Lower Madison river: Maverick trip in a western paradise
During my visit in trout hunter, most of time I got to fish with this super guide BG, share some thoughts and show each other stuff that “we think” we know the subject better than the other HA… Mind you, I have learned a ton from this super fishy guy. Because it is still on the peak season in the fly shop, occasionally, BG has to work, this mean I have get some opportunities to explore the waters by myself which is good to me to switch the mode. BG is kind enough to lend his Pathfinder to me that make my exploration territory expanded to several states nearby. My top choice: Yellowstone national park, just 35 minutes away from trout hunter. Cool. I finished a lazy and yet super luxury breakfast then set off for chasing those illusive huge lake run brown trout in early season. Reliable source has it that there are few of them in the lower Madison! I stopby the Blue Ribbon River Flies fly shop just to confirm the news is solid and also get a chance to see what is the hot fly for those lake run brown trout… I absolutely love this shop! Small, cozy and has everything you need! The famous flies are all well organized in the little cells… I quickly identified the Iris Caddies emerger which I have ordered from the mail in the past (I love Craig Matthews’ book, so his special tie become “the must” to collect). Jennifer , a super friendly shop member and another softhackle enthusiast, quickly understand my mission today and pointed me to the right direction! Softhackle, medium and big size. You know softhackle always has a soft spot in my heart… the topics seem endless when you meet another softhackle lover… we had a wonderful chat… while time is vanishing fast… I grab some simple, but super fishy flies (more like a bluemoon pattern) and off I goes to the lower Madison as Jennifer pointed to me step by step on the map earlier. It was a bluebird sky with some breeze when I arrive the lower Madison, a typical late summer day in the mountains - dry, cool and colorful, I can’t ask any better weather! Only two other cars were there… and they are fishing rather close to the parking lot…there are some good looking waters there too. The good thing about fishing alone is you get a chance to fish every kind of water in your own pace and take all the time to prepare yourself to test all different kind of techniques. I have the whole day exploration in my mind and I have decided to make a long hike down the river… I packed some beef jerky and a bottle of water. The river are pretty shallow, most of the sections are featureless kind of shallow runs, on the lower part when it get closer to the lake, it become more braided waterways. Fish could be holding anywhere or nowhere to be found, the water is asking softhackle downstream swing! Seriously, softhackle fishing is so relaxing that I don’t really mind I catch a fish or not… plus, the smell of sage bushes and the extraordinary scenic view are just so wonderful to explore this area! Of course I have a bear spray just few inches away from my finger tip… it would be cool to take some wild photos! Compare to other small mountain creeks, my first impression was there are fewer fish in this section, maybe it is in the middle of the day. I did not get a single bite on the swing… After few bends down the river, the scenic view wider open and turning into the amazing scenic tour, so it is fine to have no hook up. The beautiful landscape keep me fishing pace rather fast, hands and feet were both busy, mind is overwhelmed with this dream land. I was always curious what is the water behind next bend… just before noon, I found a nice cliff bank with some fish rising tight against the bank… the river is fast and wide…so, few bad presentations finally put down those fishes… no luck. Fine! I should be able to get back from the other side of river and get a better presentation in this evening. Few river bends later, I have arrived a very nice eddie pool under a big tree. Great looking water… “maybe there is some fish holding here?” as I speak to myself, concentrate my eyes on the deep bottom, I saw some nice flash… “This is great, some life down there”. Quickly pinched some weights and I switched to high sticking technique, a nice medium rainbow trout was on on the first drift… cool… quick long distance release him and off I did the second pass… this time a big pull zipping my line “loudly” through the surface… I can see the flash tumbling underwater though my polarizer glasses. Well… I did not land it but it was such a great fight… until later on I finally landed a small white fish… I realized “the one” might be a giant white fish I just unhookded. Ha… great native species! There is no lie, I love whitefish! They are such a good fighter and their “native” identity just make the whole game more spiritual! Saying goodbye to the nice pool… the fishless search continues… I never has this experience before in the Rockies… it is rather sterile water, maybe it is because the water is big and featureless so the fish are relative difficult to locate. Finally I met another good deep run again… few swing through the head drop-off… hit and miss… then I switch to super heavy rubber legs and tailing with a small soft hackle… down deep swing for the bottom sleeper! Yes, white fish answered! Cool… love it! It is surprisingly that the depth charge could change the result dramatically… That been said”” if you are not hooking the bottom once of awhile, you are not deep enough”. After I took another two whities. A old timer approach from the down stream… yelling from the other bank ”any luck?” “Yeah, just some white fish though…” I answered with less enthusiasm, figured no one will praise those overlooked natives… “Oh, whities, they will hit anything shinny” the old timer give me a good ol comment. “Whatever” I pretend I understand what he is saying and keep my swinging motion going… He continued to say “when the season is peaking up, it would be 7 or 8 guides in this run, each with their client – swing and step”. They are all after the giant lake run brown trout. Although I like to fish with other people, a dozen of anglers in the same run? No no… definitely not my cup of tea… I would rather just catch those giant whities and spend my day dreaming while swing in this spectacular wild west scenery. When my watch finally pointed to 5:00 PM I arrived a super giant “coffee pot”…a huge back eddie caused by two merged confluence from the braided channels (I realized this is called “coffee pot” by talking to a guide in trout hunter after, he also mentioned there are some big “A” double”S” whities which approaching state records live there). It was a huge deep pool… “if I am a migrant trout, this would be a Super 8 motel on the highway” I told myself… it is just too sexy to the mission (catch a early migratory trout), I stopped, enjoy the beauty of this giant pot for few minutes and regret that I did not bring my striper streamer box with me (what a shame!) well… before I leave Auburn I told myself, I will try my best NOT to fish streamers… because all my hot summer days were already wasted in the striper fishing, there is no point to spend more time in this fabulous western trout river – repeat the stripping motion again… absolutely no point!! However, when the giant brown image kicked in my head… the dirty thought aroused! “Should have my 7 inches heavy bunny here @@” Few swing later, quiet… and I feel helpless. Well… there is nothing I can do… so I decided to cross the pool from the down stream… take a break and enjoy the awesome scenery… ready for my way to return… there are still plenty of 4 hours day light for the way back… so I am not really in a hurry. When I careful cross the pool, on the other bank I saw those interesting flowing pattern on top of the water. Sometimes the patterns will segregate by itself and reveal what is underneath in the pool… “Wow… are those fish lying on the bottom one by one? “ When I train my eyes to see thought those windows, my mind is just like return to when I was age 6 first realizing the all dark berries in a tree are all edible! Cool… “I see them, I get them” as jimmy teeny mentioned in his film. I quickly switched to the high sticking rig… the 40 minutes I probably hooked more than 20 whities… Thank God I did not break the G2! it was a blast trip!
I am a biologist grew up with a fishing rod in my hands. I have been fortunate enough to embrace my love of art and science in my career. Most of my free time were well spent in the nature, either studying bird behavior or chasing variety of fish with fly rods. My favorite art medium is watercolors, I love the natural and spontaneous feel created by watercolor pigments. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University. Welcome to my website. Mark