Monday, January 31, 2011

Feelin' it. And yet, not feelin' it.

Though I hate to speculate on how something like this could ever happen, this evening I found myself highly caffeinated and listening to throbbing ambient on full volume while I sat at the tying bench. To say I was overstimulated for the task at hand--to reproduce countless replications of relatively mundane fly patterns--with any sort of useful focus and productivity is an understatement. You try tying more than two in a row of any given pattern whilst a few hundred milligrams of caffeine course through your veins and your stereo keeps pumping tracks like this:

Burning Man
flashbacks aside, I did manage to produce a dozen fishable bugs. Though in place of one dozen uniformly-tied #10 brown Pat's rubberleg stonefly nymphs, it was more like 12 completely different, freakishly-weird variations on something like this:

What red glitter foam, purple rubber legs and twin chartreuse butts have to do with Skwala stoneflies escapes me at the moment, but rest assured, crazy shit like this usually wrecks 'em, and then we're pissed because I only tied one. I learned that from my buddy Kurt. Thanks for ruining me, bro.

Happy twisting, freaks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Those fish are spawning and we will try to get them to take a fly as we roll it past their nose."

Missoulian outdoor columnist and host of the weekly Montana Outdoor Radio Show Mark Ward wrote this article about "fly fishing" for steelhead that ran in the Jan. 27 issue.

Come on, Mark. As a somewhat credible, somewhat locally-known outdoor "personality," try not to come off as a total JONG. It's obvious you don't know jack about fly fishing for steelhead-or fly fishing in general for that matter-but at least have the nerve to sack up and tell it like it is:

"Fly fishing" for steelhead does not involve 11 foot nymph rigs, six BB split shot and two "black and red nymph flies" tethered to 15lb Maxima. Nor does it involve dragging said rig across the faces of a few thousand exhausted fish attempting to spawn in gin clear water while they sit literally trapped at the base of a giant, non-negotiable concrete wall. If you had even the most basic appreciation of the history, culture and inherently existentialist nature of fly fishing for steelhead, then you would know it certainly does not involve yahoos like you and your buddy hooking 20 fish in a day. And I swear on the grave of Roderick-Haig Brown and everything that is holy in this sport: fly fishing for steelhead does not have a goddamn thing to do with "rubbing a little crawdad smelly jelly" on your fly. Fuck.

Hey, that looks like a good hole!

But you know what all of those things do have to do with? Snagging spawning steelhead off of their redds and bragging about it in the newspaper. I mean, the quote of your buddy's you used is priceless. Really? You're lucky the Missoula PETA freaks haven't found you yet!

Now, I'll grant you that the North and South Fork steelhead fisheries have become all-out meat markets, with fishermen from all walks of life throwing every conceivable piece of hardware directly on to the skulls of the biggest fish they will likely ever see. And that's fine. Though I'll never be caught dead setting foot in the North Fork with the intention of fishing for those rotting, doomed husks of what were once magnificent creatures, I have been known to occasionally nymph the muddy ditch we affectionately know as the South Fork and get some steelhead jizz on my waders. But at least I can't
see them, and I'm not afraid to admit what it is: glorified snagging with a fly pole.

So if it cranks your stoke to rip the hatchery brats off redds as they bump their faces against the foundation of Dworshak, fine. I couldn't give a damn how you choose to fish for steelhead. Just know that it's unethical, it's sleazy and it is without a doubt anything but fly fishing for steelhead. So please don't write about it like it is, and stay the hell out of the way of me and anyone else fly fishing for them in a respectable manner.

By the way, the technique you described is far easier to chunk on a spinning rod. The rig sinks down "in the zone" faster, and then you don't have to like, fly cast and stuff.

Next time Mark, try these. They work waaaaay better than those silly flies.

And lastly, a priceless second opinion on the matter:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can I?

Swiped straight from the annals of Chum comes this mother of all functional fishing inventions: whisky in can. That's right angling drunks (remember, only alcoholics go to meetings), it's 12 ounces of premium low-grade, Panamanian-produced whisky in a convenient, crushable and recyclable container. According to the Scottish Spirits Ltd. website, the green aluminum cylinders of goodness will be available worldwide soon, and each 12 oz. can will carry a suggested retail price of $5.00 USD. Where was a six pack (12 pack?) of these babies while we spent five frigid days on the Smith in a snowstorm two Junes ago?


Monday, January 17, 2011

Run Off? Is that you?

Nope, it sure isn't. But if you cover one eye and quickly steal a glance at the hydrographs for Missoula-area rivers, you might think it were June. Inches of rain on top of snow the past couple of days have doubled the size of our rivers, and since all this rain is decidedly not rain above 6500 feet or so, we continue to sit in a pretty good spot this winter as far as water is concerned. Bring it on, La Niña.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Look, Same Fishy Taste!

If you're gonna be stoked about your blog, you better like the way it looks. As an extra motivation to getting BHWM fired up and kicking again, I mixed things up a bit. Not that I disliked the old look, it was just becoming a little stagnant.

This seems a lot more fishy to me—and a lot less dark and scary. Just look how stoked Big Timber and Baker are. If you want to leave me a comment and let me know your reaction to the new steez, feel free. Or don'tI won't reply anyway.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


It hits every year at this time. It's not like it creeps up on you. Those of us who choose to live in this part of the world have seen it coming for monthsthe warmer seasons inevitably surrendering to the sulking gray ceiling and scattered snowflakes of a long Missoula winter. The summer toys are put away, the rafts stacked half-inflated in the garage, quietly waiting it out like old dogs who know better than to go outside in the cold. The focus doesn't fade, but it changes.
Not that winter is bad—winter means watching the sun rise over decoy spreads bobbing in steaming side channels, football and, if we're lucky, lots and lots of face shots.

Freshly satiated off big game and upland bird seasons, late-season trouting and, again if we're lucky, a few swung steelhead, most junkies manage to keep the fire stoked well in to late December. A waxing ski year and a waning waterfowl season further lend a hand in keeping the shack nasties at bay.
Never is that more true than during a winter like the one we're having, what with La Niña frequently puking her frozen goodness in the high country and all. Two weeks ago, snowfall amounts at several Montana ski areas were ranked amongst some of the most famous snow meccas in the West, at least temporarily silencing the argument that our snow has a tendency to, well, suck. Early season has been deep, if not downright dangerousavalanches and tree wells have claimed the lives of multiple skiers and snowmobilers over the past few weeks as the snow continues to pile up.

But at some point, as if it's in fact too good to be true, things change again. In western Montana, that all too often means interrupting a perfectly good, crushing snow year with a week of warm weather and rain. This year, the unwanted warm-up and steady rainfall has the nerve to come just after the close of waterfowl season, effectively shutting folks like us indoors with little to do but hunker down and watch it pour while we wait for the snowpack to recover.

Having once again failed to plan ahead and figure a plane ride south of the Equator, I'm forced to break out my best coping mechanisms for this annual outbreak of S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder. An actual clinical term for cabin fever, S.A.D. always seems to hit me the hardest in mid-late January. With bowl season over, our beloved powder experiencing an old-fashioned flogging and every game animal in the woods breathing a collective sigh of relief, NetFlix downloads and used book sales take a decisive jump as Missoulians struggle to pass away the gray without sitting on a barstool
or gnawing their own arm off.

For me, this time of year forces me to start the always-daunting winter fly tying production. Up to this point I had all of the excuses I needed to avoid tying the dozens of these and tens of dozens of those that my clients will need to catch trout, trees and/or my various body parts come summer. But now, with the rain falling and the tying desk fully cleaned, organized and ready to be destroyed, it's time to start cranking.

As inevitable as each winter's S.A.D. outbreak, spring is not far off. It won't take many days of February sunshine to stir the skwala nymphs and the trout that are lying in wait to eat them. Once the circus starts, the rest of the season always seems to have a way of snowballing from one hatch to another, leaving little time to prepare for the next big event. If that weren't enough to get the fingers spinning, I know for a fact there are a few thousand B-run steelhead sitting in the main Clearwater, just begging all of us to come over the hill and hit them in the head with our miniature boat anchors and "flies" when the water starts to bump. The list of old stand-bys and new ideas needing to be twisted in to existence seems never-ending, and no matter how much I get done, I'll still run out of the most basic bugs by mid July, frantically running in to fly shops before my morning meet times to buy handfuls of Pat's rubberlegs.

There's no better time to get going. Then again, I could always watch another episode of West Wing...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Signs of winter...

If you live in western Montana, it's hard to say no to wild game dinners in the dead of winter. Freezers are full, the world outside is encased in ice (or fresh snow, or slush, or rain if you live in Missoula...) and there aren't many things that feel more worthwhile or wholesome than to have a few friends over, open a bottle of wine and eat some dead critters.

Compliments of several different contributors, this evening's cuisine consisted of soy sauce/ginger/garlic marinated mallard breast under the broiler, whitetail backstrap marsala and, for an exclamation point, elk backstrap on the grill. Oh, and steamed spinach and Caesar salad, but those don't really count. What counts is sharing the fruits of our labor and enjoyment from the past season while chowing on some of the most delicious, pure food on the planet. ¡Provecho!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


2011 New Year's Resolutions:

1. Live to see 2012. Sounds easy, or fatalistic, depending on how you want to look at it, but face it: every one of 'em is a gift, so enjoy it. Which leads me to numero dos...

2. Fish as much as possible, as many places as possible...ideally with my old man, whenever possible. Because you never know how many more fishing seasons you'll get together. See above.

2. Kick the can. I've quit Copenhagen snuff before; weird thing is I find it necessary to quit again. So, I'm more focused this time, more "dissiprinn." Wish me luck.

3. Resuscitate some semblance of life back in to this web log. I used fishing season as an excuse to not write about fishing season. Then school got in the way, despite the fact that most of my course work involved writing things like short stories, features, blog posts, you know, stuff like that. Well, school's a done deal and it sure as hell isn't fishing season judging by the fact that right now Missoula looks like a giant snowman crapped on it. I can't guarantee any regularly scheduled postings or any such BS like the real bloggers offer you, but I can assure you I'll try to be more frequent in my own personal brand of BS on a somewhat to completely irregular basis. Sometimes I just don't have anything to say to the intranets. I think we'd all be better off if more people in the world felt that way.

4. Claim it. Because as Warren Miller likes to say, "If you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you do."