Montana Road Trip

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JD, Ed, Eric, and Rob go to Montana

Months before the departure

The first question is how to get there from Atlanta, where to fish, then where to stay…

Aug 3 leave Atlanta, stay around Kansas City
Aug 4 stay around ?Wyoming? ? South Dakota?
Aug 5 arrive Big Horn, stay in Cottonwood Campground
Aug 9 depart for Dillion, stay KOA in Dillon
Aug 13th depart for Rock Creek, stay at Ekstrom’s

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Montana Road trip

This was close enough…

Eric's camper

Part 1-the Big Horn

This August Ed Chamberain, Eric Davies, Rob Kissel, and I headed to Montana. Our first stop was the Big Horn, reported to the the best river in Montana, maybe the West. Our experience with the Big Horn did not damage these reports.

The first day we both had guides on the river. We wanted to have a good dry fly day (like Uncle Miltie and I did last year) but it was not to be. The cool summer had cooled the water and caused the dry fly action to be delayed. The water temps from the dam was around 43. It may have slowed the dry fly action but the nymph action was great. Ed and got numbers in the 40’s and I think Eric and Rob got even more.

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Ed with a nice fish

Fish on!

The next day Eric and Rob decided to wade fish and they had a really good day with around 13 each, with several on a dry. Ed and I had a guide trip and unfortunately the guide decided to experiment with us. We went on a jet boat ride on the lower river in search of dry fly action. We saw little dry fly action and in fact, it was pretty slow all day-especially for the Big Horn.

The last day Ed and decided to rent a drift boat. We managed to make it down the river but I do think Ed would have caught more fish with an experienced boatman. We did get 25 or so each with a nice 19 inch bow on a dry and a big 22 inch bow on a nymph. The guys who did really well was Eric and Rob. They caught so many on a nymph they told the guide they wanted to use a hopper. The guide was not too excited about the use of a hopper but he finally agreed. Bam, Rob gets a nice fish. Then double bam, both Eric and Rob get a 20 inch brown on a dry. What a day.

Again, in my opinion, the Big Horn is the best river in the Montana, maybe in the West.

Ed in front of the dam
BEAR

Seldom seen bear on the Big Horn

Back at Home…
We had to miss our club meetings and unfortunately left a few good friends back at home.  A few of our club members also decided to join us.

Uncle Miltie

Uncle Miltie missing his friends at a club meeting

Part 2-Dillon
After having a great three days on the Big Horn, we were excited about going to Dillon, Montana. Dillon is in SW Montana and is centrally located to several very good fishing rivers-the Jefferson, the Ruby, the Big Hole, and the Beaverhead. Dillon was also located just outside of Twin Bridges, Mt, the home of Winston fly rods. We stopped in just before closing time and had a great time looking at the historical pictures, items, merchandise, and testing rods. Ed cast a sweet B2t (by the way, that rod is going on close-out) that got him thinking. Rob got a date on one of his rods and Eric, Rob, and I got some Winston hats. All in all, the Winston factory was a great stop.

On the way to Dillon we saw several up-rooted trees. Seems they had a “micro burst” that had did damage to several buildings and trees in the Twin Bridges area. I guess wind does damage to places outside the South.

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Due to the lower water and high water temps we were only able to fish the Beaverhead and the Big Hole. The Beaverhead is reported to hold the biggest brown trout in Montana and probably the West, but you could not have proved it by us. We had a tough time with the Beaverhead. A few fish caught, but mostly frustration and lots of removal of moss from the fly.

We did have a Nascar sighting while in Dillon. “Nascar” Bob Chambliss and Tom Gage had flown to Montana to do some fly fishing. We did hear from Nascar now and then but had little physical contact except for one day we did eat breakfast with Nascar and Tom. We did hear from Nascar that he was chased by an 8 ft. rattlesnake on the Beaverhead, well, make that 6 ft., well, make that 5 ½ ft. Nascar and Tom did pretty good though fishing at the corral.

Bob Chambless
Beaverhead at the corral
Beaverhead at the corral

Not everything was a loss; We met a couple in the KOA in Dillon. The man’s name was Seth Simpson and he and his wife were on tour to pottery shows and between shows he was getting in some fly fishing. His method was to go out at dust and throw a leech. He had pretty good success and pulled in a 24-25 brown, much bigger than we saw.

Rob liked Seth’s pottery so much that he brought a vase. You can see his work at www.arcataartisans.com/artists/seth_simpson/ 707-601-2535 We enjoyed talking with Seth and his wife at the campground, and maybe we felt a little jealous.

The Big Hole

The next river we fished was the Big Hole. The Big Hole is a very beautiful river, but areas of it were shut down at 2pm because of the high temps. The section we fished was open all day and we had a pretty good day. I finished with around 15 with a couple of nice fish on a dry. I even caught a few “whitefish”-more on that later. Rob told me a story about seeing a big fish, making a tough cast, and having the fish hit and be landed. It wasn’t so much about catching the fish, but the excitement of doing several things correctly and winding up with the fish is wonderful.

The next day we headed back to the Big Hole and we caught plenty of fish, but they just happened to be mostly whitefish. For example, Ed found a hole and I thought he was killing them. He was doing great but mostly they were whitefish. For those of you who don’t know about whitefish, they are a native species that are considered a “trash” fish. They do grow large and fight hard but are not as valued as trout.

Working a seam

Ed catching whitefish on the Big Hole

I think the Big Hole is the whitefish capital of Montana. We had some unusual weather in Dillon. Almost every afternoon a storm would come up with lightning, rain, and in one instance, hail. Although Dillon is a wonderful area, I won’t be going back unless it is a normal water year. This is the 2nd year of a Winter drought in the Dillon area.

Ed in front of the dam
Tom joined us for breakfast

We did have some of Uncle Miltie’s steering wheel sized breakfasts in Dillon.  I high recommend the Long Horn Saloon-if the cook shows up on time. Well, on the last stop of the trip.  Tom recommends a Mexican bus on wheels for lunch.

Great lunch

We also enjoyed an ice cream parlor near the university, but the recommended steak house was only good for the scenery and not the food.

Decorations in a steak house in Missoula
Entire town came out for ice cream

Trip Pictures

Home » Montana Road Trip » 2013 » 2013-Aug
Bob Chambless
Bob Chambless
Nascar on the Beaverhead
Beaverhead at the corral
Beaverhead at the corral
Looking Upstream on the Beaver. This stretch fished very well while wading. Called the Corral
Beaverhead at the corral
Beaverhead at the corral
Looking downstream from the corral. Bob is working a seam against the opposite bank. There was a strong current near the bank, but wading out got you into smoother water so you could fish the seams.
Big Hole
Big Hole
Rob Kissell on the Big Hole
Clarke's Fork
Clarke's Fork
Nascar bringing one in on the Clark's Fork just below where the Big Hole enters. Rowing is club member Danny who now lives in Missoula
Decorations in a steak house in Missoula
Decorations in a steak house in Missoula
We went to a steak house outside of Missoula. Scenery was great but the steaks were all either over cooked or under cooked. Not a great experience.
Entire town came out for ice cream
Entire town came out for ice cream
Downtown Missoula had this ice cream shop that you would think they were giving it away
winery in Missoula
winery in Missoula
Hills outside of Missoula. Great winery in town worth visiting
Bob Chambless
Bob Chambless
Probably on the Beaver
Great lunch
Great lunch
A local favorite for Mexican food. Great restaurant in down town Dillon worth stopping at
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Heading up to the blow down on the big hole
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upstream on the big hole
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If you look carefully, you see Rob being stealth against the rocks. Rob knew how to get fish in clear water!
Eric Davies
Eric Davies
Eric Davies working a seam using nymphs
JD, Ed, Eric, Rob
JD, Ed, Eric, Rob
the guys ready to break up camp at the KOA. This is an outstanding place with an even more outstanding restaurant!
Heading up the road on Rock Creek
Heading up the road on Rock Creek
Pretty tame....
JD hamming it up
JD hamming it up
JD... he may have set the hook... but you never know!
BEAR
BEAR
That small black spot on the ridge is the bear
Ed with a nice fish
Ed with a nice fish
Ed in front of the dam
Ed in front of the dam
Ed working a hole
Ed working a hole
Working a seam
Working a seam
Fish on!
Fish on!
Ed had a pretty good day.
Uncle Miltie in Colorado
Uncle Miltie in Colorado
Uncle Miltie in Colorado
Uncle Miltie in Colorado
Lookin' for a ride...
Uncle Miltie
Uncle Miltie
Uncle Miltie did not join us for the Montana trip having gone fishing with Dave Peacock earlier. He later joined JD in Colorado. Pretty sad picture waiting for his friends to show up at the club meeting!
Montana Road trip
Montana Road trip
Trip looked something like this...
The star of our stay at Rock Creek
The star of our stay at Rock Creek
The restaurant at Rock Creek has a fantastic chef serving 5 star meals. Our waitress was one of the most pleasant individuals you would ever want to meet. (and is a damn good fly fisherman!)
Tom joined us for breakfast
Tom joined us for breakfast
Eric's camper
Eric's camper
Packed up and ready to start the long trek home to Atlanta

Basalt Colorado fly fishing with Cameron Cipponeri

While there may still be some fishing tomorrow–cutthroat in Maroon Bells/Aspen area, private water here on the Frying Pan, or further upstream where we’ve fished twice–we have had a good and interesting three days of fishing.

Day one was supposed to be a full day float on the Roaring Fork.  But recent rains…yes, I know, what a shock!…made the better option to full day wade the Frying Pan first with Cameron Cipponeri of Frying Pan Anglers–the speaker at the club meeting in April.  What a great guy and a very good guide.  Sadly I am the most experienced of the three anglers with one guy being a fairly recent interestee in flyfishing.  So he needed and got lots of one on one time with Cameron.  We all managed to catch some nice fish.  I probably caught 12-15 fish.  A nice 15-16″ rainbow.  But the “one that got away” was really big.  I managed to hook it in a small pool Cameron pointed out.  He said to try that pool for a bit then left to help the other two that were 30 and 40 yards downstream.  (We have been spread apart several times because all other waters usually fished by those in Denver and Vail have been blown out, so they have to travel here to fish.) Within a few minutes I got the big’un to take a BWO on my 4wt Sage ZXL (Great rod rec, JD!).  I fought the fish in the 30 feet of river around me for 4-5 minutes while hollering downstream for them to send Cameron up with the net.  That’s when the real fight started.  That fish began making runs nearly into backing–once barely into it–downriver.  I had to start stumbling downriver.  That fish and I covered 40 or 50 yards of river before it wrapped on a stick…within arms reach of Cameron with the net.  Gone.  I was devastated.  I had fought that fish for almost ten minutes only to lose it at the guide’s net.  In his defense he had to run upstream about 20 yards after hearing my dilemma relayed by the middle fisher.  He saw it up close and declared it to be in excess of 24″.

Day two was a 14 mile float on the Roaring Fork.  Again Cameron took on the least experienced fisher while Rick Conner and I fished with Eddie Deison–who also guides at Matlacha, FL (Bonus find!).  I had apparently impressed upon him how much I enjoy streamer fishing because with the exception of only two short episodes of nymphing like the others did all day, I threw streamers on my 6wt all day.  Thought my arm and right shoulder were going to fail.  I wasn’t chucking and ducking like on the PM, but the weight of those two ridiculous (but mostly effective) streamers was something.  One of them is best described as a black multi, plastic beaded zonker strip bugger with a spinner blade at the front.  I probably only caught a dozen fish all day–no real notables.  Rick only caught two Kissel-fish–uh, I mean whitefish–all day.  The “newbie” managed three or four, I think.  Lots of fishers again due to flooded waters elsewhere.

Today we half day waded with Cameron on the Pan.  The weather started off chilly but real nice…then got colder and windier.  Despite that we managed to catch fish.  I pretty much stayed with dries (Drake and BWO mostly) all afternoon and managed 8-10 fish…maybe a few more.  Then we finished the day further downriver playing around with rising behemoths (18″-36″, no kidding) just above Bass Pro Johnny Morris’ private section.  The wind was hellish.  I managed to land only four or so there, but no big’uns.  I did hook two or three, but yipped my way out of landing them.  Rob S, I caught a few 14-15″-ers on the little Hardy 3wt even.
While it did rain lightly and briefly a little today, the wind was the monster…until dinnertime.  It began to SNOW.  It actually lightened up and quit as we drove back into Basalt for dinner.  Since our steak minded appetite could not be satisfied in Basalt, we drove another 25 minutes to Aspen.  It began to snow pretty good on the way there and a few flurries on and off while we were eating at Jimmy’s ($ome famou$ place).  But five minutes into the return trip about 8:30 local, it turned into a full fledged snowstorm…a la Duck Lake!  We drove back all but the first five minutes in a blizzard…road coating, hypnotic driving big flakes…at 20-25 mph.  Crazy.  So our plans for tomorrow depend on what we find in the morning after tonight’s 32 degree freeze warning with rain/snow in the forecast.

I highly recommend staying here at Taylor Creek Cabins.  And I would probably put Cameron in the top five guides I have used.  He kept needlessly apologizing for the conditions which kept us out of the “real experience.”  But I am completely satisfied with what we’ve had.  Lots of fish, big fish, fish on dries.  Just a really good trip even if tomorrow is a bust.

I don’t have many photos–only a few on my iPhone which I have not hooked up and transferred.  Wifi here at the cabin but not good enough for the iPhone to transmit and no cell service until you get close to town.  We’ll send Tom some later that Larry took.

Tyson Reed
AFFC Membership Chairman

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