Big Sky Ramble (1)

Every time I glance at this blog site’s header photo I’m reminded of Montana. In this post, and the next, I’ll provide a thumb-nail sketch of my solo jaunt through southwestern Montana in July 2010. Please join me as I look back at some highlights of a Big Sky ramble.

From Anaconda I drove to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest where I camped at Georgetown Lake. The lake’s hefty brook trout will respond, ostensibly, to the damsel fly hatch, nymphs tied on a #8 hook, but all I caught in my one evening at Georgetown was a small rainbow. The birding was more productive: red-necked grebes, bald eagle, gray jay, and, a life-bird for me, a great gray owl that flew by my tent. The camp host, Robert, confirmed the big owl’s identification.

My days camping on a cutthroat/bull trout feeder stream to Rock Creek were a joy (mosquitoes and ants and thunderstorms excepted). Typically I would catch around 10 nice cutts and cut-bows (hybrid cutt and rainbow trout) from the Rock each day, but oddly enough, the best catches came from the feeder stream above my camp-site, where fish up to 18 inches took the dry fly.

I left the lovely, trout-colored wilderness of upper Rock Creek and headed for the Bitterroot. Camped out underneath the ponderosas of the West Fork Bitterroot River, I was ready for good cutthroat angling. First night there I fished till 10 p.m. and caught and returned more than a dozen trout. I bobbled the first bull trout I’ve ever caught and failed to get a decent look at it. One afternoon, upstream under the mountain walls, I walked into sunlit air filled with swarms of hatching stoneflies. I caught numerous westslope cutthroats on a dry Stimulator, wild fish 17 and 18-inches long. The trout kept rising well into the evening when the Rusty Spinner dry fly seemed to be the ticket. 

One evening, after tasting whiskey from a favorite blue cup, I spoke with several fly-fishing teachers who had just arrived at an adjacent camp-site from their homes in Oregon. Learning that I planned to drive over to the Big Hole and the Madison rivers, they provided some suggestions for those rivers and also gave me several caddis emerger flies that have proven to be deadly when fished near the Madison’s Three Bridges site. Next morning, while packing up to cross the big divide, I used my field guide to help identify another life-bird, the pygmy nuthatch, that was singing high up in its favored ponderosa pines. Had I not been searching for this tiny bird and its elusive twitter, I would have never found it there, even though the species shared the same camping spot with me.

[to be continued]

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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