Great time in Big Sky Country
Fishing and hunting
The sun was setting behind me as I approached one of my favorite riffles on the Big Hole River, on the Meriwether Ranch. The trees behind me cast long shadows on the water as I look to see if any trout were rising. In the middle of my first cast, I heard a loud grunt.
Upstream, no more than 20 yards, was a moose, his front legs knee-deep in the water. He let me know that he had a prior claim on that particular riffle. Although he didn't appear to be fishing, he was helping himself to the willows and other tree branches overhanging the river, while giving me a look that said he wasn't interested in sharing.
“OK,” I told him, “I'll move downstream to the next riffle.”
Even in Montana a close encounter with a moose is not an everyday occurrence, but it is part of what makes at trip to Big Sky Country a true adventure.
Dottie and I, and our Lab, Annie, spent a week with Joe and Beth Aaron, and their Lab, Grace, at their cabin near Melrose (between Dillon and Butte) and, as always, thoroughly enjoyed every day. The company of good friends, clear mountain air, wide open spaces, plentiful wildlife and trout-filled streams provided the perfect venue for a stimulating, yet relaxing, break from our normal work routine.
The Big Hole was lower than we'd seen it in a few years, and it seemed like we had to work harder to find fish, but we managed to catch a fair number, mostly on nymphs.
We also drifted the Beaverhead River one day with guide Wes Peterson, and caught a lot of big German brown trout on nymphs. Wes claims that the Beaverhead has more trout per mile than any other stream in the west. Whether that's true or not, one of us always seemed to have a fish on.
One day, Joe got a lead from a web article about a supposedly nearby stream named the “Bloody Dick,” which he was determined to fish. He persuaded Dottie and I, and fellow guests, Tom and Deb Engel (Tom is a ear, nose and throat doc in S.F.), to go on his expedition.
As the sun rose, we turned off the main route south of Dillon onto a heavily rutted dirt road, and drove west toward a range of nearby mountains (the Beaverheads I believe). The Bloody Dick was supposed to be about 11 miles from where we left the highway.
Joe had suggested we pick up provisions (lunch) at a deli near the turnoff (which turned out to be out of business).
Undaunted, and with no food, we drove, and drove, and drove (several times 11 miles) into the Montana wilds, assuming that the Bloody Dick (supposedly teeming with hungry trout) was just around the next bend. By 2 p.m., Dottie and I had concluded that the Bloody Dick was a hoax created by a Montana fishing blogger with too much time on his hands.
Undaunted, Joe, our trusty leader, led us into ever-narrowing, four-wheel-only roads, winding through the forest, finally pulling over beside a tiny trickle of a creek, barely deep enough to cover our toes.
“This is the Bloody Dick?” I asked incredulously.
Joe responded in the affirmative, pointing to the U.S. Forest Service map he had been using as our guide.
Having driven all that way, there was little more for us to do than break out our fly-rods and give it a try. After an hour of fishing we had three fish, each of which was barely three inches long.
It was late afternoon when, after driving nearly 150 miles, we found a real road, leading to the small town of Jackson, which had a restaurant, Jackson Hot Springs Lodge. The kitchen was closed. By then, we would have paid $20 for a cheese sandwich. The nice lady at the bar responded to our woeful cries and volunteered to microwave some frozen pizzas for us.
While sipping Troutslayer beers and munching on the most delicious frozen-microwaved pizza we've ever tasted, we all agreed that the Bloody Dick was appropriately named.
Much closer to home, striped bass and halibut are biting in San Francisco Bay in the usual places, said Keith Fraser, at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael. Anglers are also picking up some salmon near Cal City, Keith added.
Joel Sinkay, at Leonard's Bait Shop at Port Sonoma, reports lots of stripers being caught right near his place, off the mouth of Sonoma Creek.
Action is also fair in the Napa River right now. Joel has plenty of live bait and this is a good weekend to enjoy fair weather.
Salmon are still biting off the Sonoma Coast, said Capt. Rick Powers, at Bodega Bay Sportfishing. He added that rockcod and lingcod fishing continues to be outstanding with limits virtually every trip. Call Rick at 875-3344 to book a trip.
The best lake action in the area seems to be at Berryessa, where guide Sid Silberberg is having good success. Check out his website at fishingconnection.net.