Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bighorn River Post #2

Does anybody out there still remember that I not so recently went on a long fishing trip in Montana? Maybe, maybe not, but I did and life has finally returned to normal so I have some free time to recollect the time, the fish, and the enjoyment and try to make it an enjoyable read for you! So here we go...

Just to remind you the trip started out cold and rainy, and the river flow was way lower than we had ever fished it before. That resulted in lower catch rates than I had hoped for, but not that bad. The more experienced guys were catching 5-15 a day while the neophytes were struggling to only catch a few. And after these first two days half the group had to head back home so say so long to Big Tim, Eric, Dave, and Frank for the rest of these tales.

On day three, the four of us who were left decided to fish sans boat, but we wanted to get over to a hole on the far side of the river that we had had success on the day before. Considering the extremely low flow of the river we figured it was possible, but quickly realized it was going to be more difficult than expected. This picture might not do it justice...the water is moving pretty quick here.

And after wasting a couple hours we finally gave up, ate some lunch, and drove up to the damn to walk down from there. This turned out to be a good decision because on the walk down from the damn we found some fish sipping the surface and went to it. I have to admit, though, at this point I was getting a bit concerned about Tyler. He did some fly fishing as a kid but not much recently outside of one of our other recent trips, but he decided he liked it so bought some gear. Now we bring him up here and he finds out how much fun it can be to fish with dries. I became concerned because he had one rod, and had decided after having some success today that he would just leave it rigged up with a dry dropper. We had somehow managed to create a monster purist and I can foresee his life will be tough from now on.

Overall day three was pretty uneventful. Fish were caught although not tons, and we really only fished the afternoon. The good news was that we really began to feel like we understood how to fish the river this year. Almost all the action was on baetis emergers and some on midge nymphs, so pretty much everyone had on the same pair of flies (with the exception of Tyler who stubbornly stuck with dries) and had reasonable success.

We decided not to keep fish today, and that evening we cooked up some venison tenderloins that Brady's dad had given him, and it might have been one of the best meals I've ever had. I love wild and gamey steaks, and it really doesn't get any better than tenderloin.  If you've had it, you know what I mean.

The next morning we drove straight back up to the dam to head downstream again (after some coffee and donuts at camp of course). We geared up at the car and began walking downstream, all with very positive attitudes because today was the first day of nice, warm, sunny weather. We passed the "meat hole" (yes it is aptly named, although I discovered later in the trip that it's actually just a bunch of deeper beds) and in some flats just down from there there were some fish sipping on the surface.  I knew before we started it would be tough, and it was. The water here was moving very very slowly and was glassy smooth. Because of that the fish had a way of figuring us out and staying just out of our casting areas. It was a bit like herding cats. As I would take a couple steps upstream to cast to a fish, it would stop rising and another (or possibly the same one) would start rising again farther upstream and just out of range. Nonetheless a few were caught, but the catch rate was too slow so we didn't stay all that long and moved downstream.

Downstream is where things all came together completely for the first time of the trip. Sure, we had been catching the previous 3 three days but nothing like what we experienced up on split island.  This is a spot where we have always had some luck, but never so much that we went out of our way to fish it. Usually it's just a spot we stop and fish for an hour or two when floating the river. Our attitude toward split island changed massively this year.

When we got down there we saw a few fish were eating on the surface just above the confluence between the islands. Tyler immediately went to it of course. The other three of us went to fish at the confluence, which is essentially a deep pool that's only 25 feet across and about 30 feet long. But it holds at least 30 fish, most of them pretty big, and all of them visible. Brady, Chad and I took turns hauling fish out of that hole nonstop for the next couple hours, while Tyler did quite well on dries up above. And as you can see I had some trouble with my camera fogging up.

No one really kept track of their catches, I find it hard to do when things are going well. But toward the end of the day we started talking about how many we thought we had caught. Our estimate was something around 50 fish between the four of us, all in the 15-19 inch range, with quite a few more than that hooked and lost. And all of that was done in just the afternoon with at least one and usually two people sitting on the bank watching. A very good afternoon to say the least.

We also called it a day a little early; it's always easy to do that when you've been catching consistently all afternoon. We met up at the meat hole with John and family who were slated to show up that evening.  Brady helped them fish it while Tyler, Chad, and I sat on the bank basking in the glory of the best day of the trip so far. It's weird to me in retrospect that some of the most enjoyable moments of a fishing outing can be moments not spent fishing. But that's the way things go. We stuck around fishing the meat hole and sitting around until close to dusk, and John managed to catch one fish and lose a dozen or more. I suppose it was a good way for him to shake the rust off, and there was apparently a lot of rust to shake loose.

Day five might deserve a post to itself, so stay tuned.  The rest of the trip posts will get filled in this week now that life is back to normal for me.

Now it's time to go fishing.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe I don't get out and about as much as I should. Sounds like a perfect time to me. Thanks Tim!