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July 7, 2007: Just got back from our trip, and figured I'd post a report. First a big thanks to David, Guy, Bill, and Raquel at Kern River Fly Fishing. Those guys were extremely helpful. We took a day trip with David to find some
Goldens and had a great time. They're truly running a class act, if you are an out-of-towner, definitely look into a trip with these guys, or just stop by the shop to gather the essentials and get some great advice.
So, as I said, our first day (Memorial Day) we spent with David searching for Goldens in the meadows just South of Sherman's pass. The fishing was great, and we managed both Goldens and some Brownies. The weather was beautiful (although probably warmer than normal?) all week. Water is low and clear.
Our second day we spent wandering around Troy Meadow. We caught our fill of Goldens and headed down to the South Fork and Kennedy Meadow. Water there is very low, but I managed a nice sized rainbow (15+") near the campground. He wasn't much of a fighter, and I suspect he was a stockie. After the zoo of Memorial Day, not seeing a single person in either of these locations was a pleasant surprise.
Third day we decided to try Forks of the Kern. Hiking down to the forks is a no brainer. The North Fork Kern is still too high to wade, but you can swing streamers and chuck nymphs if you are so inclined. I'm a sucker for dry fly action so... for most of the day we worked upstream on the Little Kern. The Little Kern is wet wadeable, and the Kern River Rainbows there made some nice runs. Per Guy's advice, we decided to stick around the Forks until around 4:30PM in order to avoid climbing back out in the heat of the day. This was a good idea since even at 4:30 it was a hot dry hike back to the trailhead. Despite several warnings, we did not see a single rattlesnake. (we were sorta disappointed... ) We also did not see any other fisherpeople. We did meet a couple with their 3 horse pack train coming up the trail as we headed down, and the pack station was dropping off some rafters at the island just as we were leaving, but other than that, we had the entire Forks to ourselves.
Fourth day (Thursday) we headed back up to the plateau and hiked down to Casa Veija Meadow from the Black Rock trailhead. Once again we had the place to ourselves. We didn't see a soul on the trail, or at the Meadow. We only fished the Meadow for a couple of hours. There was a mixture of both Goldens and Rainbows in Ninemile Creek, with the bows tending to be slightly bigger 9-10" tops. Between my wife and I we caught an obscene amount of trout. (yes we counted, but is the number really that important?) Let's just say that every other cast was a strike, and every other strike was a caught trout somewhere between 3 and 8 inches. If we walked more than 200 yards. between us, in 2 hours I'd be surprised. What was working? Well...anything in a 14 or 16 that resembled a bug in some way...I'm sure 12's and 18's would have worked too...if hiking and fishing is your thing, then this is probably the trip for you. If you are truly ambitious you could hike all the way down Ninemile Creek to the old hot spring resort area, but it's a long day so you'd need to start early and remember it's a grueling hike back up to the trailhead. This would be an especially difficult hike if you live at sea level.
Fifth day (Friday), we hadn't planned on doing any fishing, but the Little Kern Golden's kept calling and we hadn't gotten any when we were at the Forks so... we decided to head up to the Golden Trout Pack Station and took a short day ride through Loggy Meadow down into Click's Creek . Fished just long enough to catch some Little Kern Goldens and round out the Grand Slam.
All and all a great week of fishing. We weren't really focused on the bigger fish for this trip, so we'll probably need to go back and fish the North Fork when the water is a little lower. If bigger fish is something you're after, a pack trip into the North Fork when the water is slightly lower seems like an excellent idea. I can't imagine that you would struggle to find 18+" fish above the Forks. The water there just says "big stupid fish"....just the kind I like...
May 25, 2007: Hey all, it's been a while since the last western region update. Craig come out last week. Mid May was supposed to be before run-off kicked in, but the height of spring run-off turned out to be 2 days after he got here, and the Bitterroot was overflowing with chocolatey ovaltine. Blame global warming, I suppose. In any event, we adjusted fishing plans accordingly, and got into some fish despite mud season.
At the airport, waiting for baggage to arrive, Craig and I admired a full body mount of a mountain lion attacking a mountain goat, jaws firmly clamped around its throat. We wondered what Elaine would say if he brought it home as a souvenir. The airport also features a stuffed grizzly bear. Standing next to it, eyeballing its formidable teeth and claws, is a reminder that maybe you'd just as soon not encounter one in the wild.
We headed up towards the MO River for a couple days of float fishing. Flowing through a series of three upstream reservoirs, the MO is basically runoff-proof. On the way there, we stopped at Browns Lake to see if we could catch some of the whopper rainbows that the place is famous for. Being about 500 acres, fishing from a floating device is the way to go at Browns. I'm not sure that Craig was completely on board with the float tubing thing at first...
But it all turned out good....
Things slowed down a bit in the afternoon, though....
We then spent 2 days floating the MO. We stayed at, ate at, and rented a boat from The Trout Shop in Craig, MT (appropriately enough). The Trout Shop is a first-rate place, owned by a couple of really cool guys, I highly recommend it (http://www.thetroutshop.com/). Day 1 we floated Craig to Mid-Canon and day 2 we floated Wolf Creek to Craig. As it happened, the blue wing olive hatch kicked in good both mornings at about 9:00 am. And as is often the case early season, the fish saw no reason to rise, but spent the whole day filling their bellies subsurface, keying on nymphs and emergers. For a couple of bobber chuckers like us, that worked out fine. Overall, the fishing ranged from pretty darn good to over the top amazing. We hooked, and mostly lost, quite a few fish. MO fish tend to run big and fight hard, the typical encounter lasted about 2 seconds; bite, strike, violent twisting jump, gone. But we did manage to land a few and came away grinning....
Come Wednesday morning, we were standing in the Trout Shop parking lot looking to hand in our room key, and a couple guys come roaring into the parking lot driving an old school bus. A sturdy Mennonite-looking guy jumped out and approached Craig and I. He was wearing a dusty black Grand Ol' Opry style-suit, a black cowboy hat, had the beard but no mustache thing going, and exuded a "I might just punch you in the nose for no apparent reason" sort of aura. He asked Craig, "Ya'll need any flowers?", and motioned to the school bus that was filled with, of all things, hanging baskets full of flowers. "No thanks". "Ya'll goin fishin then?" "Yep". "Gonna drink some bear?" "Yep". "Alright then, ya'll go drink some bear". Seeing no other potential customers, he hopped back into the school bus and they roared off, presumably to their next carefully chosen marketing location. I got the feeling that the guy either drank lots of bear or none at all.
So we headed south on route 200 and stopped at Browns Lake again. Once again, we caught some fish but none of the honkers that are supposed to be there. The place must be filthy with edibles though, as even the little rainbows are nice, sporting small heads and tails and bulbous bodies. The wind kicked up pretty good for a while and we witnessed a bunch of birds, swallows or swifts I guess, feeding like fish in a stream. They hovered in place in the wind, and dodged side to side to pick off wind-blown bugs. Pretty cool to watch.
I had to go back to work on Thursday and Friday, so I sent Craig up the East and West Fork of the Bitterroot in search of fishable water. He came back reporting that the streams were ripping and of seeing bighorn sheep. We tried to fish my favorite side-channel of the Bitterroot Friday evening, despite 3000 cfs of water being in a 800 cfs river. It turned out the only spot that was any good was an irrigation ditch off the main river, sort of anticlimactic.
Saturday was Craig's return flight and the official opening of MT trout season (smaller creeks open), so I dropped him at the Missoula airport and tried to fish Lolo Creek on the way home. It's a smaller stream, didn't look like too bad, maybe a little high but very clear, until I stepped in it and almost got washed away. I ended up spending more time putting on and taking off my waders that I did fishing that day.
Not wanting to give up too easy, I went back up to Browns on Sunday and fished the opposite side of the cove from where Craig and I had fished. After a slow start and then slipping and falling down a grassy bank and banging up my knee, I stepped in it good, ended up with five rainbows over 18" including a 25" ("Hey Mo, I got a monsta!"), caught on a size 16 zebra midge. Of course my camera was in the truck that day.
So that's the update. We had a good old time, and ended up seeing quite a few critters along the way: a herd of elk, deer out the wazoo, a lone moose galumphing across route 200, bighorn sheep, bald and golden eagles, muskrats and beavers on the MO, a herd of pronghorns, any number of unidentified birds, and maybe some other critters I've forgot to mention. By the time that Jethro, Brian, and Coop get here in July, the water will have dropped, things will have changed, and we'll probably end up in completely different places to wet a line. Enjoy the holiday weekend, and tight lines....
March 24 - 31: Jerry Bottcher (of the Hungry Trout) and I spent a week in Belize and, without a doubt, it's a great place to go. We stayed in an island 14 miles off the coast. The island is called Water Caye and it's only 12 acres in size. The place we stayed at is called "The Blue Marlin".
We booked with an outfit called Belize
Flats Fishing but you don't have to. You can book directly with the Blue Marlin Lodge.
Our accommodations were more than excellent considering we were in an offshore small island. The lodge generates its own electricity and purifies its own water. Rooms are clean and air-conditioned. The main lodge has a well-stocked bar (I was kidding when I asked for a Frangelico cordial as an after dinner drink. I was pleasantly surprised when they brought it to me). The food was plentiful and excellent. For dinner you always got both a meat and a fish entree, vegetables, salad and dessert. We even got filet mignon and lobster thermidor. Breakfast and lunch were excellent and plentiful. The morning coffee on the other hand was the worse coffee I have ever tasted. It comes from Guatemala and they roast it themselves. (When I go back I'll bring my own). Also, if you drink milk with your coffee, get used to evaporated milk.
We had a great guide by the name of Ivan. Our main target was permit and he must have spotted 70 a day, some of them in groups, so figure on 38-40 casteable situations a day. Without a doubt, permit must be the most challenging fish on earth. Either they spook, ignore your fly or follow it and decide not to take it at the last minute. I did not catch any but I certainly had the opportunities to do so. If you like bird hunting like I do, you'll love fishing for permit. I'll definitely be going back.
On a couple of occasions, during the heat of the mid-day sun, we spent a couple of hours fishing for tarpon in a cove. We could see the fish break water, but again no takes.
I did manage to get a couple of bonefish and (get this) a crappie-sized permit that came out of nowhere while I was casting to a school of bonefish.
One day, while we were traveling to another flat, we saw birds working the deeper water. We hurried there and we could see fish and baitfish jumping all over. I used a Clouser and caught several bonito and mackerel, one skipjack, a blue runner and two yellow tail something.
We were lucky enough to see a manatee with her baby and also a salt-water crocodile (there are no alligators in Belize). Also, a small island called Bird Caye that teems with frigate birds and boobies.
All in all, I loved it and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.
March 2007: Hi All - Two full weeks in MT are behind me now, and I'm beginning to live something of a normal life again after months of being engrossed in this relocation thing. The sale of my house in Audubon closed the other day, so I guess I'm a Montanatuckian for real now. At this point, it's down to things like getting Montana license plates and a new car insurance policy, organizing the house (!), and so on. Over lunch one day last week, I ran up to Stevensville ("up the road a piece") to get a Montana drivers license. On the way I saw a sign on a small business; instead of "Open" or "Closed", the options were "Yep" or "Nope". Little things like that remind me where I am.
Before I forget, for those of you who haven't seen it, The Mist Net Chronicles is a blog that is authored and consistently updated by the best writer that I know personally, our very own Matt Freeman. Never mind that I don't know all that many writers personally, Mist Net is really good stuff, see it here for top-notch daily chuckles.
The weather here in western MT continues to be very hospitable, highs in the 50s or even 60s here in the valley. The word on the street is that the mountain snowpack is ~90% of average this year, and so there will be adequate water for both irrigators and fish this summer. Today is a wind storm, dust blowing every which way, and it looks like it might even rain, which is a pretty major event around here, worthy of much discussion and head scratching.
So this past Friday afternoon, I got the following e-mail which was addressed to all GSK Hamilton employees, it said: "It's BEER FRIDAY! Join us after work at the Bitterroot Brewery for a beer on GSK!" I figured this was some sort of ploy in which the new guy (that would be me) gets duped into paying the bar tab for 37 coworkers on a Friday night. But, it turned out to be legit, every 3rd Friday is Beer Friday, and beers are on GSK down at the Bitterroot Brewery. That sounded like a fair deal, so I stopped in after work for a few beers with my coworkers.
Talk turned to fishing at the pub and I ended up with plans to float the Missouri River on Sunday with a couple of characters named Pete and Mike. Pete is a coworker here, originally from London, he transferred out here from GSK's site in Parsippany, NJ last year, undoubtedly dreaming of big honking trout. Mike is a local outfitter who owns the first fly shop that you see coming into town. We met at Mike's shop at 6:00 am Sunday, piled into his 260,000 mile old truck ("just got a new transmission, runs like a champ"), hitched up Mike's driftboat, and headed north. We went through Missoula and stopped for groceries, beer, breakfast, and gas in four different places, we must have spent an hour farting around. After all provisions were finally stocked, we headed up route 200 towards Great Falls, along the Blackfoot River Valley (of "A River Runs Through It" fame). All I can say is holy schmoly, what an astoundingly beautiful place; mile after mile of national forest and ranchland, through the grizzly bear preserve where a guy went missing last year and 'got et' by a bear, through Lincoln, MT, former home base to one Ted Kazinski (I think that's right), better known as the unibomber, along the Blackfoot Recreation corridor, with pull offs and campgrounds all along the river, over the Continental divide at Rogers Pass, and down into Craig, MT, on the headwaters of Missouri River.
Being from St Louis, the MO River is sort of near and dear as runs into the Mississippi River in St Louis. Of course the upper river looks little different than the mile-wide swath of muddy water that I used to see. It's pretty much a smaller scale version of the Bighorn, complete with rocky buttes, rattlesnakes, sagebrush, clear blue water, weed beds, and big honkin' trout. It turned out that the water temperature was 37 degrees and the fish were pretty much still glued to the bottom in a stupor. Although the air warms up early here, the streams do not, as they are mostly fed by snow melt. Olives pretty much don't hatch until April no matter what. Anyway, having read up on the MO a bit, I'd learned that the fly of choice for early season was a pink scud. You heard right, a pink scud. So I tied up three of them the nigh before, stashed them in my fly box, and figured they'd never get wet.
We stopped at a local tackle shop in Craig (a story unto itself), arranged for a shuttle, bought a few odds and ends, and finally launched at the Wolf Creek bridge by the crack of 11. Within 50 yards, we'd run aground once, hooked 3 fish, and then Mike got tangled up with the landing net, anchor line, camera, and a flopping fish, and managed to break a (his) fly rod. It was a pretty eventful start, sort of Three Stoogesesque.
But, we got things squared away and had a great day on the water. The weather was warm and overcast, but the wind was howling, as it's prone to do in that part of state. I'll also point out that the wind was from the south, typically bad new for the fishing off the Jersey coast (and maybe here too). I can't say the fishing was fast, we had to work hard for them, but we ended the day with about a dozen landed, several missed or lost, and a number of good sized whities landed too. And don't you know, the dreaded pink scud was the fly. I fished one with a serendipity dropper at first, caught three in a row on the scud, lost the dropper somewhere along the line, and never replaced it.
So while we didn't have a banner catching day, it was really good to float and fish the MO for the first time. And I heard along the way about a place on the river between Hauser and Holter Lakes, near the mouth of Beaver Creek, where rattlesnakes are abundant, that's hard to access, is lightly fished, and gets a run of big rainbows from Holter Lake in March and April. Hmm... sounds like my kind of place, I might have a report from there in the next edition. Tight lines to all....
January 2, 2007: I had an awesome weekend fishing this weekend. I had read about the "trout spill" on the Tulley below Meyerstown, and John Burgos and I decided to go check it out on Saturday. We wandered around the area for about 30 minutes before we found the right spot. It was hard to miss, there were at least 10 fishermen there throughout the day, but I must admit the fishing was worth it. We probably landed about 30 fish over the course of about 4 hours. I landed a 17" rainbow which had me rethinking the 3 wt. rod. Almost all of the fish were caught on a Mickey Finn. I wasn't able to get anything on dries, and had only marginal success with nymphs (but I'm pretty impatient when it comes to sub-surface
I got a new fly reel for Christmas, so on Sunday while running errands I bought some new line and backing and proceeded to load up. It was about 3 in the afternoon, but I just had to go play with the newly configured reel. I raced over to Pickering Creek and pulled into my favorite parking area just as another fisherman was lacing up his boots. "Going upstream or downstream" I enquired.
"Not really sure, why you asking." he replied.
"Well… I figured whichever way you go, I'll go the other" I noticed he had tied on a huge streamer pattern.
"Well, in that case, I suppose I'll try downstream" He trudged off toward the footbridge.
I laced up the boots, locked the truck and tied on a #14 Royal Humpy. Wasn't expecting to catch any fish, just wanted to play with the new reel and cast the new combo. I started off in the flat pool just above the footbridge. I noticed a swirl off to my left. The wife and dog were watching from the bridge. I made a long effortless cast and watched as the humpy meandered in the current. Much to my surprise, a little 9" rainbow nailed the humpy. Not much of a test for the new reel, but I did get some applause from the wife (who was quite pleased with the present bearing fruit so early), and a woof from the dog. (not sure what that was about…). They proceeded across the footbridge, on their hike, and I continued to wade upstream. I didn't see any more rises, but the long pool with a deep cut to the right, and overhanging branches seemed like the perfect place for the opportunistic trout to hang. I worked about 50 yds. Upstream and managed a 10" brownie. Not bad for an hour of fishing, 2 trout on a single dry on New Year's Eve. I was quite happy about those last two trout of the year.