Monday, September 24, 2018

Charles Meck R.I.P.

Charlie was a noted author and fly fishing expert. He wrote 15 books on fly fishing, as well as numerous magazine articles. He loved teaching others the sport of fly fishing and the appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Montana Part 2 - Madison River & Henry's Fork

I wrote this several weeks ago (a month) but being the easily distracted person that I am, I didn't realize it didn't get posted, so here is the rest of the story.......   

It's no secret I love the Madison River and everything about it. Sure, fishing it is a joy, but it also offers a variety of flows that can and will challenge the fly fisher from where it is born at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers, to the wide, even flowing expanses below Bear Trap Canyon - the lower Madison- and of course the 50 mile riffle that flows from Quake Lake to the braids above Ennis Lake. My favorite section is the long riffle that winds its way through a beautiful valley that fans out in benches to high mountains on either side that shelter all kinds of wild animals. 

Halfway through our trip we landed in the Madison Valley and as is always the case, I felt like I was home again. The river was higher than it has been in the last 20 years or so in July and its currents were loud and wild, music to my ears. I got there about mid-day, threw my stuff in the cabin and was on the water in 20 minutes. In 21 minutes I was into my first trout, a nice rainbow that took my brown serendipity like it was candy. The high, bright sun and warm air temps were no issue as I was wet wading and there was just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. The truth is, I rarely stepped in the water except to move up river and cool off. Most of the time I was on right on the bank working my way upriver, casting my fly straight up stream fishing it just off the bank to about 6-8 feet out. And the fish came often on that simple, size 16 brown midge pattern.


After about an hour or so I went back to the cabin to wait for the others and unpack my things. As soon as they arrived, I told them the river was ready and waiting, so Paul grabbed his rod and was off to his favorite nearby pool. It wasn’t long before he was hooked up to a nice wild fish that was hiding in a slow eddy along a very fast, heavy riffle that the fish did everything in its power to get to and use the current to its advantage. 

That evening, after having a bite to eat and tying a few flies, we headed down river to a stretch that seems to fish well every time we hit it. When we got there the only anglers in sight were on the opposite bank so we had the long stretch all to ourselves. We spread out over a quarter mile or so of bank and after a slow start, as the sun dropped in the sky fish began to rise steadily from the edges of the river out to just along the really fast currents. If there was a rock, pocket, or seam, a fish or two worked the surface. With all the caddis in the air, I tied on an Iris Caddis and took several dozen fish over the next two plus hours, mostly rainbows, before it was too dark to see my fly.


I spent the entire next day fishing the Madison while Paul and Steve went over to the Henry’s Fork to drift with a guide. I hit a whole bunch of spots on the river during the day and all of them fished well. Again, the top fly was a #16 brown serendipity fished alone with varying amounts of split shot placed above it about 6-8 inches. As long as I got it down near the bottom, fish took it. Late in the day I went to a public boat ramp and fish up river. There were caddis hatching, Little Western Green Drakes or “Flavs” duns and spinners in the air and on the water, and rusty spinners. The fish were finicky, with no single insect on the menu so I was continually changing flies to match what a particular fish was feeding on. I took quite a few fish, but had to work much harder for them than the night before. Shortly after I got back to the cabin, Paul and Steve returned with big smiles having each having caught a single big rainbow, 22-23 inches, on hoppers. 

The next morning we were all up early and after breakfast Paul and Steve headed back to the Henry’s Fork for a hoped for repeat performance sans a guide and drift boat, and I followed them over the pass. We got to the upper ranch parking lot around 9:30AM, and after gearing up proceeded to walk the bank down river. It was still cool with muted sunlight through high thin clouds and barely a breeze. Tricos danced in the air over the water and along the bank. Early on, small fish rose everywhere one looked across the broad expanse of flowing water – the river on the ranch is a wide, uniform depth of flowing cool water whose surface is continually changing from the thick grasses undulating below in the current. 

After walking for some time I stopped to watch the water while the others kept going. There were a bunch of anglers down river and since there were plenty of fish rising where I was and no one within a couple hundred yards up or down river, I stepped into the river and began watching and looking for larger rising fish. By now there were pale morning duns and also a few flavs hatching.


I tied a #22 trico spinner to the end of my 15 foot leader, the last of which was 30 inches of 5X tippet. I spotted what looked to be a decent fish rising in a long seam formed by a submerged rock and slowly worked my way out to where I was within a safe casting distance down and across from the feeding trout. After making a short cast to make sure my leader and fly landed on the water properly, I made a few rod strokes to let out enough line and then dropped the fly above the fish. It drifted to its right and went untouched. I made a few more casts over the fish, and it kept rising to everything but my fly. 

I reeled in my line and quickly changed my fly to a pattern #16 pmd/flav snowshoe pattern and began working out line before dropping the size #16 PMD imitation above the fish. The fly drifted a foot or so and then a nose poked the water surface and sucked it in. After a brief battle with the fish and accompanying weeds, I netted a nice 14 inch rainbow. At the same time I thought to myself, “I hope this isn’t going to be one of those first-cast-with-a- new-fly jinxes, where that’s it for the rest of the day.” 

Fortunately, that was not to be, as over the next 3 hours or so fish rose throughout the river. Literally everywhere you looked, up, down and across the river there were sips, and splashes and tell-tale rings from trout feeding on top. Most of the fish were small, maybe 6-8 inches long, which were easy to make out by their quick, splashy rises. Other rises were slow, nose-dorsal-tail rises, while others, the largest fish, poked their noses out and opened wide, shut, and then disappeared in a split second leaving a series of ever widening concentric circles. The trick was finding one of these larger fish and getting close enough to cast without putting them down. Your first cast had to be good, too, or a second chance was out of the question. 

I not only managed to get close and make enough good casts to catch about 15 fish. They ranged in size from 8 inches to about 16 inches. The smaller fish were so aggressive at times that they would dart up take the fly as it hit the water above a larger fish that my fly was intended for. I also lost quite a few after hooking up as the weeds are thick that once a fish managed to get tangled up in them you couldn’t turn their heads and then the end of the line would stop shaking.  I’d wade over to retrieve my fly only to find it stuck in the stem of a frond of grass and the fish long gone. All of the fish I took came on the pmd/flav snowshoe pattern and although I didn’t hook any monsters, it was a very good day wet wading in the big river taking in all that it has to offer.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Tying Walter Wiese's GFA Hopper

When we were in Montana and Idaho a few weeks ago, the hoppers were just getting started and now we hear this year has been one of the best in many years.  On the Henry's Fork they were everywhere, jumping and flying in all directions as we walked the grassy banks on the Harriman Ranch in search of heads.   And the fish were on them, big fish, with Paul taking a 23" fat rainbow on a hopper, the biggest fish for any of us on the Henry's Fork this trip.

Here Tim Flagler ties Walter Wiese's (Park's Fly Shop) GFA Hopper.  With all the complicated hopper patterns out there, this one is a effective pattern that Tim as shows can be tied with a minimum of hair loss.  Fish it alone, or add a dropper to the bend to cover more water.
    

Tie some up and sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Montana Part 1 - Missouri River

Its hard to believe we have been back from Montana for over a week already.  We started the trip this year up on the Missouri River where we rented a cabin that was up in a canyon just outside of Deerborn.  There were only three of us this year and the 1933 two-room cabin was just fine nestled away up on Oak Creek where the neighbors kept a couple of wolves for pets.  The weather when we arrived that first afternoon was hot and dry, with barely  a breeze.  The river level was higher than we normally see this time of the year thanks to a good winter snow pack and frequent spring rains in the upper watershed.


After unpacking we headed up river to a spot we like that's a short drive up from the Wolf Creek bridge.  Paul and Steve went down river, and I decided to work up the left bank where being a right handed caster I could work my way up and the hit bank side risers.  Trout sit right very close to the edge here as the high, steep bank offers protection and there is deep, dark water just a short swim to the right if they do feel threatened.   I waded up the bank slowly where a fish rose steadily to what appeared to be pale evening duns.  The caddis, flavs and spinners that were also in the drift were ignored, so I tied a #16 PED cripple to the end of my 5X tippet off a leader that was roughly 15 feet long.  After I made a couple of short test casts to my right to make sure my leader and fly were doing what i wanted, I cast the fly about a foot and a half just to the right of where the fish was rising and as it came within its sight, it lifted its nose and took my offering. After a spirited battle I netted a nice 17-18 inch rainbow.


Before the sun dropped below the mountains I took a couple of more smaller rainbows on the same cripple and then headed back to the car as I couldn't see my fly and what it was doing.  It was a good start to the trip.

Pale Evening Dun CDC Cripple

The next day we rented a drift boat and put in below Holter dam where a carousel of a dozen boats with guides and their clients took turns fishing the long eddy just off the boat ramp.   In the short time we were there we saw lots of bent rods and happy fishermen as they fished nymphs off of bright indicators in the deep, cold currents fed by the dam.  We weren't interested in fishing nymphs, so we headed down river where tricos filled the air and fish rose to them as they dropped from the sky.  When the river is higher than normal as it was then, the first half mile of river below the dam is covered with eddies and seams that constantly change direction, which made it near impossible to get a good drift to any of the hundreds of trout rising to fallen trico spinners, even from a drift boat.
 
We kept moving and soon reached a riffle that had rising fish and was about mid-thigh in depth, so we anchored the boat and spread out below the working trout.  By now the pale morning duns had started to rise and the fish were taking them.  The wind had also picked up, blowing upstream which made it fairly easy to get our flies on the working fish.  We took a few nice fish, browns that moved quickly to take my sparkle dun, and then the wind kicked up a notch and the bugs disappeared and with that, the fish stopped as well.

To make a long day short, that was it for the day.  By noon the wind was blowing a constant 25+ mph straight up river.  The river actually had white caps where the current was strong, and casting was next to impossible.  It took 5 hours to row to Craig, with Paul doing the lions share, and me finishing up the last mile or so.  If we stopped rowing, the boat would get pushed upstream.

The next couple of days we wade fished, and did fairly well, with a few nice fish taken along with many 12-15 inch fish when the weather cooperated.  The hatches during the day were sporadic, and we often had to take cover from fierce thunder storms and heavy rains that book-ended brief bright, sun filled skies.   It was a mixed bag as is often said.   The last hour of light each day did bring good hatches of caddis and with that plenty of targets along the banks to cast to with some good fish landed to round out the day.  All things considered, it was an enjoyable few days on the Mighty Mo.

Rainbow taken on an Iris Caddis as the sun was setting. 
Sharpen your hooks.

Friday, August 10, 2018

American Museum of Fly Fishing Annual Festival Tomorrow - August 11

The 11th annual AMFF Fly Fishing Festival returns to beautiful Manchester, VT on August 11th this year from 10 am until 4 pm. This is our signature event of the summer—a growing event that showcases the joy of fly fishing with vendors, demonstrations, and a gathering of people who are all equally enthused about the sport. Come enjoy fly tying and casting demonstrations, try your hand at casting vintage rods, learn how to tie a saltwater fly, and mingle with like-minded people as you share the taste and joy of the great outdoors.  Admission is free. 


Stop by and celebrate their 50th anniversary. 

For more information and details click here: American Museum of Fly Fishing Annual Festival

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Art Lee, Fly-Fishing Virtuoso and Writer, Dies at 76

Art Lee, a writer and guide who described the sylvan joys — and the slyest tricks — of fly-fishing to generations of trout and salmon anglers, died on July 25 at a hospital in Middletown, N.Y. He was 76.

 Photo Kris Lee
I still refer to Art's first book, Fly Fishing for Trout on Rivers and Streams, as it continues to influence my approach to trout fishing.  If you haven't read it, I recommend you do as Art offers many thoughtful and practical ideas and techniques that will improve the way you think and approach the stream no matter where you angle for trout.  I've had the pleasure of meeting Art a number of times on the Beaverkill over the years, and it was he who introduced me to snowshoe rabbit foot for dry flies way back in 1983.

R.I.P. Art 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

More on Mercer's Missing Link From the Man Himself

Here's a link to a recent Fly Fisherman Magazine article by Mike Mercer on the Missing Link caddis as a follow up to my last post; thanks to an unknown reader.

LINK: Fly Fisherman Magazine / Fly-tying / Mercer's Missing Link 

I'm off to Montana, see you on the return.  Look for reports on my Instagram account - @mattgrobert

And sharpen your hooks!