I spent the following week on the Big Horn River with a group of guides from Sweetwater Travel and I can not say enough good things about the experience. I learned a lot of new tips/tricks and definitely expanded my list of fishing destinations.
The weather held nicely and we even got into some surface fish during the early stages of the olive hatch. The most productive techniques were stripping streamers and dead drifted nymphs but I did find a few good stretches of swing water in the lower river.
The grab and first run of these fish were as good as most of the valley halfpounders, they just didn't make multiple runs and put of a fuss when being landed.
The average fish was 15-16 in with a few fish in the 20+ range.
This is a great place and I am sure that I will return. I would love to see this place when the dry flies are going strong during the summer.
I had very limited Internet service (even cell service required a drive over the hill) over the balance of my time out in Montana so I will fill in a few blanks.
I did check out the the spring creek area outside of Livingston. There are actually three private areas along this stretch of water. I fished the lowest piece, DePuy's. They have about three miles of water on the property with a mixture of riffles, runs, and pools. This area is a trib of the Yellowstone river and boasts a healthy population of bows, browns, and cuts.
The weather did break on the day I fished and temps edged up into the mid 40's. I fished hard through two stretches of the lower river in the morning and got two nice fish on small PT's. After lunch I moved up stream to check out some new water and spent at least an hour just watching three pairs of fish spawn in the section of creek that was off limits. It was good to see that they closed these sections down to keep folks off the reds and let the fish do their business.
I managed to get into a few more fish before stopping into the shop on the property. I picked up a few of the "hot local flies" and headed back down to the lower section for the evening.
I did see a few midges popping and some fish had their eyes focused toward the surface but all of the flies I picked up were nymphs so I decided to rig a dry dropper and try to sight cast to some working fish in the lower pools. My first few attempts were met with refusal so I switched up my dropper and the game turned in my favor. It was really cool to see the fish move a good three or four feet from behind a rock and have my dry dunk under.
I fished a few runs on the Madison today and I now know why some call it a continuous riffle river. I drove past literally miles of riffles. The picture doesn't quite due it enough justice.
I have totally become spoiled by the weather in California over the past few years. It was 13 degrees when I jumped out of the truck and got suited up. A quick nip form the flask seemed to dull the sting in my fingers before getting into the water.
The water did not provide much in the way of relief and was actually my demise. As there was very little activity on the water (not even any midges flying about) I decided to swing some big ugly sculpin patterns. The below pattern is one of my favorites but a piece of rabbit with some flash would probalby work just as well (this one just has a little more soul). About half way down the run I had a hard grab and my rod tip dipped deep into the water but no line peeled off the reel and the fish jerked to freedom. "What the hell?" ran quickly through my mind but upon closer inspection my reel had completely frozen and required a few hard pulls of the running line to free things up. I should have known as I was required to chip the ice out of my guides two times prior to the reel disaster.
The last picture is just in case you were unsure if there was any ice along the river.
Well I have another week and a half out here and things are looking up. The weather is about to break and they are expecting temps in the 40's and maybe even the 50's by mid week!!!
I also bumped into a Missoula local and he recommended checking out a spring creek on private ranch over near Livingston. It is Rainbow spawning season and the ranch has a good stretch of water they must travel through to get up to there gravel. So here I am held up in a motel in Livingston eagerly awaiting tomorrow.
I spent Tuesday morning on the American. It was a beautiful sunrise but the fish must not have gotten the message about me being on the water (or maybe they did). We fished through three runs with no grabs or the sight of any rolling fish. I have gotten a few reports of some springers being caught so it is just a matter of getting a fly in front of them.
I am on the road in Montana for rest of this week and all of the following. I will be attending a guide school run through Sweetwater Travel and Fly Shop. I am very excited to spend a week out with a group of high class guides to learn some new skills, fish some new water, and hear some very big fish tales.
I will be putting posts up periodically throughout the week with updates.
I fished the American yesterday morning with Shawn Pittard. There seems to have been another push of fresh fish with last week's rain. Shawn connected with this dandy hen using his switch rod and a Goblin on the business end.
Still eagerly awaiting the arrival of the "springers."
Jason Hartwick and I had the opportunity to fish with Michale Mauri on Monday. Michale had been here in the states for the past few weeks participating in the some of the Fly Fishing Shows giving casting and fly tying demos.
We spent the day on the American River. Although we were unable to bring any fish to hand Michael did get one grab and we had an enjoyable time covering the water, exchanging ideas, and casting different rod/line combos. The heavy rains by mid morning brought with them a large amount of debris and the water turned slightly dirty. I will blame the weather conditions for the lack of fish activity as it was certainly not for casting ability. Michael is one of the most consistent casters I have ever fished with. He spent part of the day with a 10 foot single-hander with a sinking shooting head. The head was more like a Scandinavian than our typical Teeny heads. To see him make his spey style change of direction casts and then over head cast this setup was something of a site. 100' bombs were well with in his reach and seemed to be made with grace and ease.
We also cast a full level sinking head designed for a two hander. Michael explained that this type of head is very common for his home waters of Europe while chasing the sea run trout and Atlantic Salmon. Casting this setup is slightly more difficult than our traditional heads with only sink tips. The timing of your setup is even more critical as the entire head sinks and it is very easy to get too much line stick which kills the forward cast. If you thought that Michale's single handed casting was impressive his two handed casts were unbelievable. Even with 20 mph gusts of wind he could present this setup at will.
You should check out Michale's site at www.mauri-flyfishing.de. I will be looking forward to seeing Michael next year when he returns.