It’s Labor Day weekend and you know what that means ….. the summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner. It’s a bitter sweet time of the year. We few who live under the Big Sky look forward to our falls. Crisp mornings, cobalt blue afternoon skies, and the kaleidoscope of leaf colors lining our rivers and streams. It’s a special time of the year, but there is a dark lining on the horizon, winter’s not that far away. So if you have a hankering to get out and fish …. it’s now officially count down time …. we have about 6 weeks of wonderful and then it will be over for a few months. As Mr. Wayne would have said ….”We’re burning day light.”
These last few weeks have produced the best grasshopper fishing this po child has seen in about a decade. Others within the industry annually extol the the multitude of grasshoppers even when they are not really all that thick. But this year is different. Has it been a biblical plague of hoppers? ….. well no, I’ve seen denser population explosions, but hand down this summer has been the best hopper fishing in quit some time.
Most of the hot and heavy action has been on the Yellowstone. It’s a huge river and even though some guides from Bozo, Missoula, and Livingston are still trucking all this way from there home waters, there is more than enough elbow room out there. And the really good news ….. the mongrel hordes are beginning to subside. The other day we had about 10 miles of river all to ourselves, not a boat in sight all day. And the fishing? …. PDG ….. pretty damn good.
Mornings continue to be all about the Trico’s ( which are beginning to fade from the scene) and nymphs hung under your favorite biggish dry fly. If the nymphs aren’t lighting it up, go with a couple mid-sized dry flies ….. purple hazes followed by ants or Beatles (John, Ringo, Paul or George would do). You just might get a serious surprise by fishing something different than others have been chucking. Afternoon has been hopper-iferous. The all out hopper blitz of a couple weeks ago is fading. It takes a little more diligence to find that special spot. The other day I took a side channel on the Jelly, that frankly I was not at all sure I’d be able to float through. I was looking for one of those areas where most (smart folks) do not venture. Sometimes you just gotta roll the dice and thus we did. Fishing for large trout is somewhat similar to playing the market. To those who take the big risk comes either the bigger rewards or total bankruptcy. After we eventually emerged from the unknown, we felt like trout millionaires. Man that was fun and productive. If I could have drug the boat upstream for a half mile, we would have done it again, and again, and again ….. sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to turn a good day into one that you think of during the cold winds of winter ….. yes, it was that good.
In the category of upcoming events …. I’ll keep it short and sweet. Hoppers will still work until they don’t. As the weather cools, so does the hopper action. My advice is to pick the right day(s) to go. This next week to 10 days is supposed to be pretty hot and windy …. yes, those are the right days. The streamer bit is starting to pick up, but if the skies stay cobalt blue and not gun metal gray, then streamers will not be a huge factor. The nastier the day, the better the streamer striping. And finally, the itty-bitty dries will become increasingly important over the next month or so. Baetis will soon be on the menu and there are other smallish mayflies that will be the ticket(s). The real key to success …… keep your eyes open and don’t get locked into any single methodology. There’s a reason folks have invented about 10,000 fly patterns and it’s not just marketing.
PS …. I’d like to thank all the kick butt older fisher-folks with whom I’ve been spending the last few weeks. These folks can flat out fish and most of them are pretty good at the catching part as well. But what I’ve truly appreciate, is listening to 70 to 85 year olds’ continually referring to me as a puck kid, wet behind the ears, just entering puberty, and all that sort of smack talk. Most days as I record the State required license data, the ALS numbers serve as a stark reality check that most of my clients were born after I graduated from high school and the University of Montana. Thus, senior ribbing gives me hope. If you don’t stop moving, you don’t lock up. Having a passion is essential.