December 9, 2011

Reflecting on the 2011 Fishing Season

With winter upon us, our rods are put away and we find ourselves daydreaming about what was in 2011, and anxious for more great fishing in 2012. There are some die hard fly fisherman still hitting the water, but the ice chunks and short days personally have me reflecting on 2011 instead of out on the water! I thought I’d share some highlights of last season…Consistent flows, prolific insect life, a nice balance of big, chunky wild trout with yearlings, mild temperatures, and overall, great fly fishing perfectly sums up our 2011 fishing season ~ it’s one that will go down in treasured fly fishing journals for years to come.Spring was laced with corporate groups and couples that took advantage of the Channels Lodge and had the added bonus of stellar fishing! We got fabulous responses on the inspiration of Big Sky Country views during meetings. And after the big winter, the trout gobbled up flies, loading up on calories and treating guests to feisty fights.With extraordinary high snowpack in June, it’s be safe to say all of SW MT was anxious about the impact this would have on the Rivers…I guess I’ve always been a bit skeptical of fishing in high waters. But, I’m a complete convert now! First of all, our guides did an outstanding job of finding calm waters amongst the high, swift currents in the middle of the River. Guests kept returning to the Ranch with tales and photos of huge trout, as these monsters were all holed up on the banks, taking refuge from the currents. Finally, I guess I never took the time to realize that high waters also create the most ideal conditions for breeding bugs, and thus set us up all summer long for fabulous feeding trout!Struck by the shear numbers and beauty of the healthy fish caught during the summer months of 2011, it’s clear that high water has lasting positive effects. The Rivers were full of food ~ nymphs, emergers, salmon flies, mayflies, yellow sallies, spruce months ~ you name it, they were out there and the trout took full advantage.There was about a 3 week span this summer when I couldn’t have deciphered which flies were “working” because folks were catching trout on a gambit of bugs. They seemed to anxiously attack anything put before them! Walking around the Ranch on any given day, I’d also find myself in a swarm of caddis, mayflies, salmon flies, gnats, and yes, even mosquitoes. What a spectacular array of insect life!The 2010 salmon fly hatch may even go down in history. Typically, the hatch arrives at the end of June and after a flurry of days is gone with only shucks on the side of the banks reminding us of ‘what was…” This year, folks caught trout on salmon fly imitations from the beginning of July well into August! The naturals were out and about that long as well. All it took was the right recipe from Mother Nature.With this much food, it’s not surprising the real large trout were keyed in on expending energy on larger prey. Pearl zonkers were the ticket to hooking onto the hogs! In August, it felt like I was filling the fly box with zonkers daily! The best evidence of this feeding frenzy was the photos of the regurgitated large minnows expelled by the big trout. One of those ‘gross, but cool’ things!The hoppers were out and about in August and September. But, it wasn’t until September that they really started to move to the banks. I suspect the entire landscape was so lush, that they didn’t need the cool, wetness of the river banks until then. Combined with Indian summer type temperatures, folks were treated to some awesome action at the end of their lines this fall!2012 is already shaping up to be another healthy water year with La Nina forecasted to once again grip our winter weather patterns; we are predicted to have lots of snow and cooler weather. We know what this means…a big winter with hungry wild trout in the spring, wet conditions leading to awesome habitat for bug production, and healthy river flows all season long. Our incredible team of guides is already anxious to share their knowledge and indulge in your passion next season! Come out and join us in 2012 for your own fun-filled adventure fishing for wild trout and enjoying Big Sky Country. J