Fly Fishing the BWO Hatch When You Haven't Fly Fished a BWO Hatch in a Year (or, Ouch)

Category:
Fly Fishing
bamboo fly rods
fishing
Fishing Report
fly fishing bamboo fly rods
fly fishing the upper sacramento
Upper Sacramento
upper sacramento river
Added Date:
Monday, 30 Nov, 2009
Summary
The bugs had just started and a few trout were rising, and it was suddenly very clear I'd spent most of my summer fly fishing small streams.
 
Content
The bugs had just started and a few trout were rising, and it was suddenly very clear I'd spent most of my summer fly fishing small streams.

Well, somebody caught something. I just wasn't me...

Fishing a small stream is gratifying, but it's not the best preparation for throwing #22 emergers at very spooky trout - which tend to stop rising whenever you wade closer than 35'.

In other words, I was rusty.

Rusty enough that I got a little cranky with myself on the water.

That's a bad thing, because when I'm cranky, I start cataloging my fly fishing failures, and under the impetus of an admittedly self-critical nature, that list can grow very long.


Wrong flies. Out of 6x. Every cast eight inches short. Not sneaky enough. Not piling enough tippet for a good drift. Not focused. Bad karma from prior lifetime.

It can get a little weighty at a moment in your life when a little confidence is a real asset.

The Code
Sometimes, you never do crack the code, and the bugs stop appearing and the fish stop rising, and you stand hip-deep in seriously freezing cold water and wonder why you took up this sport in the first place.

Other times you change one simple thing: tippet, fly, more reach in the cast - and the whole experience resolves itself right in front of your eyes, and the trout do their part by eating the fly.

It's either the way things are supposed to work, or pure magic.

When that does happen, you tend to forget the first half hour or so; that stretch where some apparently immature fly fisherman would be tempted to imitate his new daughter by stamping his wading boots and whining.

(Thank goodness that doesn't apply to you or me.)

In this case, I sorta cracked it. Barely.

Well, not really.

I was able to get fish to eat, though before it all came together, I had one actually come up under my bug while aiming for the natural right behind it.

My simply too-big #18 parachute simply slid off his broad back, and I simply stood there wondering at the unfairness of it all.

The answer, of course, is that fairness isn't a concept often adhered to in nature, and it wasn't the trout's fault I was stinking the place up.

The Ugly Reality
Chris Raine - who was ironically fishing my backup rod (an 8.5' Raine prototype) because he'd grabbed the wrong rod tube on the way out of the shop - landed two nice fish.



Naturally, I claimed ownership of half of both trout, suggesting it was a fool's tax for grabbing the wrong rod (an obvious symptom of advancing age).

Just as naturally, he replied with a rude gesture.

I fished an 8.5' Jim Reams hollowbuilt (a rod I love dearly for its smooth nature, but may sell because I'm not nearly caster enough to enjoy the taper when the bugs are on the water and I get impatient and start driving casts).

I had a total of four grabs, one brief hookup, one driven-by-frustration hookset (broke him off), and missed the other two on general principle.

In other words, I kinda sucked, and because I was preoccupied with rising fish, I can't even save this fishing report with a handful of good pictures.

It was the kind of day that shows you brief flashes of promise, yet reminds you that you're not nearly as good at this (or most other things) as your daydreams suggest you are.

Or more accurately, I'm not always as good at this as I was on the one day I did it all perfectly - a day which somehow becomes our benchmark for normalcy, which is self-deception raised to a high art.

While I'll eventually adjust to the demands of the BWO hatch (I'm stocking up on #20 Roy Palm biot-bodied soft hackle emergers), I'll also embrace the concept of letting the trout win the day without assuming I've lost my marbles.

See you on the river, Tom Chandler.
 
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Destinations
 (2)
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
 (2)
Given its association with transport, commerce and business development, it’s easy to forget that there remain parts of the Missouri set aside for fishing, boating and enjoying nature’s ... morebounty. From source to mouth, it is the longest river in North America, over 2, 341 miles. The river’s watershed consists of over a million square miles and includes parts of 10 American states and 2 Canadian provinces. When combined with the lower Mississippi, it is the 4th longest river in the world. Whew! That’s a lot to take in. But, if you’re a fly fisher in Montana, the only section of the Missouri you really need to know about is a tiny, 40 mile, stretch downstream of Holter Dam, near the towns of Wolf Creek, Craig and Cascade and not far from the city of Helena. This is the “Blue Ribbon” trout section of the Missouri.

Water released from Holter Dam keep this section the river at a fairly consistent level, helping to maintain cool temperatures year round. Some guides describe the river here as a gigantic spring creek surrounded by weed beds with long riffles, great banks and undercuts that provide ideal habitat for the river’s substantial trout population. By substantial, we’re talking 3,500 to 5,500 fish per mile on a yearly basis – and many of these exceed 16 inches! The first ten miles of the river from Holter Dam to Craig tend to have the largest number of hatches resulting in the highest concentration of fish.

In this “gigantic spring” part of the river, rainbow trout outnumber browns by a ratio of 6:1. In addition, stable populations of burbot and stonecats live below the dam. As a bonus, the reservoir is surrounded by the Beartooth Wildlife Management Area as well as three other designated nature preserves and wilderness set-asides. Look up and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a bald eagle, various types of falcon, red-tail hawks, osprey and golden eagles – you may even get a chance to see them snatch a fish from the water. Shore side it’s not unusual to sight bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats. This may be an area small in size but its large in its grandeur and many offerings.
 (4)
The Beaverhead is a nearly 70 mile long tributary of the Jefferson River. Its original course has changed due to the construction of the Clark Canyon Dam, as have its headwaters, once ... moreformed by the confluence of the Red Rock River and Horse Prairie Creek. These rivers, along with the first 6 miles of the Beaverhead, are now flooded as a result of the reservoir project. Today, the Beaverhead flows through a wide valley where it meets the Big Hole River and forms the Jefferson River. The river is well known for its clear, blue-green color, narrow, winding turns, willow-lined, undercut banks and thriving insect life that attracts fish.

The origin of its colorful name can be traced back to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, when their indigenous guide, Sacajawea, recognized a large rock formation in the middle of the river known to her as the Beaver’s Head. According to Lewis, this indicated to her that they were close to the summer retreat of her Indian nation. On August 15, 1805 the party reached her tribe, where one of her remaining brothers, Cameahwait, Chief of the Shoshone, provided crude maps, food and horses, making it possible to continue the Expedition through the mountains. On their return trip Lewis gave the river, once full of beavers, the name it now holds.

Fortunately, floating the Beaverhead in today’s world is much easier, more fun and amply rewarding. It is widely considered one of Montana's premier Brown trout fishing rivers, producing more large trout, particularly Brown trout, than any other river in the state. Due to its abundance of large trout, fly fishing the stretch near Dillon, from Clark Canyon Dam to Barrett’s Dam and through to Twin Bridges, tends to be very popular and get can crowded, even although the fish can also be hard to catch. While large fish can be caught with dry flies, it is primarily a nymph fishing river along with a swiftly moving current, so expect to be constantly mending your line.
 (5)
The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Trips
$
1,625
-
$
1,925
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 3 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
5 days
 (1)
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 5 great fishing days with Red Mountain Adventures. Eric Shores, with over 35 years of ... moreexperiencing guiding on the Madison River will take you down a journey of the best places to fish.

The journey starts on the Upper Madison River on a guided float trip covering about 8-11 miles of premier fly fishing water. The following day includes a recipe (location flies, and technique) on a do it yourself wade location near the fly fishing town of Ennis. The third day moves you on to where the Madison River dumps into Ennis Lake for a full float day stalking the giants. The following day provides instructions again for a do it yourself wade day. Location will depend on the hot locations during your visit. The final day is another full day float day on the lower Madison River. All together, you will experience the Madison River like never before by true expert.

Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
$
400
-
$
495
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
Destination:
If you’re new to the area, the Beaverhead is one of the only rivers where a guide is truly required to have a successful day of fishing. They are there, over 3800 wild rainbows and ... morebrowns per square miles, but the river doesn’t yield them up unless you know her secrets. The experience guides at Fishtales Outfitting understand the local nuances of fishing in southwest Montana, and we can help you master one of the most prolific trout fisheries in the area. Book your adventure today. Gourmet lunch is provided with full day trips.
$
495
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Destination:
The Missouri River starts near Three Forks, Montana and offers beginning anglers and experienced fishermen alike the opportunity to hone their skills. Our guides will help you make ... morethe most of your time on the water and will provide the instruction you need or want based on your experience level.
Outfitters
FishTales Outfitting is southwest Montana's premeir fly fishing outfitter and guide service. Owner and guide Michael Stack and his team of expert fly fishing guides bring over 70 years ... moreof combined years of guiding experience to the premier trout waters of southwest Montana, home of the Madison, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Jefferson and Ruby Rivers as well as private water. (rod fee applicable)

Located in the heart of the Ruby Valley and readily accessible from the airports of Bozeman, Missoula, Billings, Butte and Great Falls, FishTales Outfitting is perfectly situated to head in any direction in pursuit of a world class trout fishing on any day! We have five blue ribbon trout streams to choose from, you can fish a different river each day of your stay!
Guides:
Type:
Fishing
13 comments
Love the "other side".
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[...] warm-weather stuff (Patagonia’s Micro-Puff jacket) – I’m ready to do what I couldn’t do before (namely catch trout in the midst of a BWO [...]
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Liar. I never watched "appreciatively." Instead, I was hoping you'd get hit by lightning. Sometimes, the truth doesn't set you free...
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Ok. Here is what really happened: Tom and I had not actually fished together this season. So it was time. Tom offered to drive. This was good. His gas. We stopped at Amarattis, and each bought a breakfast burrito, and a drink. Came to 12 bucks. Tom bought. This was good. His money. When we arrived at the selected site, fish were all ready working. This was good. My rod was not in the rod tube. This ... more was not good. Tom loaned me another rod. His rod. This was good. Wading into the stream, Tom offered me the upstream spot, which he ALWAYS takes. This was unusual. But it was good. The first fish I caught took me into the backing, and almost spooled me. This was unusual. When the fish was downstream some 50 yards, and in front of Tom, he reeled in and offered to net it. This was good. And he took a nice picture of its tail. He then watched appreciatively as I hooked and landed (unaided) a slightly larger fish than the first. BUT....while we fished for several hours, NOT ONCE did he offer me a sip of whiskey from his flask. He is so selfish sometimes.
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Broken down through the complex levels of possible claims, a person could sit on a river bank and still claim a successful fishing trip~ (Quote) Hmmm...I believe Rebecca is onto something here.
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I'm sure there is a scientific equation that applies to claiming the fish our friends (and foes) take on a river. 1/2 of a fish for a borrowed fly rod. 1/4 of a fish for borrowed tippet. 1/8 of a fish for a pirated fly etc, etc... Of course, we can expand the theory to any person who catches a fish in the spot we were just standing -- 1/3 claim on those fish based on pure prior occupancy principle ... more alone and so on..... Broken down through the complex levels of possible claims, a person could sit on a river bank and still claim a successful fishing trip~
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That we claim credit for our buddy's fish is inevitable. The question revolves around how much of the fish we demand credit for. It's another of fly fishing's philosophically significant questions.
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Great post. You speak for all fly anglers and our collective frustrations and successes. Well-written.
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I sometimes claim 1/2 of the fish my buddy catches just because i drove his sorry butt to the water!
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Newman!
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Ditto FishSkiCanoe and Don. "Bad Karma from prior lifetime"? HoooooWheeeee, so there's somebody else with this problem? I guess it's a relief to know that I'm not alone... Still, even though we know what they are saying about us, or at least I do ("Didja see what that fool was slamming into the water? Check out that ridiculous hat."); I take solace in the fact that they will never report what a fool ... more I am to my friends and neighbors. Not a word...
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One should never let reality influence your fishing memories, unless, of course, it's one of those rare epic days.
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Sometimes you eat the trout and sometimes the trout eats you. Or something like that.
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