Thursday, May 31, 2012


“This is my submission for the Trout UnlimitedSimms, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Outdoor Blogger Network – Blogger Tour 2012 contest.”

 Huge Yellowstone cutthroat trout

 Perhaps it is because I am a fisherman, that when someone says Yellowstone, cutthroat trout are the first thing that come to mind.  And when I think of cutthroat trout, it is the image of the Yellowstone species that forms in my brain.  They are under attack, and as usual we have only ourselves to blame for this.  Lake trout, which are actually a char and not native to Yellowstone are now thriving in Yellowstone Lake.  Why is this such a problem?  It's a problem because lake trout, even in their native waters, are an apex predator.  They feed voraciously on the abundant supply of forage fish like alewives, sardines, chub and ciscoes (to name a few), that are found in their home waters.  Now, when a fish eating machine like the lake trout is introduced into a lake like Yellowstone Lake, where there is not a large biomass of forage fish, they must turn their attention and appetites to what is there.  In this case, in large part, the Yellowstone cutts.  And the cutthroat are not used to their new status as food.  They are not accustomed to or designed to escape this type of predator and so they become an easy and tasty target for the lake trout.  On top of this, lake trout are much longer lived than cutthroat.  A lake trout, on average, can live to be 40 years old, while the cutthroat rarely live longer than 10 years.  A Yellowstone cutthroat could conceivably spawn 3 to 4 times in it's life, while the lake trout hit the conjugal spawning bed up to 20 times in their lives.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist, biologist, or even an average mathematician to see the conclusion where simple, basic math will take us...Bye Bye cutthroat!

Yellowstone Lake

Fortunately, the caretakers of Yellowstone National Park and it's fish see this, and are trying to do something about it.  There is no limit on lake trout in Yellowstone Lake, so fisherman can fill their bellies with lake trout (and they are tasty, trust me).  The park has also obtained a netting boat that they can use on the lake to net the places they know lake trout inhabit.  It's unlikely that these methods will ever eradicate the lake trout from Yellowstone Lake, but maybe they can keep the menace at bay.  Let's hope so.

Yellowstone River

I do not consider myself to be an environmentalist, nor am I a naturalist who would always champion the native species over the non-native.  Doing so would make me a hypocrite.  For you see, I live near and love fishing the Bow River for it's non-native rainbow and brown trout.  And were it not for the building of a dam or two, which mitigated spring flooding and stabilized both rate of flow and water temperature (yes good things can come from those damn dams), as well as the City of Calgary pumping it's secondary treated waste water directly into the river, flooding it with nutrients in the form of phosphates (basically steroids for plants), the Bow River would still be what it once was...just another barren, glacial, northern freestone river prone to spring flooding from snowmelt and home to a few stunted rocky mountain whitefish and spiney sticlebacks.  Yippee!  So why would I take up the banner to save native Yellowstone cutts you might ask?  Good question.  King Solomon wrote, three thousand years ago, "there is no new thing under the sun" and he was right.  For as long as man has roamed this earth, his hand has spread it's greedy fat fingers out and touched virtually all of the habitable places that exist, forever altering the landscape.  In a world of increasing urbanization, and with the extraction of raw materials to satisfy the appetite of this "urban lifestyle", there are increasingly fewer places that remain pristine.  The reality, on this continent, is it's just the national parks of North America and the far north that can even begin to call themselves pristine anymore.  Yellowstone is one of those places, and the cutthroat that are unique to this park and call it's rivers and lakes home, are inextricably intertwined with this park's pristine state.  Lose them, and Yellowstone begins to lose it's luster.      I believe we must continue to fight in order to preserve some remnant of our natural history.  Yellowstone is a visual spectacle of the past, let's keep it that way.  Save the cutthroat...Bonk a laker!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Well I fish alone..ya ya...with nobody else

Solo again.  This happens more often than not lately.  My once dependable and eager fishing partners have become encumbered with the worldly responsibilities that they once were all too happy to cast off, leaving them unable to wet a line yet again.  That's alright though, this malady has yet to strike me or slow me down, and so I let the rush of early run-off push me further down towards the confluence of this usually low water river to it's confluence with the bow.  I plan to fish above it's mouth as the  afternoon wanes, in the clearer waters of the bow, looking for rising fish with the setting of the sun.  It's as I am crossing this very spot when I see it for the first time...ever!   A caddis hatch so thick it covers the water completely in places.  I have heard of the mother's day caddis hatches before in places south of here, like Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.  I have never witnessed one myself, and didn't think we had them here...until today.  With the battery in my camera dying on me, I was able to get some pictures of the water and the river's edge where all sorts of messy bug copulation was going on.

Caddis Gang-Bang

Love is in the air

Now one would think with a hatch this big exploding all around one's self, that catching a fish would be easy.  This was not the case today, and the big stinky skunk was in full effect.  I saw several guides float by with their clients as I made cast after cast trying to dredge up a trout.  The ones I knew I spoke with, and they informed me that they were having a slow day as well.  I can't figure out why the trout were not eating.  No rising fish and nothing on the nymphs either.  Still, as I slogged my way upstream, back to the truck, against the flow of all that snow melt, I was happy.  Fishing is the only thing I know or act I  have participated in, that makes me happy even when I fail at it.  Next weekend, however, I am going to kill that $#%$# skunk! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Is it just me, or does fishing on a day when you would normally be at work, make the experience just that much sweeter?  I love long weekends.  One has time to get the work that needs to be done around the house completed, spend time with the family, and then escape to the lake for a day of fishing with your buddy guilt and hassle free.  And so it was this long weekend.  On Saturday I set up the trampoline that my wife purchased online, making not only the wife happy, but also sending my spawn into a fit of glee!

After a quiet Sunday spent with the family, I was set loose to once again hunt down pike along with one of my frequent fishing partners Calvin.  I had only one obstacle to overcome, and that was I needed a heavy duty fly rod (see previous post).  This was rectified rather easily though, thanks to my good friends at Fish Tales Fly Shop, and they procured me a Loomis 9wt to use as a loaner rod while they shipped my broken Sage off to Washington.

I like to fish with Cal, he and I are of the same mind when it comes to fishing.  Neither one of us likes to wander aimlessly around the lake, or spend forever casting in one spot hoping a fish will swim by.  We like to hunt fish.  There is an unspoken but hardfast 10 cast rule in the boat.  If no fish is spotted or caught in 10 casts by either of us, we move.  Finally, after several hours of moving from one good looking spot to another, with only a couple of fish to show for it...we found them.  In the far north of the lake, in one of the larger bays, the pike showed up.  Aggression, fearlessness, vicious takes, everything I love about fishing for pike manifested itself that afternoon and evening.  Double headers were common, so common that we couldn't seem to find the time to take many pictures, but we managed a few shots.

 The Barto Minnow strikes again!

I should mention that Calvin is not a fly fishermen...yet.  He still prefers to sling iron, which always brings about a friendly competition in the boat as to what will catch more fish.  Gear or flies?  I am sad to say, that currently, after one trip gear leads by a slim margin of 3 fish.  I will rectify that next time we fish together.  


Cal with another "minnow"

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good:

On tuesday may the eighth the lakes officially opened for pike.  The government keeps them closed from April the first in order to protect the pike as they spawn.  Good weather was forecast for the weekend, and I was planning to get out and get my first real full day of fishing in this year.  As usual various road blocks had to be navigated to achieve this.  First, we needed to keep a supervisory presence at work this weekend due to some scheduling problems.  Second, the in-laws decided to throw a birthday party for my sister-in-law and invited them into town, (they live 130 miles away), for a barbeque on saturday evening.  I was able to extricate myself from the first one by giving the weekend shift to one of the young men on my crew who really wanted some overtime.  The second one was tougher to solve, but, seven come eleven, luck was on my side when my brother -in-law decided he would take the kids dirt biking all day, thus freeing me up to head out fishing if only for half a day.

The mountains were exceptionally beautiful on the way out this morning.

The Bad:

I woke up early saturday morning to a beautiful spring day, it was warm, sunny, calm and the birds were serenading me as I loaded the truck with boat, motor and rods.  How much more perfect could the day get, I wondered, as my tires hit the highway heading east toward the resevoir?  Well, not more than forty minutes into the drive, my question was answered.  I realized that I had forgot the plug to my boat at home!  Seeing as how I was halfway to the lake, and there was a town not too far from the resevoir, I decided that instead of turning around I would just go and buy one there.  This worked out well, but it was eating up precious fishing time on what was turning out to be a stellar day, (weather wise anyway).  

My "Boat Launch"

Crawling Valley Resevoir

I finally arrived at the lake, began to assemble the boat (it's an inflatable) and load it up with gear when I realized that I had not only forgot to bring the plug, but also the anchor!  Meanwhile there was one of the fiercest hatches of chironimids coming off that I have ever witnessed in my life.  They were crawling over everything including me.  It made me wish that the resevoir had trout in it, but alas, no trout.  Only pike, walleye and whitefish are found here.

 Mmmmmmm, bugs.
The "Beast" with bugs.

 The Ugly:

The fact that I had no anchor concerned me at first, as I like to anchor and cast the fly, rather than troll or drift and cast.  Again, luck seemed to be on my side, as it was still quite calm for a sunny spring day on the prairies and the lack of an anchor didn't seem to be too much of a problem as I began to move around the lake prospecting likely spots for the pike.  I caught a few here and there throughout the afternoon, no pictures were taken of the first few pike of the year as they were not exceptionally large, and I thought more,and bigger fish would come to me as the day progressed.  Just south of where I launch there is a nice bay where, in times past, I have caught some of the largest pike I've seen from this resevoir.  And it was there, as I made my first cast into that bay, where the day really began to unravel.  As I retrieved the fly, I felt the sudden stop and weight, of what I thought could be the first good fish of the day.  I set my hook....hard.  Too hard.  Before I really had time to comprehend what had just happened, I realized that all I had left in my right hand was the cork grip and a short, stubby shaft that used to be an nine and a half foot fly rod.  I remember hearing the "SNAP" as I set my hook, but in my confused state, as I watched my fly, fly line, and most of my rod exit the bay connected to a pike that wanted nothing but to rid itself of a metal lip piercing, it didn't register in my brain that my rod had just exploded.  Once the fog began to lift and I realized just what was happening, I grabbed my fly line in my hand and broke off the fish.  No small feat either as I had thirty pound test leader connected to twenty five pound test wire bite tippet, but break it did.  I never saw the fish, but it felt heavy, both as I set the hook and broke him off.  Thus ended my first real day of fishing this season!  Oh well, you know what they say.  "When you hit rock bottom there are only two ways to go.  Straight up...or sideways".  Here's to looking up!

 The broken rod