Thursday, December 31, 2015

Marauders Best 2015

The time has come as we find ourselves yet again closing the book on another great year flyfishing in Montana. With the turning of the calendar comes a chance to take a look back at the past year and reflect on some of the best images & memories from the 2015 season. This past year has been one for the books: new friends, new rivers, and adventures out of the state were all common themes. We made it through with the same smiling faces we walked into the year with, a testament to both good planning and a fair dose of rocky mountain tenacity. A mountain of credit has to be given to the many awesome people who ride with us Montana river jockeys year in and year out, without whom this lifestyle would be considered less of a "career" and more of a "disorder". We raise a glass to all these friends and followers for another great year and plans for many more. It is snowing gently on the Bitterroots as this is being written, as plans for upcoming trips are already taking shape on computers across the states.  Let's hope 2016 brings with it new surprises, epic fish for all, and time on the water together.

Cheers & Mahalo,
The Marauders

Monday, December 7, 2015

BC Steelhead Adventures

Every now and then an idea of "wouldn't it be great if we went "x"" takes root and becomes a year-long goal, a step outside of comfortable stomping grounds into a new arena of the flyfishing world. Well 60 plus hours of driving, countless rivers past, and an uncountable amount of beer later we made it back into the states from BC steelhead camp. Six months in the making, it started as talks on the banks of the Salmon river as Jed and I enjoyed the last of the spring steelhead season before a long summer on the sticks. Everything is bigger somewhere else so might as well go and see for ourselves!

With only Jed having been to our target region we were a little unaware of what exactly we were getting ourselves into. Thirty hours of driving, stories of bears, and a few crazy Canadian drivers kept us on our toes as we embarked towards Northern British Columbia. Every trip has to have a moment of doubt and our came early on. Smooth sailings were the order until we encountered the Jasper ice fields, wherein the words "I don't remember any of this" were uttered by Jed. At midnight we sat, a solid twelve hours of road time behind us, now faced with half a foot of snow growing by the second and many mountain passes ahead of us. We beverage up, threw the truck into 4-wheel drive, and plowed ahead into the night. We may have been rolling at a snails pace but it was better than not rolling at all.  After almost four treacherous hours we hit semi dry pavement just outside the town of Jasper, BC. A much needed rest was attempted but the pull of steel was too much. After an hour of trying to get comfortable, the truck was started and we continued on. Ten hours down the road we pulled into the magical spot that was to become the first of the two camps that held us during our time in B.C.

Arriving in Houston BC we chose the Morice River and Camp By-Mac as our first stop for learning British Colombia water. We preformed a quick survey of town for licenses, beer, fuel, and all other fishing trip necessities. Armed for bear (literally) and fully self sufficient we were ready to begin the learning of a new river. With a lack of fishing pressure due to being late in the season we sought out all leads from both reliable and shady sources alike: Mention to anyone that you are a steelhead fisherman and the advice seems to start coming from all directions. We struck early when Jed hit a nice chrome hen, taking a classic hairwing pattern on the swing and giving us our first taste of sea run gold. Only takes one little tug to make everyone fish with confidence, combing the runs and deep pools looking for the next silver bullet to go airborne.

The Morice gave up some steel but proved to be hard-cracking nut : Mile after mile of awesome steel green water all begging for a swung fly and little clue as to where the fish actually were. Having struck only a few fish by day three and wondering where the rest of the fishermen were we struck out for a reconnaissance day further west, to the river whose legends brought us to this country in the first place : Kispiox Country. Tucked into a mountainous arm of the Skeena system the Kispiox is a formidable sight, a beast of a river even during winter time low flow. After a half day of swinging new water and no tugs Jed finally struck paydirt and opened up our account on the second river of the trip with one of the fish that we were really looking for in Canada.

OK then Canada, now we are talking. Thats all she wrote for Camp By-Mac : Pulling stakes and moving camp took up our next day, moving down the system with giant buck steelhead now firmly in our sights. Funny how one fish can change mood and course of a trip overnight and that one whopper buck certainly did. We doubled our efforts towards learning a new river, swinging flies from sun up til sundown through some of the famous runs we had all read about. A new favorite fly and muttered incantations reinforce each other as step follows step down a juicy run. The joy and madness of steelhead fishing is the damm shock and luck of actually running into one of these giant, migrating, non-eating animals face to face and weight on the line. "Like finding a damm unicorn". Damm straight, but theres Yetis in them hills too I hear.

Floats averaged ten river miles, swinging through the likely water day after day. Evening at camp revolved around hearty home cooked meals and tying flies late into the night. Good whiskey is fuel for good flies, this is a fact I have learned from rigorous winter-long study : The Tillamore dew went first followed by the cherry-infused Quicksilver. The Holston rumbled on into the night like a Korean two-stroke at dawn. The pile of flies for the upcoming day grew in size and variety, new and sometimes desperate combinations of flash and feather to try and shake the next giant from his rocky bucket. Confidence. Confidence. Mantras grow rampant in these situations, taking on all shapes and cadences as the days go on: We found the main variables to be the coldness of the day, time since the last steelhead was hooked, and total combined beer consumption of the group. A few beers in the morning makes for rip-roaring chats echoing down the dawn river. Somedays in the absence of fish they can be a lifesaver. "Desperate" is not the right word, but it can become desolate out there real quickly. The eternal fisherman's optimism feeds off brief signs from the fish below and man on the days when they don't play. . . .   Give me a sign fish, give me a sign!!

Time passes quickly in steelhead camp, the ease of daily routine and the constant search for elusive quarry combine to create an ethereal atmosphere. With food pre-prepared, phones long dead and calendars far away there is little to interfere with the swinging. The low light angle of early November helps the vibe along as days blend seamlessly into one another. Day three on this river or is it only two? How many meals of mexican are left to go? Only the supply of beer in coolers and propane for heat bring us back around to the distant, foggy reality of non-camp living.

And so a steelhead camp goes. It went resoundingly well for us this time around and it feels like the budding of a new-found home water. Something about this place, the distance and seeming impenetrability of the BC wilderness makes every moment and every bite that much more astounding. When the guiding season is over and the sun lowers in the horizon our bags will be packed again for the north country : BC Steelhead camp is softly calling.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Missoula Browntown

Chuck n' duck, helmets on assault has been the mantra of late for my boat no matter the river. Mo'. Blackiefoot. Bitterroot. And of course the Clark. A short afternoon float last week on the trusty Clark Fork almost out did all the aforementioned rivers with a brownie haul that placed as one of the best streamer routes of the year. Some runs had nothing, while others (one run in particular breaking the total trout-pounds-per-hole hole safety limit) overflowing with feisty toothy hunters. Having a few days off these days to take advantage of such red-hot action is a blast, one which I will be taking every possible advantage of from here until ice up. Ice up is going to happen this year, right??

It's been a low water year for western Montana and the fishing in some areas has suffered. But in keeping with their reputation and breeding,  Browns do not give a shit.  #zeroshitsgiven.  They just sulk til the weather is right, til the days are shorter and the bait fish weaker, and Blamo! Coming out at you all gangbusteres, two jaws swinging , teeth and attitude in equal measure wrapped in golden buttery brown. Just like in the movies these ruthless killers are sharply dressed and have impeccable teeth. Where they go there ain't no cutthroats . Few rainbows too. And like the Professor once chimed "where we are going we don't need roads". Just rafts.

"Its a live ball!!"

Friday, October 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday : Fish Gypsies Of Summer

* This post was originally written in July. Sometimes media updates get away from us fish bums.

Sometimes in a river season you run across a fellow flyfisherman that provides a vivid reminder as to how / why you got into this dam fly flicking sport in the first place. The enthusiasm, hunters mind, camaraderie, and general love of the outdoors that captivates us and keeps us going out come rain or shine in search of the next tug at the end of the line. Basically, the all-consuming love and craziness that is flyfishing.  I got to experience one of those shining days last week with a couple new friends, cousins Kevin and David. 

Sometimes it's just the day: Mild slow morning out on the water, building ominous clouds on the horizon, patented fisherman's optimism holding doubts at bay; A change of tactics resulting in a slew of whopper trout as the bite went from tepid cool to red hot ; Finally closed out by rowing through a genuine summer downpour rainstorm to finish out the afternoon. All this together turns a normal day out floating the river into an above expectations adventure. These kind of days never get old for me and sharing one with these two was a full-ride double shot of awesome. Gotta love it!

Kevin has been around the flyfishing world a few times over. From Florida bonefish to BC Steelhead and Indiana bass fishing he has done most of what can be done with a fly rod. Despite crisscrossing the states searching for new finned quarry he had never made it to the Bitterroot until last year and only got to seriously fish it this year. Needless to say he has taken to it in slamming style. The excitement of putting fish into the net on a new river still hasn't gotten old for him yet and probably not for a long while yet. That is a fire that I can admire and put as my point man any day.

David on the other hand was brand new to the Montana fly fishing game and had mountain of learning to climb in just a few days. Thankfully he was a quick study, excited to learn and managed to figure out the all-important trifecta of "cast / mend / set!" early on like a natural. Putting all those skills together got him into several nice rainbows and cutties and scared a handful more. Although early in his fishing career we might just turn him onto all this angling nonsense, or as he would put it, "brand new psychosis". Loving every minute of it!

Thanks for the fun times guys, looking forward to seeing you in western Montana again!