Travis rifled through the YETI as we sat on the dusty tailgate, consuming the day’s lunch and reliving the morning’s success. Fish after fish had been tackled from the long, complex run and we thought the wise browns had been put down for the day. I walked along the road with a Moose Drool in hand observing and taking in the day. As I glanced down into the current the golden back of a modest brown slowly breached and then disappeared back into the depths. I sat and watched and soon multiple fish emerged, hidden in plain sight feeding on some new hatch that I had no knowledge of.[vimeo https://vimeo.com/109398135 w=580&h=440]
Sam was up on the sticks and soon casts were made, flies were changed and eventually fish were caught. The size #18 whatever was stuck firmly in the browns lip, right next to a past fisherman’s fly, serving as proof of the tiny flies that dominate this waterway. Calling it a size #18 whatever would be disrespectful though given the time and knowledge put into it’s creation by Nate Brumley.
Nate is one of the nicest human’s you’ll meet and especially amongst fisherman. Ask many folks about one of their favorite waters and your reception will often be ill. Nate on the other hand bursts with knowledge that pulls from the deepest parts of his vast memory. From flies to hatches to stretches of river it all spills out into a novel of highly diverse yet well woven information. It’s the type of thing where you hear it all but only can store about 10% of the data. He does run a very knowledgeable fly tying business (Dry Fly Innovations) that I’d highly recommend, but his generosity runs deep regardless of any ties to business or personal advancement as we quickly found out. Mr. Brummley’s residence was our first stop on our long trip down to Oregon to search for large brown trout during Montana’s annual runoff. We loaded up on flies, mostly size 18 and 20 and set off for parts unknown brimming with confidence after our time spent with Nate.
The first life form on the river was seen from the edge of the road as we rolled up into the canyon. A small back eddy was filled with carp swirling along the desert colored mud. We contemplated fishing them but given the prospects that lay up the road we ventured on. The river was an oversized slough with small sections of riffles and pocket water followed by long deep runs stretching for hundreds and sometimes thousands of yards. Where the biggest of browns would lurk was anyone’s guess.
We soon couldn’t resist the urge to fish and pulled in under a tree and rigged up. The first afternoon would be simply spent fishing and scouting. We wanted to know we could land a few before the cameras rolled out. We soon diverged from the truck and began fishing our own ways. It was hot and I didn’t see much action unfolding on top of the emerald green waters. I’ll admit I’m a streamer junky and the thought of big browns quickly had me avoiding the microscopic bugs and tying on our buddy Gandalf. He was the tan and white variation and the first cast was immediately chased into the calm water by an angry brown. I threw it back in, letting it slide off the shelf before stripping it in towards the slack water. My line went tight and a fat brown quickly went airborne. The fight was solid with this buck but soon he was within the confines of the net resting from his midday battle.
As soon as my hook was free I was back to casting, this time a bit further across the seam. A black tank emerged slamming my fly but the line went slack a second later. He couldn’t be enticed a second time and quickly we were distracted by a stock truck dumping hundreds of fingerling rainbows off the bridge behind us. The small fish fought the current before being sucked back downriver into the next pool. We knew some opportunistic browns would be up for this type of treat. Soon we found Sam, working a dry through tasty water but the report was fish 1, Sam 0. We told him of the fish stocking and quickly streamers were tied on. As Travis fished just above me a small rainbow swam between my legs followed by a menacing brown. I’m sure he had his way with the newly transplanted fish.
The following day we fished hard. We switched bugs and moved locations but hadn’t put up much for numbers. After a long spring with little dry fly action we all had to brush off a little rust and try to remember how to fish a size 18 bug. As we fished a hole just a stones throw from the truck Nate pulled up. We quickly made our way back up to the truck to see how his morning had went. After showing us photo after photo of nice browns I had to ask, “What were you fishing.” “Oh I was using a beetle” he said. Ok then. Of course Nate was quick to supply us with an assortment of free flies and his wife had sent him off with some delicious soup to give us. Did I mention Nate is a pretty likeable guy?
We had our eyes on a small side channel containing multiple rising fish and set off with renewed confidence as a Brumley beetle was attached to our line. The fishing was silly and we finally were laying down some great footage. The ball was rolling and we had two days left to keep it that way.
Now despite any reports or advice on hatches or patterns I know I can always go to a streamer and turn fish, most often good ones. Considering the bucknasty browns that should be lurking here and after the very first afternoon the streamer was a constant part of the menu we were serving up to these fish. It was consistently the big fish producer. It was mid-day and we stopped to fish a run that had been fished that morning. As my streamer bounced into the river off the bank it was freight trained by a “bucknasty.” This wasn’t the first time this trip and I instantly started thinking one thing, mice. As the day progressed the weather started to roll in. Overcast skies and a light drizzle was all it took for Travis to make the switch. The neon yellow mouse skittered and skated and we all watched with anticipation. Finally a swipe was made, a miss but we knew it would be a go to method for the rest of the day. A short bit later Travis hooked and landed the first of the trip as a brown came arching out of the water attacking the mouse.
We were on cloud 9 at the moment and that afternoon found nothing other than a mouse attached to our lines. Over the next three hours we got over a dozen eats and after a lot of misses I was able to end the day with back-to-back browns from the same run. Sometimes it pays to get risky and fish something not on the fishing report. On this day it sure did.
The rest of the trip was a success and we were able to stack up some awesome footage, I’ll even go out on a limb and say some of it is our best to date. For the rest of the story you’ll have to catch our film, “Bucknasty Browns” in the 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour. A special thanks to our project supporters: Simms, Orvis, Scientific Anglers, Grizzly Hackle, YETI, DECKED, and Bozeman Reel Co.