Dog Daze Done?

Well let’s hope so.  Yes, it has been hotter than the hubs of Hades throughout the land of the Big Sky.  Blue bird skies with nary a cloud in site until late afternoon on most days have produced Chamber of Commerce days which are all rather lovely, unless you are fishing for the wary trout who really do not like those types of conditions.  Couple that with the continuation of rubber boat traffic jams sporting Missoula, Bozeman, and Livingston license plates and it quickly becomes obvious that adjustments are in order.  And so we have.  Early is good and the crack of dawn is even better.  Out of the way hiddy holes are really where it’s at.

The good news is that some of the traffic is headed to the Jelly which is reported to have wonderful hopper and stonefly dry fly fishing.  Apparently the fish are damn near jumping in the boat, or so I’ve read….. I’d be happy to draw some folks a map of where they should go …… but I digress.

Cutting to the fishing chase, not a lot has changed since I last checked in.  The big dogs continue to be double nymphs, down and dirty and I do mean way down.  The other day I had folks in a mondo honey hole which usually hold some nice fish.   We methodically fished and probed the entire hole over the course of 30 minutes.  We yarded up numerous small trout and lots of white fish.  No fatty trout were encountered until I started adding split shot, first a little and eventually more than that.  And yes, it did make a difference.  Charlie hooked a pig and the entire thing was apparently captured on video which I may be able to get my hands on.  A nice gent by the name of Dave (from Billings) and his son had parked in the same hole after we had started to cover the water.  When the hoop’n and holler’n started, they whipped out their phone video thingie and the party was on.  Charlie confided that was the largest fish he has ever caught on the Stillwater, in over 50 years of fishing it.  Thus in the end, it was all about the depth of presentation and a little persistence.  Remember that, it’s not like the old days out there when any ol’ dry fly would catch a fish.

And speaking of dries ….., from my view, damn little interest has been shown.  I know that is not what you want to hear, but it is the truth.  If you want to fish dry, the most productive dries have been the smaller stuff, like #16 – 18’s.  But frankly, that has a lot to do with the caliber of angler that has been chucking them.  Yes, we have been fishing chubbies, and golden stone parachutes, and Cabes and all that jazz.  And yes you can and will catch some fish, but based on my observations, the dries, especially the big dries, are not really the hot ticket item.  Although a gent who has been throwing those itty-bitty dries caught a 21-22″ brown on the upper the other day (didn’t get a picture of that one either, maybe it’s all fake news).  Byron indicated that was the largest brown he has ever caught on the Stillwater in over 60 years of fishing it….. so life ain’t all bad.

Coming attractions include, reduced numbers of anglers (school starting), shorter cooler days, and browns that within the next few weeks will begin to develop serious attitude problems….. fall is not that far away.  In fact, it’s rather sobering to think that in 5 or 6 weeks, we’ll likely see some snow.  It’s usually a mid-September thing and much anticipated because that’s when the fishing can really get nuts.

But I’m not thinking that far ahead.  I’m going to enjoy what little of summer we have left.  And don’t forget, the Yellowstone is supposed to be red hot …. hoppers, hoppers, and more hoppers …. or so the story goes …. better get out there when you can.

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MD with one of many

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Let’s take care of our spotted buddies …. water getting warm

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Late July and ….

Regional streams and rivers remain uncharacteristically high ….  successful fly fishing is still pretty much a float and stop game.  And although the wading is “iffy” to down right dangerous, over all fishing is pretty darn good.  It’s even better for fisher-folks with skills.

As of late, the Stillwater has been in full blown dry fly mode.  When the fish are actively surface feeding, they seem to prefer the afternoon hatch of #16 chocolate caddis.  There are still some fish gobbling PMD’s earlier in the day, but frankly the PMD’s are headed out the door.  And of course, there are those great big golden stoneflies.  I’ve been seeing a random few adults cruising across the river, but the majority of the fish have been keyed on nymphs which are currently migrating toward hatching structure along the river banks.  Pockets, eddies, and deep troughs along the bank have been the ticket for some time now.  Fish must tuck into a current break of some sort since the current speeds are mighty high for this time of the year.  Holding waters come and go quickly, fishing up front and not dragging your gear behind is essential.  And you’d better be able to mend that line now, not later.  When conditions have allowed, the streamer fishing has been freek’n outstanding.

And now one of our Public Service Announcements.  If you want to fish in a rubber regatta, you should focus on floating the upper river.  Our seasonal friends and neighbors from Missoula to Ennis to the Boze-zone have migrated eastward, reportedly in search of less crowded waters.  Which we used to have.  It’s unfortunate but part of the new reality of summers on our larger rivers.  So, I’ve been modifying my game plan to avoid the mongrel hordes.  Modification of start times and river segments can make the difference.  I generally really like people, but I damn sure don’t want to see a a village when I’m fishing and I’d like you to enjoy a real Montana experience

One of Many, up against the bank

One of Many, up against the bank

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Dry fly eater

.  Just be aware, smart, and respectful and all will work out, that goes for me as well.

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Run Off Update

Yep, we’re still running off.  The Stillwater is hovering around 5,000 cfs as I write this, and that’s a whole bunch of water.  None-the-less, I’ve been floating and fishing and catching more than a few nice fish.  The other day, when the water was up and moving, it took about 4 hours to float from Cliff Swallow to Johnson’s Bridge, and we even took a break for lunch.  That’s both hoot’n and scoot’n.  Usually, it takes about twice that long to make the 8 mile journey …. lots of white water over the bow and in the boat.  But it was about ninety degrees so the refreshing cool off was most welcome.  All those white water enthusiast we encountered must of thought we were nuts fishing the white foamy water edges.  On more than one occasion, my buddy and I accused each other of bass fishing since we were essentially fishing the brushy structure along the shore.  But given the height, depth and velocity of the Stillwater currently, you’re not going to catch anything in the mid-river rock buckets, so the edges are the place to be.  All the fish have essentially been glued to the shore and in less than three feet of water.  And once you hook a good fish and it takes off running up stream into the rage of current, boy howdy, it’s game on then.

I anticipate that we should soon see a ramping down of our local waters.  Much of the snow pack is gone and the air temps are suppose to cool off into the mid to upper 70’s.  Thing are good and only getting better.

And now for a moment of self discovery.  As we were floating the upper the other day, I happened to look up at the right time and saw some sort of large insect flying across the river.  Well that’s not usual.  I only got a fleeting glance at the UFO but told my buddy “that sure looked like a salmon fly, but it can’t be, we don’t have them on the Stillwater.”  Truth be told, I’ve heard folks mention on a time or two that they have seen salmon flies on the Stillwater.  However, most of those folks at the time of testimony were either well lubricated with liquid merriment or on their way.  In 40 plus years of fishing the hell out of the Stillwater, I had never seen a verified salmon fly (Pteronarcys californica).

As we continued down the bank, my errant cast (remember, we were fishing in the bushes) results in a break off of the non-fishy variety.  Thus we pull over to re-rig.  As we near the far bank, Rand says “look up, I think that’s a salmon fly.”  To which I say …. “Get your butt out of the boat and into those bushes and see if we can find the thing.”  Which he does and …. we are both shocked.  It’s a honest to goodness salmon fly.  And because I tell folks that if you don’t have photo documentation, it didn’t happen, I gently place the big devil in one of my fly boxes and take it home for show and tell and photographic evidence.  Pictures attached.

And that’s what fly fishing is all about kids, old dogs and new trick.  If you don’t learn something or experience something new, your likely not paying attention.

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Salmon Fly orange

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3 inches of Yummy

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Forgive the dirty finger nails, just got off the river

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