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 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


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.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dutch's Fly Box

H: July 16, 2011: As an early Christmas gift (for myself, from my sisters who never know what to get me :) I was thinking of buying a beautiful, one-of-a kind, handcrafted wooden fly box made by Dave "Dutch" Schultz. I had heard he recently dropped off a new shipment the week before at Blue Ribbon Flies.

There were about 8 boxes to choose from made from a variety of hardwoods: maple, cherry, walnut... Each box was unique and included a tag naming the type wood it was made from along with its price. I examined a few of the larger styles and narrowed it down to 2 very different boxes. One was a simple, all cherry, shaker style box with elegant grain. The other had an exotic, reddish-gold striated grain and the tag read "Iclonno." I asked the man behind the counter if he knew what kind of wood Iclonno was. He said he had no idea but he would google it on the store's computer.

Handcrafted Dave Dutch Schultz fly box

While he logged onto the computer, several guides walked in and I struck up a conversation with one of them. I mentioned I was having a hard time deciding between 2 beautiful fly boxes and asked if he had heard of Iclonno wood, showing him the box. He looked at the box and the tag and chuckled. Apparently, he had been present when Dutch brought the boxes in. What I thought was "Iclonno" was actually "I dunno." Dutch didn't know what type of wood it was. He thought it was some type of African hardwood. We all laughed and it was such a great story, I made up my mind to buy the box. Dutch's fly boxes are beautiful works of arts. Not for river use but perfect for storing and displaying some special flies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Story Lake, MT

J: July 20, 2011: Since most rivers in this part of the hood are at the moment out of commission, our guide, Eric Adams decided to take us to a private lake, family owned for generations ~ Story Lake~. It is tucked in a mountain in Paradise Valley. Tiny little lake on a huge ranch! The ride from the main road to the lake took us about 30 min. on a gravel path. The view on the way up there was spectacular, we could see so many mountain ranges with snow still draped over them-- rather unusual for this time of the year --.

Once there we put the boat on the water. The floor of the lake was at times covered with grass which made the lake look an incredible emerald green. The wind was hurricane strength that morning so casting became extremely difficult. The water was crystal clear so that we could spot the trouts and go after them methodically, one after the other! We caught quite a few rather big fish. Hyun and I did not know that Montana had prickly pear cactuses... Now we DO! Do not recommend wearing flip-flops to go to the ladies room located in the bushes!!

There is this little house over looking a part of the lake... Would not mind putting my pillows and my blankets there for the summer!

A little piece of heaven!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy Hour on Hebgen Lake, Montana

Flygirls: Hyun Kounne and Josée, Hebgen Lake, West Yellowstone, MT
Enjoying beers on a driftwood sofa on Hebgen Lake.

H: Greetings from Montana! Josée and I are having an amazing time. So far, we've enjoyed 3 great days of fishing in the West Yellowstone area. Wish you were here... Cheers!

July 17, 2011: On Sunday morning, we head over to Hebgen lake after meeting up with our guide, Dan (the man) Rust, at Blue Ribbon Flies. This will be our first time chasing gulpers, cruising rainbows in the 17- to 22-inch range. Accuracy is the name of the game here--spotting rises, determining which direction the fish is headed, and casting ahead of it, leading him/her by about 10 feet. As soon as we entered the water we were greeted by swarms of Callibaetis spinners, a good omen. The lake was calm and smooth as green sea glass. It wasn't long before we spotted numerous rises and were excitedly yelling, "Josée, 11 o'clock, heading left. Hyun, 2 o'clock, heading towards us..." It was challenging fishing but great fun! We each caught some beautiful rainbows before the wind picked up and it was time to break for lunch.

The Madison River between Hebgen and Quake lakes.
After lunch, we drove to a gorgeous spot between Hebgen and Quake lakes, to wade the Madison. Dan rummages through some shrubs and emerges with this enormous insect in hand, a salmon fly, the size of a mack truck! It's the first salmon fly we've ever seen. Due to the unusually long, cold, wet winter/spring, we are able to catch the tail end of this legendary hatch, almost a month later than normal. It's blowing hard but we do the best we can. Josée catches a nice rainbow before we are exhausted and call it a day.

Dan Rust and Josée on the Madison River, West Yellowstone, MT
Nice catch, huh? Not just the rainbow... : )

July 18, 2011: Happy birthday Josée! The day starts with a repeat of Sunday morning, tracking gulpers on Hebgen. But we put in at a different spot on the lake, away from the jet skiing U-tards and wakeboarding Ida-hoes of the previous day (that's what Dan and the other guides jokingly call the non-fishing tourists they share the lake with). Hmmm, makes me wonder what they call us, New Yorkers, once we've left ; ). Josée and I feel we've now got the hang of it but the bugs, fish, and rises are more sporadic. I land a lovely 20-inch rainbow--the biggest rainbow I've caught to date (a funny picture taken by Josée to come). Right on cue, the wind starts to pick up around noon. We head over to float the Madison.

By the time we arrive, the wind is blowing hard, 20+ mph. Dan ties a salmon fly on Josée's line and a curious looking cicada on mine with a royal trude dropper. We miss several hits before Josée lands a nice rainbow. Towards the end of our float, just before a stretch of whitewater, I get a fish on but we're flying down the Madison at a furious pace. My poor fish snags on a rock. I end up letting most of my line out to keep this fish on--trying to maintain tension without breaking my leader. By some miracle I still have it on as Dan pulls us over to the bank. Now I'm stripping in line like a mad woman as this fish comes barreling towards us, my fingers burnt raw. But it was so worth it--a healthy, wild, 17-inch brown--a real survivor.

To celebrate Josée's Bday, we picked up a six-pack and headed over to Hebgen Lake, to a spot where Dan likes to run his English setter pup, Traveler. To our surprise, on the black obsidian beach, was this amazing sofa constructed from driftwood. It's a true work of art and surprisingly comfortable. Whoever made it, must have had some carpentry skills. We lounged on our sofa, drank some beers, and had Traveler to entertain us. We watched him run free like a gazelle through the meadows, then suddenly transform into a statue with tail erect as he spotted a bird, before joyfully chasing the bird into flight. A great ending to another glorious day in West Yellowstone.

Dan and Traveler

Blue RIbbon Flies' Dan Rust on Hebgen Lake, West Yellowstone, MT
A true work of art with rugged, clean lines.

P.S. We've taken lots of fish pictures, or fish porn, as Dan likes to call it. But due to a technical glitch we won't be able to download them from our camera till we get back home. Stay tuned for some great pics!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

7 Days...

H: Well, its been over 6 months since we originally planned our, just 7 days till we head out west to Montana. Under normal circumstances, I would be brimming with excitement. But record runoffs, raging rivers, and the recent oil spill in the Yellowstone river has put a damper on things. I'm not very optimistic about the fishing... Once I get there, I'm sure the majestic snow capped mountains, wide open plains, fresh air, and friendly locals will lift my spirits. Wish us luck!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Commencement on the Farmington River

My graduation gift: a lovely brown from Ovation Pool.

H: July 1, 2011: 1 flygirl was on her way to Canada to be one with the Canadian wilderness and visit family. 1 flygirl went back to the Farmington in CT to be one with the river and hopefully catch some trout. It was originally to be a solo expedition. But a last minute cancellation allowed Antoine to join me Friday afternoon. My two previous trips to the Farmington river had been marred by heavy rainstorms the night before. This time, weather and water conditions were near perfect. The only potential obstacle I could foresee was an unusally heavy kayak and canoe hatch. It was, after all, the 4th of July holiday weekend.

Antoine and I scouted several spots as we drove upstream outside of the TMA. We finally settled on a spot near Riverton. Here, the flows from the nearby dam keep the water temps considerably cooler than downstream. It was refreshing, to say the least, to enter the river and cool off from the late afternoon heat. There was a wide variety of bugs in the air and on the water. We observed several rises, trying to determine what the fish fancied as an afternoon snack. Antoine suggested we try a size 18 yellow mayfly in honor of the vitreous. I deferred to his judgment. Within minutes, I had a fish on and it wasn't long before I had another.

Two anglers had entered the water as I was landing the second fish, an 10-11-inch brown. "Nice! one of them exclaimed. What did you catch him on?" I have no qualms about sharing info with other anglers, hoping they will return the favor. So I told him I had caught him on a small yellow mayfly. He and his friend settled into spots slightly downstream of me. Antoine was upstream having his typical successes. As I had my third fish on, the nearby fisherman yelled out to me, "You wouldn't by chance have another one of those flies, would you?" I just laughed and proceeded to lose the fish as I allowed my rod tip to dip too low. As I checked and dried my fly, I noticed that the angler had moved much closer to me. He had previously been casting downstream. Now he proceeded to quarter upstream in my direction.

It wasn't long before I had my fifth fish on. This one I landed. A robust 13-inch brown. As I released my fine catch, the other angler was practically alongside me. I could see Antoine giving him the eye. But short of him actually hooking me or tangling my line, I couldn't care less. I was high from the joy of catching a beautiful bounty of fish on such a fine summer day. It was this euphoria that temporarily kept me from realizing my body temperature had dropped and that I was starting to shiver. As we exited the river, Antoine commented on the rudeness of the other fisherman encroaching into my space. But then, what he said next made me smile: "You've become quite a good angler." It's been about 2 years since I've picked up this sport, and now, I can't imagine my life without fly fishing being a part of it. But to hear my original fly fishing instructor say these words to me, meant a lot. I was flustered and didn't know quite how to respond. I mumbled something about 2 years...

Antoine (le héron) Bissieux eyeing his prey.
We warmed up and moved downriver to fish another spot for the evening. Greenwoods was packed with anglers so we moved to Ovation pool further downstream. Antoine has a favorite spot there, perching on a submerged rock near the shore, like a predatory heron, casting to rising fish 30-40 feet away. I knew eventually he would have one of them on the end of his line. Sure enough he landed one. He said it was now my turn. Nervous for some odd reason, I climbed on to the rock. It felt like a tiny stage and I was suddenly strucked with stage fright, fighting to keep my equilibrium. I proceeded to clumsily cast his rod and catch the fly on my backcast in the tall grass behind me. I knew I couldn't proceed with him observing me and despite his urgings that he wasn't watching, I stepped off the rock and handed him back his rod. "Are you quitting?" he asked. "No, I replied. I'm taking a break." I grabbed my rod, waded to another spot and fished for a bit. But things were slow at Ovation pool that evening. We called it a day and grabbed a late supper.

July 2, 2011,
turned out to be another fine summer day. I was to fish by myself--something I haven't done in about 10 months. I was feeling adventurous. I didn't want to fish the same old spots I was familiar with. I drove upriver and stopped at a few places before deciding to fish the tail end of a pool that was deserted. It was a spot Antoine and I had scouted the day before. Here, the river bottom was strewn with rocks and boulders of every shape and size, like a haphazardly developed underwater cityscape. Wading here would be very challenging. Having learned my lesson from my last dunking in the Housatonic, I took it slow and easy.

"Can we get this over with," he said with his eyes.
I cast to a couple of nearby rises, changing flies 3 times--from the wet fly leftover from the previous evening, to a green bellied caddis dry, cream sulpher dry, then a size 20 blue wing olive. On my second cast with the bwo, I had a fish on. It turned out to be a small 10-inch brown. I proceeded to catch 3 more fish (1 rainbow and 2 browns), before realizing I had vowed to take more pictures for the blog and had none to show for my July 4th expedition. I tucked my rod under my armpit, held fish in net with 1 hand, and unzipped the chest pocket of my waders to get my iPhone out of its "drybag" (a ziplock) with the other. Fearing I might drop my phone into the Farmington, I was satisfied with a hasty picture of the small brown, gazing pitifully at me from the confines of my net. "Can we get this over with," he said to me with his eyes. I quickly set him free and looked up to see an array of bright red, white, blue, and yellow kayaks and canoes upstream. The July 4th hatch had begun--perfect time for a break.

2 1/2 hours later, I hit the river again. I ended up returning to Ovation. It was an idyllic late summer afternoon. Bugs of every size and color were dancing on the water to a summer symphony. I spotted a subtle rise about 30 feet away. Deja vu, just like last evening. I walked over to the semi-submerged rock and determinedly climbed on. I proceeded to cast, mindful of the tall grass behind me, keeping my cast high. It took several tries, but finally I got a fish on. A lovely 14-inch brown which I took my time bringing in and taking a respectable picture of (my commencement gift). Even after catching 2 more browns, I knew there was plenty of great fishing left to be had that evening, but I was ready to leave. I felt a deep sense of peace and accomplishment, as if I had finally graduated from fly fishing school (the one inside my head!), but just the primary level. God, there is so much more to learn, and I can't wait for my next lesson...