Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Fishing’ category

Fishing The Bitterroot River with David Hufman

September 9, 2017

We drove 30 minutes to the Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop in Missoula to meet our guide at 7:00. We met David Hufman and did all the paperwork in the shop and put our rods in his Toyota truck. We drove south about 45 minutes to the Bitterroot River. We thought we were going to fish Clark Fork, but David said the Bitterroot was fishing better. We talked about the fires as we headed toward Lolo National Forest. He said the smoke acted like a cloud cover for the river, keeping it cool and making fishing better. I asked about his beautiful Boulder boat. He said it is the third one he has had. A client had given him this one! He has guided this man on many fishing trips. He is a very wealthy man, now 90 years old, and still comes fishing with him. He had bought the boat and wanted his aid to learn how to use it and to take him fishing. That never quite worked out, and it sat in a shed for two years. One day David got a call from the man’s aid, who said, “David, this is your lucky day. Mr. … is giving you his Boulder boat. He is going to have it shipped to your house.” The drift boat is a light, thin-walled boat that slides easily over rocks.

We learned that David grew up in western Pennsylvania. His best friend moved to Montana and kept telling David he needed to come join him guiding fishing trips. Finally, he came, and now he has been guiding for 18 years. By the time we got to the river we learned David is a bright guy with tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm for his profession. After pushing off into the river, he put tippet and different hoppers on our lines. Then he gave us some instructions on how he wanted us to fish. We told him we were here to fish, but also to learn, and we welcomed any instruction and coaching. You might think we know how to fish, and we do to some extent, but a great guide, like David, is fishing every day. He talks to other professionals, and he spends every day with fishermen and women, talking and watching techniques. He knows where the fish are, what they like to eat and what time the hatches are. Even if you had a boat like this to float the river, we would just start fishing flies we thought might work, but we would likely make the wrong choices, the wrong colors or the wrong presentation. We would probably catch some fish, but we would not have the kind of day we were about to have.

David coached constantly, in a soft, positive manner all day. It was like going to a clinic with a great expert. We started catching fish from the start – big, strong cutthroats, rainbows and a cutbow, which is a cross of the two. The biggest fish of the day was a 19-incher Kelly caught. He almost made the 20/20 club, where you catch a 20 inch fish with a size 20 fly. That is a very tiny fly! After about an hour and a half the Trico hatch started. These are tiny little flies that hatch, spawn and the males die. David said they must be like cocaine for trout, because the love them, and while feeding on them, they will ignore everything else. We watched a real bug float over feeding fish, and they ignored it.

In one area, they had put old cars on the bank to try to stabilize the river banks. It didn’t work so well, but it makes great cover for fish. It also makes a great place to break your line and lose fish. It doesn’t look like these old car frames will do what they wanted. David said the powerful river moves every year, washing these sandy banks away. In one  area the river will likely go up and over the banks and take an entirely new route.

We have seen feeding trout before, but never like this. Big noses poking out of the water as they sipped Tricos. They were schooled-up in certain areas with 10-15 fish feeding. David called them pods of fish. He could tell the big ones by the size of rings they made in the water. Sometimes you would get a glimpse of the tail or the whole fish sipping tiny Tricos, 3-4mm in size. Looking into the water by the boat, you could see hundreds of dead males floating by. Similar to salmon, they hatch and mate. Then the males die while the females live on. This river is full of food for fish. The trick, and it’s a demanding trick, is to pick out a ring where a fish is feeding and cast the tiny fly one foot above it with absolutely no drag from the line. You have to drop the fly right on the target, not a foot in front or behind. Why would the fish move when the food just keeps coming down the river. You have to drop the tiny fly so gently, it looks like it has a parachute on. The fish then has 100 options, one of which is your fly. If he takes it, you must wait for him to swallow it. He has his big mouth open and if you jerk the fly, it just comes out of his mouth before he has a chance to close. This is a whole, new level of fishing. There were so many fish feeding that we managed to catch some of them. Big, powerful, hard-fighting fish that and take 15 minutes to land. Even then it takes an expert lunge of the net by David to finally land the fish.

After a while, we went back to hoppers and kept catching fish. We agreed this was the best day of trout fishing we have ever had. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful river with a great guide and coach. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Spotted Bear River

Monday, September 4, 2017

We realized somewhere driving in yesterday that we had not bought fishing licenses, and it was a long, rough drive back to town. Besides, the fly shop would be closed for Labor Day weekend. Well, we would just have to show them our lifetime fishing licenses from Virginia and the yearly license we bought in British Columbia. Then tell them we were just old farts who forgot to get a license when we went to the fly shop.

We drove south toward the Spotted Bear River stopping to take pictures at a beautiful overlook of the South Branch of the Flathead River. The big river was down considerably, as was the reservoir. They haven’t had rain measurable rain for 78 days. We saw a sign for a ranger station and wondered if they would sell a license. As we parked in front of the station, I checked for a wifi and found they had one. If they didn’t sell it, we could go online and get one.

We walked in and met Terry He was retired from the Forestry Service, but had come in to help while others were busy fighting four fires. I thought about Jane-Ashley’s warning about not getting trapped by a fire. We were certainly in an area where you could get trapped. There is only one way out. Well, you can go back on either side of the reservoir. The fires were on the other sides of the mountains. I was comforted knowing this busy ranger station was working hard to fight the fires. If this valley was in danger, they would clear us out.

Terry apologized for being slow, which he wasn’t. He had to answer the phone as he went online to fill out the licenses for us, along with a conservation fee and an ALS number. Then he pulled out a map and marked areas to fish Spotted Bear. We thought about how lucky we were to stumble upon this guy.

Kelly’s friend, JC Hanks, had gone in at mile 1, telling us it was a 45 minute hike in. We passed that one and went to the next at mile 7. The bumpy road stopped at a cliff overlooking the river. This was a perfect area to camp with a fire ring and a beautiful overlook of the river. There was a lightly-traveled trail going in both directions, but we didn’t know if either went to the river. After walking it a bit, we opted to try another easier spot. That made it the falls, behind a horse and mule staging area. There were some nice-looking, fit mules in there. Apparently trail rides were a popular thing here. It’s also hunting season, and I’m sure they use these animals to ride into remote areas. My GPS showed trails going everywhere for miles and miles long after the roads stop.

The falls were not really a waterfall as I had expected, but they were beautiful with clear, bluish water rushing over, around and through solid rock. One pool in the middle looked like a swimming pool. In another there were probably 200 trout, so we started fishing. These had to be stocked trout as I have never seen that many fish in a pool, but we could only entice the little ones to bite. We fished up and down from the falls with minor success. Surely this was one of the most fished areas on the river. You can keep two fish under 12”, but we didn’t find dinner.

Then we went back down and fished behind another campground, another area that is heavily fished. We had the similar results, but it is a gorgeous area where Spotted Bear meets the Flathead. Kelly kept two small fish that wouldn’t be enough to feed two.

Fernie to Hungry Horse Reservoir

September 3, 2017

We got off to a leisurely start. Taking the trash and garbage to the disposal area, we found a man sorting recycling into different bags. Kelly struck up a conversation with this lean gentleman, probably in his 60’s named Holmes. He is an retired engineer, who had to go back to work because his pension wasn’t doing well enough. He comes to sort recycling, takes it to a center and then gives the proceeds to a senior center charity.  Once I told him I was from Charlottesville, like everyone else we meet, he went on about how we were still fighting the civil war. I had to set him straight. He is from Newfoundland, and talked extensively about its politics and history. I told him that is where I would like to go next summer. We probably talked for an hour before we left. It would have great to talk more over cocktails as he is s very interesting guy with a great sense of humor.

Then we went by Elk River Guiding Company to buy some flies. They have a huge collection of beautiful flies. Leah helped us and told us to stop at Larry’s Fly Shop in Columbia Falls, which is owned by a girl named Hillary, and to tell her hi. We thanked her, headed out and picked up a Starbucks coffee for the road.

Smoke clouded the mountains as we drove south toward the border. The grasses were dry and brown. There were only two cars in front of us at the border, and the crossing was easy with a nice young man telling us where the fires were – all over, but we should be OK at Hungry Horse Reservoir.

In Columbia Falls, where there are no falls, we found Larry’s Fly Shop, went in and again bought a few flies. Disappointed Hillary wasn’t there, we talked to a nice fellow who gave us some good information. Spotted Bear River was really low, but the Flathead was fishing good. We thanked him and after crossing the dam, drove a rough road for 45 miles.

We found a beautiful campsite next to the reservoir. Once we got set up, we took a drink down to the lake as the sun sunk behind the mountains. The water was crystal clear as small fish broke the surface. To the south was a huge grassy plain. I searched for bears or elk, but didn’t see any. It’s a little spooky, but cool at the same time to be in a remote place all by yourself with bear warning signs all around. As the evening went on, a full moon lit the smokey sky.

Fishing The Elk River

September 2, 2017

Fernie RV Resort is in a perfect location. It sits next to the Elk River, but is only a block or two from a shopping center. We decided to fish the Elk today, although we don’t have a boat and don’t really know where to fish it. We drove down to the bridge, where there are four good pools. We caught three nice fish in the first pool. It is Labor Day weekend, so people came in to fish all the holes below us. Fernie is a busy place anyway, but it is really busy on Labor Day weekend.

We went back to camp, fixed a sandwich, then went behind the campground to explore the river. There is a great bike trail running along the river for a long way. Someone also said it runs through town. There are a lot of bikes and bike riders here. At 92 degrees, people were swimming in one big pool. That takes a hearty person, because it is very cold. Wading it to fish was cold. We found a spot that had four good pools and worked them hard for three or four hours. We caught enough to keep it interesting, but as Nate had said, it was a little slow, but any day you can fish a beautiful river is a good one.

We were tired from wading the strong currents and walking over big, round rocks. Back at camp, we did laundry in their excellent facility, took showers and looked at where we are going next – Crossover Campground in Montana, about a five-hour drive. We reread the letter a friend of Kelly’s, JC Hanks, had written. He has fished this area a lot and had some great recommendations. Sounds like it is right up our alley. It is very remote, probably no cell phone coverage and certainly no WIFI. Hopefully there are no fires and the fish are “bit’n”.

Paul and Leah and his staff at Elk River Guiding Company and Fly Shop have been very helpful. It’s a great shop.

Skookumchuck Creek Day 2

August 29, 2017

Driving 45 K up a very dusty gravel road, we stopped above where Buhl Creek comes into the Skook. It is truly a creek there, but still bigger than many of the trout streams we are used to fishing in Virginia. Kelly got out to check out the stream at the bridge. There were two heavy pieces of equipment removing a temporary bridge and five men on the ground. Two men came over to Kelly as I watched from the truck. Surely they were going to tell him to get off the bridge, but the foreman, Dean, was telling him where to fish. They walked up the road and motioned me to drive up. I pulled to a stop in front of them on the near side of the bridge.

Dean is the project supervisor and lives in British Columbia 8 months of the year and 4 months in Nova Scotia. You can’t do any better than that! He pulled a 30ft trailer up that road to stay in while the project was being done. This work is paid for by the Canadian government, purely for recreation purposes, hunting and fishing. Bow season will start in a week. They have seen lots of elk, but no bears. Grizzly hunting has been banned in this area, but Dean thinks that is a mistake. He thinks they will multiply quickly. Needing a lot of range, they will have to move into populated areas to find food.

We asked about the roads and where to go, and he pulled out his iPhone, showing us an app called IHunter. You have to download the area you are hunting or fishing in, but then your phone works as a GPS. I will get it tomorrow! We thanked Dean profusely, drove around the corner and parked. We fished upstream for five hours until we were starving and thirsty. It was a perfect day. The river was gorgeous, crystal clear, and the fish were bit’n. That is a reference to Kelly’s book about our last fishing trip across Canada in 2013, “If The Fish are Bit’n”, on sale at Amazon. Most of the fish were small, but some were good eating size. You are not allowed to keep any fish on the Skook, and we didn’t. I am sure many people do keep them. In heavily traffic areas, there are no fish, or few fish. After eating something, we drove back down the dusty road, waving to Dean as we passed, and giving him the thumbs up. He smiled and waved back from the other side of the bridge. We drove down a side road to the stream. It was obvious a lot of people go to this spot. We fished a huge, beautiful pool, but only caught one small trout.

An hour of driving that bumpy, dusty road will fray your nerves. The road comes to an incredible overlook of Columbia Lake with marshes surrounding it. Huge mountains provide the backdrop. I wanted to stop here and take some pictures, but smoke filled the air. Fires surround the area. One is on the Kootenay north of us, one to the west and to the south are fires in Wyoming, where we are headed next week. I have not seen rain since I left Columbus, Ohio on a rainy morning, July 10th. Indiana had beautiful, green fields, but they were watering the fields. Everywhere else I have been has been incredibly dry. Central Oregon was the worst. Not getting any news, I have no idea if there are fires there. I left that beautiful area because of 112 degree days. British Columbia is really suffering from the fires.

Back at camp tired, but quite happy, we fixed a drink and drove down to the “Cocktail Area” beside the Kootenay River. A man was walking his dogs and throwing a frisbee into the river for one of them. We said hi, and he came over to talk. His name is Kelly also. He is from this area and told us about the “Char” in the Kootenay that are a cross between a salmon and rainbow trout. You can keep one, but it has to be over 36”. He seemed quite happy we had come here to fish despite the smoke and fires. Hunting and fishing bring money to an area that has little industry but logging. Even if you don’t hunt and fish, this is an incredible place where two great rivers cross and huge mountains loom all around. The whole world goes to Banff and Jasper just the other side of these mountains. Where we stayed at the great La Beausoleil B&B in Golden, is only 186K away. While we were there with our wives, we took a boat tour of the Columbia Marsh just south of Golden, also a beautiful area.


Fishing Skookumchuck Creek

August 28, 2017

We packed up and moved camp from Cranbrook over to Canal Flats. Stopping at Rick’s Meats and Sausages, we bought a sub for lunch, bacon, a little jerkey, bacon, turkey and cheese. It’s not a long drive, so in about an hour we checked into Kootenay River RV Resort. The owner is a man in his 40’s named Kelly. A gregarious guy, he told us all about Canal Flats, where to get groceries and about the Kootenay River. He didn’t know a lot about the fishing, but he called a man named Dave. While we were setting up camp, a man in a big, white truck drove up and introduced himself as Dave. He has lived here all his life and loves to hunt and fish. He lives up on the mountain behind us. Elk used to be a lot more plentiful here, but the wolves and cougars have thinned them out. We have special regs permits for the Skookumchuck for the next two days, so that’s what we are doing, but Dave told us about other great streams in the area and a couple of high lakes. He told stories about the huge numbers of fish he used to see here. It was great listening to his stories, and what a nice guy to come in to give us all this information. We thanked him profusely.

Canal Flats is the origin of the Columbia River. It pops up out of the ground, flows into Columbia Lake, then exits as a river, runs north for hundreds of miles, makes a big turn, running back south through British Columbia, exiting through Castlegar just a hundred miles away before exiting Canada. It is the #1 fishing river in British Columbia and an incredible river. Columbia Lake is gorgeous with huge Rocky Mountains behind it. The big, powerful Kootenay River crosses right next to the Columbia.

We drove the 39kms up and across the mountain to the Skookumchuck (The Skook). It’s Monday, so we didn’t expect to see many fishermen, but we were wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t have written that blog, fishacrosscanada. There are only a few places you can get to the Skook, and all of those places are getting a lot of pressure. We caught beautiful cutthroat trout about like we did on St. Mary’s. The water is pretty low, and crystal clear. Places looked like they might be a foot or so deep, but were up to your waist or chest. We only had a few hours to fish and were still tired from fishing all day yesterday. We quit at about 5:00 and started the long, bumpy drive back to camp. We will work harder tomorrow.

Fishing St. Mary’s River

Sunday, August 27, 2017

We fished St. Mary’s River from the first bridge to the second, probably the most fished section of the river. It takes at least an hour to get to the bridge from Jimsmith Provincial Park, a wonderful park and campground. A fellow and was camped by the river on the near side of the bridge. His little girl, maybe 4 years old, was lying on the top of the cab of the truck when we drove up. We talked about the river, the fishing and where everyone was going. He had just moved from Golden, where he took people heliskiing. He showed us an old bamboo fly rod he had picked up. It was a beauty that had been well-used. Someone had driven their car onto the gravel next to the river. Then they must have thought the water was shallow enough to cross, but it wasn’t. Their car was stuck in the river, surely ruined. The new name for this spot is now The Carpool:}

By the time we got geared up, it was 11:00. We didn’t do anything for the first 45 minutes. The St. Mary’s is known for dry fly fishing, but they didn’t seem to be working, or maybe this area has been fished out, despite the law that you can’t keep fish. The reputation for cutthroat trout is they will hit anything, but this didn’t seem to be the case today. Then i caught two very nice trout on a black grasshopper. Our usual strategy is for one of us to fish dry flies while the other fishes underneath. I stuck with the grasshopper for almost two hours with little luck while Kelly started catching a fair number of fish on a dry fly. I switched at a big pool to one of the beautiful stone flies that Rod tied. That was the ticket. As usual, Kelly caught more fish on the day, but I was back in the game. In one gorgeous pool, probably a bull trout hit the stone fly like a ton of bricks. All I did was get a feel of how big he was before he broke the 4-lb test tippet.

When you fish this river, you know you are not in Disneyland. Every corner we walked around, we were conscious of what might be around the bend. On long gravel bars, we scanned for possible bears, elk, cougars or wolves. It’s not like we were scared, but more alert as we walked further upstream. by 4:30, we began to wonder where the bridge was, or if there really was a bridge, or could we plow our way through woods to the road. Finally, we passed up some very nice pools, and walked upstream in search of a bridge. Soon enough we found a dry wash that gave us a clear track to the road. Whew! It was still a 40 minute walk back to the truck, and we were tired and sore when we got there. After a 75-minute drive back to Jimsmith, we crashed on the couch. It was a good day, but we are not as fit as we were four years ago when we fished this beautiful river.

Fishing The Granby River


Granby River

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Although the Granby is very low and temperatures are in the 90’s, we decided to give it a try. In the first three holes we saw fish rising, one coming all the way out of the water, so we were inspired to keep at it. In two of those holes I got my fly caught, waiting while Kelly fished around my line. He caught a few fish and kept one. Unfortunately, those were the only fishable holes for the next mile. By the time we got to the bridge, we caught up with two other fishermen, who kept moving ahead of us, obviously scared we would jump ahead.

We drove up to the top and fished for a while. I didn’t find anything, although the river and scenery are beautiful. It is tough to walk on those big, round rocks and tougher in the water when they are covered by a slippery film.

Then we drove back downstream where Kelly cleaned the two fish he kept. There were a couple of big pools, so we fished those. Kelly had the right fly on and caught some small, but hard-fighting trout. Despite changing flies a number of times, I only got one strike all day, and I missed him. Tired after a full day of walking the stream, we headed back to Grand Forks.

As we were having drinks and getting dinner ready, we noticed a crowd over at a dirt bike track in this municipal park. We walked over, finding kids of all ages, dressed in all kinds bicycle gear and helmets, mothers and fathers helping, announcing and running a very well-organized event. It was a blast standing by the rail and taking pictures. What a great track and a wonderful opportunity in this little town.

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The next morning we walked downtown (3 blocks away) to Yakky Jacquie’s for breakfast. Rated the best in town, it lived up to its reputation – great omelet, great coffee, great people.


Fishing Rogue River With Steve Crisler?

July 20, 2017

I met Steve at 5 am at Highway Products. I thought he was getting a license and he thought I was, so we had to wait two hours until Wallmart opened at 7:00. However we had a nice breakfast and I got to meet the nicest girl at Walmart  I bought a year’s fishing license and salmon/steelhead something or other for $144 and we were off.

Steve did a great job of explaining the six rods he had, how they worked and how we would fish before we left the landing. I could have been listening to Gordon Sutton. He is 32 years old and very nice guy. We set out and it was very slow, catching a few small trout, mostly on the two salmon egg spinning rigs. I was interested in how he was able to work this nice boat. Then we hooked the big one in between two rapids with some trees in the middle. Steve said you have to horse him. “Don’t let him get down stream from you”. With constant coaching and great oarsmanship on the Pavati drift boat, we managed to net a huge 32 pound King Salmon, took some pictures and then set him free.

We caught a few more little ones, but we were getting into the heat of the day now – all my fault for not getting the license earlier. We fished one hole particularly hard, but it didn’t happen. The salmon run is early, and really heats up in October. Last October Steve and two clients caught 66 in one day. I love the boat and would love a half day lesson on how to handle it.

Back at Highway Products I bought two cleats to go on the Headache rack and had them delivered, and I returned a tool they left in my truck. I had lunch back at the trailer, but it was oppressively hot! I took a half-hour nap and woke up groggy and sweating. I didn’t care how cold that river was, I was going in! Changing into my bathing suit, I walked across the field, down a path to the river. It’s cold, very cold! It comes out of the bottom of Lost Creek Reservoir and is 49 degrees. It is also running fast, maybe 8 miles an hour. This is not a river you mess around with. You could lose your life here. Steve has pulled two bodies out of the river. I registered all that, but it was hot, very hot, so I walked into the river and its slippery, round rocks. Up to my knees, I stopped and reconsidered. Still hot, I picked up some water and wet my hair and head. After walking around a bit, I finally took the plunge. It was very cold, but I was at last relieved. After a minute or two, I did the vertical plunge again. I got out and walked along the path beside the river. Huge blackberry bushes lined the path, and they were ripe with berries. I ate my way along to the north. A bike trail goes for 30 miles through the little towns along the river. I turned around and walked to the other end of the park.

After showering and shaving, I went to the Rogue City Library. This is a very nice library! With music and videos and a spacious book collection. While my computer updated, I perused the books looking for fishing this area. I tried the computer, but you had to have a card. Before I could think about it, a lady warned me they were closing in 10 minutes. Meanwhile my operating system was in the middle of an update that would take 15 minutes! Somehow it managed to finish at 7:00. Around the corner, I found a convenience store that had some Yellow Tail Shiraz. Since Jim Batten liked it, I bought some and headed home for dinner and a glass of wine. it was a good day.

Hidden Valley

As usual, click on any picture to enlarge it.

Hidden Valley is a very special place in the National Forest in beautiful Bath County, Virginia. Miles of trails to hike, trout fishing on the Jackson River and a very nice campground. There were beautiful wildflowers everywhere. It is just outside Warm Springs and 4 miles from Hot Springs. There is a B&B right on the river, but I didn’t go inside. Testing our new solar system by Lew Farber at Solar Tech Energy Systems in Naples. Under poor solar conditions, cloudy skies, rain, parked in the trees with a bush hanging over the panels, the system performed great. Seven days with no hookups and no issues! 

I have not seen Kelly so depressed! After losing 5 big trout, he felt like he had lost the touch. I have had plenty of those days, but he doesn’t often lose big fish. What is nice to know is that there are big fish in that river. There is so much pressure from so many fisherman, it is a wonder anything survives, but we see they are well-schooled.