Monday, July 30, 2012

Crusade Intermission; Picture Updates; Chasin' Tail(s)

We've reached the intermission leading up to leg 2 of the crusade, which has given me a little time to get caught up on a few points of business. First off, I've added corresponding pictures to the last 6 posts for your viewing pleasure. If you've been following along, have a look through them again as hopefully the pictures will help tell the story a little more clearly.

Second, given my 1 day off before pulling chocks for Wyoming and beyond, Alex and I decided to go whisker hunting. Unfortunately heavy rains Friday night soured most of the rivers, so we were a little concerned about our ability to see targets. Turns out it doesn't really matter what color the water is when carp are waving their tails a foot and a half in the air...

Hoping to do a little more video for the blog on the upcoming trip and started playing around eith it this weekend. Check out this short one of Alex making a sick shot at a tailer and sticking him cold on the eat!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 6: Agua Muy Grande

Returned to CleVegas late last night after 12 hours of travel. After finally getting a taste of The Kootenai on Thursday, it was tough to break camp. The big river may still be swollen, but the resident rainbows and cutts are fat and hungry! Can't say that I've ever fished a river as big as 25,000 CFS, let alone caught fish on dry flies at such flows, so this was a first for me. If our day on the water water was any indication, the Kootenai is going to be THE place to be for western trout fishing this August and September.

Wanted to get a quick update up and, most importantly, share some pictures, before I give a complete summary, which I plan to do over the next couple of days. Meanwhile, leg 2 of the crusade begins Wednesday night, and there's still a good deal of prep and planning to be done for that as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 5: Agua Grande

Took a ride down the Clark Fork today out of St. Regis, MT. Beautiful hot, sunny weather meant we had to work hard for the fish we boated, but they were all worth it. Sean busted his ass behind the sticks and got us more shots at fish then we probably deserved, including a couple of Cutties pushing 18 inches. Big, gorgeous water, and few anglers to compete with - starting to love this part of MT more and more for that reason. Easily saw a dozen baldies along the way and had a 25ish inch bull trout take a swipe at my 14 inch rainbow. All stuff you don't really see much of back home, or many other places for that matter.

90+ and sunny wasn't just rough on the fish. after 6 hours of pullin' on the oars in the blazing sun, Sean had finally had a enough and dove in.

Meanwhile I did my best to stay hydrated.

Looks like we will take a crack at the Kootenai tomorrow, which is pumping at 25,000 CFS. The good news is we had a boat post a 30 fish day yesterday, on dry flies no less and at 28,000 CFS. Keeping our fingers crossed that we'll sniff that number tomorrow. I'll keep ya posted! Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crusade day 4: Craneflies? Seriously?

I'm tired as hell and set to rise at the ass crack of dawn for another round tomorrow, so forgive my brevity. Suffice it to say that we set out to stick cutties on dry flies and stick them we did... Along with a few bows, browns, and cut bows. The bug du jour was Craneflies surprisingly enough and I watched well over a dozen naturals get wacked throughout the day. Our best match was a size 12 tan Schroeders Para Hopper, and while not perfect (saw plenty of refusals) it was enough to get the job done. Nothing huge and no big numbers, but stunningly beautiful Westslope Cuts from water that now has to be the front runner for most beautiful setting I've ever made a cast in. Clark Fork mañana! Here's hoping for the big one!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yakity Yaak; Let's Go Back

Different float on the Yaak today. Heavy winds made fishing a little tougher with 2 and 3 weight Rods, but we still found some players. So far in two days of fishing and over 20 miles of water we've seen a total of two other anglers. The Koot Is dropping fast and we'll have a boat from our group on it tomorrow, excited to see what it produces at 30,000 CFS. The rest of us will float another drainage in search of big Westslope Cutts. Stay tuned for another update tomorrow and I promise, pictures are coming!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Crusade Day 2: What is and what ought to be

Today we floated the Yaak River, a remarkably pristine drainage by modern standards. It was not a day about numbers(there was no shortage of fish) or size. It was wholly about coaxing native, wild rainbow trout tothe fly in water which they'd arrived in thousands of years ago by their own accord and by no hand of man. It was about seeing those fish strike a fly as if it were the first they'd ever seen and the last they might see. It was about pink cheeks and silver sides and slashy rises at sloppy casts. It was about two-weights bent to the cork by 9-inchers. It was... exactly what it should be.

 Of course, the most memorable trips always involve some hitches along the way. A powerful windstorm had rolled through the Yaak Valley just a couple of days prior to our arrival. In it's wake a left a number of 100 ft. + tall widow makers across the width of the river. Sean and I did a little road maintenance, then went back to handlin' bidniss...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Trials and Triumphs of a Travelin Man

I've been as disappoointed as all seven of you who read the blog that I haven't done much posting of late. As an attempt to remedy that, I'm going to do my best to chronicle the next three weeks of Western trout fishing, a project we'll refer to as the 2012 Dudewater trout crusade, with daily updates. I'll be working on my iPad, which doesn't allow for adding pictures, but I'll do my best to interject those where possible. Oh and P.S., it doesn't allow for formatting either, so I'll clean it up later. Without further adieu...

12:37 PM, Mountain Time
Somewhere above Montana

Leg one of the the 2012 trout crusade was off to a disconcerting start. Barely underway, there'd already been enough trip-ups and mishaps to make me think twice about carrying on. The first of them came nearly three weeks prior to our scheduled departure for the far northwest corner of ManTana. To that point it'd been smooth sailing and easy planning; this years trip was to be a repeat performance of the trip I hosted last September, one that'd been wildly successful by all accounts. I'd done my job as a trip host, recruiting the maximum number of patrons, including  a number of alumni from the 2011 expedition.  But an email from our Montana hosts changed our outlook in a hurry.

As you know by now, the Kootenai basin has been trapped under a veritable deluge that carried on through June and into early July. The Kootenai, the regions crowned jewel and our destination fishery, was unfishable and would remain so for the foreseeable future. We would be forced (oh woe-is me) to explore smaller tributary rivers and creeks, perhaps on foot rather than from the comfort of drift boats. This change of plans uneased several of my companions to the point that they decided they'd "rather just wait until next year." My group of 8 was now down to 5, but we were committed, excited to explore new water, and so packed our bags and carried on.

Three days from departure, I received a call from one of the remaining 5. Turned out that he had wrenched his back badly, was struggling to get out of bed let alone walk, and was unsure about his status for the trip. I quivered, told him to "get better, quick," and waited for his call on Friday. A little miracle work by the chiropractor and an an untold number of Vicodin later, we were shaking hands excitedly in the Cleveland airport.

Not four hours into our trip we ran into the latest amusing (in hindsight, that is) deterrent. Standing in the terminal walk window I watched as airline staff unloaded mine and my travel companion's gate-checked bags packed with untold thousands of dollars worth of fly rods and reels. I couldn't help but notice that our bags were not being transferred with the rest of the gate checked luggage from our flight. After several minutes only our two bags remained,  surrounded by a collection of poking, prodding, and seemingly perplexed Delta workers. As the first officer exited the plane I "politely inquired" why our bags were not being brought into the terminal?

As fortune would have it, the gate attendant  in Cleveland had taken our bags without reciprocating the requisite "pink tags" that denoted them as having been security-cleared. Our connecting flight was to depart in roughly 45 minutes, and the only TSA-acceptable remedy would be to retrieve our bags at baggage claim and go through security, again. No problem, aside from the fact that baggage claim was at the farthest possible end of the airport, and that we were likely to miss our flight by the time we made it back to the gate...


Survey any of my former high school teammates about my athletic prowess and the one adjective your are certain NOT to hear is "fast" (indeed, the Fast Jimmy moniker is steeped in irony). But let's just say that, as I sit here in seat 21-C, Montana-bound with rods stowed safely overhead, I am considering making a late push for Gold in the 100-yard dash this summer. This evening, knock on wood (seriously... knock again would you?) we'll be enjoying cold Moose Drool, watching The Koot' roar by the front window, and prepping gear for our first day on the water. As you might imagine, that first cast can't come soon enough!


9:23 PM Mountain Time

Friday, July 6, 2012

Drought? What drought?

We're T-2 weeks until I depart for Northwestern Montana for a week of fishing with customers. You may recall that I hosted a similar trip last year, one which featured many highlights including my first [2] ever bull trout on the Kootenai River. Well I'm confident we've got another great trip to look forward to, but we know one thing for sure; we won't be having any repeat performances on The Kootenai.

You see, while almost the entire country is experiencing record breaking heat, devastating drought and catastrophic wildfires, the Kootenai basin has been getting pounded by rain for nearly the entire month of June, to the tune of nearly 300% of average precipitation for the month. On top of a healthy snowpack all that water has Koocanusa reservoir, from which flows the tailwater section of the Kootenai, just inches from capacity pool. Meanwhile inflows from the upper Koot' and tributaries, which are dropping but still hovering around 60,000 CFS, are exceeding outflows from the dam which are currently steady at around 48,000 CFS [and no, I did not add an extra 0]. You can hash that math out if you like, but what it all boils down to is that my group and I won't be fishing the Kootenai in two weeks. For that matter, non one will be fishing it for a while, presumably until mid-August or later.

The silver lining is that a big water year like this - nay, an extraordinary water year - while putting the Koot' out of the picture, should mean healthy flows on the other area rivers, perhaps even providing some float opportunities on what would normally by late July be exclusively walk-wade fisheries. While I'm bummed about missing out on the Koot', I'm super excited to see some new water and scenery. As a bonus, upon returning for Montana on the 27th, I'm home for less than a week before jumping back in the cars and heading westward for the 2012 Dudewater Trout Crusade. Pouring over maps and potential routes last night, this one is shaping up to be even more epic than last years, and I promise to do my best job of documenting it to share with y'all.