Summer Highlights

 

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Labor Day is just around the corner and the “dog days” of summer are in the rear view.  Hard to believe that the season has gone by so quickly, but there is still plenty of great fishing ahead through September and October.  This summer has been filled with long beautiful days, great clients and some cooperative big fish.

June included big water and big browns on the prowl.  Most rivers were swollen with run-off from our above average snowpack, but Rock Creek and the Big Hole River still produced through the big water.  There was solid action dead drifting streamers and worms; plus some fish looking up for Salmon Flies and Golden Stones.

July brought dropping flows on our rivers and some epic days of dry fly fishing.  The Big Hole saw fish looking up for hatches of Green Drakes, Yellow Sallies and PMD’s.  The Yellowstone River finally dropped to fishable levels as terrestrials began to crawl around the banks.  Meanwhile, the Madison River produced some quality fish on nymph rigs.

Throughout August the skies have been filled with smoke from forest fires from around the state.  Despite the warm temperatures, and lack of rain, fishing has remained consistent.  Terrestrial fishing with Moths, Ants and hoppers and some thick Trico hatches have kept our trout interested.  With a few extra days off through the month I have had the chance to enjoy the Montana summer for myself.  I played a tourist by visiting Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks with with my wife and friends; and did some fishing on my own, hiking into the North Fork of the Blackfoot River with my dog Gabe.

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Fall fishing should be great as our water temperatures drop, nights get a little longer and the big trout begin to stock up on calories preparing for winter.  I still have some availability in October; check out this special offer to come chase some big fish this fall.

Exploring the Big Hole Valley

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This spring has been all about exploring. Discovering new stretches of river, new side channels, new honey holes, new dirt roads and hiking new trails.

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I have spent most of my free time in the Big Hole Valley.  Floating and exploring new sections of the river and discovering new areas in the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness area.    The Big Hole is a classic western river.  Flowing through a big scenic valley, fed by cold and clean snow melt, lots of bug life, full of beautiful wild trout and epic views.

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Scouting missions are always rewarding! Some days you figure out the super secret fly pattern, others you find the right line to navigate the rapids or other days you spend quality time with the dog.

Montana Stay-cation

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For a few months I have been day dreaming about a week long float on the Smith River this spring.  We successfully drew a permit for the float, my wife and I both got time off work and the I had planted the seed about the adventure with my best friends in Colorado months ago.  Everything was falling into place…

As our launch date approached the weather forecast turned south, friends had a change of plans and just like that my dreams of a week on the river crumbled.

Fortunately, I live in Montana and there is an abundance of vacation options just outside my backdoor.  To salvage our days off we took a “staycation” by spending a couple of days on Rock Creek about a half hour from our house.

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Rock Creek can sometimes be overlooked with all the other fishing and camping options around the state, but this recent trip reminded me of why I fell in love with this gem on my first trip to Montana years ago.  Rock Creek is a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream with a healthy population of willing Cutthroat, Rainbow and Brown Trout.  Being a small steam, it is only float and fishing option during the spring and early summer.  Float trips during this time of year can be unforgettable experience; great scenery, awesome fishing and all while having the river to yourself.

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Rock Creek is not only a great fishery, but it offers dozens of great camp sites and a handful of Forest Service Cabins available for rent.  On this springtime trip we chose to stay at one of our favorite cabins.  The four or five cabins along Rock Creek vary in size and accommodations and can be perfect for any getaway.  The Stony Creek Cabin has a convenient location, great outdoor fire pit and is the perfect size for us and our dog.

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Gabe knows a good Margarita when he sees one
As we were headed home we both remarked about how we both take the beauty of Rock Creek for granted since it is so close to Philipsburg.  Sometimes the best vacation is close to home.

Just Like Riding a Bike?

“It’s NOT just like riding a bike, John!”  My buddy Josh yelled from across the river as I lost another fish.  This type of banter is very common when on the water with good friends, but it also made me realize that practice is an important part of fly-fishing.

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Josh showing me how it is done

A brutally cold winter, working with a new puppy (not exactly a fishing dog yet) and my winter job forced me into a two month break from the river.  During the time away I was able to restock and organize my fly boxes, but my hook set was a little rusty.  Actually, everything felt a little clumsy; sloppy casts, poor line control, delayed reactions, etc.  In that first day back I hooked about 10 fish, but was only able to land two of them.  At the end of the day I realized that all the time spent on the river is valuable.  Each time out you are learning, improving and practicing.

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First float of 2017

Spring is the time to practice and start getting ready for the summer season.  Get your fishing gear out of the closet, or shed, and get organized.  Practice your cast in the back yard or the park.  Head to you local river or stream to knock off the rust.  Anytime spent practicing now pays off once you are in the midst of your favorite summer hatch.

Overnight & Multi-Day Packages for 2017

There is nothing better than waking up to the sounds of a flowing river, brewing fresh coffee next to a camp fire, planning out the float for the day and rigging up the flies to start the morning.  Hard to beat life on the river!

Since becoming an outfitter a few years ago I have had the goal of sharing this experience with my friends, and clients, by offering overnight trips on the river.  You can truly get on the “Montana pace” by immersing yourself in one of these adventures.  This summer I will be running two 4-day packages that will be unique Montana experiences.  Dry Flies & Camp Fires is scheduled for July 17-20 and the Fall Big Fish package will be offered from October 1-4, checkout all the details here.

The Dry Flies & Camp Fires package will include camping on the banks of Yellowstone River, fishing big dry flies, a visit to a local hot springs and much more.  The Fall Big Fish package can give you the chance at catching “the big one” and gives you the chance to explore the mighty Missouri River.

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Cures for Cabin Fever

Near the end of January a phenomenon hits many Montana residents known as “Cabin Fever.”  Google defines cabin fever as: irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.  These symptoms began to settle in last week following recent weeks of sub-zero temperatures.   Thankfully we had a break in the brutal cold and I took advantage by seeking out open water on Rock Creek and booking a Forest Service Cabin getaway for my wife and I.

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As I headed towards Rock Creek last Wednesday, conditions seemed to be perfect for a productive afternoon on the water.  Temperatures were hovering in the mid 40’s, the sun was trying to peak through the partly cloudy skies and I had a new supply of hand tied flies to demo.  As I reached the creek I was discouraged to see that most of the ice from our sub-zero cold snap still choked the banks of the river.  After driving downstream and discovering that the ice situation just got worse, I settled on the most open water that I could find and began stomping through the snow towards the partially open water.  With water temperatures hovering around freezing, the fish weren’t exactly in a feeding frenzy.  After dodging a few glaciers coming down stream, I did find a hole with a few cutthroat that sampled my homemade San Juan Worm.

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On Thursday afternoon we packed up the truck, loaded up the dog, and headed to the Moose Lake cabin just a few minutes outside of Philipsburg.  Forest Service Cabins have become one of our favorite winter getaways because of their wood burning stoves, peaceful settings and lack of cell phone coverage.  When we reached the Moose Lake cabin I was determined to rally the truck down the quarter-mile snow packed road to get to the cabin.  With the warm temperatures, my hefty Toyota Tundra quickly sunk into the slushy snowpack and we were stuck.   Given the consistency of the snow, my tires were unable to gain traction.  Using some “redneck” ingenuity,  I shoved my floor mats under the front tires and eventually got the truck back on solid ground.  Following the embarrassment and excitement of getting stuck, we finally packed all of our gear into the cozy cabin and we settled in with hot toddy’s and good books.  Our relaxing evening was highlighted by a hearty dinner cooked over the wood stove, a good bottle of wine and schooling my wife in Texas Hold’em.

With this vacation from cabin fever, I can now return to the fly tying vise and patiently await the coming spring , or better yet, the next winter adventure.

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Winter Tips: January 6, 2017

After enduring multiple days of sub zero temperatures in Montana, its hard to not dream about warm summer days and casting dry flies to rising trout.  Recently I have focused my attention on the tying vise and restocking on the essential patterns, but you can also spend some time surfing the internet and improving your skills.  Here is some of the good stuff I have found in the last couple of days.

Setting up a Two Fly Rig  With two flies you can imitate multiple insects, different stages of the hatch, or they can help to get the fishes attention.

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Learn to Tie Flies  Basics are easy to learn and once you know them you can improvise your own patterns.

Never to early to think about improving casting  Learning the double haul can make you a more versatile angler; opening up more areas of the river and different types of water.

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How a Fly-Fish Guide & a Writer Spend their Honeymoon

Our honeymoon adventure was a road trip from Los Olivos, California back home to Philipsburg, Montana.  Following Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, up the California and Oregon coasts.  Nice hotel rooms, camping, great meals, seafood, wine tasting, micro brews, amazing concert, hiking, fishing, biking and over 3,000 miles on the road.

Tuesday November 8th

Los Olivos, California – Pismo Beach, California

-Wine tasting at Foxen Canyon Winery

-Great hotel room at The Cottage Inn by the Sea with amazing view of the beach and ocean

-Mexican food and Tequila tasting at Ventana Grill

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Wednesday November 9

Pismo Beach, California – Treebones Resort, Big Sur, California

-Wine tasting at Kelsey See Vineyard

-Arrive at Treebones for sunset and BBQ salmon dinner at our campsite

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Thursday November 10

Treebones Resort, Big Sur, California

-Hike to an amazing ocean view

-Reading and relaxing poolside & enjoying a bottle of gifted champagne

-Fabulous steak dinner at the restaurant at Treebones

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Friday November 11

Treebones Resort, Big Sur, California – San Francisco, California

-Quick stop at Big Sur Bakery for pastries

-Check-in to Courtyard by Marriott Downtown San Francisco

-Walk to Fisherman’s Wharf exploring the city

-Hilarious comedy show by Dana Gould at The Punchline

-Experienced the scene at the Tonga Room followed by stumbling upon great cocktails at Pacific Cocktail Haven P.C.H.

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Saturday November 12

San Francisco, California

-Walk to Kate’s Kitchen for amazing breakfast and exploring Haight Ashbury neighborhood

-Rented bikes to explore Golden Gate Park

-Our first Lyft experience back to the North Beach area of the city

-Sampled great Italian food with salads at Calzone’s, pizza from North Beach Pizza and Tiramisu and coffee at Stella Pastry

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Sunday November 13

San Francisco, California – Redding, California

-Dinner and beers at Woody’s Brewing Company

-Memorable Sturgill Simpson concert at the Cascade Theatre

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Monday November 14

Redding, California – Calistoga, California

-Truck maintenance; oil change and tire rotation

-Shopping at Trader Joe’s (Gwyneth’s favorite store)

-Beautiful drive into Napa Valley area to our yurt at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

-Another great BBQ salmon dinner

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Tuesday November 15

Napa Valley, California

-Wine tasting tour of the valley

-Visited Del Dotto Vineyard, Miner Family Winery & Trinchero Napa Valley

-Received a nice bottle of wine by a couple we met at the Trinchero tasting room

-Appetizers at Napkins Bar and Grill in the city of Napa

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Wednesday November 16

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, California – Fort Bragg, California

-Back to Highway 1 and onto the Lost Coast area

-Stopped at Cafe Aquatica in Jenner for some great coffee

-Sampling beers at the North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg

-Recovery night: Pizza from Piaci’s and watching the epic movie 2012 in our motel room

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Thursday November 17

Fort Bragg, California – Mattole River Campground, Lost Coast, California

-Entering the Redwoods and followed a long, rough, crazy road through northern California to reach the coast

-Walked on the beach at sunset and discovered a group of Sea Lions

-Finally had a good fire with the help of driftwood instead of soggy wood from Napa Valley

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Friday November 18

Mattole River Campground, Lost Coast, California – Crescent City, California

-Made breakfast burritos at the beach

-Visited the Redwood Curtain Brewing Company in Arcata

-Seafood dinner at North Coast Ocean Sports & Grill in Crescent City

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Saturday November 19

Crescent City, California – Ashland, Oregon

-Rainy hike through the Redwoods on the Stout Memorial Grove Trail

-Settled into our VRBO rental in downtown Ashland

-Dinner and cocktails at Taqueria Picaro

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Sunday November 20

Ashland, Oregon

-Guided Steelhead fishing trip on the Rogue River, floated Shady Cove to Dodge Bridge

-Landed my first two Steelhead on a fly rod

-Beers at the Caldera Brewery and great dinner at Smithfields Restaurant

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Monday November 21

Ashland, Oregon – Grants Pass, Oregon

-Amazing breakfast and mimosas at Morning Glory in Ashland followed by a few more hours on the river

-Wine tasting at Cliff Creek Cellar heading towards Grants Pass

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Tuesday November 22

Grants Pass, Oregon – Yachats, Oregon

-Headed back to the coast and stumbled upon the cool little town of Yachats

-Appetizers and micro brews at Yachats Brewing

-As the rain settled in we splurged for a nice room and dinner at The Adobe Resort

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Wednesday November 23

Yachats, Oregon – Manzanita, Oregon

-Quick hike on Cape Perpetua outside of Yachats

-Visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport

-Sampling at the Pelican Brewing Company

-Being rained out, we booked a room at the Sunset Surf Motel overlooking the beach

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Thursday November 24

Manzanita, Oregon

-Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoyed locally made Pumpkin pie for breakfast

-Caught up with family on the phone while watching football

-Great evening with friends who happened to be visiting the area in their yurt for homemade Chicken Noodle soup

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Friday November 25

Manzanita, Oregon – Astoria, Oregon

-Explored Cannon Beach, Oregon with brunch at the Lazy Susan Cafe and walk on the beach

-Found a nice room at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn that included bike rentals

-Brewery tour and great bike ride visiting Rogue Ales & Spirits and Buoy Beer Company

-Final seafood dinner at Bridgewater Bistro

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Saturday November 26

Astoria, Oregon – Spokane, Washington

-Lunch at the Astoria Coffee House & Bistro

-Followed the Columbia River gorge away from the ocean heading inland towards Washington

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Sunday November 27

Spokane, Washington – Philipsburg, Montana

-Stocked up at Trader Joe’s before heading back to Montana

-Greeted by falling snow as we arrived at home

Guides Day Off

“Make hay while the sun shines!”

This is the old saying for farmers, ranchers and fly-fishing guides around the west.  During primetime guide season days off are few and far between.  Near the end of August I ended up with few unexpected free days in a row.  Instead of using the days to refuel and relax on the couch; I decided to take the opportunity to explore the backcountry and Glacier National Park.

First, I made the expedition to a beautiful alpine lake in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area.

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After a long hike, approaching the base of Warren Peak, I found the lake with lots of big Cutthroat cruising, rising and searching for food.  I quickly got geared up and tied on a size 10, Olive Woolly Bugger.  On the first retrieve I watched a healthy 18 inch cutthroat follow my streamer all the way up to the bank.  With the crystal clear water, I watched the fish take my bugger about 2 feet away from my feet.

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After releasing that first fish I decided to tie on my favorite ant pattern to see if these beautiful cutties would eat a dry fly.  After landing a few more big fish the echo of my childish giggles rang throughout the basin.

Once I got back to the truck at the end of the day I was extremely exhausted.  Thankfully, I had my first trip to Glacier National Park upcoming the next day to keep me motivated.  Gwyneth and I had an amazing trip exploring Glacier, Polebridge and the surrounding areas.

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She is not only beautiful, but is a much better writer!  Checkout her full description of the journey:  One long drive for a bear claw.

Fish On!

I try not to go overboard with gratuitous grip n’ grin pictures, but I couldn’t help myself….

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Over the last couple of weeks fishing all around Montana has been excellent.  Being centrally based in Philipsburg, Montana I get the rare opportunity to explore & fish on a diverse selection of waters.  In the last month I have been lucky to guide on Rock Creek, Georgetown Lake, the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers.  Here are some of the highlights!

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Upper Madison Rainbow
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Big Browns Love Big Dry Flies
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Nothing Wrong with a Whitefish
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7 Year Old Fooling a Cuttie with a Dry Fly
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Brown Town on a Size #18 Dry Fly