Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

Trout Spey in MontanaThe Lance Gleason 406 Productions short for the Simms Ice Out Shoot Out was filmed on the Missouri River between Great Falls and Helena Montana.  This is my home water from late October to late May.  Notice the Fish More knuckles when you watch the video.  Despite wintery weather hanging on, that’s what I’m always intending to do.  I can’t get enough of Trout Spey action on the Missouri.  The one positive to the colder weather, is that fish are still taking streamers on the swing.  A little action can help, but its still a tight line pull instead of an active cast and strip.  I love the anticipation and the resulting grabs.  These are not gentle plucks, but jolting yanks.


KK battles a chomper

KK with a chomper

Traveling to the next T Spey zoneT-Spey'd

I’m writing an article for Fish Alaska Magazine with Trout Spey as the topic.  I’ve got a deadline, so I’d better get back to it.  Looking forward to bending on Big Alaska Rainbows soon.

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Simms Ice Out Guide EventIce Out is more a state of mind than an actual occurrence this year in Montana.  Simms has a great motto: What’s the weather forecast?  Who cares…  When it comes to being ensconced in the best gear in the industry, Simms has us covered.  If it was December, I’d be fine with today’s weather, but I’d really like to fish in some water that at least pushed into the mid 40s.  It’s been snowing since I got back yesterday evening. This morning, my truck looked like a cripple with a white shuck that would not break free.Madison River Brewing Company

This years event started on Thursday with a stop at Simms for registration and factory tour followed by an open house (with Montana Beer) at the The Rivers Edge Fly Shop.  The Hop Juice IPA works for me.  Then it was on to the Ellen Theater for an evening with Brian O’keefe and Todd Moen from Catch Magazine.  If you fly fish, you likely know about Catch Magazine, but if you don’t, here is an example.

On Friday, we had several morning sessions and then it was off to the Copper Springs Ranch for the Guide Olympics.  No one was really quite sure what to expect and there were a few spectator only guides.  I tried two events and made it to the final round of the rod rigging.  Thanks to Eric Neufeld for heckling me and saving me from a possible win.  As it turned out, there were great prizes for each event and a gold, silver, bronze award for the most points accrued. Congratulations to Mike “AG” for being the 1st guide gold medal winner.

Saturday was packed with informative sessions and a product feedback working group.  I submerged the urge to sneak out and fish the Gallatin and attended all the sessions throughout the weekend.  I also talked with Andrew Bennett from Deneki Outdoors.  Who wants to join me at Andros South March 24-31, 2012?  The final evening wrap up was again at the Ellen Theater.  It included the Simms Shootout, co hosted by Tom Bie and The Drake along with the awards for the guide olympics.  There were also a few articles of flying swag.

RA Beattie took first place, but all four films were great

Adopose Boat WorksAfter the films, we hit the street in Bozeman for late night fun.  Mike Ward from Adipose Boatworks brought along the wheelchair from his Project Healing Waters Driftboat to keep things interesting.  My friends  Stephen Paulding and  Natalia Aulenbacher from Cooper Landing, AK managed to duck out about midnight, but I was still ready to take them fishing by 8am.  We cruised up past Helena and walked into some good water on the Missouri.  I got a chance to break in my new G4Z waders and River Tech boots. Missouri River Rainbow It was fun watching Steve and Natalia catch fish in Montana.  My Sage 6119 has been officially broken in and is sweet with either the Rio 6/7 Switch Line or a 425 grain Rio Skagit Flight.  We fought some wind, but caught plenty of fish to polish off a great Ice Out weekend.

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Simms Ice Out Guide Event 2011

On my way down to Bozeman.  Might drop a line in the MO for a few fish first.

I had a great time at Ice Out in 2010.  I’ll be meeting up with a few fellow Alaskan guides and plenty of folks from Montana and across the states.  The beer will flow, the flap will be interesting and the energy will be fishy.

Tonight’s program is an “Evening with Catch Magazine” hosted by Brian O’keefe and Todd Moen.

Its guide fun time before the work begins.

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Fly anglers love to debate stuff.  Do fish see color? (Absolutely) Does fly line color matter? (Sometimes) Is fishing a dry fly the only true form of fly fishing? (Absolutely…not) Is dry fly fishing better than anything else? (Sometimes)  Do trout on the Missouri River really think a pink Ray Charles is an egg? (Are you kidding me?) Do these waders make my butt look big? (Who Cares?)  What is the best state for fly fishing? The Fly Talk Blog at Field&Stream just wanted to pick a fight.

Wild King SalmonObviously, the best state depends on species and how you like to fish, but I’m soundly in the top five in any event.  Michigan ranked #1.  I was born in Michigan and caught my first wild char (brook trout) there.  I’m now a resident of Montana, because I live here for more than 6 months of the year.  Montana ranked #5.  I caught my first cutthroat here about 30yrs ago.  There is something about this place that gets into your head and your heart.  Then there is Alaska. Alaska is ranked #4 and that is where I guide, because, well, it’s Alaska.  Somehow, Wyoming and Louisiana got in there ahead of AK and MT.  I have fished a bit in Wyoming, but never in Louisiana, though I’d certainly give it a try.

Wyoming does have some great water and a low population density.  Those are two of my keys to fly fishing greatness.  I just don’t think it edges out Montana.  Michigan does have tremendous variety, including transplanted salmon and steelhead, but Alaska has something no other state has.  Pure, indigenous, wild fish!  For me, that puts it squarely at Number 1.  You can call me a snob. I will chase any fish, anytime, on the fly, but I prefer wild native fish in their natural range and waters.



Not a great lakes steelhead.

If I want to catch a steelhead, do I really care weather I go to Oregon or Washington or Idaho?  If I want to catch a bass, I can do that just about anywhere.  If I want to catch a redfish, I can do that from Texas to the Keys to the Carolinas. If I want to chase troutzilla; I’m not talking about some freak of science triploid fish, but a real native rainbow the size of a King Salmon; I go to Alaska!

Of course, Alaska is also blessed with lots of tasty, healthy, wild, salmon. (Say no to Pebble Mine)

Not available in the marsh.

I also think another key to the question of crowning the best fly fishing state is this.  Where do you most want to go?  Lets hear it.

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Spring is finally winning the battle in Montana.  Yesterday, I went out to help my friend Brian get familiar with his new boat.   I plan to help him get familiar with it as much as possible over the next month or so.

Now What.

No Oars? What do I do?

We bypassed three landings due to ice, before we hit one that was open.  The way the warm Chinook is howling today however, the lingering ice and snow will be sucked away very soon.  Due to increased daylight and warmth, I have been on the go (outside).  No blogging or writing this past week, so I am pulling out some notes I laid down in the middle of this cold winter (past?).  This is a trout fishing tip…

Use Your Imagination

To be successful getting bites, it helps to have an idea of where your line, leader and fly are within the water column.  Many inexperienced anglers just get their stuff out there and wait for or expect a bite.  Experienced anglers know there are many variables involved in the activity of fishing any given cast.  As a guide, I encourage anglers to imagine or picture in their mind what is actually happening under the surface.  Visualizing subsurface mysteries is a fundamental key setting great anglers apart from people who are just fishing.

Knowing when to mend to set up a dead drift or create the correct swing is important, but understanding what is happening to your fly is central to the process.  Currents are different from the surface to the bottom.  Changes in depth and structure create rivers within rivers.  Spend some time observing fish in clear moving water if you can.  Then try to target a specific fish if you can find one.  Pay close attention to your line, leader and fly throughout the drift.  Even if you can’t spot any fish, you can pick out a target and watch the drift of your fly.  Did the fly go where you expected?  Did it reach proper depth?   Watch what the current does to your fly as it drifts around rocks, over ledges and along the bank.  Build a mental file of these variables.  Now you have some background to imagine what is happening in stained water, deep water or larger rivers where you can’t see your target.

Fly tying and fly selection are both imaginative processes.  Fishing a fly should be as well.  When it comes to streamers, anglers will pick out a fly based on some criteria such as good looks or the fact that someone said it was a hot pattern.  Then they proceed to fish every fly the same way.  Flies have as many personalities as the tiers who build them. Pull each one through the water.  See what happens when the line goes slack.  Animate it with your rod.  Then cast it out there and sell it to the fish.

Winter Brown on a Streamer

I was sold out.

It was obvious I was in the middle of a fevered fish jones when I wrote this, but I think most people will either agree with these thoughts or be able to put some of these ideas into play.  Tight Lines!

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In waters where it is legal to fish two flies, it is often the norm when nymphing to do so.  Should one always fish two flies?  The Pros are many.  Not sure what the fish are taking? You can experiment with two choices instead of one. You can also fish two stages of an insect; cover two zones of the water column, use a larger attractor and a smaller natural; the list goes on.  There are some definite cons however.  Last week I found myself in a situation where losing the dropper fly quickly paid off.  Before I go into it though, let’s look as some obvious problems with double fly rigs.

Wind / Tangles – Sometimes the wind is just too ugly to allow casting with a double fly rig.  Experienced anglers can usually pull it off, but it can be more trouble than it’s worth to fight physics.

The Drift – In some situations, such as tight pockets or swirling currents, two flies can compete against each other.  In slow water, a double fly rig can look out of place.  On picky fish, the double fly rig can be a red flag warning.  You also need to factor in the drifting location of two flies instead of just one.  This can be difficult around structure.

Snags – One fly often snags weeds or bottom and ruins the drift of both flies.  Snag the top fly on structure, and you just lost two patterns instead of one.

The Hook-up Ratio – Often, when fish take the top fly, the leader can impede the hook or bounce off the fishes nose, resulting in a missed hook-up.  At some point, the misses negate the value of the second fly.

Snagging Fish on the dropper – This sucks.  This can happen frequently when fish are taking the top fly and missing the hook as noted above.  When the angler (me) sets the hook, the first fly misses and the dropper often snags the fish on the way by.  I hate this.  It’s time to cut the dropper off.  I can’t be the only one who has this problem.

Ok, so here was my situation.  I was working down a good run of about 200’ on the Missouri River.  On the first pass, I missed 3 bites from which 1 fish got snagged on the dropper.  On the second pass, I missed 4 bites from which 2 fish got snagged on the dropper.  I managed to straighten the hook on 2 of the 3 snagged fish, but had to drag one in sideways.  I hate that.  Of the four fish missed cleanly, it is possible that some were on the dropper, but it was clear my top pattern was getting attention.

Missouri River Rainbow

It only takes one.

On the next pass, after cutting off the dropper, I had eight bites, hooking and landing 6 fish and snagging zero.  I was done dropper fishing for the day.  I was throwing a confidence pattern the fish were taking.  I did not have to worry about the wind, which was blowing straight into my cast.  I was able to concentrate on fishing the one pattern and getting the best drift possible.  I took another pass to verify my choice.  Then I picked up my spey rod to test the fishes mood toward a streamer.

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The Post Room

Subzero and Snowing

Friday was the day.  For me, it was the first day since mid November where I just knew it when I went out the door.  I had the innate sense that the fishing was going to be on.  Well, in truth, my sense is partially developed from years of experience and understanding simple patterns.  Seven days of mild, above freezing highs in the middle of winter.  The strong Chinook winds that had been blowing were lying down as the next cold front approached.  The fish have no choice but to take advantage of water a degree or two above the norm, especially with the next arctic blast approaching. And I almost missed it.

Heading toward the Big Belts.

The Drive


Friday was my day to clean the house in preparation for my son’s 11th year birthday party, Airsoft Gun war and sleepover on Saturday.  There was also laundry to do among other domestic tasks, plus my own list of business details.  I had better be on time to pick up my wife from school with a Pomegranate Martini ready within moments of her walking in the door.  At 9:30am, I was at my computer, looking at the weather forecast for Craig, MT and thinking that this is it.  Ideal conditions on the water and I’m at home trying to make the right choice.  I flashed on a recent post from Headhunters: “As a general rule, the only bad decisions we make exclude fishing.”  That sealed it.

Missouri River Montana

Can you feel it!

Fish Ahead

The Walk

I threw on my waders and hit the road.  My fishing gear was already loaded and ready for just such an effort.  I grabbed my wife’s new camera that I had purchased for her Christmas present, thinking it would be a good idea to test it out on the Montana landscape and possibly a fish or two.  I had a particular spot in mind.  It was only 35 min away.  I should be able to test the waters, the camera and make it back in time to bust out some chores.

Fish On

Fish On

Missouri River Rainbow

Don't be embarrased.


Missouri River in January

Streamer Chomper

Perfect Trout

Perfect Trout

Hardy Bridge

Heading Home

Fish Eye

Your Wife Will Get You!

Within an hour’s time, I cleaned the upstairs bathroom, swept the living room and kitchen, shop vac’ed the hard to reach corners along with the front entryway, shook out the rugs and sugared the rim of a martini glass.  I was at the school entrance by 3:45.  No one even asked about my day.

On Saturday morning, my wife grabbed the camera to film my daughter who was in a vocal competition.  I was busy making final birthday party prep.  When she got home, I got the business.  What were you doing all day yesterday hmmm?

The fishing was just as I expected.  It was almost unfair.  I am still smiling as I look out the window at a cold winter landscape once again.  We’ve had about 4” of snow and the temps are going sub zero again.

I’ve been busy for 24 hours keeping up with the boys, feeding them, cleaning up after them and sending them off and cleaning up again.  I’ll get the laundry done now and I’ll have time to work all day tomorrow on business.  The bruise where my wife pinched me will soon fade.  I made a great decision to go fishing!

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How can one possibly remain focused when after weeks of cold weather, the temps are now pushing to 50 degrees?  I suppose if one is not an angler, then the problem is not so great.  East of the Rocky Mountain Front, the Chinook winds have melted the snow and brought the temps up.  Despite the wind, there are some places on the Missouri River around Craig that offer some protection and great fishing options.  If you are in this area, stop in at Headhunters in the fly fishy town of Craig. Mark, John or Julie will set you up.  Check out the current fishing report: Mid-Week Update: We love the Mo

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I love the shoulder seasons.  Fly Fishing open water in west central Montana in the winter can be a cold prospect, but at least the option is there.  The paradox of my profession is that many of my summer clients are busy working hard now, so they can afford to take the time and spend the money to join me in Alaska during the “fishing season”.  I work hard all through the fishing season, so I can have some time to fish now, during the “shoulder seasons”.

What is a Shoulder Season?  According to the travel industry, it is the time for great deals, fewer crowds and near perfect weather.  I’ll buy that.  Any day I can go fish a world class river like the Missouri; I consider it a great deal.  There are definitely fewer crowds.  This time of year a crowd consists of one vehicle at a pull out or two trailers at a landing.  There may be an issue with the weather most days, but there are perfect weather days scattered throughout the late fall, winter and early spring, if one is fortunate enough to be able to pick them.

Safe Brainer

Helmets Are A Safe Brainer!

On Saturday night, the back of my SUV was filled with dripping skis, piles of jackets, ice skates, hockey gear and wet waders and fly rods.  On Friday, I took my 16 year old daughter and three 16 year old boys to Bridger Bowl.  Thanks to her helmet, the day was a good one.

On Saturday, it was mild enough to take my son Kyle fishing on the Missouri for several hours before trying to keep up with him at the Ice Plex on skates.  I was more than ready to sit on the couch come Sunday and watch Green Bay beat the Bears.

White and Brown

White and Brown

While on the couch, I was texting with a fishing buddy regarding the Packers, Bears rivalry.  After the Pack’s win and a text from Brian reading “Suck It”, we decided the game was over and we needed to go fishing soon.  How about Tuesday? Possible high of 40 degrees in Craig!

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Cold Beer

Cold Day, Cold Troutslayer Beer

Tom Lackey just sent me this picture in remembrance of a very cold and blustery morning we spent on the MO a year ago today.  Soon after we held down bar stools at Issac’s in Craig for many hours, stories and a few more beers. It was like a refugee camp due to the weather and the fact that all the other rivers in Montana were blown with runoff.   Things are very different this year.  Water conditions are good on a number of rivers and fish on the MO have been eating very well on top. Here is a link to last years post.  While not as cold today, it was windy with some rain showers.  Brian Neilsen and I drove up to Tibor Dam on the Marias River for a little look around and I took a few casts with my new Beulah Platinum 5wt Spey Rod.  Can’t wait to get busy with that new stick.

Tight Lines!

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