I had been struggling to catch a steelhead in the Rogue all summer (with little success) and found myself really NEEDING a trout trip to Montana.
Last year I had the pleasure of spending two nights on the Yellowstone with one of our favorite outfitters, Tom Jenni. Tom is a true professional with great guides, gear, and attitudes. He worked hard for our group and I was so impressed with the quality of his float trips. He had mentioned I should check out his Missoula programs so this year I invited a few of my favorite fishing friends for a few days on the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers. Our guides met us in front of our hotel that first morning ready to go. After a short drive with drift boats in tow we made it to our put in on the Clark Fork River. We all had to reprogram ourselves as we were now fishing 6X tippet with size #20 tricos. It was awful at first since I have been fishing 10 lb maxima for steelhead all summer. I managed to break off the first two fish as they came up to sip my fly. We encountered pods of fish eating tricos most of the morning. Then we switched to nymphing because the hoppertunity never really surfaced. We caught some nice fish and ended that day back in Missoula hitting one of the local establishments. Missoula is a charming college town with nice restaurants and shopping, and we were all happy to do what we could for the local economy.
Mary and I choose to float the famous Blackfoot the next day and had the river to ourselves. Norman McClean made this river famous with his novel River Runs Through It and the Blackfoot has been on my list for many years. It truly is the perfect trout river with great pocket water and good populations of rainbows, browns, and native cutthroat trout. We had an incredible day of pocket water hopper fishing and Tom impressed us with his low water boating skills.
We then made our way to Crane Meadow Lodge, after a mandatory stop at the Patagonia outlet in Dillon. This was our second year in a row going to Crane Meadow and Cody and his staff were really wonderful at making us feel at home and fishing us hard each day. The ranch was teeming with plenty of deer and bird life especially the musical cranes. I enjoy Crane Meadow because it is a down home and intimate lodge right on the Ruby river with a superb fishing program.
Each morning our guides would pick us up out in front of our cabins and take us to our desired locals… the Ruby, Madison, Upper Beaverhead, Lower Beaverhead and some special spring creeks. Everyone did well and we had one extra large brown that was caught by Mary that impressed us all. It struck on the Madison and was at first thought to be a log. Both the guide and client were gleaming when this 26 inch fish was landed.
My best personal day was on the Ruby (again this year). The Ruby is a magical small stream home to brilliant browns who love to eat dries. It is easy to wade and around each bend is endless trout habitat. I fished my favorite hopper pattern, Quiqley’s Stacker Stone fly under the perfect undercut grassy bank and had a monster mouth open up and slurp my fly. He showed himself and then turned back into the bank and disappeared. Luckily Judith and Bob witnessed the size and how special this fish was to me. J
After four days of fishing at Crane Meadow we were all smiles. Our last day had us scraping ice off the windshield, yet it was another great year in Montana and I was lucky to share it with so many wonderful people.
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Truth be told, I am one of the lucky few who loves travel just as much as fly fishing. Those closest to me know that traveling in Asia, multi day wilderness whitewater trips and swinging flies on rugged rivers are very high on my list of preferred activities. This fall it seems that all the stars have aligned in my favor as I will be getting a healthy dose of all of the above.
I started by traveling in September to China and Mongolia, which I will report on below. Then in early November I was off to India and Nepal for a ten day rafting expedition to chase the Himalayan Mahseer which I will report on soon.
It had been four years since my last trip to Mongolia. On my previous trip I stopped in China but was too rushed to take the time to see some of the famous sights. This time I built a few extra days into my itinerary to give me time to hike on the Great Wall and tour the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Should you find yourself in Beijing, I would highly recommend these sights as they are physically impressive and culturally fascinating as well. However, there were a few downsides to this part of the trip. First, as we all know China’s industrial revolution is in full swing. One result of this is that we did not see the sun the whole time we were in Beijing and it was not because of cloud cover. Second, it seems that Air China has decided that it does not need to honor flights as scheduled. The result was a 36 hour delay for our flight to Mongolia and the worst and most bizarre customer service that I have ever experienced. Luckily our schedule was such that even with travel delays we were able make it to camp in time to get in just under six full days of fishing.
The main Taimen camp is as idyllically situated as one could imagine. Guest stay in gers (traditional Mongolian tents) that are arranged in a semi circle, on a grass infield, along a long, easy bend of a low gradient river. The rolling hills in the foreground and gentle mountains in the distance are covered in pine, larch, alder, and birch trees. The fall season is particularly scenic with the grass green from summer monsoons, combined with birch and larch trees in their fall colors of yellow and orange.
The rivers were in perfect shape, running low and clear. We had a week of ideal weather with crisp mornings giving way to sunny, clear afternoons. Our group had a number of experienced anglers and the guide staff was comprised of the most experienced Taimen guides in the industry. By all counts I would have expected this to be an outstanding fishing week with a number of memorable fish stories being told over evening meals. As it turned out there were many stories of massive explosions on surface flies, big tugs on streamers and giant black shapes swirling around flies. Unfortunately the photos of happy anglers holding the fish of their dreams were few and far between. My own luck mirrored the groups with multiple fish over forty inches coming to my surface fly, two of them seemingly hooked quite solid, only to come unbuttoned in the end. This wasn’t to say that we did not land any fish. Along with the opportunity at bigger fish, each day the group landed good numbers of Lenok in the 20” to 30” range and a decent number of Taimen in the high 20” to low 30” range. Our guides worked hard to keep us on good water and in the game and hopeful of the big strike right to the end of every day. I just can not say enough about the talent and dedication of these guys.
While we all would have liked a few more monsters to hand, in the end we knew that all of us would likely be back to try our hand at landing the mythical 60 incher in a place that we all consider one the most magical fly fishing destinations in the world .
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As the only member of the Fly Water staff who hadn’t fished the fabled flats of Los Roques, I had long been looking for an excuse to visit.
When our close friend and owner of Sight Cast, Chris Yrazabal, announced that they had recently upgraded their accommodations to the much touted Acuarela Lodge, I saw my opportunity.
I also had the good fortune to be joined by my wife Mia, a first time salt water fly-fisher. So in late June we ditched the kids with grandma and boarded a plane for Caracas. After a quick overnight at a hotel near the airport, we made the 80 mile flight to El Grand Roque, the hub of the 22 mile long Los Roques archipelago. With 1500 inhabitants this place is tidy, peaceful and quaint. With the exception of two water trucks, there are no cars on the island, allowing happy locals and tourists to walk barefoot on sandy streets between brightly painted buildings.
All and all the trip was fantastic and one of the most pleasant and productive salt water trips I have ever taken. The very first afternoon Mia was into fish on the famous Pancake flats. Needless to say, she broke off a few getting the hang of clearing her line but by the end of the afternoon she was 3 for 6 with several fish to five pounds. Not bad for her first ever afternoon on the flats!
What made the day even better was returning to Acuarela Lodge for cold Mohitos and appetizers. The lodge is extremely tasteful, has exceptional food and is very appropriate for non angling companions. All dinners featured four courses and showcased delicately prepared fresh seafoods. Irrespective of where you live, you would be hard pressed to drive to a finer restaurant.
Each day we fished a different region and a wide variety of flats. Runs in the custom, soft top, super panga type boat varied from 20 to 55 minutes. While the seas were at time rather rough and we got soaked a few times, the boat was comfortable and safe. Once the flats were reached, all fishing was done on foot. Bottom types ranged from dense turtle grass to light marl, to white sands. We also walked some remarkable beaches where big bones were chasing minnows as though they were jacks.
The fish averaged about four pounds and it was rare to go an hour without taking a shot. At times we would take dozens of shots an hour. There were large schools of small fish; small schools of large fish; singles, doubles and every other type of grouping imaginable. We cast to a fair number of fish in the 10 pound class and our largest landed fish was just shy of eight pounds.
The best part of the trip for me was the fact that there were lots of tailing fish and they were definitely big enough and challenging enough to keep my interest. At times fat bonefish would be slithering around on their bellies in just a couple of inches of water. The sight of their lean angular fins glinting in the sun and long tails spraying water over the shallow grassy flats was so exciting that it almost assured a tangle in my running line!
All and all, this trip is a real winner with a hard to beat combination of big fish, varied wade fishing venues, exceptional meals and accommodations, and a long season. Stays of varying length are welcomed.
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As I stepped off the plane at the Cancun airport I remembered how simple it was to get there from the West coast. Many of my recent trips have been to South America where the long travel takes its toll but when I set foot in Mexico I was ready for the day, feeling good and ready to fish.
I was met by our outfitter Marco and we took his new Ford Explorer for a three hour drive to the town of San Felipe and Tarpon Cay Lodge. San Felipe is a charming and quaint fishing village of about 2000 people and about just as many pink flamingos. When we arrived at the lodge we were welcomed by the warm salty air, the lodge staff and an enormous plate of fresh fish salad and rice. My room was quiet and spacious with one double bed and two twins leaving plenty of space for all of my fishing gear. The oscillating fans and air conditioning kept me cool while the rooftop veranda gave great views of the waters which reminded me that I was ready to find my tarpon.
The next morning I had breakfast and met my guide Chris. Chris was extremely professional, polite, and knowledgeable. He helped me get set up and we were off to find some rolling fish in the mangroves. The mangrove coastline holds baby Tarpon and Snook that love to eat a fly. The Tarpon range from 5 – 15lbs and are great sport on and 8wt with a floating line. During the majority of my first day the tide was pushing these fish into the mangroves so most of our fish came from the mouths of different channels and sometimes way up the channels. In one tight spot that we could only roll cast I jumped 3 and landed 1. Very small sabolito (small tarpon) but nice. As the day was ending and the light was fading we returned to a mangrove bay and started seeing lots of rolling fish that were eager to hop on our flies. Great baby tarpon fishing!
After a few days in San Felipe we returned back to Cancun to fish out of Isla Blanca. Depending upon where you stay in Cancun the drive to the put in is anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour away. And well worth the drive! At the docs I met Edwin, my guide who had his panga ready to go. We had about a 20 minute boat ride to our first stop where we found rolling tarpon along the mangrove coast. Plenty of shots and no hook ups but sometimes that is the way the story goes. Next we hit the permit flats. We saw dozens of fish and again I had a number of shots but never closed the deal…bummer.
My next stop was Ascension Bay Bonefish Club. After the long dreaded three hour drive to Punta Allen I was happy to arrive at the Club. ‘That road’ is well known – but I have to say that it is so much better than before. They even have a new bridge at Boca Paila Lagoon that actually looks like it will hold up. ABBC has always been one of my favorite lodges in Mexico. They have great guides, intimate lodge setting, and wonderful flats to fish in Ascension Bay. I was greeted by Natalie and Aaron. They were delightful people who made us feel welcomed and got us excited about our upcoming days fishing at the lodge. Ascension Bay Bonefish Club is a small, private house on the edge town and close to the water. Bedrooms are large and airy, with overhead fans, and a full bathroom complete with hot-water. Screened windows provide views of the Caribbean and garden as well as cross ventilation. A combination lounging-dining room and its adjoining patio are the natural focal points of the lodge. One thing I love about the lodge is the fact that you have two guides per 23 foot panga who both work to find fish with you. My guides Manuel and Christian were professional and knew the waters well.
We were in the heart of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve that contains well over one million acres stretching along the beautiful Caribbean coast of eastern Mexico. Sian Ka’an (“birth of the sky” in Mayan) is the home of over 300 species of birds, and many rare or endangered species of land and aquatic animals such as the manatee and jaguar. Plus plenty of Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, Snook and more. Fishing Ascension Bay always excites me as one minute you can be poling for permit (and seeing plenty) and the next you are wading in white sand flats for bonefish.
I then moved on to Casa and Playa Blanca lodges. Casa Blanca is located on the southern tip of Ascension bay and close to some very productive flats. The fishing at Playa Blanca Lodge is also remarkable. You essentially have the Espiritu Santo Bay AND the Santa Rosa Lagoon to your self. The area is home to many permit, bonefish, and tarpon as well as big Snook. During my stay a young man landed a 25 lb permit, good size Snook, and about an 80 lb tarpon. I was unexpectedly surprise by my average size bonefish being in the 2 – 2.5 lb range. Most in the area are more like 1-2 lb fish. The 16 foot Dolphin skiffs are great to fish out of and very comfortable for the runs you make to the flats. The flats vary but one could spend time in and out of the boat if requested. The guides speak great English and have extensive guiding experience on the waters.
Traveling back down to the Yucatan is always a treat and I really enjoyed the new friends I made along the way as well as seeing some familiar faces from my last trip. I continue to feel as if Mexico offers some of the best diversity in the saltwater world and is a great destination for advanced anglers looking for a grand slam and just as wonderful for those just starting their saltwater fishing carrier.
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Being an avid steelheader, a spey rod fanatic and a lover of all sea run fish, the fact that I had not yet fished the Rio Grande for sea run browns was getting under my skin. This March that all changed when I had the opportunity to host a split week of fishing at Toon Ken and Villa Maria lodges, March 9-16. While the reports I received indicated that the season’s fishing had been very challenging my group which included Bill Shaw, Rodger Casper, David Cole and myself had a great time and some really fine fishing.
After a rather hideous flight schedule and delays we finally made it Toon Ken on the upper Rio Grande not far from the Chilean boarder. As far as setting and service were concerned, this place really impressed us. Our guides were also exceptional and during our first evening session we hooked nine fish and landed four. To our delight, they were all big with one over 20 pounds lost and several in the mid teens landed. Each day we fished a morning session and evening session separated by a big meaty gourmet lunch, red wine and hearty siesta. Some sessions were really tough and others were great and that seems to be the way of the Rio Grande; when the fish were on, we were all into them, when they were off we fished hard in vein.
After three days we transferred to Villa Maria Lodge on the lower river. The water was low but there were lots of big fish around. During our three days there we all hooked fish over 20 pounds but landed none! During one session I had the good luck of landing a 17, 18, and 19 pound fish. Most of them jumped numerous times, some were hotter than pistols and we estimated that our average fish weighed in at about 13 pounds.
By the end of our six days, the four of us had landed roughly 60 fish which was a slightly higher number than the number steaks and of bottles of red wine which we consumed!
For the majority of our trip, the wind was very reasonable and we were able to catch fish on skated dries, little nymphs swung on intermediate lines and big leeches. All and all it was a super trip made all the richer by seeing two very different and interesting sections of the river. The bird life and wildlife was also far more abundant than we had expected.
We are currently holding the same week for our clients for next season (March 7-14, $5,795) and feel this is an exceptional venue as it really helps negate the risks of extremely high or extremely low water conditions. Next year the flights will all go in and out of Ushuaia which makes the prospect of returning far more appealing. Please free to call us if you have an interest in learning more about this remarkable region!
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As luck would have it my work has required me to spend substantial travel time in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina. And like many others who have been fortunate enough to travel in this region I have found myself more and more enamored with each visit. It is a place where the landscape, people, rivers, and lifestyle all have a way of fitting together in a way that is quite foreign yet familiar and just feels right.
On my latest trip to Argentina I was fortunate enough to share my experience with a talented and entertaining group of friends and anglers Stephen, Tom, Al, and Diane. We were on a two week trip that would start at Spring Creek Lodge in the San Martin region fishing the Collon Cura, Chimehuin, and the Malleo rivers. After that we would move south to meet Esquel outfitters to fish the Rio Rivadavia, Gualjaina, and the Rio Chubut.
We arrived into San Martin de los Andes to be met by my friend head guide at Spring Creek Lodge, Tuqui Viscarro. After our short drive to the lodge and quick stop to pick up our fishing licenses we had a beer in hand and we toured the lodge grounds which included a wonderful new hot tub complete with stunning views of Mt. Lanin. Things were starting out great. One memorable morning on the Chimehuin River, Tom and I cast to rising fish for what seemed to be hours. We had caught the inch worm fall the day prior and this just seemed like icing on the cake. It was not easy but that is what made it so fun. Tom is a great caster and was able to bring some nice rainbows to the net. On our last night at the lodge the owners Franky and his family and friends gave us a traditional asado complete with lamb, beef, salads, wine, and helado (Argentine ice cream). Spring Creek Lodge took great care of us all and we were sad to depart.
Next we took a long, dusty, yet scenic drive to Bariloche to meet the Esquel outfitters guides who took us to our first nights lodging, El Trebol Lodge. It was so nice to return and see some familiar faces… Marcos, Yiya, and staff. We had a wonderful dinner with our guides and planned for upcoming days of fishing.
Our guides Patricio, Richard, and Juancho were all very experienced and helpful and each day offered such a wonderful diversity of fishing. These guys did a spectacular job with our three day float trip on the Chubut. The Chubut is a river lined with mature willows that hold an endless number of fish. The dry fly fishing was spectacular with rainbows and browns eating hoppers, and caddis. I think Stephen and I caught over 100 fish one day. Each night we would float into camp and be greeted by our camp hosts, Marcos and Marcos. They had pre-set all the tents, cots, appetizers, beverages, shower, toilet, and had a fire ready to warm us for the cool Patagonia evenings. Dinners were magnificent with Argentina steaks, vegetables, local wines, booze, desserts, and coffee.
The next day on the Gualjaina was a day I could not believe. We all landed numerous beautiful fish and missed some incredible fish as well. There is still one big rainbow I wish I would have landed. It was sitting under a few blades of grass in about 3 inches of water and ate my Quigley hopper as it drifted by him. Seconds later he turned into the bank and slid into the undercut bank unhooking my hopper on the way. It was a painful loss and I even tried it again a few hours later but was not successful. After that I continued up river and had what turned out to be a dream day catching 16-19 inch rainbows one after another.
That day our trip ended with our guides singing to us while we enjoyed a final meal- complete with lamb, wine, and a celebration our wonderful time together.
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What better way to start off the year then escaping the snow, sleet, and freezing rain of early January with a trip to the equator and the ever productive flats of Christmas Island.
This will be the third full season that we have been overseeing all the bookings for Christmas Island Outfitters. This team of extraordinary guides is headed by Peter Kairoi. For all who know Peter they have no question of his guiding ability, kind nature and his ability to manage the guides and fishing program.
Our group of anglers arrived on the Island January 9th to blue skies and the typical 85 degree heat of the early afternoon. Most years this would be nothing out of the ordinary but it seems that this winter has delivered more than its fair share of foul weather to the normally sunny and dry island. We ended up drawing the lucky straw and had a week of exceptionally fine days with plenty of sun and very little wind.
After numerous trips to the Island I often stumble in describing my weeks of fishing on the Island. This is a bit for fear of sounding like a broken record. The bonefishing was outstanding. We had good tides for the outside so we fished the Wreck multiple times and spent the rest of the week on the inner flats with everyone hooking and landing good numbers of fish each day. Normally I do not make exact count of my own catch but this week I was with Peter’s newest guide, Simon #2 so I know that I landed 36 my first day and 28 my second. Simon is the young nephew of another one of our guides, the well known Simon Corey (thus Simon #2)
The highlight of the week was a day spent with Simon and long time client and friend, Paul Imperia on the lodge’s small Boston Whaler type boat cruising the outer reef looking for GT’s. I had heard stories of anglers doing this with the island legends Moana and Big Eddie but each time I had tried to do this with one of the former there was always problems with the boat. Now, with the boat in good order and great weather I was certain I would get my chance however an earlier storm somewhere near Hawaii had sent sets of large waves rolling across the ocean and into the island continuously day and night for the first four days of the trip so on the evening of the 5th night I quietly resigned to see the outside on my next trip. The next morning we woke again to the continual thunder of the large waves but after breakfast we found a slight but noticeable break in the waves and when Simon approached us with a beaming smile we knew what he was thinking. As we approached Cook Island and saw the waves coming into the lagoon I wondered it this was such a good idea but Simon’s skillful directions to the boat driver had us out in the blue water and on our way to hunting the GT’s in no time. We had Simon armed with a spinning rig and a giant jig with NO hooks and as we cruised the reef he cast it as far as he could and reeling it so that the jig was jumping and splashing back to the boat. We stood at the front of the boat ready with our 12 weights and poppers, which look very effective but absolutely no fun to cast. When the first fish exploded on the jig I knew it was going to be a great day. By the end of the day we had seen close to 50 GT’s between 20lbs and 60lbs come within range of our casting ability with a final count of eight fish hooked and four landed. The largest being about 50lbs! I hate to admit it, because my first priority as group host it help my clients get the most out of their trip, but with only one day left in the trip the majority of my thoughts riding back to the lodge were how I would explain to the other anglers why I needed, in the name of research, to be one of the two anglers that would play this game again the next day.
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