Monday, July 31, 2017

Amazing Fish!

Scott Sawtelle caught this 41 lb. black drum in 30 inches of water on a nine wt. rod strung with 6' sink tip. He was guided by Greg Moon of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. 
Scott said in a text message to me from the skiff right after the fish was released:

"the red (redfish) and black drum are something to behold!... seeing a 20 lb. to 30 or even up to 40 lb fish in 1-2 feet of water is amazing. The problem is they only experience good weather about 35% of the year. The rest of the time they have one or two major things against them like water color, tides, storms, rain, wind etc.."

Looks like Scott accepted these odds and was rewarded handsomely. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Annual Trout Tour: Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Anna Riggs and I concluded our third annual trout tour of Wyoming and Montana in early July. We started the tour in Wyoming, and finished in Montana after seven days of fishing. We started on a private ranch in the Bighorn Mountains, we then spent three days on the Missouri River headquartering in Craig, Montana and finished up off on the Boulder River near Big Timber, MT. What follows is a photo essay of the Missouri River portion of our trip:

The Missouri River is one of the longest rivers in the world. Rising in the Rockies of western Montana, the Missouri flows east and south for over 2000 miles before merging with the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri. Our focus, as well as most trout fishermen's, is mostly on the 35 mile section below Holter Dam near the towns of Wolf Creek, Craig and Cascade. This tailwater below the dam offers some of the finest fly fishing in the Western US and certainly some of the largest average fish in Montana.

Craig, Montana....

...we were met by the city fathers.

...and our guide, Chad Olsen.
We enjoyed many doubles on Day One overcast skies and cool temps made the fish very cooperative.
At mid-day the PMD's started coming off!

...and then, on this perfect dry fly day, things got serious!
The lower river is beautiful, especially when trout are rising.

Days 2 and 3 brought high cirrus, hot weather and tougher fishing.
...other fishermen seemed frustrated too

But things changed each of these days when afternoon hatches...

...brought success as temps cooled.

Time to go...

After a great few days on the Mo' with many fish boated, may laughs had and many moments to be remembered, Chad, Anna and I saddled up and headed to to The Boulder River...

Next, our last day.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Annual Great Trout Tour Part 1

Anna Riggs and I just concluded our third annual trout tour of Wyoming and Montana. We started the tour in Wyoming, and finished in Montana covering much ground and three rivers in our seven days of fishing. We started with a hidden gem located on a private ranch in the Bighorn Mountains, we then spent three days on one of the west's best tailwaters and finished off on a classic western freestone. What follows is a photo essay on our trip:

Let's start with the unnamed private ranch:

Day One was beautiful... hot and dry with only a few clouds late in the afternoon. The grass was deep, the bugs aggressive and the fishing sensational, especially in the evening. We caught quite a few chunky browns and rainbows from 14-18 inches on hoppers and hopper/droppers.

Stranded... now I have to back down and try and cross this fast stream once again!

Anna unfurls a loop in a stunning canyon stretch.

This fella had to have my hopper two inches from the canyon wall. He had already ignored 1 foot, 6 inches and 3 inches before he ate! Maybe it was that osprey overhead!

Day Two was overcast with the air cloyingly humid. As the day rolled on more and more clouds arrived promising certainly rain, but also violent thunderstorms.

The clouds began by only spitting a few drops, but that would change.
I fished as I muttered, "Ominous".

...but the fishing thankfully remained awesome... the storm rolled in, the wind increased and our success on the surface stopped. I switched to a dead drifted streamer twitched at the end of the drift. I was soon rewarded by big brown after big brown...

The 20" bad boy below was to be the last fish I caught for the day. Soon, an intense lightening storm forced us to seek shelter in a shallow swale and eventually forced us off the river. It was a great day, if a bit scary!

As intense lightning began to crash around us, Anna said, "What do we do?" I sought a low spot away from the river and trees, pitched our rods flat on the ground away from us and found a slight depression. We went prone, kept low, and prayed. Winds of 60+ mph blew limbs and debris at us. Lightning struck trees near the ranch buildings (we were later to learn, the power was zapped as well as a cow and a bunch of squirrels. Although we had quickly chosen our haven as far away from any big trees as we could, they still were dropping all around us. The tree pictured below dropped about 20 feet from our fox hole and a big cottonwood went down 100 yards away. Frightening and awesome display! We soon were off the river and in town for summer at a smokey bar. the lightning crashed we repeated the mantra:

The next day, the river was badly swollen from the storm and a bit off-color. We tried a few streamers in the morning with little luck, so we evacuated at mid-day hoping to make the Missouri river by dinnertime.

Next... The MIGHTY MO!

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Going to be a Great Summer in Wyoming!

Wind River Canyon at 19,000 cfs

I'm chomping at the bit waiting for runoff to settle down a bit! It may be awhile on some of the major drainages given the snowpack in the Wind Rivers is 200% of normal as is the Shoshone Drainage coming out of Yellowstone. With the Wind River below Boysen Resevoir running at 19000 cfs and the Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam at 11,000 were waiting for our local freestones to drop and clear. I think by next week, there will be a lot of rivers in the state that are fishable!
With all this water, it should be a great summer for the trout! I'll report back soon!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Crooked/Acklins Islands Days 4,5,6

Day 4

Great day! ....Jim Woollett and I left the dock and motored out of Turtle Sound in very windy conditions. Our guide, Clinton Scavella, eventually pointed us east towards Acklins Island. The seas were choppy and festooned with long white lines of foam. We pressed on through this messy water hoping to reach a few cays between Crooked and Acklins. We wanted to reach a spot we had fished last year... Clinton calls it his "C-Spot".  We eventually arrived a bit “shaken, but not stirred”. We jumped out of the boat eager to walk off our sore butts.

Clinton anchored well offshore anticipating any weird tide flows that might be created by the windy weather. We packed water and a bit of food knowing we might not be back for hours. We fished initially on the outside of a huge bay. Here, we hoped to find fish holding on the ebb tide waiting for it to turn. Good call!

I caught a few fish, then waded one of the stubby fingers that cut into the interior. Clinton and Jim did the same choosing another digit a little further up the coast. Clinton obviously had the same thought as me. He didn’t want to miss the rising tide. If you do, fish that were in front of you one moment are suddenly hundreds of yards behind you the next. Once inside the finger, I almost immediately began seeing fish in incredibly shallow water. These bones were surreptitiously filtering in seeking the shallowest of spots where crabs, worms and shrimp were just being flooded by the rising tide. This was the beginning of a great few hours of fishing

The fishing was simply wonderful. Yes, we had no sun, the wind was 20+ mph and huge rain clouds loomed on the horizon, but it could not have been better over these few hours. It all stopped when the long-promised rain squall finally slammed into us. I quickly donned my rain gear and hunkered down on a sand bar with my back to the wind. With water pouring off my visor, I chomped on a Kit-Kat bar thrilled there was no lightening or thunder accompanying the squall. I waited patiently as I was pelted with rain and chilled by the the strong winds. Just after the rain stopped, a strange thing happened.

The tide’s march inland stalled and then stopped... with still many hours to go. Apparently the high winds had pushed at the tide halting its rise. In the space of one half hour all the sharks, rays and bonefish had disappeared. It was if the wind had blown them away. I could see Clinton and Jim walking back to the boat and I soon joined them for another late lunch.

This was a spectacular day with a very unusual conclusion. We spent the remaining hour of the day blind casting the mangroves for tarpon. We had no takers, but a 50-60 lb. tarpon did roll next to our boat providing solid evidence that they were there! 

Day 5

Steve Peskoe and I again fished with Elvis on Acklins Island.  On this blustery, overcast day we tolerated the solid 25 knot winds. On occasion, we were knocked off balance while wading by gusts exceeding 40 mph. These conditions made the fish very spooky. The first flat we fished was very unproductive and the second flat very difficult as the fish were blowing up at the sound of the line or the fly hitting the water. The only way to catch fish was to cast well ahead of the fish, barely bump the fly and then never move it again. I managed to catch a few in the 5 lb. range and Dr. Peskoe caught a 9 lb. monster! This was the fish of the trip and probably one of the top 10 in his illustrious angling career! Congratulations Steve!

On the last flat we fished, a broad area of beautiful white sand, we saw plenty of fish. We caught a few, but it was tough as the dropping barometer combined with the high winds made “Chicken Littles” out of these fish. They blew up at the slightest provocation: fly hitting the water, line in the air, arm raised or seemingly nothing at all. It was tough, but very engaging as we were often surrounded by very pale, almost invisible fish in choppy wind blown water. Despite this we took off for home happy bunch.

Randy at the end of a cloudy windy day
Day 6

On our last day, Scott Sawtelle and I fished with my old friend, guide Kenny Scavella. We finally had sun, but the high winds had not left with the cloud cover. If anything, they seemed to be increasing. In the morning, we fished an extensive creek system catching numerous fish fleeing the falling tide. Our fishing was great for a couple hours then, when the water got fairly skinny, we could find no one to play even at the creek mouths.

Kenny's push pole... enuf said!
We ate lunch, then traveled to Nunya Flat (as in Nunya business). Nunya is a huge white sand flat that is domed in the middle and falls off slightly on three sides. As we waded towards the domed center, I knew Nunya can be great or it can be very tough. We would soon find out.

SS Flies Permit crab
When we reached knee deep water, we started to see a few fish. Scott and I both quickly picked up a few, but the conditions were very tough. Our high winds had created long lines of dense foam that danced across the flat casting shadows on the bottom the mimicked bonefish. In addition, the real fish were the palest of silver and very nervous. We struggled to separate "fact from fiction". What was surprising was the size of some of these fish. I'm sure a few were pushing 10 lbs., but given our conditions, we didn't pick them up early enough to have a chance at these wise monsters. We had to settle for their smaller brethren. This was a very exciting few hours of fishing! We returned to the boat knowing the trip was over, but also knowing we would be back!

My hot butt Avalon Crab

Bonefish size #6 Avalon Crab

This was a great trip with a great group!

Our food was tasty and there was plenty of it: we enjoyed all the traditional favorites including cracked conch, fresh snapper, baked chicken, steamed fish, conch chowder and great salads with fresh vegetables. Breakfasts were hardy and lunches included sandwiches, granola bars, chips and candy bars. We love the little bar/dining room that sites right on a beautiful white sand beach. Our rooms were very large with powerful A/C units and hot showers. All in all, this is a rustic but very comfortable lodge.

We had a very attentive staff and of course, great guides that helped us explore this sensational fishery. We will be back! To Scott Sawtelle, John and Anna Riggs, Steve Peskoe, and Mike Schwartz, many thanks. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon!