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? 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cooling Down (Temps, Not Fishing!!)

I knew so............

Hoot-owl restriction (no fishing from 2pm to midnight) on Yellowstone River below Carter's Bridge has just been lifted!! - not entirely but to Springdale Bridge - which is a substantial distance for wonderful fishing!! Indeed, right after the listing on Aug 2nd, weather cooled down. Again and again, though we're experiencing a lower-than-average flow year statewide, trout are NOT going to disappear by the moment notice. It's up to us to find out where they are. And again, I'm not gonna lie to you that fishing could be slow during the heat of afternoon. In that case, fish early in the morning then fish in the evening again!! Find an honest, conscientious, and hard-working outfitter/guide who offers you long-hour trips and services such as................LEFTY!

Fishing has been good and fun around here.
We hiked up to a mountain stream on my birthday. Renee caught all the good trout on dry-flies!
 While I barely caught one whitefish on a dropper-nymph! Here's my birthday whitie!

DePuy's Spring Creek is offering some of the best summer fishing!!
I had a fine angler who was willing to challenge Summer Midges, which is NO easy task. We did see rise-rings. But also we observed that lots of subsurface feeding were occurring. Even those rising trout were feeding in the column, right after they rose to the creek surface. My guiding tactics was Sight Nymphing - more precicely - Sight Pupae-ing or Sight Larva-ing.
This is another NO easy task to accomplish. Angler has to get close enough to watch trout and observe what they are up to, then make precise casting and quiet presentations. Flies must hit the right depth during the short drift. Oh, not to mention,  all of these need be accomplished WITHOUT spooking trout!! Enough said.......
My angler worked hard then his first trout was some of the nicest Yellowstone Cutthroat!!
Learning......... the bottom creature played a major roll in the middle of day.........
We worked hard and he was rewarded with even a nicer rainbow!! It was quite a fight!!

  In the afternoon, midges were still hatching and trout were rising. However, as I seined the surface, I also started to notice lots of ants were floating............ big ones = size 12-14 = were winged. My favorite pattern for this situation is Jack Gartside's Elk Hair Ant.
Stomach result from one of afternoon trout!! This is what we call "Anting the Hatch"!!!
 We had lots of good actions with ants then back to midges in the evening. He completed Yellowstone Trifecta (catching three trout species in a day)!!
By the way, Yellowstone Grand Slam is above 3 plus Whitefish in a single day.
Then Yellowstone Royal Grand Slam is above 4 plus Cut-bow hybrid in a single day.
It's up to you what you want to achieve and make efforts for it............I certainly can be some of the best helps available in the area.......Especially with whitefish as my birthday catch proves...........

We still have plenty of August. Again, done right, fishing is good. I see much less traffic of anglers and boats this summer on MT public waters and in YNP waters. You are welcome to sneak in!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Destination Northeast

As of August 2, Yellowstone River downstream from Carters Bridge (the first bridge south from Livingston), to all the way to Billings, is listed for Hoot-Owl Closure by Montana FWP, meaning no fishing is allowed from 2pm to Midnight. 

I do love this stretch......... I'd ask some longer-time outfitters when the last time Hoot-Owl was assigned on Yellowstone River. This just sounds negative notes on our fishing and outfitting business, doesn't it? However, reading carefully, River is not closed for fishing entirely. It's just the hottest part of the day, during which fishing is slow anyway and not perfectly comfortable for fishers anyway. So I don't take it negative at all. Indeed trout are still there and can be fished in the morning!! Oh, and I don't see many guide-boats on the Yellowstone recently........oops.... I have NOT seen any fish (trout and others) flopping their bellies up and dying.........
Anyways........ we just gotta be careful with handling fish when summer is hot and dry like this, regardless of rivers/sections we are fishing. Of course, for those visiting anglers who are not used to this type of weathers and altitudes, hats and sunscreens are mandate. Also know your body and keep yourself hydrated!

But Then I have many more destinations to fish and take my clients to!!
One of which is my all time favorite Northeast side of Yellowstone National Park!! I don't want to sound overly commercializing but these waters are fishing better than ever!! Miscellaneous insects hatches are good and miscellaneous terrestrial activities are strong, then trout rise accordingly!!

Lamar River: I educated another new & young fly-fisher!

Soda Butte Creek: one of my repeating clients had a great time!
In the afternoon, we came across "micro hatch" at one certain spot of this small stream. It was puzzling at the beginning but we decoded!!
 These Cutts were very challenging and rewarding!!
See you another day!

Slough Creek is fishing well too. We didn't quite get hooked into but did observe some giant trout feeding/rising very selectively...........

Fishing these waters, which are usually very busy and oftentimes crowded through July and August, I do feel much less fishers this year. I can suspect majority of anglers take the online information honestly and oftentimes religiously = low water, dry summer, etc., etc.,............then not heading this way............... Every year is different as every month of the year is different. Keen anglers and guides like myself can read tendencies and come up with optimal methods, just as I've been posting here. So, don't be scared of less-than-average water flows. Trust me trout are still there. Finding & hooking them is up to you!!