A couple weeks ago, I proclaimed winter’s half way point. Today I’m officially declaring the opening of Western Montana’s 2017’s trout fishing season. Warmer weather has eroded much of the ice that encased the Yellowstone for the last two months. On Sunday, we had customers in the fly shop who were going to float the Yellowstone’s “Town Stretch” through Livingston. I asked them to call me at the end of their day, to give me a report about the fishing or just to let me know if they encountered any ice jams — I didn’t hear from them. They may still be out there somewhere, stranded on the ice, eating their gel floatant and amadou patches to survive. But hey, at least they’re fishing.
Dan and I fished Armstrong’s Spring Creek in Paradise Valley a few days ago. It was a gray day with intermittent rain showers: usually a great day for fishing and a poor day for photography. But though the cell phone photos in this blog aren’t very good, the fishing was also lousy. So that’s sort of a rip-off.
The one great thing about this trip was the unexpected appearance of mayflies: Baetis sp. or Blue Winged Olives as we fly fishers like to call them. Lots of them. Enough that the fish could have been rising gleefully as they sucked them from the surface. But they weren’t. There were midges emerging too. Enough for fish to eat those on the surface. But they weren’t eating those with much gusto either. Dan did see one BWO dun get eaten on top, but most of the trout were making bulging rises as they took insects just beneath the surface.
I always hate it when fish do this. They are usually keying on the movement that aquatic insects make as they emerge, and I haven’t found a great way to imitate these real squirming bugs with static artificial flies. But one of my tricks when this happens is to slowly strip dry flies like you’re fishing little streamers. All the fish we hooked ate our flies when we were stripping them.
The photo below shows the spring where Armstrong’s and Depuy’s Spring Creeks (they are really just two halves of the same stream) bubble from the ground to create one of the most revered wild trout streams in the United States.
We didn’t take fish photos during our Armstrong’s trip. All the trout that ate our flies were either lost before they reached our nets or too small to warrant a record for posterity. So the photo below is of a beautiful little cuttie that ate a chubby last summer in a Yellowstone tributary stream. Even a gray day couldn’t make this fish less beautiful. Though that giant, hairy arm doesn’t help it much.