When I was dropping Jerry off (forth birds) at his camper near the bridge of Beaver Creek, I told him that I already had the write up done. It would read: We came; we saw, we fished, we caught.
Sitting here staring at that though doesn't seem to do the fish-in justice. I left Saturday morning early, hoping to get to the Campfire Lodge around noon. By the time I arrived my mind was rushing with the possibilities to come. It's nothing but pure torture driving past such fishy looking water without being able to stop to see just how good it is, but I persevered and pulled in to the lodge just a bit later than I wanted to get there. I checked-in in the rain and decided that setting up a tent wasn't exactly in my best interest, so I drove to West Yellowstone to load up on some groceries.
I also stopped in at Jacklin's Fly Shop to pick up some floating line for my 6weight. I'd heard about the "Gulpers" on Hebgen Lake and desperately wanted to give them a go. One of the guides there showed me some of his favorite places on a map, only one of which was within a good driving distance. By the time I got back the rain had let up. I said hello to a few familiar faces; campers who were there last year too whom I'd met then. I unpacked, set up camp and before I knew it, Byron Zuhlsdorf and his bride, Traci had arrived, fresh with his new pontoon boat.
After the initial formalities, they got their camp set up and I talked Byron into setting his toon up and joining me for an evening chasing some of the gulpers.
We found the access the guide at Jacklin's had told me about with relative ease, launched and rowed across the bay to get out of the wind. It was a rather picturesque spot, reeds lining the bank about as far as you could see. There were already fish rising all over the place. One of my first casts drew a rise, but in my excitement, I pulled it away from the fish.
There were some pretty big bugs coming off the water, bigger than anything I had in my box short of the salmon fly patters I carried. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what they were until one landed on my pontoon. They were about a size 6 caddis! In all I had 3 strikes that evening, but I never managed to get a solid hook set.
Byron also had a few strikes, but no solid hook sets. We fished until it was quite late, and then drove back to the lodge to a rather delicious supper that Tracy had conjured up out of seemingly nowhere.
The next morning I went out with Byron to fish the island just upstream from the campground and managed to catch a few small rainbows and one really nice 17 incher. Later that morning, after Jerry arrived we all went down to the section of the river we had such good luck on last year.
It didn't take long for us to start rising fish. I tied on my salmon fly, just because, and had one fish check it out. After frothing the water with it I decided to give a tinsel caddis a try and not three casts in I had a pretty 17 or-so inch brown bending my 4weight. The three of us fished the whole section. Byron caught a few whitefish, I caught a few small browns and one small rainbow, and Jerry caught a few too!
The fishing wasn't quite as good as it was for the 2011 fish-in, but we were at least all catching fish.
That evening Jerry and I went back to Hebgen to give the gulpers another try, only this time, I actually caught a few. They may have only been four or five inches at best, but I caught a few. I'm sure we would have done better if we'd been using droppers too, but we were having fun anyway.
The next morning found us fishing the all familiar stretch that we have come to love so much. We caught a few fish each. Byron had decided to try fishing across the river from us on a gravel bar that a guide had stopped on the day before and fished circles around us. Jerry and I never saw him, but he caught a few fish as well.
Traci, the wonderful camp cook that she is, had dinner ready for us again when we got back, and as usual, it was pretty dad-gum good!
Tuesday and Wednesday were much of the same. We had the potluck on Wednesday evening, Traci again being the star of the meal. And her desserts, holy-moly! I'm not going to even try to explain, you'll just have to show up next year to experience it for yourself.
I don't know how the evening got so late, but by the time I was able to get my pipes out, it was quiet hour, so rather than blast everyone out of their sleeping bags; I brought my small pipes and played a few tunes here and there. I did however play a few times during the week just to entertain/annoy those who were within earshot, and it seems to rave reviews.
Jerry and I floated the river in our pontoons from three dollar bridge to Lyon's Bridge. It was a great float. I caught a few small browns, Jerry did too, and we had the pleasure of watching a fisherman directly across the river from us land an absolute monster of a fish; the kind of fish that makes you think twice about swimming in the water.
Before we put-in, we stopped at Kelly Gallop's place to ask if we could put-in at his site. His first question was how experienced we were. Neither of us had much moving water experience, so he advised against it (probably saving our lives in doing so), taking into consideration that it was the steepest gradient of the river and we would probably serve ourselves well to put in lower down at the bridge, and then proceeded to give us some free tips on paddling and floating the river (invaluable by-the-way, thank you, Kelly).
Kelly went on to tell us a few stories about some of his floats on that section and then went on to say that pontoon boats are amazingly stable, in fact, they were so stable, that he wouldn't hesitate to float the section of the river he dissuaded us from floating, while blindfolded without oars! That was a feat that Jerry and I entertained challenging him to when we were passing his place again after our float. The first mile or so was pretty white knuckle stuff, and after floating that, I don't think I even want to know what he considers hard to paddle after experiencing some of what we did.
That evening my wife, Danelle, son, Cynnloch, step-son, Bryson, and my brother, Donald arrived for the remainder of the week.
Byron and Traci left kicking and screaming Friday morning, threatening to be back next year, I triple dog dared them!
I didn't get much fishing in after that, I was on babysitting duty, an easy task considering that my one-year-old entertained himself with the handle of my 6weight for about four hours! All I had to do was push down on it occasionally and make the reel sound like it was being spooled by a big fish. Heck, he even reeled when I'd make the Zzzzzzzzzzzzz sound.
I got lunch cooked while everyone else fished. My brother had the hot rod for the rest of the trip, well, him and Jerry that is.
On Saturday I spent the day with my wife and Bryson in Yellowstone. Donald and Jerry fished Beaver Creek and Jerry caught a few stunningly beautiful rainbows.
Sunday we fished Beaver Creek again on our way out, that was some of the clearest water I've ever seen. I almost thought I was in New Zealand it was so clear. Donald caught a nice rainbow on one of his first casts; I had a few come up to my fly, but didn't have any takers. I can't remember if Jerry caught any, well, now that I'm thinking, I'm pretty sure he did have one or two on at least.
After we parted ways, Donald and I stopped off at the Wolf Creek Bridge on the Missouri to cast tiny caddis flies to big trout. But, since that wasn't part of the 'fish-in' I can't tell you anything about it…sorry.
It was another fantastic Montana Fish-In. We all seemed to have a wonderful time. The fishing was pretty good, we all caught fish, the food was even better the company though was outstanding!
Jerry said it best when he said, "You don't have to have a lot of people to have a good fish-in."
We hope to see you next year. I'm thinking of moving the dates up a few weeks, so stay tuned for more info on the Montana Fish-in 2013.