BIG, DIRTY WATER
Spring has settled and temperatures are consistently rising. The snowline is receding, leaving the mountaintops bare. With the visual absence of snowy peaks comes the visual presence of big dirty water. Big dirty water equates to numerous challenges for most anglers, myself included. The floodgates have been opened and in the past three days the Blackfoot has experience a 1000ft bump in its flow. While the water moves to a phase of transition, so do the fish, and so must an anglerâ€™s method of operation.
Late winter through early spring has always been my favorite time of year to fish for large trout. The seclusion and lack of metabolism in the smaller fish really equates to a great experience. However, I have never had such success fishing pre-runoff like I have found this year in western Montana.
For about the last month in a half the local watershed has more or less been on the fringe of spring run off. During the week of April 15th we watched the rivers here jump to double their size in a matter of days only to watch it bounce right back to great fishing a week later. It was being able to capitalize on the windows of opportunity, based off of the river flows, that enticed aggressive eats and brought fish to the net.
Having being recently converted to a dedicated streamer fisherman I was critical on my outlook of success to say the least. Streamer fishing previously was something that I viewed as intimidating. I felt that luck played a huge role in my success when I did find a long feathery bug at the end of my line. To put it simply, I just had not done it enough consistently to understand it.
After being pestered, and I mean completely pestered, I hung up my “bread and butter” nymph rig and started tying buggers to the end of my line. At first it was weird, foreign, and frustrating. But the rewards were not far behind. Constantly, I was hearing from local fisherman, “Only big mean fish eat streamers, so fish streamers and you’ll catch big fish.” So I did and remember this, the more you do something, inevitably the better you will get at it.
It wasn’t long before I was hitting the streams and back channels with consistent success strippin’ streamers. I have always loved to fish small water that required stealth and strategy. Streamer fishing only fueled this love. Creeping up a shallow braid, spotting a large brown, quietly casting, and watching it eat is about as much fun as you can have with your pants on! I am addicted and I believe that if you give it a try you will understand my enjoyment.
Since I moved to Montana I have had the upper Clarkfork on my list. Finally after scrambling around my educational and work related responsibilities I was able to set aside a day to really get out there. At 6:00am my alarm clock rang. Soon after I had a mug full of coffee, full tank of gas, and I was on I-90 headed east. Finally after driving a couple of hours I made to the public access where my adventure began on foot.
After wading a couple of hours I managed to stumble across a braid that caught my attention. I am a sucker for braids and back channels. I have wasted hours and hours of time walking along dead pieces of water, but this day was not one of them. Having not walked a hundred yards up this piece of water I spotted a nice trout up stream and across the bank from where I stood. Carefully I crept up and got to work. I landed my
bug about 20 feet above the fish and slowly started stripping. Strip strip pause, strip strip strip pause, strip pause, BANG! I had just watched that trout cover some serious ground to come whack my bug. The eat was felt, the hook was set, and the fight was on. He ended up being over 20 inches and a great fish for the outing. The excitement I experienced just by watching the fish react and attack my bug was incomparable to any other style or method I have implemented to my fishing arsenal.
As the season progresses my mind now wanders towards different sections of river. This will be my first spring in Montana so I am excited to see what I can learn from the challenges that the heavy flows bring. My focus will be on slack waters and banks. The places where trout are likely to congregate and eat in very opportunistic fashions will be what I look for. The water can only stay high and those trout can only hide for so long. My mission is simply to get out there! What yours? Whatâ€™s next? Salmon Fly hatch? You can count on it.
BY: Brandon Smith
THE GREATEST FISH A few years back when Dad was still with us, my wife and I attended a Safari Club dinner and auction which Dad was a member of. We were young and since money was tight, I knew this was to be more about dinner than auction. Late in the evening, a flyfishing trip on Granite Creek, Wyoming chasing naive cutthroats came to bid. I decided I could afford to try for it, at least for a few rounds. Once underway, bidding rose quickly and as I began to reach my meager limits, Dad couldn’t contain his excitement at my financial jousting and did what Dad’s do, he leaned over and whispered, “Go ahead, I’ll cover half of whatever you bid”. I grew up loving the outdoors because Dad made a point of getting us boys out beyond the concrete world of Monday through Friday life. And so, with Dad smiling as much as I, the bid was mine. The drive was spectacular, and I struggled with one eye on the road as it weaved itself along the Snake River flowing around bend and corner and the other eye on the water, wondering what each seam, riffle and pool of that green ribbon held. Pine forest faded to sage and then to Aspen; each mile adding a degree of anticipation and possibility. We made a brief stop in Jackson Hole only long enough to saddle up to a tall, cool, pour at the Million Dollar Saloon. From there, asphalt changed to dirt, as the road climbed, twisted and turned teasing us with what lay ahead, delivering us to a small grouping of cabins midway up the canyon. We expected to be met by someone, but instead found the entire camp deserted. Except for a handwritten note taped to the door of Cabin #3, you would have thought we entered our own episode of the Twilight Zone. Two hours later, after the dust kicked up by three Econoline vans parted to reveal eighteen elderly birders’ disgorging themselves from a day chasing feathered rather than finned quarry. It turned out that the driver was also a local fly junkie and quickly organized my fly box; bead heads on the right, dry’s on the left with a few hoppers in the middle, graciously suggesting where we might find cooperation among the locals.
Granite Creek wanders down it’s canyon cold, clear and full of promise. Sagebrush and willows share the banks but there is room to throw a three weight. Aspen whisper on the hillsides in patches of shimmering movement. Never getting wider than a two lane county road with few pools deeper than your waders; more often than not, we found it knee deep and perfectly wadable. The natives turned out to be friendly and we began finding Cutts from 8” to 12” with incredible color and the bright red slash that gives this fish its distinctive badge. After a few hours, my wife decided a book in the sunshine was just what the doctor ordered and besides, she knew exactly where to find me. At the end of the first day, when the vans returned, four or five of the gents joined me on the porch and peppered me with questions: Where did you find them? Any size? What worked? Are you going out again tomorrow? It was clear a couple of these guys would rather be chasing fins more than feathers. When the last of them finally began to drift off, I asked if he wanted to join me, I knew my wife wouldn’t mind as she could also see the same dreamy light in his eyes as I get in mine when fishing is within reach. He thought about it; weighed his options; evaluated the cost of his absence should he agree and in the end, smiled and said, “maybe next time.” The next day brought glorious crystal blue skies, a warming sun and a second day exploring this paradise. We fished the morning together; the afternoon I searched the water by myself sending Dad my thanks for making this happen. He would have liked this place, beautifully wild and the fish were willing to commit to even my wobbly casts. As the afternoon wore on, I noticed a deep shadow on the opposing hillside where a shadow shouldn’t exist. As I moved downstream, I found myself studying the shadow and then…it moved. It continued to move down through the aspen trees until the shadow materialized into a cow moose and her calf. I found a vantage point and just watched. The sights, the sounds, the smells, I tried to take in as much as I could. I knew a picture would be a waste of time.
As the moose moved off and the sun began to retire, I returned to the creek and worked my way through heavy brush. I decided to wade into the creek despite lacking waders. The water was biting cold but only knee deep. The hopper I was throwing wasn’t being ignored but wasn’t getting a solid hook up either. Shadows gathered as the sun retreated, my time was running out when I bumped a fish deep in the overhanging sage. Two, three, four strikes but no takedown. I let things settle a bit while I stepped out of the creek to shake some feeling back in my legs returning again only to snap off my fly in the twigs. A second hopper met the same fate. Finally I repositioned myself and found I could only get close to this fish with an ugly sidearm cast skipping the fly just under the reach of the hanging brush. Then…BAM; the line sang the song we fishermen love to hear. The rod bent like an archer’s bow and electric current shot up the line, along the rod and into my arm. I was knee deep in a Wyoming trout stream with the light slipping away like time through my fingers; where the sound of tumbling water was in perfect harmony with the breeze dancing through the Aspen leaves. This was God’s cathedral. This was the moment we see on film, but there was no film crew present with me. I had the Little Daddy of the Creek ripping off runs that go deep into the spool. He clearly did not want to give up his piece of the river. I didn’t want to tire him too much so when the time was right, I quickly slid the net under him. He was beautiful, an easy 14”and thick. He color dazzled, his spots looked painted and his slash was as red as a Cardinal’s robe. I was shaking as I gently held him in the current knowing he would regain his breath before I regained mine. With a quick flick of his tail, he returned to his watery world and I took a moment trying to hold on to that moment as long as I could. I knew that whatever fish I may catch in the remaining few minutes of daylight, I could never do better. It was too good, too perfect and as I folded up my rod and began my walk back to camp, I whispered a prayer of thanks. Recounting this moment with my wife and later with my Dad helped me remember the fine details of the afternoon. Dad’s eyes twinkled when I shared my account and he
listened to every detail I could provide of that trip; happy that we had such a great experience. I have no doubt he wished he had been there too. I have been lucky enough to fish trout, steelhead, salmon, tuna and halibut from Oregon, Washington, B.C. and Alaska. I used to wonder if I would pass this love of the outdoors to my three daughters. I am proud to say that each can find the North Star and Orionâ€™s Belt; they know that its time for Springerâ€™s when the Dogwoods bloom and when the mist is in the burnt fall grass, its time for Chinook in the Tillamook or John Day Steelies. Each of these young ladies is curious about what lays out beyond the concrete. We lost Dad a few years ago; it was while he was doing something he loved, out in the sun and the wind. The pain still ebbs and flows. When I think of that fish, I think of Dad, knowing he was the reason I was there. His generosity gave me the means but his greater gift was the love of the outdoors and the greatest fish I will ever catch. BY: Jeff Brown
RODS, REELS AND HEELS
Every where you look, its all about the big one: Johnny Boss Hog. Hogasourus. Hog Johnson. Toad. Pick your name; you already know all the references. Facebook and Instagram are covered in monsters that don't even fit in a net. I subscribed to the "bigger the better" thought for awhile too. I caught my Colorado Water Hog & I wouldn't be upset if it happened again. There is a problem with chasing Hogs though: everyone else is chasing Hogs and its more crowded than a happy hour featuring the Jim Beam girls.
I have to battle rush hour traffic in the concrete jungle 5 days a week. The last thing I want to do on my down time is fight for a spot on the river. (Never mind the jerks that high/low hole you, etc.) Like many of you, fishing is my release. Plus, the Rainbows are spawning & there's even more people to wade through. I need wide open spaces & wanted to give the spawning bows a chance to...well you know what.
Thus began my love of small streams & little browns. Let's get the touchy, feely stuff out of the way first. The small streams boost some seriously gorgeous scenery. No one for miles around, fresh clean air mixed with the smell of pine, & the buds and blossoms of the Spring. You might even see random pieces of animal parts laying around. Maybe a shed or two. Your small stream might be vastly changed thanks to the hard work of a beaver still busy working on changing the landscape. And, if you're like me (which I'm starting to get the feeling most aren't) you don't even care if catch a fish, you're just happy being out in the great outdoors. Sittin' back against a tree, drinkin' something tasty with your guy/girl/dogs, soakin' in the sun is the life!
Then there's the approach: The ninja fishing skills really get a work out when you have to stand 3 feet back on the bank to cast into a stream that's maybe 2 feet wide whilst trees and various other vegetation make an obstacle course to cast around. If you have an A-Type personality (like I do) this can be both rewarding & annoying. I expect perfection but I produce a cast much less of that! In my case, instead of casting above
his face, I cast it right on top of his head, spooking every fish in a 5-mile radius. (Maybe that is why I like the hiking aspect so much, I'm good at that part!) When you finally get the sneak right & the cast accurate there are fish!
The little brownies, 6 inches or so, full of piss & vinegar (as The Beard would say), hitting your dry fly with so much effort you think you may have caught Johnny Boss Hog. Oh the fun of a 3 weight! The ever territorial browns make the hike to the small stream worth it. Plus, they're cute! I'm always amazed how different the little guys look with spots/colors compared to their larger kin. Dare I say it, but it seems as though the little ones have more life to them. Almost like they realize they might be the underdog, but they're going to fight like hell.
Perhaps the biggest reason I fell in love with the small streams was simply because of the aggression I witnessed when a larger brown attacked a smaller brown that I had on the fly. I know fish eat fish, this wasn't new to me. I've seen photos with fish in the mouth of another fish. But SEEING it is an entirely different ordeal. I felt bad for the little guy, then thought it was super cool. Back to feeling bad because I wanted the bigger fish to keep going! I just said they were cute, now here I am saying its cool watching browns duke it out! (This isn't the best quality photo, but it's all I have and even if they were better, pictures do not provide justice) The bigger of the two didn't eat the little one, he just didn't want him around his area. Touche' Mr Brown, touche'.
Whatever the reason, a Moonshine high in the Rockies, a great day with the Beard, my first sunburn of the year, or feisty little brownies.... I'm a lover of the small streams, even if I catch more trees than fish. A little more practice & a little more stealthiness & I may just never go back to chasing Johnny Boss Hog again.
Ha, ya right.
BY: Brenna Richardson
HOW H&H MADE ME A RICH MAN
“ I want to do something as a family” that was what I said to my brother when I had decided to move back to the North West from Los Angeles so that I could be closer to him and my parents. I didn’t know what that something was going be yet but I was sure that it was time to finally come full circle and be friends again with the little guy that had been my sidekick when I was a kid. My brother and I grew up in a fairly remote part of Northern California until the ages of about nine and seven which meant that we either had to be friends with each other or nobody at all. I was everything thing that one might expect an older brother to be, which is to say that I terrorized him and let him take the blame for all of the dumb stuff we did. But we always had fun and it was mostly harmless so we stayed out of trouble for the most part. And then somewhere around the 3rd Grade for me and the first grade for him everything started change.
We moved into town and away from our private five-acre playground and for the first time there were all of these other kids to play with. And then we moved again and again and kept moving from town to town and house to house (at least 11 that I can remember) until we both graduated from high school. During this time we just sort of slowly lost the bond that we had as young kids growing up in the hills and we became two people with the same last name and not much else in the way of common bonds. It seems odd to think about it now because we both played in bands, we both played football, we both loved the outdoors and we both even went to the same college. But somehow in the midst of all of it I lost my sidekick and I didn’t even really realize that it happened or how much I missed him. We grew up, we got married (to two ladies not each other) and my wife and I had a son named Henry Alexander Hudjohn. Henry is just a name we liked and Alexander is a family name which I think most people thought was in honor of my Grandfather but truth be told I named him for my brother. Now I don’t remember the specifics of many moments in my life because I am usually so scatter brained that I forget to take stock of the moment when I’m in it, but I remember exactly when my son met his uncle for the first time.
I remember it because it was the first time I had seen my brother cry as an adult and I remember it because it was the first time in a long time that he looked at me like I was his brother again. It’s funny how the day the day H.H. came into the world everything started to change. That moment stayed with me over the next few months and although my wife and I eventually decided that we would move to LA which was a long way from my family in the Oregon I could not let go of the idea that I might someday be able to reclaim what was lost. Fast forward nine months or so and here I was in Los Angeles having realized that it wasn’t going to work for me living there and having come to the conclusion that I wanted to be closer to my family and especially my brother and his wife. I also realized that more than anything I wanted to do something as a family that would be positive and bring us all together. But what would we do and could he and I do it without killing each other along the way? My Brother and I have always been into cars so I thought maybe that would be cool or or even a restaurant because we both like to eat and cook a little bit.
There were a million ideas going through my head but nowhere among that million was “let’s open a fly fishing lifestyle Apparel Company”. When he told me about it I thought immediately of watching “a river runs through it” as a kid and being bored out of my mind. And I thought, I don’t fly fish. Don’t get me wrong I have always loved fishing and the outdoors but fly-fishing had never really lured me in (pun intended). But Alex told me he would show me what was up and he promised that before long I would be hooked (yup I did it again). So we did it and H&H was born (wait that sounds a little weird) and we haven’t killed each other yet. In fact what we have learned is that what makes us different is what makes us strong because each of us is good at what the other isn’t. We also learned that we both love including people and making them feel welcome where they may once have felt unwelcome. And we have even gotten our family involved in the whole thing.
I donâ€™t know how far H&H will go or how many people even really care all that much about the message we put out there. But there is one thing I do know, regardless of how many t-shirts we sell or how many friends we have on our various social media outlets we are already a great success. I know this because in the process I got my sidekick back and after watching my son playing with his uncle last night I know that Alex got a sidekick too. So I may not have a million dollars in the bank or a fancy house and cars but make no mistake H&H has made me a very rich man.
BY: Cobb Hudjohn
BY: Isaac Ness
I love the rubber legged hares ear because it meets all my criteria for a nymph. It
looks and moves well in the current, itâ€™s easy to tie, and most importantly fish respond well to it year round. Here in the Midwest I tie them sizes 12 to 16 on 2x short 2x heavy nymph hooks. This fly can varied a lot to accommodate almost any fishing situation. Iâ€™m using a 2x short 2x heavy size 12 nymph hook for this.
1. Start by sliding a medium sized bead onto the hook. Then rap 10 to 15 turns of . 015mm lead wire around the shank then push it forwards into the bead. Start your thread directly behind the wire and rap approximately 10 times towards the bend of the hook to secure the thread. Cut the tag and wrap the thread towards the front of the hook and over the lead wire then back towards the bend securing the lead wire in place.Tie in a piece of medium copper wire going off the back of the hook.
2. Tie in a rubber leg along the right side then fold it back towards the bend holding it along the left side. Secure it in place with thread so the two ends are splayed.
3. Spin dubbing into the thread. I used a light tan but other colors can be substituted.
4. Wrap about halfway up the shank forming an even taper then wrap the copper wire in roughly 4 wraps towards the front ending where the dubbing ended and clip off the excess. 5. Tie in another piece of rubber leg towards the back like in step 3
6. Tie in a strip of black goose quill towards the back 7. Form a dubbing loop. Pack with dubbing then spin just enough to secure. 8. Wrap towards the front of the hook covering the rest of the exposed shank and tie it off. 9. Tie in the final rubber leg like done in steps 3 and 7 towards the back of the hook. 10. Pull the quill forwards and tie it off. 11. Finally clip the excess and tie off the fly to secure it in place. 12. The last step is to pull out some of the front dubbing and cut the rubber legs to the desired length. I usually leave them long until I get to the river and adjust them to the
size of the nymphs present.
The bigger sizes of this nymph work best for me in the winter when the fish are sluggish. It can be tied in different shades, with or without a bead head and lead wire, with different colors of wire, and a flashback can even be added. This fly is a must have for your fly boxes.