Friday, August 19, 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Armstrong Spring Creek - Montana

After fishing the Bighorn River for four days four of us headed over to Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston, to fish Armstrong Spring Creek for a day.   Armstrong is an internationally well-known destination that offers a wonderful fly fishing experience for a limited number of anglers each day in a beautiful setting. The river runs roughly parallel to the Yellowstone River and  is about 1.5 miles in length. The consistently clear, cold flows make it ideal for both hatches and wild trout production.  

When we arrived mid-morning, Pale Morning Duns (PMD's) were hatching well and fish rose to take them off the surface throughout the river.  The blue sky was a bright with sunshine, and the air calm, dry, and already very warm.   It was easy to find a target with all fish rising, but the varied currents and gin clear water made it necessary to to use long leaders, fine tippets and accurate casts from a well-chosen position.

I found a nice run where the river tightens below the long smooth pool you see above, and eased my way in a ways down from where several fish worked the edges of the faster currents.  I had almost 3 feet of 6X tippet on the end of a 10 foot leader, to which I tied a #16 PMD cripple, before casting my offering to a nice brown working the left edge of the run about 25-30 feet above my position.  The fish turned and followed my fly on that first cast before casually dropping back to its holding place with a seam in the undulating weeds that line the bottom of the river. My fly must have dragged.  The next cast I finished with hard follow through sending the fly well past where the fish was holding before stopping the rod tip short causing the line, leader and fly to bounce back, before landing on the water in nice "S" curves, and dropping the fly a foot and a half above the fish.  The fly drifted for a second before the fish rose up and took it with quick, audible sip, and I lifted my rod driving the hook into its upper jaw.  It jumped a few times and in few minutes I had my first 2016 Armstrong Spring Creek brown in my net.

By the time the sun was directly overhead, the PMD hatch was just about done for the day and in turn, fewer fish rose to the surface. The rise forms changed to; from confident, audible takes, to soft, silent sips. With the heat of the day upon us, the breeze had kicked up and big, fluffy clouds moved over the valley creating short-lived, passing shadows on the water.  Scattered tiny blue-winged olives, small caddis, midges and various terrestrials floated by, making fly selection a little more difficult.  For all we knew, each rising fish could be taking a different bug, or even taking whatever floated over them as their mood dictated.  I switched to a 7X tippet and tied on my pheasant tail simple snowshoe emerger in a size #22, and spent the next few hours stalking rising fish.  I took a bunch more fish, both rainbows and browns, and had a few more long distance releases.

The pheasant tail simple snowshoe emerger.  Learn to tie it HERE.

Below me, about halfway down the pool I was fishing, my son worked a bank lined with willows.  After missing a few on the take, he hooked and landed a nice rainbow on a PMD spinner.

We fished until dark, taking breaks every so often to go back to the car and rest in the shade, snack and hydrate.  We drank almost a case of water between the four of us - the dry air made it to the mid-nineties F. I stayed with the pheasant tail emerger and took quite a few more fish before calling it a day.  We had a great time, we all caught fish, and we plan on going back again next time we visit Montana.

Sharpen your hooks!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Angling Tips to Help Trout Beat the Heat

During the steamy “dog days” of August, it is important to remember that trout and salmon (coldwater sportfish) experience serious physical stress whenever water temperatures climb above 70° Fahrenheit. Heat stressed fish often seek pockets of cold water created by upwelling groundwater, small feeder streams, or water released from deep reservoirs. These refuges allow trout to avoid or recover from potentially fatal levels of heat stress. You can help by taking the following precautions during your warm weather fishing trips.

Avoid catch and release fishing for heat stressed trout. Trout already weakened by heat stress are at risk of death no matter how carefully they are handled.
Don’t disturb trout where they have gathered in unusually high numbers. Because these fish are likely to be suffering from heat stress and seeking relief, responsible anglers will not take unfair advantage of their situation.

Fish Early. Stream temperatures are at their coolest in the early morning.

Go to Plan B! Have an alternate fishing plan ready in case water temperatures are too high at your intended destination. Consider fishing a water body that is less prone to heat stress or fishing for a more heat tolerant species like smallmouth bass.

By paying attention to water temperatures and adapting fishing strategies to changing conditions, anglers can help trout and salmon to beat the heat.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bighorn River Q & A

A few of you have sent me emails, and one a comment, asking for more information about the Bighorn. So I've taken the questions from the comments on my post of July 13, which covers the gist of what others have asked, and pasted them here along with my answers. Please keep in mind that my answers are based on my own experiences fishing the river in July, and mostly from the perspective of the dry fly angler. I have fished the river using subsurface flies, but only when absolutely nothing is hatching or rising. 

Sure would like to hear about your Bighorn River trip! Did you wade, or float? Float, it flows through the Crow reservation and access is very limited without a drift boat. We started everyday below the afterbay, and stopped/anchored in the places we saw rising fish or that we wanted to explore, or that we knew from past trips hold fish. 

Which section(s) did you fish, and which areas did you like most?  This year we floated from the afterbay to 13 mile once, and the other three days from the afterbay to 3 mile.  Below three mile the river had a lot of algae and plant matter in the water, and the one day we drifted to 13 mile we saw very few rising fish below 13 mile, and the water was "dirty".  That said, it may be different next year, so don't assume anything because everytime we go it is different.  Two years ago we fished to 13 mile everyday because we found hatches and fish the whole way, and the water was clean. 

What times of day did you find most productive?  We caught fish all day long.  They do turn off for short periods, but I haven't found one time is better than another.  In the evening, lots of fish rise, but they can be very snooty and you'll have to work for them - lengthen your leader and tippet, and take your time so you make good casts and get drag-free drifts the first time over the fish.  

Was the dry fly fishing good throughout the day, or did you nymph until evening? Most people fish nymphs and do well - like 80% of all the angler fish subsurface.  But if you want to fish dries all day, and are willing to work and be patient, you can catch fish all day using dries and catch fish.  I only fished dries all day long all four days, and caught a lot of fish,

Did you stay in Fort Smith?  We rented a cabin in Cottonwood Campground.  We have also rented cabins in the past through other means and stayed in Ft. Smith, and they seem to all be good.  None of the guys I go with need amenities - the cabin is for sleeping, eating and tying flies and getting a good shower in the am.  

What were the good and bad things about the trip? It's a vacation in Montana, what can be bad about it?

The bottom line is that it's like anything else in life; it is what you make of it.  We go every year (25+ years)  and have a blast no matter what the weather is like, how good the fishing is (its always good, even when it is bad), and even when we invite a new guy and he turns out to be an asshole to travel and stay with (he doesn't get invited back again).  That didn't happen this year; my son was the new guy and he's in for life. : )

Life is short and fishing in Montana or anywhere is awesome. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Montana - The Bighorn River

It's been a week since we returned from our trip to Montana.  A very fast week, one that felt like any other week at work, and except for the memories of another great trip its almost as though we never went away.  Time does fly!  This year's trip was special though because my son Hunt joined the usual cast of charactors I go with every year. 

The first leg of the trip was spent fishing the Bighorn River.  This time of the year the weather in South-Central Montana is hot and dry with daily temps in the 90's and nighttime lows in the upper 50's.  The river is cool though, with the highest temp I recorded being 56 degrees F.  So, during the day we wet-waded in shorts, and then switched to waders the last couple of hours of daylight. Covering your head and arms, and plenty of sunscreen, makes the days pleasant while you fish and drift the big, wide river and it's numerous long pools, riffles and channels.

The river is surrounded by the Crow Indian reservation, so access is very limited and thus the river is best fished using a drift boat.  We rented a couple each day for the six of us; drifting from one spot to the next as we made our way down river.  We rarely fished from the boat.

This time of the year the black caddis hatch every day from late morning until dusk, when both hatching and egg-laying occurs.  And the trout rise to them, mostly in the riffles, 1-2 feet of water. So what did we fish?  Dry flies, and only dry flies, on fairly long leaders, 11-12 feet long.  And fishing only x-caddis and egg-laying caddis, #16 and 18, as I posted on July 13.   And we caught fish, lots of fish; both rainbows and browns, with the browns out numbering the rainbows about 5:1.  The average fish was a good 14 inches, with some pushing 20.  I also managed a few over 20; it's a amazing how many fish are in this river!

Here's my son with his first Montana trout, a Bighorn brown.  

And here's a typical Bighorn brown.  These fish are well-fed and fight hard.  Often these browns will jump several times just as their cousins the rainbows do.

Sunset after four days fishing the Bighorn.

Sharpen your hooks, and if you fish the Bighorn, bring plenty of water along!

Eric Clapton Lands the Biggest Salmon of the Summer

UK musician Eric Clapton has been enjoying the salmon rivers in Iceland and yesterday he managed to set the record for hauling the biggest salmon of the summer in the Vatnsdalsá river so far, guide Sturla Birgisson informed Morgunblaðið. Clapton had to run a good kilometre down river with the salmon before he was finally able to draw it ashore, the salmon was hooked and after an exciting hunt came ashore just over an half hour later, measuring 108 cm and weighing 28 pounds, making it the biggest to come ashore from Vatsdalsá river this summer.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Local Teen Heads to Spain for World Youth Fly Fishing Championship - Leigh Valley Regional News

The lure of the river shapes the life of 18- year-old fly fisherman Doug Freemann.

"More you learn and spend time on the water the more success you can see yourself having," Freemann said of the sport.

Freemann has reeled in so much success that he will be one of five representing the United States in the World Youth Fly Fishing championship held next week in Spain.

Click here to read the whole story and see the video.

Three plus years ago I began fishing with Doug on the spring creeks of the Lehigh Valley after meeting him at one of the Fly Fishing Shows.  He fished often and always with a strong desire to improve and learn as much as he could with each outing.  He was always focused, and with every outing we went on, I fished half the time, and the other half answered (or tried to answer) a multitude of Doug's questions on all things fly fishing. Our discussions were such that often I would forget there was a 40 year age difference between us - he  is a very thoughtful, articulate young man with a passion for fly fishing that rivals mine. 

Shortly after we began fishing together, he started fishing in Youth Fly Fishing competitions, and over time he rose up in the ranks to where last year he fished as an alternate in the World Youth Fly Fishing Championships in Colorado.  And this year, he has made the team and is already in Spain preparing for next week's World Youth Fly Fishing competition!  Click here for the official Spanish website on the event, which is taking place August 8-14, 2016. 

He's a great kid and it pleases me to no end that he has become so accomplished and is representing the USA in the competition.  He's a great ambassador for our sport.

Feel free to wish Doug and the rest of the US Youth Fly Fishing Team luck here in the comments.  He checks in here often and I'm sure he would love to hear from you and will share your commnets with his teammates.

I'll update on the event here as things progress.