Friday, September 30, 2016

September Wrap Up

After the previous post, things got really busy!! - good!! Not just the number of trips, it was quite a pleasure to sample & taste around the variety of waters!

Lower Madison. Typical nymphs and baetis actions!

Learning how tiny we had to be.........
 Oh these guys were very active too!!

Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.
Now is the time to fish Firehole (and Madison) until the season closes on the first Sunday of November!! This angler had some great times with waves of caddis hatches!!

 White Miller were apparent...........
However, trout were feeding on a different types of caddis..........I was able to decode it successfully from my previous experience.
A lone and friendly one.........
Then Burns Ranch Lake in Big Timber, MT was a total blast!!!!
We literally averaged 18" hefty trout!!!!
The day started with perhaps the biggest brook trout I've ever seen anywhere else!!
 Then typical Kamloop strain rainbows offered us plenty of actions!!
 Like this!
This lake/place from the boat is always picturesque to me.........
 This was also a very memorable brookies!! Look at its colors!!!!

Favorite snack.......
Not just from the boat, we stalked and sight-fished............ This local gem should be on your list!!!
I also helped out a part of TU National Meeting Fishing Day on DePuy's Spring Creek.
They were from all over the country and were all skilled anglers, bravely challenged midge fishing!!
They all got good actions!!

After about a month of chaos, things are getting better around here.
Good end of September!! Hopefully to see more anglers in October!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

GRAND Re-Opening of Yellowstone River & DePuy's Spring Creek

If you haven't heard over the weekend........

UPDATES: two more long stretches of Yellowstone River has been reopened for fishing and other recreations on Friday September 16th. Currently only one closed stretch is Emigrant to Pine Creek, which experienced the highest number of whitefish death.
If I may still comment - as much as we shouldn't dwell on past, we should not forget PKD madness - FWP could have closed this section and then up- or down-stream, give or take, rather than the entire fishing sections............ We should not let this incident go lightly for our future. 
Practically speaking, I wouldn't float this currently closed section once algae seem developed, especially under hot summer and low water season. I may float in October as there are some good streamer-suitable waters. 

Yellowstone River and town of Livingston had some boat traffics over this past weekend, though it was nowhere close to average seasons.
One of my clients decided to come back and we tried a newly reopened section. Put it simply, fishing was good and, better or worse, very much normal, compared to before PKD madness.
Honestly no surprises about that because whitefish kills by PKD has NOTHING TO DO with Yellowstone River as trout fishery and trout that live there, period!! 
We started to catch "TROUT" just like our routine!!

Certainly we caught some whitefish, as we know ONLY A PORTION of whitefish got killed and killing has stopped since!! 
Then we caught now considered a COLLECTOR'S ITEM GIANT WHITIE!!!!

Eagle flies.........great to be on our beloved River............
A boat captain's view.........Action!
A nice streamer caught rainbow!!

We also tried DePuy's Spring Creek. As I reported, Livingston's spring creeks has been opened since Sep 1st. Insect hatches and rise actions are as great as always!!
.................that doesn't mean fishing is easy............. Indeed very challenging, we worked on trout that were rising on very tiny insects with smallest flies we have that require precise presentations along with right timing..................
That's very normal and common on spring creeks - which we gladly hope for and challenge!!

Renee and I fished along town for a few hours.
Look what she got............ Another Trophy Whitie!!
followed by!!!!

     We got our waters back!! And fall fishing has just begun!! Along with Yellowstone Park waters, come and sample glorious fall fishing in Paradise Valley!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Fall Approaches

Just as September sets, I feel summer abruptly ended then the fall has come.
It's still dry appearance and one can still wet-wade but days are getting shorter and we wouldn't expect 80F & above weathers any more. We have started to enjoy crisp air and lighter sunshine. So far we have had 70F weathers but also had some rainy days. I have started to anticipate the fall fishing!!

Renee and I hit the road to northeast side of Yellowstone Park. We were in waders and our feet were comfortably warm and dry. However once we touched the water, our hands felt really cold!
We were both rewarded with some of the handsomest cutthroat for the first thing in the morning!!
Once in a while I can catch a bigger one than she does.........

Fishers' privileged wildlife view!!
Originally Slough Creek was a part of our options however due to Buffalo Fire, we gave up for right reasons. It was smokey all over (picture may be due to controlled fire).
Good news is it's forecast to be rainy and wet for next several days in the area!
 We had some dry-fly actions too with misc insects and terrestrials imitations.
Last one to end the day!!

 As I have reported already, Yellowstone River and Livingston's spring creeks are already back in business with great fishing conditions! Come and try Yellowstone Park waters too before season ends in November!
Stay tuned for the fall fishing report!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

9/1 Update: Spring Creeks Reopened & Yellowstone River Partially Reopened


This noon, there was a conference call among MT FWP commissions and they announced changes regarding Yellowstone River & tributary closures.
Armstrong's, DePuy's, & Nelson's Spring Creeks are opened for fishing.
Yellowstone River from Hwy 89 Bridge downstream is opened for fishing. 
Then, we all have to be aware:

  • Yellowstone Park boundary to Carbella Access is open for recreations (rafting, kayaking, etc) but NOT for fishing.
  • Carbella to Hwy 89 Bridge is still closed for all activities.

FWP conducts further monitoring and investigation on these stretches next week and later on. If conditions seem improving or improved, it's possible we are able to fish these stretches soon.
Commissioner Dan Vermillion says something I kind of expected to hear:
"The fish kill has not affected the trout fishery and trout fishing. One of the reasons the department did what it did is so we could tell you this disease has not affected the trout fishery."

Anyways, I got my options back. I can certainly guide Madison, Missouri, and Bighorn but there are so many outfitters/shops along those destined rivers. It's hard for me to promote from Livingston. That had left only Yellowstone Park waters as my destination for nearly two weeks.
Spring Creeks will be fishing better than ever!
As for Yellowstone River, though it may sound "not much" as the popular section - Gardiner to Livingston - is still closed, let me tell you below 89 Bridge makes quite amount of water!! Now we can call it the closure worked as a little break for trout there from our flies. Hopefully they have missed our hopper patterns!!

We've got all September back, starting from Labor Day weekend. Then October will follow.
It's not too late to reconsider your fishing trip to Paradise Valley and Yellowstone National Park within this season!!

With all being said, all the anglers from/to Yellowstone River are required to CLEAN, DRAIN, & DRY their gears. There's no law for it. However I guess now we don't need authorities to point us. I certainly follow and will encourage my clients to do so.

Hope to see you around here this fall!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hang In There!! Whitefish!!

Yesterday evening, Aug. 24th, we had a public meeting regarding Yellowstone River & Tributaries closure, held by MT FWP at Park County Fairground. It was basically explanation by authorities and officials, followed by Q & A sessions. Lots of participants asked questions - fishing and many other topics. 
Have we learned and been updated? - perhaps but not really. They emphasized how threatening PKD is and health of river is #1 top priority - we all agree and we already know. 
They have NO plan or idea about what to do with whitefish carcass, rotting and smelling awful, along banks of affected area. 
What is "recreational stress"? - let's not talk about fishing (catch & release, taking pictures, etc.) - If the raft or kayak with people on it go through the rapid, whitefish would be scared to death and trout would be stressed and lose their immunity to PKD? 
They say they are working on each issue - thank you for the most versatile answer!!

One thing I can tell you for sure is, combining official reports/explanation and my own observation & analysis, so far lots of whitefish have been affected and killed, but NOT ENTIRELY. Then, NO major threats on trout (rainbow, brown, cutthroat) - so far they identified one rainbow and one cutt. 
I don't imply anything at this point.  What's done is done so I start to look for our future. 
This is another special post. This time to cheer up the rest of surviving whitefish and to get more recognition to this underrated native species in Yellowstone River.

In the previous post, I did mention that recent years whitefish seem to have been way abundant and taking over spots and foods (our flies) from trout, even during insect hatches and dry-fly fishing. I have to say there are times that whities can be nuisance, especially when I'm guiding clients who deserve and are capable to catch big trout. I have to feel so when I have to see some dissatisfaction and "enough-is-enough" expressions on those people............

But that's when I'm on business with anglers in certain levels of skills and experience and with objectives to accomplish on Yellowstone River. I sincerely like whitefish for sporting opportunities they offer me, especially when I get hooked into big individuals!!  In other words, I don't care whatever fish species are as long as I have fooled them with my skills and flies!! 
For beginning anglers and those first-time to Montana people, whitefish offer the initiation practice. There are some people who wouldn't mind catching them all day - they may catch whities through the course of the day and are happy. Then there are some that go through initiation quickly and "graduate" into trout.

Then there's one more category of people................. Whitefish Haters........

  1. I have had several out-of-staters - that I never classify as visiting fishers or angling clients as fly-fishing trip for them is just to fill in their gap during their sightseeing - who somehow must have thought catching big trout on Yellowstone River would be easy, especially hiring a guide with some money. They would complain 10"- to 12"-inch trout, certainly whitefish. What would they expect? 16" or larger trout every other cast? Or 20" plus trout for their lifetime? Typically this type of people can't even set hooks properly and/or handle fly-lines. How could they expect to bring in feisty Yellowstone trout? Whitefish are helping them go through the process only if they would be patient (Luckily, under my outfitting, I don't have to deal with this kind of people.)
  2. Another criminals are who practice "hand-shake" and "bank-release", including some locals, that are described as "grip whitefish torso with deadly force then toss back to river" and "throw whitefish to bank so they will suffocate", respectively. Who do they think they are!!??(with anger emoji here!!)  Some elitist chosen fly-fishers or what!!?? (another anger emoji!!) Unfortunately I'm sure there are even some guides who practice these as they think they are cool. This is a small case yet totally a misdemeanor in fishing & hunting laws and ethics. If you don't want the fish, practice catch-&-release properly otherwise it's the spoiling of game meat!! 

Anyways, for those Whitefish Haters, current situation on Yellowstone River must be the KARMA, if not the CURSE.

Enough accusing..........Backing to the first line..............
Whitefish is the original and native species of Yellowstone River along with Yellowstone Cutthroat. Certainly they are not handsome, compared to trout. But they shouldn't be treated as total trash. Juveniles and small individuals serve as "dinner" for giant predatory trout. Then again, sporting opportunities whities offer us should not be degraded.

I have looked back and chosen some of most memorable Whitie pics!! Following have been posted here before and are worth spotlights once, even twice, more!! Go through as you conjure up your own fond, or joke!, memories with whities!!

"Double hookup" is not uncommon while double-nymphing, however bringing them both (usually either one gets off) and snapping in a picture is very rare!!
Thank you for rising on my new dry-fly design while testing!
Renee's first whitie experience was with a group of rising whities and she caught one big one on a dry-fly!!

Then, have you caught these large specimens? In my opinion, these are rated as trophies!! Just like trophy trout, I seldom catch them!! I can guarantee they will rock your world!!
I recall this was a classic example of "a slow day ended with a laugh!!" Toward the end of gusty and miserable float, I finally had a very huge tug!! I wasn't disappointed, rather happy & proud of my catch!!
Dry-fly risers, nymph eaters, now Streamer Biters!! In my own experience, these ones cause the biggest laughter when they are hauled into the boat!! When we fish with streamers, we target for large trout. Here comes the lightning, vicious, and rod-bending tug!! Good fight follows!! We first expect brown trout. As the fish gets closer to the boat, we can tell it's not in a color of brown trout. So we assume a nice rainbow. Now even closer, we finally realize it's not a rainbow either!! I like these big ones no matter what.

Then here's my record!! Duh-duh!!!
One & only lonely 21-incher!!!!! 

That's what I always preach to visiting anglers. They share the same river, water quality, and food sources - though we know whities tend to stay near the bottom most of time. This time, though trout are not dying, because whitefish are in crisis, trout fishing opportunity is closed. 

Again, it could have been a karma for how we have been mistreating Whitefish. This is the time to give them cheers and thumb-up. Then from now on, they should be treated with the same catch-&-release practice as done to trout.

Again, I will keep you posted for Yellowstone River and tributaries closures.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What's Really Going On On Yellowstone River - Outfitter's Perspective

It's been chaos over the last weekend around here. And perhaps more demagogues and misinformation have been circulating in the online world. Some may be true, others aren't. This is the special post. It may be a long one. I go through one category at a time.

My Outfitting operation is open and available, as always. 
Float trip destinations: Madison, Missouri, and Bighorn.
Wade trip destinations: Yellowstone National Park and available Montana public waters.
Private lake/ponds: Burns' Lake in Big Timber, Story Lake in Emigrant, and couple others.

As I've been reporting, Yellowstone Park waters have been fishing well with relatively cooler air and water, compared to surrounding Montana cities and waters. As September approaches, NE streams = Lamar, Soda Butte, Slough = will be better and better. Then soon west side waters will follow = Firehole and Madison.
Now is the time to try private ponds/lakes around here too!! These are lesser-known due to legends of Yellowstone River and spring creeks, however, they host some true trophy trout one can wish for!! Those trout are not easy to catch by the way. You gotta work hard for them - hooking and bringing in!!
As soon as Yellowstone River and spring creeks (and other tributaries) are re-opened, I will keep you updated. 

Proliferative Kidney Disease
On the day of closure

Concise explanation
More detailed explanation
More specific explanation
Please click either one or, might as well, all the links.

We could only guess that perhaps PKX has already been in Yellowstone whitefish. Then this historically low-water, in conjunction with hot & dry summer = high water temperature would have contributed to facilitate its deadly actions.
Here's a big HOWEVER = Why trout are not affected? 
So far ONLY 1 rainbow trout have been found dead by MT FWP.
I actually think I saw the one as I have walked several fishing access sites.

Have You Considered
Following is my own opinion and analysis based on my experience as an avid fly-fisher and a professional guide, including the past few days of "walking".

  • In recent years, whitefish have definitely been overpopulating in Yellowstone River. I have noticed they even seem to have adapted trout rise form during insect hatches and to our dry-flies. 
  • Not to mention whities are taking over where trout usually hold (or where we believe so). 
  • Now consider the low-flow we have this year. Just like everything else with limit & capacity, such as buildings, River has its own limit and capacity - in this case number of fish it can support. That means the most abundant, if not overly-populated, species get treated by nature's own way. 
  • As you have read links above, PKD may eliminate up to 100% of affected species. However we know, on Yellowstone River right now, whitefish are not entirely wiped out.
  • Majority of dead whitefish are 12-14" range, that we can estimate 3-year-old. We have seen 8-inch range are also dead, few among the majority. Then we have NOT been seeing 17" or larger individuals killed and floating belly-up. 
  • What does this fact tell us? 12-14" range whities are most abundant, as our catch experience prove and agree. 
  • But also, those not affected are more likely born immune to or have genes to be immune to PKD. 
  • Why not on trout? Trout seek for cold, running, oxygenated spots/sections of river - that's where we have high potentials to catch them. Indeed major killing occurred from Emigrant to Loch Leven, which we know of to consist of many wide & slow pools. And that's where whitefish are most abundant. 

Gruesome Reality of Closure
First thing first, as a good Montana resident and a sportsman and a state-licensed outfitter, I will follow the rule. Whitefish is indeed one of my favorite catch (may not be for everyone). Have you caught something 20-inch give or take?? That will rock you world - which I will do in the next post. I'd like them to be back. Most Montana outdoors men & women are also conservationists as well. So I bet majority of us, most likely all of us, understand and will be supportive.

However, just like anything else, there are always two-sided stories, that I'd like anglers in other parts of Montana and other states to know. And I feel obliged to report the reality.

  • With the closure of Yellowstone River (float fishing) and Livingston's World Famous spring creeks (my specialty), it's easy for everyone to imagine my outfitting business is heavily affected in a bad way. Certainly not just me. Fly shops are quiet. Lots of guides use Albertson's grocery store as a meeting spot with client, I do too, which has been silent, though I'm not deaf or blind. Suddenly it has become the quietest summer I know in Livingston.
  • It's not just us fishing outfitting businesses. Vehicle shuttle companies, water-craft sales & rentals, furthermore, indirectly hotels and restaurants that accommodate visiting anglers have been heavily affected. Again, it's the quietest summer in Livingston. 
  • Not just fishing - recreational rafting, kayaking, float-tubing, swimming, everything on water is banned. Reasoning is human and our crafts will spread PKD to other water bodies. I bet majority of recreational users are Livingston locals who float ONLY Yellowstone ONLY during summer
  • Besides, PKD are known to die quickly once dried. How can they or their crafts transfer PKD alive? 
  • By the way, boat wash is MANDATE for all the fishing guide after each float trip whether to accommodate different clients or same clients for multi days!! I will do as my routine regardless of how late I get back home. 
  • On August 19th, out of sudden and in the middle of the day, anglers were forced to quit fishing, some directly by game wardens. Is this the act of civilization? Shouldn't be there alternatives? - such as "sunset or midnight of 19th"
  • Those dead whitefish have been left on the banks. Apparently FWP has ONLY counted dead bodies and has not done any acts of cleaning or anything effective. It starts to smell very badly. Shouldn't be there any actions done? 
  • These dead or dying whitefish will attract all kinds of varmints and birds in the area. Aren't they, especially bird, spreading PKD more effectively than human and their crafts?  Shouldn't be there any actions done? 
  • Livingston's spring creeks = private properties.......oh where does this go?

I understand it's also a tough decision for FWP too and I hope they are working on some solutions. However there should be alternatives other than total closures and banning.
Happy Family Photo on the Last Day on Yellowstone River
Will this be the first and last time this youngest client of mine has ever been on the river and fished?