from Deanna Travis

July 27, 2009


Martinsdale Montana is nearly a ghost town. The store is gone, the Jeep dealer long gone and about the only things still open are the Post Office and the bar.

The good news is Martinsdale is where the Lake (or Reservoir) is. As long as I'm in Montana, you might as well take advantage of the expert guide service offered to you right here on Fly Anglers On Line.

lakeside photo

Yesterday morning Trav and I took off for the Lake. The Montanans' Fishing Guide, Volume II, by Dick Konizeski, originally published in 1970 – 'tho it has been republished since, has wonderful descriptions of nearly every place in Montana which has a fish.

The description from the 'Guide' for Martinsdale Lake (or Reservoir) follows:

"Is accessible (when it's not raining) all the way around by secondary roads, about a mile southeast of Martinsdale off State 294. This is a State Water Board irrigation reservoir of about 450 acres and 120 foot maximum depth with steep drop-offs behind a rock fill W.P.A. dam – in open range country with grassy banks right to the water's edge. There are no recreational facilities here, except for some new pit toilets and a few picnic tables, but its ease of access and good fishing for 10 to 12 inch Rainbow enhance its popularity and it's heavily used during the summer months."

I missed two hits on my fly (more to come), and we saw several fish which were well over the 12 inch class, a couple were at least a couple of pounds. We were the only people fly fishing; everyone else was trolling with spinning gear, but there were fish rising, and the problem was getting the fly to them. Which fly wasn't a problem either. We were literally covered in bugs – in some of the coves around the lake the insects were so thick you could hardly talk.

A couple of years ago the late Al Campbell wrote an article on being a better fly fisher. One of his suggestions was to really take your time. Not to rush right off and start fishing, but to take some time, look around, sit down and observe what is around you. Below is a photo of a spider web on the picnic table where we had our lunch. We already knew what the bug de'jour was, one which is very common on lakes in summer, Callibaetis. You will find an article I wrote on the 'Cals' in the 'Not Quite Entomology' section <a href="/features/nqento/part17.php"> <b>Here</b></a>.  Check the wings on the insects – spinners, which is what was in the air as well. Unfortunately there were not enough of them ON the water to really turn the fish on.

spinners in a web

Aside from that, we had a serious wind problem. I mentioned to Trav I thought the wind was going down. Wrong. It got worse and finally to the point of making it impossible to cast, and I just wasn't up for trolling.

lake from the boat

I do have to mention Trav has an electric motor on the back of the canoe which really makes it a snap to get around on a big piece of water. My shoulder still is not in condition to make me a suitable canoe paddling partner, so that was a terrific solution.

Outside of getting to see a lot of water, the surprising amount of wildlife always amazes me. I know there are American White Pelicans here; a common summer bird in most of this part of the country. We'll include some photos from yesterday's trip so you can see them too. There were flocks of Canada geese with their young, broods of diving ducks, gulls (yes, I know, Montana) and tons of Long-billed Curlew – I think I have seen two before in my whole life – just amazing. As we pulled in closer to shore, we saw something which we know happens; we just don't get to see it. A falcon swooped down and knocked a flying young curlew out of the air. The whole flock scattered, and struck bird fell to the ground and the Peregrine hovered over the dying bird covering it with its wings. All but one of the curlew disappeared. The one constantly harassed the falcon until it finally gave up and left its lunch lying dead with a large hole in its neck. 

Trav beached the canoe and walked up the little hill and got this photo.

dead bird
After he was back in the canoe we were delighted to see another twenty or so of the curlews popping up in the tall grass. He had walked within a few feet of some and they were so well hidden even he didn't spot them. 

There was also a family of Sandhill Cranes who protested when we were still 500 yards away. They turned away from the water and disappeared over a little stubble field hill.

flock of birds on water

The wind finally became too much to fight – I needed to be able to place an accurate cast, and the best I could do was not to wear the fly. Well, not really that bad, but it sure can take the fun out of casting when you have to work that hard.  I did do some sidearm/underhand casting and it helped. Trust me, the last thing a new bride wants to do is clock her new husband with a fly, so I was trying to be careful. [New husbands note: I am good at ducking]

We unloaded the canoe and headed for home about 2:00 pm. We had noted there were folks leaving when we arrived at about 9:00am. Maybe they knew something? We talked about the situation on the lake while driving back, and think we have it  figured out. There probably is a morning 'bite' so to speak, just about sunrise, before the wind comes up. The wind tends to go down with the sun here, so the next time would be just at dusk. With a little luck the spinners would quit dancing over the water and actually be on the water. That should mean fish rising.

There are some other local lakes we want to explore, Trav has lived here for 35 years and this was the 2nd time he had been to Martinsdale Lake. Actually that is one of the problems of living in Montana, there is just too much water, creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes and too little time –  so it is nearly impossible to fish it all.

Stay tuned, we'll try and bring some more to you.


Comment on this article

Archive of Ladyfisher Articles

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice