Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How's the fishing?

We worked pretty hard for the fish we caught the past couple days. Here's Shawn Gallaty with the final fish of the trip--a nice brown caught on a size 18 parachute Adams.


You read it right. A dry fly and a parachute Adams, which means a couple things. 1) Regardless of what you hear, there is some dry fly fishing right now on the Mo, even with the flows getting up to 9,000 cfs. 2) There are just enough BWO's to get fish to look for them. There's not a lot but just enough.

The flows yesterday, went up to 9,200 cfs. That's about 3,500 cfs higher than normal for this time of the year. The assumption is that you'd have to go deep and slow and throw wire worms and hot beads in order to catch fish. It is true that we did get some fish that way but Shawn was here to see what the Mo is all about and to learn a little bit about trout fishing tail waters. He's very experienced at throwing streamers for stripers and trout fishing the freestones in the mountains but never had this kind of opportunity so we went seeking out the Missouri trifecta. That's not rainbow, brown, and white; folks. It's nymph, streamers, and dries. 

Like I said, the assumption for this time of the year and this level of water flowing on the Mo, is deep and slow. Throw anything pink or hot bead behind a wire worm, under a big bobber and you'll catch fish and you will but it's definitely not your only option and might not even be your best. You have to know what to look for and you have to show some patience but you can find fish like the one in the photo that aren't hanging out in ten feet of water off a ledge. 

We started out with the Mo dredging rig...we weren't crushing it. We started experimenting with streamers and shallow rigs and we were pleasantly surprised. The thing is, with these flows and the fact that a lot of rainbows are doing their thing up the tribs, some of the best fish left are actually getting pushed right up along the banks. There's food there and they can get out of the main current and they are more opportunistic. They'll eat the big uglies so switching to streamers actual produced some really good takes. Although we didn't crush them, the action was decent and we were able to complete the second leg of the trifecta. 

In the afternoon we noticed noses coming up. They were pretty random and in tough spots but it was something we thought would be at least fun to try. Let me tell you, those fish are hungry and they will eat if you can get to them. The first time Shawn got a fly over one of those fish, that brown absolutely annihilated it and the trifecta was complete. Nice work, Shawn. We will definitely see you out here again.

Keep 'em where they live...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Montana Dream DIY Bathroom

I think we started this winter project on February 12. I was putting the toilet paper holder up on March 15th but we were still waiting for a mirror and the light fixture to be delivered. That came on the 27th. I was actually guiding that day and when I got off the river, I was so excited to finally be done with the bathroom, I installed the light immediately. I did it hot without turning off the electricity because I just wanted it done and didn't want to take the time to set up a shop light and run a cord. (I've been shocked before with 110 and it's not that bad.) Non incidences, although that would make for a better story.

So in all, just over 6 weeks. I think I said two months on the video but it was really about 6 weeks. In that time I learned a lot about plumbing, hanging sheet rock, texturing walls, tile, bathroom fixtures and breaking toilets. I thought I might share some pitfalls so if you decide to do something like this, you can avoid some of it.

First of all, tearing out a fiberglass tub/shower insert is a bitch. Your best bet is to sawzall it. You're never going to get it out in one piece anyway and you won't be able to use it for anything so just cut the fricking thing out.

Second, make sure you have the right tools. I didn't have "super tool tub drain wrench" in my box because, well, I've never heard of one and wouldn't have because I'm not a plumber. Unfortunately, not having that tool resulted in breaking a drain pipe and spending $170 to have someone come and fix it. I just looked on line and that tool is less than $12.

Once the tub was out, I was feeling pretty good about myself and started whacking the crap out of the drywall. I thought I was being careful but obviously, not careful enough. I put a couple holes in the dining room wall as a result. Repair kits aren't that much but it all ads up. Plus, I was so mad at myself I felt the need to go have a couple beers so that was another twenty.

Having the right tools is key and it did give me an excuse to buy some fun stuff. I found out that I really like the angle grinder for cutting holes in tile. It's a little trick I learned off another YouTube video. That's another thing. A person can learn a ton off of YouTube.

I hung the sheet rock myself. I'd do it again but what I might do next time is hire someone that has the gear to do the texturing. I rented a sprayer. Let me tell you, renting a sprayer is like renting a a Uhaul or anything else. People drive them "like they're rented," right? I can't tell you how many times I had to scrape an entire wall off from the sprayer getting clogging and then spitting out a chunk of mud on the wall. There was very little consistency in the size of particles it was spraying and it was one of the most frustrating parts of the entire remodel. Plus, you have to clean up the mess. I f'n hate texturing walls now. HATE IT!

Redguard...that shit really sticks. It's great for sealing off your shower before tiling but don't get any on your new tub. That cost me a few hours and a bunch of experimenting with different cleaners that wouldn't damage the tub but would soften up the Redguard. At the end of the day, carefully scraping it off with a razor on the smooth parts and on the textured bottom of the tub; elbow grease and a stiff nylon brush.

Tile...don't be dumb. I was for a moment which lead to ripping off a couple walls of tile because I just thought, if the tub is level and I run the tile along the top of the tub, the grout lines should line up, right? Nothing is going to be perfectly level in a remodel. The lines are not going to line up unless you start from one corner and work your way out, leveling the top edges of the pieces of tile and then working your way up. At least I was able to re-use the tile. It cost me a day.

Mosaic tiles aren't as easy as they look. Too much thinset and you'll be spending hours with a dremel grinding out the mortar from in between the tiles before you grout. Not enough and your tiles won't stick. I'm still up in the air on weather or not the floor tiles we went with were worth it.

F'%(%g toilet. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolts attaching the tank to the base of the toilet. Another $170.

Having a system for keeping track of stuff would have saved me a day, I'm sure. Whether that's a belt or you just hang something for the time being on the wall to put all the screws and fixture parts in so you KNOW where they are; do something or you might find yourself looking for essential items for hours. Literally, hours. God I'm tired of losing stuff! And why is it that I can't ever find a tape measure or a a fricken pencil? I started leaving tape and pencils in every room I thought I would go to including the bathroom we were remodeling, the kitchen table, the other bathroom I might use occasionally, and the garage where the saws are.

I can't even begin to tell you how many trips I made to The Home Depot and to Lowe's. Some of that was because of lack of knowledge and some was just not being prepared. Write lists. Watch videos before you do the runs so you know what you need. Buy the stuff on-line that you need like fixtures and faucets, etc., before you begin so you can go through them and have an idea of what you will need to install them.

When we bought the faucet for the tub, I didn't realize that any faucet that is worth a crap would have a threaded female coupling that would attach to a male nipple on the pipe. The original builder for our house used the cheap slip-on fixtures. Had I known this from the start, I could have addressed the pipe issue before the walls went up and while the plumber was fixing the drain pipe I broke. This all resulted in another late evening run to The Home Depot, trying to figure out what I needed to solder a threaded nipple onto the existing pipe.

On a side note, can I make a suggestion to all hardware store employees? Listen before you try to show me how smart you are. This goes to fly shop employees too, by the way. Nobody cares about how much you know about plumbing or fly fishing. They just want help either completing a project or finding out what fricken bugs are coming off. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. If people would just put ego on lockdown for a minute and listen to what you're really asking, think of how much one could accomplish and how much time we could all save. I'll let your imagination run with that a little while, knowing I was in The Home Depot trying to figure out this plumbing thing.

This next little piece of advice isn't a criticism of Jill; it's more of just pointing out the paradoxical relationship between design and technology, given the vastness of resources out there to help design a house. Do you know how many different tiles we looked at from how many different sources? Colors of paint? Vanities? Mirrors? Light fixtures? The possibilities are endless. Literally endless and if I could make one suggestion I'd probably limit those resources so that decisions could be made a little easier.

Again, please take what I'm saying with a grain of salt and find some humor in this, (Jill.) We bought tile for the shower, got it home and realized the hue was wrong so we loaded it all back up and returned it. We then proceeded to look through pages and pages of Pinterest and other design sites, only to go to our local Lowe's to find tile we really liked that would fit. We painted the walls twice with two different colors. We installed two different mirrors. We ordered two different light fixtures because the one we really wanted was on backorder. Even toilets; do you go with the standard height and size or do you get the more ergonomic height and extended seat for comfort? What type of flusher do you want? Do you go with the slam proof lid? Plastic or composite? And now they even have heated seats!! Crazy.

All of these options one has is kind of crazy and what it does is paralyzes the process. I can't tell you how many times I found myself saying, "Just make a decision."

I could care less about the tile. I just want it to be done. That's probably the biggest difference between guys and gals in this entire process. I'd crap in a hole in the floor if it meant finishing this project in half the time. But that's why it's important to have both sides and realize how much labor goes into choosing the tile, the paint, the vanity, etc. I'd say Jill did a fantastic job and at the end of the day, the bathroom looks great and we completed it before my season kicked off.

Take a minute or two to watch the video and see the end result. And if you need help remodeling your bathroom, I'll get the number of a couple contractors I'd recommend.

Keep 'em where they live...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Eggs Benedict

Ok, so sometimes I get a little bored and I try shit. These little guys I call Eggs Benedict. Yes, they are egg patterns and I was fishing up at the Land of the Giants. I hooked 3 to1 on these versus other traditional patterns like the fire-bead sow in grey and various scuds. Will they work on the lower? Probably. Should you use them? Well, let's explore that.

First of all, let's answer this question of where patterns come from and who creates them. For Marx, there was a distinction between the 'doers' and the 'makers' in the workforce. Essentially, the doers just do stuff. They take orders and they sit on the production lines and replicate tasks or just do jobs. The makers are the innovators. They're the ones that create stuff or invent things that make our lives easier or more productive and give the doers something to do.

In fly fishing, one might say the doers are the folks that go into the fly shops and ask the dude behind the counter, "what'r they hittin?" The makers are the ones that actually figure those patterns out. In the guiding community, there are both as well. I personally feel that 'making' is more rewarding than 'doing' but I also believe we are all somewhere on this continuum of learning and being a doer one day doesn't mean you can't be a maker the next.

I like creating stuff. (Just look at my rod holder on my truck...coming soon to this blog.) I also like tying new fly patterns. Sometimes they are truly new and creative and sometimes they are just variations of patterns already out there. The eggs benedicts are pretty much just a variation of the fire-bead sow. But like I said, it out-fished all the other sow bugs I tried so even a tiny variation can make a huge difference. The bottom line is I'd get bored with fly fishing if I wasn't experimenting and trying new stuff. I guess that makes me a 'maker'. That doesn't mean it always works out or that I'm a particularly good innovator but it does mean that's where my head is.

So obviously these are an egg pattern...eggs with some sauce, if you know what I mean. That's where the inspiration comes from. People have argued for years about the fire-bead sows and what they replicate and whether or not they are ethical to fish when trout are spawning because why? It's too easy? Or, it's because they replicate an unborn baby trout?

Really? Eggs are food for trout. They just are and fly fishing is the art of replicating a trout's natural food. It's just natural food. Here's the kicker though and where there is some room for ethical arguments. It's where you are fishing these flies and how persistent you are in pounding reds. That's where people get a bad taste in their mouths.

If you are one of those guys using egg patterns, standing on reds on stretches of the Missouri where the predominate trout are wild-reproducing fish; I'd say I would have a problem with that. It's not because you are using egg patterns, which again, is a natural source of food. It's because you're disrupting the reproduction cycle of the fish by spooking them off there beds and by potentially snagging a few spawners. You are also potentially grinding eggs into gravel if you're walking through the reds.

However, as for actually getting fish to eat? It's usually not the fish spawning that are eating, from my experience. It's the fish below the reds that are waiting for rouge eggs to become dislodged that you'd have the best shot at. Yes, there is a theory that spawning fish will eat eggs that float through their red as they try to keep the reds clean but by-in-large, those fish are too busy scraping their reds and fighting for breeding rights to eat.

Yesterday, for example, I caught a really nice brown on the eggs benedict that was one of those fish looking for a rouge egg or two. I'm pretty comfortable saying that because he was amongst a group of reds and browns don't spawn in the spring.

I personally, feel it's a slam dunk on whether or not a person should be pounding reds on the Lower Missouri because that fishery is made up of mostly wild reproducing fish. If you want the fishery to thrive, you should probably leave those fish alone.

I, however, have been fishing below the Hauser Dam just upstream from Holter Lake. Those fish are mostly hatchery fish. They are put there by FWP for the purpose of growing quickly so that people can catch them and bring them home to eat. We, as tax payers, fund the programs that stock these fish. Hundreds of thousands of these fish are stocked in the reservoirs every year. There is some argument on whether those fish reproduce but the intention from FWP was to pick these particular strains of trout that do not reproduce so that they have a better control over the balance of trout in the ecosystem and give folks plenty of opportunities to take fish out of the lakes.

I actually kept a few of these trout, (not the brown obviously,) because they are really good in the smoker. I'm actually going to go back there today because I want to stock up a little on smoked fish. I really want to catch a white fish to throw in there as well. I'm curious what that will taste like.

At the end of the day, I hope we can all agree that we need to be environmentally conscious. We all want our rivers to thrive and to preserve them for those behind us as well as for us tomorrow. Follow the laws when they are written and hopefully learn from folks and develop a sense of ethics when the laws are not clear. And then engage. Have discussions. Be open to learning and doing what's right for our resources and also be open to spreading the word when you see things that aren't cool. We all play a role in preserving our natural resources.

Keep 'em where they live...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Long Winter

Just got back from the vet...Cutter was shamed a little and now he's not feeling good about his body image. Last time he got shots he was 72 lbs. Today he weighed in at a hefty 88. Looks like someone is going to have to get out and do a few more sit-ups. 

Obviously, it's not Cutter's fault he's a bit over-weight. It's not his job to get out and get exercise. We, as pet owners, owe it to our best buddies to get them out and keep the weight off. We also are responsible for what we feed them. Their weight and how fit they are is just as important as ours and is our responsibility. If we give them opportunities to exercise, they will. 

Overweight dogs can develop many of the same issues we do as humans. The biggest and most common problems usually have something to do with their joints and being overweight for even short periods can lead to hip dysplasia, torn ligaments, and arthritis. If you want to keep your dog healthy and happy into their teens, start now. I have to say, I feel a little bad that we let this go as long as we have. 

This winter was tough so exercise was a challenge. Cutter isn't a big "fetch" kind of guy. He'll play but he loses interest pretty quick. Plus, you lose a lot of balls in the snow. I like to get down to the river where he can chase birds up and down the bank as they fly by, (he really believes he can catch them.) But even today, it's half raining--half snowing, AGAIN. But you just gotta do it. I was going to the gym 5 days a week while Cutter was lying around the house for the past couple months. That's not good and even though we are pretty diligent about not over-feeding that's just not enough.

So besides exercise, feeding is incredibly important to keep them healthy and happy. Check your food bag for ingredients. There's a lot of research out there but the general rule of thumb for us is look at the first few ingredients and if there's corn or wheat before protein, that's no good. In fact, I'm a firm believer in no corn or wheat. Cutter is on a salmon and sweet potato diet from Kirkland. It's great for his coat and it's packed with good protein and the right filler to prevent allergies but still keep the landmines in the yard relatively solid, if you know what I mean. However, salmon can also be pretty fatty so that might be where the weight is coming from.

Table scraps are a NEVER for us. Not only does it pack on weight quickly, it also teaches really bad habits. Although, lately Cutter has been begging a little more than usual at the table. Hmm...I might have to do some investigating. 

We have a pretty strict regimen for feeding as well. Patrick, Jill's son, is really good about taking on the responsibility of feeding Cutter. He gets one cup of food in the morning before Patrick goes to school and one cup before we eat in the evening. That way we know to ask Patrick if Cutter ate before we double up on a meal. It also teaches him some responsibility. 

As for me, I'm afflicted with the same issue. I have been working out. I have also been watching what I eat. I was gaining ground for a while and got myself within 7 pounds of a realistic goal. I was about 12 pounds from what I would think is ideal. A couple extra nights at the brewery in town may have caused a little regression. I'll need to do a few more push-ups too before the season gets crazy. In fact, that's where I'm headed now.

Keep 'em where they live...

P.S. I'm still looking for a counter-part for The Montana Dream Cast. Let me know if you, or someone you know, is interested. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Finding Peace in Fly Fishing

Here's last week's podcast, Finding Peace in Fly Fishing:

Finding Peace in Fly Fishing

This week's podcast is going to be a little different again. I'm flying solo...again. That's right, and although I would love to get back to drinking beer, talking about hunting and fishing and all other things Montana, I haven't found that person to sit in the chair opposite of me yet. So here's the deal; this week I spoke a little bit about the history of "The Montana Dream," how I got into guiding, and also shared a story of that first year as a fishing guide. I do hope you enjoy.

A lot of people have emailed or reached out in other ways, wanting to know what's happening with The Montana Dream Cast. To be honest, I don't know. What is apparent is that Scott is not going to be a part of the podcast moving forward. That's a bummer but it's also just the reality of the climate we live in and how people either align themselves in their pursuits or they don't.

Here's what I would like to happen; I liked the format Big Jim and I developed in the beginning and what Scott and I had continued. It was always the plan to just be normal dudes, hanging out and shooting the shit. I envision that to happen again but I need to find a counterpart to get back there so I'm going to throw it out to all of you to try to fulfill that search. So, let me share a quasi job posting with you and maybe you know someone.

Looking for a dude, or a gal, to spend a couple hours a week, sitting down in The Montana Dream Studios to shoot the shit. We talk about hunting, fishing, guiding, sports, music, and just about anything that is Montana. We also drink beer while we engage in these discussions. Qualified applicants must possess: 

  1. An interest in Montana outdoors.
  2. Knowledge of fly fishing, hunting, hiking, and beer.
  3. A professional attitude.
  4. A command of the mic.
  5. Confidence in public speaking, (especially after having a couple beers.)
  6. Ability to commit to spending a couple hours, once a week in the evening to drink a few beers and record a podcast.
  7. Ability to engage in political discussions as they impact us outdoors men and women in a professional and intelligent manner...(even after a few beers.) 
  8. Dedication and drive to promote The Montana Dream Cast.
  9. An understanding and willingness to use various social media outlets to help with the promotion of The Montana Dream Cast. 
Compensation: None. However, I'm certainly willing to entertain the idea of having other guides or outfitters participate, thereby using the platform to promote their businesses as well. In the future, as opportunities for sponsorship come up, compensation would be re-visited. (Wait a second. We do currently have a sponsor who provides beer so your compensation, beside being able to spend a few hours a week with me, would be beer...good beer.)

So there you have it. I'm looking for a co-host. If you would like to try out for The Montana Dream Cast, or know someone who would, have them visit my website: mdfishingoutfitters.com and shoot me an email. I'd love to hear from you. Until then, I'll be sharing more stories from guiding. 

Keep 'em where they live...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

California Dreamin

When I was a kid, (teenager,) we didn't listen to a lot of the hair band stuff. We were kind of sixties rock freaks. I loved the Beatles and the Stones, The Who and of course, The Mamas & the Papas. This is what we woke up to this morning in Helena, MT, which is beautiful with the sun glistening off the snow but you know what? I've seen it before. I'm definitely dreamin of some warmer days.

In the past, the fallback statement was, "Well, we need the moisture..." 

This year, we're actually sitting pretty good so no, we don't need the moisture. Don't get me wrong. The moisture is good but SNOTEL is looking pretty good. 

So people look at these reports and they start getting excited for the season out here, thinking we are going to have plenty of water to keep streams flowing and fish happy throughout the summer. On the Missouri, we look forward to getting a good flush to scour the river bed, which may help with weeds but definitely makes the fishery healthier by way of uncovering gravel for spawning beds for browns in the fall and helping out the bug life by removing silt that suppresses bug hatches all summer. All of this can and probably should be true and by looking at just the SNOTEL, there is reason to get excited. Right? Unfortunately, it's not just about SNOTEL for the Missouri or any other tail waters. It's also about reservoirs and how the water is managed.

For that, let's look at Canyon Ferry.

Now I realize we have a lot of snow in the mountains and we could get some significant moisture this spring but something just doesn't look right here. In the last couple months, the Bureau of Reclamation has been dumping water out of Canyon Ferry. This is evident by the blue in the above chart and then look at the level of the Missouri below the reservoirs right now.

I hate being one of those guys that questions everything the Bureau does but what the hell? We have a great opportunity this year, to do the work that Mother Nature would normally do every few years by having a scouring run-off but it feels like the Bureau is working hard to prevent that from happening. 

I remember going to "The State of the Missouri" presentation last year where they told us that ideally, we would see flows on the Missouri reach 14K to 15K cfs every few years to keep the river "healthy." We haven't seen that for a long time. We thought we were going to get that last year but the Bureau managed the reservoirs for these major rain events in the spring that never came. So what eventually happened, is we didn't have enough water in the reservoirs to allow for that push to scour the river bed and it was basically just a wasted opportunity. We had the snow pack but because of the miscalculation for spring weather, we blew it. The Bureau shot their wad in April and didn't get the spring rains to recover. In order to keep the reservoirs full, the lower Missouri suffered and we were seeing lower than average water flows. 

Again, I see the SNOTEL report. I see that we're at or above 150% of normal snow pack for this time of the year but that can change pretty quick. Plus, this is average snow pack for this time of year over the past couple decades where we experienced significant drought years that skews the averages. I just don't think it's a good idea to waste these high-water opportunities. 

Am I smarter than those folks calling the shots at the Bureau? Certainly not but I have seen them make these decisions year after year and I think it does foster some questioning. I've said this before and I'll say it again, I wouldn't want that job of trying to predict all these things but that's what they're getting paid to do. It would be nice if they were right some of the time. I guess all we can do is wait and see and hope they are right this time and we get a good run-off.

Keep 'em where they live...

P.S. Did you notice the disclaimer on the SNOTEL map? Due to staffing constraints, SNOTEL will not be available next year. Your tax cuts at work.

Friday, March 30, 2018

My Gear--Rods

It's time to take inventory and gear up. The last week I've spent a little bit of time on the vice, a lot of time figuring out a rod-rack system for my truck, and then the usual of going through rods and reels and figuring out what will get me through the season. The rods I choose for clients are Temple Fork Outfitters rods. Why? One, they are solid rods with great action for a fraction of the price of some of the higher-end rods. They're good enough for new-comers to get an accurate feel for how a rod should perform. They're also good enough for an experienced angler to pick up, throw a loop or two and look down and say, "Really? I would have never guessed..." But here's the real kicker; they have the best warranty service in the industry. Period.

I usually put off sending rods back until about this time. I get my line order in and start rummaging through rod tubes and socks and going through inventory of my gear. Sometimes this brings back some difficult memories of carelessness or just bad casting. Sometimes it's the wind. Most of the time you can just chalk it up to, "shit happens" but regardless, there's nothing like hearing the sound of a split-shot smacking a blank, knowing that rod's days are numbered. A piece of lead or a bead from a nymph just grazing a graphite rod can compromise the integrity of the glass so maybe it's the next fish or maybe it's tomorrow's fish, but eventually, that rod will snap under a load. What makes those moments a lot more tolerable is knowing that you're going to be able to replace that rod without breaking the bank.

People often ask me what to look for in a rod and one of the things I point out is that warranty. Spend enough money for the warranty. All the major players have warranties but they're not all the same. Let me just share this last experience with TFO. I sent back three rods last Wednesday. I received a package on my door today, which is Friday--a week and two days later. One of the rods they fixed with a new section of the blank that had broke. Two of the rods they replaced with brand new rods. The cost was $35 per rod. That's service, boys and girls and that's why I choose Temple Fork Outfitters.

Keep 'em where they live...