Yesterday, was a great day of fishing. Nymphing in the morning - dry flies in the afternoon. 24 feesh - 4 cutties, 2 brown trout, 15 cutbows, and 3 mountain whitefish. That being said, the day could have taken a turn for the worse (or is it worst) before I had a chance to fish at all. After driving the hour and a half from Missoula to upper Rock Creek, I was excited to get out on the stream. Prior to entering the river I had done a once over to check out any potential dangers. The coast seemed to be clear. So, with the composure of a seven-year old at a toy store, I bounded into the river, rod in hand. I made it halfway across the river when I saw a lady bullwinkle about 20 yards away staring straight through me. Standing in a patch of riparian veg, the lady moose was frozen still. I, too, was frozen...for about a second. Once I realized what I was staring at, I quickly waded backwards towards my car and the safety of the opposite bank. On the opposite bank, I most likely blessed the world with a couple profanities and promptly whipped out my camera to take a couple pictures of the majestic lady moose. She seemed to pose for a bit, lost interest and then got back to breakfast. Having heard many stories of moose and their aggressive behavior towards intruders, I am thankful that my moose encounter was bland. Luckily the moose was 1) a lady and 2) was not with child. Either one of those options may have changed the story a little bit. After my encounter, I fished upstream of the moose for about a hour, keeping a watchful eye on the cow. I caught two whitefish on a size 10 black stonefly nymph and a san juan worm. I moved upstream and caught a couple cutbows, a cutthroat, and a whitefish on the stonefly nymph. With water temps rising into the early afternoon, I saw a great deal of surface activity. I originally put on a midge dry (griffith's gnat to be exact - which is an extremely small fly). Not being able to see the fly and its location on the surface, I put on a skwala stonefly dry on with a griffith's gnat trailing the skwala by about 8 inches. This worked quite well as I was able to cast, in rhythm to rising trout. The majority of the fish I caught were cutbows, but I was lucky enough to catch a 15 to 16'' cutthroat. While everything seemed to go well, there was one slip-up. I lost the incredible hulk of fish. Most likely a brown, the monster took a size 22 griffith's gnat and fought an amazing fight, only to slip off as it sat in the main current. Otherwise, it was a fantastic day. Enjoy the pictures and video from my great day on upper rock creek.
And boom goes the dynamite. Upper Rock Creek treated me well today. While the temperature flirted with the lower 40s and snow fell intermittently, I enjoyed great success on Upper Rock Creek. Nymphing with size 8 and size 10 black stonefly nymphs and a red bead-head san juan worm, I landed a personal best 11 fish today. The diversity of species was impressive - westslope cutthroat, brown trout, cutbow (or a cutthroat - rainbow hybrid), mountain whitefish, and (most surprising of all) a largescale sucker. It was the day of fishing I have been waiting for this winter. The action started fast and continued throughout the day. As always, it was just fun to be outside on the river. But, catching 11 fish made the 1.5 hour drive up to Upper Rock Creek a little easier. Enjoy the pictures. With this post, I think my blog has finally transitioned from a casting blog to a fishing blog.
SIDE NOTE: I talked to a fellow angler - he said he caught about 35 (of which 12 were trout). So, I have some work to do.
westslope cutthroat flashing its cut - rock creek 3.13
westslope cutthroat closeup - rock creek 3.13
first trout of 2010 - cuttie - rock creek 3.13
brown trout - rock creek 3.13
Rock Creek cutbow/cuttie?
westslope cutthroat - rock creek 3.13
mountain whitefish - rock creek 3.13
I was confused when I pulled this into my net. Put up quite the fight.
After a busy week of school, I was able to sneak away a wet my line in the Clark Fork and the Blackfoot rivers. With temperatures forecasted to rise into the mid 50s by the afternoon, I abandoned the Bitterroot and a potential hatch in order to seek the angling solitude I had grown accustomed to during the winter months. From the many area fishing reports, it seemed as though the skwala hatch was about to start. With pleasant, sunny weather with temperatures reaching the mid 50s, I was positive that my days of having the river to myself were over. After stopping by a local fly shop, it became apparent that the Bitterroot was going to be crowded...like "fourth busiest fishing day on the Bitterroot" crowded. "No thank you" my internal narrator noted. So, I explored my other options. The Clark Fork near Turah and the lower Blackfoot towards the end of day. I spent most of the day - from around 10am to 3pm nymphing downstream of the Turah access. I hadn't fished this stretch of water before. Not knowing what baseline conditions were like, I made irrational and uniformed opinions about its current conditions. Honestly, it seemed quite turbid. I was unable to visually confirm channel topography from the bank and wading was made more difficult as undulations of the bed were only detected when the water seemed to get closer to flowing over the tops of my waders. But, with reported "budget cuts" at the USGS, I couldn't confirm my suspicions about the suspended sediment load in the Clark Fork at Turah. Alas, they no longer publish the "real-time" suspended sediment data on the web for the Clark Fork. Based on the gage data, the river was slightly higher than its normal baseflow. I know...I know. I am laying the groundwork for excuse village. But, I must. I can't be this bad. Black Stoneflies, Blue-Wing Olives and Midges, as expected in these winter months, were hatching sporadically. I fished the sub-surface with small pheasant tails, copper johns and midge emergers. And I fished them poorly apparently. Another goose-egg for young Yukon. Waiting for the Blackfoot to creep towards 40 F, I drove over to the Marco Flat fishing access. Again I fished the subsurface. And again I failed miserably. All in all it was a good day. Did I mention the 15-20 minutes I spent watching a pair of American Dippers on the Clark Fork? I suppose I didn't. Enjoy the pictures and the videos from my day on the CF and BF Rs.
Clark Fork at Turah
The Blackfoot at Marco Flats
too much for the trusty canon to focus on - it chose ice - i wanted dipper
I still have not finished my first full year of fly fishing. I am learning. But, I expect to be great. For no other reason than my ever growing ego. So, when I went fishing this weekend on the Bitterroot, downstream of the Florence Bridge, and I caught a 12'' whitefish on my second cast. I expected to have my first truly productive day of fishing. I have fished this reach four or five times this year and I have yet to catch a trout. Prior to that day, I had caught two whitefish. Total. That's right, two fish during five trips. My fishing production is akin to the snowpack of the Clark Fork and Bitterroot drainages, pitiful. Now, in my defense, I am learning how to fish, cast, and think at the same time. A monumental task for those who know me. Fishing the Bitterroot in winter is primarily subsurface, especially nymphing, as a trout's metabolism slows down with drops in water temperature. Needless to say, when I netted the tiny whitefish on my second cast, I thought my perfect storm of fly fishing was upon me. I thought I had finally put together everything I had learned about line management, nymphing, stacking, and the like. I was sorely mistaken. Nothing for the rest of the day. I fished that section hard. Changing flies. Changing tactics. Changing tippet length. But, save for a couple of nibbles here and there. Nothing. It was a beautiful day though. Maybe next time.
I am graduate student studying fluvial geomorphology, applied hydrology, and environmental geochemistry at a fine institution in Missoula, MT. Originally from the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the eastern US, I have always been a fan of all sorts of fishing. However, during a "family" trip up to Alaska when I was in high school, I fell in love with the sport of fly fishing. Now, what I did up in the great north, B.C. to be specific, could hardly be called fly fishing. "Casting" a dry fly about 10 feet upstream and witnessing six gullible arctic grayling take my fly literally within a foot of my feet over the course of an hour was technically fly fishing, but it has occurred to me that those were a unique set of conditions. Not knowing how to cast, the hydraulics of open channel flow, and information about the life cycle of a mayfly, I consider myself lucky to have caught anything that day. But, I guess that is what guides are for. Since my first experience fly fishing in Alaska, I have yearned to learn the art and skill of catching trout on the fly. I went back to east coast, ventured to Ohio for college, and the dream took a backseat to other pursuits. But, upon arriving in Montana two Augusts ago, I made it a goal of mine to learn how to fly fish. Under the guise of field experience, I set out on what I hope is the life-long pursuit of fly fishing this past summer. With the help of a fellow grad student, the internet, and local fly shops, I am now fully immersed and/or obsessed with fly fishing. This blog will serve as a personal fishing log for this and many more fishing seasons to come and a general outlet for my fly fishing obsession.