THE ANNUAL TRIP
A Tradition of Fun!
Which is the essence of Fly Fishing
Here in my home state of Montana, we are blessed for our untold miles of Blue- Ribbon Trout streams. Every year fly anglers come from across the country and around the world to fish the fabled waters of Montana and test their skills on our various trout species.
Much of what I write often deals with the history, fly patterns and technical aspects of fly fishing for trout. However, I enjoy fly fishing for any species of fish which will eat a fly.
Therefore, I am going to relate a story about an annual trip taken every year since 1986 and is a serious tradition of fun. Every year between late May and mid-June a group of us gather to travel from Livingston Montana to Colstrip Montana which is approximately 237 miles east. Over year the size and make up of the group has varied except for myself and my fishing partner Paul Gates, though the last few years Neil Travis the editor of this publication has joined us.
As for the length of the trip it also varies from one to three days depending the everyone’s schedule.
The destination of the annual trip lies on the outskirts of the town of Colstrip and is a smallish lake that contains Bluegill, Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Walleye and Northern Pike. Another fine feature of this lake is that only non-motorized craft are allowed except for electric trolling motors, therefore our use of float tubes is both safe and pleasant.
A nice Crappie to the fly
The purpose of the trip is to fish with top-water flies and the main target has always been the Bluegills. Throughout the years our knowledge of the fisheries, good luck and the providence of God allowed us to choose the proper dates where the Bluegills were the most active 85% of the time.
Throughout the years, we have always managed to take Bass, Crappie’s and even smaller Northern Pike on top-water imitations.
The standard tackle of choice is a four-weight fly rod with a floating line, with a nine-foot 4X leader. On occasion when the winds are disagreeable, we will switch to a six-weight system.
Bass, victim of the Yellow Foam Spider
Though we carry an assortment of top water flies along with streamers, woolly bugger, damsel nymphs, damsel adults, callibaetis and midge imitations, the primary and most effective pattern has been a yellow foam type spider.
The time period for the trip is carefully chosen as to find the Bluegills during their annual spawning cycle, when they are in shallow water and extremely aggressive and there are few fish that are more fun on a four-weight fly rod than good sized aggressive Blue Gills. This fun fishing, there is seldom any problem solving or technical fishing methods or theories to work out and with the diversity of species we are well entertained and thoroughly enjoy the outing. At an early age I included my son Ryan on this annual trip and two years ago he returned with his two sons and we introduced them to a day of fun fishing, thus another generation has joined the fun.
Grandson, Hunter with his first Crappie.
Grandson, Skyler with a small fly caught Bass
FAOL Editor, Neil Travis enjoying a day of fun.
The biggest problem we might face on any given day, besides wind issues, is that the lake has a decent population of Northern Pike and on certain days some of the small pike seem to enjoy a Yellow Foam Spider, and these encounters normally end with the angler being bitten off and losing the imitation.
If this occurs too often, we simply add a short tippet section of American Knotable Fishing Wire, none of the other species are bothered by it, you will still catch plenty of fish and not lose flies to the sharp teeth of the Northern Pike.
Most of the Northern Pike we catch are of the smaller variety known as “hammer handles”, but on occasion we hook a much larger Northern and on a four-weight fly rod it can be an interesting engagement where you often wonder “who is going to land who”! These types of incidents just add to the fun of the day and help to those special memories that make any day on the water special.
The following is a photo of my favorite pattern which more than any other has accounted for most of the fish over the years, its simple, yet effective, therefore I have found no reason to change or enhance it!
The Yellow Foam Spider
Selection of various surface flies that may be used.
The Royal Worm, I also tie this pattern in Yellow.
Everyone needs a couple of fun fishing days a year, so go find your spot whether it is for trout, warmwater or saltwater and start your own fun tradition, if you already haven’t done so.
Enjoy & Good Fishin’