Blog Posts In outdoors

Smashin' skwalas before the runoff

Flow: 867 cfs at Maiden Rock
Visibility: Clear, but on the rise and may color up as the week begins if temps warm.
Temp: Water: 51 Air: 70 Windy
Fishing: Good! Skwalas, streamers, and small stone nymphs.

Big Hole Lodge Crew

It was wiiiiindy yesterday, but we chucked streamers through the gusts and plopped dries on the banks when the breeze let up.  Bigger fish were eagerly chasing the streamers, but were hesitant to eat it fully. We had a lot of "short strikes."   The 12-16" class was slapping the skwala dry on the banks fairly consistently from 3:00 on, and if you could get it into the pockets through the wind, the 'next size' was looking for up.

Lanette with brownie on a skwala

Lanette skwala 2

Our trusty fish hunter is sprawled out on the floor after tirelessly scanning the riffles for big browns all day!

Kali, master fish hunter

photo-8

The Hatch is On!

The bugs are out from the bottom of the river all the way up to Dicky Bridge! Reports say fishing is great and fish are smacking dries.  Dad is on the river so i'll have a better report tonight.

Slinging (streamers) in the Rain

Long time Big Hole Lodge guide, Allen Baker, and I fished together the year before I started guiding in 2006 and it is still the best day of fishing I've ever had on the Big Hole.  We caught six fish over 18" and one 23", in addition to a load of average sized trout.  We haven't been able to fish together much since, and we jumped on the opportunity Tuesday.

It is a sin to leave a seat in the boat open, especially in a valley where log cabin has waders hanging on the porch and a fly rod behind the door.  So we invited Allen's neighbor and friend, Ward, for a day in the intermittent rain on the upper river.

We fished for two hours without a bump, prompting Ward to ask,  "How have we not seen a fish with two guides in the boat?"

There were caddis in the back-eddies and golden stones in the willow, air, and on the boat, but not a fish could be seen feeding on top.

We stuck to the naval assault with massive streamers and yuk-bugs, and when that proved ineffective we tried smaller streamers and trailer nymphs.  Suffice it to say, by evening we'd tried everything and had only caught a handful of small fish each.

Allen caught the fish of the day, about a 14" brownie on a streamer.

When we arrived home and opened the computer, the problem became clear.  The river had been swiftly rising and cooling all day.  Fish do not respond well to abrupt change, and with storm system after storm system bouncing the barometric pressure around, the fish were hunkered down waiting for stability.

At least that's as good of an excuse I as I can come up with!

Moosin' Around

On our float the other day, Lanette and I spotted a lone moose swimming from the true-left bank to an island, which we were on the right of.  As I walked around the island for a better view, the yearling dove into the water to join her brother, already following Mom back across the river.

As Mom jumped out, the twins paddled hard to join her.

The young bull lost footing and I thought he was in trouble...there was a down tree just below.

A powerful kick, and he was back up,

...and home free.

Our moose population has taken a hit over the past 10 years as a result of disease, roadway traffic, and wolves so it is encouraging to see a happy, healthy family out for a swim.

Running From the Law

 Classes ended last week at the University of Montana School of Law and students were expected to lock themselves away in the library cubicles for seven days of "reading week".  The vast majority of these students chose the UMSL because of its location on the Clark Fork river, in the heart of one of the West's most happening hangouts for outdoor enthusiasts.   After sitting inside and furiously taking notes for the past five months, the thought of spending another day inside was unbearable.

Tom Murphy, a Great Falls boy raised on the Missouri River, called me after our last class and said we were going fishing.  Most of the state's rivers were blown out, but we had heard that the midge hatch on the Mo was going off.

I awoke to the sound of rain on Wednesday morning and by the time Tom and our fellow classmate Paul, an avid fisherman from New Mexico, picked me up, the temp had dropped below freezing.  We ventured up the Blackfoot through the snow storm with smiles on our faces and long-johns under our  rain coats.  Thankfully, the storm broke by mid-afternoon and we were all overdressed.

On our way up the Missouri from Craig, we saw fish after fish rising and assumed the campers and guides would be elbow to elbow up at the dam.  To our surprise, there was no one on the water!  Paul wasted no time tying on a small adams and clambered down the bank below three rising rainbows.  He must have landed seven fish before having to move his feet.

While I was snapping shots of Paul's fish, a victory yell rang out  upstream.  I turned to see Tom grinning from ear to ear with a big rainbow on.

By the time I reached him, he had released his fish. I asked him about the size and species and he replies, "Put that damn camera down and grab your rod!"

I took his advice and landed 3 fish on a size 18 parachute adams.  The dam above us was a gorgeous sight with the massive column of water coming over the top of the spillway.

We couldn't have been happier to be out on the water and away from the flickering glow of fluorescent classroom lights.

The first day of Reading Week was undoubtedly spent reading, but we were reading the body colors of mayflies, the pockets behind rocks, and the current lines of the Missouri River.  We headed down to Great Falls for a famed Mrs. Murphy meal at Tom's house with plans to hit the river again the next day en route back to Missoula for finals preparation.

Winter in Washington

 Craig has been on the Olympic Peninsula with his lab, Gus, for the past two months chasing steelhead as they return from the ocean.  He is still unpacking in Wise River and will be editing photos soon, but I was able to grab a few he took of the area he's been exploring.

Gus loved playing in surf at the beach near the RV park:

The upper Bogachiel River and Gus:

The Hoh Rainforest:

 Morgan's Crossing on the Hoh River, a popular run with spey casters:

The Sol Duc River:


The lower Bogachiel which flows next to the RV Park where he was staying. This guy has caught 81 steelhead since last summer!


Craig fished the pool below on the Dickey River with Gus one day and a seal swam over to the bank and Gus chased it back in the water. The seals follow the steelhead up the river.

This is the estuary where the Quillayute River enters the ocean. If you catch a steelhead here, it can't get any fresher.

More to come later!