Friday, 20 June 2008

Montana just gets better!

I slept like a log last night, the Montana air and long days fishing do that to you. But it is that nice relaxed tired, the kind that tells you have spent another amazing day living life in this extraordinary place. The air is as pure as the scenery and the service here at Yellowstone Valley Ranch is about the best I have ever experienced at a fishing lodge. These guys bend over backwards to help us with our fishing requirements and keep us very well fed in the restaurant. For example tonight I had Crab Bisque followed by Sea Bass and a Creme Brulee to finish. At a fishing lodge! But enough of the gourmet food what about the gourmet fishing?

Well it would be unfair to say that it was not so memorable as that 3 course meal because one of our hosts "Woody" worked his socks off for us today. Woody runs the restaurant but at 30 also has several years guiding fishing under his belt. Today he took Henry Gilbey and I to the lower Madison in search of the elusive big fish that we have been seeking. Stopping off for the mandatory fly buying session we visited a really cool shop called Rivers Edge which was furnished from top to toe in displays crafted by non other than Jim Adams who built the fly display now installed in Hart Flyshop. Woody helped pick out some patterns including big heavily weighted Crayfish and variety of bead head nymphs. I already have 1000s but you can't have too many! He also picked up some curious looking cork balls that were bright orange and designed to serve as an indicator. Shopping completed we took off for the river.

Woody took us all the way up to the start of the run, off loading our drift boat and then sending the car back down to our get out point with a lady who provides this service for a living. They charge $25 a time to pick up the vehicle, drive it to your required location and then park up. They lock the keys in the car and Woody then lets us in with a spare set. Genius!

We fished that river hard, casting in close to the bank and then Woody skillfully back rows to maintain a dead drift presentation of the flies. If the indicator goes down all that is needed is a strike. This sounds like simple fishing, in fact I promote the use of indicators and guide with them regularly myself back in the UK so I know what they are all about. But this was different. Cast then mend; then mend again! Strike at anything unusual, even if the indicator should momentarily pause. The flies were a big heavy crayfish (Woolly Buggers in #6 are also popular) tied to a 9 feet foot leader and then a further 2 feet of leader was tied off from the bend of this pattern. To this we fixed a bead head pattern such as the Copper John or a San Juan worm. We even used split shot at times to gain more depth!

All in all we managed 3 fish and missed a few plus I lost a big fish while Woody was taking the boat out of the water at the end of the day. The fish consisted of 2 Browns and a Rainbow, the last fish only making about a 1lb and yet it had nailed the big Cray! I changed to a yarn indicator as I found the ball to be more of a hindrance than a help, especially when casting, plus I was dubious about the sensitivity of it. Fishing while confident is always important and it was upon making the switch that I got into the groove and started catching. Even so it was proving tough for Henry to capture the day on camera. He strives for perfection which is why his images turn out looking so good and unfortunately today the light and river conditions were causing problems. Trips like this may seem to be nothing more than a chance to spend time on a jolly. But of course it is in fact our lively hood and we treat it very seriously, after all we are here for the benefit of Hardy rather than our own self gratification! Although we are acutely aware of how lucky we are to work in fishing it is such a frustrating business when tried and tested tactics are just not working or the light conditions mean we can't get the shots required.

Getting back to work I had been searching for ideas to fill our Friday as we will be fending for ourselves. Scanning a local map I picked up on a local lake called Daileys and suggested that after dinner we should visit. That was a mistake ... we should have gone an hour earlier! Pitching up at this unbelievably clear and scenically stunning piece of water I instantly fell in love and was soon frantically pulling on my waders. The clarity of this lake has to be seen to be believed and just to wet my appetite fish were moving fairly frequently. But they were a long way off shore and so I waded out until my Hardy EWS were almost overflowing. During the next hour there were many expletives as fish ventured tantalising close but just short of even a 25 yard cast. I tried a dry and then switched to a buzzer which proved so effective last night. No joy but the fish were still rising and every now and again one was within range.

Swapping back to the dry I decided to play the waiting game standing patiently while scanning for a confidently feeding fish. I fluffed my first chance big style due to shaking so much! The second fish I cast at boiled at the fly but missed it and then the wind kicked up. The fish went off. Then they came back on! "Pleeeease give me a chance I'm tired, have fished hard all day and just need that one chance!!!" It came in the form of a fish that was gently sipping just 15 yards away. I calmed myself, allowed it to rise again and then popped up a cast allowing it to flutter gently to the surface. There was no hesitation as once again an English midge pattern, the Big Black by Iain Barr was snaffled!

Walking steadily back to the shore I knew this was a decent fish worth a "grip and grin" even if it was with a flash which I know Henry hates to use. As he dashed back for this piece of equipment I concentrated on playing my fish which alarmed me when its tail cut through the surface. This was no small fish, conservative estimates say around 4lb. Suddenly a burst of power hit me with that enormous low following the high as my fly pulled out. Disappointing but all the same amazing and now tomorrow Henry and I will return with a drift boat. I love rivers and of course have come to Montana to see them but there is something very special about stillwaters and after all if the river is out of sorts why not use them? I don't think I have ever seen such gin clear water since my trip to New Zealand and to be honest a crack at this venue can't come soon enough. Talking of which I had better get some shut eye as right now this is being typed on auto pilot! I have been taking some pictures and will upload a few in the UK but right now why not check out Henrys Blog to see why we are so excited about the fishing out here and already planning a second visit!

Finally I must applaud the staff here at the ranch again (especially manager Paul, Restaurant manager Woody and chef Josh) and have a distinct feeling that some of you reading this blog maybe meeting them in the future! Just before I go, congratulations to Paul who shaved off his moustache today!

No comments:

Post a Comment