Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Big Sky Land"
By Clearwater Frank

Montana's morn broke dark and drear as I scraped the frost off "Old Blue's" glass, the engine coughed then hammered some as I headed South toward Wolff Creek pass

The Missouri flowed by smooth and gray with a riffle every little way, I saw some geese upon a flat and a whitetail feeding in a draw,

As the engine warmed and my fingers thawed my thoughts turned toward what fly to fish, I thought about a brown as a Christmas wish,

Now I'm up to my knees in the chilly flow my Black Nosed Dace clouded in the snow which flutters down from the cold gray sky,

The wind is whistling past my ears should I head to Craig and have a beer, then the day is orr the score is nil, my body shudders with a chill,

I head for the farm out East of town as the sun is slowly sinking down, I'm home again with the fire's roar I have a warmth deep down inside from a day spent at the river's shore,

No fish today that was my lot but I care not of the total score, just spending time in "Big Sky Land" can make one's life seem truly grand.

October Something

Bulkley Trip- Arrival

Up at 7 and out the door, with only a stop for coffee. 7 hours of beautiful views follow.

At one point, with the sun only low in the sky, I see a wolf, skipping through a farm field.

I see eagles hovering and once, a badger crossing the road.

I pass McLeese Lake and pause to look back down the lake. I always wonder how I could arrange to be here at dawn but its too far "in between" places I might stay overnight.

More coffee and there's only three more hours till I get to Smithers.

At 3, at 140 kms/hour, I pull in to town. A quick stop at the motel, where I literally throw my stuff in the room and suddenly, I am on the Bulkley again after a long year of hard soul killing work.

The water is high but no higher than it was last year.

Gone is the melancholy of yesterday and I have to force myself to slow down - to breathe - I am shaking with excitement. I fish a run I have only fished once before and that time I found fish.

Sure enough, this time I bump a fish in exactly the same spot. Its just a quick bump and then nothing. I switch flies and swing down through the run. Its loooong, a kilometre, I will only get to cover a third of it before dark. Then it happens, a fish rolls over my fly. The fish.

I realise I am standing way too far out in the water. I step much closer to the bank, back up and change flies.

The sun starts down the sky towards the Seven Sisters and a huge October moon rises opposite. An angler and his yellow lab fish the run across from me. The fading sunlight catches his line arcing out across the water. He fishes too fast through the run and does not touch the fish that is always there.

He and the dog leave. I am alone again.

My third fly swings down through the run. I force myself to count 30 at the end of every swing.

At the end of one 30 seconds, a swirl and then the line comes tight.

Then nothing.

I change flies, step, swing, step, swing. A tap, tap, tap, then nothing.

Ten minutes later, it's too dark to see the head marker on the line.

I spool up and walk back to the car.

The river slips by, bathed in moonlight.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Special times with amazing friends(new and old) on an unbelievable river.....what more can I say?

Talented tier Scott Travis, graced me with these beautiful examples of some of the classics.

There's a number 5 Blue Charm in there.....just for you Ken!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shuffling the deck

It's that time of year where the deck gets shuffled. The hot days of summer are behind us and there is snow in the hills. As the days get cooler and the nights start to get downright cold, the internal trigger on the anadromous fish is pulled. Dour fish that have been sitting in the deepest runs they can find to escape the summer heat,slowly start to move. Big bucks start to ease out of their lairs and began their upstream  migration, following the overpowering instinct to find a mate and spawn. The early fall rains have begun, water temperatures are cooler and fish began to move at all times of the day.During the summer, their upstream movement was masked by the low light conditions of morning and evening. Now, fish can clearly be seen moving through tail outs and narrow slots at almost anytime of day.These once placid fish move aggressively to the fly once again.

A little larger profile fly is effective when water levels rise and cool

These early fall rains bring in fresh fish from the ocean as well. Fish that have waited for just this time to enter the stream of their birth and continue the cycle that will bring future generations. These late entering fish could still biologically be described as summer run fish but, on the river I fish at least, we start to see some fish that are distinctly different in appearance. These are the Nostril fish.The long sleek body of a summer fish is gone.A summer fish?A fall run fish? I can't answer that for sure. These fish have the body lines of a winter fish, not the overall length and mass necessarily, but those linebacker shoulders are evident. There is also a distinctly different spotting pattern on these fish. My friends and I have often wondered if these fish are a remnant strain from one of the logged out tributaries whose spawning gravel has long since been buried by silt and debris. Those tributaries can't support near the numbers that they once did, but small runs of these special fish do hang on where they can find suitable habitat. In talking with the old timers on the river, we have learned of distinct run timings of unique strains of fish that used to happen like clockwork. These individual genetically different runs of fish used to blur the line between the seasons. It wasn't just a summer and winter run, there would be fresh fish pouring into the river almost every month of the year.Each run timed to coincide with the water temps and conditions on one of the myriad of tributaries it was raised. Each fish type a genetically different creature,even from the one that is in the creek next door.

I am quite sure that many rivers in the Northwest have/ have had run timings and different strains of fish in the same system, genetically unique to the tributary they were raised. I would love to hear stories of fish on your rivers that fall into this category.

These fish still exist in small numbers and are seen every year by an even smaller group of anglers.

The fun part of this time of year is you never know what you might catch. A fish that has been in the river for awhile but is rested and willing to tussle, or a fish that is new on the block and ready to show you some kite string in a hurry.

The deck is shuffled, fish are moving and there are some wild cards out there.

Good fishing