Yellowstone on the down low!

Day 12 has finally come and gone, now I can get my ” Bro Bra”  hair cut off my head and spend a day of much needed rest.  The family has been gone for the past week on a vacation to the Oregon Coast, I was left at home to entertain guest from all reaches of the United States.   It has been a busy two weeks of working non stop and I can’t wait to see my kids and hopefully escape the sunshine and heat for a day.  I haven’t had much time to sit down and write about the daily events of fishing so here are some photo’s of several of my days!  At some point I hope to give some detailed stories about the trips but until I hope you enjoy the pics.

Sunsetting on a long day on the Yellowstone!

Wonders of Willow Creek!

Bob was willing to eat trout "Shashimi" for dinner if I wanted to leave him on the creek!

MZ Ranch Spring Creek!

Yellow Sallies everywhere!

Nothing like Alligator Brown Trout!

The following photo was taken a few hours ago and it ended the day with a bang.  We put in our time and had very little to show for the day until we found the “Day Changer“!  Officially taped on the “How Bad Ass are You” sticker at 25 inches with a 16″ girth to boot!  Great way to end the day, congrats to Karen for her effort and her reward that took her 30 yards into the backing and a solid 700 yards from where she set the hook!

Karen setting the bar pretty high for the rest of the anglers who will step into the front of my boat this year!

Big bugs over Emigrant Peak!

After a day of taking care of some house hold chores it was back to the Yellowstone for another day on the river.  I was excited when I pulled up the necessary websites to check flows, weather forecast and a live feed photo of the Yellowstone river in the early morning hours.  Flows continued to drop, the weather was calling for my favorite temperature of 74 degrees and the river appeared to be cleaner than it was yesterday.  I arrived at the turn to Big Creek a bit early so I rigged a couple of rods as the tunes from the guy across the highway blared the local college radio station loud enough to drown out the vehicles traveling on Hwy 89.  Wayne pulled up right on time and had another guest from the ranch with him.   I greeted both of them and Wayne introduced me to Keith.  We were not sure if we had met before but it turns out that I have fished with his wife and his father in law on other trips.  We loaded the gear and headed for the Carbella Ramp with high expectations of catching fish on Salmonflies.   The big bugs were thick near the 26 mile ramp and we hoped that the hatch had made the migration upstream to our put in point.

We arrived at the boat ramp and there were only a couple of other boats rigging rods and launching their boats.  I was expecting to see a full boat ramp and was pleasantly surprised that it was not crowded.  I started to rig the boat and the crowds that were mysteriously absent upon our arrival made a precession into the access just minutes after we arrived.  A half dozen rigs pulled into the ramp while we were getting the boat ready.  Fortunately there were casting lessons, rod rigging and boat setup that most of them had to accomplish and we made it into the water and shoved off before most of them even knew we were there.

The river clarity was much better than the day before and as we shoved off I carefully scanned the willows for signs of life.  We started off with two different colored Chubby Chernobly’s trailed with bead head droppers.   I anticipated that the rods would be bent right out of the gate and after the first mile of the float my anticipation turned into concern since we hadn’t had even a sniff from a fish.   We finally got our first look from a fish about a mile into the float, which helped ease my wandering mind that the fish were not going to come up to a dry.  The fishing continued on a very slow pace until we hit the highway bridge and our break for a sandwich with all the fixings, chips, cherries and chocolate chip cookies.

After lunch it was time to make a change and get the rods bent.  I switched Keith up to a nymph rig and it only took us a few hundred yards to get a fish to eat.  “El Blanco” once again saved the day, the rest of the float had consistent pulls on the sindicator!  As we hit the ramp many of the bugs from the previous day started to pop off the water.   Green drakes, Goldenstones, caddis, yellow sallies and salmonflies all of the sudden made an appearance as we hit the 26 mile ramp.  The bushes were dripping with Salmonflies and I managed to get a nice shot of a Green Drake that landed on the floor of my boat.

Western Green Drake

The fishing was less than anticipated but with 75 degree weather, good conversation with plenty of laughs,  you’d  be hard pressed  to find a complaint.  Keith caught a bunch of whitefish, picked up a few new tricks and Wayne got to relax and enjoy being outside on such a marvelous day.

I dropped them off at their vehicle and made my way back to Bozeman.   As I drove down the Paradise Valley mesmerized by it’s beauty my phone rang and it was my friend back in town who wanted to know if we were still on for a guy’s night on the lake.   My buddy Rusty and John were ready to hit Hyalite Reservoir for what may well become a weekly occurrence.   We must all be getting old because Wednesday Night trolling used to consist of trolling around Whiskey Wednesday at the Rockin R Bar looking for a date.  Now we are all married and we spend our night trolling in a 1974 Larson Tri Hull boat with cow bells and worm harnesses.  I might need to go see the shrink since I spent a day working on the Yellowstone and then came home to head for a lake to spend some more time fishing, but it was a beautiful evening and my wife insisted that I go out and spend some time with the boy’s!

Rednecks and Patagonia?

The lake was dead calm and we had a couple of hours before the sun went down and darkness set in.  There were a few other boats on the lake, including some crazy person that was scuba diving in 54 degree water which has got to get colder as they descend 90 feet of water to find beer cans and stolen goods that high school kids ditched just for lack of anything better to do.  I definitely took a double take when I saw the diver down flag floating on the lake.   We began our assault on the lake with two rods rigged with cow bells and two rigged with bottom bouncer weights with wedding rings trailed behind them.  As John turned on the trolling motor the electronics were reading our speed as O mph.  We were moving but not very fast so it was time for a battery change and an increase in our speed.  The second battery got us up on plane at a neck breaking speed of 1.4 mph, or the prefect speed for cowbells.  We immediately got our first bite as John reeled in the first fish of the night, a brightly colored cutthroat of about 10 inches.  I was next in line to get a bite and landed a beauty of my own that registered a little better than a “Yanni” fish on the new Idylwilde “How Badass are You?” tape measure that I have prominently displayed in my drift boat.  As the night continued my cowbells rang one after another as I had the deadly dare devil blade flashing in front of my worm harness.  My hot hand quickly cooled off as the line snapped while reeling in a monster, it was really due to the crappy line I had on my beat up spin rod.

Cutthroats love Cowbells!

We ended the night with a 12 pack of empty bottles and 6 to 8 fish that we released back into the lake to swim another day.  I am looking forward to next weeks “Wednesday Night Trolling” which will hopefully add another boat and a whole new group of heckling buddies that can give each other grief.

Another Classic Ride!

The opening ceremonies were held last week with the clearing of the Madison River and this week we are about to jump feet first into the best dry fly fishing of the season.  The Gallatin and Yellowstone have made monumental strides in the past few days with flows dropping fast and the water starting to clear.  The next month of fishing is going to be a spectacle that you don’t want to miss!

While most of Gallatin and Park counties were nursing hang overs from the 4th of July festivities I was on my way to meet a long time client from Washington D.C. on the upper Yellowstone.  Wayne is a very busy guy and getting out to fish allows him to relax and enjoy the weather, which was near 100 degrees with 98% humidity back in our nations capital.  I fish with Wayne 4 or 5 days during his stay and they are always relaxing enjoyable days on the water.  With the drop in flows and about a foot and a half of visibility I made the call to meet Wayne at the end of the Big Creek road, where he stays at the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch.  Wayne and I had exchanged emails during the course of last week and we decided to give the river a try at all cost.  I arrived at the road at 9:01 am and was expecting to see Wayne around 9:30, because he is usually a little behind schedule.    To my surprise Wayne was on his way down the road as I made the turn off highway 89.  The original plan was that it was just going to be Wayne, but on my ride over the hill another client called from Mountain Sky to ask me if I had enough lunch for him to join Wayne and I for the day on the water.

I met Brian and Wayne, as well as Brian’s Parents who I have spent some time with on the smaller waters in the area.  We sent Brian’s folks off to Livingston to do some shopping and the three of us headed for the 26 mile boat ramp and a float down the Yellowstone.  Flows have dropped a lot in the past few days and the reading on the gauge at Corwin was 9200 C.F.S. when I checked it on the computer as I ate breakfast.  The clarity of the river was only about a foot and half to two feet when we put in and the water had a brownish white tint to it when we put in.  We choose to do a fairly short float since Wayne had and obligation to his wife at 2 pm.  There were several other guides at the ramp when we pulled up and it took us a bit longer than normal to get the boats in the water.  With the flows as high as they are there is not much room to put boats in and we had to wait for the other guys to launch their boats, park the truck and shove off before we could launch.  Everyone did a great job to get out of the ramp, but the conditions just made it take a bit longer than normal.

We finally got the boat in the water and I had rigged both Wayne and Brian with Rubber leg Stone fly nymphs trailed with two different caddis patterns.  Brian got a caddis larvae and Wayne had on a sparkle pupae.  The word on the street a few days prior was that there were a good number of Salmonflies around the Loch Leven access so I was hoping we might see the top end of the hatch near our take out point at Grey Owl.  As I pulled away from the ramp I took a quick look into the willows lining the left bank and it didn’t take long to see several adult salmonflies hanging off the branches.  I stayed near the bank to see if the bugs were thick or if I just noticed a few bugs that were ahead of their counter parts lower down stream.  I was shocked as all the willows had a bunch of bugs in them and the thought to change from the nymphs to dries arose in my head.   With the limited clarity in the water I decided to stick with the nymphs.  Brian hit fish right out of the gate and being that we were on the upper river our first fish was the famous “El Blanco” our native son.  Whitefish are prolific on the upper Yellowstone which is great for keeping the rod bent and anglers entertained.  Some anglers think very little of the poor old whitefish and yes they don’t provide the sport that a trout does but the whitefish are native, they are eager to feed on nymphs and they offer a great training aid to folks that haven’t spent much time fishing.

We continued on down the river catching whitefish and the occasional trout on the nymphs, while I worked out the cobwebs from Wayne’s hiatus from the fly rod.  We made it almost to Emigrant before we stopped for a quick bite and a gut check that the dreaded mosquito season was upon us.  I had to pick up the anchor and move us back away from the bank during our lunch stop because the warming weather brought the blood sucking bastards out of the grasses and brush on the bank.  Wayne’s wife had fallen victim to the marketing scams put on by OFF and their new clip on personal mosquito repellent system.  OFF has a new clip on fan that is supposed to put a force shield of repellent around you that keeps the dangie fever carrying insects away from you.  It took us a bit to figure out how to turn the dam thing on and once we got it rolling the bugs appeared to be attracted to the fan and they swarmed the boat.  I pulled out the napalm and gave myself and the boat an air borne assault to get the bugs away from the  boat.  Nothing works as well as good ole fashioned DEET, even though I will probably die a few years sooner than expected.

After lunch there were a lot of other insects that started to hatch so I decided to give the dry fly a chance before our short day was over.   There was a good hatch of Green Drakes, Yellow Sallies, PMD’s, Golden Stones and caddis so I tied on a large stone fly dry and trailed it with a big # 10 Royal Wulff.  We saw a handful of smaller fish rising close to the bank and Brian coaxed a half dozen fish to come to the Wulff in the short float from Emigrant to the Grey Owl ramp.  We hit the ramp at 1:45 pm, which got Wayne back to the ranch in time to meet his wife for the afternoon activities she had planned for them.   It was a great day and with another foot of visibility the Yellowstone is going to be on fire with dry flies.  I can’t wait to meet back up with Wayne on Wednesday, the dry fly assault should be great.

If you are planning a float on the Yellowstone in the next few weeks be sure and have an experienced oarsman at the helm.  The river is flowing very fast and you can get yourself in a lot of trouble very quickly.  Even the calmer sections of the river from Carbella downstream to Mallards Rest is dangerous right now and one wrong move can send your boat to the bottom and all your gear on a journey to the gulf coast.   There was a boat lost on Friday on the mellow water of the upper river when two big guest both leaned to far to one side and the water gushed over the gunnels and swamped the boat in the blink of an eye.  Be safe out there and enjoy the fruits that are about to be bestowed upon us in the coming weeks.

One last note, Sorry for the lack of photo’s from the trip.  The flows are high and reaching for the camera was the last thing I wanted to do.

I really wish they sold bottle rocket’s in Montana.

Stormy Weather on the Madison!

It is with great sorrow and a day of agonizing over whether I should post this story or just keep it to myself.  The story starts off five years ago and is and will be one of my most memorable days of guiding.  A call came in five years ago from Ms. Ashley that she would be arriving in Bozeman a few days ahead of her  boyfriend and she wanted to get in a couple of days of fishing before his arrival.  I met her the first day and we headed for the East Gallatin, which was just starting to drop from Spring runoff and was just clear enough to drift some nymphs.  We had a great day on the water and caught several large fish along with a bucket full of small ones.  The Second day we headed for the Lower Madison river and the start of the most wonderful story in my guiding career.  The date was June 6th and when we pulled into the Warm Springs boat ramp I took a quick look in the willows on the bank above the boat ramp.  The willows were dripping with large adult salmonflies and I immediately got excited about the day ahead.  We pushed off from the boat ramp with a heavy stout leader attached to a # 4 Salmonfly dry.  We stuck our first fish before I had a chance to even up the boat to the bank.  We continued to catch fish on the large dry fly throughout the float.  The highlight of the day was a beautiful 19 inch brown that inhaled Ms. Ashley’s dry fly, the fish then proceeded to take off like a rocket and jumped a half dozen times before falling prey to my boat net.

Ms. Ashley's Salmonfly Brown Trout.

As the day came to an end we were both exhausted from the epic day of Salmonfly fishing we had just experienced.  Ashley could hardly wait to make the hour long drive to meet her boyfriend at Ruby Springs lodge, where she could brag and show off the fish she had caught on the big bugs.   I sent her on her way and a few days later she sent me an email that makes this day on the water so memorable.  The email went something along these lines.

Dear Josh,

Thank you for two great days on the water.   The Salmonfly fishing was amazing, but it didn’t compare to the surprise I had when I arrived at the Lodge.  I ran into my cabin with just my camera in hand, to show off the fish from the day on the Madison.  I walked into the cabin and my boyfriend was on one knee with a ring in his hand.  I am know engaged to be married and I don’t think that there will ever be another day as great as today.

Sincerely,

Ashley.

I can’t think of a better story from a guide trip in my 20 years of being on the water and I was really excited when Ashley called me last month to book another trip!

Ashley’s flight was a bit late on arrival, which was fine since the plan was to fish until around dark.  I met her at Four Corners around 12 pm and after a quick stop at Mama Mac’s for a sandwich we headed out to the Madison.  When I had received Ashley’s email, she had ask if I remembered her from 5 years ago.  I told her that I would never forget the day on the river with her and the wonderful story of her engagement that day.  I told her that I mention her all the time on my trips because it was such a great story.  As we made our way to the river the story that meant so much to me for it’s joyful meaning and amazing ending turned into a tragedy that I am still trying to come to grips with.  I ask Ashley if her husband was meeting her again and she got a very sad look on her face and told me that she wanted to tell me in the email, but thought it would be better to tell me in person.  As her voice cracked from the sorrow she told me the story of how her husband had been diagnosed with Leukemia a year after their marriage.  Upon his diagnosis he began the standard treatments for cancer as well as having a stem cell replacement therapy.  After six months of battling the disease he came back from the doctor’s office with great news that the stem cells had worked and that he was cancer free.  They were both getting their lives back to a normal routine when he fell sick with Pneumonia because of his compromised immune system.  She then told me that he passed a few weeks later from the pneumonia and that she was here to spread his ashes in a place that he loved.  I was in total shock and did not know exactly what the right words to say to her were.  All I could muster as I fought back the tears  was to tell her how sorry I was for her loss.

We made it to the boat ramp and the sun was out and the caddis and Yellow Sallies were hovering above the water.  I rigged up a nymph rod as well as a dry dropper rig and we shoved off to enjoy the day and try to put the sadness behind us.  The fishing was red hot right out of the gate with plenty of small fish eager to eat a PMX fished over the pockets in the weed beds.  As we rounded the first bend the first big black cloud came over the river and a thunderous boom was heard overhead.  I immediately pulled to the shore to wait out the storm.  We spent the rest of the day in incredibly horrible weather that threw hail, gully washer rain events and a mix of thunder and lightning.  We spent about an hour under the Cannaday bridge as the storms passed and when we had a ray of hope in the skies we shoved off to continue our float down the river.  We didn’t make it 300 hundred yards from the bridge before the next round of rain hit us and we spent the rest of the day in and out of weather that was hardly bearable for a duck.

The fishing had a few moments of greatness with several nice rainbows to the net and one very large brown that we had on for a brief moment.  We both got a good look at the large fish and we both let out a few harsh words as the fish came unbuttoned from the Zonker.  As we rounded the last corner of the float the blue skies opened up and the sunshine hit us as we loaded the boat on the trailer and jumped into the truck with the heater on full tilt.

It was a decent day of fishing but my mind spent much of the day thinking about the sadness of the outcome of my favorite client story.  Life is a fragile balance and I will make sure and keep this story close to my heart while I make sure to appreciate every moment of every day.  God bless everyone and keep your friends and loved one’s  close to your heart!

Hail Stones from the June 30th storm that hit Bozeman!

The weather keeps throwing curve balls at us, or should I say golf balls.  Around 4 pm on Wednesday the skies darkened around town and as the storm clouds moved in from the Southwest.  Two years ago we had another big hail storm that damaged many roofs around town and just prior to that storms arrival the skies turned an eerie  aquamarine color.  That same color skies were apparent just prior to this storm as well.  The storm hit around 4;30 pm and all hell broke loose for about 2 minutes as the golf ball or larger size hail pummeled the Gallatin Valley.  Windows were shattered, cars looked like golf balls from the dimples in the metal, tree branches were strewn all over the place and when the storm past it looked like old man winter had just coated the valley in several inches of snow.

My wife and I were lucky and only had a few dents in her car and some minor cosmetic damage to the house.  As is the norm with natural disasters, the trailer park down the road took a beating and most of the trailers had major damage to the siding and to windows.

The aftermath!

After driving around town and looking at the damage I can honestly say that cheap siding may be cheap to install but it is really more expensive in the long run.  Most of the homes with vinyl siding were heavily damaged and many of them will require a complete re side for repairs.  Fortunately no one was hurt in the storm and at least many of the construction people around town should be busy for the rest of the summer.

Sunfish Fun!

Summer camp is on hold for the week of the 4th of July so I have been super dad for the past couple days.  The warm weather has had us running for the local pond by 10 am to escape the heat.  Most people relish the first few days of 80 degree weather, however I completely despise anything above 75.  On Monday we made the mistake of trying to get some productive work in with Jason from Montana Troutchasers lodge, the heat almost drove me over the edge.  Reece, Kylee and I made it out to the lodge by noon to help Jason install a couple of large plank structures to both sides of a bridge at the lodge.

Drill baby Drill!

Reece was a big help pre drilling the holes in the support braces for the ramps.  Unfortunately he was more interested in playing in the creek when it came time to carry the heavy planks.  By the time Jason and I got the ramps installed we were both dripping with sweat and it was time to head back to town for a swim and a cool down.

After dinner I took Reece, Sarah and Kylee over to the local pond to take a swim.  I put Sarah in her stroller with just a diaper and a shirt and when we arrived at the beach she couldn’t contain her excitement.  The evening sun was hot and the water felt great.  Sarah took a couple of dives into the pond and wound up drinking her fair share of water before we could pull her back upright.  She didn’t skip a beat, or make a fuss about it in the least.  Once we up righted her she was right back at it, splashing around and working her way to the next mouthful of water.

Can I have some algae with that pond water!

After her diaper completely disintegrated from all the water and her teeth began to clatter I decided it was time to head home and get ready for bed.  I had set up a tent in the back yard for the kids to sleep in and they were all very excited to sleep under the stars.

Tuesday morning greeted us with more warm weather and a promised forecast of afternoon showers.  After getting Sarah and Moira off to their respective daily routines, I had an hour or so to hang out and relax, Reece and Kylee came crawling out of the tent.  We had PB&J sandwiches made on hamburger buns for breakfast and then got our gear together to hit the pond.  Both Reece and Kylee wanted to use flyrods at the pond, which was great since I had just roto tilled the garden to prep it for planting.  Not having to deal with worms at the pond would be a nice change of pace.

We got to the pond and there were a lot of bluegills sitting on shallow gravel nest.  They weren’t too eager to come after our offerings so the kids decided it was time for some swimming.  I walked the edge and managed to land a handful of small Bass and a few of the more aggressive bluegills.  We moved to the rope swing and neither Reece of Kylee were willing to be the first to swim on the rope and launch into the pond.  There were a mess of bluegills sitting near the rope swing and after I caught three in a row their attention quickly shifted back to fishing.   We landed quite a few of the fish before they caught on to our routine so we moved ourselves towards the dock on the opposite side of the pond.  We made our way towards the dock when I spotted two enormous shapes swimming near the surface.  I had to do a double take to insure myself that I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.  I have never seen anything in the pond other than trout, bass, bluegills and perch so seeing the Bournemouth shapes on the surface I was a little perplexed.  If they were bass they were certainly state record sized fish, by a mile.  Along with the huge fish there were several hundred bass and sunfish hanging near the downed trees.  I moved around towards the dock to give myself a shot at a back cast.  Once I got into position I had a good look at the large shape and could see the big reflective scales of a 10 lb or better carp.  After the first carp appeared another half dozen of them came up from the depths looking for a cottonseed meal.  I shot a cast about 4 feet in front of the lead carp and all of them shot into the depths as if I had thrown a rock in the water.  That was the end of the carp fishing for the day and it left me wondering where they had come from, especially since I have never seen carp in the pond before.

I proceeded to catch a couple of dozen bluegills on a Black Magic trailed with a Silvey’s caddis pupae.  The kids both reeled in a few of the fish and by then it was getting pretty hot, so they left me to head for the beach to swim and skip rocks.  I caught a couple more fish and then noticed the dark skies that were moving in from the West.  I packed it in for the day and watched the kids swim until the clouds blocked out the sun and we heard our first thunder boomer of the day.

A great time was had by all and by the time Sarah and Moira returned from their day at work and at daycare the rain showers had cooled off the evening to a comfortable mid 60 degree temperature.  I couldn’t have asked for a better two days hanging out with the kids and enjoying my last bit of relaxation before the steady stream of clients join me for the summer.