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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 07/29/2015 (6748 reads)

By Brian McGeehan

As a Montana fly fishing outfitter – the majority of my time from November through April is spent helping our guests plan trips for the following season. Montana is a very large target with a huge variety of fisheries so it can be a daunting challenge to folks visiting for the first time. When Dave Kile asked me to put together a guide for planning a trip our way I decided to break it into two parts do to the breadth and diversity of what Montana has to offer and what different people want out of their trip.

One of the aspects of trip planning in the Big Sky state is that we have such a huge variety of different rivers, streams, still waters and spring creeks. Each type of fishery has different peak seasons, different character and different tactics that are best used. This post will focus on anglers that want to do the majority of their fishing unguided. Montana is arguably the best state in the west for planning a DIY trip for several reasons. Thanks to the stream access law, anglers in Montana have access to private land along streams and rivers. This means that as long as an angler gets to the river corridor from a bridge or other public access point you can fish on private property without trespassing. Secondly, we have a lot of public land in Montana and surrounding areas like Yellowstone Park so finding water to access legally is pretty easy. Finally, the huge variety of fisheries means that there are a lot of smaller waters that are ideal for wade fishing.

Madison River, Montana
Madison River, Montana


Where to fish?
Pick up any coffee table fly fishing book that showcases famous waters around the world and Montana rivers will be heavily represented. Anglers from around the world are familiar with the Yellowstone, Madison, Missouri, Bighorn, Beaverhead, Gallatin and many others. Where do you begin if you are planning on fishing on your own? DIY anglers need to be cautious about planning their trips around the most famous rivers which are generally also the largest. While the Yellowstone is one of my all time favorite rivers in the world – it is also a huge fishery that is very difficult to wade in most stretches of the river. Even smaller rivers like the Beaverhead can prove frustrating since it is a meadow style river and at higher flows is next to impossible to wade fish without a boat to hop from run to run (but at lower flows is manageable). Some large rivers like the Madison have sections that are wading friendly and other sections that are very challenging to read without prior river knowledge. Other fisheries are very hard to access without permission from ranchers and offer very little private access. Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few locations that an angler fishing without a guide should consider. They all offer good public access and manageable wade fishing.

Bighorn River
The Bighorn is a very large river, but at lower flows (spring and late summer) there can be very good wade fishing. This is also a very easy river to float and if you plan in advance you can rent a drift boat for a reasonable price. The Bighorn has astronomical fish counts and the trout are big – most in the 17-19” class. The downside is that it is also relatively crowded (at least by Montana standards) since most of the fishing is done in the section just below the dam at Fort Smith.

Gallatin River
The Gallatin is a small mountain freestone river with high trout counts. It starts just inside of Yellowstone Park and flows for about 30 miles through the Gallatin Canyon which is mostly public forest service land with easy road access. Fishing from boats is not permitted and the river is very easy to “read”. There are numerous pull offs along the canyon section and the fishing isn’t very technical. Most of the trout are less than 15” but the population is very healthy. The only time that wading is difficult is during the run off period in late May and June.

Rock Creek
Rock Creek is located about 45 minutes from Missoula and is similar in size to the Gallatin. Like the Gallatin there is ample National Forest land with public access. Trout are medium sized but the river is beautiful and finding public water is not a problem.


Rock Creek Montana
Rock Creek


Ruby River
The Ruby River near Sheridan is a small mountain stream that turns in to a medium sized meadow river. The Ruby in the National Forest offers lots of public access for smaller trout. Below the reservoir it enters ranch country and the only access is from bridges and a few state owned parcels but fishing can be good for decent sized trout at the lower access areas.

Upper Bitterroot
The Upper Bitterroot and its tributaries offer good public access and a some National Forest fishing but avoid run off.

Upper Madison River
The legendary Madison River has some locations that are best floated but there are a few areas that attract out of state wade anglers. The first is the section between Hebgen and Quake Lake – this is an especially good fishery in the spring and fall. The next section is the wade only area from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge with good access at Reynolds Pass and Three Dollar Bridge. Finally there is an access point to another wade only area called the Channels at Valley Garden. The Channels can be tough to get around, however, do to dense willow stands along the banks. The Madison from Lyons Bridge to Ennis and then again from Ennis Lake to Three Forks can be non descript and difficult to read and fish without a boat.

Backcountry Streams and Lakes
For those that like to backpack – there can be terrific alpine lake fishing in remote wilderness areas. The most expansive area for hiking and fishing is the Beartooth Plateau near Red Lodge that offers thousands of mountain lakes and a few good streams. Other smaller ranges also offer good fishing for the adventurous angler. Most alpine lakes are stocked periodically by air but all streams and rivers in Montana are wild trout by law.


Montana Backcountry
Montana Backcountry Stream



Yellowstone National Park
Although only a small portion of Yellowstone Park is in Montana, the Big Sky state is the main entrance to the park at locations like West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cook City. Yellowstone is wade fishing only by regulation and offers lots of great streams and rivers. Generally spring and fall fishing is best in the West and South side of the Park and summer fishing is best in the Northeast section (with numerous exceptions). Although there is ample road access – anglers that are willing to hike will be rewarded with lightly pressured trout.

Livingston Spring Creeks
The legendary spring creeks near Livingston include DePuy, Nelson and Armstrong. These are on private ranches and require advanced reservations. Rod fees are $100 in peak season and $75 in shoulder seasons. These technical waters are easy to wade and have thick hatches. They are similar to Pennsylvania limestone streams in many ways. Plan on booking rods a year in advance (or more) for dates in mid June to July for the PMD hatch. DePuy has the most rods per day and is the last to fill up. You need to reserve a year in advance or more for Armstrong or Nelson for mid summer dates.

When to Come
This is one of the most commonly asked questions that we receive from anglers planning trips to Montana. If you are planning on fishing on your own it is probably a good idea to avoid run off when the snowpack is bringing levels up. This is a great time to book a guided trip but fishing on your own is much tougher in late May and mid June if you don’t have a boat and don’t have intimate knowledge of the rivers or access to private water. DIY anglers can have great luck in the spring before run off in late April to Mid May. Another nice window is just after runoff in late June and early July. Mid August is tougher on the public waters because the fish have seen a lot of flies but is a great time to target the back country if you like to hike. Late September and October is also great for fishing on your own since the waters are lower and you can fish some of the public waters in Yellowstone and outside the park for fall run browns.

Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 19 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT. Brian will follow up with some more advice in a follow up post “Part 2: Planning a Guided Fishing Trip to Montana”. Here is a quick map to some of the streams.







Published by David Weaver [Fishidiot] on 07/07/2015 (4546 reads)
JOHN BROWN’S BASS
By
Dave Weaver
Photographs and artwork courtesy of author

Potomac Fly Fishing


Harper’s Ferry is a quiet place where the gentle hiss of river current is the only consistent sound, especially at night. It was quiet a century and a half ago on the night of October 16th, 1859 as less than two dozen men, led by the messianic abolitionist from Kansas, John Brown, crossed the Potomac and slipped into the town streets to initiate what Brown believed would be the end of slavery in America. A staunch Calvinist who believed that he was on a mission from God to end slavery, Brown intended to bring to life his favorite passage from the Bible: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” The sin of slavery would be paid for with Brown’s own blood if need be.

Thomas Jefferson said that the view from Harper’s Ferry Virginia (now West Virginia) where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers join was so “stupendous” as to be worth a trip across the Atlantic just to see its beauty. Thirty three years after our third President’s death, this little town saw played out what was arguably the seminal event leading to the Civil War – a drama seen through the lens of terrorism or martyrdom. Today, the bass fishing is fabulous in and around this tiny town so woven into the fabric of our nation’s past. For those fishermen with a historical bent, it’s easy to miss the strikes of hard hitting smallmouths due to the irresistible temptation to gaze at nearby Maryland Heights where Stonewall Jackson’s guns blasted the town into submission in 1862 (and forcing the largest surrender of Union forces in the Civil War); or the stately stone Harper house; or the old railroad bridge; or the fire engine house where Brown and his holdouts took cover; or any of a host of intriguing sites. A fisherman in the river is surrounded by bass under the surface and three states on the shorelines. So much to see, catch, and think about…so little time.

rusty spinnerAlthough largely a National Park today, Harper’s Ferry was an industrial town conceived by George Washington as a serendipitously located government factory village where converging waterways, upstream from the new capital, would drive the production of armaments for the incipient military of a fledgling nation. Jefferson’s protégé, Captain Meriwether Lewis, was provisioned for his Corp of Discovery here. By the mid Nineteenth Century the country had become consumed by the controversy over the expansion of slavery and Brown, a man who by all accounts had failed at every endeavor he’d undertaken, had pledged his life to the struggle against the South’s “peculiar institution” and set his sights on Harper’s Ferry.

John Brown was completely committed. Some thought him mad. After cutting his teeth in Bleeding Kansas where he committed several heinous murders of defenseless pro slavery men, Brown concocted a plan to move his personal war against slavery east and seize Harper’s Ferry and its weapons. He believed when news of his capture of the town spread that slaves to the south would hear the news and, undoubtedly with the help of divine providence, rise up against their masters and march in unison to join Brown, from whom they would receive the captured weapons. Thus armed, a slave revolt would snowball across the land and the institution of slavery would fall. When Brown proposed his plan to some prominent abolitionists in the North he was mostly rebuffed. Frederick Douglas thought his plan impossible and refused to participate. Nevertheless, Brown did get some backing by some who shared the growing frustration of many abolitionists who had come to feel that speechifying, rhetoric, and the publishing of treatises were toothless against the nation’s great sin.

rusty spinnerAfter several months of planning on a farm in Maryland, Brown was ready to strike. When he and his band crept into town that night they had, nevertheless, taken no rations with them nor did Brown seem to have any systematic operational plan to hold the town, spread the news, and develop the situation. It was a mess from the start. The raiders sent out parties in the night to detain local citizens and confiscate weapons and Harper’s Ferry remained fairly quiet through the night, but word soon began to spread and by daybreak local citizens, having discovered something awry, began a steady resistance and gunfire grew louder. The blood of locals, some innocent bystanders, and Brown’s followers began to flow in the streets. Brown seemed not to know what to do next and by morning had lost the initiative to a growing force of local militiamen and armed citizens. The local militiamen, enraged at the “vile abolitionists” and eager to avenge the deaths of townspeople, mutilated the bodies of some of Brown’s followers or cast them into the river. Panic and rumors soon spread across Virginia that an army of abolitionists were swarming down from the north and that a slave revolt was brewing. Many Southerners thought the raid a distraction, just the beginning of a larger assault. The South’s Great Nightmare seemed to be coming to life.

Although groundless, the rumors fueled a massive reaction with ripple effects felt in Washington by afternoon. On temporary duty in the Capital was Colonel Robert E. Lee and a reaction force of several dozen Marines and a couple field guns were hurriedly marshaled, placed under his command, and sent by train to Harper’s Ferry to put down what Lee called the “insurgents” and their “gross outrage against law and order.” Following this force were hundreds of militiamen and local vigilantes galvanized by the sensationalized headlines and rumors.

rusty spinnerBy the time Lee and his force reached the town in the pre-dawn hours of the 18th, much of the fighting had died down and Brown and his remaining fighters and their hostages had holed up in a fire engine house from which they had managed to keep up enough gunfire to hold the townspeople and militiamen at bay. The situation stalemated, a tense calm had settled over the town.

Lee had a lieutenant named J.E.B. Stuart, under a flag of truce, approach the engine house and offer terms. Brown refused and spent the rest of the night barricading the doors and preparing his defense. He had only a couple followers left unscathed. The local African Americans who he’d coerced into his force showed little enthusiasm for the fight. At dawn, Stuart returned to the engine house, received Brown’s final refusal to surrender, and the Marines promptly began their assault, battering the doors with hammers and eventually breaking through using a ladder as a ram. The troops quickly overwhelmed the defenders, killing one of Brown’s sons in the fight. Brown himself was struck down, wounded by a sword blow from Lieutenant Green who had led the assault into the engine house. Unapologetic and defiant, Brown was hauled off to face trail for insurrection and what he undoubtedly knew was an inevitable date with the gallows.

Part 2 of 2

Published by David Weaver [Fishidiot] on 06/12/2015 (1421 reads)
Casting Comp1


The Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be hosting its Annual Mid Atlantic Fly Casting Championships on June 20th, 2015 at Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs, PA. The competition will be conducted in conjunction with The Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum 13th Annual Heritage Day Celebration. The Heritage Day event is a full day of celebrating the fly fishing heritage in Pennsylvania with over 60 vendors and exhibitors, hands on demonstrations, special seminars, instruction, raffles, auctions and the always popular Fish Swim Race on the Yellow Breeches for a chance to win $500! More information on Heritage Day is available on the Museum website: www.paflyfishing.org.

Article by Dave Weaver
Photo courtesy tomitrout

Published by Tim Bennett [TimB] on 06/01/2015 (1677 reads)
One of the nice things about fly fishing is that it usually isn’t a “crack of dawn” affair. Most hatches happen in the afternoon or evening. You can usually sleep in a little without worrying about missing the best fishing of the day. Fly fishing for hickory shad may be an exception. I usually try to get an early start when they are running.

The guys gathered at the appointed time and we made the trip south to Maryland hoping to catch the first surge of these anadromous fish on their journey up Deer Creek to spawn. We crossed the Maryland border, and then Conowingo Dam, right on schedule and pulled into the parking lot with five minutes to spare. The liquor store was just about to open.
Jim knew the drill, but Bob was new to the shad game and raised an eyebrow. He said he had a few beers with him, enough for all three of us, and that there really was no need to stop. I told him we weren’t there to buy beer. That raised his other eyebrow.

There were three other cars in the lot, all waiting like us. We had a couple of laughs speculating what they might be there for at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning. Two young men in their twenties were anxious to get into the store and tried the door – locked. They peered in the window, looking for signs of movement but gave up and went back to their car. At 8:01 the door opened and we all filed in. One gentleman went right up to the counter to buy lottery tickets. The young men asked the clerk about fishing licenses - the store was also a Maryland fishing license agent. We headed right for the register with the mini bottles of spirits, and a stack of Plano boxes piled high. We were there to buy shad darts.

Bennett shad 1


Shad darts are wedge-shaped jig heads with a sparse bunch of calf tail or similar fur as a tail. The lead heads are painted bright colors. They are a traditional spin fishing lure that sinks quickly and has a darting action on the retrieve. We bought the smallest size the liquor store had in several different color combinations. Anything larger would be too difficult to cast with a fly rod.

Bennett shad 2


Hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) are a member of the herring family and are smaller than their relative the American shad. They typically make their spawning run in April and early May when flows and water temperature trigger the upstream migration. In 1980, Maryland placed a moratorium on the harvest of shad and implemented a restoration program that has increased the number of fish entering the streams to spawn. A catch and release fishery is allowed. A nine foot six weight rod is perfect for the hickories which range from 12-20 inches. They are strong fighters that may leap several times earning them the nickname, “poor man’s tarpon”. That may be a stretch, but they sure are fun.

So you might ask, shad darts with a fly rod? Most fly anglers fish un-weighted flies on a sink tip line for shad. We all had some small marabou streamers with us that would likely catch shad, but with weighted flies we could stick with standard floating lines. But there’s more to it than that. There’s something irreverent about using shad darts with a fly rod. I guess we could be accused of “thumbing our noses” at the perception of fly fishing as a sport for snobs. Surely, the purists would be appalled at our use of darts… from a liquor store no less! That may be partly true, but in reality the darts are pretty damn effective!

Bennett shad 3


We fish the darts casting across stream just above a likely looking run and add a few upstream mends to get the fly… uh, I mean dart, down deep. If the shad are in a biting mood, they usually hit right at the end of the swing. In this technique the fly rod is actually more effective than a spinning rod because of the ability to mend the line to put the dart right in the strike zone.

As a sea run fish, shad seem a little photo sensitive in the shallow creeks and fishing typically slows down in the middle of the day. Some anglers concentrate on morning and evening when the light is less intense. It’s still worth spending the middle of the day on the water. It will give you a chance to figure out the most productive runs as well as witness the spectacle of the spawn. There’s something really cool about standing in what looks like a classic trout stream with thousands of sea run fish swimming by your feet on their reproductive journey. You likely won’t be alone in watching the migration. Osprey, herons, and bald eagles are often spotted in or over the water.



Unusually cold temperatures and high flows through Conowingo Dam delayed and prolonged the run in Deer Creek this year, making the timing difficult to predict. Armed with our darts, we lucked out and caught the first surge of the season and did well our first day. Over the next couple of weeks, some days were great, some slow. The shad run is starting to wind down now and it looks like we’ll have to wait until next spring to continue our annual tradition of an early morning road trip to catch the shad run. Maybe we’ll see you there. Look for us in the liquor store parking lot!

Full hyperlink for MD DNR page on hickory shad:
http://dnr2.maryland.gov/Fisheries/Pa ... x?fishname=Hickory%20Shad

Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/23/2015 (5376 reads)
green drake I was looking through my photographs from last year and found a Green Drake snapshot, which is one of my favorites. Green Drakes (Ephemera guttulata) are one of my favorite flies to observe, too.

I say observe as I usually find myself on Penns Creek fishing while a huge Green Drake hatch is coming off and I am doing anything, but catching a lot of trout. The mixed hatches that occur during this time of year are exciting and frustrating as many angler's would agree.

So this year I am going to stop practicing the fine art of talking to myself during the hatch and I might even throw on a sulphur or a should I dare say a emerger on during the madness?

The Green Drakes can starting showing up around May 20th and are complimented by the Coffin Fly spinners which provide equal splendor during this time of year. So sit back and get ready to enjoy the show.










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