Thursday, July 12, 2018

High Water, a Litte Wind, and Hungry Trout

Yesterday afternoon I decided to head out to the Swan River to fish below the dam in the Pacific Park area.  There is some whitewater kayaking that goes on in the stretch of the river so the water levels are often running to high to fish effectively until later in the fall, but I figured I'd give it a shot anyway. When I got to where I could see the river I could tell that it was still quite high, but I held out hope as I walked down to the water, then downstream to a very large "hole" where the water is usually flowing slower than the rest of the river.

When I got downstream I could clearly see that the river wasn't raging too bad in this section, so I tied on an 1/8 oz jig head to do a little drift fishing.  I tipped the jig head with a Berkley Power Nymph and began to drift fish. The first couple of casts felt normal, although I was thinking that I might need a bit more weight to get down to the target area or "bite zone" in these high water levels? 

Within two more casts I felt a small tap and set the hook.  The fish almost immediately began talking drag and I wondered what species of fish I may have hooked.  During this time of year I sometimes catch quite large squaw fish, which can be fun to catch, but are nothing other than very large minnows.  It was fighting quite hard and after about 3 minutes I saw the familiar flash of a rainbow trout. 

Yep, I had hooked a nice Swan River Rainbow, my first of the season, and just hoped I could get her in to take a closer look.  After making a few more nice runs, I was able to cradle the nice 18 or so inch trout in my left hand as I removed the jig from her mouth with my right and softly let her swim off unharmed.  I then made another cast and with 4 drifts hooked another fish.  This one just as heavy as the first, but not fighting nearly as hard.  I quickly realized that it was an 18 inch lake trout and I performed the same maneuver to release this fish as well.  After walking upstream a few feet I hooked another fish, although this one was much smaller than the previous two.  A 10 inch cutthroat was released and my catching of fish was over for the day. 

Although I did get a bite or two more, I didn't hook another fish for the rest of the day, which was strange, but what the hey, that's why they call it fishing, right?  3 different species of trout in a couple of hours fishing.  Not too bad.  Even though all of the fish were caught in the first half an hour of fishing for some strange reason?  I've certainly had better days and without question worse, but all in all a good afternoon on the water, I'd say. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

With The Weather Warming, The Trout Fishing Should Start Heating Up

As the spring descends on us all like an old friend that you haven't seen for a while approaching you from the other side of the grocery store, my thoughts are turning to one thing.  Fishing for trout.  I know from experience that the early spring can be a great time to catch some nice trout, but I also know that during the early spring timing is everything, especially when you are talking about river fishing for trout.

You see the trout have been lethargic all winter due to the freezing cold water temperatures and during the spring, as the water temperatures rise, the trout begin to feed quite heavily.  The problem is that rising temperatures also mean rising water levels due to snow melt, and rivers can become high and muddy quite fast.  And high and muddy water make river fishing for trout difficult to impossible, which is where timing comes in.

With any luck you live within close proximity to the rivers you like to fish, so paying attention to the water levels won't be difficult.  Here in Northwest Montana, the rivers are usually very fish-able from late March to late April and even into May sometimes.  Although the exact weeks vary from year to year. I have found that the biggest thing to keep in mind are the air temperatures at night.  I have found that once the air temperatures stop dropping below freezing during the night, the run off will really speed up, which means the rivers will become too high to fish much faster.  When the air temperatures stay below freezing at night, the snow in the mountains will melt much less quickly, thus that water won't be flowing into the rivers quite as fast. 

This is especially true if you are into drift fishing, as I am.  Drift fishing for trout is my favorite activity and the early spring can be quite productive, as long as you get the timing right.  Just remember a few simple tips when it comes to early season trout fishing;  the clearer the water the better, afternoons and evening are often some of the most productive times of the day during the early spring and watch those temperatures at night.  Once they get above freezing, it won't be long until the rivers will become much less suitable to fishing.  

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How Many Fishing Knots Should A Good Fisherman Know How To Tie?

best fishing knot
As a 45 year old man and a person who has been an avid fisherman for almost four decades, it occurred to be a couple of years ago that I more or less know only ONE fishing knot! Many years ago, when I was about 10 years old my grandfather taught me how to tie what I later learned was the improved clinch knot, and this fishing knot had been my go to knot for the entirety of my fishing "career". Now don't get me wrong, the improved clinch knot is a fine fishing knot and has served me well, but the thought occurred to me a few years ago, "shouldn't you know how to tie another knot or two?"

At about the same time that I came to this realization, I was doing some research on new trout fishing techniques and learned that some anglers were using an age old bass fishing technique, but were using it while fishing for trout.  The technique is called "drop shotting"  and it involves using a drop shot rig.  Or more to the point tying a drop shot rig.  Well I quickly found out that my old improved clinch knot simply wasn't going to work in this instance, but rather a Palomar knot was in order when an angler is tying a drop shot rig.  I then also found out that this fishing knot was amazingly easy to tie once it is committed to memory.  Kind of like the improved clinch knot.

Then, I of course thought to myself, "How in Gods name have you gone this long without knowing and tying more than one fishing knot?" So I found a little laminated tool to show me how to tie the fishing knots that I might need while I was fishing.  Although the information that I needed on tying fishing knots is readily available for free on the internet, I wanted something I could carry with me on the water as a reminder of what I had seen on the internet.  The next thing I knew I was tying drop shot rigs and catching trout using said rigs on my favorite trout fishing lakes.  And you know what else?  I now know how to tie a Palomar knot, even without my little "cheat sheet".

I still carry my little cheat sheet in my fishing vest however, just in case a need to tie two pieces of line together (I still need a cheat sheet for a nail knot) or just want a little refresher.  So, to answer the question posted in the title of this post, one knot will due just fine, just as long as you never want to try anything different as far as techniques or strategies are concerned.  Otherwise, knowing at least 3 fishing knots is probably a good idea for most fishermen. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

As The Weather Cools Off The Trout Fishing Is Heating Up. Who Doesnt Love Fall Trout Fishing?

So I headed down to the same are of the Swan River that I fished last week, but this time rather than walking along the bank down to the really big "hole" I decided to wade straight across the river. You see, I know that there is a nice hole on that side of the river as well, which I figured needed a little attention too. And being on my little "mini jig kick" (which I referred to in my last post) you can imagine what my bait of choice was going to be on this particular day.  In case you were wondering, the grainy picture to the right shows you the exact rig.

Once I got across the river and worked my way into casting distance of the hole itself I began to drift fish.After two casts I realized that I needed more weight, so I pinched a single split shot sinker onto my line twelve or so inches above the mini jig.  This did the trick, because I began catching rainbows from 8 to 12 inches every other cast or so.  I even changed my trout worm color to natural and the hungry rainbow didn't mind a bit!  After working my way through the hole I waded down river to the BIG hole.

While the action wasn't as "hot and heavy" as it was upstream I did catch a small trout or two and missed what felt like a very nice one.  I then did exactly what I did the prior week.  I switched from a Powerbait trout worm body to a Powerbait Power Nymph body.  I know, it was just like the prior trip and can you guess what happened? 

Once again within a cast or two I felt the familiar "bump, bump", but then a very heavy pull.  I set the hook and immediately felt the weight of a large fish.  "Oh Jesus", I thought to myself.  I figured that this trout didn't realize that he was hooked because judging by the weight, if he made a run, I was in trouble!  So I kept reeling in slowly and could feel the monster shaking its head back and forth the whole time.  It just wasn't making sense, because a rainbow trout of this weight NEVER behaves like this one was.

I then got the fish close enough to see him and much to my chagrin, it was a lake trout!  A five or six pound lake trout, which on my four foot ultralight rod felt like a monstrosity.  I reeled the big fella in, unhooked him, then sent him on his way.  I then couldn't help but think about was terrible fighters lake trout are!  In hindsight, every one that I have ever caught has been just like this they initially bite, then get hooked, and all but roll over, just waiting to be winched in.  Oh well, it makes for a decent little story and the rainbows made for a nice little day.  All in all a good day on the water without a doubt.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sometimes The Trout Fishing Gods Smile Upon You

For the past few weeks, here in Northwest Montana we have been dealing with a very strange phenomenon.  There are wild fires burning all around us and the smoke from these fires has been literally choking us every afternoon (and even some evenings).  For the past few weeks the air has looked similar to fog, with the difference being that the air smells of a burning camp fire.  It is quite annoying and quite unhealthy, but what are you going to do, right?  You just have to deal with it and wait for cooler weather and/or rain to help stamp out the fires, thus ending the problem.

Well, with a cold front on the way everyone has been quite excited, hoping that the front would bring with it some much needed rain.  While I certainly want nature to give us a hand with the fires, upon hearing this news all I could think was, "I had better get out there and try some trout fishing ahead of this anticipated cold front."  You see, the trout fishing is usually pretty good ahead of cold fronts, so even though I didn't have a ton of time, I headed out for a quick fishing trip.

For most of this fishing season I have been on a mini jig kick, using a 1/32 or 1/16 ounce jig head tipped with a Powerbait product (trout worm, nymph, or mouse tail) as bait on almost all of my trout fishing excursions.   I still drift fish, just like I always have with the difference being the bait.  And while it hasn't been as productive as when I use live worms as my trout bait, it has been plenty successful in it's own right.

So as I worked my way into position at the head of a big hole on the Swan River, I tied on a 1/32 ounce jig, tipped it with a natural colored Powerbait trout worm and began to drift fish.  After a few casts I realized That I needed more weight, so I added a split shot sinker to my line twelve or so inches above my jig.  I continued drift fishing down the hole for the next forty five minuted or so, switching to a pink trout worm and then a white mouse tail without as much as a sniff from an inquisitive trout!

I was getting frustrated, because this RARELY happens to me here in Montana, and was starting to think that getting skunked was a distinct possibility.  "Oh well", I thought to myself as I slipped a Pumpkin/Chartreuse Power Nymph onto my now 1/8 ounce jig head, "let's give the nymph a shot."  Within 2 casts I felt the familiar "tap, tap" that usually means a hungry trout and I set the hook!  My reel immediately started to buzz as the trout ran like an angry bull out of a rodeo shoot.  "This might be a nice one", I thought to myself as I adjusted my drag slightly.

With a few minutes I was admiring and subsequently releasing a very nice 17 inch cutt/bow (which is a rainbow cutthroat hybrid for the uninitiated) and was quite pleased that "the skunk" didn't happen on this particular day.  I made a few more casts, but figured that it was best to 'end on a high note' on this day.  After all, the fishing Gods were kind enough to smile upon me (even though it took whet seemed to be a while), and I was good with that.