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Some Fishing Experiences In Montana
Silver Dollar Bright Cold Water Bow's
It was ever so slight, a bump... was it a rock... or was it a fish... then came the distinct rod tip twitch, dip, dip, twitch... "Take it easy I told myself, let him take it... l-e-t... h--i--m... t-a-k-e..." bang the pole tip bounced and I set the hook! Out of the murky early spring runoff water leaped a beautiful 12 inch silvery bright Montana native Rainbow Trout, full of fight... full of energy... and mad as heck! He hit the current and swung into full typical rainbow fighting stance, using the current and his every trick to try to loose himself from the set hook! Full run... then reel in... sppzzzeee... went the reel brake several times... setting himself with his side running with a strong current... finally after several all out runs, having given his best, I was able to bring this beautiful creature to the water's edge... beautiful beyond imagination... silvery, full of color... pure, powerful for a small fish and still full of life and fight! As best possible, I eased the hook out of his lip and admired that precious fish one more time... then I released him back to his home in the deep pools and wild currents of the Gallatin River.
Early spring fishing in the Gallatin is one of the most wonderful thrillers when living in this wonderful special place called Montana. I caught and released about eight other Rainbow trout just like the one above, some a bit smaller, a couple a bit larger... but every one of them a temptation to play hooky to go fishing!
Montana abounds in fine trout fishing! Rainbows, German Browns, Eastern Brooks, Cutthroats, many of these are found in the same waters, others are particular to particular streams and lakes. Fishing in Montana, especially on an early spring day or late fall afternoon... is one of life's most rewarding things to do here... and certainly one of the reasons to live in the wonderful State of Montana! Copyright 2001. Permission to reproduce required.
The scud fly sinks to the bottom... I feel a very slight nudge... then another... tic... tic.. tic... then a little more agressive... wham, I go for setting the hook, but all I get is the solid unyeilding pull of a sunken branch, that I have inadvertantly snagged!
Break it off... the 2# tippet leader is not hard to break... replace the small fly... back to the same spot... drift it thru... let it swing into the current-pool merge point... let it settle... tic... tic... bang... bang... hard strike... set hook... not too hard... easy to break the light leader! Solid struggling pull feel... this time the fly rod bends in earnest... strong heavy pull as the fish dives for places deep and dark and unknown... gets in heavy current some 12 feet below the surface of the river, rips off line, feels like a heavy fish... easy does it, don't break line...
This tug of fish against fisherman goes on for about five minutes, until winning over the fish, I bring his struggle up on the shore, because I have the advantage of modern fishing equipment, and the fish is as he has been for centuries, wiley, crafty and a self reliant wild survival athlete! The fish has no laws, does not know what civilization is or does it care... other than to stay alive, eat well and enjoy the wild stream he lives in! Whitefish thrive in the Yellowstone River System...
Eventually, I ease him onto the shore, silvery, sparkling, a golden brownish grey, still full of fight, but surrendering for now... I ease the hook out of his lip ever so carefully, and admire this natural creature of about 1 1/2 pounds, a beautiful silvery Montana Whitefish... not the favorite of some fishermen... but very vivid and a great sports fish to catch on light fly tackle! And... there are litterly thousands of them to catch in the Yellowstone! The fisherman can spend an afternoon and evening... lost in the wonders of a mighty river, catching... maybe cussing under his breath sometimes as he snags rock or root of tree... but without doubt catching and releasing some of the most wonderful fun fish there are to catch anywhere in Montana on light tackle... the wild Whitefish of Montana! Most of them will run a pound or two... come see for yourself... it doesn't get a lot better for a dedicated fisherman! Copyright 2001. Permission to reproduce required.
The brush was so thick... it was all I could do to squeeze my fly rod into an opening to enter the bank over the swirling blue black water below! Undercutting the creek bank and spiraling under a log jam, the high slightly murky water of early summer offered the pick of the creek for a fine place to hook some nice native Brook Trout! Called "Eastern Brook Trout" these silky smooth fish are actually a member of the Char family, and really are not trout at all! We simply call them "Brook Trout or Brookies" here in Montana, and they do not exhibit the scales typical of the Rainbows and Browns that frequent many the same creeks. The color is dynamic with bright red and bright blue spots on green/gray sides, silvery golden orange undersides, with reddish/gold, white, black fins, the colors will vary from drainage to drainage too. One thing is certain... they are fantastic trout to look at and to catch. The temperment of a Brookie is that of a minature 6 to 14 inch mountain lion! As a predator... Brookies are always a predator, always! They will gobble up anything that resembles protein for their diet, be it a night crawler, worm, grasshopper, wooly worm, fly or mesquito. Easy to catch, quick on the bite, you will not wait long if Brookies are lurking in the hole you have just cast to! As these fish tend to school up well, it is not unusual to encounter several Brookies to several dozen in a creek fishing hole or a beaver pond.
I eased my fly rod over the edge... flipping the worm into a tangle of branches in the slight clearing for a chance at this little predator fish! With a little luck, I hit the clearing and the bait sank into... and swept under logs and debris next to the undercut bank... almost immediately there was a tic... tic... tic... then a sharp hit as a Brookie slammed the bait! Diving to the bottom... (rarely do these fish jump when hooked) the fish turned to the current and tried to tangle the line and himself around branches, logs... anything in defense in the struggle to escape. Not sure what had hold of him, he fought much harder than most creatures his size... always an athlete... always quick and strong when hooked... he is a champion at bottom fighting for his size... ounce for ounce maybe even stronger than a grizzly bear and a Brookie's mouth is loaded with teeth like little razors! Many times the struggle doesn't last long when you hook one of these mini-torpedoes, as was the case here... I eased him out of the hole... the Brookie reacted as a small tuna would giving his all to try to dislodge the hook and line as I lifted him from the stream.
Finally, on the bank... I grab hold of the fat 10+ inch Brookie... admiring the beauty of the markings and colors that distinguish it as a fine game fish. Quickly, I return the line into the hole, almost as quickly... I had another Brookie hooked and I struggled to get it out of the water and up out of the brushy willow tangles... finally this one too was on shore! As is typical... I caught about four or five nice Brookies out of that one hole in about twenty minutes, until I was catching only little fish at 6 to 7 inches and throwing them back to grow some more, then I move on up the creek to a new hole, similar, but always different in the way the water flows and creates the pools that are the homes of these little fighters.
For some years now, Montana has had a limit on Brook Trout of 20 per day (always check Montana Fishing Regulations before fishing any waters). I never keep that many for eating, only a few for dinner, (fried in 1/4 inch of bacon grease or butter... these fish are delicious as an eating fish... and many a time while out camping or hunting, I have enjoyed these fish for breakfast or lunch) but it is not unusual to catch that many without much effort in most of the wild creeks in Montana in a morning or afternoon. The reasoning for the larger limit of 20, (when for other trout species limits is generally 5 in streams... again always check the Official Fishing Regs for various species)is that these fish are extremely prolific in reproducing in their native habitat and litterly will overproduce themselves, eating themselves out of natural foods like grubs, ants, worms, grasshoppers, flies that occur in a creek! All of the Brookies may then starve for food and can become stunted in their growth causing all fish to be small in a given creek or pond. It is good fish management to catch some of the Brookies out, so the trout population of a creek (including Rainbows, Browns, Cutthroats, etc.) can survive and grow! When in Montana, be sure you try your rod at any prime Brookie creek... you will come away with a great appreciation for power packed action, that comes with this dynamic colorful package... called the Eastern Brook Trout!
Having been raised fishing for these little fighters, I can assure all outdoors enthusiasts that this is one of the best fish to help teach kids the fun and sport of fishing! These Brookies are always hungry, always on the bite, and always plentiful... they will strike hard and surprise even veteran fishermen with their toughness and fight! These fish are fun to catch and you can enjoy our Brookie fishing in most of the small creeks and many of the beaver ponds and lakes in Montana! Copyright 2001. Permission to reproduce required.
Not a very hard bump... sort of a slight tic... tic... on the rod... a lot of current pressure on the line... hard to be sure... then another tic... tic... yes... a fish was playing the game of nibble... taste... evaluate the bait... making sure it's real to it's keen senses of touch, smell, taste... then... boom a solid strike of a big fish as the rod tip dives... raise the tip of the rod, give the hook one more slight sharp set into what seemed surely to be a tough mouth of one of Montana's top preditor trout species... the Montana German Brown Trout... or simply the "Brown" as I refer to them! And... this one was moving into the swift current fast... sizzling off the reel, I kept my line tight as the mad fish dove into heavy current, with places deep and full of tangles!
Carefully selecting the exact spot that I had believed a big fish might be hiding in moments before, I had cast my wieghted line into the confluence of swift water and a rip between the current and a swirl of backwater developing into a deep hidden hiding place... for a trophy Brown Trout... so I thought... and I was right this time! I have been fooled many times on size of these fish when they strike, because even medium sized Browns will stike very hard and are powerful fighters, this time I really could feel the true power of a real good fish!
Diving, running, stopping, then running again, then stopping, Browns are not best known for their tremendous acrobatics in leaping into the air from the water, as are Rainbows or Cutthroats! A Brown is a much more of a bottom seeker when hooked, although I have had some come violently out of the river on occasion, full length, giving me an opportunity to size up the fish I was hooked into. A Brown will normally fight full force staying near or close to the bottom... or near or close to an undercut bank of a stream... or he will tangling your line in debris or underwater root systems, he will weave your line into logs, rocks, anything that will give leverage to pull the hook out of his mouth, or to break your line! This fish... was no exception! It was very busy trying all the tricks in the book... to get free of this bondage of hook and line!
Just then... when I thought the Brown would surely go down stream further... it stopped, apparently in some hidden sub-stream pocket in the current, close to the bottom... to evaluate the situation. Not wanting to give it a lot of opportunity to do that, I put some pressure on the tip of the rod, gradually bringing this great trout slowly toward the river bank... The fish was solid... the pole bent strongly... this fish wouldn't be moved easily... then, true to form for the Brown... it quickly moved back into the current at the rip confluence and started twisting and throwing all of it's weight into the current and the fight for freedom! It was a battle very comparable to some of the best of Steelhead Trout battles... or big Rainbows I have hooked in similar water... tough... great strength... a true fisherman's challenge, this is what brings me back to the fantastic fishing experiences of Montana time and again!
Not to be brought in without giving it's all, this fish, after about 5-6 minutes began to surrender... not because it was weak... not because it was not smart... but simply because it had spent it's treasure of wild trout energy. Trying desperately to put distance between what had hold of it, this fish was true to form for the Brown's temperment as a wild native trout! As a really awesome preditor of Montana's wild streams and lakes, Browns love all minnows, worms, aquatic insects, grasshoppers... so any lure or bait that resembles natural foods will interest a Brown. The best times to go fishing for a big Brown is early morning and late dusk in the evening. They come from shaded deep protective hideouts... to prowl for food at night. Many times, you will not hit a big fish during the middle of the day... but I have caught some of the big ones at almost all times in a day of fishing, by fishing deep and in deep tough to get at holes... but normally it is best early and late!
Now sliding toward shore... much spent... much depleted of energy... I finally pull this trophy fish up on wet gravels of the river edge, being careful to not harm the fish, keeping it wet, and not giving it any chance to be injured on dry land. If I do hook a fish in a place that will injure it to land it, I would rather cut my line and let it off very quickly, than to injure it. Slowly I take a firm hold on the fish... a true Montana Brown Trout trophy, this one is a big full colored "hen", that is... a heavy female Brown, weighing 3 3/4 to 4 pounds, maybe more, quickly I pull out my tape and measure it... 21 1/2 inches long from tip of tail to shining brown nose... with bright spots of red and blue... and with flashes of almost neon gold/blue/green glistening on it's sides in the the fading light.
The experience of Blue Ribbon Montana trout fishing, when you land a big Brown... is one of this State's greatest gifts to fishermen, it is one of the wonders making Montana a legend as a trout haven! Be you fly fishing or be you lure or bait fisherman, fishing here is what the outdoors enthusiast dreams about!
Brown's get very large in Montana, especially in lakes, but usually you feel pretty good with a 3 to 5 pound fish, one like that will make your day! Many times, I have caught and released several Brown Trout in an afternoon, that will go from a foot to two feet in size... I always come away feeling as good as any golfer that has just hit a great golf game!
So... carefully I remove the hook out of the this creatures mouth... all the time admiring this "trophy" of fishing... the trophy being the fish... the prize being the experience of catching it... I set it free... holding it upright and making sure it can swim safely, back home to the wild stream, knowing that this same fish and I may meet again, when the fish is even bigger, when I am ready to take on a Brown once again! Copyright 2002. Permission to reproduce required.
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