the fishing life...
 
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Bitterroot bend
We planned to leave the Yakima valley under pretenses of foul incoming weather, so when we woke up to blue skies and soft pillowed clouds I was more than agitated that we wouldn’t take advantage of the weather on the stream.  I kept asking myself, why are we leaving this?  We have no itinerary, we don’t need to be anywhere other than where we want to be and if fall, winter, and spring in Washington had taught me anything it was that if God or Buddha gives you sunshine you gorge yourself on it till your pooping starburst.

Then I remembered we had months to fish and while I would like nothing more than to ransack the Yakima for a couple hours the health of the trip depended on us getting the hell out of there.  I needed to quit thinking of myself and remember that there were other people on this trip as well.  So we packed up, tidied ship, and set sail for Montana, after all Montana is not a bad place to find yourself heading. 

Plus on the way I listened to a handful of Stuff You Should Know podcasts and learned about the black death, volcanoes, tickling, and stagflation.  4 things I had always wanted to know more about, but had never found the time (making better use of my time is also something I have always wanted to do...)  For example, when an economy experiences high inflation, slow job growth, and high unemployment it results in what is termed stagflation.  It’s a circling the drain sort of situation that perpetuates a seemingly inescapable downward economic spiral.  Prices keep rising, job growth keeps slowing, business can’t hire.  There, now you know what I know.

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Nice run
Damn it was good to see Montana valley’s again.  From the bases of geometrically shaped peaks to wide open expanses large enough to swallow a hundred football fields end to end there wanders the Bitterroot. We arrived in Hamilton with enough daylight to scout the stream a bit and make plans for the next day’s ascent into the river.  Skwala’s seemed a bit sparser, and I suppose it made sense since the temperatures were several degrees cooler here.  Snow several feet thick still hugged the banks in shaded sections.

Giving the water and fish time to warm up a bit I waited until noon to get on the stream.  I went for a run on forest service road 736, however when I got there I realized I had everything I owned with me (yep I can fit everything I own into the back of one jeep…almost) so I turned my run into a mountain bike.  After 30 minutes or so I hit snow line but with the melt and compaction from sun and snowmobiles I was able to continue riding all the way to the canyon creek trail head.  Then with blue skies and promises of grand views just beyond, I continued on by trail. 
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Everything I own...
You may think it is crazy, and maybe it is, but in addition to cottonwoods and willows, most big streams we fish are lined with road.  Cars zoom by.  Truckers honk with approval.  I nod.  To be up, back in the mountains away from all things motor, where a walking presence is still enough to alert Jays to alarm and leapfrog you till you’ve left their home, I am replenished.  I got hyper and rifled myself back down the mountain, the sun was high, and the stream was waiting.  Two seconds later I was on my ass.  Oh yeah, ice.
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Willows turning color
The skwala action didn’t really get going until 4 or 5 and even then I didn’t see much feeding take place.  I noticed a fair amount of adults on the water, but very, very few fish taking them.  They were taking something else.  Something I couldn’t see, and something I was unable to figure out.  I stubbornly fished several skwala patterns for most of the day and landed one rainbow.  When I got too frustrated, I would switch and nymph for a bit and immediately hook into a bow or whitey.  I suppose you can’t force something if it isn’t there.
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Arm-fish photo 1
The second day I was determined just to catch fish.  I headed out early, not waiting for the sun or the warmth it brought.  I wanted the maximum amount of time on the river.  I entered the stream with the mindset that I was going to work fast and cover a lot of stream.  Two hours later I hadn’t made it more than a hundred yards from the car, and I was fishing the same stubborn skwala pattern as the day before.  Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a fisherman is to land a fish within the first ten minutes of entering the water.  I hooked into a rogue bow early and it threw off my entire game plan.
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Arm-fish photo 2
I missed my folks that second day, we were going to meet on the river, but I went up stream and they went down.  I guess it gave me time to think, about the future, about work, about where I wanted to be, and of course about what the hell these fish were taking.  Preoccupied, with thought, I managed to work a good amount of river.  A mile or so from the car with the sun setting I hooked into my final bitterroot rainbow of the day on a hole that would make a blind noodler drool; a deep, dark product of a blow down and the resulting depression in absence of a rootwad.
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Sunset
As I walked back to the car the sun had sunk below the ridge-line.  I took some photos and followed my nose back to the cold beer waiting for me at the car.
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Sunset too
The next day we would be moving on to the Gallitan.  Again, the weather was great.  Cloud watching from a moving car was as good as it gets.  I listened to a podcast on clouds.
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Listen to the podcast on clouds and this will seem so much more impressive.
 


Comments

Greg @ Eagle Bluff
04/03/2011 09:57

Paul, Paul and sweet little Sheila, We're vicariously fishing with you and enjoying every minute of the fantastic MT. mountain photos, Big Sky cloud formations and the prose. Thanks for sharing. By the way Paul jr. its not the "stuff you should know" to study; its study the unknowns of the unknown that will lead to revelation. Consider reading from philosopher Hassim Taleb's book Black Swan as reference. BTW - you're not missing a thing back here in WI. Go back and fish Armstrong again, and again, and again. Slow down to the speed of real life. Still snowing, rain, and 40 degrees on the Rush, Kinni,and Plum. Greg G. @ Eagle Bluff

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angela
04/18/2011 20:58

"spring in Washington had taught me anything it was that if God or Buddha gives you sunshine you gorge yourself on it till your pooping starburst." favorite quote from my favorite grad

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Greg @ Eagle Bluff
04/27/2011 09:51

Hope you made Bozeman, boyz.

Heard you got outta town Sunday morning. Saw Jon yesterday @ Fleet Farm looking for soft-sided tackle bag for use in the boat. He wrote a wondeful tribute to Jim Humphrey and his 90th year of life for RipRap. Your friend Marty Engle is speaking @ Kiap TU mtg on May 4th. Hope all is well - really enjoyed the kibitz and martini last Thurs.

PS. Nelson French left KRLT to rejoin the MPCA in Duluth. There is likely to be an opening for guy with Paul,Jr. talent at KRLT as interim director will move up and Paul could take the director of conservation job - a thought.

PSS. Sam passed gun safety with one incorrect answer to trick question about ethics and regulation. He answered the ethics way they were looking for the law. I'm proud of that boy - he's got some of the same cloth as you two.

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04/28/2011 10:00

Angela's favorite quote is my favorite quote. It's like David James Duncan run through Tom Robbins. Awesome, as is the entire blog. I miss Montucky.

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03/30/2012 08:45

will come back quickly

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