Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Great Day

 Noah and Ashton and I packed some snacks and our fishing stuff and took a drive over to the Gallatin River near Belgrade today.  We brought our 5 month old yellow lab Jax.  We hiked up river from the access about a mile to a nice deep run that I remembered from last summer.  We have had some very warm temperatures for this time of year (it got up to 60 this week!) and the river was flowing very good.  
This particular fishing spot brought back memories of a wonderful day last summer when I took all 3 of my kids to this spot and spent a great afternoon.  The kids played in the sand and splashed in the water.  They caught a handful of minnows from a shallow pool.  We ate lunch and I even had time to catch a fish or two out of the deep pool.  The sad part is that i actually caught my biggest fish of last summer from this 18 inch whitefish.  Needless to say last summer wasn't a good one for large trout.
Back to the present.  Our "secret spot" looked very different than it had in August.  The sand bar was nothing but a sheet of snow and ice and the pool itself was crowded by a thick ice shelf that shrunk the river by at least half.  Despite these changes, the spot was still very fishable and by standing on the ice it was an easy cast and drift to get the flys to where the fish were.  
Noah brought his spinning rod rigged up with nymphs and a casting bobber.  I tried a few different small nymphs with no success.  I then tied on a small red san juan worm tied from very ultra chennile on a size 16 hook.  I raised the indicator to well over the depth of the water and placed a small split shot above the fly.  I wanted to make sure I was on the very bottom.
On the first cast, I watched the indicator jig as the fly bounced on the gravel bottom and then it suddenly disappeared.  A few seconds later I had landed a 10 inch rainbow.  Ah ha! I thought.  I tied the same fly on for Noah and we both began catching fish.  By the time we had finished we had pulled 8 fish out of this one run, the biggest being a nice brown of about 15 inches (a decent fish for the Gallatin).  This of course does not include the fat sucker that Noah snagged off the bottom of the river.
We returned to the truck at about 4:00 p.m.  Just a wonderful day on the river with the kids.

Monday, January 12, 2009

1st Fish of The Year

   I headed down to a good friends cabin in Paradise Valley in early January.  I did not take Noah which always makes me feel guilty, but the ice shelves on the banks of Yellowstone where too dangerous to bring the little guy. (This will prove to be true a little later in this post.)
I drove over the pass to Livingston and then swung south into the valley at about 11 a.m.  I took the pine creek road across the river and then drove another 7 miles or so on the east river road to the Jerla's cabin.
It had been calm and in the 50's when I left Bozeman, but the Paradise Valley's trademark winds had things feeling a bit cooler.  Zach greeted me with a beer and we rigged up our rods.  I tied on a black and orange bitch creek I had tied the night before and dropped a yellow stone fly nymph about 10 inches off the shank of the hook.
We then hiked about 15 minutes upriver on the Old Yellowstone Trail.  This was old wagon trail that was once the only trail to Yellowstone Park.  As I had suspected the river banks were frozen out about 10 feet from the regular shore line, shrinking the river by a good 30%.  We reached a bend in the river and spotted some promising pools.  We stopped in an old historic concrete dug out the drink a beer and get out of the wind.
The bend in the river had a large pool of back water which was now a wind blown mixture of sand and ice.  We carefully crossed this out to the main channel and began fishing a nice deep run. 
Zach started fishing a about 50 yard above me.  I made about 15 casts up stream, dead drifting the nymphs thru the fast water and then riding the back current back around.  The drifts were long and covered a lot of water.  I knew there had to be fish holding in this spot, but it was January and the trout were not likely to chase anything.I figured I should keep working the spot and if the fly moved close enough the fish would take.  I patiently continued dredging the run, when the indicator made a slight pause.  It was so subtle, I'm not sure why i even reacted, but when I lifted the rod I was pleased to feel the wonderful tugging of the fighting fish.   The fish was heavier than I expected and got into the current and took a little line.  I began playing it on the reel and then the thought first crossed my mind that I didn't know how i was going to land this fish.  The last 2 feet of ice near the water was pretty thin and this fish was a little too big to jerk up onto shore.  I then started to doubt that I would even have the opportunity because this feisty trout kept diving for cover under the ice shelf.  I winced a few times as I waited for my leader to snap, but it never did.  
Zach had walked over at this time and asked if I needed the net.  I said yes, and Zach made his way towards the fish which had now made its way towards the top of the run near the faster water.  Zach stepped out on what appeared to be sand and as he leaned to net the fish the whole bank disappeared from under him.  Zach plunged neck deep into the icing Yellowstone. 
He quickly turned back toward shore.  I offered him my hand but for some reason that was insulting to him.  He drug himself onto shore, soaked from head to toe.  After all of this I still had the fish on.
The trout was tiring and I was able to swing him to a safer landing zone.  Zach, acting as if nothing had happened quickly reach out and netted the fish.  It was a fat and healthy rainbow, about 14 inches long.  Zach being the great friend that he is snapped a picture, and I then released the beautiful fish back into the river.
At this point I urged Zach to start running for home before he became hypothermic.  It was about 25 degrees with a stiff 30 mph wind.  The funny thing is Zach actually contemplated it!  He finally made a b line for the house for some dry cloths.  He returned in about 1/2 hour and we continued fishing.
We only stayed on the water for another hours and i was only able to snag a sucker with my dropper after it took a strike at my lead fly.  We  returned to Zach's place and warmed up some old pizza, had a few beers and watched the NFL playoffs.  I headed for home just before dark.
The fish in itself was nothing spectacular, but it was the first of 2009, and was netted by a good friend.  This in itself mixed with a little drama made for a great day of fly fishing in January.

Friday, January 2, 2009


It is now 2009 and Noah and I have entered this year with a shared passion for fly fishing.  The spark reignited with me late last summer and as exploded with full force which has become even a little obsessive at times.  As my fishing outing became more and more frequent Noah’s interest has grown and grown. 

            At first I always packed along a carton of night crawlers and let him do the bait and bobber thing, but he quickly graduated to chucking spinners.  As he watched my catch a few fish on the fly rod he became more and more interested in fly fishing.  We soon began tying nymphs and a casting bobber to his spin rod and fishing that way.  At Christmas he got his first fly rod, a 6 1/2 foot eagle claw noodle rod.  We also began tying flies together.  Although the last 1/2 of 2008 was filled with some interesting stories, I am choosing to let those go and begin a fishing journal for the new year of 2009.  Noah accompanies me on most of my fishing excursions so he will definitely be a central character.  I see this as a special year for both of us as we both learn and grow in this newfound love that we share.