So I'm back in one of my poles; West Yellowstone - or to be more precise, a favourite camp spot of mine on Hebgen Lake. My other pole is Te Anau - or to be more precise a camp spot up Mystery River X and (sometimes) Mystery River Y. I can light fires in these places, there's excellent lake fishing - especially here in Montana - and there's some bloody good river fishing in both (NZ has the edge of course, what with the backcountry). In fact in some strange way they're both home. For now anyway.
(I have to be careful what I say, for as soon as I start thinking of somewhere as being home I get into trouble with women and it's time to leave).
So it's good. They're different of course; Hebgen has bears - Te Anua, Camo-Guy.
I'm curious to see what the fishing is like this year, although tonight I'm going to Strozzies, which is a fantastic bar. In Te Anau I hang out in Redcliffs. Montieth's Black and Moose Drool - ok it's not perfect. But there are more chicks in Montana. You know, in case you were wondering.
Montana and New Zealand; it's what flyfishing is all about really. At least it is for me.
And the cool thing about Hebgen is that the Stillwater fishing is amazing, certainly the best top-of-the-water lake fishing I've come across so far. UK Stillwater techniques nail fish and - I'll be honest - this is what I do best. Not surprising really since I grew up stillwater fishing (and that's what we take most seriously in the UK). And no one fishes this place. OK when the fish are on the Callibaetis (that may be a spelling mistake - size 16 white winged caenis look-alikes but with dark bodies, that also hatch in blizzards [claret suspender #16]) then you may see 10 or 12 float tubers, and perhaps a drift boat or two… on a lake that must be the size of Rutland.
And in the evening, when the fish are taking buzzers and sedges [Shipman's and DH Sedge] in the slicks, I'm the only person who fishes here. Can you believe that? And yet only 20 or 30 minutes away on the Madison the car parks are full of anglers, 20 or 30 of them in each, two and three to a pool, trying to catch smaller fish in less numbers. I catch a lot of fish on this lake between 2 and 4 lbs, but (I can only assume) because it's not a River Runs Through It that no one is interested.
Actually to tell you the truth I wouldn't mind a bit of Rutland pressure here, which would make the fishing a little more edgy. Most of the fishermen use high hackled dries - or if not high hackled, then at least hackled (I know, I know) or else woolly buggers.
Wet flies, slime lines and teams of stillwater dries clean up. And of course you won't find the right flies in any of the shops round here. So I really have a lake the size of Rutland, with fishing as it was 15 years ago (but bigger fish) all to myself. I love it.
I was in a fly shop today and they said that Hebgen hasn't started yet, when in fact all they mean is that the fish aren't “gulping” callibaetis yet. These fish are fat; they're eating.
So this year I'll build a drogue for my kayak. Often the wind doesn't fully drop in the evening, so I'll be experimenting with this approach. A proper boat (not a drift boat) would be better of course, but I kinda like the Kayak. It's mobile, quick and fantastic for intercepting fish (so long as you don't run them over on your approach).
There are other lakes here too - some of which are secret - so I won't name them. The fish are bigger but the rises aren't so consistent. I'll certainly hit them too of course.
If you're in the area let me know and we'll fish together - that option is always open as you know. Simon says he'll come up for a weekend and Davy's up here for a few weeks. Carl is coming over from New Zealand and Eric is up for a fortnight. Tonio is visiting for a month.
One day I may even have a house here - now isn't that a frightening thought? (note to Rich: you're not invited for calling me a Capitalist - or Capitilist as my grandfather would have said - he went to a Communist Sunday School in Glasgow; “There'll be pie in the sky when you die” and other hymns)