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Friday, 14 October 2016 12:12

Madison River Montana Trip Report August 2016 Featured

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Cindy and I took a trip to Montana the first week of August. We spent four nights with Kelly Galloup at the Slide Inn and had two float trips during our stay there. Then we went to Ennis and had a two night stay and one day of guided fishing at the Rainbow Valley Lodge.

The trip up there was an adventure for sure. We had decided to break up the drive into two days so we stopped in Elko Nevada and spent the night. The next morning I got up and showered. When I went to get dressed, I found that I had not packed any underwear. DOH! Off to WalMart we went. Three hours later, and several stops later, we got on the road to Montana. We were chased across Idaho by a thunderstorm and pummeled by rain at times. We pulled into the Slide Inn Late on Saturday evening. The thunderstorm let up not long after we arrived so we were able to unload without getting drenched. It made for a beautiful sunset.

The bed was a little small for the two of us, so I ended up letting her have the bed and I put two sleeping bags and some spare blankets down on the floor for me to sleep on. Well, either there is a ghost, or the door wasn't completely latched, but about 4:30 in the morning the front door of the cabin blew open really fast. Normally I am a sound sleeper, but I woke when that happened. I think I crapped myself so hard I levitated off of the floor about four inches!  Nobody there, must have been a draft...  Scared the heck out of the two of us though.

Sunday morning Cindy did not feel like getting up, so I let her sleep in. I ventured up to the store at the Slide Inn and talked to the young man, (Jeremy) working the counter. I mentioned that Cindy and I had fished with Doug Pauline when we were there on our previous trip in 2011. I mentioned Cindy wanting to sleep in and said I was going to flog the water until she got up. He suggested that I fish the boat ramp area out behind the cabins as, in his words, "it can be the best 30 feet on the river when it's on." I went back to the cabin, grabbed my rod and my pack and went and hit the launch ramp as instructed.

I had the rod already rigged up with an tied EC Caddis on, so I decided I would stick with that. As I came out of the brush next to the launch ramp I noticed a large boulder on the upstream side of the ramp. Immediately upstream of the boulder was a large willow that had branches hanging out over the water. There was a beautiful pocket above the boulder and below the tree, if I could only send one of my rusty casts in there just right. I have made all sorts of excuses about being busy, but here it was August, and this was my first fishing trip of the year. I had not even bought a California fishing license... Anyway, I managed on the third cast to drop the EC Caddis into a good spot in the pocket. A very healthy brown trout proceeded to come up and take the fly. In my haste and glory, I broke that beautiful Mr. Brown Trout off on the hook set. After re-tying, I tried several more casts back into the pocket, but I got no more love from Mr. Brown Trout.

I started fishing the faster water in the riffle off to my right a little and hooked a rainbow trout. This smart guy decides he wants to run downstream, challenging me to try and drag him back upstream. I failed that test as well. The fly coming un buttoned after one of his acrobatic dances. Now, I knew I was rusty. A big fat Oh for two. DOH! My salvation came several minutes later, when I again connected with a willing rainbow trout. This time I was able to get the fish to hand. Hallelujah, the curse had been lifted. I tried throwing a few more casts back under the willow, but Mr. Brown Trout never came back out to say hi.

I went back to the room to find Cindy was not there. She had mentioned that she needed a new rain jacket, so I deduced that she must have gone over to the store looking for a jacket. It dawned on me that I had better get up to the store before she found half of it that she just had to have... I found that she had picked out said rain jacket and I picked up some supplies before we headed out.

We have a timeshare that we can exchange, if the timing works, for one located in Big Sky. Big Sky is about an hour from the Slide Inn, so we decided that we would take a drive and go look around up there. Since the Gallatin runs right along the highway there I thought we might get in a little fishing over there after checking out the resort. We drove up and checked out the resort. It reminded me a lot of condos I have seen in Lake Tahoe and other places. On the way back down the hill we stopped in at Beehive Basin Brewing for a couple of nice cold ones before hitting Roxy's Market, the local grocery store, for some supplies (ok, well, more beer).

After leaving Big Sky, we headed back south along the Gallatin and finally found what looked like a promising spot.  Judging from the depth of the ruts in the dirt road, a few thousand other people must have thought the same.  I fished along this stretch for almost an hour and I did not even scare a fish.  Usually I see something move, but this time it was zero, bupkis, nada.  While I was fishing, Cindy managed to find a fly box with a logo from a shop near Denver that had some flies in it.  Hey, at least we caught something!  If you read this and you think that may have been your flybox, contact me and tell me what the shop name was on the outside and whereabouts on the Gallatin you lost it and we can work out returning it to you...

We gave up on the Gallatin and headed down to West Yellowstone for some shopping and to catch dinner.  While there I got a voice mail from Johnny McClure at the Slide Inn stating that he had booked Cindy and I with Doug Pauline for Monday and that we would be fishing with Johnny on Tuesday.  Johnny also stated that Doug wanted us to meet him at Madison Foods in Ennis at 0700.  My first thought was, damn that's early.  We finished our dinner at the Slippery Otter and then headed back to the Slide Inn to try and get some sleep...

So, Monday morning we get up at oh dark thirty and proceed to drive 45 miles to get to Madison Foods to meet Doug by 0700.  We arrived a few minutes early, so we went into the store to use the restroom and get some grub.  They had some breakfast sandwiches that caught my eye.  Egg, ham, cheese on an English muffin.  Normal breakfast sandwich, right?  Wrong!  The ham slab was over a half an inch thick and stuck out well beyond the muffin on all sides!  Cindy loves her some good ham and I like it a lot as well.  When I pointed out those sandwiches, two of them ended up in the cart, even though we had already eaten oatmeal in the room while getting ready.  As we were checking out, Doug walked in and recognized us.  He grabbed our lunches for the day and we headed out in Doug's truck to the put in at Story Ditch.  We had a preety good day, weather was nice, fish were cooperative for the most part.  There was one fish though that did something I have never seen before.

We were drifting along and throwing hoppers.  I was casting toward the bank, trying to hit the seam just along the shore.  I was having mixed results hooking up, but there were a bunch of rises. I noticed that there was a stretch where the trees were hanging low down over the water and I made a nice cast to line up with the run.  A nice brown came up and took the hopper.  I managed to stick the hook set, then lowered the rod to put pressure on the fish from the downstream side and to keep the line out of the trees while fighting.  For once I was doing everything I should have.  The fish decided that it was not having any of this.  He jumped out of the water and cleared one of the low hanging branches, then proceeded to run back upstream.  I looked down at Doug and said "Did he really just do that?"  He said "yes he did!"  I then asked how was I supposed to land that fish.  Doug reponded with "you're not going to."  I proceeded to let the line straighten and broke the fish off.  It was one of the dangdest things I ever saw.  We both caught fish and had a great day with Doug.  Doug told us that we would probably catch more fish with Johnny the next day, but that we would have more fun with him.  He was right on both accounts.  Unfortunately, even though we had two cell phones and a DSLR camera with us, we did not get any fish pictures.  When I got back to the Slide Inn I told Kelly that I had a story he would not believe.  After I relayed the story, he said, "You're right, I don't believe it."  I told him to verify with Doug...

The next day Johnny picked us up at the room at 0530 so that we could hit the nocturnal stonefly bite that was coming off really early.  We put in at Lyons Bridge and floated down to McAtee.  We rigged up with stonefly dries trying to imitate the nocturnal stones.  The fish did not want to cooperate though. After 40 minutes or so of getting very few rises, we caught a couple on dry flies before the bite cooled again.  One of those fish that we managed to land resulted in another fish story.  One that would actually top the story from the previous day...

I was casting the dry flies, probably farther from the boat than I should have been.  I had a bunch of line down by my feet, and during one cast in particular, I managed to get it wrapped around my feet.  I let the back cast fall on the water while I did the drift boat two-step to get off the line.  Well, while I was doing the two-step I did not pay attention to what the line that was in the air was doing.  I must have been moving the rod around without knowing it because the slack line wrapped around my neck while doing the two-step.  Of course, it was right about that time that a fish decided to take the dry fly and hook itself.  Somehow I managed to get the line free from around my neck, keep from stepping in the line near my feet, and land that fish.  

After the action cooled a bit Johnny asked me if I wanted to try throwing a streamer.  It took all of two seconds for me to say, "heck yeah!"  We switched my rod over to a sculpin pattern that worked like a charm.  I proceeded to catch 8 fish, up to about 17", in about an hour on that sculpin pattern!  That was not counting all the missed grabs...

Cindy also had some fun, trying to fall out of the drift boat.  AFter that she took a break from fishing for a while nursing her wounded pride.  The wind really picked up after we ate lunch and the fishing went downhill after that.  It was blowing very hard, making casting an adventure.  Johnny worked his butt off that day, hitting bith sides of the river, back and forth, getting us into the good water.  Thanks for that Johnny! 

On Wednesday we checked out of the Slide Inn and headed down to the Rainbow Valley Lodge in Ennis.  We checked into a pleasant room and then headed into town to do some shopping and get some lunch.  We hooked up with Doug at the Gravel Bar and had a nice dinner and some beers.  Doug was nice enough to introduce us to a bunch of the guides that were there.

Thursday we fished with a young man who guided for the Rainbow Valley Lodge.  We did not fare as well that day, though we floated a longer stretch than we had the first two days.  The main reason for this was that the flow in the river had been cut, a lot.  That put the fish down and we did not catch near as many fish.

The good news was that we did manage to get a few fish pictures.

Montana 2016 13

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