Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Trip of a Lifetime

I would like to start this off with just a little background information. I grew up back east in Michigan and Kentucky and when I was a boy, I read all of my Dad’s Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines like most all other kids who have an interest in the outdoors did. I remember reading about all of these great folks fishing the Henry’s Fork and college educated trout that called this river home.
After Britt and I moved here to Idaho, I got her into fly fishing and shortly thereafter she was invited by a group of Women that she met on Facebook to spend a long weekend fishing the Henry’s Fork with them (see prior blog post ). She went and had a great time.

Fast forward to the fall of 2016. We were on our annual trip to the North Fork of the Clearwater and we hatched the plan to make a 2-week trip to the Henry’s Fork the next fall. Britt contacted one of the ladies she met on her previous trip, that had a cabin at Macks Inn.  Dates were set to meet and fish with Holly and some friends of hers, that make an annual trip to the cabin in September. Britt also contacted a friend of ours, Rick Welle that winters near Lewiston, and  guides for Madison River Outfitters in West Yellowstone during the fishing season. We booked a float trip with him during the time we would be down there.

As everyone knows- half the fun of a trip is in the planning---and planning we did. We went back and forth with Holly and Rick on what we needed to bring, flies to tie, what to expect, etc.  We spent all winter tying up flies for the trip in September.

Well, the weather in Idaho in September can be interesting according to Mike Lawson, in his book titled the “Fly-Fishing Guide to the Henry’s Fork” So we knew there was a really good chance the weather might not be great at some point in our trip, but I sure didn’t expect that we would have to take the southern route to get there! The passes in Montana were partly to mostly shitty with a bunch of wet heavy snow the night before we were set to leave. We decided to take the southern route down to Boise and across southern Idaho and back up to Macks Inn. After a 12-hour drive with few stops other than to refill the gas tank and for Britt to take some pictures at the Craters of the Moon, we were backing our camper in at Holly’s cabin in Macks Inn, just as the sun faded.

The next morning, Holly had to get back home and go to work for the week. She had to be back up to the cabin the next weekend when her friends from Texas and Florida would be flying in. So Britt and I got the camper setup completed, while Holly got her things packed up.  We went fishing for a few hours at a spot not far from the cabin, before Holly headed out.  A few fish were caught--nothing spectacular, but it did not matter --- we were here and had 13 more days to fish.

I will not bore you with a blow by blow of everyday that we were there but will give you some of the highlights.

We woke up and dressed out to meet Rick at Madison River Outfitters in West Yellowstone.  We stepped out of the camper and we were met with about 5 inches of wet heavy snow and more falling. I should mention here that it was to be a float trip on the Madison River with Rick. When we got to the shop, Rick asked if we were sure we wanted to float today. His clients the day before quit after an hour of fishing and the next day’s clients had already cancelled.  After the three of us talked, we decided not to float but to wade fish instead.
The weather did not disappoint! It went in waves- rain, snow, sleet and cold wind with the rare 5 minutes of sunshine for the whole day. I will say we fished hard for about 9 hours and Rick true to his reputation as the “Godfather of the Madison” put us into fish every place we went that day. 

We got an afternoon with a bit of wind and overcast to fish the Ranch for the first time. I could not wait to test myself against these PhD educated trout. The blue wing olives were coming off the water like we had never seen before, the wed mats were literally covered with them. Both Britt and I hooked up to several trout no monsters but none the less it was a great feeling to catch these fish.
On another morning, we got up and headed to a spot on the Firehole River we had scoped out a few days prior. It was a great day. We had the stretch of river to ourselves with only a lone bison that came through, and two ravens that joined us for lunch. We were swinging wet flies as a small hatch was coming off, as the steam from the geo thermals made it look eerie. We caught so many fish that we lost count. After lunch we went to the Firehole proper, up where there were a ton of bison and thermal features. We were supposed to hook up with Holly and the other folks, but man-oh-man, I have never seen so many people in one place at one time-both tourist and fisher alike. The parking areas were completely full, and all kinds of people were walking around gawking at the few hundred bison wandering around the field.  We decided to find another spot that wasn’t quite so crowded, but still had that “Firehole” feel to it—thermals and bison and tourists, and a few fisher folk. 
One day on the Madison River, we were swinging wet flies for the lake run trout. Britt lost a really nice fish and just a few minutes later I had a take and felt the fish for a few seconds, and then it was gone. I thought he must have broken me off so I reeled in, but to my surprise, my fly was still there-but it was demolished-the hackle was gone and the hook shank was bent. All I could do was tie on another fly and wonder how big and nasty that fish must have been to have bent that hook shank. We weren’t using tiny flies by any means-mostly size 6 soft hackles on 3 wt. tippet.

On another occasion, we went to a spot that lent its self perfectly to nymphing, which is not something Britt and I have done very much.  Rick had given us some much appreciated pointers on how to setup a nymph rig and how to fish it, so we gave it a go and had a great and productive time to include the biggest Whitefish I have ever caught.

Once Dunraven Pass in Yellowstone National Park was reopened after the week prior’s snowfall, we decided to run over to the Lamar Valley and see if we could catch some Yellowstone Cutthroats. The Lamar Valley was very different than the rest of Yellowstone that we had been fishing it was more volcanic and when we saw the river it was a whitefish green. The Lamar River was blown out but Soda Butte was fishable so we gave it a try it and wondered if we would connect as it  was a watered down milky green as well.  It was deep holes with very shallow riffles and deep hole cut thru gravel bars. Both of us managed to catch a nice Yellowstone    Cutthroat before we ran into other folks fishing such a beautiful place.

We fished the Ranch one last time before it was time to come home.  We walked into the Mailbox spot, but we were greeted with very few rising trout and not much bug activity.  We decided to walk back to the rig and go to the other spot we had fished earlier in the week with good luck. Fishing was tougher this time but once we figured out that they were eating the mahoganies and not the Blue Wing Olives, the fishing picked up. Sight casting to rising fish was such a treat and a real skill test!  These ones were bigger that the others we had caught. The sun had finally set on our two week trip, and as we approached the parking lot, a lone vehicle was at the take out—and they were blaring Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road… a fitting end to our two week trip of a lifetime.

It really was an awesome trip and one that I cannot wait to take again.

Until next time Tight lines and screaming reels


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Trip of a Lifetime---4 years ago--and procrastinating journal entries.. I keep a journal of all of our fishing adventures (or misadventures at times)... four years ago I went to the Henry's Fork for a "ladies trip" and life got so busy afterwards, that I never got a chance to "pen it out". It is so fun going through looking at the pictures to refresh my memory...and writing about it. What an amazing trip and an amazing place! This September I will finally be returning to that part of the world with Brian Davenport in tow---I can't wait till he see's it down there! He won't want to come home!! It's been almost four years since that trip, and I haven't gotten to see the ladies as much as I would like--due to distance and being in BF Idaho---but I will meet up with one of them this Fall and cannot wait! Two FULL weeks of vacation to fish our hearts out!
So here I am…world’s worst procrastinator when it comes to writing things down… 

4 years ago, I went on an amazing trip of a lifetime with a bunch of ladies that I had never met before!  I had met Michelle online through an Idaho fishing Facebook page.   A group of ladies was getting together for a long weekend on the Henry’s Fork---and I was invited.  Brian gave me the go ahead---even though this is a place he has always wanted to go---but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.   For a minimal price, we would share a cabin and Shelly (who worked for Adipose at the time, would get drift boats situated so we could float the river).   So I  decided to leave out from work on Thursday at noon.  Thinking I would “overnight” camp in my rig in Montana.   This is the first time I have ever “road tripped” by myself—it was so hard driving up the Lochsa and not fishing.

It was so hard driving up the Lochsa---and not getting to fish it---arrrghh! But I had a bigger goal in mind.  I was hoping to coyote out and get up early and make the rest of the drive to West Yellowstone in the AM to meet Emily.   So…. Campgrounds in Montana are friggen expensive… so I just kept driving…and driving… finally it was dark and I was extremely tired and decided I just wasn’t going to make it all the way to West Yellowstone that night.  I ended up getting a room in a Motel 6 somewhere in Montana. 

I got up super early the next morning to finish the drive.  I still had many miles to go—and I was to meet Emily at Bud Lily’s super early, so that we could fish in Yellowstone National Park some, before we met up with the other ladies.    I finally arrived in West Yellowstone—and got my fishing license.  Kerry was taking us out to a place and fishing with us for a bit.   When you go through the West Entrance…it is just up the road a ways.   It was literally 32* out---I didn’t know it was going to be that friggen cold—but we tough it out for fishing.   That morning, there was a fog all around--- for my first “taste” of Yellowstone---it sure was creepy.   I kept expecting to see a bear emerge from the fog…but we never did see one.  Kerry gave me some pointers on how to nymph fish (arrgggh—I’m used to dry flies and cutthroat!!).   I ended up hooking one (just a lil one) but damint it was my first fish in Yellowstone NP! And I was ecstatic!

Kerry had to leave (probably to go guide someone) so Emily and I moved farther into the park.  We stopped at a place suggested by Kerry- the backdrop was amazing!  There is something really special about YNP.  It is so pristine (well, other than the gobs of people)---and so much wildlife!  

We saw some elk grazing alongside the road.   We fished this spot and damnit if I didn’t think I hooked into a huge brown.  I finally got it in…turned out it was a huge whitey!!!  Which was a first for me—so that was pretty cool too!  

We decided to head back to the place we had fished that morning… but we missed the turn off and ended up outside the park.  When we tried to turn around and get back in, we weren’t able to due to a terrible head on collision.  

Trace?  is that you???  Traffic was backed up a ways--we thought it was due to wildlife "gawking" turns out it was a pretty bad accident....

Thankfully, Emily knew another spot north of there that we could fish.  We drove along the highway, and she pulled into a turn off alongside the Gallatin River.   It was very brushy so I was concerned about bear…and was really hoping we didn’t run into one.  We fished this for awhile—it was a nice small sized section, and I caught a beautiful cutthroat! 

Finally, it was time to head towards Island Park and locate the cabin that we had rented.  After a phone call or two to Aileen—we finally got the address and made our way there.  This is where I got to meet all of the ladies.  Most of them were familiar with each other and had fished together before, at some point.  I was probably the only “newbie”.  They were all such great women, and solid fly fishers.  It was great to be in their company.

"Home" for the weekend

Now this is where the timeline starts to get shaky—as I remember what we did—just not exactly the order…since it was  4 years ago…

I believe the next morning, we stopped at Trout Hunter to meet up with all of the drift boats and get any last minute supplies.   Our first stop of the day was the Harriman Ranch.   I imagine the folks that were already fishing there, thought holy hell what the heck are all these women doing here!  We spread out and got to fishing.  If memory serves correct, the only one that hooked into one was Heidi.   I had a bump on a Black Betty fly… but that was it.  The gentleman that was down from me hooked one—and he was nice enough to share the knowledge that once you wade out—to be sure and look behind you, as they “fill in” and start feeding between you and the shore sometimes.  We also saw some Pelicans—which was just neat.  It was a really windy rainy day though—I look forward to fishing it in some nicer weather.

Photo credit to Michelle Babcock (if memory serves correct)

From there, we headed towards Warm River, as we were doing the Warm River to Ashton Float.  We stopped at this one spot that had a ton of huge football shaped fish!  You could wade or fish there, but it was really neat seeing them.

Photo by Aileen Lane

Photo credit to JB McCollum
So fishing from a drift boat is completely different than anything I have ever done before!!  I got to ride in Ginger, with Shelly on the oars, and Heidi.   They were both great, knowing that I had never fished from a drift boat before.  The float was pretty uneventful as far as fish go—at least in our boat.  Emily brought a huge brown to hand.  It was gigantic!  At the very end of the float, by the Bridge before the take out…we finally had our moment!  We were both hooked up on a couple of nice rainbows!   It was so exciting!

Photo credit to JB McCollum
Photo credit to JB McCollum

The next day, some of the crew was going to put in and float the Box Canyon section, but there wasn’t enough boats for everyone.  Holly offered to take me someplace else, that we could catch fish… so I said what the heck—I’m game.     Holly took me to just below the Island Park dam.  I never would have thought that one could wade out there, but she assured me that it was okay—some deep spots, but if you were careful, it was okay.  Nymphing was the choice at that location.  She hooked and landed a really good one…and I hooked a small one and got him to net.   Then I hooked one that was most likely a personal best—I’m not sure how big he was, because he came off before we could net him.   I have a date with that fish when we return in September ;)

That night, I believe is the night Ms. Patti made gin and tonics for everyone---whew!  I don’t drink often (especially back then) and after a couple of them, well, we were all pretty much crawling up stairs to our bunks.

The next morning, a group of us went down below the dam again to fish for a bit, before we all had to head home.  I ended up leaving pretty soon, as I had a looong drive back to Lewiston.   We said our goodbyes and off I went.  I did stop at the Grubstake and pick up a few things before heading out of town.

On the way home, I just had to stop a few places along the Lochsa and try my hand at “nymphing”.  I stopped at two places and caught cutthroats and a whitey at both… I also learned that some bushes that I curse during the summer months, have a massive load of blackberries on them in the fall!

It was such a quick trip, and such a long ways to go---but it was one that I will never forget—even though 4 years now,  the timelines are a little fuzzy---but the memories will never leave!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Top 3 Innovations in 20 Years-Fly Tying

I recently saw an article on Facebook from the Billings Gazette by Bob Krumm called "Fly Tyers name greatest innovations in craft". In this article he spoke with some "Contemporary" fly Tier's at the Western Rocky Mountain Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers Expo, which included folks such as Frank Johnson, Bob Jacklin, Al & Gretchen Beatty, Lee Sieckmann, John Newberry, John Kimura and Jim Ferguson.

The question Mr. Krumm posed to the tiers was “What do you consider the three greatest innovations in fly tying in your lifetime?”

Here is a link to the article so that you can see their answers.

I am not even close to the level of this group of people, but I have been fly tying for a little over 20 years and this article got me to thinking about what I thought was in my opinion, the top three innovations. Here are my thoughts and why I think they are the 3 greatest innovations.


My first thought on the greatest innovation is thread. It has come a long way in the last 20 years it is thinner but yet stronger and a lot more colors.

My 2nd thought is materials. Metz was the big name when I started and the hackles were good but the ones out today are longer, stiffer hackles and again more colors. There are also a lot more choices for dubbing, and synthetics are by far more available.

Picture by 
And finally the 3rd and quite possible the greatest innovation, is the Internet.  When I first started to tie flies you could get a book with patterns, or one with how to tie a fly and if you looked real hard you could find a few video cassette's that were good at showing how it was done.  Now if you want to learn to tie a fly you can find all kinds of instructions on the Internet-- be it a particular pattern or just a new technique.

And there you have it my two cents on the three greatest innovations in fly tying in the last twenty years.

What do you think is the greatest innovation we would love to hear what you think so let us know?

Until next time tight lines and Screaming drags.

Brian D.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fly Tiers the Unsung Heroes of Fly Fishing Shows

There are a lot that go into putting on a fly fishing show.  The venue, the vendors, the programs, the workshops and the fly tiers and more.  All are very important to the success of the show. The big names and the programs and workshops are what draws the crowds, and everyone want to see the great new products that the vendors have.

            But there is a group of folks that are, in my opinion, the heart of any fly fishing show-- the demonstration fly tiers. Don't get me wrong- every one of these groups are very important to a good show. You have to have the Programs and Workshops to draw in the crowds- these are usually folks that are local heroes or folks that are paid for their time (“star” of the show”/etc.), or vendors that are already there with a booth.  Many are local, but some come from a ways away to sell their wares.  The vendors pay for booth space and/or donate to the clubs in exchange for their space. 

            Then there are the demonstration fly tiers. Britt has been in charge of getting tiers and organizing that portion of the show here in Lewiston for three years now.  The first time she organized the tiers, we were amazed that these folks come all the way to a show and did their demo tying without compensation!  That’s right-- these folks travel to different shows and are not paid for doing it. We have had folks come from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Canada and Utah to tie here in Lewiston. Some do sell their flies, some sell DVD's or some other items to help offset the cost but these folks are not paid travel expenses or lodging or for their time, so why in the hell do they do it?

            These folks drive from their homes, stay for two days to tie flies for two to four hours or more, with their own materials and don't get any pay for it (and often donate their flies to interested show-goers!).  So why do they do it?  The answer is simple- for the love of what they do and the chance to teach someone about fly tying, or to get someone interested in this part of the sport of fly fishing.

            These folks, I say folks because it is not just men, there are some damn fine women tiers. They take time away from their day jobs, travel for hours to get to a show just so they can set up their vice and tie flies- hoping that there will be lots of people come thru and sit down in front of them and ask "What are you tying" or "That looks good , how do you do that". Believe it or not that, is the reward these folks are looking for- just someone to sit down in front of them and ask questions, someone to show interest in what they are doing.
            This year Britt and I were invited to tie at the Western Rocky Mountain Council of the International Fly Fishing Federation show in Coeur d'Alene. We packed up our vices and materials and went up on Saturday to tie. Britt and I have tied at a couple of shows this year really just getting started in the Demo tying. We saw some of our fly tying friends there, and had a great time!  That is one other thing I have learned about this group of folks "the demo fly tiers"- they are like a big family.
It was a good show! I had a few people sit down to watch, but Britt was in 7th heaven when a young man of about 15 and his mother sat down and started asking questions about what she was tying and how to do this and that at the tying bench. After the show, as we were driving home, she looked at me and said "I finally get it! It was amazing to have someone sit down that was egger to learn about the sport and what we do!" I see us going to a lot more shows as demo tiers in our future.
            So the next time you attend a fly fishing show and your walking around and you see the folks at the tables tying up flies, take a few minutes to sit down and ask questions.  That is why these folks are there, and believe me you won’t be bothering them! That’s what they came to the show to do, is to tie flies and share what they are doing. If you do you might be rewarded with a fly or two of your very own--you never know.

Till next time tight lines and screaming drags,
Brian D.