Thursday, July 30, 2009

Noah's Fishing Extravaganza

So the lucky boy got to get away from home for a few days.  He packed his bag and fishing gear and headed south to Gardiner to stay with his grandparents for about a week.  His Grandpa had a week of fishing trips all planned out.  They stopped at a few sporting good stores on their way out of town to stock up on tackle and off they went.  Noah was a usually.  He will fish from sunrise to sunset.  He was actually a bit peeved about Yellowstone Park's rule about not fishing after sundown.

Noah's first destination was Joffe Lake.  This beautiful lake lies in the northern part of the park near Mammoth Hot Springs.  It is filled with eager brookies and is a popular place to take children.  I was pleased to hear that Noah took many of his brookies on a fly.  He rigged a clear casting bobber to a spinning rod and drifted a Joe's Hopper to nail his limit of brook trout.  He returned to the lake several evenings and filled our freezer with very tasty brook trout.  

So if Noahs trip was a movie, Joffe is a romantic comedy.  Pretty easy going, but predictable.  Now for the epic...enter Yellowstone Lake.  The huge and vast body of water is intimidating to even the most seasoned anglers and the fish get BIG!  This was not your kiddy brooke trout pond, this is one of the largest freshwater lakes in America!  Noah fished hard all day with no luck.  He watched as several very large yellowstone cutthroats narrowly escaped capture through violent head shakes and the snapping of fishing lines.  Finally he struck pay dirt.  He landed a whopper.  A pig of a cutty.  He couldn't hold it with his hands so he just hugged it like a load of firewood.  The fish well surpasses the width of his shoulders and almost as big around as it was long.  Every bit of 4 pounds, this fish is offically Noah's biggest of his life (and I hate to say, bigger than anything I have caught in a long time!)

The boy couldn't have been more proud of himself.  He called me and talked and talked...and talked.  He was fired up and I was so happy for him and thankful that his Grandpa gave him that wonderful experience.  It will be hard for me to match.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Home Sweet Stone

I returned to my home river this past weekend for a whitewater/fishing float from my hometown of Gardiner.  My good friend Zach Jerla was generous enough to offer his raft so my wife and I, along with Zach and his fiance', hit the mighty Yellowstone at about 3 p.m.  The weather was not as hot as we would have liked and the temps hovered in the high 7o's with overcast skies for the majority of the day.  The "town stretch" thru Gardiner out the McConnell fishing access is the main whitewater on the Stone.  The rapids were at prime flows and we tackled some pretty intense rapids ending with the grand finale, Sleeping Giant Rapid.  The Giant wasn't sleepy at all, wide awake with fury and power.  
By the end of the whitewater, the beers cracked open and out came the florid.  I casted streamers most of the day and was able to hook one decent brown.  I fished on top a little but was only rewarded by the enthusiasm of undersized and over eager trout.  The float was great and we pulled out right at dark.  The fishing was mediocre to say the least and as you can tell from my wife's netting skills, what we really caught the most of was a good buzz.

The next day I walked Noah down to Chapman's beach and we continued our summer quest to catch Noah his first fish on a fly rod.  He is coming so close!  He makes the cast, mends the slack and has even had a fish on, we just haven't been able to land the fish yet.  The trout were still keyed on large dries due to the recent invasion and passing of the legendary salmonfly hatch.  I was able to stick a nice yellowstone cutty on a big orange simulator.  I let Noah play the fish to hand and snapped a nice pic.

I love the Yellowstone.  It is filled with memories and makes me long for my youth again.  Noah has also fell in love with the river.  Every-time we drive into the Paradise Valley and spot the epic estuary Noah says, "There's our river Dad."  It is wear it all began for him...and I.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

East Gallatin

Everyone has a river they call their own. We develop a bond to waters that are always there for us in time of need. For some it may be a pond in the middle of town. Regardless of the quality of the fishery, it is always great to have a spot that you can go to on 5 minutes notice. You learn the intimate details about the water and it becomes your campanion.

The East Gallatin River near Bozeman is my river. Often referred to as the "locals" river, it is wonderful fishery that wanderes through the Gallatin Valley from its head waters near Bozeman to its conflunce with the West Gallatin near Manhattan. The stream is filled with fish and on average produces larger fish than it more popular sister river. Much of the river is fed by spring creeks. This helps the river maintain its flows through most of the winter. Stories of a 13 lb brown being surveyed by FWP linger in the back of your mind everytime you swing a streamer through a deep dark hole.

I like to explore the river as much as I can, but more often than not I ended up at the bridge crossing 5 minutes from my house.  I then usually head down stream and start working the runs, riffles and undercuts that have become as familiar to me as a good friend.  Some times I show up at dusk to fish the evening rise for an hour.  Other times I am there at dawn.  Many trips are just quick trips, and serve more or less as a means to "get it out of my system" so i can focus on other things.  I often lay in bed at night and think about the deep undercut outside corner bends, mangled with roots and fallen trees.  I imagine a goliath that in my mind inevitability stalks these waters. I have already named this fish actually, even though I have no evidence of its existence.  I refer to this obsession as my quest to catch "The Beast of the East."

Now don't get me wrong.  I am not exclusively a big fish person and the East Gallatin is not the river for anyone who is.  It has its share of over-eager under-sized trout and on a slow freezing day in January you are very thankful for them.  The fish you catch consistently are on  average about 14 inches, with a few larger ones on good days.

Noah and my two daughters accompany me to the river at times.  I think its great that instead of watching a bobber at the Bozeman Pond, my kids stalk wild trout on wild rivers.  Noah catches 18 inch browns out of freestone streams, why go worm fishing for 6 inch blue gills.(We do do that sometimes when we have to).

Noah and I had a great day yesterday.  We hiked about a mile down river and started fishing a good run at about 3:30 p.m.  On my 3rd drift a good fish hammered my pheasant tail nymph.  This fish hit so hard I would not have needed an indicator, I felt it big time.  The fish gave me a pretty good fight.  He took some line and had my rod tip bent hard.  It turned out to be a healthy 16 inch rainbow, but he fought bigger than his size.  So I released the fish and let Noah have a go.  He had just bought a brand new gold Thomas Cyclone with his own money that day.  He pitched the spoon across the head of the run and slowly began reeling across the current.  About mid way his rod bent and he landed a beautiful healthy brown. We spent a few hours at this one spot and pulled several more fish out of it.  The rise was on and I switched to an elk hair caddis.  I couldn't get much action but I missed a good fish.  I saw the brown role and miss the fly.  I would guess this fish was 18-20".  I never got him to rise again.  The fish were more keyed on small PMD's and a size 16 parachute adams did the trick nicely.

So why do I deserve to call the East Gallatin "my spot?"  Why do I deserve to get pist and cuss a little when I see cars parked by "my" section of river.  Well I don't probably.  But I guarantee the majority of the people fishing in "my river" have not payed their dues.  I fished the east gallatin all but one weekend through the winter (completely frozen over)  I have spent hours in 10 degree weather trying to dead drift miniscule nymphs through a 3 foot opening in the ice.  I have lost countless streamers and crayfish patterns trying to lure  "The Beast" from his fortress.  I have skated mouse patterns along deep undercuts at midnight.  I was skunked the first 5 times I fished the river and I kept coming back.  I have dove into a deep pool to retrieve my stupid cell phone!  Yes, I would like to say that I have at least earned a share in the wonderful stream named the East Gallatin.