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Montana Week 1 Trip Report with Jim Roberts

September 08, 2019 9:32 AM | Rob Farris (Administrator)

Montana Week 1 Trip

And so they went; the intrepid TVFF Week 1 group on the annual sojourn to Montana and Yellowstone National Park.  Arriving by plane, motor home, and truck, everyone had a different method but all targeted on a week of exceptional fishing, housing, meals and comradery with other TVFF members.  And what a great and successful week it was.  Am hoping that the Week 2 group has just as much fun.

Todd Hyrn, Marty Loomis, and Rob Farris all joined up and drove up in Marty’s truck with stops at the Owyhee in Eastern Oregon, the South Fork of the Boise river in Idaho, and then the final leg into West Yellowstone. A few fish were caught along the way but a passing storm the day before quieted down the Owyhee, leaving us a full day on the SF of the Boise.  What a terrific and beautiful river with a wide diversity of water, few folks fishing, and great campsites.  Better fishing as Marty hit a few big rainbows while Todd and I were heavily prospecting resulting in my getting three….mountain whitefish.  Now they fight hard and long, but a bit of a disappointment at the net.  But “Whitefish do Matter…” J.  I am still longing to duplicate Marty’s big rainbow in the SF though.

On to the gorgeous West Yellowstone house on Hebgen lake to meet up with Gary Prince, Dave Fontaine, Bob McCollum, and our hosts for the week, Jim Roberts and his nephew Brandon.  And a first night of rigging up for the week based on Jim’s recommendations (he does know his stuff very, very well as you will hear).

We fished a different river or section everyday including the storied Madison River below Quake Lake (a story there if you haven’t been) at Reynolds Pass and $3 Bridge.  Now the Madison has a reputation of great fishing and HARD fighting and fast running rainbows in the heavy current.  Oh yes; they jump, run upstream with screaming reels, and then test your large arbor reels with abrupt U-turns and quick runs downstream in heavy current.  They know the game, and you are in their house.  Not prepared?  Come back another day after you learn how to control them because they take no prisoners.  Great fishing though, and an excellent learning experience on how to find the right seams in fast water, present your flies accordingly with a tight line rig, hook a big rainbow, and then HANG ON…. The views from this river are incredible with the mountains casting of shades of green, yellow, pink and other colors. Fast moving waters with quick changes in structure add to the challenge of fishing but also add to the reward of a fish in the net.

Jim doesn’t coddle you and throws you into the Madison first.  It’s a learning experience (at least for me) that will help you the rest of the week on the other five rivers fished.  So off we went the next day to the Ruby River (a club favorite) with greenish water and many huge browns and rainbows (and yes a few Mountain Whitefish) to be had.  Easily wadeable with everyone catching a good number of large fish; lots of chuckles, grinning, and ribbing to be had at no extra cost as well.  We all enjoyed it so much went back a 2nd day later in the week and caught even more fish that you’ll see in the Event page gallery on Week 1. The flies of choice this year were a red San Juan, zebra midge and prince nymph.

Next up was the stunning and awesome Soda Butte Creek deep in the NE section of Yellowstone.  Yea, it takes 2.5 hours to get there, assuming that the Buffalo aren’t blocking the way, and the “looky-loo” tourists aren’t overcrowding the roads looking for elk and wolves.  A great part of the Soda Butte experience is the location is in the most prolific wildlife section of the park and its amazing beauty (again check out the photos in the galley).  Your reward?  The opportunity to catch a stunning Yellowstone Cutthroat trout in its native habitat.  And yes, many were caught via the tightline nymphing and with dry flies, which is a great experience.  TVFF pretty much had the stream to ourselves, with a few exceptions, and were able to spread out over a mile or so of prime water for a great day in the Park.

The next two days were also spent in the Park fishing the Gallatin (medium pocket water and a nice meandering meadow river in the NW), as well as the Gardner River up by Mammoth Hot Springs in the central area of the Park. Our day began at the 45th Parallel. The Gallatin was a bit slow but picked up in the afternoon in the undercuts and river bends with some nice browns, rainbows, and an occasional whitefish in the net.  Did I mention yet that “Whitefish Matter” ?  

But the Gardner the next day was a whole different story; faster current like the Madison, but not as big and burly.  Everyone tackled a different section and by late afternoon Rob found and began to hook a lot of fish podded up in a nice riffle pocket.  The hooting and hollering drew everyone to that spot and it was turned over to everyone to try their hand at working over the Yellowstone Cutts.  Which everyone did, one after another.  And then Jim came along and pulled a good sized 17” Cutt out on a Hopper (which were everywhere).  Since when does Jim fish dries…?  Check out Marty and Jim’s picture in the gallery fishing the “hole” with the Elk upstream keeping a close eye on them.  After more yucks, laughter, giggles, and a local visit by an Elk across the stream, we all ventured off to Mammoth Hot Springs for the famous Huckleberry ice cream before heading back. The social fishing aspect of this afternoon will go undoubtedly be talked about for years to come.

With all that fun, what do you do next?  Why, head right back to the Ruby River for more fun and games.  Lots of fish once again as we all took turns working our way downstream and tackling the current seams and pools.  Not quite sure of the accurate count but my bet is that the group caught more than 30 fish by lunch. It is that great of a fishery.  Best of all; Dave broke his longstanding challenge with the Ruby and liberally washed the “skunk” off his hands for good…Check out Bob McCollum’s picture of a fat rainbow he picked up that morning in the gallery, one of Todd’s many fish, and Rob’s big Brown; all awesome fish with many others caught by everyone.  The picture on the website Event’s page is from last year with four guys hooking up on the Ruby at the same time.  It’s a very productive and fun river, and Todd’s favorite swimming hole. Not to be outdone by the river he did net Rob’s fish so his reputation as a top rate “net-man” remains intact.

As we left on the last day, Gary just couldn‘t bear to leave quite yet so he booked a late flight and spent a few hours at Quake Lake fishing the shoreline, which he was dying to do all week.  And with his favorite hopper, ant, and beetle in hand he landed three nice fish right off the shore.  What a great way to end the trip.

So the fishing was great, and the laughter and discussions after dinner were a lot of fun, with a liberal amount of “grape juice” and scotch added in.  Especially so with Gary Prince regaling us with his incredible memory, in unbelievable and hilarious detail, from 30 years ago on obscure topics.  How does he do it?

I would be remiss without thanking Jim and Brandon for an incredible time.  The house was a first class facility with beautiful views, and Jim’s cooking three meals a day were always worth looking forward to. He does an amazing job.  While he doesn’t “guide” this trip in the traditional fashion (at your side, changing flies for you, netting your fish), he is always checking up with attendees to make sure that everyone is catching fish, or adjusting and recommending changes to what you are doing.  I can’t say enough of how much he personally helped me with fighting and landing big running fish, getting drag free drifts, understanding currents and prospecting in seams, and fly presentations.

If you haven’t yet done this trip, it is a terrific experience that cannot be duplicated on cost, or experience wise by doing it on your own.  You owe it to yourself to do this at least once in your lifetime as a fly fisher. The experience offers nature’s beauty at arguably it finest; every “fish on” is sure to get your heart rate up; and memories of a lifetime will be created from the social activities of the week.


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