Monday, May 23, 2016

Spring has arrived

Bryan Allison  Steinmetz Outfitters

Spring is here for real in Montana. Not only has it arrived, but it feels like summer is bearing down at an overwhelming speed.  Things are green.  Fly shops are all open and buzzing with activity.  My favorite jigs always seem to be sold out. It rained the other day and I never saw even one snow flake in it.  The white is fading from the mountains.

And the trout are eating everything. You can expect to catch them on nearly any forage and at any position within the water column.  They are gorging on bugs, emphatically chasing minnows, and eating crayfish like candy.  I cleaned a couple rainbows for the grill with my kids the other day that were bulging with crawdads.

It's a great time of year to fish throughout all daylight hours - lots of action, not too hot, not too cold, not too grassy, willing surface feeders, and the big browns haven't yet faded into the nocturnal routine.  Take your pick of how to target and what to target.

On a recent float I saw other drift boats doing everything from nymphing to dries and streamers to wet flies. Everyone was catching fish. What didn't I see?  No one was reaching into the depths.

Sometimes I get fixated on looking for big browns along structure (okay, a LOT of the time).  And to me, the best way to reach them is to jig.  On this float I was drifting with a friend who I hadn't fished with before.  Gabe was perfectly happy to focus on jigging and see what it is I do when in that mode.  And honestly, I get a kick out of doing stuff that no one else is doing. Spinning gear may be taboo on fisheries dominated by the fly fishing industry, but to me the techniques, skill, and even the equipment itself can be just as artful.  And I sure don't mind the bonus of being about the only boat to reach fish along the bottom of 20-foot holes....

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The mouse hunt

My son got off the bus after school with a painted face.  His class had held some kind of party. He looked something like a warrior, although maybe closer to a football fan on bowl day.  I didn't realize how fitting it was going to be.

Once we got home, the kids piled out of the pickup and wandered around outside looking for the cat.  It wasn't waiting to greet them like it often is. It came trotting down the hill to their calls, mewing emphatically and carrying a mouse.  It sometimes brings the kids mice in a devoted sort of way.  This time it was live.  He placed it in front of them and let it go, seemingly wanting them catch it.  Maybe to finish it off.  I suppose he was 'teaching them to hunt on the pride.'

After a scramble, the mouse managed to squeeze between a log and the ground, mostly out of reach.  The cat didn't seem to mind, he just looked on approvingly as the two kids poked and prodded around the log.  Cooper stood up, an idea obviously forming, and asked enthusiastically through his face paint "Can I get the BB gun?"

"Sure," I said.

When he came back with the air gun I used a stick to ease the mouse out.  It moved down the outside of the log, seemingly hesitant to leave the only structure within sight.

Cooper fired a few rounds as Cadi cheered him on.  Then she begged for a turn and pumped a few of her own into the mouse.

The happy hunters collected their prize and walked up to the back patio.  They posed for a picture - Cooper in his war paint, Cadi with the fearless 'hound,' and the mouse stretched out on the concrete like a bear.

After the picture Cooper mentioned that he'd like to tack the hide to the wall of the shed.

"Huh?" I said.  "Skin a mouse?" 

"Yeah.  We should hang it up."

We'd read Where The Red Fern Grows aloud during Christmas break.  He had liked it so much he'd immediately read the whole book again when I finished.  I'm sure he was likening this to a coon hunt.