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!

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