Thursday, September 11, 2014

More on the Montana Trip

I didn't forget I owe you all the rest of the story.  

After the first evening on the Bighorn, we rented drift boats each of the next three days splitting up so each boat had one experienced rower at the helm.  We hit the water at the launch just below the Yellowtail afterbay dam somewhere around 9 each morning.  We had typical northern plains weather each day - cool, cloudy mornings followed by hot midday temps near 90, and then quick cooling once the sun dipped below the horizon.  Despite a bright sun breaking through by non each day, it was pleasant wading in shorts and a t-shirt.  In fact, it was perfect standing in the cool river in knee deep flows with high sun maintaining just the right balance in the dry air.  


Here's the best part of fishing this big river in late July; almost on cue at 11:30 am, the little black caddis start hatching in waves.  And also like clockwork, the trout start taking them off the film in the skinny water.  Anywhere there was thin water flowing over a long, gravel laden flat, trout lifted their heads to sip in the abundant caddis.  When the hatch first started, the rises were subtle and quick, and by mid-afternoon the rises were aggressive and obvious.  For some reason though, just about every other angler, with only a very few exceptions, continued to fish nymphs in the deeper runs and pockets.


We targeted the skinny gravel flats most often found just above each of the many islands where hundreds of hungry trout fed on the caddis like they hadn't eaten in weeks.  I set up with a 12 to 13 foot leader tapered to 5X, and a single black caddis dry that consisted of a short amber shuck, a grey-olive body, and a dark caribou hair wing or cdc wing tied x-caddis style.  We would beach the drift boat at the top of an island, and three of us would fan out on the knee-deep riffles above and cast upstream and slightly across to rising fish.  A good cast and drag-free drift over a working fish usually elicited a take and most often a hook-up.  We had a blast each day working a flat/riffle for an hour or two, and then moving down river to the next shallow riffle.  By the end of the day we were pretty beat, but also excited from a full day of dry fly fishing for hard fighting good-sized browns and an occasional rainbow.

Here's the senior member of our crew, Joe Lehner, landing a nice brown he took just after the little black caddis started hatching.  Joe is 79, and lays out a line as well as any of us youngsters.  He was also a pleasure to have in the boat with his many tales of his adventures over the years, and his incredible knowledge of Indian history - he is part Native American.  He is currently finishing a book on the topic, and spent a few days at nearby Little Big Horn doing some final research.        


You may recall that my luggage didn't arrive with my plane on Saturday.  It also didn't arrive Sunday or Monday, finally arriving late in the day Tuesday.  I finally had my clothes, vest, waders and fly tying equipment.  In case you are wondering, I did wear the same clothes over the period, although I washed my skivvies every night.  I could not have cared less; I had the things I needed to fish and we were having a blast  fishing, floating, eating and hanging out every night - I tied flies using Paul's vise and materials.

Next up, my last evening on the Big Horn, and the following day on DePuy's Spring Creek in Paradise Valley.

Be sure to stop by the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum this Saturday if you are up in the Roscoe/Livingston Manor, NY area.  The Dette Trout Flies/Partridge Hooks Fly Tying Day event will take place from 10am to 4pm.   I'll be demonstrating how to tie Catskill style dry flies, along with many other accomplished fly tyers demonstrating the same and other tying techniques.  Hope to see you there.

Sharpen your hooks.

1 comment:

Brian Cowden said...

Matt,
As you know, I fished that same river and section this past July (12-17) and we also had a phenomenal black caddis hatch each day. We were the only ones fishing dries as well! Seemed strange to me since we were killing them on top all day into the dark. What a hatch that is on the Big Horn. I only needed a single pattern the entire time I was out.