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The winter here in Western Montana has been mild to say the least so far.  Temperatures through January and now February have been well above normal and conditions resemble spring.  This has been frustrating for hunting coyotes but a blessing to all the fisherman who have had enough of winter already.  After the F3T recently toured through Missoula I’m sure most anglers have been out on the water ripping lip.  It was so warm the river had bumped 1100 cfs in a day and we were riding out the flat before it dropped again.  The forecast was looking gloomy with a strong likelyhood of rain throughout the afternoon.  We weren’t super sure if today would be the best day to float. We quickly decided that given it was Monday, what other way would be a great way to kick off the week, so we hit the road and met up with our good friend Josh Rokosch.  The boat hit the water and a few bends in the river later and Travis had a solid rainbow.

fly, fishing, montana, river, spring, rainbow, trout, day, float

The next couple hours were full of hookups mainly by Travis.  I bet he had me beat 10 to 0 at one point!

fly, fishing, montana, wild, spring, day, float, skwalla

And yes vibes were solid all around.

montana, wild, fly, fishing, trout, spring, bitteroot, river

The fishing was surpassing our expectations for what one would think fishing in February would be.  There was a short period of time where I almost tied on a skwalla just to see what would happen.  I didn’t but the rest of the day was full of plenty of laughs and a few more trout.

montana, spring, fishing, river, trout, missoula

fishing, fly, montana, rivers, spring, skwalla, wild, photo

Stoked to get back out and see what this spring has to offer!

 

Bully Decals are now in stock! You can purchase them here> http://montana-wild.com/store/shop

-Zack

Early Sunday morning we loaded up the truck, and headed to Bozeman.  The wind gusts pushed us east along I-90, and we sailed through bursts of snow and rain throughout the drive.  It looked like we might be in for a cold couple of days of filming & fishing.  Just before noon we stopped to fish a small stretch of the Clark Fork.  The wind gusts and freezing temperatures made for slow fishing.  We felt a couple tugs and even managed to fool a few small browns on a Parachute Adams before loading back up to finish the roadtrip to Bozeman.

shoot, out, rain, simms, ford, f 150

We finally arrived at the Simms headquarters, and met with the rest of the filmmakers.  All of the filmmakers were super friendly and cold PBRs were spread throughout the room.  After a half an hour of chatting and waiting for the guides to finish piling in, it was time to get to business.  The guides drew names out of a hat to decide who they would be filming with and we were paired up with Dan “Rooster” Leavens.  Zack and I didn’t have the slightest clue who Rooster was, but we would spend the next 3 days filming his every move and learning the ways of the Rooster.

simms, fly fishing, waders, boots, headquarters, bozeman, montana, shoot out, ice out

The next morning our 4:50AM alarm rang out, ducks quacking for me to awake.  Zack and I gathered our gear scattered on the hotel floor and headed out into the cold, windy, snowy weather.  Our destination was Twin Bridges, and we hoped we could get some early morning shots before meeting with the Rooster.

fog, clouds, snow

 

After a bitter cold morning of filming, we threw our frozen boots into the truck to de-thaw and finally made it to our destination, the Stonefly Inn & Outfitters.  Rooster had coffee ready for us, and we sat down and talked for a good hour about hunting and fly fishing.  We soon found out that Rooster had been sick throwing up all night.  He blamed the pizza he ate the evening before and to compound the issue, his wife was also sick.  A bug was going around, and we crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t be hit with the unfriendly sickness.  Rooster was feeling better fortunately, and decided that not the weather nor the sickness would stop him from fishing. We grabbed Willy the chocolate lab, loaded the truck with camera gear, and finally made it to the river.

lab, brown, man's, best, friend, montana, fishing, dog

The morning consisted of a bunch of small browns and frozen fingers, leading us to move locations.  That afternoon, the sun finally started to peak through the clouds.  We got back onto the river and it wasn’t long before Rooster hooked his first nice brown trout of the trip.  About an hour later and a few fly selection switches and a boss trout was hooked up.  At first we didn’t know what it was, but as the fish came to the net, it was a nice 2-foot rainbow!

2 foot, rainbow, monster, montana, wild, bent, shoot out, iceout

The rest of the day Rooster reeled in multiple nice fish and the vibe quickly began to swing into our favor.  With a couple browns weighing in around the 20″ mark and a rainbow pushing 24 we called it a wrap for the day as Rooster had to go home and take care of his wife and children who had been fighting the sickness.  Family comes first, and we had no objections to Rooster heading home before sundown.  Zack and I spent the rest of the evening filming around town and captured some late afternoon timelapses.

sunset, montana, twin bridges, stonefly, inn, outfitter

Zack and myself stayed up until 2:30AM organizing our clips from Day 1, making sure we were on top of our game and ready to start editing the film the following evening.  We got a few short hours of sleep and immediately were back up and firing up the cameras.  We finalized our storyline with Rooster and moved over to the fly shop.  After a broken fly rod, an obnoxious customer call, a spilled box of flies, and a flat tire, it was finally go time.  Rooster started the morning drive to the river by saying, “can’t show the lions on the first day boys”.  Little did we know he was not lying about “showing the lions”.  Rooster proceeded to catch fish after fish consisting of large browns and chromed out rainbows.  The footage was stacking and the shots were being logged.  Rooster was starting to put on a show that any fisherman would appreciate.  Helping us for the day were Rooster’s guides Gray, Bubba and Dave who added more punch to the fish fight.

simms, waders, bubba, stonefly, outfitters, montana, casting, fly fishing

rainbow, fat, montana

With plenty of solid shots stored in the camera, we decided to hit some new water to finish the day.  Rooster made his way below a small bridge and proceeded to catch fish after fish, throwing low, precise casts into the money spot.  It was a truly remarkable sight, with the Stonefly guide peanut gallery watching the show go down from the bridge above.

Dan, leavens, rooster, montana, simms, iceout, shoot, out, montana, wild

We wrapped up the day with dry fly eats on chernobyls, brown trout to the face, and an amazing steak dinner.  From here on out it was coffee, Monsters, and no sleep.  This was a chance that we had to take full advantage of.  You are not given opportunities like the Simms Shoot Out very often and we were here to win.  This was our chance to show that we can run with the best in the biz and we began the long process of crushing two days worth of fish into a 6 minute film.

all, nighter, mac, apple, editing, montana, wild, film

 

Before we knew it the film was in its final stages of production.  The sun was rising and Rooster was waiting to check out the latest cut of video.  Rooster gave us some final input and before we knew it the video was exported and we were driving to the Simm’s headquarters to turn in our film.

 

We relaxed the rest of the day and fished a local river the following morning with our friend Tom Urell.  The streamer fishing was hot, with fish attacking the streamers most of the day.  No monsters were brought to the net, but we had a blast fishing the local Bozeman holes.  Later that evening we watched all four submissions of the Simms Shoot Out at the Ellen theater.

simms, fly fishing, shoot, out, film, ellen, theatre, montana wild, rooster

After the films kicked off it was a nervous half an hour before I saw the Montana Wild logo flash up on the backdrop and the rest is history.  We had won the Shoot Out!!!!

winner, winners, simms, 2013, shoot, out, iceout, montana, bozeman, ellen, theater, dan, leavens, rooster, boughton

We spent the rest of the night celebrating with new friends and somehow managed to not spend all $2,000 at the bars.  We woke the next morning, packed our bags and headed back to Missoula.  That evening we found ourselves hiking 6 miles back into the backcountry…. Be looking for our next blog post about Stan’s amazing bear hunt.

 

I wanted to give a big shoutout to Dan “Rooster” Leavens for being such an amazing guide and host, and Dana Leavens for letting us steal Rooster for a couple days and allowing us to sleep at the Stonefly Inn.  Dan  loves to fish and he has a great family and group of guides.  Thanks Bubba, Dave, and Grey for your antics and not so helpful music suggestions.  We hope we can work with Dan in the future and hopefully the friendship we made will last for a very long time.

 

Below is our winning submission to the 2013 Simms Shoot Out!!!

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/65079211 w=580&h=440]

 

-Travis

 

I checked the stream flows via the USGS site after a week filled of stressful days in front of my computer.  The past week had been full of blazing warm and sunny conditions that I had failed to take advantage of due to deadlines.  I was now left with only one glorious day to fish.  Regardless of the possible tsunami mud conditions, Zack and I took off in search of some big fish.

As we started our drive, the rain splattered against my windshield consistently reminding me that it was once again spring in Montana.  It was going to be a full blown day of Gore-tex and streamers.  We crossed our fingers as we made our trek to the first hole…. hopefully the chub hatch was going off today.

Brown, trout, tail, montana, fishing, fly fishing

I shook the cobwebs off my fly rod and it wasn’t long before I felt my my line go tight after a couple slow twitches with my streamer.  A little brown ball of fire had latched onto my fly, and I had my first fish of the day.  I continued to hammer the banks, bouncing my streamer off the pale grass on the adjacent bank.  Bam!  I detected another tug, and once again felt that head shake that I have come to love.

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Zack and I hooked into a couple small German browns, before we were hit with a Montana rain storm.  The weather didn’t stop us from dropping streamer bombs.  I found a grassy bank that overlooked a good stretch of deep, calm water.  I made a perfect cast, landing my streamer on the bank and stripping it back into the water.  Three strips and I felt my line stop dead in my hand.  I strip-set and had a beautiful brown running for cover.

brown, trout, montana, wild, orvis, helios, fly tying, black, streamer

This year has really been my break through year with streamers.  I have finally mastered some really productive patterns, and today these patterns were really getting the trout’s attention.  Zack and I continued another 200 yards downriver.  I brushed the drops of water off my pack, only to notice Zack had a sizable fish hooked downriver.  Another beautiful brown trout, hungry for the home-grown streamer.

zonker, streamer, articulated, brown, trout, montana, wild, shoot, out

Sitka, stormfront, brown, trout, montana, wild, seattle, mariners, hatWe moved on, throwing casts into holes that were now deep enough to fish with the rising water.  We managed a couple more nice fish, and finally a rainbow decided to eat.

green, streamer, trailer, hook, montana, wild, rainbow, net, fly fishing

Green, purple, white, black, and tan streamers were producing fish.  The rainbows were finally putting streamers on their list of preferred foods, but the browns were truly on the prowl.  Once again Zack hooked into a flying brown trout.  To see an +18in brown trout jump four times is pretty remarkable.  This fish did just that and did not want to spend any downtime in our Larkin Works net.  Too bad the trout didn’t have a choice.  All this action boosted our confidence, and Zack released this amazing brown, only to call out “I’m going to catch another one out of this same hole”.  I grabbed the camera, and 1st cast Zack had another respectable brown trout.

brown, trout, streamer, eat, water, photo, picture, montana We made the long walk back to the truck.  What an amazing day!  Our spring has been outstanding, and the fishing has been phenomenal.  We have a big week coming up.  We hope to see everyone at the Orvis “Down the Hatch” film event here in Missoula, Montana at the Wilma on Friday.  The films start at 7pm and there are tickets available at Grizzly Hackle.  All of the proceeds will go to Montana Trout Unlimited.  We hope to see you all there!!

-Travis

brown trout, montana, wild, streamers, winter, 2013, rain

December in Montana.  The weather is unpredictable and many have put up the fly rods and rifles for the year.  It’s a risk-reward time of the year when it comes down to fishing.  Just catching fish is a success and often it’s just painfully slow on the water.  With the rain steadily falling we threw the waders in the truck and met up with Anthony from the False Casts and Flat Tires crew and hit the road.  Not surprisingly we were the first truck at the access.  We figured most would settle for a beer and some football on a cold rainy day with the mercury hovering just above 40 degrees.  Our plan was to settle for a beer and some streamers on a piece of water we hadn’t visited in a good 6 months.  It only took about 5 minutes before Anthony decided to get the ball rolling.

brown trout, montana, wild, streamer, rain, winter, outdoors, videos, 2013

We quickly moved upstream with eats in almost every hole.  I quickly was on the board when a beautiful brown hammered my fly just feet from me as I was finishing my retrieve.

brown trout, montana, wild, streamer, rain, winter, outdoors, videos, 2013

brown trout, montana, wild, streamer, rain, winter, outdoors, videos, 2013

It was almost silly the streamer bite was so good.  Any decent water seemed to hold a fiery brown willing to mount a vicious attack on any invader of its territory.  Soon Anthony had another killer fish on.  He had been holding in a very small sliver of water, and a precise cast fooled him.

brown trout, montana, wild, streamer, rain, winter, outdoors, videos, 2013

We kept skipping past each other as we fished upstream.  Soon Travis was hollering just upriver.  I looked and saw the Echo doubled over.  I quickly made it to him to help net his fish.  After a few minutes it was apparent this wasn’t just any fish.  This was a PIG!  After a couple close calls I finally slipped the net under a rainbow that could be mistaken for one straight out of Alaska.

rainbow trout, monster, montana, wild, AK, streamer, rain, winter

rainbow trout, monster, montana, wild, AK, streamer, rain, winter

We snapped a few hero photos of this stud rainbow and then let him slink back to his lair.

rainbow trout, monster, montana, wild, AK, streamer, rain, winter

After everyone’s success it was time to crack open a cold PBR and take it all in.  Laughs were had all the way around.  Despite the inclement weather it had easily turned into one of the best days on the water.  We had been fortunate enough to catch one of those moments where the fish are just eating and it doesn’t matter what you put in front of their face.  Unfortunately this brown wasn’t so fortunate.  He had seen his last Montana summer and most likely had died of old age.

brown trout, dead, winter, montana, pbr, river, 2012

Again we kept the streamer train moving.  After our early success we soon began to loose a little steam.  Multiple eats resulted in near misses and the hook just didn’t set.  The rain had subsided and the bite seemed to cool off.  I was able to trick one last brown though.

brown trout, montana, winter, wild, outdoors, streamers

He was a solid fighter as he took to the air 3 or 4 times before finally making it to the net.  It’s always fun to see the differences between every brown trout.  Some are bright and others more subdued in color.  The size, shape and type of jaw always seem to vary and are one of my favorite species of trout to catch.  It had been a stellar couple of hours, but all good things must come to an end.  As we worked back down stream we were left with nary a bite.  As quickly as it had started it had shut down.  We hit the golden hour that day and all left with smiles on our faces.  I want to thank Anthony for bringing his camera and snapping some killer photos.  I’m sure we’ll be back on the water soon.  If you haven’t fished in the winter before then get out and get after it!  You don’t catch fish on the couch.

brown trout, montana, winter, wild, outdoors, streamers, slab

-Zack