Osprey Outfitters Guide Service and Fly Shop

Osprey Outfitters Guide Service and Fly Shop
Osprey Outfitters Guide Service and Fly Shop

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The Shop
The Shop

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shark Attack on the Bitterroot River!

Ok, I know it has been a little while since my last post but in the last week or so there hasn't been much to report. However, after the latest push of water subsided, a guide buddy of mine Emmett & I decided it was time to go do a little R & D on Monday. When he showed up at the shop, I was stoked to hear he wanted to float one of my favorite streamer sections on the Bitterroot River. Emmett started off with a dry fly hopeful that the 38 degree water temp would not matter. After about a half hour of watching his bug float unmolested, I suggested he go with a little bigger strategy, "Let's go for the fish that are eating the fish that are eating the dry flies!" It didn't take long for the fish to cooperate. After landing our first fish we were ready to recycle the run again. However, just before pulling out we noticed a boat coming down and recognized both anglers; an old time outfitter on the oars and a guide in front. We exchanged pleasantries, after which they proceeded to pull into the opposite bank and pound the run with a streamer with no success. We let them jump out in front and were happy to exercise the five fish that they left behind in this one particular run! Emmett and I were switching after every two fish landed and, needless to say, we switched a few times that day. If you have fished streamers with me before, you know the pattern I was using. If not, well let's just say it is not a black wooly bugger!

I don't know if it was a combination of the recent high water, which had flushed last years minnows in the river, or that the water was still receding and the fish were hyper territorial, but the fish were absolutely sharking the streamer. I mostly fish a dead drifted streamer and let the current do it's magic. However, on Monday they were liking an aggressive strip with lots of movement. We had fish chase down our streamer from ten feet away! Both Emmett and I agreed not to take photos of fish that were less than 20 inches. Unfortunately, we did not boat any in the 20 inch class but we did boat 20+ fish all in the 16-19 1/2" range. We measured a beautiful male Cuttbow that Emmett caught at 19 1/4" and a Brown I caught that was 19 1/2". 19 1/2" is still not 20" unless you step on it and stretch it! We did break the picture guideline on the Brown due to the shear beauty of him.

Speaking of sharking, early on in the float Emmett's eyes grew wide as dinner plates when a newly introduced species of fish chased his streamer. Somewhere in the background I could hear the theme to "Jaws" play. We watched as the 15 foot Great White Shark turned away from the streamer, only to take a bite out of my oar blade! Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water. Let this be a warning to all that float the Bitterroot River; you may want to think twice before floating or going swimming. I was just glad he decided to take a bite of my oar blade and not my boat! As Chief Brody said, "I think we need a bigger boat."

Monday, April 19, 2010

From Great to Grim!

Well, the recent warm weather has made for a rising river. In the last three days we have seen the river go from record low flows (300 C.F.S.) to reaching almost 73 year average flows (1,000 C.F.S.) at Darby. The Bitterroot River is currently flowing at 730 C.F.S. and rising. While I do not think this is the start of "more water" (this is what a friend of mine is calling high water this year), this push is enough to put the fishing off for a little while. I looked into my crystal ball this morning and it told me that we should start to see the main stem of the Bitterroot River fish by the weekend. Maybe if I shipped my crystal ball to the weathermen they could be more accurate. "They" are calling for some really warm temps (75-80) in the next two days but by mid to late week it is supposed to cool down again. Do not fret, there are some fishing opportunities to be had. I will R&D them and will post more on this later. For those of you who live here, you know of which I speak and I will see you there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A New Pod Cast Fishing Report is Up

Here is the latest pod cast fishing report. As always, you can also clink on the link just above "The Follwers" & "The Garrlic Blog".


Friday, April 9, 2010

Time to Stir the Pot!

If you have been keeping tabs on the controversy swirling around my blog, you will see that I had a chance to talk with Mr. Clancy. During this conversation I picked up on a few points I would like to discuss further. First of all, Mr. Clancy informed me that he is not the person who issues the 310 permit. He stated that he is only an “advisor” during the process. The Army Corps of Engineers and Bitterroot Conservation District issue the permits. However, without Mr. Clancy's approval the 310 permit cannot be issued. The 310 permits for the projects below Tucker were issued last fall for the Double Fork Ranch and the two residents just below Tucker crossing. Mind you that the total job stretched almost 3-4 continuous miles of river. Instead of undertaking the work all at once, is it possible to prioritize these jobs and construct each over time? Granted, the homeowners would receive a priority due to the fact that their homes were in immediate danger. After the work was complete, the river should be allowed to heal. After one or two seasons, only then the Double Fork should have been allowed to do the work. The Double Fork would receive the lowest priority due to the fact that no structures were being threatened. The only reason the bank stabilization was done on the Double Fork was to protect property values. Ironically, the river makes the Double Fork property extremely valuable but yet they want to stop it from doing its natural thing. If this model was implemented, it would have lessened the immediate impact on this section of water. It is my opinion, that the extensive amount of work that was done in this section will have direct and negative affect on the aquatic life and therefore the fish productivity. We will find out as the season continues.

Another comment from Mr. Clancy jumped out at me while discussing this issue. I don't want to directly quote him, but it was my understanding that he thought the entire project was completed last fall. Now, anyone who floated that section was surprised by the work that was being done both last fall and this spring. It was obvious that there was NO work being done at the homeowners’ location last fall. Why Mr. Clancy did not go down to inspect these projects is beyond me. It is not like he is in Helena. His office is right next door to my shop. Since he had obviously not been down to the river, I guess he was just as surprised as everyone else when the work commenced this spring. Is it not Mr. Clancy’s job, as head fisheries biologist, to know exactly when these projects start and finish? Shouldn’t he be at least mildly concerned about the quality of work being done? Pretty amazing when you think about it! Like I said, I don't want to directly quote him but if you would like to discuss this with him and get direct quotes feel free to call his office at (406)363-7169.

As far as the whole 310 permit process goes, I believe that the Bitterroot "Conservation" District, the Army Corps of Engineers and Mr. Clancy only care about the wealthy landowners’ interests, i.e. the Double Fork Ranch. Why would pasture land take precedence over, not only a homeowner, but the health of the river itself? Moreover, if you buy land on the river it is worth exponentially more than land just off the river. That is all well and good. However, why should they be allowed to stop the river from meandering, as rivers do, just to protect their property values? Eventually, the channelization of the Bitterroot River will choke it to death. The Double Fork does little for the economic welfare of the Bitterroot Valley. Conversely, the Bitterroot River is worth millions of dollars annually, not only to us guides and fly shop owners, but also to hotel/lodge owners, other retail shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bars and so on. There is currently very little else driving the Bitterroot Valleys economy besides the tourism. I am sure this post will continue to stoke the fires of the current debate. However, I have never been one to back down from a fight nor have I ever been afraid to voice my opinion.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Angling Exposition: 3 Days of Laughs & Fish

Well it wasn't quite the hedonism of Woodstock but I had a great three days of guiding Alan Farris and Les Vance on the Bitterroot River. Alan had called me two weeks ago to inquire about fishing and the possibility of being guided for three days. He was quite concerned about weather conditions for the time period he would be here. At that time, the weathermen were calling for fairly nasty conditions. I told him that I don't believe what the weathermen call for in 24 hours, let alone a week out. How is it that we have some of the most sophisticated radar/weather models in the world but when you go on three different weather websites you get three different predictions for today's weather? I wish I had a job where I could be right 15% of the time. I have found that if I take all three predictions, put them in a hat and maybe the one I draw will be today's weather. I figure those are 33% odds, far better than 15%! Anyway, I told him that I am not God but I think the fishing should be good. So wouldn't you know it on Saturday morning I woke up to a half inch of snow on my boat and it had the look of not stopping. Fortunately, by the time Alan & Les arrived the snow stopped falling had melted off my boat. For the first day, I picked a stretch on the upper river that had been fishing really well. By the time we got to the boat ramp and geared up the sun was out and the air was warming. Alan gave a hopeful look as he viewed the early spring sun. I told him do not get fooled but hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. After all, it is spring time in Montana and we could see all four seasons of weather on days like these, which ended up being the case. The fishing started off pretty slow due to the fact that the cold overnights had dropped the water temps to 38 degrees. I kept a watchful eye on the thermometer and told the boys that as soon as the water temps creep up in the 40's we should start seeing some activity. When the water temp finally did creep up, as if on cue, the fish started looking up. Thank God I am not a weatherman! Alan started off the day hot and ended the day with the hot hand on the boat. Although the fishing wasn't truly on fire, due to the fact that we had to deal some nasty winds for most of the afternoon, we still had some good fishing.

The following day, Easter Sunday, we were greeted by some lingering cold overnight temperatures, it was 24 degrees when I started my truck at 7:30 a.m. Needless to say, the fishing was less than stellar in the morning hours, the fish would even eat a double nymph rig fished deep. I suggested we stop on a riffle, where four days prior I got into some REALLY good mayfly shooting, to eat an early lunch. My intent was two-fold; 1) I wanted to get lunch out of the way earlier than normal so we were not eating when it started to fish & 2) I didn't want to go by this particular riffle complex before the mayflies started to pop. Being that Alan is from Texas and he left 85 degree weather to fish in some beautiful Montana spring weather, I figured I would start a fire before I cooked lunch. As I was building my little tee pee of kindling I was informed that I was in the presence of not one but two Eagle Scouts. Holy crap! Not only was I expected to find fish for these boys, but I sure as hell better not screw up building a fire. Once again, thank God I am not a weatherman! I told them I had a old Indian trick to lighting fires on the river bank-Uncle Joe's Firestarter (this is flammable gel akin to napalm). Within minutes the boys were sitting around a nice campfire thawing with a warm cup off coffee in hand. Meanwhile, I fired up my bar-b-que and placed a large side of Steelhead on the grill. As we dined on probably one of the best Steelhead fillets I have ever eaten, we were joined by subtle noses poking up for mayfly emergers below the riffle. By the time we had all the lunch gear packed back in the boat, the fish below the riffle were feeding with reckless abandon on a variety of Ameletus, Baetis and Skwalas. We camped out on the riffle for over an hour a caught several trout on a variety of mayfly adult and cripple patterns as well as a few on Skwalas. As our short mayfly window (only about an hour) began to close, we shoved off and headed downstream. We had a very good afternoon and evening of fishing with the last couple of hours dominated by a local pattern called Freddy. John Foust is the inventor of Freddy and this fly ALWAYS produces in the fading evening light. Alan learned this when, about a 1/2 mile from the takeout, a large brown absolutely crushed Freddy. As the large brown jumped the second time, he winked his steely eye at Alan as he spat Freddy out of his mouth. I looked up at Alan laughed and said, "That brownie just kicked your ass!" (Sound familiar?) Alan laughing said, "I like that Freddy guy." Yep, Freddy is the man!

I pulled out of my driveway on day three with big expectations; simply because it was a Monday (no crowd issue although we hadn't seen much in the way of boat traffic all weekend), the overnight temps were warmer than they had been in weeks and the forecast called for clouds, light and variable winds and warm temps (but you know those weathermen!). I decided on the lower river thinking that if the weathermen we right for once, we would have some incredible mayfly activity. Also the fish on the lower river are a bit larger but only like to play when there is cloud cover. We drifted through the first few banks with no response. However, not much further down Alan was floating through the heart of darkness when all of a sudden the water erupted. After a valiant battle, an 18 inch absolutely beautiful, heavy spotted rainbow came to the net. We cycled through the bank a few more times and both Alan & Les missed a fish apiece. No worries, it was game on! As we came into the next bank both Alan & Les commented that it was probably the prettiest looking piece of water they had seen so far. Keep in mind, at this point we had covered approximately 23 miles of river in the last three days. This should give you an idea of just how sexy this bank looks. We must have recycled this bank six times with either one or both the boys getting eats. As we oared back up on the last time through, both Les & I saw a nice trout eat tight to the bank and under an overhanging dogwood. On or way back down Les put a shot perfectly just above where we saw the fish eat. As we both watched the bug slide past, I think we were both holding our breath in expectation of the take. But for some odd reason the fish didn't come out to play. I immediately told Les to reload a little higher and tighter to the bank. The fly hadn't made it five feet before disappearing in a vacuum swirl. A few minutes later and after a few hard runs a bright 17 inch brown trout was in the net. Sweet, the first brownie of the day! From there the day just got better and better. To top it off, the mayfly activity that I was hoping for materialized in a big way. We came into the first pod of fish that were absolutely chowing. At first glace, I thought they were dining exclusively on the hundreds of both Baetis and Ameletus floating down the river. So I immediately anchored and switched over to a mayfly imitation. After I had the boys re-rigged, I really started watching the bigger fish in the pod and couldn't help but notice that it would eat a small Baetis, then a bigger Ameletus and then follow it up with a Skwala eat. After exercising a few fish on mayflies we went back to the Skwala. Why fish a #18 when you can fish a #10 with the same results. I had Alan cast a Skwala to a very large mouth that was feeding with reckless abandon. This fish was a little tough to get to because it was on an inside bend of a recirculating current. However, Alan's first cast was money. I told him to give the Skwala a little twitch and instantly a mouth the size of Texas was open and before it could close, the fly came shooting back at us. Alan and Les had a big laugh as I pulled my hat over my eyes and shed a small tear. We gave the fish a few more tries but those big boys don't get big for a reason and almost never give you a second chance. Along the next bank I had the boys play a classic Bitterroot River cobble run. At the tail end, it was as if I had paid two large fish to simultaneously eat both Skwalas. In the end, Les played and landed yet another beautiful 18 inch brown trout. After stealing his soul we released him back to the river.

We recycled yet another bank for more than an hour, which had the most Skwalas I have ever seen on the water at one time in my 11 years of fishing this river. I asked the boys if they were ready for lunch. After all, it had to be at least 2:30 or 3:00. Alan informed me that it was 5:15. No freaking way! Both Alan and Les said, "The fishing is so good, we don't need a full lunch. Let's just have some crackers, cheese and bread and get back to fishing." I said, “Great because I have a real treat for you guys just a little down river.” If we were going to hit this sneaky little channel I had in mind, we were going to have to get going. Hell, we were only two-thirds of the way through the float. I parked the boat further down grabbed my camera, some flies and my net. We had to hike about 800 yards to get to this channel that you cannot get to by boat and usually is loaded with big fish. On the first run a football shaped 16 inch rainbow exploded on Les' fly. On the next run down Alan caught one about the same size. Don't get me wrong these are nice fish but not exactly what I was expecting. This channel is really small and about as technical as the Bitterroot gets. As we were walking around I told the boys to be very careful where they step because this place was loaded with redds. If you are walking side channels this time of the year please be mindful of these spawning beds. Those are our future trout and you cannot mistake the clean, circular gravel beds where a trout has spawned. Please give these redds a wide berth. As we were headed back up the channel, Les noticed a large swirl at the bottom end of some really still water. I said give it a shot. Les commented that the fish was probably cruising but what the hell. Les peeled off some line and his Skwala landed about ten feet from the bottom of the run. As he mended his line, the bug twitched. As soon as the bug moved, a wake formed and came charging toward his fly. It took nerves of steel not to pull the fly away as a VERY large mouth could be seen breaking the surface. As the fish turned down, Les pulled up and with that we both let out a war cry. The fish exploded as the fly sunk into its mouth. It did its damnedest to shake free but Les played him perfectly. As the fish came to the net we both saw that it was a very large male brown trout; the fish measured a good 21-21.5 inches and healthy. As we walked back to the boat full of adrenaline, Les said, "If I would have missed that fish, I would not have been able to sleep tonight." I told him, "Shit, if you would have missed that fish you would be sleeping here tonight!" After we left the channel we had probably 10 more ops (eats). The fishing had slowed a little and ended as the light faded from the sky. Unfortunately, I had to row out for the last half hour in almost complete darkness. This was probably the best day of fishing I have seen on the Bitterroot River so far during the Skwala hatch. There were more bugs on the water than I have EVER seen and there were lots of big noses coming up. I was glad I could spend it with two great guys. Thank you again Alan & Les I really enjoyed fishing with you and I look forward to our next adventure.

The Battle Rages!

As far as I am concerned, if this is such a hot button topic and if I have pissed that many people off, START YOUR OWN BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't tell me what I can and cannot or should and should not write! Don't ask me to call you before I post anything to get your side of the story. The last time I checked this is still America. Although the Chinese own our ass, they do not run the country, yet! I will post whatever the F*%# I want on MY blog. I try to keep it light and comical but sometimes there are going to be sensitive issues. If you want to voice any opposition please feel free to start your own blog.

I have no ax to grind against the construction company nor the homeowners that are currently working below Tucker. If all projects for bank stabilization along the Bitterroot River were done in this fashion there would not be an issue. They are doing some great work. If you read my posts, you will see that I was able to talk to the owners of the construction company doing the work and was grateful that they were doing the job. My blog posts are about the bigger picture along the Bitterroot River. The greatest threat to the river system, in my opinion, is illegal riprapping and its affect on the Bitterroot River. Hopefully, the next post will be back to fishing stories. Although, I am sure I will be re-visiting this issue as more people come in and voice their opinion on both sides of the argument.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


"Dude, you've gone viral!" This was a quote of my good friend Donn said after telling him the goings on regarding my blog. This all started on Saturday (April 3) when I was visited from a person by the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. He came into the shop to talk to me about my blog and the fact that "it has pissed a lot of people off". My first thought was, holy shit people are actually reading my posts?! This gentleman continued by saying that since I was a relatively new shop in town I should be careful to essentially not rock the boat and that I should watch what I post. Was this a threat? Normally, I would take great offense to someone threatening me at my shop but I was still getting over the fact that more than a few of my friends were reading my blog! He went on to say that I had offended Mr. Clancy with my remarks and I should call him myself and discuss the issue (which I have since done). He stated that Mr. Clancy was on the forefront of stream side setbacks and the best watchdog this fishery could have. This may be the case, I have my opinions on the matter you can do your own research and decide for yourself. It will be VERY interesting to see what happens this year as far as river closures are concerned. We have very little water at this point and late July and the entire month of August could be challenging times.

This morning I was visited by a civil engineer looking for "Seen". I asked him if he was looking for Sean. He said yes and that I have pissed a lot of people off in this valley regarding my blog. Once again, holy shit people are reading it! This gentleman seemed very upset and had a printed page from my Facebook site regarding the recent article in The Bitterroot Star titled "Homeowners Reconstruct River". I had to cut the conversation short (due to the fact that I had customers in the shop) but suggested that the gentleman please come back and I would be happy to debate the issue with him. We will see what happens.

After talking to Mr. Clancy today I have decided to go to the Conservation District's meeting coming up. Mr. Clancy informed me that they are the one who actually issues the 310 permit and he is only an advisor to the process. There is also a permit that must be issued by the Army Corps and by the County for any floodplain work. Mr. Clancy did say that he used to have a post on the Conservation Districts website to inform people on the work being done on the Bitterroot River. He also used to post signs at river access points to inform floaters on any work being done. He said that these were ineffective because no one would check the website and the contractors would not be consistent with his postings at boat ramps. He now is suggesting new criteria be adopted for work being done during the Skwala hatch, March15-May15. He would have the contractor post a notice at the boat ramp as far as work schedules. He would also like to see the contractors do the work early in the morning and late in the evening to lessen the water turbidity during times when we are floating the river.

This is not a new issue plaguing the Bitterroot River. People have been basically doing what they want around here as well as toeing the line and getting permits when it comes to bank stabilization work. It seems that I have touched a REAL sensitive button for a lot of people around here. Leave it to me to be in the middle of controversy! Who knows, if I keep posting controversial issues maybe we will have full scale protests marching for both sides in the parking lot. Like they say, "Any press is good press". Who are "they" anyway and why do "they" know so much? I digress, sorry. GO FISHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!