After some skiing at Red Lodge, Montana over the holidays, we stopped in at the Bighorn River, which is not too far south of Billings. A couple years ago, we heard rumors of great Christmas fishing and wanted to check it out. It was January 2, the sun was shining, and the air temperature was about 39 degrees – almost tropical! I was bundled up but it really did feel like a warm spring day. (Perhaps because I’m from Manitoba?)
The Bighorn River is a “bottom-draw” tailwater that never freezes up. We walked and waded and drifted tiny nymphs and split shot through a lot of promising water. Although we didn’t get anything, it just felt great to be fishing. Around 4 PM the light was getting low. I noticed some good-sized wakes moving up through a very skinny riffle in a side channel. I switched to an unweighted egg pattern, about a foot below a small indicator, and cast just upstream of the riffle. The water was maybe 8 inches deep… Fish on!
Hello, brown trout! As darkness fell and the temperature dropped, I was on my knees, about 25 feet from the wakes pushing through the riffle. After every second cast, I dipped my rod in the water to unthaw the guides. A bad case of “rising fish” jitters made sure that my line got tangled way too often. Nevertheless, two more browns honored me. The last fish had to be stripped in ’cause my reel was completely frozen. But I was feeling completely toasty.
The next day, before leaving, we could see the redds in the gravel above the riffle. The fish were spawning but aggressive. The Bighorn is about 1200 km away from my home. Cost of gas: $250. Sight-fishing in open water on Jan. 2: priceless….
(The Bighorn Fly and Tackle Shop, located right by the river and also in Billings, was a great source of info.)
Just a quick note to say congratulations to Marc Payne. He just secured his first book contract. It will be a comprehensive look at fishing in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The book is slated for release in 2014.
Marc credits Fishwest as his first “writing gig” and we couldn’t be happier for him and his achievement.
Congrats again to Marc and we are looking forward to seeing the new book!
I recently returned from my second saltwater trip and let me start off by saying my second saltwater experience greatly outweighed my first. The folks at Deneki Andros South made this trip amazing in every aspect. Honestly it would be tough to accurately describe how great the fishing is, especially in words. It is something that everyone should experience for themselves. The guides at Andros South were awesome in every way. They are true masters of their craft and will put you in prime locations for countless shots at fish. However the biggest factor in my success came down to one simple piece of equipment. That piece of equipment is not the latest fly rod or fly reel or anything remotely close to that. A flats skiff outfitted with a lean bar made all the difference for me.
The premise of the lean bar is quite simple and self explanatory. A Lean bar is affixed to the front of the flats boat on the casting platform and it gives anglers added support and stability. For me, an angler who has cerebral palsy where balance is an issue anyway, the lean bar setup is the perfect amount of support and it enables me to fish effectively without the hindrance of being able to balance.
The lean bar is not only designed to help people like me that have balance issues but also for anglers who may be a little older and their balance may not be as good as it once was. Also I could imagine that it would be perfect for anyone who needs a little bit of extra help balancing on the front of the boat. Lastly I think everyone should use one on days where the conditions are not the greatest. It would provide the angler an edge to the windy and choppy water conditions.
This lean bar setup is amazing however it is not without its faults. I found two situations while fishing that the bar was a hindrance to getting a good hookup. The first thing I found is that the lean bar can be detrimental if I had a lot of outgoing line at a quick rate because periodically the line would get caught around the bar and the shot would be blown or even worse the fish would be lost. Also the strip set became a knuckle buster of sorts at times because I found that I would sometimes bang my hands into the bar on the set. This was more annoying than anything but the fish made it all worth it.
In conclusion if you are considering doing a saltwater trip and feel like the lean bar is something that you might want to consider don’t hesitate to ask your potential guide if they have a setup like this one. It truly does make all the difference in my book.
A recent trick to winter flyfishing depends simply upon the weather. For instance, last winter there was hardly any snow—so little, in fact, that I’ve never seen a winter that dry in the central Rockies in my lifetime. I’d call it a drought. This year’s winter started with parallel results, but finally it began to snow, albeit a couple months later than usual. But once it got going, it snowed every few days—through December & January. By the middle of January, it seemed like the foremost trick to winter flyfishing was simply finding some open, un-frozen water to fish. We did have a dry spell at the end of January through mid-February, but the idea still amounted to finding fishable water.
Does fly selection make a difference? Maybe…research in recent years points out that black, blue, and fluorescents are the most visible colors in deep water; many winter anglers will testify to the effectiveness of patterns in these colors. Biologists do not exactly understand what trout see, but what I find truly interesting is that trout not only see color—they can identify some colors that are beyond human visualization. In particular, trout can sense shades of red and ultra violet that we cannot, and in lower light conditions. I used to think that blue was a nonsensical fly color, since I have not seen blue insects on the streams I fish, other than adult dragonflies/damselflies. However, scientists report that the fish’s capability to distinguish minute pigmentation differences is greatest within the blues.
A lot of experts say that trout seek deep water and become less active in the winter, which may explain (at least in part) why highly visible flies are effective. However, Levi, a buddy of mine who has been ice fishing for years says trout can actually feed aggressively; you just have to hit it at the right time. He also says Pam cooking spray helps de-ice rod guides, and advises to prepare for extreme weather. Cold winter weather might seem like common sense, but as I said—he’s been doing it for years, and hypothermia is a very real danger.
Winter flyfishing can be a great way to discover secrets about your favorite trout stream, and offers a change of pace from the tying bench. Flies tied in outlandish, unnatural colors might be the ticket to get strikes, and may shift your thinking about the appearance of your favorite patterns. Who knows, maybe someday research will show that fishing blue flies will reduce cabin fever!
As winter continues I found it would be appropriate to talk about one of my most underappreciated pieces of equipment. Take it from someone who knows: having a good reliable wading staff can be the difference between enjoying a day of winter fishing or packing it in early because you took an unfortunate spill. I have had one too many a winter fishing day ended early with a nice brisk swim In Utah area waters.
I have tried all different types of wading staffs throughout my years as a fly fisherman. If you were to name the staff chances are I have used it. Crossing streams and rivers is not easy for me and it definitely isn’t the prettiest sight however, it has gotten easier with the addition of the Fishpond Slippery Rock Wading Staff.
Fishpond aka Komperdell (A brand synonymous with quality ski & trekking poles) have hit a home run with this staff. The biggest reason I choose this staff over any others out there has to be the patented “Easy Lock” system that is utilized to determine the length of the staff.
The staff has a base length of 29 inches which equates to roughly 74 centimeters. From there the bottom can be unscrewed to lengthen the wading staff. Once the proper height is reached the staff can be twisted into to the lock position. The locking mechanism on this staff is quite substantial and definitely gives me the ability to wade confidently.
Overall this staff has been a great addition to my equipment. From the telescopic “Easy Lock” system to the oversized grip are just a few things that help make this the perfect staff for this unsteady angler. Take the “plunge” (No pun intended) and give this staff a try. You won’t regret it.
Lightweight Telescopic Design – Ranges from 29in (74cm)- 57in (145cm)
Durable & Lightweight 3 piece aluminum construction
Oversized synthetic cork knob that unscrews to reveal a camera mount
Removable Rubber tip to reveal carbide steel tip
Just discovered today that the staff has a camera mount ( would have liked to know this earlier)
100% Delrin ® zipper along the entire length making it ideal for sea fishing
Adjustable hood stows easily in the neck
Skinny that promotes overall better weather protection
Large chest pocket that has the passage system for an audio cable for breaks in music
A very solid jacket fabric Gore-Tex ®. After long hours in the “bush” Lapland in July or in the woods to hunt fish in the heavy rain, the jacket does not move a bit. A super light weight which makes almost forget when the door or when you put it in the top of the backpack.
The sleeves ressèrent using scratch and the bottom of the jacket is constricted with a bungee cord. I wish neoprene parts are not inserted at the end of sleeves lorque is dipped in water arms. Nevertheless, it would be less solid jacket.
Warning: this jacket is protection against wind and rain, but no protection against the cold.It will therefore supplement it with one or two layers thermal type “SoftShell” and fitting merino wool. Avoid fleeces that load water at the slightest touch.
Now that I’m with, it makes it an ideal fishing vest and even in airplanes when traveling.
To find it, see end of article.
GORE-TEX ® Paclite ® Pant $ 199.95 (€ 151)
Link seller, click on the image:
The same GORE-TEX ® Paclite and the same fabric as the jacket. The rain pants offer the perfect complement for total waterproof protection.
With articulated leg design for easy movement and make it more comfortable and have a better fit
100% Delrin ® zipper along the entire length making it ideal for sea fishing
YKK ® front zipper closure with waterproof zip
Zip pockets and back pockets
Adjustable elastic waist, belt loops and elastic ankles
Pants very useful for times outside the waders with incessant rain or fishing without waders.Very useful for the beginning of the season when it rains and you can not put toes in the water to protect spawning shadows.
The same strength characteristics as the jacket in the same color and protection against the weather very effective.
This is a store where I buy regularly for several years without problems. Take good matching sizes U.S. / F. Adjustments to the wrists and ankles allow an accurate fit. Consider also below clothes to put on the choices of sizes.
As we transition from summer into fall and winter our gear choices become even more important. A Gore-Tex or other DWR type outerwear is almost a necessity in the coming months. Keeping warm and dry is good for morale and allows anglers to stay out longer in a majority of weather situations. DWR stands for “Durable water repellant coating” and it is a chemical surface treatment applied to apparel and other materials which causes the fabric to become hydrophobic which is better known as water repellant. Water will bead off of the fabric and wick away. Over time this coating will experience wear and deterioration which will cause a wet and clammy feeling since the fabric is not performing at 100%. However a simple and affordable solution is available to make your DWR and other Gore-Tex gear good as new.
Revivex is a water repellant spray that is designed to restore all DWR coated fabrics back to 100% functionality. It can be used on Jackets, Pants, Hats, Waders and much more. The spray is extremely easy to use. Anything treated with Revivex needs to be washed beforehand without detergent. The next step after pulling your gear out of the wash is to spray on the Revivex Treatment and then just throw it in the drier. After that your gear should be good as the day you got it.
Simplicity of use
Range of treatment options – I have used this products on everything from Jackets, Waders and Tents
Price – $14.95 to make your outerwear and other gear water repellant is a small price to pay
Performance – Treated gear is as good as the day it was purchased
Small amount – 5 oz containers do not last long with all the gear that this spray can treat
Overall Revivex is an excellent and affordable solution for all anglers and outdoor enthusiasts looking to extend the life of their equipment. Revivex sure beats investing in new gear.
I think I’ve read every reason that has been written to explain why someone fly fishes. Many are cliché: to get away from it all, to enjoy the solitude, to spend time with friends and family, the serenity, or perhaps the spiritual experience of connecting to nature. Everyone comes to fly fishing for different reasons and under different circumstances. Those who have fallen under its spell know that it becomes more than a hobby or a sport. It’s a passion, a livelihood. It’s something that transports you from the mundane routine of everyday life to a world of excitement, appreciation of nature, and a challenge to your skill. We envy those who get to fish often, and look forward to the next cast. As a former avid golfer-turned fly fisherman, I liken the feeling in your hands of a good golf shot to the feeling of making a physical connection with the handle of your fly rod when you hook up with a fish. The feeling never leaves your hands and draws you back time and again.
I am a restless person. Since I was a kid, I have had a hard time sitting still. I was constantly rearranging my room, building “forts” in the backyard, or inventing something. My grandpa taught me to be a fisherman. Trips to the river, ponds and lakes, and Minnesota taught me the first skills I need to hook a sucker, a bullhead, and later a crappie, bluegill, walleye, or bass. Before the day of the Internet I read books published in the 50s from the public library to learn more about species of fish I only dreamed about catching. I loved to learn about something I was interested in and still do. When I was 12, my grandpa gave me a fIy rod he had no use for. Fly rods in the flat farmland of Iowa are few and far between. I loved the idea of fly fishing, but had no idea what I was doing. I read all I could, but without someone to show me, I did my best to mimic the actions I had seen. Despite catching a few bluegills in a local pond, casting in the backyard was about as far as I got with my fly rod, which was soon “benched” for a more practical spin reel. I loved fishing, but as I grew up, time on the water took a backseat to sports, cars, girls, and college.
I returned to fly fishing through two individuals at just the right time in my life by means of a high school friend and a former athlete-turned-best-friend. In my early twenties I went on a summer camping trip with some friends from high school. One morning, my buddy and his wife left to try trout fishing a nearby stream, and on a whim, I decided to join them. On light tackle and a spin rod, I landed my first trout in years. The excitement of the possibility of catching such an intelligent creature and fishing a dark, cold, unknown stream drew me in. The next 3 months turned into the “summer of trout fishing,” a 2-3 times/week affair that afforded me the best distraction from the reality of my life and the purpose of the initial trip: getting away with some friends after a sudden divorce had turned my world on end. My life as I knew it had been ripped apart, but trout fishing gave me a new definition and a new identity.
Spin fishing was productive, but the restless side of me wanted a challenge. I turned to an athlete of mine, a runner who loved fly fishing and who was the only person I knew that could help me get a handle on what I needed to invest in, knots, set-up, etc. He patiently taught me everything I needed to know, and my enthusiasm filled the gaps with reading and research in books, magazines, and the Internet. He helped to fix my mistakes, took me along on trips to our spring creeks, showed me places to fish, showed me how to get a good drift, set the hook, tie flies, and how to be a more efficient fly fisherman. The friendship lasted well past his high school days, through his guide school in Montana, and into his first guide job in Maine, then Montana. Our friendship has afforded me the opportunity to fish for landlocked salmon on Grand Lake Stream, steelhead on the Brule, big browns and bows on the Madison, Box Canyon, and the tricky Henry’s Fork. Though I’ll never be the technician that he is, our mutual passion feeds off one another. He’ll be incredibly successful either on his own or to a business in the industry and I envy the courage it took him to seek out a career that is unheard of in our school system and the passion that keeps him always dreaming and moving forward.
Amanda and I got married in June a few years ago. Our first date we spent at a large, ponded, natural spring, watching a BWO hatch, tiny trout feeding at a free buffet. She was eager to learn to fly fish, and turned out to be a natural. When I proposed, I surprised her at that spring during a fishing trip this time, in waders, with a ring. Her and I have spent many days on the water. I savor every moment. She is a quick learner, and fishing has been competitive whether it be on our annual steelhead trip, on vacation in Montana or Colorado, or home on our spring creeks. Her and I and now our guide friend are practically family, spending winters tying, and warm summers on the stream or river. In our small town, I feel like the three of us have an exclusive fly fishing club. Walking into our downtown coffee shop, I wonder if anyone thinks twice about what my Simms hats mean. Then again, it’s probably as cryptic as the snowmobilers’ jackets are to me.
I somehow feel “richer” as a fly fisherman. I have never made an income from it, but it has enriched my life. I often think about what fly fishing has given to me and how I can begin to give back, or “pay forward” what I have been given. As a teacher, I have had that chance. Each year, I take students to a spring creek north of our town during an activity day. Prior to the trip, we talk about what trout eat, their habits, and the importance of catch and release. They always have fun and learn how tricky catching a trout can be. For some, it’s their first, maybe only, experience fishing. I like sharing that. Last year, with a partnership with my local TU chapter, we started Trout in the Classroom, a TU program where students learn about watersheds, raise and care for trout eggs in the classroom, and release them in the spring. The kids loved it, were sad when a few died, and got to experience nature first hand. We’re set to begin our second year of TIC this January. With the help of my friend, we started a fly fishing club at my school. A devoted group of 5 students came each Friday morning to learn about set-up, casting, tied flies, and put their skills to the test with some casting contests. This year, we’ve earned a grant for fly tying materials and a fishing trip for the club. It’s given some of the kids involved an identity and an activity to be involved in that they may not have had otherwise. I love to teach, to help people discover something new. It’s the reason I became a teacher in the first place. Combining that and a personal passion has been a lot of fun for me. Maybe someday I’ll try my hand at guiding.
A person has no idea what life has in store for them. That’s the adventure. All the experiences- good and bad- help to shape a person. We’ve all made choices we’d take back, but that’s not part of the deal. Becoming a fly fisherman has been one of the best choices of my entire life. It gives me peace of mind, an outlet to creativity, an escape, friendships, happiness, and humbling experiences that keep me coming back. I look forward to someday sharing my passion (the good with the bad) with my own children.