Friday, April 30, 2010

Big-Fella Revived!!

It's been over two weeks since my wreck in Livingston. My neck has healed well. I actually feel a bit stronger than before since muscle must have been rebuilt. Pollen allergy seems to be gone due to some cooler weather around here. But I'm still suffering the tail-end of a bad case of flu. I can't believe it!!

Then my F-150 (a.k.a. Big-Fella) has gone through some work. First, a new tire rim was installed. Second, a canopy window was installed. Then I was planning to do some body-filling and painting on the canopy myself but the glass shop found another scary fact of my wreck. Besides the gush in the front, he found a line of crack that ran vertically on top of the canopy. That told us that the canopy must have experienced a severe concussion then bounced back. Also, we noticed the whole bed body was shifted an inch to the left. So, third and the last, I brought to a local body shop and left it there for the last couple of days.

Today, I picked it up. Take a look at those three points (the ceiling is not shown). You can see some dents on the truck cab but that will be another job and they are not going to leak for a while.

So it seems Big Fella and I have made it through physically and financially without being killed or broke. But this whole "cosmetic surgery" cost me more than I want. It hurts when I think of new fishing gears and replacing a computer. There's a Japanese saying, "he can't twist his neck due to the debt", meaning a heavy debt. Well, my neck hurts again!!!

No, I am not that bad...... Summer trip (or trips?) plan is coming now!! Lots of things going on at my bench and then meanwhile, I will go out fishing around here next week.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back to My Bench - Zonker

My neck was diagnosed just muscle sore. Not a whiplash level or even not torn. But the real problem was a bad flu/cold that I seem to have picked up in Montana and a pollen allergy that hit me right after I got home. Prescribed pain-killer and muscle-relaxer caused me some drowsiness and put me into bed for tight sleep. That actually seems to help me get over. Then my F-150 is being fixed also. It is costing me more than I want but much less than buying a whole new vehicle. In spite of scary and insecure situations at Livingston, I really have to admit how lucky I was as for my own body and F-150. But then again, I could have used those extra costs for a new rod/reel/line and a new computer.........
Thank my friends who concerned my wreck.......

OK, now I'm back to my tying bench. I lost several flies, particularly streamers, during the trip. I'd like to tie some of my favorites and would always like to try/learn new patterns. One of those was Zonker. I've been wondering how this belly can be done. It wasn't super technical or materialistic. I just followed an instruction here.

I really think this pattern will work for all sizes of trout as a baitfish/minnow/sculpin. I personally like the keel style that gets upside-down in the water for less snagging the bottom. Plus, combination of colors and sizes are only limited by tyers' imagination.

There will be more posts for flies. And I will soon be fishing around here in eastern WA. Then I will be planning to sneak away from my job to make a trip during the summer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Trip Summery & Off the Fishing/On the Road

Here's a quick summery of this trip in my mind.
  • I enjoyed pre-runoff time with some challenge and iffy condition but with almost all no crowds.
  • Same thing in a different way, "too many places to fish!!". Especially Yellowstone River around Livingston, I found lots of wading accesses that I would never see or realize during runoff or high water summer time.
  • I planned well and took a good advantage of winter rate at spring creeks.
  • I shaped up my body for wading and hard fishing all day during the winter.
  • Wear a seat belt though Montana law does not require it.................


I wasn't wearing a seat belt, as allowed in Montana, when I got spun and crushed. I don't know if it was bacasue of that or whatsoever, I will see a doctor in my town for a potential minor whiplash tomorrow for the safe side. Besides, I seem to have picked up a bad case of flu/cold in Livingston which seems worsened by a pollen allergy in my town.

OK, here are off-shots during the trip.

Sleeping cutie at O'Hair Ranch. I bet she slept in late and others left her behind.

While I was looking for access points around East Gallatin, a car in front of me was slow and slightly irritating me. Then this cattle driving further slowed me down!! I had to chuckle for this traditional Montana event. Actually this was just around Milesnick (MZ-) Ranch who provides access to East Gallatin and their own private creeks. All of these are in great quality, I hear. But on this day, I didn't think they had any time to care a traveling angler......

I couldn't simply pass by this street art. It has some characters and flavors in it.

In the middle of Bozeman, they were tearing apart and remodeling a part of I-90. I tried to shoot while driving, very technical?
Now I am photographing and driving then. I think I was wearing a seat belt...... maybe?
Conoco gas station in Missoula is full of local breweries!!! I am very vulnerable to "limited time release" ones. This "406 Series" from Big Sky Brewing is limited to only in Missoula!! I also picked up "Face Plant" , a seasonal release, before gone!! I haven't tried these two yet because of my body condition. I don't think I can taste them well as they are supposed to be. Hopefully in a few days.......
Only 30 more miles to my house, my patch work gave up!! I re-patched it and in a few days, new window will be installed.

For both fishing and some other things, my Livingston trip was a great success two years in a row. A bit too much adventure on the road, I guess......

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 8: Armstrong's - Last Day!!

April 14th, the last day of this trip, I went to Armstrong's again. By then, I started to feel a little better about the wreck. I needed to overcome the fear and make a happy end. It was another sunny windy day though wind was manageable.

This was the last day of winter rate at the creek. Anyway, I was the only one customer. I moved and fished all over. I started from the lower third to get me hooked with some trout. Several trout should keep me busy and have me focus on fishing, not about the wreck any more. This is always a "go-to" section for me but this morning it was really slow. But even without trout, now I was into fishing. I hooked the first one of the day in the middle of lower riffle with Doug's Home Invader. Her head seemed a bit damaged somehow.
This is the very end of O'Hair Ranch and a deep holding pool. I was not trespassing to Depuy's but my line and fly swum away and hooked one!! Is this legal? Though it's a good holding pool that one needs to cast a few at least, I admit I did this for picture-oriented intention, which usually doesn't work. This time it did work!

I pulled out a handsome 16-incher!! As all the trout I have caught at Armstrong's, this one also looked one-inch longer than actual length. It did look 17" because it was fat and handsome!

And toothy..... By doing this 4 days at both Armstrong's and Nelson's, all of my Home Invader in certain size and color were totally worn out and gone (I snagged trees only a few!).
I dropped by Yellowstone Angler to say hi and bye and went back to the creek. As I was seeing all through during this trip, spring baetis and midge hatches and rising trout in the afternoon were scarce to none. I wanted to catch 20-incher or larger! So I stuck with streamers. I did move few shadows chasing my streamers. Also I saw a couple of large rainbows that were so spooky that I guessed due to the spawning season. My last catch was this browny.

Half of this trip was spent at spring creeks. I planned to take an advantage of a low winter rate. Not the ideal weather condition, but I did enjoy to be there with lots of feisty trout.

I have just noticed that I've been chasing shadows of large trout at Armstrong's without really hooking into them. Of course that is quite an exciting experience itself. But as an angler, I want to catch them. I will figure out my tactics and flies for the next outings. Most likely in the fall when the rate gets low again, I'd say, and most likely on the way home after I fish Madison and Yellowstone Park waters.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 7: Armstrong's - Accident Happened on the Best Fishing Day

April 13th, I went back to Armstrong spring creek. I finally got an ideal weather!!
A cloudy overcast day with occasional rain and snow yet almost all no winds!! Perfect condition for streamer fishing at day-in and -out!! Also perfect condition for strong hatches of baetis and midges were expected during the afternoon!!

In the morning, I landed only one though I moved lots of trout by sight fishing with Doug's Home Invader.
Now my expectation for the afternoon went really high for this ideal fishing day. I took a picture of my F-150 as it was made up by snow at O'Hair ranch. Little did I know this would be the "BEFORE" shot in 10 minutes........

I wanted to go to town around lunch time quickly to drop by Yellowstone Angler to pay my tabs and shop some stuffs. Then I should have been back to the creek and got ready for a wonderful afternoon.......
As I left O'Hair Ranch to Highway 89, it was just a wet road as I drive here in eastern Washington. I was driving 70 mph which is the speed limit of 89. At a slight and non-significant curve where Yellowstone River comes closer to the highway, I felt my truck was slipping. I could have (and should have......) set into 4-wheel drive but I'd rather tried to counter the slip by steer-wheeling. Then I lost the whole steering. I made a 180-turn to the hill side and backed into something and stopped.
This was the third time I did this in my life. I thought I would be flipped over upside down with my F-150. But the moment I noticed that I was making a 180-turn, I knew I was not going to die. I was thinking about how many damages I would get and how much it would cost to fix all.......
I first tried to start the engine but it didn't. Then I noticed that it was shifted in "D". As I shifted to "P" at least it did start. Then two local gents pulled over for me and navigated me to get out. I was stuck and stopped by the two steel posts at the right rear wheel. I could get out without being towed. I even didn't have flat tires at all. But the right rear tire was stuck with weeds and dirt at between tire and rim. So I drove to a local tire shop.
By then I was catching some breath. Then I found out the wreck and damage. First the passenger side of my canopy was totally smashed inside and crushed pieces of glasses all over in my bed. Furthermore, the water bottle that I kept in the bed was smashed. So the bed was totally wet and messy.

Though I didn't have a flat even on this most shocked wheel. It seemed the rim would be distorted by the shock. Tire shop suggest me to put a spare tire while keeping this as spare on my way home.

Since I backed into something, this was really "OMG". Muffler was bent like a hair-pin. They cut it off for the better flow....of course.

Now I had to keep my bed dry as much as I could. I dropped by a hardware store and bought a tarp and duct tape to make it through temporarily. This quick patch actually worked to against the winds of Livingston and driving all through.

I barely went back to Armstrong's 3:30pm. I saw positive and constant rises for Spring baetis. It stopped at 5pm, which told me that I must have missed the best insect factory situation on the most ideal day due to the accident. I barely salvaged the day with a streamer.

But everyone I talked to told me how lucky I was. And I have to agree though I was totally down and sad that the accident happened during my trip.

  • First I didn't get severely injured.
  • Second, I didn't involve other people.
  • Third I didn't fall into the river.
  • Forth my truck got only a few cosmetic damages (I made home without any troubles).

Right now, I have just cleaned the mess in the bed and figured out to fix tire and window just in my town. I might be experiencing a light whiplash on my neck.......

Day 6: Yellowstone Float - Another Windy Day......

April 12th, I floated Yellowstone with a guide Dave from Yellowstone Angler. Against what they said at weather forecasts, it was another sunny day. We were expecting cloudy overcast yet quiet day for both streamer fishing and spring baetis hatch. At least wind was not gusting in town in the morning. So we went below the town for streamer fishing, prospecting one big individual or two, not so many. But as we pulled in a local access point called "Pig Farm", it turned out to be another windy day. This time, it was 30 mph from the upstream of the river. It was easy for Dave to slow down his boat though difficult to navigate because of winds against our fronts. But for me, it was simply impossible to cast to right and ideal angle, cross or down-cross. Also, my line was blown away from the stripping basket of the boat.

Yet I did move several fish in the morning till noon. It was hard to estimate the size. They could have been 16 to 18" or maybe 20" class. I didn't quite get into hooking those. Then in the afternoon till streamer action was totally dead.......

We saw several pods of rising trout to spring baetis at the calm spots of this big river. Dave rigged up a Parachute Adams. Now, because of downstream winds, casting upstream was a way easy task to do!!! How ironical it is........ There seemed to be some large trout rising but I couldn't reach them.

For me, it was another day at Yellowstone River. Dave offered me a really nice lunch and was honest with me about the situation and condition rather than making excuses or making things up as other guides do on poor fishing days. Besides, the section we floated was very fishy all through. Sorry that the condition really didn't match.......

Day 5: Yellowstone River - Lots of Wading

April 11th, as 10th, I really left my schedule and plans blank. No guide trips or private spring creeks. I had thought I might have to do what tourists have to do such as laundry, grocery shopping, etc besides fishing or I might be driving around area without fishing. But then again, there are too many places to visit and pre-runoff time offered me plenty of wading opportunities, even along the banks of Yellowstone River. So far I have visited Livingston in June 2008 and late April 2009. In both times, Yellowstone was at a height of runoff with chocolate color. Along with less fishing pressure at this time of the year, I wanted to see what I can do and to learn more accesses and characters. That way, I don't have to hire guides all the time????

I started in the middle of town, called "9th Street Bridge". I found a big backeddy right beneath the bridge. I fished both eddy and main current with this Heifer Groomer in white. I thought it was a typical quiet day-in time so I went large, bright, and not so deep. I moved one fish.
As I fished the main current downstream, it seemed less characteristic. Instead a little braid behind me (just below the walking trails for walkers, runners, and dog-walkers along with benches) somehow interested me. There was enough depth to hold some trout and I just thought there might be some trout cruising around at this time of the year when water temp is cool and level is stable. With the way I fish with streamers, it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to cover till it merges back to the main current.

Within a few minutes with a handful of casts, I had experienced the best "dry fly action" ever on my streamer. This 18-incher really came to the surface with the gulp to take my Heifer Groomer. His upper jaw and eyes were way above the surface.


This was the only one catch of the day but I really came to like Yellowstone as I like Madison. I moved around several more accesses just around Livingston. In the afternoon, I tried just a bit south of town, called "Livingston Ditch". It was very difficult to cross the channel to the island so I had to stay in the road side. I moved only one fish.

I found and learned that there were lots of accesses to step in to wade-fish at this time of the year or probably in the fall along Yellowstone. And there must be lots of aggressive trout all over as the whole river is still wild. I will fish Yellowstone with or without guides looking for some big ones.

Day 4: Lower Gallatin & East Gallatin - Solitude

Apr 10th, I drove to Belgrade. My original plan was to fish East Gallatin in the morning and lower section of Gallatin River in the afternoon. I just heard East Gallatin is overlooked fishery and it holds some big trout. As for Gallatin, my experience was limited to only a few miles of Yellowstone National Park section. So I intended to visit two new waters in a same day.

But I hate cruising around Belgrade. The ways roads are crossing and town is composed are so complicated to me. After some stops and u-turns, I found "Four Corner Access" of Gallatin River first. I found where I was on the map so I might as well started fishing.

I started with streamers as I did for the past three days. I lost two by snagging trees. Then I recalled that Gallatin is related to Madison, a little brother. Better bet to get into trout would be nymphs, considering time of the day and the season. And probably the best pattern to be tied on would be stonefly nymphs. My best is Rubber Leg.

At a confluence where a little unnamed creek joins Gallatin, I really went to deep yet dead drifting nymphs. I pulled out a nice 16-incher, almost 17".

Since nobody was around and there were some dead logs at the banks. I self-timered myself.

In the afternoon, I made another frustrating drive to find parking accesses to East Gallatin. I finally found one that seemed appropriate and would bother anybody.
East Gallatin was probably the most mysterious river I have ever stepped in so far. First, I bet it's a far-distant cousin of Gallatin. I'd say East Gallatin is related to Beaver Meadow section of Madison River within Yellowstone National Park. Or maybe a meadow section of Gibbon River. There are plenty of cutbanks all through on both sides. Very fishy. Brown trout must like here. Then I noticed the water was silted and murky while no other rivers in the area had no signs of runoff yet. River bottom was oftentimes muddy for the first few feet from the banks and then solid gravel footing. Yet because of water clarity, I wasn't sure how far I can wade in or if I can cross. In my motel room I was watching lots of Animal Planet programs such as River Monster and Lost Tapes. So I was actually scared of this mysterious place. I was casting streamers around cutbanks all afternoon but I didn't have any action at all. Later local anglers, guides, and shops told me that I was fishing at less fish section and water clarity was always like this because there were lots of irrigation and spills from farms and ranches in the area.
I found a fence post to set my camera. See the river is meandering the meadow from my right hand to left.

Around Gallatin in the morning, I didn't see anybody till noon though it was Saturday. At one of accesses of East Gallatin, I talked to local anglers only on my way back to Livingston. It could be a bit tough and challenging fishing at this time of the year but there was plenty of solitude in one of the most popular destinations. Also quite a shame for me that I couldn't get out while I was a student at Montana State Bozeman.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 3: Nelson's Spring Creek - Sight-fishing with.....

April 9th, I booked a spot at Nelson's Spring Creek for the first time. First waters always both excite and scare me. At least I already have some experience at its neighborhood, Armstrong's. According to the guide book, Nelson's is shorter than Armstrong's and Depuy's and also referred as the most difficult of three. I wanted to find out myself.

My first concern was the weather. It turned out to be exactly the same as 7th at Armstrong's, i.e., I used the same tactics of mine. Whatsoever, I never missed 50 mph gusts of a day before....

My first impression for this water was easy to move around because it's barely a mile for an aggressive angler like myself, especially when streamers are in my game plan. Spots were very obvious to my eyes. Upper flats and lower pools plus riffles in betweens.

I started with Doug's custom tie Home Invader as at Armstrong's. I fished deep runs and pools down-stream from the parking site, which is just about the middle of the creek. At first pool, within a first few cast I hooked one! It didn't came to my hand but gave me confidence and reassurance for what I was doing and observing. Next pool below, I got a solid hook up!! Typical spring creek colored browny came to me!! t

This is only my speculation and interests but brown's spot patterns and vividness seem different from those in Armstrong's. Maybe so. It's fun to observe and speculate these little stuffs.....

I covered lower half and moved upstream. Navigating other 5 anglers, I was still casting streamers. It was a different kind of what's called sight-fishing, spot a fish and see all the actions and reactions. I noticed Nelson's flows and structure cause more flat and slow spots than Armstrong's and Depuy's, which makes things difficult dry-fly anglers. Some take it challenging and other take it frustrating. But......who decided spring creeks have to be fished by tiny flies and 6X tippet or thinner? I'd like to say thanks to those anglers, I experimented myself and had great success with streamer. I observed Nelson's trout were so vulnerable to Doug's Home Invader, which is basically a realistic sculpin.
I kept moving trout all morning. Even small ones, about 12-inch or so, chased Home Invader and attacked! My best catch in the morning was this 18-inch rainbow, which turned out to be one of my best rainbows. I chucked Home Invader several feet upstream, swung it, stripped some, and showed him enough. As soon as he saw my fly, he made a move, swum several feet, and bit it with confidentially!!! I saw all happened!!
Here's one more for sight-fishing with Home Invader. Even with a streamer, when sight-fishing, if the hook-set is done perfectly, it sets in the middle of upper jaw. Nothing different from dry-flies or indicator.

In the afternoon, I did see some baetis and midge emergence and scarce rising trout for them. Since risers were pretty much localised, I swung my soft-hackles at wherever I could. I didn't have any actions at all.

At 4pm, I switched back to my 6wt with Home Invader. I again covered whole stretch by fishing aggressively and I moved and landed a couple of trout. At the very end of the day, I was fishing the very top end of the creek, which is a very nice pool. Probably 3 seconds before, I was going to pick up my fly for the next cast, I felt a heavy tug. A gorgeous 19-inch brown showed himself.

One more shot as I was releasing him.

Since Nelson's limits 6 anglers a day, I have found that there are comfortable distance between anglers even on the weekends. Then again, I hope rest of myself will be dry-fly purist or serious hatch-matcher who'd like to be challenged and frustrated and who would focus on certain spots and barely a few trout. That way, I can do my aggressive way all day!!

I'd like to visit Nelson's again for sure. And I believe I did great at the first time water.

Day 2: Yellowstone Float - 50 MPH Gust, Yellowstone Grand Slam, & State Record...???

April 8th, I booked a float trip with a guide Marcus from George Anderson's Yellowstone Angler. Our original plan was to float lower section, way below from Livingston, to pitch some streamers prospecting bigger individuals. But weather turned out to be very mean, if nasty is not a right term. Winds from south were gusting 50mph through Livingston to Big Timber and it was easy to guess that it would get stronger as the day goes by. Doug and Marcus checked on extensive weather forecast and it sounded upper river around Emigrant would be potentially less windy. Not exactly my aim to be in Livingston but I agreed to the condition. But also new sections are always appeal to me and I've heard upper section generally holds more number of trout than lower, especially Yellowstone Cutthroat that I hadn't seen yet. So it was really fine with me. We floated 12 miles south from Carbella.
But it was just windy anyway and anywhere we were on that day. Winds were gusting from south as the river flows. So it was tough for Marcus to slow down his boat and for me to cast at ideal angles and aims. At one spot I got off the boat and wade-fished. I could barely stand in the river. We didn't have any action at all on streamers in the morning. Ornery winds sulked our lunch a bit but we switched into nymphs for a while and we finally got started with some fish. We switched back to streamer. This is my tie of Sculpzilla.

I hooked one big tug. I soon noticed it was a whitefish. I have caught more than enough whitefish in Madison River, up to 17 inches. But this one was huge...... we lost our words. We measured with my tape-measure and it was 21-inch long!! Marcus says it was a biggest whitie caught on streamer. Here are our "grip-&-grin"!! We were not sure if we were supposed to be happy and proud.

Please feel free to enlarge and kiss her in your discretion.........

Later on, I hooked into Yellowstone Cutthroat for the first time. What a gorgeous species!! One and only true native of Yellowstone River and its tributaries.

Here's really happy me. I'd like see them more and will try at Yellowstone National Park rivers in near future.

At the end of the day, storm seemed moving in. Indeed just around Livingston was snow-storm with almost all no visibility.

I caught some rainbow and brown (nothing big so no pictures) so it made a "Grand Slam" to catch all 4 trout species in Yellowstone in one day. I believe this is one of a few opportunities one can experience. Madison and Gallatin might offer also but in that case either one or two are scarce from the rest and live way far away between.
Also, according to 2010 Montana Fishing Regulations (turn page 88, folks!!), state record for Mountain Whitefish is 23-inch caught in reservoir. It doesn't say the fishing method. So my catch might be a state record (or close) whitie caught by a streamer in a river??? Probably who cares?
It wasn't a happy day to get out for any outdoors activities and not the best fishing day in my experience but will certainly be remembered as one of the special days.

Day 1: Armstrong Spring Creek - Good Start!

April 7th, I started my trip at Armstrong's in O'Hair Ranch. No introduction needed for this lovely place. This is one of my favorite places to visit (my older post).

It was a bright sunny day with light breeze. Temperature was from mid 30s up to 57F in the afternoon. I was expecting cloudy overcast yet quiet day for baetis hatch and stronger midge emergence. I think midges hatch anyway but definitely stronger at cooler weather. But I already had a game plan. At day in and out, streamers are best bets (streamers at spring creeks?? More to come......). And hope for those tiny insects' hatches in the afternoon for some surface activities and to see what trout would act.

I started from deep pools and runs at lower end of the creek. One of the most fish-holding spots though they are hard to please.......

Doug's Home Invader brought me a first brown trout for this year! This is his special color for the spring creeks. Certainly not the biggest for sure feisty

I moved several more trout till noon.
Then in the afternoon, I went to upper end of the creek but there were several people stepping in, plus with the sunny warm weather, baetis were not hatching. Also, though midges were hatching, there were not so many trout feeding the surface. One could try those sporadic risers but I had another plan in this condition. I went back to lower riffle where somehow not so many people fish. here's my equation; riffle + hatch = soft-hackles.
I really enjoyed swinging soft-hackles, my obsessively favorite way to fish, in this lovely place. I was happy and positive about my tying and selection. Also it's very fun to fish with my 4wt and 6X tippet to make me feel trout are larger. Actually they are not small. Peacock Herl & Yellow worked at Armstrong's too.
A 15-inch rainbow was the first one to respond.
Just a bit later, nice taps on my line and 16-incher came to my hand.
See my soft-hackle found a "regular position" on trout's mouth, always a corner when swinging.
Mighty Midget Emerger worked also, tailed with the Herl & Yellow.
Brown trout couldn't resist either.

All those Armstrong's trout look 1-inch longer than actual size because they are very fat and healthy!

I fished like this for 2 hours till 4pm and then moved again to upper section. Now day-out time and other people seem to be gone for a while. I grabbed my 6wt and streamers. I moved a few big shadows as before but didn't quite get into hook ups as before. Those shadows moving and chasing my streamers is one of my most exciting experience. Of course I am there to catch it but this kind of experience makes me visit again. there and improve my skills, fly tying, and knowledge, I believe.

OK, I get my trip started alright!!