Thursday, June 25, 2015

Coach's Corner "Thor's Bloody Hammer"

Thor’s Bloody Hammer
This blog is a little late but I think you will enjoy it.

                "Tie, tie, tie."  That is the mantra and the routine for this pilgrim as I energetically create what I know, or at least think, will make the trout look up, or tempt the denizen from the deep to chase my offering.  Unlike those "funhogs" that spend their winters chasing elk and fishing far off waters for steelhead, some of us guides actually have jobs in the off season that keep us busy during the long winter months.  And so my bench sees me every day after school or coaching tying at least a couple dozen flies that will keep the clients on fish.  It is much more than just stocking the fly boxes that compel me to tie, it is therapy!  Relaxing with two fingers of Jameson or a glass of wine and my stack of hair and feathers, I perform what has become a healing ritual.

               "What will it be today? " The vice beckons me.  Cripples?  More parachutes?  No, not rubber legs!  I got it!  Streamers, big streamers!  Really big streamers! The kind that make pike take notice.  I’m going to need a big hook and lots of hair, marabou, Zonker strips, and goofy looking bug eyes.  The recipe reveals itself as I start wrapping.  A self-taught tier, with tutoring from a few masters, I begin my creation.

So it goes as it has for the past 35 years of tying.  Each wrap holds a piece of feather, some tinsel, peacock hurl, etc.  I like what I am doing.  I can see the pike stalking this fly.  It’s going to need to be heavy.  The next fly is weighted heavy with thick gauged lead.  More hair for volume and marabou, yes, marabou, that will give it life.  What do they eat?  Perch? Sunfish?.... Trout?!!  Oh the thrill.  I must do battle. I am selfish and will not share my trout willingly.  Yes, that looks nice.  I toast myself to the creation and celebrate with Sir Jameson. 

                                                                Pumpkin Seed  Pike fodder!

Two flies and I have been on the vice for half an hour.  Like other fly tiers who think they have the next best fly ever created, I am stingy and selfish, no way am I going to share this fly.  I need at least six of these for this trip.   Vary the color… one should look like a trout, one dark, one bright.  I like this one, I will duplicate it, it will be the lucky fly.  Like so many self-made creations I wonder if there has ever been another like it.  Have I created a truly unique fly?  No of course not!  The methods, techniques and advice from tying sages have influenced its birth but it did come from me and I am the great creator of this fly.  So I shall name it “Thor’s Bloody Hammer”.  Much more masculine and regal than “Cat Vomit”, or “Sex Dungeon”!  Whoa that’s cool! 

Will it fish?



                                                               It Worked for Bridger

                                                      And For Me!

                                                                Somewhere near Thompson Falls at dusk

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

(Post) Fathers Day Fishing Report

*Sometime during the Montana fishing season we Marauders find ourselves a step behind the calendar on all things that do not involve being on the river. Like editing pics for this blog, just for random example. The title for this post is three days late for that reason but here we are, better late than never. .*

Its no secret that even on a rare summer day off from guiding we usually find a way to sneak in a short float anyway. Bitterroot, Big Hole, maybe a low Clark Fork day? Whoever said "the only way to cure a man of his folly was to make him persist in it" never met a flyfisherman: I have been happily engaged in this particular form of human folly for eighteen years now and still have seen no reason to change. It takes a truly Herculean amount of fishing to make me consider a non-fishing activity as a good expenditure of a glorious free afternoon. What am I going to do, weed the garden? Please. . .

What Golden Hatch?

It only follows that with this (past) weekend being Fathers Day a float trip was in order, a few of us rowing the Dads around and enjoying some excellent early summer fishing. A little grilling, a cigar or two, and a handful of feisty cutthroat all just a great way to spend time with the old men and keep us boys honest about our fishing tales. Now with many of our fathers living in the Bitterroot or nearby there exists the potential for this to finally become an annual event. Nothing I would rather be doing.

As for the fishing: It is really good right now. Dry Or Die. Droppers should be left at home for another day, maybe next month when the hatches wane and the river shrinks to its mid-summer low. Flies of the day are large mayflies, #10 golden stones, and any #14 tannish caddis if you want to be one of those guys. Find a riser and flick a fly at him, he will probably eat it. Get out and enjoy while its good and most definitely take the old man out too.

Find The Lurking Rainbow. . ?

Nymph Party

Thursday, June 18, 2015

There Will Be Dry Flies

When it comes right down to it, I say when it comes right down to it, dry fly fishing is what it's all about. Nothing else speaks to the root cause of how we all became flyfishermen in the first place than a trout nose poking up through the film to take a delicious dry fly. "Matching the hatch", duns verses emergers, upstream verses dowstream presentations, Reach Casts, the universal love of the Adams, all of this springs from a bunch of trout deciding to feed on the surface. Everything else is gravy and usually sometimes un-neccessary complication of this tried-and-true formula. Put simply, This Is Why We Are Here.

That is where we find ourselves right meow, the heart of the Montana dry fly season happening all around us in every drainage for a hundred Big Sky miles. When we stoke the woodstoves and tie flys to keep the cabin fever away this is what we are dreaming about.  If I had to choose one place in the world to be for June and July it would be western Montana.

Holy Hanna.  Somebody stop me.

Doesn't get any better than this, the best you can do is get out here and enjoy while the good times roll. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer Stonefly Season Is Here

Here we are smack dab in the middle of the dry fly mecca that is southwest Montana. The last glimmers of May have brought about the beginnings of summer, and dry fly fishing nirvana has set in. A time where heavy streamer and nymph rigs give way to equally heavy dry fly rigs. 0-3x tippets with one of the biggest dry flies in your box will keep you going all day. No droppers or bobbers to complicate the works, clean and simple is the name of the game.

The first of the summer stonefly hatches here in southwest Montana begin with the fabled salmonfly. The first sightings of a salmonfly signifies a changing of the seasons, the unofficial start of summer. As we shift away from the spring hatches towards the large stoneflies of summer, the water they hatch in shifts as well. Rivers are fresh after being cleaned out by snowmelt, leaving behind new life and seemingly new rivers. Runs fill in with trees, both growing on the bank and lodged against it, creating new little slices of trout heaven. And those channels you caught them in last season, well they could be high and dry this year.  New water develops, the trout move in, and anglers eventually find them. A timeless cycle.

 As the rivers change in early summer so does the life within and around it. Birds have returned to feast on the abundant bugs, elk and deer are in the river bottom enjoying fresh grass and guarding their young, and the trout are feeding with conviction. As the the rivers continue to stabilize, like we are now experiencing on many of Montana's freestone rivers, the trout begin to look up and eat drys all day long. On top of it all, the trout that have been hitting the net lately have been downright obese. Cutties and browns so fat you wonder if they will burst from overeating. Life is thriving in and around southwest Montana's rivers.

 We will enjoy some of the finest stonefly dry fishing of the year over the next few months here in Montana. Salmonflies and especially the golden stones will be around, with certain days bringing them out in force, throughout June and July. This means a continued pattern of throwing big dry flies to those sweet grassy banks southwest Montana is famous for. Music to my ears, as I am definitely looking forward to the next two months of river time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Coach's Corner : "The Boys of Spring"

Epic Fish Camp 2015
Missouri River, Craig, Montana


This year found the Boys of Spring at their usual camp site located at the base of Holter Dam on the famed trout waters of the Missouri River.  The ideal location for a bunch of weary educators who have spent the last nine months reading 7th grade papers, dealing with helicopter parents and needy staff, and the "no you can’t go to the bathroom because you are bored" students etc. etc. etc.. Needing some well-deserved river therapy, we made our way to the “Mighty Mo.” 

Included in this year’s 4th annual trip are the usual suspects:  our steadfast leader, Mr. Dan Kimzey, and his cohort Eric Larson, Chad Williams (yours truly) and Shawn Goll, Dan's father-in-law "Dirty Steve", the white water expert, and Dan's brother Kelly Kimzey, Fly-fishing Guide Extraordinaire.  Rounding out the group is future educator and seasoned fly fisherman, my son, Devan Williams.


Devan and I showed up a day earlier than the rest of the crew for a little scouting and some one-on- one father and son bonding.  We decided to keep it close to camp and fished what is commonly referred to as "the dam to dam" float.  No need to pay for a shuttle and the proximity to camp insured that we would not run low on beer or snacks.  Right off the bat, the kid showed up with the hot hand.  Once we rowed to the cable Devan was fish on with the typical zebra midge and scud pattern nymph set up.

He would continue this routine throughout the day and the rest of the trip reminding me constantly of his fishing prowess.  Indeed the kid turned out to be the one to get it done throughout the trip.  There was hardly a time that we did not hear his announcement of “fish on” much to the chagrin of his seasoned mentors.  As a father I couldn’t have been more proud.

  Devan even took on himself the role of instructor, giving his old man all kinds of advice.  It is fun to watch my son step out on his own and create his own style.  He fished with his own hand-tied bugs and was very successful!  I kind of feel like the father in the movie “A River Runs Through It”.  Devan has his own rhythm, the rhythm of the river.

The rest of the gang finally arrived Thursday evening and Dirty Steve and I prepared for our brethren a feast of elk burgers.  

Food always takes on a special meaning when cooked outside over a fire and especially when you can put food on the grill that you have caught or killed yourself.  Each meal takes on a buffet style as each member contributes to the feast and none are left wanting.  In fact the average human would founder on the abundance of food we each consumed.  We spend as much time enjoying the food and company as we do catching trout! Devan and Shawn Goll even caught a mess of mud bugs and boiled them up for supper one night.  They were lights-out fantastic!

Nights are spent around the campfire regaling each other of past exploits and future dreams.  We eagerly await Dan’s stories.  He has a special flare that always entertains and never fails to bring about a hearty laugh.  If you are lucky, Steve will bust out his mouth harp and start jamming an old blues tune accompanied by some kind of box drum concoction Dan came up with that every one wants a turn on.  We keep things rocking late into the night and our neighbors don’t seem to mind.  Unless you are Shawn Goll aka "the Yeti" suffering from a food coma!

As we floated a couple stretches this year, the river gave our crew plenty of opportunity to ply their skills against finicky trout.  Dan used his new 10 ft. 6 wt. and tangled with a few good fish.  I would manage to wrangle a couple good trout on a dry and even flirted with a heart attack as a behemoth took a swipe at an over-sized streamer that I tried for “kicks and giggles.”  Most of the fellas got into fish and even Eric, a notorious Pike and warm water fisherman, had a good time working out the bugs on his technique.  Shawn brought his shiny new drift boat that he refurbished last summer and Eric managed to keep the 360 degree turns to a minimum.  But mostly this trip was about the healing waters and the therapy provided by being outdoors for those of us that make our profession in education.  The camaraderie that we share here creates a bond between us that is hard to describe but can be summed up with one word:  “PALS.”

Things are starting to look just a shade western! "Keep working on that sculling stroke Eric.  It sure is coming together for you, pilgrim!"  Nobody enjoys the simple pleasure of the Montana outdoors and the company of pals more than he does. “Sometimes I just like to sit and think…sometimes I just sit.” says Eric.

The Yeti on point is a big man with a big heart and an appetite for life.  The chili dogs were an experience.  I just wish I had a jalapeno popper worthy of your stature.  My whiskey brother!  
(I guess you just had to be there!)

This is Epic Fish Camp.

Our annual pilgrimage is the brainchild of our fearless leader Dan Kimzey.  If it is possible, Dan wants to do it. If it is not possible, Dan will give it a try anyway, just for the hell of it! He is a fine example of the kind of guy who takes each day of life and sucks the marrow out of it.  He lives each day with the energy and enthusiasm of a child.  Not only does Dan have your back but he leads from the front and is willing to take a bullet for you.  If you stand by his side, he will call you brother.