24 August 2009

Montana Trout Fishing

Mike Morris is a friend who works with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and once lived in Butte, Montana. He is in town on NCAT business and came early for a little trout fishing. We had three intense days: one on a little native trout stream, one on a wilderness-quality mountain lake, and one on the Big Hole River. I like fishing with Mike for the thoughtful conversations. As a PhD philosopher, Mike takes the world and our choices seriously. As an angler Mike is a keen observer, carries a well-stocked selection of esoteric flies, and likes "matching the hatch" for things like crippled emerging Baetis mayflies. Even if he is catching trout on one fly, he'll still try other patterns to better understand what the trout might be thinking.

Day One: German Gulch Creek between Butte and Anaconda

German Gulch is a special place. As a tributary of Silver Bow Creek, pollution in the main stem prevented exotic (introduced) rainbow trout (from California) from hybridizing the native westslope cutthroat population. Cutties gleam like jewels of earth, sky, and water--a perfect expression of their native habitat:

They are not large fish, this being a small stream, but they are worthy of any serious angler. Please handle gently and release carefully:

Cutties evolved with the brief, food-rich summers of the Rocky Mountains. They take every opportunity to feed--even in open water on bright, sunny days:

High water blew out a chain of beaver dams on the creek this past spring. I think this gives the cutties an advantage over introduced eastern brook trout, which seem to prefer slower water. Here you can see what's left of a dam:

Day Two: An Alpine Lake

Many Miles Lakes (at the head of No Tellum Creek) are a group of glacial lakes along the Continental Divide near Butte and Anaconda. At the edge of the Pintler Wilderness, the area is accessible via a good trail known mainly to local residents. As I understand it, Butte and Anaconda residents take an oath to remove any trailhead signs that might help a Pilgrim find their way to this special place (view of a lower lake):

Non-angler friend Dave Carter joined us for the hike, and took this pic of Mike and I:

These lakes were originally barren of fish, but have a good population of rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. We caught many, many fish, and even brought a few home for a Montana surf & turf dinner of grilled trout & elk steaks. What a beautiful place:

Though cold nights are already bringing out the fall colors, a few hardy wildflowers are still blooming, including Parrot's Beak (Pedicularis racemosa):

And a species of Grounsel (Senecio spp):

I can never resist a good beetle photo. Biologists know that God was inordinately fond of beetles because he created so many species of them (!). Speaking of inordinate, note the length of the antennae on this guy (probably a long-horned beetle, Cerambycidae family, perhaps a Black Pine Sawyer Monochamus scutellatus):

Day Three: Homewater

No angler's visit to Butte America is complete without some time on the Big Hole. Fishing was not quite as easy as it has been for most of the past week or two, but it was good. That means the fish weren't "easy," but if you spotted a feeding trout and put the right fly over it with no drag, you'd get a rise out of it. Here's Mike on my homewater in the canyon, where we caught leaping rainbows (and a few browns) from small:

To medium (and a few large fish):

Whenever I tired of the intense concentraton necessary to make a good presentation to a rising fish, Molly The Dog was there to entertain me. If I'm fishing near a rock in mid-river and want a little company, she is more than willing to swim over for a visit. Here she is subduing a large, powerful, and angry stick into submission:


I'll conclude by citing some wisdom from my old friend George Grant, now deceased. George reminded anglers who got too cocky about all the fish they caught and all the wonderful skills they possessed about the reason we are able to catch so many fish: "We can catch them because they are there." Thank you, George, to you and all the other conservationists that fought for wild fish and environmental protection.


Anonymous said...

Mike sounds like a good fishing buddy (not always easy to find). Although I didn't know you George, a unfortunately belated "Thanks," and a tip of the hat to all the others fighting the good fight for all things wild and beautiful.

-scott c

Janie said...

Beautiful cutts. I really like that first jewel-like photo.
It's rare to find an intact, upright, correct sign to anywhere remote around here. I'm not sure if the locals have removed them or the forest service has failed to maintain them, or perhaps a little of both.
Sounds like you and your friend enjoyed some quality fishing time in the best of places.

~Sheepheads said...

I was starting to wonder after Day Two about MTD. Where would we be w/o our dogs on the river and in the lakes with us? Nice post.

Anonymous said...

nice westslope cutts and great pic setup, not easy while keeping trout healthy!
interesting observation about trout populations in beaver ponds on streams w bk and cutts.
a '98 utah state study supports your theory.
but my observation on the strawberry river below the resevoir in utah is that the only big fish in beaver ponds are cutts up to 18 inches. ditto for gilbert creek ponds, x smaller cutts, yet plenty br trout above ponds????
a paradox i can't explain. variable local conditions?

steve of janie

Anonymous said...

What crystal clear water you have up there. I married into a family of fly fisherman, but have never tried it.

I think you bring back a lot more than fish from each of your outings.

Maria said...

Good Evening from upstate, NY!
When I see your photos here, I think three words: Earth is Beautiful.
After seeing the trout, scenery and reading the commentary...my husband wants another week off to go fishin'

Thanks for being good stewards of Earth ~ All the best, Maria & Chris

Mark Kreider said...

As a salt water fly fisherman I really enjoy seeing your streams and lakes and fish. They are so beautiful. At the moment we're doing pretty well with bluefish and stripped bass. We all must work to make sure there's good fishing for the future.

Thanks for the comment on my post. If you'd like more driftwood photos from that installation let me know at: mkreider1@gmail.com

The Crow said...

The fish, as always, are beautiful sparklers.

I love the diversity of form and color of beetles. Somewhere (I can't remember where it is, sorry) there is a ceiling decorated with iridescent beetle wings, glinting with metallic greens, blues, reds and teal colors.

Beetles are as beautiful as the glorious fish you have posted here, each sparklers in their own right. Aren't we lucky we live in such a splendiferous world?


The Crow said...

ER - the beetle shell ceiling is in the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium.

Here's a link to an image of the beetle: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Chrysochroa_fulgidissima_(Tamamushi)_In_Nature.PNG


tsduff said...

Your trout pictures are incredible. yum.