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On the Road & the River

Photos and Meditations on Fly Fishing in Southwest Montana and wherever.....

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Pretty much every stream I can think of is muck. This is a little tale of the exception to that rule.

I don't have to travel far to find this place, and it's a perfect match for the Magic Stick (walking stick/fly rod combo) that Glenn made for me. With the tailwaters even running a bit high and off color, I took the Magic Stick out for a little stream adventure.


Part of the adventure is hiking in! Oh, there's a road down there. Guess I could have driven....


And when I need a break from the rain and sleet -- I can always take solace in my river-side vacation home. I just have to share it with Pack rats. They keep a tidier house than I do, anyway.


Pack rats aside, I am just steps away from hooking up with....


...fatty Brown trout!


Look. I tried stonefly nymphs, Hare's ears, Brassies, etc... Even tried a dry BWO! But they only took the worm. If that's what they like, I'm not gonna argue. Besides a Brown in hand is worth a half dozen in the river. Maybe not that many. More like it's worth six.

It takes a little more work and weight on the line to find these guys, with the higher water, but the easy-casting Magic Stick enables me to hit pocket after pocket and pull these fatties from the crick. Such things should never end: casting Sweetgrass bamboo and catching wild fish.


Look at that belly!

However, sometimes I have to go back to my crick, vacation home and fight the pack rats for the dinner they left behind.


In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Boo Boy
Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • 2flygirls
    2flygirls says #
    The pictures are so inviting. Makes me want to be there asap! Must wait one more month, alas! J.

Posted by on in On the Road Blog
The gloomy, Eeyore weather has turned most our water to muck. The lakes are either frozen or still a little hung-over from Winter's frost. Seeking solace, I managed to get away for a couple days and see my hometown, which literally has a creek running through it. This stream is the source of most my childhood adventures, and continues to influence my life deeply. It has been a couple years since I last fished it. I had to get back.

Sarah was able to get the same days off work and we headed to my home mountain range so's I could show her around a bit. I was a little excited, as was she -- even though the rain poured.

The Eeyore weather followed Sarah and I as we drove south and east through the plains bordering several mountain ranges. It was kinda purdy, though. I was worried my stream would be blown out, but determined to fish it anyway. My mom just happened to be heading north, with my younger brother, Robert who was recovering from knee surgery (again). I had about fifteen minutes from the time I got to town, until Sarah and I were to meet my mom and brother. This was to be the first time anyone from my family got to meet Sarah, but that's an entirely different, story....

So, I gave Sarah the quick drive down Main St. pointing out the haunted motel, the creek, the rebuilt (but not the same old) greasy spoon cafe on the crick. Pointed out the crick again. And the crick again. Then we headed to the crick because I could not stay off it. It was high, but just rusty-colored. So much time had wisped by since I had fished this stream at high water that I forgot it doesn't get muddy. It gets rusty from the tannins it juices from the pine tree needles along its banks. Very cool and fishable. It's a bit like fishing in ice cold sun tea, sans lemon. And sugar.
 
I quickly pulled Glenn's prototype 6 wt. dry fly rod that Thomas made for him before leaving. It really is a quick and sweet dry fly rod. That's why I had two heavy nymphs and tungsten putty on it. To get down deep! I didn't take time to put waders on, and stood ankle deep in the creek in hiking boots, casting upstream to the head of a hole I had never caught a fish in. That's right, a place I couldn't catch fish -- weird, I know. It is right off the old highway, and an obvious big hole. It gets fished a lot, and with no catch and release regulations, I think the fish that find the hole home, soon get pulled to a dinner plate. I bet they're tasty...

I cast a few times along the current edges, and soon hooked solidly to a frantic trout! I giggled and laughed and yelled for Sarah to get the camera. I couldn't believe I caught a fish in so little time in a hole that's not usually productive. But I did. Good ol' Sweetgrass Mojo!

Ten minutes and I found a beautiful, healthy, wild Brown trout with a 6 weight prototype Sweetgrass rod!


After driving hours along muddy rivers, I find magic in Sweetgrass, Brown trout and my little hometown crick.


See ya bud. Try to stay away from dinner plates again this Summer!

The trip was a brief but perfect homecoming. I didn't want to leave, but the next day Sarah and I had to drive back 6 hours to earn some money so we can take off on another stream-lined adventure.

In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

the Meandering Boo Boy

Posted by on in On the Road Blog
Montana has a way of keeping me on water, and away from writing my blog. Sorry about that Dave. Not reallyWink. I am not sure I have officially mentioned it, but I've been in the Northwest working on a fly-fishing television show for Comcast Sportsnet Northwest. It's a different take on our wonderful sport. A point of view I think a lot of Sweetgrass fans will relate to: everything surrounding water and within it, is sacred. Doesn't matter the size and numbers of fish...

In this project and new life journey, I am continually fishing -- like always. And Sweetgrass has sponsored the show, so I get to fish their wonderful rods all the time. I guess, like I normally do, anyway. At any rate, recently I meandered back to Montana to work as a guide at Rock Creek Cattle Company outside of Deer Lodge. Still on the "right side of the Divide," and within reach of many Northwestern waters. The TV and guiding projects have kept me busy, but I hope you enjoy the brief update below on a wonderful day exploring some favorite water.



Montana's welcoming aqueous carpet -- before run-off hit.

I decided to use Glenn's prototype 8'6", 3 pc., 6/7 wt., quadrate rod, with some moderately weighted stonefly nymphs. I like the reach the longer rod gives, and the ability to toss some weight helps to get my flies down, where fish feed. And the wind blows often. I slowly worked downstream from where a nearby spring tributary entered the main channel. I found a sunken boulder, drifted the tandem stoneflies below it, and hooked up.


A hearty trout flexes the Sweetgrass quad deeply as Ariell waits to identify the specimen.


As it got a bit closer, I could see this Westslope cutthroat took my Marathoner fly pattern! The dearth of spots surrounding the belly of Westslopes is the best phenotypic identification that it is in fact a Westslope.


A healthy salmonid specimen with a beautiful bamboo specimen.

It took a bit of exploration, but Ariell and I managed to find some productive water and new species!


This Brownie also took my Marathoner pattern. I was rather high up on this drainage and surprised to find a Brown. Kinda cool however.


A little while later, I fooled this Rainbow with a softhackle stonefly nymph I made up after a few glasses of wine. It worked: the fly and the wine!

I didn't expect to catch such a variety of fish species (I also caught a Whitefish, but didn't photograph it {not that I don't appreciate Whities...}). I got to thinking, maybe I just completed a Grand Slam: A Cuttie, Brownie, Rainbowie and Whitie. Not sure if that counts. The only other specimen I could have caught was a Bully.

It doesn't matter.

Ariell and I had a great day exploring the river, casting Sweetgrass cane and enjoying the surrounding beauty. More to come.

In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Boo Boy

Posted by on in On the Road Blog
I had a day to mess around while I waited for a buddy to call back about fishing the next day. Ariell and I spent the day fishing a new-to-us stream -- out of cell reception.

I had been fishing five days for Bull trout throwing huge streamers and weighted lines with Jerry's 10 weight pent. I was also rowing my wooden drift boat often in white-capping waves, and was a little worn out. I needed a day's rest to fish a small stream, and found one on my forest map that looked promising. After driving up the road as far as I could, I found a little piece of water that was perfect for the Magic Stick -- the walking stick/bamboo fly rod combo Glenn made me for just such a stream.

Ariell and I hiked west toward the sun setting behind forested mountains. Really. I'm not making this up just for my blog. This is how the setting was! We trenched through crusty, melting snow banks and finally rounded enough river-bends to get away from any signs of human presence.

Ariell rounds a river-bend looking for squirrels. There were some huge Gray Squirrels that looked a bit appetizing to us both.

I used the walking stick to check snow depths as I ducked through Ponderosa pine trees. It worked pretty well, except I fell to my knees in snow a half dozen times, anyway. The water was Gin clear and in perfect condition. I was pretty excited as I pulled the 3/4 weight bamboo rod from the walking stick and got it ready to find whatever might be swimming below me. I had never fished the stream before, knew not what was in it, and felt like a squirrel in a pecan grove, waiting to see what the river's shell hid below.


It's silly, I know, but I always feel a bit like King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, when I pull this beautiful rod form the walking stick. The hole in the reel butt cap was purposely drilled by Glenn, to accommodate a lanyard to pull the rod out with. I took the lanyard off, concerned I'd catch it in a willow, get the rod yanked from my hand and smashed on rocks. As I've written above, I'm a bit of a klutz at times. I was just taking a precaution...

It took a while, fishing a stonefly nymph and my Marathoner fly imitations to find the fish. Once my line finally paused on a drift, I lifted, set the hook and tossed the little Redband fishy on to the snow bank behind me! Oops. He wasn't very big, I have to admit -- about the size of many montaine Brookies, but it was oddly colored.


It took me a while to identify this guy as a Redband. It was so black I thought it was a Brookie at first. I thought maybe it was some unique strain of Redband, but after another specimen took my fly, I discovered what was going on.


They were in spawning colors! The bright orangish stripe on this ol' gal is evidence of the Spring spawn. Very cool. This was one of the bigger fish I caught, and just such a beautiful fish.


Here's a bit more of a chrome specimen that liked my soft-hackled stonefly nymph. It put up a pretty decent fight -- for an eight-incher, and was a pleasure to catch on the little Magic Stick. 

After catching a handful of Redbands and being thoroughly pleased with the evening's fishing, I was getting thirsty for a barley, river-soda (beer), and took the time to sit on the riverbank with Ariell and watch the sun dip below the Mountains. I'll be back to this river for sure. Gonna hike a little farther and see what else I can find, Sweetgrass rod in hand!


Ariell looks for rabbits, while I photograph the upper end of where we fished to. What a great day.

In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Boo Boy


Posted by on in On the Road Blog
Glenn finally let me have the walking stick/bamboo fly rod combo he has been showing around the country. He imagined the idea, after thinking about how I often fish remote streams and lakes, which I must hike many wilderness miles to reach. It occurred to him that I could use a good walking stick. In that stick, he figured a bamboo fly rod might as well be present, so I could fish easily once reaching my destination. He did some mental creative design -- likely after a few beers, and pulled some bamboo sticks that were to become what I have named my "Magic Stick."

The same day he pulled the bamboo to make the rod, I was fishing a remote stream with native Redband trout, thinking I need a rod better suited to fishing that water. And I was limping after having turned my ankle on an unstable root mass. A walking stick would have been nice.

I called Dave at the shop to B.S. about my recent adventure and suggested maybe they make some tiny rods for the small streams I fish, and a few others appreciate. "Well, funny you should mention it," said Dave. "Glenn just pulled a bunch of strips to make you that exact rod!"

Something was going on in the world of bamboo...

Glenn finished the rod, took it on tour with fly fishing shows and talks at a variety of fishing clubs. Every place he went, people were amazed at such creativity. I was happy he made such a cool rod, but I wanted to see the frickin' thing for my self! Finally, it came in the mail. Thanks Dave and Glenn!!! A week later, and I was on the road filming a series of shows for Fish Whispering, a fly fishing TV show I'm working on for Comcast Sportsnet Northwest. Sweetgrass is a most wonderful sponsor. How would I fish without a Sweetgrass rod?

It had been a few months since fishing the stream where Glenn and I had concurrent thoughts on an ideal rod for native streams. My first venture with the rod would be back to the same river.

This stream has Mojo. Somehow, it contains mystic energy that spans from the Northwest to Twin Bridges, Montana, at the very least. Likely farther. At the very bottom of this canyon swim native Redband trout. Not reintroduced, stocked, hatched or otherwise. The real McCoy, Redband, perfectly fit for the surrounding Basalt geology and sagebrush banks.

Ariell and I developed our own cadence while hiking upstream. I paused slightly at every large boulder or stream crossing I bounded over. The walking stick kept pace, tapping gently on Basalt and thudding deeply in saturated Bentonite. It was sweet music that carried me miles upstream until I reached a spring creek tributary that I can not resist. I knew there were no big fish in the little stream, but the rings of fish rising in delicate riffles were too much to pass up. I released the Magic Stick from the eight-sided, bamboo walking-stick holster, pushed the ferrules together snugly and strung her up ready to deliver a fly to feeding fish.

It took longer than I thought, with many tiny fish smacking my two-fly offering, but unable to get the artificials ingested. I kept at it, trying to find slightly larger fish -- something big enough to eat a size 16 fly at any rate. A tight-looped roll cast seemed the ticket to get my next cast to the far bank, about 15 yards away. A couple quick twitches brought two palm-sized bullets to the flies, and I was able to set the hook to one. The fight was brief, but enjoyable. My reward for an hour's effort was a beautiful, Redband, about five inches long. A beauty that swam from my palm, ready to eat real bugs next, and put on a few more inches. Not long after, I headed upstream to seek something a bit bigger in the main channel.

Sometimes, water is just too much to pass up. This time it wasn't crystal-clear spring water. It was dirty, brown-green water still trying to clear from recent rain and melting snow. But two large boulders broke the strong current, that then tucked itself under both banks. I cast to the nearest current coming off the nearest boulder. The flies worked deep, hovering just above the substrate. I kept mending and stripping to keep constant contact with the flies. Suddenly the line stopped flowing downstream. I set the hook and the Magic Stick was doubled-over!

This fight took a while. After jumping, splashing and shuttering in the river's surface, the fat ol' Redband shot toward the bank at my feet. I was able to wedge her away from the many snags lining the bank, and brought her to swamped sedges just downstream from where I first cast. It was a fat, fat, fat Redband about 17 inches long. It was big and beautiful. A true compliment to the beauty and craftsmanship infused in the Magic Stick. A perfect pairing -- that native Redband and Glenn's wonderful Magic Stick walking-rod.


I didn't take any pictures, because I was busy being filmed for the TV show. It has been a while -- easily over a decade, since I last finished an art-piece, but I decided to sketch a picture of me fighting the big Redband. So, above is my pencil sketch of that amazing day -- the first day the Magic Stick saw fish slime. Not a bad day, eh.

In Wild Waters,

Zac Sexton

The Meandering Boo Boy





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