Monday, May 25, 2015

Impromptu Bear Hunt

What does a bear hunt have to do with fishing?  Not much.  But the adventure started with an attempted fishing trip.  It was just the kids and myself, and we set out to find a way into one of the more prominent drainages in the mountains near our home.  We'd looked down into it from another spot once before, but the kids being the ages they were, we didn't go further.  There's no trail I'm aware of, and any road that leads into the valley travels through private land for miles before entering forest service.  Perhaps the stream is a dud, or perhaps its a little gem tucked away under everyone's noses.

The kids and I set out to explore a possible access point, packs loaded with sandwiches, fly gear, and maybe a stuffed animal or two.  We followed the gps with ownership overlay to the point where a nearby road intersected a patch of BLM ground.  On a map it looks like a short hike over to the stream on that public ground.  In reality its a sheer rock face.  Two hundred yards away on private land it'd be a stroll through the pasture.  Such is life.  We continued on up the road till we could hike in above that cliff, but we were now way above the stream we wanted to hit.  The kids had already done a ton of vertical for their little legs and we paused to sit on the spine of the ridge to eat a sandwich and take in the view while listening to the rush of the unreachable stream pounding below us. 

It was then that I noticed a moving black dot on a slope nearly one mile distant across the valley.  A quick check with the binos confirmed what I anticipated - it was a bear.  Spring bear season was open, and I would love to have been hunting anyway.  I'd been out a few times previously but hadn't spotted one yet.  Today I figured a hunt was not realistic since it was just me and the kiddos and had settled on a different kind of adventure.  So of course I'd see one now.  And all I've got on me is the .44 mag sidearm for unpleasantly close encounters. Certainly not for lobbing slugs outside of bow range.

I watched the bear for over half an hour, and spent the entire time aiding my son and daughter in trying to find it.  I think my daughter saw it.  She's always the first to spot animals, and her body language said she was telling the truth.  My son spent too much time despairing over his inability to find it to have been able to spot it in the first place.  Trying to point it out to him was like trying to shove a melon through a keyhole.  However, he obviously believed me whole-heartedly despite not being able to find it himself (which all too often in his little mind it's "if I don't see it, it couldn't possibly exist") because when I suggested that we go on up the ridge and see if we could find a place that would allow an easier descent to the creek, he and his sister both protested that we weren't going to go after the bear.  I tried to explain it was too far and across too much terrain, plus I didn't have my rifle.  I said we'd have to go home to get it.  They jumped at that, and said "Let's do it then."

I mulled this over and decided to humor them.  In reality, it was very doable - without them.  But, this was now their hunt as much as it was mine.  I wasn't going to try and figure out a way to drop them off somewhere, even if it basically killed my chances of being able to make a move on it.  The bear was obviously content roaming over the piece of hillside he'd claimed as his own.  Chances were decent he'd be on it all afternoon.  To do this we needed to hike back to the truck and drive around to a different drainage anyway in order to be able to hike in from above the bear as well as to cross the expanse of private land between us, so why not detour another five miles and pick up the rifle at home.  We stopped at the house long enough for me to grab the rifle, some blaze orange, and stuff a few meat bags into my pack.  I dumped out the fly gear and other oddball things that were now no longer in the plans for use today and traded them for a few hunting gadgets like my rangefinder and smoke-in-a-bottle.

We drove back up into the mountains, this time on the opposite side of the drainage we'd been hoping to drop down into for the day.  Before we left the ridge we had watched the bear from, I projected where I thought the bear was and dropped a pin there on my gps - nine tenths of a mile from our vantage point on the opposite mountainside.  I knew the area a little bit from other hikes and hunts out that way and was able to tell from glassing the mountainside that we'd be able to park at a particular tailhead, hike a ways on established trail, and then drop down a spur ridge before
reaching the hollow the bear was in.  A few lone pines at the head of the slope made for good markers.  I tried to explain all of what I was doing to the kids.  The way I was mapping out the hillside for later that afternoon when we actually got there.  Why we'd need to remember those trees, that ridge, the old burned spot.  Maybe it will make sense to them later in life if not that very afternoon.

We'd spotted the bear about 3 or 3:30  and had watched it for more than half an hour.  The kids had tumbled down the mountainside and made it back to the truck in record time.  It was unbelievable seeing their motivation.  By 5:30 or so we had been home and were leaving the next trailhead.  By 6:30 we'd reached the ridge we needed to go down.  I couldn't believe their determination.  I'd never seen them hike like this.  As we were driving I'd tried to explain how there could be no whining.  There had to be silence and they had to go as fast as they could.  If they got hurt, they needed to stay as quiet as possible.  They needed to be tough if they wanted to see this bear again,  and they assured me they were up for it.  So far they were proving themselves.

We left the trail when we got to the ridge I speculated was the one above where the bear had been foraging earlier in the day.  I explained how there was only a small chance he'd still be in the same area.  I tried to temper expectations. But really, he could be anywhere around us now, given that we were just a short distance from where he'd been "as the bear walks."  I tried to impart lessons of how not to take in too much field of view before you could see it all -  how we needed to pause and look every few steps because new clearing was exposed every time we stepped;  that it was imperative we see the bear before it sees us or there'd be no chance.  We checked the wind with my little bottle of powder.  My daughter instantly grasped the concept of being smelled and asked me several times as we descended to see which way the wind was blowing.

We'd now bitten off a lot of distance and elevation.  I'd had my doubts we'd make it this far, but they were really pushing.  Their silence was stunning.  Not only did they not talk or complain, but they walked with extreme care. They stifled cries when they slipped and fell or raked thorns across their shins.  It was amazing.  I'd never seen them behave like this.  Still, we had to cover everything we'd covered so far again in a return trip.  We finally got to a vantange point that would let us confirm whether or not I'd chosen the right ridge.  Sure enough, there were the landmarks I'd noted and pointed out from the other side.  My projected gps point fell within only a few hundred yard of where I'd last seen the bear from nearly a mile away.  Had we been sitting on this spot at 3:00 in the afternoon, it would have been a very easy shot.  I showed the kids where we'd been earlier.  I tried to impress upon them the magnitude of what we'd done so far and how we'd been able to navigate right to the spot we'd been watching earlier in the day.  And then, there it was.

The bear was much further down slope from where it'd been hanging earlier.  Way down there.  It was working the margin between the edge of an aspen stand and a clearing.  It was actually on the private land, but only barely across the line.  As much wandering as it'd been doing, chances were good it'd be back on the forest service soon.  The most important thing was that now, all at the same time, all three of us could see it plain as day.  High fives and smiles were had all round at our success.  Take this bear or not, we'd pulled off a feat, and I was so thankful to have Cooper and Cadi rewarded for their efforts.  It was fun watching their excitement. I pointed out the things they'd accomplished to get us to where we were and told them how proud I was of all they'd done.

We watched the bear for a bit, and there was no indication that it was headed anywhere.  Just wandering and foraging like it had been doing all day.  I was hesitant to make the drop.  It was a lot of elevation to lose, and even as good as the kids had been doing, I was uncertain of the humongous climb that was inevitable to return to the truck.  I told it to the kids plainly, glossing nothing over - the return trip, the climb, darkness, and the fact that the bear wasn't even on land we could take it from.  They were both wholeheartedly committed to making a move.

I laid out my plan to the kids.  I pointed to the terrain we'd cover, the ridgelines we'd cross and the timber we'd hide ourselves with.  They soaked it up.  We dropped down down down.  The next time we got to a vantage point, we got to watch the bear stand on its hind legs and peer over a fence - it had crossed back onto public ground.  It scratched its back on a corner post.  We were around 600 yards out.  Well beyond what I was willing to shoot, but now within range for many folks.

One last drop got us within the range we needed to be.  Time passed and it didn't show in the beautiful strip of meadow I'd picked out that it should have appeared in based on the last course it was walking.  There were two main funnels it could be taking - the draw to the left and the draw to the right.  We zigzagged between them, peering over the edge of each trying to catch sight again.  There it was, right back at that fence post again.  The marker between public and private lands.  I held each kid up in turn so they could see it again over the tops of the trees.  Alone, I would have been on that bear a long time ago.  But this was fantastic.  I was stalking a bear with my two little buddies, and they were eating it up.  I saw the bear commit to a direction - the draw to the right - and I reacted accordingly, dashing to a slight knob below us that was going to give us a two-to-three hundred yard shot as it meandered by.  I say "dashing" but the pace was brutally slow.  Still, I felt really good about our chances as we dug in on that knob.  I deployed the bipod and started glassing in earnest.  We had made it to the moment we'd been working toward all afternoon and evening.  I had just stalked to within range of a bear with my two kids.  Only a couple days ago they had finished up kindergarten and first grade.

There were more trees than I'd hoped, and the view was solidly obstructed in a couple spots.  There were plenty of open patches for it to pass through, but just as many thickets to obscure it.  My daughter noted that the wind was good.  I shook my head that she was even thinking of that.  The minutes ticked by.  It didn't show.  Maybe it'd moved on through unaware of our presence and never crossed into our field of view.  Maybe it figured us out.  Maybe we didn't get to the little knob in time.  But it didn't show.

Obviously, if we shot this bear we'd be hiking out in the dark.  But with the bear not showing and presumably gone, I began to lean towards beginning the monumental climb while there was still daylight.  We wouldn't retrace our steps.  We would now head back up in a more direct route because of where we had ended up.  Lots of clear mountainside we couldn't have approached through before, but also some timber and old burn patches.  I was winging it a bit though, having not walked that route before, and was feeling the urge of cautiousness when it came to bushwacking our way back to the truck across a couple miles and a few hundred feet of vertical. Especially in the dark.

We eased down through the aspen stands and scattered spruce groves.  The kids maintained their vigilance as we peeked into each new opening.  If the bear was still here, it was right here.  We were walking on ground we'd watched it cover from above.  We walked up to the fence posts it had stood next to and pulled some of its hair off the barbed wire.  The kids examined the rocks it had overturned as it foraged in the field.  With teamwork, they managed to roll one of them back into the hole it'd left behind when the bear flipped it over.  We were so close!  They were so disappointed to not take it home.  And boy had they worked for it.

They watched closely as I mapped out the route ahead of us with my finger.  They weren't pleased with the climb that was coming, but they did it.  There was some moaning now and again.  Some downright whining on occasion.  But the progress was steady.  I often had each of them by the hand, one on each side.  They were scared of the idea of hiking in the dark, and still despairing over leaving the bear behind.  But the time was passed as we noted the landmarks of all the places we'd been today, now seen from yet another angle.  They'd stop and stare at the view.  Cadi would pick flowers.  Cooper found a spider eating a stink bug.  We crossed over some old mining remnants and glassed some deer.  The monotony and strenuousness of the climb was broken up with plenty of delightful deviations.  Cadi remained in high spirits, and her silliness and laughter kept Cooper happy.
The adventure was grand.  The hike was beyond incredible for what I expected out of them.  Their drive toward and attentiveness to the hunt was inspiring.  And I was in awe that they could have been that quiet.  Shocked really.  We'd accomplished far more than I expected we would, let alone actually find the bear again and then move in on it.  It is a day we'll all remember.  We didn't pull the trigger, but we had been utterly successful.  We even made it back to the truck with enough daylight to see.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Squeeze'n it in

Recent travel - like any time I stray further from home than my mailbox - caused me to analyze where during the day I might squeeze in some time on water I would be passing. I had a meeting to attend in the field a couple hours north. Then I had another site to visit an hour east of there. Like so many day trips for work, travel and fieldwork combined would exceed a normal eight hour day. Working some fishing into the mix would be bonus. I decided to leave early and stop along the Missouri before the day got started. It was windy and somewhat bitter. Miserable, but always worth it. The few diehard boats on the water were rowing hard to keep from blowing back upstream. My kind of people.....
I only had about an hour, so I walked the bank tossing jigs. I picked up a pretty decent rainbow and one brown. 

After the work for the day was complete several hours later, I found myself driving along a stream I'd seen several times but never fished. It was before the small stream 'opening day' in Montana, but I was intrigued enough with the idea of new water that I dug through the reg book to see if this creek was a listed exception. I was in luck. Water was high with spring melt, but it was amazingly clear.  Being new water and high water, I opted to sample the local aquatic wildlife with my long
rod and light jigs. I picked my way along the bank, looking for pockets and eddies. Right off the bat - literally along the rip rap of the highway where I parked - I hung a decent fish that I didn't get to see. A couple hundred yards and seemingly as many casts later, I came across a very nice hole that was out of character with the rushing, shooting water I'd been making my way along so far. The opposite bank
had a strong back eddy against brush and undercut root mass. The depth was fantastic, and in lower water the entire hole would be prime. Right now there was just too much water to work a lure or break through to a fish holding depth, except on the opposite bank. Nine and a half feet of graphite lifted the line and bridged the distance between me and the opposite eddy without any drag being created from the rushing water in between. An underhand toss would place the jig on the current seam, a drop of the rod tip would feed line for depth to be achieved, and then the jig could be worked with finesse and next to no influence from the raging water between me and it. In short, I was high-sticking jigs. A long rod excels in these conditions.

I started picking up good fish. First some browns, then some rainbows. I lost more than I landed. I fished until I was satisfied that I'd spent some quality time on new water and had a good feel for what it had to offer. I began to mentally scheme a possible third stop for the day on the way home. It would be back along the Missouri, but the weather was improving and there were likely to be some thick hatches that evening. A quick tally of remaining daylight found that I'd have about an hour and a half if I left right then. I wrestled with the idea of using daylight to drive another hour or so when I could just fish right where I was, but the thought of some topwater action won out.
Some time later, as the day was 
drawing to a close, I stepped out of the truck along the banks of the Missouri. The wind was gone. The chill from earlier in the day had lifted. I was 20 miles downstream from where I'd pulled off in the morning. I'd chosen this pullout for a couple of weedy current seams I'd noted on previous floats. I figured they'd be full of fish feeding on top, and I had a hankering to float some flies. I was still in my waders from earlier, so I all I needed to do was string up a different rod and take a short hike. I stood in the tall grass and watched one of the current seams. Fish were feeding all right. Smaller rainbows were nailing blue winged olives like bluegills taking bread crumbs in a duck pond. Occasionally a big broad dorsal would rise and fall, or a slurp most likely made by a fish with some heft would interrupt the surface.

The day ended with several scrappy rainbows coming to hand. My fly would drift along the seam lost in a sea of the real thing. It was hard to keep up with which one was mine. But I had several takes. I missed as many as I connected with, and landed half of those. The other half flew off in fantastic leaps or overzealous runs.  I captured some pictures of a few and an action shot or two. 

I started the morning looking for some size as I worked big jigs at depth. In the afternoon I sampled some new water. I finished off the evening targeting pods of surface-feeding fish for some visual-take thrills and fly rod fighting fun. Leave a little early, come home a little late, and turn a normal day into a fish-finding day where zinging drag still rings in your ears as you drift of to sleep.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Streamers, rain, and snow

To kick off spring my family loaded up the camper last weekend and headed over the mountains to one of our favorite spots. April brings the sandhill cranes back to Montana, and this place is alive with them. Their croaking, shuddering call fills the valley.  The weather forecast looked clear. The cooler was stocked with good foods. The propane tanks were topped off. Cranes were everywhere. We arrived at dusk on Thursday after work. We'd taken Friday off of work and school, giving us three nights and most
of three days. We set up camp along one of my favorite smaller-water brown trout streams. On trips like these I generally sneak out of the camper in the dark, fish the dawn hours, and return after everyone else is up and ready to do whatever is on the list for the day.  I took my son with me on this first morning. He wanted to go, which isn't always the case.  Naturally we were slower in getting started than I would have been alone (by a lot), but no matter, there were two more mornings to go.  My son views fishing as a harvest - he's there for the picking.  It never fails that after a fish is caught, he is ready to go cook it right then and there.  I slid our first catch onto a stick and he happily carried it for a couple more holes, but it was obvious he was ready to take this brown back to the camper and get it into a frying pan.

We spent the rest of the day exploring some mountain roads and trails, returning to camp in a spring rain shower.  There were a couple of prime time daylight hours left, so I suited up in waders and rain gear and strung up a fly rod.  I'd seen some variety of stonefly hatching that morning, so I started with a stonefly nymph under a high-riding stonefly dry.  The dry was more of an indicator than anything, but I'd be happy to generate some surface activity if I could.

The shower passed over and behind it the brilliant evening sun broke out, washing the valley in a golden hue that covered everything.  The cranes called from all around and flew in from surrounding fields, maybe to feed in new puddles that now seemed to be everywhere.  An intense rainbow followed the backside of the rain shower as it drifted off to the east.  The stonefly set up drifted untouched through hole after hole.  The sun was becoming less brilliant.  The clock was ticking.  I wasn't seeing the hatch I'd seen that morning.  I really wasn't seeing any hatch at all.  Nothing.  A switch was in order.  With nothing to imitate, I decided on an experimental rig.  I wanted to fish a mouse pattern.  I've just been itching to lately.  But I didn't trust it was the right time to fish it and really felt like a streamer
was a better choice.  So, I did both.  I tied on a foam-backed moorish mouse pattern and trailed it with a cone-headed olive blossom special.  Both seemed over-sized for the little water - but nothing is oversized on a brown trout stream.

Neither fly fished at its peak performance.  Each was a bit inhibited by the other.  But I pressed forward with the experiment.  The mouse rode a little lower than it should, but the action was fairly true and it skirted across the riffles just fine.  The streamer swung behind it, perhaps not as deep as it otherwise may have gone, but a decent swing nonetheless.  There was a "jigging" retrieve I could produce with the streamer because of the mouse, where I could hop the mouse out of the water and back in again, essentially letting the streamer jump and then free-fall like a jig along undercut banks.  It was an action I couldn't have achieved with just the streamer alone.

The first hit came on the streamer, and in mid-swing near the center of the stream.  I didn't notice the mouse disappear, I just became aware of the dead weight.  The hookset brought heavy head shakes, a flash of gold beneath the surface, and then my double fly rig sailing back at me through the air.

The second hit came a couple casts later, from the same hole but across to the opposite bank.  This one took the mouse in a satisfyingly explosive strike that, quite honestly, caught me off guard.  The line came tight on a solid fish that appeared to be doing a gator role on the surface.  Again my double fly rig came flying back at me through the air.

My heart was pumping now.  The experiment was a success, and no way was I modifying the rig now.  Not
with less than an hour of daylight remaining.  I lost a third fish that took the streamer again.  Ahead of me was a hole against a sandstone cliff that forced the river to make a 90 degree bend.  I've encountered fish stacked along that wall in the past, so I decided to skip what was in front of me and hike to that hole to finish out the day.  After all, I had tomorrow and the next day to refine my methods and hit more of the stream that I was skipping over.

I had action right away in the hole along the sandstone ledge.  The stream hits the wall in about the middle of its length.  In years past it has flowed along the entire wall, hitting it further up. Right now that makes for a deadwater backchannel, the mouth of which is separated from the stream by an eddy rotating rapidly back upstream.  I launched the mouse and streamer into this eddy and missed two browns that aggressively chased the streamer from the eddy to the main flow.

I finally hooked up with a fish that stuck on the streamer when I skated the mouse down the main current till it hit the wall and started its parallel course to the rock.  After I landed that brown I repeated the drift and immediately hooked up with another.  I landed three fish along that wall.  All on the
streamer.  The last hit hard and took off downstream without breaking the surface.  It took all the line I had out and then peeled more from the reel.  I actually had to chase it, reminiscent of running along behind a steelhead.  The fish hadn't felt that large at first, but now I was beginning to wonder.  It was really getting too dark to see much, but the first glimpse I got proved it wasn't any giant and I speculated that it was foul hooked.  When I finally got it under control in the tailout of the next hole down, I found that it was hooked neatly in the jaw.  It may have gone 19 inches.  I didn't measure, but it wasn't 20.  It wasn't a bad fish, but it had fought way beyond its actual size.  Pound for pound (or inch for inch maybe), this has to have been the hardest fighting trout I've tied into this spring.  Even a brown I caught in the Missouri back in February, or another back in October in another river, either of which could literally have swallowed this one whole put up such mellow fights  that it wasn't until I saw it that I realized how big it was.

I hiked back to the camper utterly satisfied with my experiment.  It'd been fun to find some bigger browns and to catch them on fly gear.  As I hiked back in the dark, my mind circled back to the larger fish of the evening that I hadn't hooked, and I thought that perhaps I'd pass back over them at first light with some big plugs, or maybe the streamer again.  At this point it was a toss up.  Either way, I felt like the morning had some awesome potential.

Back in the camper and playing a card game with my family, the rain began to drum on the roof.  It drummed and drummed.  It fell heavy and it fell steady.  It continued after lights out, and was still at it any time I woke up during the night.  I began to wonder what the river would look like in the morning.  If it would even be fishable.

Dawn light brought the end of the rain, but the river was certainly up.  It was stained but not so muddy that I didn't try.  Sometimes browns, and particularly big browns, will be out on the prowl in a freshly rising river.  But there was no action, and the river muddied further as a walked along it.  By evening, after returning from another explore into a neighboring mountain range, the river was trashed and logs were floating down it.That evening the only fishing was done by my daughter who was absolutely thrilled to intently search all the puddles and fish the earthworms out.

On the last day, we woke up to a blanket of snow.  The clear forecast had completely deteriorated.  We packed to leave in heavy, wet snow while the swollen river continued to rise from the rain that had ceased falling 24 hours earlier. 

Spring is always an adventure.  Sure am glad I got the couple hours in that I did, but it left a big, unsatisfied void in my appetite to fish that river. At least there was good food, a warm camper, and fun times had with the family in the outdoors of Montana.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Change of plans: a carp and the high water mark dance

Even the best of planned fishing trips can result in the need for spontaneity. A couple weekends ago my family took a trip visit some friends. Naturally we (er, I) stretched it as long as we (I) could and worked in some fishing (of course!). I towed the MiniFly down with the expectation spending a couple days floating the lower portion of the upper Yellowstone. I went so far as to spend half a day exploring put-ins and take-outs. But despite having been fishable for a string of several weeks, recent warm weather brought a surge of meltwater and sediment to the stream as low elevation snow faded from mountain flanks. Sampling a few spots on the bank while exploring resulted in only two or three hits.
Yellowstone backwater brown

One of those was a fine 19-inch brown that fell to a 3-inch plastic jig - the only fish I landed from the Yellowstone when originally I had planned to spend the entire weekend on that river. So after conferring with my fishing buds Mark and Travis for the following day, a 'plan B' was developed and we took the Stealthcraft out to the Bighorn.  The warming trend abruptly ended - bluebird sky, icy wind, and high pressure took over as we arrived. The fishing was probably about as slow as you'll see on the Bighorn.
There were three of us in the boat, and over the course of the day we each managed to land about five. There were a couple big fat rainbows just shy of 20 inches and several skinny little browns. One of the treats of the day was a hatch that took off in the afternoon which resulted in the first several dry fly catches of 2015. The surprise fish of the day was a carp that picked up a marabou Zig Jig where a beefy
Mark's dry fly monster
brown should have been. For about 20 seconds I thought we had beat the odds and connected with a trophy brown. The first glimpse I got flashed the right color, but something wasn't right proportionally. An awesome battle ensued and lots of grins were had. It was the gear-testing drag-peeling break in the non-action that we needed to help finish out the rest of the float. And with none of the urgency present that's always hanging in the air when a large trout is on board and ready for release, we took our time for some pictures, passed it around to guess the weight, put it on some scales, and then send it back to where it had come from. Poor fishing or not, what better way to spend the day than floating a famous Montana river with good friends.
Mark Johnson's photo of the Bighorn carp

As anticipated the Yellowstone was in no better shape the following day. If anything, it was probably worse.  This time, down to just two anglers, Travis and I left the boat in the driveway and headed toward a favorite stream of ours. A quick glance at a USGS hydrograph showed its flows stable and unchanged over the past few weeks. It is a river that does not receive much pressure, but could, and rightfully should, but for whatever reason remains largely undiscovered - or maybe just undesired. The scenery is fantastic Montana backdrop. In my opinion better than the Bighorn. The stream itself the kind of water that really appeals to me
sometimes. Typically deep and sluggish, the earthen banks often
tube sock brown as seen by my gorillapod tripod
vertical, the water somewhat silty. Baitfish are probably as common a forage as insects, and rarely do you ever see fish feeding on top. It certainly has its classic gravel stretches and rocky reaches, but for much of its course it doesn't fit the classic picture-definition of a freestone trout stream, although it is one in every sense of the word. It is not unknown by any means, and I've even seen it featured on a TV show. Like many Montana streams, access to it is hard due to surrounding private ownership. We planned the trip between public access points and spent the day doing the "Montana high water mark square dance" (keeping it between the lines and connecting the squares of public ownership).

"Hike your waders, cinch your belt. Come on now let's use your felt. 
Crossing here must be done, jump on in lets have some fun. 
To walk the bank would break the law, but gotta hit that hole I saw.  
Grab your partner and swing him round, quickly now he's going down.  
Cast on in and hook a trout, while he's a-workin' gettin' out."

Stream access law in Montana is a beautiful thing. So many other states have lost access to valuable natural resources which are our nation's waterways.

typical solid fish for the day
Weather conditions were on the mend from what we'd fished on the Bighorn but were not yet perfect. Being a smaller body of water, and therefore not as subject to the whims of weather, we hoped for more action than the previous day.  We hiked down a fishable tributary from a bridge through a patch of state land and dropped onto the main river. The hole where this tributary enters is one of the largest on this stretch of river. It has produced well on previous trips and was therefore the natural starting point. But on previous trips we had never had the time to explore all the way through to the next bridge crossing. So despite this being a favorite river to fish, we spent the bulk of the day fishing new water to both of us. The action could not be described as hot, but it was coming fast enough that you anticipated in every hole. I started the day off in that very first hole with a 19-and-a half-inch brown. Not to be out done that early in the day Travis proceeded to land a 20 inch brown from the opposite bank of the same hole. Those were the two biggest fish of the day. We only caught a few small ones, most were solid browns in the 15 to 18 inch range. Whatever Travis did with his presentation was appealing to whitefish. He landed half a dozen of those while I never hooked the first one. The browns picked up jigs and swiped at  Rapala countdowns. Two of them even came up and took a big number 11 floater off the surface like a summer time bass. That stream is begging to be moused....
Another fine brown

Two days of Montana fishing. Neither day was spent on water that had been planned originally. Fish came on nymphs, dry flies, jigs, and plugs. Four species of fish were brought to hand. Dirty water was avoided, clear water was found. Miles were logged across prairie and over mountain, by boat and on foot. What more could be asked?

Great fish to end on