|The Madison River in Montana
another guided trip with Bud Lilly's Trout Shop
West Yellowstone, Montana
I'm not sure if I would have called this a late late Spring or an early season of white for the next year, but weather in West Yellowstone, Montana...is well...unpredictable. As we were driving up along highway 20, through Last Chance and Island Park, I asked my wife, Brenda, if she thought that the "rain" looked a little "fluffy" to her. She thought it might be a little slushy also. By the time we hit the Targee Pass going into the Madison Plateau it was definitely snow. Oh well, it was early June. We thought we might see some white stuff.
What we didn't expect was the prediction of perhaps 6 inches of the white during the night...or the power outage in our log cabin heated by electricity. For a while in the restaurant for dinner, I thought my choices might be made for me by the power company. We had several outages during the afternoon and evening...oh well. It's an experience to talk about.
We were headed to Bozeman the next day for Brenda to attend a state convention of the Montana State Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. We would be staying up there for four days but decided to stay over in West Yellowstone to shorten the drive from Twin Falls, ID just a bit. So white stuff or not...power or not, we would be on the road in the morning. It all worked out just fine. The pictures of the snow on this page are from the drive up the Gallatin Valley on the way to Bozeman...and that is as deep as it got. We didn't see any in West. The power was back on in a couple of hours so we didn't end up being Popsicles in the morning as we had feared.
Brenda and I had decided to take a few extra days after her convention and have some fun. Part of that plan was for me to pick up a couple of days of early season fishing. So after the convention we headed back to West Yellowstone and spent a few days in town. We stayed in the Kelly Inn and had a great view of the town (and the sunsets). We could easily walk around town and to and from dinner. We had our requisite internet connections and actually spent some quiet time working. But on Monday...I went fishing.
It is an unpredictable situation as far as the weather, the snow melt and run-off and the temperatures for hatches, but June is a great time of the year in Yellowstone. The flowers are out, the weather is not too dry (usually...but of course, not this particular year) and the animal life in the Park is much better for viewing than in the drier late summer. But that unpredictalbness can catch you in between the rock and the hard place. I was worried as the weather folks kept talking about cold temperatures and thunderstorms.
What one might want to think about is that the Madison and the Snake are both lower in altitude and in different micro-climates than West Yellowstone. So while the weather may say 50 in West, it could be 15 degrees warmer on the Madison or in Box Canyon. Both rivers have their flows managed to some degree by releases from dams. I find that tracking the weather for Ennis is better for the Madison that the weather predictions for West Yellowstone. What one really wants to know is whether the water is clear and the best way to know that is to call Bud Lilly's and ask Dick what the water is like.
When I booked my time through the shop, Dick asked me where I wanted to fish and like before I said it didn't matter to me. I just want to catch fish. I really mean...I have no idea and am not good enough at this art form to know the difference...but he is always kind and pretends not to know those little items and makes a note of "best conditions."
The weather did co-operate with regards to the thunderstorms and the temperatures. We had no rain. We didn't freeze on the water. It was a bit windy, but hey, I learned to cast in the wind (well...sort of).
Like before, I checked in the day before so that they could order the lunch for the next day. We talked briefly about location choices again but decided to leave that up to my guide the next day...so that also meant postponing the fishing license purchase...we could cross the state line and get an Idaho license or pick up the Montana version depending on where we would be putting the boat in.
Monday morning I was at the shop with my gear and met JR again. It was good to hook up with him again. He is an excellent match for me. He puts up with my amateurish casting and takes the time to show me tricks and techniques. Because of the huge days we had last year, fishing with him on the oars gave me a great deal of confidence. We talked a bit and decided that the Madison, although it was a little low, was as good a choice as any. We loaded up the gear (which mostly consisted of lunch) and headed down the road, past the lakes and back to Lyon's to put it.
Because the fishing has been a little slow lately, the boat traffic on the river was light...in fact we were the first boat to show up. We didn't have to hurry as any rise in the temperature would only help us.
Just like last year...prepping the boat for launch was easy (for me)...launching was easy (for me)...rigging the rod was a snap (for me)...parking was simple too (again...for me). JR did everything...again. Well almost. I did put my rod together.
By the time JR had set up the boat a few more parties had arrived. But still there might have only been 8 or so by the time we left.
We were in the water for a couple of minutes when JR let the anchor down and we reviewed the game plan for the day. We would be starting off with a streamer over a small nymph. That meant more casting and a tighter line.
He pulled up the anchor and we started the ride.
Last year I was nervous as I had never floated a river before. I had not known what to expect. I didn't know if I would be able to catch fish at all. This year I was not as nervous. I was however extremely excited. Last years experience was so great that I just wanted to have a small amount of the greatness back again. I was not going to be disappointed.
The big salmon fly hatch was about a week away, so we didn't have to think about that too much. During the day, JR is watching the water the conditions and changes flies as he feels they might improve the results.
Whereas last year the water was at it's normal mid-season flow, this year and during this time of year, the water was about 2/3 of last year. The fish are therefore situated a bit differently. But there are some edges where the runs are pretty much the same as I remembered them.
JR had me casting dry flies for a part of the day also. That was a challenge that made me a little nervous...my eyes are so bad I wasn't sure if I would be able to see the flies. But it was a moot concern. I could see them fine (setting the hook was not so fine), but I did get to watch fish rise to the flies...oK...I did boat one. Very cool. Thank goodness none were big enough that not catching them did not disappoint me (that seems a bit weird to say).
One of the strange events of day was the extraordinary number of fish (all Whitefish) that struck the poly indicator at the top of the leader. That happened more than a dozen times in the afternoon. Last year we didn't have a single fish do that. We also didn't catch too many whitefish on flies. Our percentage of whities was perhaps only 10%. That could be a function of the amount of time we spent with streamers and dries rather than nymphs only.
JR put the boat in at an island and we had lunch sitting in the grass and watching the water go by. JR waded a bit looking at the Salmonfly nymphs so he could get an idea of when they might be going to start their hatching.
We watched a Bald Eagle soar less than the width of the river from us...I know that the bird is not on the endangered list any longer...but I have been watching them come back to this habitat over the past 30 years and they're still fun to see.
The day was very good too me again. Lots of fish (of course the largest got away again). Tomorrow was going to be different. We would be fishing in Box Canyon on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River. It's a short stretch of water between the Island Park Reservoir and Harriman State Park. A completely different environment than the Madison. I new I was coming back to the Madison in August and JR through that the Box would be a good second day of fishing.
This last picture is not of the Madison area but it was just too pretty to not share. It's from our room at the Many Glacier Hotel in east Glacier National Park. We traveled there after our short stay in West Yellowstone.
|Copyrighted 2007, J. Atchison, Spotted Dog Productions|