03 August 2007

Early August: Fishing, Raspberries, Hiking

It's an off-week from backpacking, so I've been at the office a lot this week--working on faculty association issues for bargaining in our upcoming contract negotiations. But I've also had a few good hours fishing, hanging out around the yard, and taking a long day hike with friend Dave & RTD.
The Big Hole River is fishing incredibly well. Flows in the middle section have held up, thanks to some irrigation reductions by ranchers (wish they could help grayling in the upper river) and some timely rains in the high country. There are tricos, mayfly duns, several kinds of caddis, grasshoppers, and of course spruce moths--like this one, crawling down a streamside rock to get a sip of water:
The fishing is especially good from about 9 a.m. until noon, after which one shouldn't fish anyway, given that the water is warming up by then and being caught & released can cause lethal stress on a trout. The fish have not been running especially large -- mostly 10 to 14 inches or so -- but there are lots of them, both browns and 'bows. Some of the largest fish are in very shallow water, which makes for an exciting initial run as you set up and they head for deeper water.

I often begin at my favorite spot in the canyon, near Demon Rock:

I used to scrupulously report knapweed patches along the river. I have quit doing that, since the spray crews indiscriminantly spread the herbicide-poison around, and end up killing all the sagebrush, wild rose, and other shrubs and forbs. The result is a grass monoculture, and (as in the photo here) the knapweed also ends up returning within a few years after being sprayed. I think it is better to simply accept knapweed as part of the landscape:

Lately, I have been finding the tailwater and pocketwater below large pools to be especially productive. I experimented with several flies, and found that either a Stimulator or a Goddard Caddis proved to be a good spruce moth imitation. I thought I had some neat Spruce Moth flies that a former student tied and gave me, but I must have used & lost them all. They could not have worked any better than this:

Big Hole trout, especially the larger browns in shallow water, can be very fussy about a good presentation and drift. I found it even made a big difference by tying about 18 inches of 6X tippet onto my usual 5X leader. A better caster and mender would probably do just as well with a larger (and stronger) tippet, but I find a finer tippet often compensates nicely for my fair-to-middlin casting ability.

Back at home, the raspberries are ripe. Sadly, yield is small this year. Some summers, we get 6 or 8 quarts from our little patch. But the heat seems to shut down the flowering and berry-growth. Well, at least there are enough for the morning waffles or cereal, or for a small handful mashed into a glass of beer:

Dave, RTD, and I did a nice long hike (10 miles or so) yesterday, beginning on the Continental Divide near Sugarloaf and following the ridges down to Fairmont Hot Springs. It was pleasant and not too hot on the 7,000 foot+ ridges, with sightings of a pileated woodpecker, a few deer, lots of bear & elk sign, and more than a few mountain grouse (aka blue grouse). There are a lot of hoppers this year, which makes the grouse happy, but we also saw one grouse scratching around in a log that had been torn apart by a bear. Hmmm.... maybe I'll buy a bird tag and do a little grouse hunting come September. Here's Dave next to an old slash pile from when these ridges were clearcut 20 years ago:

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