Sunday, 22 June 2008

Bighorn Baptism

Although we have only been here a few days I feel that Montana is my second home. This place is just so special and I hope that Aardvark McLeod will push this venue hard. Quite simply it is a Trout mecca and no one who has ever fished for this species should miss seeing this amazing place. It is a little more crowded than New Zealand but then a few hours on a plane and you are here, New Zealand is a very long haul. The flight from Heathrow to Denver and connection to Bozeman is easy.

In fact Henry Gilbey and I have crammed in so much that I didn't get to the blog for a couple of days, so what have we been up to? Friday was spent sorting out gear shots for Hardy and then we headed off for Dailey Lake in search of some Trout from a kayak. What incredible fun. I have my kayak at home but have been so busy guiding that I have had little time to use it. After a peaceful afternoon spent flicking a fly from this silent means of transportation I have been inspired to get out and really give this from of fishing a crack. During our session a huge sedge about 2 inches long was hatching off and fish could be seen smashing them across the lake. In fact the takes were so violent that it looked more like a school of Bass on the hunt than Trout. We had some bad luck with the light as a sudden storm set in but prior to this Henry still got some awesome shots and we picked up a couple of fish. Again the Buzzer worked. I cannot wait to return with my English patterns and hit this lake hard!

Dailey Lake was very cool but paled into insignificance when matched against our final venue of the week. This was to be the world famous Bighorn river. Controlled by a Hydro Electro dam it his hard to imagine that within my lifetime this river was just a brown mess home only to a few "suckers" (a bit like an ugly barbel!) as the Americans call them. Then an inspired set of individuals created the lake and started releasing water down the Bighorn. This cleaned the gravel which is perfect habitat for Trout and their reproductive cycle, while creating large volumes of highly oxygenated water. The water also flows at a constant temperature, even in winter. The result? A staggering 9000 Trout per mile. Now imagine of this was even just 4500 per mile! As Henry and I floated the river in a drift boat under the skillful guiding of Clark Smyth of Rock Creek Anglers we just could not believe the astounding amount of Trout cruising below us. In fact the only time I can ever remember seeing so many fish is during trips out after Bonefish.

However the fish are not easy as many anglers float this river in search of one of the trophies that can run to a mind boggling 10lbs! Believe me this would be some adversary (especially on a #5 weight!) in the weight of water flowing the Bighorn. Clark worked hard to find the right combination of flies and also weight (they use split shot) in order that the flies worked close to the river bed and fish. Our main target was Trout of course and we caught both in Rainbows and Browns in large numbers but Clark also got into a Whitefish and for my sins I also hooked an ugly "sucker" (and by that I promise I don't mean Henry!)

The scrap that the Trout put up was amazing and once landed I could not believe the power of their jaws. Once or twice while unhooking I got quite a nip! The style off fishing was also different and very interesting. Clark would back row the boat, a very light flat bottomed craft referred to as a drift boat. As the guide works the oars the water literally skids beneath allowing an angler to cast and then perfectly dead drift the flies in time with the flow. A few mends help to steady the pace and indications of a take are spotted via a curious indicator resembling a tiny balloon. I admit this may not be to every ones taste but I loved every minute of it and also realised that in the huge water conditions (10,000 cubic feet / second, it is usually just 2500) there was very little other option. We did see good numbers of fish rise, or at least I thought so! Clark said that he would want to see fish rising every 10 seconds before he would even think about dries. During normal water conditions apparently this is normal and the dry fly fishing is mind blowing. A good day could yield over 60 fish and remember the average is over 17" long!

So I must close this entry as we have the hike home before us. I have a heavy heart to be leaving this place but look forward to seeing my family of course. They will certainly be spending time is this wonderful place sometime in the future. I truly believe everyone who possibly can should come and take a look at this place, angler or not. It has just about everything you could wish for. Equally I look forward to getting back to work, after all I have a great reminder of this trip in the shop. An authentic Jim Adams fly display just like the ones seen in the Fly Shops here! And I hear it has been raining so perhaps another Salmon is on the cards ....

To wet your appetutue take a look at images from this trip on Henry Gilbeys Blog and I will add a few to my entries when I get home.

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