eldredge Bros. Fly Shop.
I made a couple substitutions to my version, like using Arctic Fox instead of calftail. Here's a link to the tying instructions on the forum.
Imagine waking up to this...
Man recalls nearly losing ear after black bear chomped through tent at campsite near St. Regis
By JAMIE KELLY of the Missoulian | Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 6:30 am | (6) Comments
Crouching in the dark with a steady rain pelting the tent over his head, Rob Holmes was fumbling with a flashlight when he felt something slapping lightly against his neck.
With a click, Holmes quickly realized what had happened in the last 30 seconds.
His blanket - "my best blanket" - was soaked with blood. As was his shirt.
And just as quickly, Holmes realized what was slapping his neck.
"My ear was bouncing off my neck," said the 24-year-old Ellensburg, Wash., man. "So I knew it was messed up, but I couldn't feel (the pain.)"
It was Monday morning around 4:30 a.m. at a campground near St. Regis that Holmes got the wakeup call of a lifetime.
A black bear, returning for more of the free food and garbage that careless campers had abandoned nearby, bit through Holmes' tent and mistook his head for a late-night snack.
Holmes, who was on a fly-fishing vacation with friend Brandon Hurst, didn't want to become its meal.
The friends had only a few hours' sleep when the bruin came calling at a primitive campground up Little Joe Road, two miles off Interstate 90. But that didn't stop Holmes from leaping up like a gymnast when "I felt something on my face."
Even before he knew he'd been injured, "I just jumped up and started yelling," said Holmes, whose vacation to Montana was cut short by a day. "I kept yelling and yelling and tried to get it further and further away."
The auto mechanic bolted out of the tent, and was yelling into the dark at an animal he couldn't see or identify. Was it a wolf? A bear?
Whatever it was, Holmes pumped up the volume coming from his newly bloodied head.
"I even started whistling," said Holmes in a phone interview. "I don't wanna brag about it, but I can whistle real loud."
After returning to the tent, Holmes was met by Hurst, who had awakened in the commotion but was still dazed and confused.
"My buddy thought I was having a nightmare," said Holmes, who like many Montanans considers fly-fishing a religion of sorts. "But I really wasn't scared. I was more confused."
That is, until he saw the blood and felt the light tapping of his dangling ear.
Holmes and Hurst left the Seattle area around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Hurst, who has relatives in Superior, had suggested a three-day fly-fishing trip to western Montana. Holmes, who hadn't fished here much, gladly accepted. Both planned to stay through midday Tuesday.
Operating on little sleep, they fished and toured the towns of St. Regis and Superior on Sunday. That evening, they had a home-cooked meal, then drove up Little Joe Road and stopped "at the first campground we found" around midnight.
Exhausted, "we went right to bed," said Holmes. "We wanted to wake up and do some fly-fishing the next day. So we unloaded the tent, the cots and the sleeping bags, and that's it."
It was dark and raining. So neither of the friends could have known that just 40 yards away, some careless campers had abandoned their campsite, leaving behind garbage and open cans of food.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which investigated the incident, thinks it may have been a transient camp. FWP said the left-behind refuse attracted the attention of the black bear that bit Holmes.
That Holmes was exhausted that night probably didn't help, either.
"I was snoring," he said. "That might have kind of triggered him to take an interest in me."
Still, irresponsible campers make the outdoorsman angry.
"I hate dirty camps," he said. "I enjoy the woods so much, and they're the reason that roads get shut down. They were incredibly inconsiderate."
And "inconsiderate" had Holmes and Hurst racing down the road in their truck just minutes after the bruin bit through their tent.
Holmes was nursing his bloody ear as Hurst dialed 9-1-1.
Within minutes, they arrived at the Mineral Community Hospital in Superior, where doctors cleaned and dressed the wound, then directed the friends to Community Medical Center in Missoula.
There, doctors sewed back together Holmes' ear, which required 21 stitches.
"It was the bottom quarter of the ear," he said. "It was ripped straight back, and it was just dangling there."
Meanwhile, Hurst had called wildlife officials, who met the two at the hospital and asked them to return to the scene.
Holmes had other things on his mind.
"I wanted to go fly-fishing," he said. "But the rivers were kind of blown out anyway."
Back at the campground, FWP determined that the teeth marks on the left-behind trash and the wound that Holmes suffered were consistent with a bite from a black bear.
Holmes considers himself fortunate, in a way.
"If it had been a grizzly bear," he said, "it would have killed me."
Holmes and Hurst headed back to Seattle that afternoon.
Back at his home in Ellensburg, Holmes has been answering phone calls and nursing his sore head.
On Tuesday afternoon, he planned to put away the phone for one more afternoon of fly-fishing, making up for the time he lost in Montana - a state he will gladly return to and set up camp.
"Hey, 21 stitches, and we're back in business," he said. "I love it there."
There may be a few hard feelings for the messy campers, but none at all for the big animal that nearly took Holmes' ear. In fact, there's a lot of sympathy for the bear, which the FWP is still attempting to locate and will have to euthanize once it's found.
"The bear was just curious, and it's a bad deal that it's habituated, or whatever they call it," said Holmes. "That bear was just being a bear."
Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking at some pictures that I've taken of Salmonfly Nymphs, I realized that none of my nymphs really "matched the hatch". I'm sure the fish don't care, but being an OCD fly tier it was driving me nuts!
I rummaged through my tying supplies last night and couldn't find any dubbing to accurately match the color of the nymphs.I did however manage to blend a nice body by sandwiching a layer of burnt orange angora goat between two layers of Arizona Sparkle Nymph "Rusty Brown #65" Dubbing. I put the sandwich in a dubbing loop and wah-la! A sweet looking Salmonfly Nymph body!
Hook: Daiichi 1750 Size:4
Thread: 6/0 Orange
Weight: 4.5mm Tungsten Bead with 10 wraps of .30 Wire
Tail & Antennae: Dark Brown Goose Biots
Body: ASN "Rusty Brown #65" blended with Burnt Orange Angora Goat Dubbing
Shellback: Dark Brown Medallion Sheeting
Rib: BR-Size Copper Wire
I'm back in Washington and if I can't hook you on the swing, I'll definitely hook you nymphing!
Wayne from Maine
Hook: TMC 2499SP-BL Size 6
Thread: 8/0 Black
Weight: 3.5mm Tungsten bead with 4 turns of 0.30 wire
Tail: Black Goose Biots
Body: Black Holographic Mylar
Rib: Med Blue Wire
Thorax: Black Ice Dubbing
Wingcase: Pearl French Mini-Flatbraid with a Drop of Exo-Flex for Durability
Hackle: Kingfisher Blue Schlappen
Legs: Mini Silicone Legs (Black with Blue Sparkle)
Here's my first blog entry! Thanks for reading!
I decided to make the trip to Montana this weekend, even though I knew the water would be high on all the rivers. I took a ride to the Bitterroot Valley to check out the upper river and see if I could find a few fish. While the water was high in the main channel, fishing in the side channels was great. I landed a number of fish on nymphs and SJWs. The water clarity was just good enough to make fishing worthwhile. I camped along the bank of the Bitterroot Friday night and was amazed at the variety of wildlife I saw. Deer, moose, elk, turkey, and a lone black bear were spotted on my drive that day.
My restless spirit put me on the road early yesterday morning; my destination was the Thompson River in NW Montana. The drive took me along the Flathead and the lower Clark Fork River valleys. The views along the way were stunning with snow-capped peaks to the north and sprawling fields that seemed to go on forever. The Thompson is a Clark Fork tributary that's known for running clear and fishing well when everything else is blown. Caddis, PMDs, and a few golden stones were fluttering about the river when I arrived. The river was high but clear, and definitely fishable. Not seeing any fish on the surface I rigged my rod with a golden stone nymph and PT soft-hackle dropper. On my second cast the indicator was ripped sideways and I was tight to first fish of the day, a stout 16-inch brown. The majority of the fish I hooked were 10-14 inches with a few in the 16-18 inch range. The highlight of the day came when I was bringing in a small rainbow and up from the depths comes a bull trout that easily went 10 pounds chasing the helpless trout. It mukled onto the bow for a few seconds and then disappeared back into the deep pool. I continued fishing for a few more hours after the bull trout incident, slowly making my way upstream and taking time to observe all the beautiful scenery around me. Satisfied with my trip I packed up and was on the road at 5:30. I made it home in time to tuck my son into bed and give him a kiss goodnight. My perfect ending to a great trip.
Next on the docket - a trip to the Upper Columbia in search of big rainbows on dries.
A couple of moose enjoying breakfast in Idaho
The mighty and very muddy Clark Fork
Bitterroot Valley Sunset
Painted Rocks Resevoir
Painted Rocks Resevoir Dam
A doe bedded along the West Fork of the Root
Approaching a Montana traffic jam
Some mighty fine bovine
The Flathead River along HWY 200
The Thompson River
Confluence of the Thompson and it's west fork.
A Thompson River Brown Trout