Monday, April 16, 2012

Ski season is over

2012 pike season is upon us!

No pike to report yet as I still have not figured out the "pike fishing is awesome right at ice out" thing I keep reading about.
No it's not. It's fucking cold and I can't catch any pike while friends are having field days on the Missouri and Bitterroot.  WTF?

But I did go fish (a very) local lake in hopes of big pike.  No luck, but I was fortunate enough to find and sightcast to a school of cutties waiting for their miniscule breeding creek to flow enough to get into to spawn.  A lot of fun and more practice at the video-editing thing.  Enjoy the video and copy-righted music I have no right to re-publish.  :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fuck fishing. Especially Tiger Musky.

Fuckin'skunked Lake at sunrise

There is only one lake in all of western Montana that contains Tiger Musky.  This is the only lake within 500 miles of me that contains Tigers, and this lake is only 20 minutes from where I rest my head.  Lucky me, huh?  Notsomuch.

Two winters ago, I finally got wise enough to download and study the stocking reports of the last seven years of the lakes in my area.  Had I done this research earlier, I would have found out that in 2007, they dumped a truckload of golden trout in a pond just 30 minutes from here.  The fish were destined for a mountain lake with still-inaccessable roads and so they dumped them in a pond just a mile off the highway.  Now, I've fished for goldens several times at high altitude lakes in Montana and Wyoming.  But my luck was as bad as the outdated info I was using in trying to find them, and they have remained on my species-yet-to-catch list.  In that spring of 2010 I first visited this lake with hopes of easily catching gigantic goldens.  Skunked.  I visited again in late June and found the water to already be at intolerable warmth.  This pond was simply not suitable habitat for trout, not even brown trout.  Any chance I had of catching a golden from this puddle was long gone, as those fish had had no chance of holding over.  They remain a species not crossed off my to-do list.
But what I also discovered in reading through those records was a very interesting tidbit.  In the spring of 2006, FWP planted 1000 Tiger Musky into one of my local lakes.  In doing some Googling, I learned that the planting of these sterile, trashfish-eating monsters was an attempt to bring down the number of chubs, squawfish, etc. that populated the water so that they could eventually plant trout in it.  They would systematically introduce Tigers each year, and being sterile, they wouldn't have to worry about these non-native species taking hold and eating precious trout in the future.  But there was a problem with supply.  In late 2006, the Illinois hatchery that supplied the Tigers, (and from what I understand every Tiger Musky that is manufactured), became diseased.  So no more Tigers for this lake anytime too soon.  Or any lake for that matter.  Only the survivors of the original 1000 were left to do the job.  These fish are now approximately 7 years old.  They look to me to be about 15 pounds.  But I wouldn't really know, because they don't really wanna play too closely.

I decided when I started this blog not to name the waters I fish, unless those waters were ridiculously well-known.  So I've been changing names around a bit.  Anyone who really wants to know could probably figure it out with any amount of research, though.  But this name I will call Fuckin'skunked Lake.  It's an Indian name.  Fuckin'skunked Lake is an unusual lake for this area in that it has no inlet nor outlet.  It's a pothole lake unlike the others which are generally all connected to one another by creeks or stream.  Like a cloverleaf pool, it's a hole in the ground made up of several holes, or bowls.  I have no idea how deep it is, but I suspect there are some areas that are several hundred feet deep.  The entire shoreline is very steep, and thickly wooded.  The water is cold, gin clear, and has a glacial tint coloring to it.  The water is gorgeous, and when the sun is high in the sky, you can see the white, pollen-coated floor of the lake in depths of twenty-plus feet.  It makes for some exciting sight-fishing, but as you can see them, they can most certainly see you.  To make things even more exciting, the entire shoreline is thickly covered in downed, submerged trees making for tons of habitat and even more areas for a fish to tangle your line.  Not that I've had to worry about that too much.
I've had good luck fishing Fuckin'skunked Lake for both smallmouth bass and squawfish in the early spring.  After that, though, the squawfish seem to disappear and the bass become very wary.  Only the little smallies seem to want to play later into the summer.  But it's not really bass that you fish this lake for; there's plenty of better lakes for that, and fishing clear waters for bass is difficult.  Compounding the difficulty of fishing here is that there are no weedbeds in this lake.  None.  No lillypads, either.  Without an inlet, there's no significant nutrient flows into the lake to make for a muddy bottom enough to grow plants.  Just pollen and whatever falls into the water.  So the only structure to this lake seems to be the steep, lumber yards of the shoreline; submerged fallen trees, painted in ghostly white pollens.  And it doesn't take long to find the fish when the backdrop is white.  Especially when the fish are close to four feet long and are seemingly indifferent to the boat and idiot at the helm who's literally bouncing clousers off their nose.
Up until yesterday, I've fished here for Tiger Musky maybe 15 times.  Except maybe a day or two of cloudy weather, I've always been able to sightcast to several of these monsters.  Always with the same result of complete indifference to my fly.  I am confident that, if I wanted to, I could drag a hook across one of these fish and snag 'em in the snout.  And I've thought about it.  Steelhead are known as the fish of a 1000 casts, and if you had asked me in my first few years of steelheading, I would have thought that number was grossly conservative.  Musky are known as the fish of 10,000 casts; the math indicates they are 10x harder to catch than a steelhead.  That's just stupid.  But yesterday morning things changed.
 
I got on the lake early, too early and too little light to spot the fish yet.  I was chucking a heavy fly and heavy sinktip along the shore into likely, dark spots along the shore.  As I was stripping it off the shore, one of those large dark spots moved a full 180, and began to follow my fly strip for strip.   My god, I finally moved one!  The initial stripping was rather slow and when I saw him, I sped it up, but he didn't follow as quickly so I paused the fly and as it dropped, he charged it!  And then he stopped.  My heart was pounding like a motherfuck!  I could feel the pulsing in the jugulars of my neck, and I couldn't help noticing that I was fucking shaking in my hands!  This was it!  "Strip strike!" I told myself, remembering NOT to set the hook with the rod.  I began stripping again and he followed, getting just offset with the fly as if eyeballing it with only his left eye, just as I have seen pike do right before they crush the fly from the side.  I thought my heart was going to explode.  This fish was a goddamn monster!  I'm guessing 15 pounds, maybe 40 inches, I don't know, but this fish was my fucking Moby Dick at that moment.  Strip strip strip strip, pause, he's charging again!  he pauses.  Excruciating shit!  It seemed to take forever, and I remember having time to begin thinking about remembering to turn on the trolling motor to get me away from those underwater logs if he decided to take my fly that direction.  My cast had been about 60 feet of line, and he had already followed for about half of that.  Any closer and he was going to notice my boat.  So I began giving the fly sharp jerks of action, but letting it dive, hoping that the Tiger would face more to the bottom than directly at the boat.  But as my fly went into seizure and dead feign, he lost interest, holding his position as my fly jerked around below the boat.  Eventually he turned and went back to his lair.  My heart thumped wildly for several more minutes as I sighed out profanities.  A fish of 10,000 "FUCK!!!!"s is more like it.  After giving it some thought, I decided against casting again to this fish.  I would have changed the fly if I tried again, but instead I decided to continue down the shoreline and look for other fish, and then come back.  I did find more fish, all indifferent, and I regretted my decision to leave a semi-(but not really)-willing fish, especially when he wasn't there when I came back. 

For some, a lifetime of fishing small brooks for willing and naive cutties or brookies is thrilling enough that they never try for a more challenging adversary.  And for others, like speyrodders slinging greased lines for steelies; like those that endure year after year of skunked trips looking for their first Belize permit; or even those who fish trout waters where 7x flouro is still considered "cable", it's the rare occurrance of catching a fish that really just shouldn't be caught that makes fishing exciting.  Things that are earned through repeated sadistic beatings somehow feel better to us.  Not catching an impossible fish trumps catching an easy one.  I get asked by friends and family and the kids I work with, "Why do you like fishing so much?"  And I used to have trouble answering this question  in a way that felt right to me.  That is, until I realized, I don't actually like fishing.  I mean, obviously I do at some level.  But I don't enjoy fishing as much as, for some reason, I like to create problems for myself and then try and solve them.  Or not.  And like it or not, that's what fishing is to me now. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday morning heathens and hicks.

Sunday morning fishing is always nice because you know that everyone else fishing around you, everyone else who doesn't go to church, is going straight to hell, too.
Personally, I don't think I should have to go to hell. I mean, I've devoted my professional life to helping kids and their families; shouldn't that count for something? But whatever, I'll deal with it when the time comes. I bet there's decent fishing in hell. But there's gonna be a catch to it, like we'll only have access to really old tippett materials. Whatever.
I fished Smith Lake today. Smith Lake was put there by God for all the local white trash fisherman to fish from the two docks. White trash have never been told that voices carry very well over water, and so from my boat, I get to hear every stupid thought, every chain-smoking cough and phlegm, and every curse and threat they offer their children. But what I like most about Smith Lake is that the majority of pike hole up about 50 yards from the White Trash piers, just out of reach of the Neanderthal piscators. And so I can catch fish all day in front of them and listen as they whine about me "letting another fukkin' fish go goddamit!" as if I were playing for the enemy. It's pretty fun.
My largest fish today had a foot of steel leader coming straight out of his stomach. Obviously he had broken someone off, a bait fisherman, but his stomach had swollen up around the hook and had closed off like a sphincter. Although he was still trying to eat my yellow bunny, this fish was gonna die, so I killed it and gave it to a redneck on the dock. He wasn't catching anything and he looked hungry. Might as well take pity on him, he's going to hell, too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Car shopping done! and back to the fishing!

Well I finally got the vehicle situation figured out.  As much as I've been trailering the boat(s) this year, I've been wanting to get a vehicle that gets better fuel mileage than my '85 Grand Wagoneer.  That beast is my baby, but at 10mpg, fishing as much as 5 days a week, it's been murder on the wallet.  Plus, as anyone who has fished with me knows, she likes to stall and not start up again right at the boat launch, (which is maybe the most embarrassing place for a car NOT to start, besides maybe on train tracks).  So she has been shelved to leak as much oil as she can in front of the house).  I may sell her, I don't know.
 Take a breather ShagWag, you did a good job.
_______________________________________________________________________________

So, after weeks of looking around, I bought the vehicle I thought perfect for the job.  I had to go Subaru again.  Here in Montana, with the fucked up weather and long driving distances, Subarus are key.  They get good mpg, and have an amazing AWD that cuts through snow and (hopefully) can drop off/extract my boats from shady boat put-ins.  I wanted an Impreza wagon, cuz I've already owned an Outback and wanted something a little sportier.  But I wanted either a 2002 or a 2003, because they have the round headlights.  I have a thing for round headlights, some of my favorite cars I have owned had round headlights (1964 Karmann Ghia, and a jacked up 1983 CJ5, and someday, I will restore and own a Porsche 912). 
Please welcome ________________ (name yet to be earned):



Notice something about her?  That's right!  She looks just like a large pike.  How perfect is that!?!

Now, you can't just buy a car and be happy.  You've got to make it personal.  First thing, stereo.  I put an Alpine head unit in her, all new speakers, and an amplified sub under the seat.  She sounds amazing.  I buffed the headlights with one of those restoration kits.  Then, and most importantly, I installed the hitch and a wiring harness.
And I had her pulling the boat to the lake yesterday morning.  She performed excellently, with plenty of power on the dirt roads and highway.  Unfortunately, the fishing is still tough.  I saw plenty of large fish, including some monster bass, but they wouldn't play with me.  I landed about a dozen small pike.  But with nighttime temps dropping into the forties, I think these fish will come out to play soon.  It should be an excellent fall and I'll be ready to enjoy every minute of it





Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Free-Balling Diver, perfectly weedless

Again, the counter-balance was inspired by what Simon is doing over at pikeflyfishingarticles, but I really needed a weedless diver and this is what I came up with.  I gotta say, it really floats well and it is completely weedless.  The hook is protected from being both upright and covered in deerhair.  It'll still snag a lilly stem here and there, but I LOVE this fly.  A bitch to tie time-wise, but fun nonetheless.
I posted a thread with complete tying instructions over on WFF.com.


The past couple weeks. . .

August gets tough as both the water clarity gets gin, and the temperatures rise.  I've had a lot of fish lazily follow my fly, but most turn away as soon as they see me.

I've dropped the wire leader altogether and thinned down to 2x flourocarbon, and that's helped a little.  Luckily, I haven't lost a fish yet to mono, but I'm sure I will soon.
So with the weather what it is, I haven't been fishing quite as many days.  I've been using the time to look at new cars, as my Wagoneer only gets 10 mpg, I'd like to get back into a Subaru which should still be able to pull my boat.
I suspect that September and October will be good.  So I'll use my time wisely to take care of non-fishing related matters now and try and keep the fall responsibility-free.

Yesterday on the Lower river, I found a pod of Largemouth schooled up in some submerged tree stumps.  I had repeated rejections until I switched to a small popper and 3x mono, and that did the trick.  They're a lot of fun, but I still don't get why they're the most popular N. American gamefish.  They fight like old men.
It was 91 degrees out on the river.  Forest fires are burning in the hills.  Let's hope for cooler temps soon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday

After a weekend of taking care of errands and floating (not fishing) the Flathead River on Sunday with the wife, it was good to be back on the water early this morning.  Unfortunately, the fishing was really tough today.  I did catch three or four smaller fish, but I also had three or four large fish sniffin' and rejectin' my flies.  It is so heartbreaking to see that lunker come scootin' up behind the fly and follow, strip for strip, inches behind the fly all the way up to the boat.
All of today's fishing was sightcasting to fish in the light-weeds.  I found a few more shorelines that held fish, so I will have more places to search.  Winds were light, the sun was super bright.  My plan for tomorrow is to tie up some realistic bait patterns and go au natural.