Montana Fish In



Dr. Hugo M. Gibson - September 12, 2011

I'm going to do my best to keep this as short as possible, but I won't make any guarantees it's a fishing story after all.

Friday, July 15th, 7:30ish in the evening I rolled into camp to a warm welcome from Steve (Icemanxxx) and Tim (Tlerm), who had driven all the way from the Kansas City area. More of us were scheduled to arrive as the week went by. That night Steve helped me set up camp. While Steve was helping me, we introduced ourselves to another camper, Doug, who had a drift boat. As it turns out, he was a lurker on FAOL! He invited us to join him at his campsite to tie flies after I was all set up. I first went over to Tim's cabin to chat with him for a while and make some fishing plans for the next morning, and then came back to tie flies with Steve and Doug.

The next morning I was up at 5:30 to get some coffee going for me and Tim. Steve had made the wise choice of sleeping in a bit.

Although the water was a little high, it was still very fishable, and surprisingly clear. I didn't catch any fish that morning, but Tim did land a couple rainbows and a few whitefish. He was only able to fish for about an hour before he had to be back to take his family to Yellowstone for some sight-seeing.

After I had some food in my tummy, Doug invited me and Steve to float with him, an opportunity that we both jumped at! We hauled his boat down to Lyons Bridge, and then took the trailer down to the Windy Point access, about a 4 hour float. Doug had eaten breakfast at the lodge that morning and just happened to overhear a few guides talking about how the fish were holding about six inches from the bank, so as we were rigging up, Doug told us to cast our flies as close to the bank as we could get them.

I tied on a new salmon fly design I came up with after chatting with one of my patients about the salmon fly hatch at Rock Creek the previous year. He was talking about how he'd like to see a salmon fly that sits low in the water like a real salmon fly does. After a few days of trial and error I came up with a fly that I thought would do the trick. I named it the Cynnloch Twizzler, a name Doug and Steve helped me come up with, and a fly that I will put on the FOTW section soon.

While I was rigging up, someone noticed a salmon fly on one of us, Doug tossed it into the water and wouldn't you know it; there was a nice big splash and no more salmon fly directly in front of the boat ramp! I put on stonefly dropper too, but quickly cut it off when I started getting numerous takes on the salmon fly. It didn't take long for me to hook into my first fish of the trip, a nice, hefty brown. Steve, had a few rises too, but just couldn't seem to get a good hook-set on any of them. I also had a lot of takes that I missed, so he wasn't alone.

We pulled off below an island to wade fish the run behind the island that we couldn't float. On my second or third cast I was fast to another really nice brown, and just after that fish, another! Steve headed a bit downstream and had a few fish rise to his fly. And he landed a nice healthy rainbow too.

Doug had missed a few strikes from a fish and told me where it was holding, I made a cast and set the hook on my biggest brown of the trip, it was a solid 20 inches. Perhaps a bit more, but we didn't have a tape to get the exact measurement so it was probably closer to 26 inches! We floated the river again that afternoon with even more fish boated. It was the first day, and already I was having the time of my life! That evening we sat around Doug's picnic table and tied up as many salmon flies as we could. We met Byron and his wife Traci the next morning and made arrangements to fish.

The rest of the week was a blur. We fished from early morning until late evening. One afternoon I took Byron out on Hebgen Lake to try out my float tube. I was unaware that he didn't have chest waders, and he proceeded to find out that you can't use waist high waders in my float tube. He was a good sport about it, and had a good laugh when he ended up with some rather large water balloons around his feet when he climbed out. Neither of us caught fish on that outing.

The fishing above where Cabin Creek, a small creek that runs past the campground, enters the Madison was pretty good early morning and late evening. It was our evening spot after we'd drug ourselves back to camp after fishing all day. The hatch started about 6p.m. and kept on until after dark. We had fish rising here and there every night, and if my memory serves me correctly, we all had hook-ups and landed a few.

Steve, Tim and I also checked out Three Dollar Bridge a few times. There must have been 40 cars in the 3 parking lots, so we decided to head downstream a few miles. The section just above the West Fork Resort looked pretty fishy, so we fished it pretty heavily throughout the week. Tim, Steve, and I all hooked some nice fish wading along the bank using the salmon fly. Byron had a few come up, but no hook-ups. One of Tim's fish was a monster rainbow. He had a measuring tape as was able to get a solid 20 inches out of it, but not before he did some diving for it. He had handed me his camera so I could take a picture of it, and as he began to get a grip on the fish, it jumped out of his hands. He fumbled with it for a few seconds in the air only to let it drop into the river at his feet. In a flash he was up to his biceps in water, grabbing for his fish, which he caught again, with his bare hands just to get a picture. I must say, I was pretty impressed. I'd never seen anyone noodle for a trout before.

Jerry (Forthebirds) and his much prettier other half Carol arrived in style Wednesday morning with his new camper and rig. I chatted with them for a few minutes and made some plans to fish.

Wednesday evening brought the potluck and Byron's wife, Traci's 60th birthday. The food was absolutely incredible! Tracy had outdone herself with a lamb and dumpling stew. Steve conjured up some amazing red beans and rice. The Nelson's cooked up some potatoes. I grilled some venison kabobs, and Jim and his wife provided the salad and ice-cream with the cake. Unbeknownst to Traci, I had my bagpipes along just for her birthday celebration (I also took my fireside pipes, a much smaller and quieter version of the highland pipes, over to their campground the night before for a little entertainment). Traci had baked her own birthday cake in a Dutch oven, and so when she thought it was time to cut the cake I asked her to wait for just a second because I had something to go along with the cake. I hurried around the corner and got them out of my car, fired them up, and came piping around the corner. When I was done with that tune I stopped playing and announced that it was her 29th birthday and asked everyone to join me in singing happy birthday as I played along. It was, as I'm told, quite a hit.

The 2 weight casting contest was next. We all broke out our 2 weight's for a bit of show and test cast, and then decided to go with Tim's 8ft TFO 2wt instead of my 6 footer. Everyone did a pretty good job of casting and they were all within a few feet of Tim's initial long cast. I, however, was able to beat it by a few feet and wound up the victor. Just for giggles we tried my 6 foot rod and we all blew by the long cast almost with ease, which was pretty shocking considering the rod is a full 2 feet shorter. The rest of the evening was spent sitting around the fire talking fishing and watching Jim's wife, Wendy, enjoy her very first smore!

Steve was off Thursday morning at about 4:00 a.m.

Tim had been give free reign to fish for the day so we focused on the water just upstream from the campground. I tied on a CDC emerger and did pretty well bringing a few nice rainbows to the surface to eat. Tim, unfortunately, didn't have the same luck.

Deanna and Neil drove down to meet us, but I never got the message that they were coming and was fishing when they showed up. They waited around for us for a few hours, but we didn't make it back until about 2:00 and they had already left. I found Deanna's note on my windshield. Talk about bummed, but thank you for making the trip down anyway you guys.

That afternoon we had the great pleasure of learning a new method of tying up a flymph. Jim showed us the Leisenring method. I learned a new way to dub nice tapered bodies in the process and how to walk the thread through the hackle in the process. Jim also gave us some pointers of how to fish it, and where to go for the evening hatch. I have to say that I'm in LOVE with the spot he told us about and I know where I'll be next year for the evening hatches. There were fish rising all around us! Jerry was to my right, Tim to my left; it was hard to focus with all the splashes. I foul hooked a cutthroat. It must have missed the fly and gone up over my line because when I finally got it to hand the hook was imbedded in its tail. Then, for the grand finally, I caught a really nice, fat brown.

I would like to thank everyone who graced us with their presence this year. I would also like to acknowledge all the folks we met while we were there. Byron certainly kept us on our toes while introducing everyone we came in contact with to what a FAOL Fish-In was. We should have, ooooooh, 35-40 new members joining in the next few days!

I know there were also several more folks who had planned on coming, but because of Mr. Murphy, weren't able to. Not to worry everyone, the date has been set for next year, July 14th-21st of 2012. I already have my campground reserved, and hopefully I will see you there.

I would also like to extend a very special thank you to the Campfire Lodge. Jim and his wife, Wendy certainly went above and beyond with their hospitality.

Sysadmin Note
The following photos are courtesy of Dr. Hugo Gibson and Friends.

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