Saturday, January 6, 2018

Butano

The Roots 

The sun gradually shined light on the Tobacco Roots as I cruised past the Lower Maddie on 84. Quick glances out the window revealed less ice floating down the river then last week. That's typically how I gauge things to look around Ennis during the winter months. I hung a left on 287 anxious to cross that bridge in town so I could see what the day had in store for me.

The next thing I pay attention to is the sagebrush and any flag I can get my eyes on. As I descended down into town the wind was howling hard. I got to the intersection by the Town Pump and it was decision time. Fight the winds in hopes they die down by noon or continue up into the foothills of the Madison's where the wind is less likely a factor. I hung a left. 40 minutes later I arrived all alone at the parking lot and geared up.


Fishing has been a little slow on the Upper River over the past few weeks. It was only a matter of time before those trout got into their winter habits and things got interesting. Today was that day. I was able to TL a stone fly and tagged a #16 Butano Perdigon nymph about 8 inches above the stone. It was one of those day's where the rainbows were on one thing and the browns were on another. Luckily I had the meal ticket for both.

I was dialed in and focused. I really spent time concentrating on not leading my flies through the drift too fast. A 1-2 second hesitation before leading really helps those nymph's get down to the kill zone. The fish were responding well to that technique and focus. The bridge was still in sight and I was already in the mid-teens for numbers of trout. The shallow/soft water really held those fish in good numbers today. It always helps having the river to yourself....something about that gives you confidence too almost force those fish into eating.

The magic midge hatch came off but I only noticed a few fish rising. One of these days it's going to explode. The weather looks pretty good for the next 10 days or so....if you have time do yourself a favor and get out that rod, you won't be disappointed.



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cold Smoke



I kicked the Tacoma in 4-wheel drive as soon as I left the driveway. I was running a little late because I decided to gear up in the garage so I wasn't wasting time when I arrived at the stream.  It was a Cold Smoke kinda snow, visibility was down to 1/4 mile but that doesn't stop the Bozeman crowd from doing what they want to do. Having grown up on the East Coast and dealing with town shutdowns after a few inches, it took me some time to adjust to the Montana way of things in the Winter.  It really doesn't matter how much snow you get, or how cold it gets....life goes on as it would on a sunny summer day.

I saw a few accidents between Durston and Kagy but kept on trucking toward the foothills. As I made the turn up into the canyon only a few tire tracks were visible in the 6-7 inches of fresh Cold Smoke, some backcountry skiers looking for bottomless pow. About 2 miles into the canyon I felt like I was truly alone in the wilderness. Not many people make it up this far mid-week. I had to slow down a bit at mile marker 5, "Long Winter" by Ziggy Marley was ripping on the IPOD and I got a little carried away. I found a flat spot that my truck wouldn't get stuck in got to work.

I know winter is in full force because there is 3 feet of snow along the banks. I methodically post holed a few 100 yards to the stream. The wind was howling down in the valley, but the confines of the canyon held the gusts at bay just enough for my Tight Line tactics to work effectively.

The trout's behavior these days is very lethargic. They don't want to expend any energy in the faster water. The first 25 yards of this section was all shallow riffles so I opted to walk in the stream until I found a deeper hole. I got to bottom of one deep hole and took in the sweet sounds and smell of a winter storm. There were no birds, no vehicle traffic and no other fisherman. Just the rushing water and silent drops of snowflakes.

The fish tend to be podded up this time of year, so when I hooked up on my first cast I knew a few more were going to come to hand. The small stone fly at the end of my line got mangled by multiple trout at the bottom of that hole. Takes were very subtle but the fights were fierce. Food is scarce these days so a well presented pattern is usually all it takes to hook up.

I probably only manged to cover 4-5 good holes in a mile of water, but that's all I needed to do because of how stacked up those fish are right now. The temperature was plummeting pretty good towards the end, my flies started to get ice on them, and at that point I knew it was quiting time.

I post holed again to get to the road and walked back to my truck in the stillness of winter, feeling alone on that desolate mountain. I at times during the day wondered if any of these fish see a fly for the next few months...I highly doubt it.  There was 3 inches of snow on my truck when I got back....yes this truly was a Cold Smoke storm....

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Winter Pattern



I got out for a few hours today, air temperature was 15 degrees at the start. This caused some icing issues but the mono-rig does pretty well even when its that cold.





Fishing was pretty slow at the first location I stopped at. I rotated through plenty of nymph's but those fish weren't having it. I moved upstream to a more reliable winter spot and the fishing turned on. Could it of been the time of day or just that section? Tough to tell. The bows were on the egg pretty good in the deeper slower water. It's hard to identify the slow stuff in that section of river, everything looks so fast. You just need to take your time and really focus on reading the water, once you figure it out usually some fish will come to hand. It always amazes me how close to the bank these fish will lay in the winter. The midges were not coming off yet, I'm hoping this picks up in the next few weeks because usually the catch rate increases when these little guys start popping. The lower section of the Upper River was getting pretty slushed up in ice....we'll see if it locks up completely for the winter in the next few weeks or if we get lucky.








Thursday, November 30, 2017

Simms G4 Zipper Waders

I've been hesitant to post a review of these waders because I don't want to jinx them....but it's been 2 years so now is the time. As many of you know I spend tons of time on the water, and I am a very aggressive wader and I am very hard on gear. I have gone through every wader on the market and they all failed miserably. Know back in PA brush and thorns seem to be all over the place, so MAYBE that contributed to the constant leaks. But I bought a pair of Simms waders for the first time when I moved out to its home base in Bozeman Montana a few years back. Well I am still using those same pair of waders. Yes they are very pricey....but to me a reliable pair of waders is worth the price. If you combined all the money I spent on various other waders over the course of 2 years it would probably amount to the price of these G4's. Hands down the best most reliable waders I ever wore. Save up the money.....and get a pair if you are a serious angler. You will not regret it...I have tested them for over 2 years and couldn't be happier.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Brief Warm Up

My Favorite 


The weather around here in Montana is balmy. The past few days we've scene temperatures rise into the 50's which is unheard of around here. This is not good for ski season but the fishing conditions are pretty darn good right now. Not bundling up and wearing gloves was a fun change the past few days. I fished local and went to my favorite tailwater this weekend. Action was silly on my local water and the famous tailwater was kinda moody until 2pm came and things got silly for awhile. Action picked up on stone flies underneath and I managed to get some good numbers. I think this change in temperature has the fish all out of wack. Honestly I'm looking forward to winter settling in so the fish get used to what is in store the next few months.

My Local Favorite 
Eager Rainbow 
Feisty 
Paul Getting Into A Great Brown 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Legend



The shadows of the Bridger Mountains start to emerge as I speed past the main street exit. A few minutes later and into the canyon I go. Rock spires shoot out of the mountain side and the dawn patrol crowd marches toward the base in headlamps. I get passed by 3 Tacoma's hauling R/O boats through the S-Curves...everyone racing to get that first light streamer bite. This is a typical morning in Montana during the summer months. The same scene will play out every morning till September hits.

I let the guides race past me, take a sip of mediocre coffee and as usual my old man's face pops into my head. The smell of coffee takes me down memory lane daily, especially in a truck in route to fish.

The sun now sheds light on the Absaroka Mountains, maybe the most rugged in all of Montana. Livingston Peak comes into view as I descend down toward Livingston and for a second I think of how brutal that summit climb is. An antelope busts across the road and quickly forces me to focus. I hang right off I-90 toward Yellowstone National Park and start getting excited about the day's adventure.

The drive-thru coffee shack is 7 trucks deep and the guides are starting to file in at Albertsons parking lot. Yes....typical summer day in Montana indeed.

I roll into Sweet Water and can see the rush behind the shop. Guides are hooking up the boats and setting expectations with their clients. I hear one tourist say "So how many 20 inchers are we gonna get today?" I gaze over and see the guides face turn from excited to annoyed quickly. After 10 minutes the crowd disappears and one boat is left in the parking lot. THE LEGEND. He looks all lonely and neglected as I approach him. This ole boat has scene plenty of days on all types of water, his battle scars telling stories of boulder hits, poor rowers and wild fish. I back up and attach it, then realize the back taillight is out. Cops are scarce around these parts so I ignore the malfunction and bolt down 89 towards Paradise.

The boys are waiting at Mallard's. Some Quick BS about the weather and how bad the fishing will be quickly turns into the first beer sip of the day. Andy's hungover and the only remedy is a Moose Drool to start erasing last nights mishaps.

We opt for the Bird Float, mostly because the dry fly bite has been rumored to be good. I'm hesitant to believe the action is as good as they say but rig up a Purple Chubby at the end of my rig anyway. I dunk the boat in the water, park the truck and off we go. Snowpack has created an epic flow this year. Strainers and whirlpools are frequent hazards that have eaten a few boats already. I got a few rookies in the boat and wonder how they will fare handling The Legend. The Legend has a specific oar stroke that will make him perform, but it's not easily found. It took me 10 trips down the river to dial him in, now I feel like we speak to each other, respect each other and keep each other out of trouble. How he reacts to different folks behind the drivers seat is yet to be scene.

I sit middle and head straight to the far bank. Some rip rap provides good structure for browns and I like how the current flows off the rocks. Steve chucks a cast right next to the rip rap and gets the first 16 inch brown of the day. The kiss of death has just occurred.....a trout in the first 5 minutes on the Yellowstone....this is going to be a long day. I bounce from river right to river left putting them into the best positions.....and the Legend looks like Barry Sanders juking and jiving fluidly.

No action occurs in the next 20 minutes and Steve wants to row. "Quick fast strokes Steve....it's the key to handling the Legend." He nods his head and starts down the river. We hit a braided section and opt left, this time of year you can pretty much go anywhere you want because of the flows. I focus hard on the willow bank, striving to get my chubby under the overhangs. I miss a few small cutthroats and think about going smaller on my dry fly. I look up to see a strainer approaching quickly and Steve is headed right for it. "Tilt the boat and stroke quick brother!" I catch Steve's attention, he was preoccupied keeping us close to the bank. I look down and see him struggling to move it. The Legend doesn't like his touch...he isn't reacting the way he should. At that moment I switch seats with Steve in a frantic manner. We're 10 feet from the strainer.....10 feet from saying good-bye to The Legend. I cock him hard and start hammering on the oars....and just like a sports car he turns on a dime and we elude a disaster. He just needed that right touch to get moving and luckily I had it. Maybe he was trying to send a message to the rower, maybe he was sending a message to me. Either way we continued down Paradise Valley in the shadow of the Absarokas. We were accompanied by Bald Eagles, Caddis Flies and Moose. Eventually we were greeted with some rainbows and cutthroats.

As we rounded the last bend a whirlpool came out of nowhere and we were headed right for it. This time I was behind the oars and The Legend knew. A quick turn of the bow and 6 hard strokes and we were back in the safe current. I floated by the whirlpool and patted the Legend on the back, he performed well today.

We loaded up the boat and headed back to Sweet Water to drop the Legend off at his resting spot. All the other boats were already parked, and they looked shiny and new. I detached the hitch and dropped the trailer. As I pulled away I looked in the rear view mirror and the Legend was staring back at me, looking out of place in that line of boats.

I pulled out on 89 North heading back toward Bozeman and caught one last glimpse of him....I bet he was wondering when I'd be back to get him for the next adventure. Little did he know I was going to give him a new home for good, and the Legend and I will be inseparable once summer sets in again.

*My good friend Matt left for Vermont this summer for a few months and gave up his boat for me to use. I spent the better part of July blazing down some of the most famous waters in Montana in that thing. I had numerous people in and out of that boat, and we had a few adventures that will last a lifetime. Matt got a new hyde and was going to dump The Legend....I couldn't let him do that and offered him a new home. I hope The Legend and I have some more memorable Adventures this upcoming summer.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Winter Lies

Winter is here 


Well there is no lying that winter has come in Southwestern Montana. Single digit night-time lows froze up some of the freestoners for bit last weekend, a brief warm up this week has allowed them to break free again. All this is a reminder that winter fishing is here....and tactics need to change. The spawn has concluded and fish are seeking out those slow currents. They are also podded up and hunkered down to the bottom. This means a few things....first you need to hit the slower stuff and get down deep. Two...if you don't get many hits after awhile relocate until you get into some action, chances are where you catch one you may catch quite a few.

Fly selection this time of year isn't that complicated. Stone Flies, Eggs, Worms....and midges. Those should keep your hands cold over the next few months. Crowds are pretty much non-existent this time a year outside of a warmer day here and there. So get the right clothing and get down deep....Winter offers some of the best fly fishing of the year.

Get Down Deep....You Never Know What Those Deep Buckets Will Give Up In The Winter 


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Grobe Anglers Fall Vacation: Ripping Lips In A BIG Way

Working A Seam 
The Hats Gave Us Good Luck 


Andy and Ben came out for the annual fall vacation in search of big wild brown trout. It didn't disappoint. The weather at the beginning of the trip was spectacular for late fall. By the end of the trip Old Man Winter decided it was time to show up in Montana....and he'll be around for the next 5-6 months. We stuck to nymph's for the duration of the trip, and the fish responded accordingly. We saw a few guys out there ripping meat to entice these big browns to eat. We've proven time after time a well presented nymph is more productive then chucking that meat. The cold weather was just what we needed to find solitude on most of the waters we fished, I'll take that over comfortable weather any day of the week. This will go down as one of the best big fish trips we've had....it would be tough to top this in the future.

Absolute Stunner Of A Brown Trout 
Bring On The Snow 
Miss Piggy 
Ben Showing Off A Halloween Stud 

Small Stream Gem 

Battling Through The Elements

A Slab Of A Rainbow

Name It 
Ben With A Bruiser




Starting The Trip Off Right



Pumpkin Brown


Get Some 
Epic Trip 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Colors Of Fall

Colors Of Fall 
It's been too many weeks since my last report. I've had some hard days on the water as of late. Most of my time has been spent chasing lake run brown trout in Yellowstone National Park. The outcome hasn't been good on most trips. I needed a break and decided to fish a freestoner today. I finally made the right choice. Action was pretty slow for most of the day but this one fish changed my attitude in a hurry. The countless miles I put on the Tacoma over the past few weeks finally paid off with this beast of a brown trout....Mr. Pumpkinhead. Nothing beats catching a wild river brown, the lake trout are nice but there's something really special about these guys. The trout are on the verge of spawning on most freestoners, I saw a few fresh redds today so watch where your walking in the shallows and stick to the big deep green buckets. This fish is a prime example of what can be in the deep buckets staging to spawn. Winter is close to coming here in Montana, try and get out as much as you can while the weather lasts!

Healthy Rainbow In YNP


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

When will the smoke clear?

Beast Of A Cutthroat 


The past 6 weeks have been a smokey mess here in Montana. Numerous fires are blazing across the state cloudy the views that make this place so special. There is no rain in site and temps are still hitting the 90's, fall can't come fast enough.
Butter Brown 

The fishing has slowly but surely started to pic up. The tourists leave....the bite gets better. I've been all over the place the past few weeks, famous rivers, smaller streams and high mountain lakes. The lakes have been fishing really well with chubbies, those fish are trying to pack on pounds before the winter months set in. The rivers and streams are starting to fish really well too....nymphing has been the name of the game if you want better fish and numbers. It only gets better from here on out, hopefully I'll be spending plenty of time on the water for the remainder of fall.
Mountain Crick

Mountain Lakes 
High Mountain Cutthroat 
chubbie eater

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lots Of Boating

Meet The Montana Mule 

Gone Boating 

I have had some of the troutbitten guys out here for the past few weeks. This entire time has been a blur in regards to where and when we fished, but most of the time I got to fish with them it was from a boat. We had some very good days and some very slow days. Mud Plugs have been wreaking havoc in the valley so being flexible with your floats has been key. We had a few decent top water days with a big chubbie and a few really good streamer days. The nymph bite was pretty much non-existent for trout as usual on this mighty river. The heat of summer has caught up to many freestoners in the area so we need a nice cool spell to travel into our neck of the woods soon. The spruce moth hatch is starting up in the local canyon so I plan on trying to hit that in the near future. It seems like each river and each day has been something different. Forget the forecast and just go fish, ya never know what the day will bring to you.


Streamer Eater In The Shade 
Another Meat Eater 
Colored Up