Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mish mosh SW Montana fishing report - Late June

Carp flies now sold at Sportsman's Warehouse in Helena 

The huge variety of fishing options in Southwest Montana makes it much harder to write coherent fishing reports like I could do in Missoula.  I write reports every once in a while so that there is a non-biased, transaction-free source of information out there for anyone who cares.  I also use this blog as a personal fishing log which comes in handy sometimes for my own pursuits.  So here it is:

Big Hole River:
It was huge and the salmonflies have come and gone.  Usually, the fishing sucks for a couple weeks after the hatch.  It's called the "salmonfly hangover" and it can really suck.  I avoided the party this year due to my trip to Florida and the shitty conditions.  The river is dropping in nicely now and summer on the Big Hole should be the best it has been in years.  It would be awesome to be able to fish hoppers in the afternoon this year!

Upper Clark Fork:
As the river drops and clears, the caddis fishing will get insane.  The Upper is a caddis stream through and through.

Silver Bow Creek:
I haven't been out there yet this year but things usually get going right about now.  You'd be surprised by what may eat your larger attractor dry or simple streamer...

Missouri River (Craig reach):
I have to distinguish what area now because my Missouri River Range has grown so much over the last few years.  The dry fly bite is on big-time.  There are pods of snotty MO trout all over the river. You need to bring your A game.  Perfectly placed casts and drag free drifts are crucial.  Fly selection comes second in importance.  They will eat PMD spinners, caddis, and buzzballs like candy if you can present them properly.

Holter Lake Carping: 
I'm embarrassed to say that it was my first time on the boat up at Holter recently.  It is such a beautiful place!  I didn't have much info on carp fishing up there but I knew that they had to be there. They are, and they get big like in Clark Canyon.  The carp were tough and I got my ass handed to me. There is still a bunch that are spawning but I was able to find some over on the rockier eastern shore that were willing to eat.  I even landed one of the largest carp yet to date. I can't wait to get back up there again.  There are also some great trout in Holter!

Three Forks Ponds Carping:
The carping in the Three Forks Ponds is outstanding right now!  There are still some spawners but the ones that aren't are tailing in groups in the flats.  Throw a small black wooly bugger or small leech pattern for all-day action.

Clark Canyon Carping:
I haven't been down there since I've been back but I imagine it is the same as Holter.  They were in full spawn mode before I left and the fishing was hit or miss picking on the wallflowers. The carping should get better and better here by the day.  It's time to start thinking about callabaetis, damsels, and dragonfly nymphs perfectly cast and timed to be in the hot zone of a slowly cruising, golden submarine.

Georgetown Lake:
I will be checking in on Montana's finest brook and rainbow trout lake very soon.  The traveling sedge caddis should be underway as we speak and intensifying over the next few weeks.  Also, callabaetis, damsels, and dragonflies in nymph and adult form will play out as well.  The traveling sedge hatch on G-town is one of the finest of any hatch you will ever encounter.  Big bugs and big willing fish are what it is all about.  Have you ever had a 100+ fish dry fly day?

Thats all I got for now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tips on reading carp spawning behavior

One of the most important skills an angler needs to consistently be able to catch carp on the fly, is the ability to read the carp's behavior.  Right now, across the northern USA, many carp are spawning.  If you are new to carping, this can be an exciting and frustrating time.  There may be carp everywhere, some larger than you may have ever seen, and some may even be jumping way the hell out of the water.  To the beginning carper, all of the fish and activity can truly blow your mind and get your heart pounding.  However, I've got bad news. You're going to want to keep moving if you want to actually hook one by the mouth!

Generally, spawning carp will not eat.  You will be wasting your time on these fish but likely, there are fish feeding close by.  Instead of pulling all of your hair out, you'll need to find the fish that are actually willing to eat.  Surprisingly, fishing during the spawn can be incredible, as long as you can read the fish's behavior and choose the right one to cast to.  To complicate this, there are many different types of spawning behaviors.  Below I will discuss a few.

Carp spawning behaviors

Obvious spawning behavior:  This is a no-brainer.  If you are seeing groups of carp circling each other and splashing around in super-shallow water right next to the shore, these carp are obviously getting busy and are not going to eat anything you throw at them.  Keep moving!

Subtle spawning behavior:  I took some folks out earlier this year before I assumed any carp would be spawning.  These carp were slowly chasing each other around and were in small groups that were both, closely and loosely grouped.  Sometimes there would be just 2 or 3 moving slowly.  In August, this would simply mean 2 fish cruising slowly; pick the bigger one and cast to it!  However, during the spawn, these fish will not eat.  Even though it may not be super-obvious spawning behavior, they are in some aspect of spawning.  We couldn't get any to eat anything.  Move on!!

This conduct can be the hardest to read.  Below is a video I took of a group of carp exhibiting this behavior.  Notice how they are grouped up.  Before I started filming, they were in smaller groups and sometimes they were alone, but not for long.  These fish were not actively engaging in reproduction but they were courting each other.  These fish are not looking for food!

Many books, blog posts, presentations etc. have described what has come to be known as "wallflowers."  These are carp, which are in the vicinity of spawning carp but for whatever reason, are not taking part in the ritual.  They may have already spawned, may be taking a break, or are just not ready to spawn yet.  These fish are catchable and there are at least 2 types of wallflower behavior.

Inactive wallflowers:  These carp will be in the vicinity of spawners but may be sunbathing, resting, sitting still, or some other type of passive behavior.  Just like any other time of the year, these fish may be caught but they are not actively feeding and therefore, the results may be varied.  Make a few casts to them, if you are not getting any responses, change flies.  If still nothing, move on!  On some days, these fish will wake from their inactive state at the sight of your fly and pounce on it.  Other days, they'll wake up and bolt.

Active wallflowers:  Just like you may have already imagined, these are actively feeding/searching carp and they will eat big-time!  If you can distinguish the difference between "subtle spawning behavior" and "active wallflowers," you are in for a good time.  Sometimes these active wallflowers will be in a completely different part of the lake or stream.  But as I ran into last week, I caught tons of active wallflowers tens of feet away from actively spawning shore splashers.  My targets were tailing hard and some were even clooping.  It was really insane to hook into one and watch it blow up the hundreds of spawners as it made its initial run.

In conclusion, reading carp behaviors is always important for distinguishing actively feeding fish from those that are not.  During the spawn, it can be even more challenging.  However, if you put in the time, the spawn can be some of the best fly fishing for carp of the year.  Many of our Montana streams are currently experiencing a solid spring run-off.  Don't get bummed, go carping!

A group of carp showing subtle spawning behavior

These carp are exhibiting a more obvious subtle spawning behavior.  Keep moving!!

Monday, June 12, 2017

I needed a break

Baby tarpon face

After a long busy winter, I was due for a real break.  All I wanted to do was fish my ass off and get some revenge on some Southwest Florida saltwater species who have been giving me hell for some time now.  Mission accomplished!

Redfish tail spot

I spent some serious time spooking every redfish I came across.  It took many days for me to be able to consistently spot redfish with enough distance to get a shot at them before they took off scared.  By the end of my trip, I was pretty good at it and started to catch a lot of redfish.  What a beautiful and fun fish to catch on the fly!  I can't wait to get back on my secret redfish flats!

Redfish face

Baby tarpon

The big tarpon were in SW Florida while I was there but the wind was insane and I don't have a big enough boat to get out into the Gulf, yet.  I did, however, get into some great baby tarpon!  All I can say about these guys is holy shit!  They are the most insane, acrobatic, and fun fish you can ever imagine catching.  Like the redfish, it took a couple of days of exploring and getting my ass handed to me to be able to catch this entirely new species on flies.  With some help from the local fly shop and endless determination, it happened big-time.  I also can't wait to get back to my secret baby tarpon ponds.

Florida gator

Mother and baby manatee

Going fishing in Florida is full of sights, sounds, and dangers.  The variety of birds, plants, animals, and fish in Florida is just insane.

Gigantic Florida ditch pickle

Even the bycatch is cool here.  While deep stripping streamers for tarpon, I'd sometimes hook into the biggest largemouth bass I'd ever seen.


Anyone who's fished Florida knows about these gars.

Tarpon skin

Southwest Florida fly fishing is super challenging and fun.  I'm so lucky to have a connection to the region and I can't wait to spend time studying and exploring the fishery in the future.

Until then, it is go-time in Southwest Montana!  There are salmonflies on Rock Creek and the Big Hole, the MO is heating up big-time (as long as there isn't another push), and the carp are on the flats in the lakes.  The hills are green and there is still a lot of snow in the mountains.  The lilacs are blooming in Butte and it's a good time to be a fly fisher in Montana!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vision from the past

Bud Lilly's Anglers' Retreat

Came across this scene in Three Forks last week.  It's all run down and seemed vacant.  Kind of cool, kind of sad.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fly fishing for carp in Montana presentation today - by me!

Tonight at 6 pm, I will be giving a presentation on the fun, joys, and heartache of fly fishing for carp at the George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited Annual Meeting.  The presentation will start shortly after 6 and will be in the conference room.  Come have a beer and learn about one of the most underutilized and fantastic fishery in SW Montana!!

Image result for george grant tu logo

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Christine's Makeover Part 3: A New Begginning

Christine is reborn!

It was a ton of work and it took a bit longer than anticipated but the great boat makeover is over!! She had her second "maiden" voyage on the Big Hole River yesterday.  I was too excited about it to actually take good pictures but you can expect more to come.

Click here for the before pictures. 

Inside back after interior paint with doors and seat benches removed

The back deck got a non-slip additive in the final coat of paint to make it a great casting platform and the dog doesn't slip all over the place anymore. The entire floor surface also non-slip.  All wood surfaces received at least 3 coats of marine spar varnish and are glowing again.  They look even sexier than ever with some patina.

Inside front after interior paint with doors and seat benches removed

Shiny, stinky, and beautiful!  We accidently picked a different color for the inside this time.  It has a light blue tint which I love.  It looks a lot cleaner and more boaty than the old color.

Finished boat, ready to fish!

Here is a crappy picture I took while we were loading up to float in the morning.  You can see the floor system, the doors are back on, and the new rower's seat is installed.

The boat looks better than when it was brand new.  This is the first major overhaul since I first built it 8 years ago.  I beat the absolute crap out of this boat and now she's ready for a bunch more.  Some of the work I had to do this time, I should have done when I built it. So, it was a much larger project than it would have been otherwise.  While wooden boats do require some love every couple of years, it's absolutely worth it.  Even if you didn't build your boat, you'll still get a great feeling when you see how gorgeous your boat looks on the water after some winter love.

There will certainly be better pictures of this posted soon...