Monday, November 14, 2011

No More Excuses... Just One Regret

H: Okay, I'm calling it—I've officially hung up my waders (next to Josée's : ) for the season. And what a great season it was! 9 days fly fishing in Montana on 7 different rivers, lakes, and creeks (see: Story Lake, Montana Fish Porn, DePuy Spring Creek, Fishing Yellowstone National Park, Hyun…ready to fish the Boulder River). 2011 was a year of several firsts: cruising for gulpers on Hebgen (Happy Hour on Hebgen Lake), night fishing for monster trout (Mice Fishing the Farmington), and chasing elusive false albacore out in Montauk (Bring out the Bikinis!). And last but not least, our 7(?) minutes of fame on WNPR's Where We Live: Gone Fly Fishin radio show. Certainly, no sophomore slump.

The 2 flygirls are no longer newbies. We've grown tremendously as anglers this year. Looking back, my only regret (and valuable lesson learned) is that too often I've let this blog get in the way of my fishing, specifically the pressure to take good pictures of the fish we've caught. It's not a problem when I'm fishing with Josée. But on my own, it's been challenging and frustrating at times (I'm not about to take a poor fish out of the water and bank him/her for a money shot). Next year, I'm just not going to sweat it. Besides, there is way too much porn (fish porn, that is ; ) out there on the internet.

So, 6 months of fishless days loom ahead. I'm naturally a bit saddened but also partially relieved. There are so many things I've put on the back burner. "I'll get to that when the fishing season is over," my friends, coworkers, and family members have heard me say over and over again. Now, there are no more excuses. I can finally
  • catch up on homework for my evening class (I've been a bad student)
  • devote some time to actually designing this shotgun blog we started just 6 months ago
  • build a rod rack for my car
  • start planning our next big fly fishing adventure (New Zealand? Canada? Belize? salmon? bonefish?)
  • do some skiing/snowboarding when I get too stir-crazy in the city. 
That should keep me out of trouble, hopefully. No more obsessively checking weather.com or wunderground.com for the weather forecasts for my favorite fishing spots (lord knows they are wrong 50% of the time anyways), or following the ups and downs of my favorite rivers at waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis or reading the daily fishing reports before reading the local, national and global news. Who would have thought these would become my most visited bookmarks?

At some point during the season, I became a fly fishing junkie : ) I'm sure I'll suffer from fly fishing withdrawal over the winter. When the shakes become real bad, I guess I'll just have to bundle up, go outside and cast...cast...cast! Here's hoping for an early spring.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Season Finale?

H: Writing this post, probably the last fishing report of the 2011 season, is rather bittersweet. It was a solo trip back to the Farmington river in CT (Josée has long since hung up her waders). "Falling back" the night before allowed me an extra hour of sleep. I leisurely left the house at 8 am, scraped the frost off the windows of my car, and set off to (hopefully) catch my last trout of the season. The plan was to fish till mid-afternoon then drive back for a family dinner and catch the tail end of the Giants-Patriots game : ) As I drove through Putnam county into CT there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground and I spotted more and more felled or partially dismembered trees--casualites of the historic October nor'easter the week before. I wasn't sure what shape the river was going to be in when I got there...


Ovation pool was my destination. There were lingering mounds of snow in the parking lot, broken branches and debris strewn everywhere, and no other cars in sight. A large tree had been uprooted right beside the path down to the river. It didn't look like the handiwork of a snow storm, but rather as if another hurricane had passed through. The river was high but looked safe enough for me to cross to the little island and access the pool upriver. It was still too cool and early for any bug activity, so I decided to nymph and practice once more with my 8 wt. switch rod.

I tied on the exact same nymphs I had used on the Beaverkill: a big momma pheasant tail and a tiny baby pheasant tail dropper (very technical, I know ; ). It still amazes me how easy it is to cast distances and mend long lengths of line with a switch rod and shooting head line. I was able to cover a lot of water, quickly. It wasn't long before I had my first fish on, a good sized one, too. I could actually feel its movements at the end of my line. But with the 8wt. rod, I landed him all too quickly. He was my largest fish of the season on the Farmington, a 20-inch brown trout. Unfortunately, he wasn't very attractive--a mousy gray brown--lacking the fiery red markings and golden hues of the Beaverkill brown caught 2 weeks ago. (Hmmm, when did I become such a trout snob?) I tried to take a decent photo but with my line entangled in my net cord, cold hands, and the size of the fish, I wasn't very successful. I reluctantly post the picture below. As I released him, I couldn't help thinking: Damn! It would have been so much fun to land him with my 5wt.

He was big, but unfortunately, not very photogenic.

I nymphed a bit longer before losing my rig to a submerged rock. I thought I would try out one of my sinking tips and swing a streamer, just to get a feel for it. But as I removed the floating tip from my line, a few small blue wing olives flew by. They were a sight for sore eyes (and a sign from above?). I realized I was DONE--done with nymphing and done with my switch rod. I practically ran back to the car and assembled my 5wt., excited as a school girl. Then it hit me--I was so focused on practicing casting my new switch rod (practicing at the expense of fishing) that most of the joy was being sucked out of my time on the river. It might have been a different story if I was trying to catch salmon or stripers. But manwomanhandling trout with it, even a 20-incher, was utterly unsatisfying. A wise fly fisherman I know recently said, "...while you're fishing is not the time to be practicing." There's truth to that. There's a time to practice and a time to fish. It was time to fish!

I tied on a #20 bwo and proceeded to dry fly fish. It felt like ages since I held my 5wt. and my overhead cast was rusty, but I didn't care. It felt so light and free. I couldn't spot any rises so I blind casted into the slightly faster water above the pool. I started focusing on the fishing: placing my fly in potentially fishy seams, getting the drift just right... It was a splashy rise and agressive take--I set the hook instinctively--fish on! I'd forgotten the simple joy of watching a trout rise and take your fly. And I could feel her every shake and shimmy on my 5wt! She was a lovely 12-inch rainbow but she slipped out of my grasp before I could take her picture. I guess she was camera shy. Oh well... she certainly made my day and possibly salvaged the end of the season.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Not Another Fly Fishing Blog!

Craig Buckbee, aka easterncaster, FFF master casting instructor
eastern caster: craig buckbee
H: There's a new blogger in town, our good friend and fly fishing instructor, Craig Buckbee. It's rather ironic because just the other day, he mentioned a post he read on the average angler (a blog written by a local NJ/NY fishing guide) about the overproliferation of fishing blogs. I decided to check it out for myself: Fly fishing blogs have "jumped the shark".

Yes, there's a sh*tload of fishing blogs out there of varying quality. As I write this post, 20 new fly fishing blogs have probably been created somewhere in the blogosphere ;) Blogs in general are now as ubiquitous as the local Starbucks. I recall recently reading an online stat estimating over a hundred million blogs in existence--and that's a conservative estimate. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if my 9-year-old niece, Ally, follows in her aunt's footsteps and starts a blog in the near future (with her parent's supervision and support, of course). And I hope she does, because that would mean she has discovered a passion for something and wants to share it with others.

Too many blogs? Too much content? Lord knows, no one has the time to read or discover even a fraction of the multitude of fishing blogs out there. I know, I certainly don't. There's a lot of garbage to rifle through but it's worth it to find the gems and one woman's garbage is another's treasure. I find that the blogs I return to and read regularly have a clear voice that somehow resonates with me (whether funny, knowledgeable, genuine, inspiring, or just quirky and original). As the average angler notes, blogs take a lot of time and work to keep up. Hence many of these blogs will eventually fall by the wayside. The ones that survive will do so because of the passion and dedication of the blogger and the quality of the content they publish.

So, where was I? Yes, back to Craig's new blog. As previously mentioned in our post: The Beauty of the Switch Rod, Craig is a certifiable casting geek (FFF certified, that is ;). But he's far from a computer geek--still getting his bearings on Blogger. His site, easterncaster, is a work-in-progress and was originally intended as a simple online business card. But who knows where it will lead. Blogs can take on a life of their own. While still in its infancy (2 posts :), we have high hopes for it, wish him lots of luck, and look forward to reading—yes, another fly fishing blog!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Fall Practice Session on the Beaverkill

autumn on the beverkill river
Beaverkill River: a little past peak but still beautiful.
H: October 22, 2011: Well, a quick switch rod practice session on a nearby river turned into a full day of fishing. It was such a fine, crisp autumn morning, I thought, why not head up to the Beaverkill and continue practicing—it's only another 1.5 hour's drive :). Well, the drive alone was worth it. I grabbed a bite at the Roscoe diner, renewed my NY fishing license, then headed to the river. I hoped to return to one of the spots that Craig showed us at the beginning of the season. I followed old Route 17 as it wound its way along the Beaverkill. As I drove through underpass after underpass, things started to look familiar (my friends will vouch for my excellent memory—it's like an elephant's ;). I remembered Junction Pool, Carin's Pool, Painter's Bend, etc. The Beaverkill was more beautiful than I remembered (I was a bit harsh last time), even with the foliage being slightly past its peak.

I parked under an underpass and walked to the river. It felt both familiar and fishy. Plus I would have this stretch all to myself. With no bugs or rises to be seen, I decided to nymph with my 8 wt. switch rod. Yes, I know, it's completely overkill for catching trout (unless it's a supersized one on steroids). But honestly, I wasn't even thinking about catching fish. I just wanted to practice my newly learned spey casting skills.

waterfall by the beaverkill riverAs the river was flowing from my left to right, I started with the double spey, focusing on not overpowering my anchor set and attempting to mimic the casting motion that both Andrew and Craig had taught me. The hours flew by: walking, hiking, scouting, walking, crossing waterfall, hiking, walking, scouting, stopping, wading, rigging, casting, setting anchor, casting, mending, stripping, setting anchor, casting, cussing at my incompetence (my close friends will also vouch for my cussing--directed solely at myself and usually PG-rated ; ) Come on! Better acceleration... rod tip higher, dammit!... smooth level motion... quicker stop... Jesus, girl! Relax the death grip...

After about 2 hours of double spey and lots of walking (and swearing) thrown in, I decided to find a shallow spot where I could cross the river and practice the snap T. I drove upriver and found a nice calm shallow riffle. There were a couple of other anglers there but I didn't care. I crossed and proceeded to practice. After about 15 minutes, I felt I was getting the hang of it and started shooting line. As I began stripping in line to execute another snap T, I felt weight at the end of it—it was a fish! It had hooked itself at the end of the swing. I landed him in seconds. It was embarassingly effortless (small fish...big rod :). He was a lovely brown. I practiced for another hour or so before calling it a day and heading over to the Riverside cafe for a well-deserved beer.

beaverkill brown trout
A lovely wild Beaverkill brown decked out in fall colors.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

H: With my new 8 weight, 11 foot Access switch rod, loaded with the Rio Scandi Short VersiTip line I picked up last week at Tight Lines, I am hitting the river to practice. Watch out trout! (and trees and rocks, birds and frogs… ; ) And thanks to Andrew Moy for a great lesson.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Indian Summer

H: October 9, 2012: With forecasts calling for 80ºF weather and sunny skies, Josée and I knew we absolutely had to be outdoors and fishing, even if all we could squeeze in with our hectic schedules was a day trip on Sunday. Initially we thought of returning to the Beaverkill. Water levels were miraculously good and we've been meaning to go back since our first trip earlier this spring (see: Hunting Instincts). Plus, the Farmington on Thursday night was over 2,000 cfs due to a massive dam release. But when I checked again Friday, the DEP had decided on a sudden reduction and the water was dropping faster than the stock markets of late. That plus a Giants' home game on Sunday afternoon conspired to bring us back to our own "home waters".

Except for a slight case of car sickness (Sorry Josée! Next time, we'll ditch Evil), the drive up was an absolute pleasure. The leaves were beginning their annual metamorphosis into the golden yellows and vivid orange reds of autumn. I thought, even if the fishing isn't productive, I'm glad to be out on such a glorious Indian summer day.

A gorgeous picture of Josée taken earlier this summer on the Farmington River. E. Koh

We were both a bit apprehensive about returning to the Farmington since our appearance on WNPR. The week before, Antoine had said to me half-jokingly, "We are famous. Everyone who fishes the Farmington knows who we are now." Since the program aired, whenever he's been on the river, he has been approached by anglers who had listened to the broadcast. Most people were positive and said they enjoyed the show. But apparently a few had actually told him angrily that the river is now becoming much too crowded as a result. Jeezz, lighten up! The river is big enough for all to enjoy. With our new-found celebrity in check we headed to Greenwoods to fish with Antoine before his afternoon trip.

Our greatly anticipated arrival at Greenwoods was heralded by a 20-gun salute and a 2-car police escort ; ). OK, actually, some idiot was firing their gun not too far away and 2 local police cars had stopped by, trying to locate the source of the commotion. I'm not sure if the shooter was target practicing or trying to kill and/or scare every living creature within sight/sound but the loud gunshots went on for some time--not quite the peace and tranquillity we were hoping to find on the river.

I suited up first and entered the river, passing several anglers on the bank. Josée followed shortly after. As she walked towards the river, she overheard the anglers talking about us, "...these girls just love to fish..." She came up behind them, said a quick hello, and headed over to join us. The whole time we were fishing, I could feel their eyes on us. It was a bit unsettling. Can't a girl just fish in peace? Not that a lot was going on--there was very little bug activity and not a single rise spotted. To distract ourselves, we shot some video footage of each other fishing. Josée, it turns out, is a master of sound effects. We're not quite ready to post video yet, but very soon... Stay tuned.

We moved upriver in hopes of more activity and to escape inquisitive eyes. Perhaps we were beguiled by the warmth and light of an Indian summer day--but for some reason, Josée and I were determined to dry fly fish, even though there wasn't a rise to be seen or coaxed. In fact, Josée did not change her fly once, all morning. For that, I blame the languidness of a sultry summer's day. After a few hours enjoying the beauty and solitude of a secluded fishing spot, we decided to break for lunch.

After a leisurely lunch we returned to Greenwoods. The late afternoon held more promise--caddis were starting to emerge and the fish were more active, just not in the way we wanted. It's the start of spawning season and there were some spirited displays of aggression. If only that aggression would be directed towards our flies and not other trout. Antoine was done guiding so we joined him in the parking lot for beer o'clock" (borrowing his terminology). Josée and I both took turns casting his new vintage bamboo rod, a 7-ft. impregnated Orvis Battenkill--very sweet. He better keep an eye on it or it might go missing : ). And who should show up while we're casting but Bert Darrow, Pres. of TGF. He brought out his beautiful custom bamboo rod to show us. I can't recall the name of the rod maker but he's a friend of Bert's and apparently only makes a couple of rods a year. I had a chance to cast it as well--faster action than the Battenkill, incredibly smooth. I must admit, I'm getting a bit spoiled--casting bamboo rods, celebrity status... I can't let this get to my head ; ).

Well, before I end up writing a novel, I'll end it short and sweet. As the moon rose and the sun began to set, caddis were out in abundance and a couple of small fish were porpoising out of the water chasing emergers. But Josée and I still had on dry flies--caddis this time (yes, Josée finally changed her fly). The action lasted for around 10 mins. I don't think anyone at Greenwoods caught a fish. As I stepped out of the river grumbling about how bad the fishing had been, I recalled what I had thought earlier that morning: ...even if the fishing isn't productive, I'm glad to be out on such a glorious Indian summer day... Which was true. But that was exactly the problem--we had fished like it was a summer's day... Oh, well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fly Fishing Master Class: Jersey Shore

While the 2 flygirls were in Montauk chasing albies, our friend Craig Buckbee (FFF certified casting instructor) was participating in a fly fishing master class in Sandy Hook, NJ with Jim Valle, hoping to catch some stripers in the process.

Here's a nice write up from the Asbury Park Press, a local paper: Master Class: Fly casting instructors share their passion

I like his quote regarding Gunnison Beach and using barbless hooks ; ) Ouch!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bring Out the Bikinis!

It turns out Josée and I each wrote about our weekend in Montauk. You can first read Josée's short and sweet French-Canadian (cliff notes) version, then my "mini novella" that follows for more juicy details. (I seriously need an editor : ) Enjoy!

J: Well, to start with, it did not rain! They (experts), were saying 80% chance of rain and we did not get one single drop. What do ya know? Hyun was getting annoyed with the weather reports but as we were driving/flying to Montauk the skies were far from menacing! So, all was dandy.

Flygirl Josée at East Hampton beach, NY
Life's a beach when you're
swimsuit model/flygirl, Josée .
We got to Montauk about 10ish on Saturday morning and decided to take a walk on the beach since our fishing expedition -guided by Bryan Goulart- was not before 2pm. The place was lovely and deserted of NY tourists :) I guess the "flock of seagulls" were detoured by the supposedly abysmal weather condition. Brief, we had the beach to ourselves.

Had lunch at a four star dive named The Dock in Montauk Harbor. Not bad. The beer was excellent!

Flygirl Hyun Kounne, Montauk NY
Heading out to the East End, Montauk, NY
2 o'clock came and we met Bryan. Got on his boat and drove to the light house. We were joined by another "flock of seagulls" and those were real. They were more or less indicating to us anglers the location of the poissons-- in this case,  false albacore. It was rather crazy hectic and really overwhelming.

The moment we arrived we had a 4 1/2 minute crash course on how to false-cast an 9 weight rod-- we are used to 5 weight-, two hand fast strip, while not falling over board because to add to the madness the waves were rather high. Lord have mercy! The fish were everywhere and so were the boats. There must of been 25 boats around us. It was CRAZY but fun. We did not catch an albacore and after 4 hours or so we switched to spin rods and Hyun caught our din din, a big fat blue fish. I felt a little seasick and we were so cold, so we returned to the harbor.

For dinner --because we were starving--, Bryan prepared for us a delicious ceviche with Hyun's poisson. Mama mia, we had wine, steak, ceviche, greens and great company. We could not have asked for more, it was a perfect weekend without rain. : )

- - - - - -
Elusive Albies, Wardrobe Changes, and Ceviche!

H: 80% chance of showers...that's better than 100%. I was trying to be optimistic before our trip. But I was prepared for the worst--fishing in a monsoon on a roller coaster ocean. Yeah, that's right, we're tough fly chicks--that's 2 Flygirls with a Capital "F".

With both raingear and bikini packed, I met Josée at the train station a little before 8am on Saturday. She was pulling her 28-inch rolling suitcase down the platform. "What the hell do you have in there?" I asked her. "We're only going away for 1 1/2 days." Apparently she had packed for every possible contingency from string bikini to mutton fleece. I bet she even had an evening gown in there, in case we got invited to a fancy Hamptons party.

It was cloudy and muggy, but by some miracle, no rain. We even saw slivers of blue sky on the drive out. With zero traffic, we arrived in East Hampton in 2 hours (yes, Evil Kenevil was behind the wheel). We stopped briefly at Bryan's house to drop off my bag (a small duffle) before heading to the beach. Josée decides to leave her ginormous suitcase in the back of the car, just in case ; )

On the rocks.
Main beach was nearly deserted and shrouded in fog, lending it a beautiful, otherworldly quality. Josée made her 1st wardrobe change of the day (skillfully donning bikini in the back seat). We spent a good hour walking along the beach, playing in the waves, and taking pictures. We then drove to Montauk for a quick lunch before meeting up with our guide, Bryan Goulart, at the Star Island Marina.

It's 2pm, hot and muggy. We can't wait to get out on the water. I'd forgotten how laid back and chill Bryan is (he was our guide the 1st time we attempted saltwater fly fishing). He instantly put both of us at ease as we headed out of the harbor in search of our quarry: false albacore. I thought we'd be fishing for striped bass and bluefish but Bryan says that the albies are running.

Bryan Goulart, our guide, Montauk, NY
Our captain, guide, chef, and host: Bryan Goulart
Bryan seemed to know all the other boat captains and guides on the water. A women's voice came over on the radio. She joked about wanting to see Bryan in a speedo. Bryan tells us it's Amanda, a guide friend of his and also his neighbor. Josée and I are both thinking: cool, a female fly fishing guide and she has a sense of humor--definitely someone we'd like to meet. It's not till after we meet her that we figure out she's one of the flyfishergirls of flyfishergirl.com (a great women's fly fishing website/online community that we joined shortly after starting 2flygirls.com). Amanda (Switzer) and her husband Steve recently started Rise Fishing Co, an innovative new rod company. In fact, we used their rods that day.

Bryan stops the boat so we can practice casting the 9 wts he has set up with clouser minnows. I guess the 30+ push-ups every other day has paid off because the 9 wt feels rather light in my hand. And since Josée has been religiously doing her ups every day, she's casting that baby like it's a 7 wt. Bryan laid down the game plan: once we locate the albies, he will get us close and cut the engine so we drift towards them; with albies, it's critical to get your line out as fast as possible and a hand-over-hand strip is better than a single-hand strip; plus we should strip set the line when we get a hit. We practiced for a few minutes before circling birds, broken water, and albies are spotted in the distance.

It was a mad race to reach them first. It seemed all the boats in Montauk had converged into one small space for an impromptu oceanside rave. Bryan got us close and told us to cast. It was a frenzy of boats, feverishly casting anglers, diving birds, boiling water... You couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement. All that was lacking was a good DJ and soundtrack. At one point, I found myself hynotized by the action--I watched as several albies zoomed by, so close I could make out the details of their muscular torpedo-shaped bodies for a split second before they disappeared like a mirage. I've caught a schoolie yellowfin tuna once before on conventional tackle. I remember my hands being numb and shoulders and arms aching from the battle. I can't imagine what the fight would be like on a fly rod. By the end of the afternoon, the elusive albies teased us twice more--surfacing for what seemed like seconds before vanishing into the depths.

Despite our lack of success with the albies, we had fun. It was Bryan who starting joking about Josée's multitude of wardrobe changes, 7 in all: stripping down to her bikini and then adding layers as the day progressed, from her coverup shirt, to wet wading pants, long-sleeve t-shirt, fleece, rainjacket... The conversation drifted to the 1st time we fished together. Our friend Jon Fisher had caught a bluefish which Josée took home and made into ceviche, using Bryan's recipe.

At the mention of ceviche, we decided to try and catch something for dinner. Bryan had some spin rods on board so we all started fishing. Bryan missed a fish (too busy talking : ) while Josée got all quiet on us--she was feeling seasick. I continued to cast out my green gummy minnow and reel it in, when suddenly, a flash of silver/white appeared as my lure came near the surface. I cast once more, this time reeling my line in with more energy. Fish on! It was a nice bluefish. Ceviche was on the menu tonight--yum! Josée started looking a bit green like my minnow so we headed back to the marina where Bryan fileted our catch. Right next to him, another captain/guide was about to disembowel a huge striped bass, the size of my 4-year-old niece.

Bryan said he was going to pickup groceries and that we should meet back at the house. We got slightly lost on the drive back and when we arrived, Bryan was putting the finishing touches on his bluefish ceviche. Not only is he a terrific guide but a gourmet chef. Thanks Bryan for a great day, for the most amazing ceviche, a delicious dinner, and most importantly for your generous hospitality. You are now officially among our very exclusive list of favorite guides ; )

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful sunny day...

Main beach, East Hampton, NY
P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures of us fishing on the boat. I know, there are only so many bikini shots we can post. We were caught up in the pursuit of those damn elusive albies...

Friday, September 23, 2011

WNPR: Where We Live - Gone Fly Fishin

The 2 flygirls were guests today on WNPR's Where We Live segment on fly fishing and the Farmington River. You can listen to the podcast at:

http://www.yourpublicmedia.org/content/wnpy/where-we-live-gone-fly-fishin 

Flygirl Josée at the Radio Foundation Studio, NY for the WNPR: Gone Fly Fishing show
Josée looking very relaxed before the show, Radio Foundation Studio, NYC

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Montauk...

Going on a little fishing trip to Montauk this weekend with our guide Bryan Goulart!
                                                      Xciting : )

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Beauty of the Switch Rod

H: This past weekend, I attended a free switch rod class offered by my local Orvis store in NYC. I was very happy to hear that the class was being taught by Craig Buckbee, one of our favorite fly fishing instructors, a serious casting geek, and a really cool guy. We met at the 106th Street entrance to Central Park by the Harlem Meer. There was a good turnout of 7 anglers, several of whom brought along their switch rods.

The Harlem Meer:
Where else can
you fish for bass, carp, pickerel, and sunfish in Manhattan.
For a trout girl, who's been exclusively casting her 5 weight rod with floating line for the past 2 years, it was an eye-opening experience. Casting heavier, longer switch rods with shooting head lines is a completely different animal, all together. Heavy? Unfortunately, yes. Extremely powerful and versatile? Yes, yes, yes!!

When Craig had mentioned Spey Nation earlier this summer, I thought: wait till you became a more experienced angler before attempting to learn a whole new casting genre. Boy, do I regret that decision now. Lesson learned in hindsight: you need to continually push yourself if you're going to become a better angler. Fishing the same rivers with the same outfit will only get you so far (not that there isn't a thousand things still left to learn there). But trying out new techniques, new equipment, in different environments, and going after different quarry is what's going to take you to the next level.

Craig Buckbee, Harlem Meer, NY
Craig started off by reviewing the basic roll cast. I got to use his 11-ft, 6 weight Sage Z-Axis switch rod. It was remarkable! With a switch rod and a shooting compact Scandi head, making long distance roll casts was truly effortless. And I never even thought of hauling with a roll cast, which Craig demonstrated. I've only just started trying to haul in my regular cast. I briefly tried out another classmate's 7 weight switch rod. His was loaded with a regular floating line—what a difference—it's all about the line! Craig directed us to the Rio website which has some great information on how to choose the right line for your switch or spey rod: http://www.rioproducts.com/spey-lines.html

We then moved on to a Circle spey, Snap C/T. I couldn't make the crisp tight loops that Craig demonstrated and my anchor didn't always end up where I wanted, but I know I'll get the hang of it with more practice. I can't wait to try it out on an actual river.

Craig Buckbee teaching casting, Harlem Meer, NY
Craig demonstrating the Snap C. Photo courtesy of R. Ceccarini, Orvis, NYC
As for casting overhead with a switch rod, Craig demonstrated a roll cast pickup: a high roll cast (above the water) into a traditional back cast followed by a forward cast, shooting line. I've only cast a rod heavier than a 5-wt once before, the one time Josée and I attempted striper/bluefish fishing. Jon Fisher of Urban Angler had invited us out to Jamaica Bay. Boy, were we out of our element—2 novice flygirls, still wet behind the ears, attempting to cast 9- and 10-wt rods with large saltwater streamers into a stiff wind. We could barely get a 30 ft cast off after numerous false casts. Looking back, it was a miracle nobody lost an eye or got hooked ; )

Needless to say, my first attempt at overhead casting a switch rod was less than spectacular. I was afraid I'd overuse my bottom hand and end up swinging my rod like a baseball bat. I think that's exactly what I ended up doing, since I put an unintentional curve into my line on the forward cast, using both arms as a lever but not in a good (straight line path) way. But I was able to cast about 50 ft of line with just one back cast.

I need to seriously hit the gym and pump up my casting muscles ; ). I consider myself to be fairly athletic but I know I won't able to overhead cast an 8-wt switch rod with a heavy shooting line all day long, even 2-handed. However, I will definitely be able to spey cast one for most of the day. I guess that's the beauty of the switch rod.

Note: Attempting to take their game to the next level, the 2 flygirls will be going striper fishing out in Montauk in a couple of weeks. And maybe even try salmon fishing up in Pulaski for the first time, later this fall. Wish us luck!
___________________

H: Since I wrote this post last year, I've been working hard to improve my two-hand spey casting. During this time, I've come to realize a few things. I believe it's easier to learn to spey cast with a real (12 ft+) spey rod. You have a better feel for the moves with a longer rod and heavier or longer belly line (I'd recommend a mid-belly). With a shorter, lighter switch rod, you're more likely to blow your anchor if you overpower the cast and you're much more prone to overusing your top hand. With a bigger heavier spey rod, you really need to power your forward cast with the lower hand or your line just won't go very far. You'll also quickly realize the importance of getting your core muscles involved during the cast, not just your shoulder and arm (otherwise, keep that bottle of Advil handy :).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wishing the Juliana's Anglers lots of luck this weekend on the Farmington!

H: Josée is off to a wedding in Philly and I have friends/family in from out of town. I will however, be checking out a free Orvis switch rod class in Central Park at the Harlem Meer. First time trying out a switch rod--looking forward to it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fishing After Irene's Fury


J: What do 2 girls do on a Labor Day weekend? They leave town to go fishing and that's exactly what Hyun and I did!

We went to New Hartford to fish once more the Farmington River. We left early on Saturday am as Hyun is an early bird! 7 in the morning we were on the road armed with our usual 2 dunkin donuts cafés. I guess we tend to boycott Starbucks : )

Got to N.H. by 9. Since Evil Kenevil was driving we made it there in no time and experienced a few G-force along the way and some G-negatives as well. My friends, one has not lived until one drives with Hyun!

Evil Kenevil
Our first stop was the Upcountry store. Now, that the parking lot was utterly empty gave us a sign of the state of the river as there is always a few cars parked while their owners shop for something: un-needed flies or un-needed anything but buy anyway because, well, why not? Anyway that's the way we do it. This time was no different, we both bought what looked like a wet canard (no kidding). Unneeded and un-useful. But we tried it anyway since we were told by Grady that it was what the poissons wanted in a time of despair. I'll be wearing it as a hair piece from now on as there is no way I'm putting this chicken looking fly in my already too full of a box!! Hyun will probably make an earring out of it, I'm sure : ).

Ah, the life of a millionaire without the millions!
So, after dropping some pesos on un-necessary stuff we drove to the river. Again, no cars in the parking lot. Hmmm, we uttered. NOT good! Where are the usual suspects, we asked? Where are the regulars? The gents who know the river by rocks and by tree trunks and by the poissons individually? If the fish had names they would know their names, I swear!

They we not there. We were on our own with a river that wanted to spit you out if you were bold enough to get in.

But, we were bold enough! We got in and stayed very, very close to shore.
Oh la la! The life of a billionaire with the billions!

The water was fast and furious and reddish dark; trees were uprooted; the path was under water; small islands were created with a river on each side. Things had change incredibly. But by some miracle after a few hours of hopeless casting, Hyun caught a fish. We were very happy.

Hyun's poisson caught on a magic streamer.
We also tested Ovation. We had to change location as we were getting frustrated. There, we met Davi, a pitbull mix, a teddy bear of a dog. He was there with his master. He would sit by the shore while the man (master) caught a fish a minute. He was using live worms... Not cool but he was a lovely man. We liked him and more so his dog! We did not catch anything. But we both sunbathed on the polished rock bed. It was very hot and humid on Saturday. The cool water was rather refreshing and relaxing.

The magic streamer!

11,623

H: So, what do you do when you're a fly fishing guide and hurricane Irene sweeps in and wrecks havoc on your hood, leaving you without power for 3 days, and obviously no guiding trips on the raging rivers nearby? Well, if you're Antoine Bissieux, you organize and count your flies: 11,623!

Approximately:
7,000 dry flies
3,000 nymphs
1,000 streamers
300 wet flies
300 salt water flies

You can also create a small mice (and bunny) regiment for future nocturnal fishing maneuvers.
Antoine's mice battalion--ready for action.

Well, I was inspired to find out how many flies I have. It took all of 2 minutes to count them. Turns out I have 195 flies: 105 dry flies, 58 nymphs, 20 streamers, 4 poppers (which I have yet to use), 8 wet flies.

The 2 flygirls were on the Farmington river this past weekend. Irene has clearly left her mark--the river is dramatically changed. Full report to come from my French-Canadian half.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Match the Hatch? Try an Isonychia Instead

H: A lesson I learned this weekend is that sometimes you don't need to match the hatch. I was on the Farmington River this Saturday with friends who are new to fly fishing. Antoine was guiding them. It was surprisingly crowded at Greenwoods during the slow mid-afternoon shift. There was minimal activity in terms of bugs and sporadically feeding fish. I would have taken an afternoon nap, if my friends weren't eager to just be on the water and practice casting. I was having a tough day--bad mojo or something. I had missed about 10 strikes (perhaps they were refusals?) and had hooked a poor little rainbow in the tail earlier that morning.

Elsie, Antoine, and Margaret at Greenwoods.
Two anglers were leaving as we arrived. I overheard them talking about what they had used. One guy said he must have changed flies at least 7 times, going all the way down to a #32 blue wing olive on 10x (I didn't know they made 10x). The other guy mentioned something about trying tiny midges. Talk about a microscopic crapshoot! And they were leaving without having caught any fish.

I still had on a #22 caddis pupa from earlier that morning. I looked over at my friend Elsie who was fishing with Antoine. They had a big bug on. It turned out to be a #14 isonychia dun. Antoine was demonstrating a casting technique when he got a hit. He handed the rod to Elsie and coached her as she brought in her very first fish--a nice brown trout. Yeah! Elsie hooked a fish later that afternoon but lost it. She is no longer a fly fishing virgin ; )

A healthy brown trout from Greenwoods.
I looked in my fly box and all I had were small flies. I'd left the big ones back in the car. Antoine came over and proceeded to tie a large iso on my line. He put some gel on it, cast my line out to get the excess off, and sure enough he got a hit. Another nice brown. Later that evening, I finally hooked (hallelujah, praise the trout lord!) and landed a lovely rainbow using that same isonychia, even though there were none to be seen on the water.

I've used attractor patterns and terrestrials during those dead times when there's little if any activity. But I would never have thought to try a large, sporadically hatching mayfly. I asked Antoine why the large isos worked and he said, "the trout remember them." Considering that trout have brains the size of a pea, this was rather surprising. When it comes to food, I guess their instincts are top notch.

Well, I did some more research and I've learned that isonychias are a particular trout favorite--like candy to them. Because they hatch steadily albeit sporadically for several months throughout the summer and fall, the trout become familiar with them. Al Caucci in Fly Fisherman magazine says: "Trout, especially wild and holdover fish, seldom feed on the surface during sporadic hatches... Not so with the isonychia... My theory is that the trout key on them because they are around so long. This (late summer) is one of those rare times on the upper Delaware when you can blind-cast the water with a dry fly during hatchless days and still catch fish!" Well, that's good to know.

So, rather than matching the end-of-summer micro hatches, why not try an isonychia.

A Side Note to Some Gentlemen Anglers:
If you see 2 ladies in the morning, standing on the bank with coffees in hand, observing the water, please do NOT assume they are bringing coffee and breakfast to their fly fishing husbands. There are more and more of us flygirls out there : )

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mice Fishing the Farmington

H: August 12, 2011: We drove up to the Farmington river, excited to try our hand at fishing mice patterns with Antoine that evening. Josée even purchased a wading staff for the occasion. When we get there, Antoine has had a very long day--having fished early that morning on the Battenkill in Vermont followed by an afternoon guiding trip on the Farmington. The last thing he wanted to do was fish mice patterns late into the night with 2 inexperienced flygirls. But he generously agreed to take us.

A very realistic and tasty looking mouse pattern, compliments of Antoine Bissieux.

It was a beautiful night on the Farmington as we watched an almost-full moon rise into a clear midnight sky (not ideal mice fishing conditions but perfect for a first try). Walking into the black still water at Greenwoods, with all senses heightened, was a surreal experience. It reminded me of the first time I went scuba diving at night. Listening for the sound of rises, splashes, and the possible territorial beaver smacking its tail in warning; Feeling your way through the water over invisible rocks and fallen logs; Hearing your line and the mouse fly through the air and trying to feel the weight of it extend behind you; It was rather intimidating at first and then surprisingly liberating. It makes you feel at one with the river, the night, and all the creatures around you.

Antoine demonstrated the technique we should use to activate the mouse--alternating strips and slack to imitate a struggling, swimming mouse. Josée was going to start first. As Antoine effortlessly false cast the mouse back and forth, shooting line, she stood like a shadow alongside him, mimicking his movements. I couldn't help chuckling. When it was her turn to try, she started sidearm casting like Antoine, which is completely different from her normal overhead style. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. Imitation, in this case, was the sincerest form of flattery. But Antoine must have thought we were crazy!

I won't pretend it was easy casting that mouse in the dark, relying purely on feel and sound. Antoine standing right next to me, watching every bad cast, didn't help either. Josée was about 30 feet away, very slowly and cautiously making her way down river. I could hear the rap-tap-tap of her wading staff against the rocky bottom. Antoine periodically yelled at her, "keep walking." She would shout back, "I just got here!" She had a strike but was so startled she didn't have time to react. Antoine fished for a bit and also had a hit but missed the fish. He left to make sure Josée was ok. She was done and was talking to an angler who had joined us on the river.

While they were on the bank, I finally fell into a rhythm of casting, waiting, lifting, stripping, lowering... It felt magical, incredibly peaceful. Before I knew it, I too, had a strike. I saw and heard a large splash where I sensed my mouse was. I felt weight on my line but I lifted my rod too quickly. So much for the research I had done beforehand on fishing mice patterns: wait till the fish has completely taken the mouse into its mouth. It normally takes the tail first and brings it down (unless it's a huge monster trout).

It was close to 11 pm when we left Greenwoods. Too late for dinner, we headed back to the Hillside. I couldn't sleep that night. I was still wired from the night fishing. My senses, on overdrive, refused to shut down--plus my stomach would not stop growling. I can't remember the last time I went to sleep on an empty stomach... The last meal I had was lunch around 11:30 am, not counting half an heirloom tomato from the local farmer's market that afternoon. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Next time though, the moon won't be full, but our stomachs will be : ), and hopefully we will catch a nocturnal monster.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hyun, ever so ready to fish the Boulder River!

Flygirl Hyun Kounne on the Boulder river, MT
I give you fly fishing model, Hyun Kounne my friend!
J: As I am here relaxing at home on this Thursday night in my west village apt (cubicle) I realize how much I miss Montana. I even let my mind wonder how wonderful it would be to own a log cabin in/or around West Yellowstone. Even checked out a few real estate sites and found to my dreaming delight a beautiful log cabin, aaaahhh if only.....

Doesn't Hyun look just so at peace with a raging river -mind you- in the backdrop?

On this particular morning we: Eric, Hyun and I drove about an hour to the Boulder river. We were quite alone with the exception of a few campers and 2 other fellow anglers (women). What do ya know, there are more and more of us girlies out there!

We have never fished from a raft before. To Eric's horror my boots had studs. Needless to say that I was not allowed to partake in the adventurous waters experience unless I proceeded to remove my suicidal boots subito presto! In exchange for my compliance, Eric loaned me his size 11 men's river sandals. Now, I'm a size 5 womens! See the picture?? This alone brought the whole experience to a whole different and may I say challenging level. I would not call it extreme sports but not far off : ) Every single time we accosted the shore and had to walk 20 or 50 feet, that I did not break my neck was a bloody miracle!

Well, aside from looking like Bozo the clown from knees down I had the best time, really. I caught 9 fish that very day. I had never caught so many in one day before. Small and big and everything in between.

As for this weekend Hyun and I are going mouse pattern fishing... That will be a first for both of us. If I remember correctly I've only fished once during the night before. Well stay tuned as it has the potential to be a very event filled night.... or not.


Flygirl Hyun Kounne, Boulder river, MT

Voila.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Homecoming

H: After fishing 8 full days in Montana. I was fished out. Never thought I'd ever say that! As our plane made it's approach into Laguardia, I could see the steely NYC skyline in the distance. It's almost always a welcoming sight for me, a sense of homecoming. But as the plane began its final descent, I realized I still longed to see the snow-capped mountains and verdant valleys of Montana.

My view from the plane on approach to Bozeman, MT.
 
August 6, 2011
: Eleven days since returning from Montana and I needed to be on a river again. So, despite family obligations (sister and family in town) and a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms, I head back to the Farmington river. I'm almost there when I notice a text from Antoine: morning guiding trip canceled--come to ovation.

Talk about the dog days of summer: it was incredibly hot, muggy, and ovation pool had transformed into a kid's wading pool since I was last there July 2nd. Antoine is already fishing. "Any luck? What are you using?" I asked him. He said he had on a size 26 trico and asked if I had any 8x. 8x? Good grief! Having just returned from Montana, slinging size 8-12 dries on 3x-4x, I had to laugh.

Since I came straight to Ovation without stopping at the local flyshop, I'm ill prepared for the morning's fishing and rely on Antoine. He gives me some 8x and a tiny trico. It takes me a good 5 mins to tie a simple surgeon's knot with the 8x and attach the fly. Antoine is focused on a fish that took his fly. He's determined to get it back. There are a few sporadic rises. I target one, get a fish on, but lose it. I get another one on, and this time, I'm not losing him. I tire him out--a small brown. But I have a 12-ft leader and over 2 ft of 8x tippet on. My arms and net are not long enough to reach him. Every time I swooped the net close, he evaded it. Antoine finally says, I need to take a chance and pull my leader through the guides to land him. He's a small fish, it shouldn't be a problem. Success!

Beautiful ovation pool, Farmington River, CT. (Photo courtesy of E. Koh)
We fished for a few hours. It was slow. The bugs, the few there were, were clearly microscopic. I couldn't tell what they were feeding on. Meanwhile, I had been bugging Antoine about how I can become a better angler. In the parking lot, Antoine helped me with my cast and demonstrated the double haul before he left for an afternoon guiding trip.

After a quick stop at UpCountry, I head upriver. The fishing was tough. I caught another small brown on an ant in the Pipeline area. I took a long lunch, enjoying the scenery and quiet. Then tried another spot and caught several sardine-sized salmon. They were voracious and gulped down everything I put out there. I don't understand why they stock them on the Farmington. They never seem to survive and grow. I decided to head back to my favorite pool and await the evening action--hopefully there would be some.

Once again, there were very few bugs. I spot a few tiny bwos and put on a size 24. Nothing. Before evening arrived, I had changed flies at least 10 times, including 3 variations of bwos. In that time, I had only 2 hits and missed both. It was just one of those days. It started to drizzle. I decided to give the fish a break : ) and practice casting. I walked back to the parking lot, put on an old leader, and practiced the double haul. After a while, I decided to call it a day.

As I'm changing out of my waders, a man from an RV parked at the far side of the lot walked over. He said he had watched me practice and asked how long I've been fly fishing, etc. He said he had some beers in his RV, if I wanted any (Yeah, right! It looked like he already had a couple). Perhaps he was just being friendly but the way he kept looking at me and at the contents of my car (trying to figure out if I was alone?), gave me the heebie jeebies. He was a bear of a man but not very fit. I figured I could outrun him if necessary. I thought, that can of bear spray from Montana would come in pretty handy right now. There were 2 other anglers on the river but they were far out of sight and sound.

Now that I find myself fishing more on my own and sometimes in isolated places, it's probably a good idea to either get a dog (wish I could borrow one for fishing trips : ) or carry some pepper spray with me--man spray/weirdo spray. Back in Montana, Josée and I had worried about running into bears. Back on the east coast, there are different types of bears to watch out for. Wish I was back in Montana. (Sigh...) I'll get over it, eventually.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fishing Yellowstone National Park

Truly paradise! Driving through Paradise Valley.
The Gibbon
H: July 19, 2011: We took the short cut from West Yellowstone through the Park to Paradise Valley--a short cut assuming no bison, elk or moose jams... Our plan was to fish the Gibbon and Gardner rivers along the way. We went prepared, armed with a canister of bear spray that the folks at Blue Ribbon Flies convinced us to buy. Better safe, than sorry (or in this case, mauled). Yikes! Whether we'd be able to pull back the safety latch, aim with trembling hands and pounding hearts, and hit the feet of a charging grizzly 30 feet away--we hoped to never find out.

Our first stop was Elk Park where the Gibbon meanders through a lovely meadow before disappearing into thickets of trees beyond. There were no bugs or rises to be seen so we put on stimulators to see if we could coax some fish action. We soon had several hits and landed some small trout, in the sardine class. Josée and I decided we should embrace the Japanese aesthetic of finding beauty in even the simplest, mundane, and in this case, smallest of things--appreciating the subtlety of each sardine (i mean trout ; ), as gifts from nature.

Josée was determined to catch a particular trout that was alluding her. I decided to move upstream in search of bigger prey. I caught more "gifts" along the way. It started to drizzle and as I looked around, I noticed I had walked far upstream into the trees and was no longer within sight of Josée. I also realized that Josée had the bear spray. Not a good idea to fish out of sight and sound of your buddy and completely alone in YNP without bear spray. I looked at my watch. It was about 3 pm. I hiked back to Josée. We decided to find a picturesque spot by a river and enjoy a beer before heading to our lodge in Paradise Valley.

View from our balcony. A river runs through it--our backyard, that is. 
July 21, 2011: the 2 flygirls took a break from fishing and went horseback riding. Josée was astride a horse, aptly named Frenchie. My gentle white horse was called Cloudy. I must have straddled him with a death grip. After 2.5 hours, my inner thighs were bruised, knees wobbly, and I needed to pop an Advil. But the views from the ridgeline were spectacular! And the smell of pine/fir resin, delicious! Wish I had taken some pics.

The Gardner 
View of the Gardner river from the High Bridge.
July 22, 2011: We decided to head back into the Park and fish the Gardner. Boy, it was such a painful 30 min. drive to the park (breathtaking mountain scenery to the left and right of us with the mighty Yellowstone river center stage : ). Eric had told us about a spot below the employee's village. The folks at Park's fly shop in Gardiner suggested fishing below the high bridge. And Rudy from Blue Ribbon Flies had recommended the 45th parallel. We ended up fishing all three.

At the first two spots, we were completely alone. Both of us kept looking around, on more than one occasion, for bears. Fishing was slow--just a couple landed. On the hike back up to the high bridge, we ran into 3 anglers on their way down. They each wore bells around their necks. I remembered what Dan said in response to my question about the effectiveness of bells in scaring away bears. He said "there's a reason why they find bells in bear scat..." Our last stop, the 45th parallel, was absolutely beautiful. No fish were caught but it was idyllic. We noticed ominous dark clouds heading our way and called it a day.

Fishing the 45th parallel. Storm's a coming!
Slough Creek
July 25, 2011: We saved legendary Slough Creek for last. Last year, we had made the trip into the Park to fish Slough, only to have it thunderstorm and hail when we arrived. The weather was perfect--high 80s and little wind. We ate our lunch and looked out towards the meadow below the parking lot. We spotted a few anglers along with 2 large golden brown shapes moving in the distance. Bears? They didn't look dark enough to be bison. Did the other anglers see them? We weren't sure what to do. A truck drove towards us (a park ranger) and Josée hailed him down. The ranger got out, looked through binoculars, and said, "They're just bison." Whew! We geared up to wet wade.

There were swarms of bugs--just not the kind we were hoping for--only black flies and mosquitos. Using our rigs from the previous day on the Boulder, we started nymphing. But it was slower than molasses in winter. I decided to walk downstream. As I passed a bend in the creek, I noticed several rises by the bank, so I stopped and put on a green drake dun. I saw Josée walking towards me. Also fed up with the lack of action, she said she was going to go further downstream. I told her there were plenty of fish right here. She put on a dry and on her first cast, got a hit. She landed several fish including a nice brown. It was lunchtime for the trout of Slough creek! Meanwhile, I was focusing all my attention on one large fish near the bank. She was behind a patch of submerged branches. It took numerous attempts but I finally drifted my fly, just right, into position. She rose to take it but I was too eager and ripped the fly out of her mouth. She never rose again. I decided to explore further downstream.

Slough Creek "beach".
I reached a wide sandy beach where only one other angler was fishing--a tall gentleman, easily over 6 ft. It was such a pleasure to wade into the cool water and escape the relentless black flies. I caught a couple of small rainbows. One fish came up within inches of my fly, took a look, decided it wasn't for her, and swam back down. I realized then, I was done, too. I was completely fished out--just going through the motions. I lowered my rod, relishing the feel of the water pushing against my legs, and watched the other anglers around me: the tall angler nearby was waist deep in pursuit of trout on the opposite bank; another was stealthily walking the far high bank, making short, crisp casts down below him; another was heading back to the parking lot. I eventually decided to follow suit and check on Josée.

Josée was in the process of changing flies, tying on a hopper. She told me she had just spoken with the angler I had seen heading back. He had been curious to find a single female angler. She proceeded to tell me his life story: he was a teacher from Michigan vacationing with his family in Yellowstone... He had seen a bear the evening before in exactly the spot we were fishing. I told her I was done but she should continue fishing if she wanted. She cast the hopper on the water, immediately got a strike, but missed it as we were busy talking. She said she was ready to go, too. We got back on the trail and caught up with the angler from Michigan. He was very friendly and we were so busy chatting we almost didn't notice the huge bison bull directly ahead of us, blocking the trail. Since it was mating season for the bison, we gave him a wide berth. God only knows what hormones might be clouding his judgment! We backed off the trail and trudged through some foul smelling swamps (bison dung, anyone?) before finally making it back to the car and saying farewell to our new friend. I hope to someday come back to this amazing place and fish every single one of it's meadows.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

DePuy Spring Creek, MT

DePuy Spring Creek
H: We couldn't fish the roaring, turbid, Yellowstone river that ran through our very backyard at the lodge, so Eric scrambled to get us access to private waters. He was able to get us on DePuy Spring Creek, Saturday, July 23, 2011. We started the day early. As we got in the car, Eric forewarned us about Betty, the eccentric owner who would be signing us in, and the large white mansion she lived in.

After a short drive, we arrived at "Graceland" and met Betty. She was very sweet, and unlike most people, managed to pronounce both our names with little difficulty. She gave us a map of her property and off we went to fish. We started somewhere in the middle of the 3-mile long creek. There were a few PMDs emerging and we each had a variant of a PMD dun on our lines. Eric demonstrated the "steeple cast" we should use since the bank and tall grass behind wouldn't allow for a normal backcast. Josée picked it up with ease and it wasn't long before she caught several trout.

I, on the other hand, had a more difficult time with it since I have a sidearm casting style. There was also this crazy bird in a tree behind me that clearly objected to my presense on his stretch of river. He routinely swooped down like a kamakaze, aiming for my head. I finally looked him in the eye and spoke softly, telling him I was only there to catch some fish. It seemed to work for a while... : ) Eventually, I blocked out his antics, focused on the fishing, and caught some unusual fish: cutbows, a hybrid of a cutthroat and rainbow trout. I know there is controversy over these "half-breed" fish. But they were fun to catch and each one strikingly different in coloration and markings.

Eric with my first Cutthroat.
After an hour or so, surface activity died down, so we moved to another part of the creek and nymphed. The nymphing was very productive and we landed several more rainbows and cutbows. And we each caught our very first cutthroat trout that day, marvelling at the fiery red slashes they are famous for. Eric headed back to start up the grill for lunch. We fished by ourselves for a while, watching industrious muskrats swim by, before our stomachs protested and demanded food, so we headed back to the truck.

He cooks, too--a mean elk burger.
Eric provided a veritable feast for us that day. He grilled up some killer elk burgers from an elk that he had hunted and dressed himself. It was my first taste of elk and I thoroughly enjoyed it--not gamey at all--tasted like bison.

After lunch, things had quieted down considerably. Eric took us to the upper part of DePuy creek--what he called the PhD area. The fish here are extremely finicky and the water more challenging: tricky microcurrents, crystal clear visibility, and thick, lush weed beds (or trout condos, as Eric liked to call them). If you landed a fish here, you graduated with a PhD. Unfortunately, most of the trout appeared to be in their condos taking siesta.

Eric and I crouched along the high banks, scouting for shadows and movement below, hunting instincts in high gear. Success! We spied a sizable dark shadow undulating against a sliver of sandy bottom, sandwiched between two weed bed rowhouses. We slithered down the steep bank, on our bottoms, entering the water as soundlessly as possible. The fish was about 35 feet away. We didn't want to push any water and spook him, so we held our position. Eric and I observed our quarry and discussed the best plan of attack. Since the bank and grass was at least 10 feet high directly behind me, a roll cast seemed to be the best option. Just great! The rustiest cast in my limited but slowly expanding arsenal. Rusty or not, I practiced a few casts away from my target until I was ready.

It took numerous casts before I got it just right. He took turns feeding to his left and then to his right. I finally made the perfect cast at the right time--he was on! Now, to land him. He dove into one "condo" after another, seeking refuge. I tried to keep his head up and brought him in close several times. But each time he saw us and the net, he made a run for it. Eric got a good look at him and thought he was a cutty, about 17 inches. He made one last dash and dove deeply into the beds. I lost him!

Later, as we climbed back on the bank, Eric said there wasn't anything I could have done. He jokingly said I deserved at least a Masters, if not a PhD. So much for my dissertation...

DePuy: PhD area

Friday, July 29, 2011

MONTANA FISH PORN (outtakes, bare midriffs, and some big fish!)

Outtake: 20-inch Hebgen Gulper

Hyun Kounne juggling a gulper on Hebgen Lake, West Yellowstone, MT
Take 1

CUT!

Hyun Kounne with rainbow, Hebgen Lake, West Yellowstone, MT
Take 2

Note: No rainbows were harmed shooting this post (she landed safely on Dan's flip flops).

Show a Little Skin

Josée with rainbow, Hebgen Lake, West Yellowstone, MT
Josée, all bundled up with her 20-inch gulper from Hebgen Lake.


Now, this is more like it...

Josée and Dan Rust with rainbow on Madison River, West Yellowstone, MT
Josée, showing a little skin with a lovely rainbow on the Madison.

Big Fish!

Hyun Kounne with rainbow on Story Lake, MT
It's huge! 23-inch rainbow taken on an ant on Story Lake.