Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bighorn River Post #1

Everyone remembers that I just went fishing in Montana, right? Well, now you remember and I can tell you all about it.

I really wasn't sure am not sure how to go about this/these posts. It was a nine day expedition with different people coming and going at different times and not easily broken into multiple readable short stories. I could section it according to the weather since that definitely broke the trip in two or three distinguishable segments. I could try and break it into people groups (and probably will). I could write a post for each day, but that would probably be too many posts. Or I could just start writing and see where it takes me.

Well, I don't like to think ahead, but prefer to just go with the flow so here we go.

Upon leaving Portland I checked the weather in Montana and was irked to see a forecast of 50 degrees, and rainy for the first couple days. Typical Portland weather but in Montana. And what was more irksome was the forecast in Portland was 70s and sunny. Of course the weather is what the weather is and after being mildly irked I got over it.

The flight into Denver was fun as always and pretty bumpy on the way down. Chad and Brady picked me up from the airport and we drove eight hours north to meet up with Eric, Tyler, Frank, other Tim, and Dave. We didn't get in till around midnight at which point we confiscated Eric's Tent and went to sleep to the pitter patter of rain on the rainfly. Then we woke up to a river of water running across the entrance to the tent, damp sleeping bags, and water not quite everywhere but everywhere. This river inside the tent wasn't large enough to fish so we grabbed all our stuff, threw it in a car to dry (we hoped) and headed to the real river, got in the boat, and started fishing. This was also the maiden voyage of Dave, Frank, and other Tim's drift boat which I don't seem to have a picture of.

The other five of us had a bit of a dilemma. Five people do not break up nicely into drift boats. They are meant to be fished with three people, one rowing and people fishing from the front and back. Of course with five people you either double your cost and have to few people in one boat, or you drop your cost significantly and squeeze five people into one boat. Being fanatical fly anglers who like to waste their money on gear rather than renting boats we opted for the overloaded boat. That configuration left us still one person to row, two people to fish, and two additional people to watch where they sit/stand to simultaneously keep the boat from capsizing and avoid getting hooked by flies flailing wildly above. We got a number of looks and stares on the river as well as some funny comments. Yes, we were "those guys." But hey, we saved a few bucks and had fun doing so.

The river was a little like a scene out of Hitchcock's The Birds. Swallows were everywhere.

And it wasn't long before the first one was caught...before any fish and literally a few minutes into the float. It flew into my leader mid cast and was instantly tangled. Thanks to Tyler for filming after the tangle up. After the initial screams the bird was pretty docile although it had completely mangled my leader and flies.

We continued fishing and floating in the cold and rain and caught some fish of course. But the river was quite a bit different than previous trips here so we struggled a bit. Late May and early June is usually during the runoff and flows are beginning to get high. This year, however, the flows were Winteresque and the lowest any of us had ever fished the Bighorn at 1800cfs. To put things in perspective, the first couple years the flows were around 4000-5000cfs and a couple years ago it got up to 15000 (note the extra zero) during our trip. Needless to say the river fished massively differently.

It took a little time to really figure things out, but we managed to catch a few the first day. Some of our usual key spots didn't produce like before, but we discovered some others that did. And to give us credit when I say we caught a few I still mean quite a few. I have in my logbook something like 10-15 for the first day, which isn't a particularly good day for this river, but not bad considering. Here are some pics.

 Tyler garbed in his hi-tech rain jacket with a nice fish

 Me with a taste of what was to come

 First whitefish of the trip

 One of chad's fishes

Brady the fish killer.  

Yes, yes, I know. Catch and release and all that jazz. My personal rule is catch and release unless I'm camping. Then I keep what I need to eat and that's what we did. We caught a few to keep then released the rest. Or to be precise, we released everything then in the afternoon realized we hadn't kept any fish and should probably start so we panicked a little, and fished hard to keep a few.

That night we smarted up and got a cabin rather than sleeping in a wet tent in wet sleeping bags in 30 degree cold. It was nice. But it's not quite the same cooking fish and taters over an electric stove rather than a campfire. We also discovered that cooking cajun breaded fish with no oil on high and extra breading vaporizes some toxic chemicals in the breading giving everyone in the room coughing fits and probably lung cancer in a couple years. That was also the last time Frank was allowed to try cooking.

That was pretty much the end of day one and not much different happened on day two. The weather was the same dose of cold and overcast with occasional rain as day one but with some added spice of gale force winds. Good for catching fish! I suffered a serious downgrade in fish count, but most of the others did better. Regardless it was fun and I personally wasn't concerned about my performance since I still had seven more days to fish!

The big bonus of the first couple days was that we more or less discovered what the fish were and were not biting on. Scuds and sowbugs are the usual grub here but pretty much no one caught on those patterns and the action was largely all on midge and baetis nymphs and emergers. We also realized, as I already mentioned, that our usual spots weren't quite as good but that the fish seemed to still be in winter mode and in the deeper pools and eddy's. These sinkholes and eddy's ended up providing a ton of fun and constant catch rates later in the week

The accounts of those later days will eventually follow...

PS - the following accounts may be a little delayed. I'm about to do some travelling and it might be tough to find time to write up these experiences. So what I'll do is wait until I forget everything that happened and completely fabricate the entire experience. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. That's s good start. Waiting for the fabrications.