Gettinglost from iker elorrieta on Vimeo.

Big water somewhere in East Java. Poem by John Clare narrated by Tom O’Bedlam.

If you’ve ever thought about surfing exotic places, hang in for the sequence starting about 3:45…

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Sure, there are bigger crowds that will gather for citified debauchery in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Savannah, but there’s no celebration of this fine day that can hold a candle to the one in Butte, Montana.

Some of the finest fiction ever written featuring a town’s celebratory spirit as a key element set the events in Butte – Ivan Doig’s Sweet Thunder – even if it was the 4th of July. If it’s not on your bookshelf it sure as hell should be.

Just so you know.

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When the rest of the family lived in Bozeman, Mark and I would fish the Gallatin a lot.  It’s close to town, has beautiful scenery and the fishing can be pretty damn good at times. When everyone went their separate ways I didn’t fish it that much.  This winter I haven’t it at all.  When I decided to brave the crowds on Saturday morning I headed up there.  I hadn’t been up in the canyon since last September probably, and had forgotten what a beautiful drive it is.  As I mentioned yesterday, the crowds were not at all what I was expecting.  When I couldn’t see any cars in one of my favorite spots, I immediately pulled in.  I couldn’t help but feel lucky.

This place has several parts, beginning with an upper run that is deep, slow and clear.  The kind of place that is wonderful for summer caddis hatches, but a little tough at other times.  The river tumbles down a small rapid that has some nice pocket water when the river is a little higher.  After that, another deeper pool that cascades into another, smaller, run.  All of it fishes well at times, but today I was just after the deep and slow stuff.  Even though the air was warm, the water is still pretty damn cold.

I caught the first one almost right away.  It was an average Gallatin size Rainbow and he hammered a Choked Purple Lightning Bug.  I’ve been tying a lot with the Bozeman Fly Good’s Bug Collars this winter and am finally getting a chance to start using them.  So far, fish seem to really like them.  The Sterling Silver color you can see in the picture is one of my favorites.

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The water was low and clear, with only a hint of color in the deeper and faster water.  There were a few midges coming off, but nothing to draw the trout to the surface.  I could see another group of fishermen in the upper run, so I just started lapping the lower two pools.  Make a pass with one rig, walk back up to the top, change flies or weight or depth and try again.  Fishing was slow.  It was almost an hour later when I caught my next fish.  A golden flash in the depths of the pool meant a brown and the bend in the rod meant a good sized one.  After a spirited fight, I finally brought him to hand.  It was a nice fish for the Canyon and he ate another one of my ties, a Rainbow Warrior.

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Catching a fish on a fly you tied is so much more rewarding.  It means that even if it looks imperfect to your own eye, the fish liked it.  You must have done something right.

That brown was the last fish of the day, even though I spent quite a bit more time in the area.  It was such a beautiful day to be outside the lack of fish didn’t bother me.  It was the first day it was warm enough to drive around without a jacket and with the windows down.  You can smell spring in the air…  I was also just happy to be fishing my 4-weight, a rod I haven’t spent enough time with yet.  The Scott Radian really is quite incredible.  I’ve fished tiny dries with it, thrown a double nymph rig on a windy day on the Lower Madison, and today I was using it for lighter duty nymphing.  It has handled it all very well so far.  For a 4-weight that’s pretty impressive.  This summer I’ll be putting a lot more days on it.

The fact that it’s only March and things are only going to get better from here makes me pretty happy.  Spring is coming.  Even on the slow days, it’s something to smile about.

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Tying One On! – EP 5 starring Brian Chan from TIGHT LINE FILMS on Vimeo.

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It happens every year.  The weather gets nice and more people start fishing.  The tourists that are here to ski turn to the rivers instead.  Locals put thoughts of the slopes aside and head out to the local waters.  After a winter of peace and quiet the rivers are suddenly busy again.

It’s always a rough transition.  These people are in your river, in your spot, and they’re catching your fish.  It’s hard to not think like that in the slower months when you often are the only one on the water.  Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been slowly trying to shift my mindset from that to remembering that there is an awful lot of water here to fish.  More than you could probably fish in a lifetime.

Through the winter at the shop I’ve had weekends off.  This lines up great with the girlfriend, who also shares those days off.  But now that it is spring again it poses a problem: the crowds on the rivers are at their peak during the weekends.  This weekend in particular it got to me.  The weather was forecasted to be in the high 60s both days and all week long in the shop I helped folks who were going out.  Going out to places wanted to fish.  Damn.

So when Saturday morning rolled around I was less than enthused about leaving the comfort of my warm bed and hitting the water.  But screw it, at least it’s a nice drive, right?  I loaded up (late) and headed up the Gallatin Canyon, a place I figured would be packed for sure.  But the further I got up the canyon, I was shocked by how few anglers were actually out.  It might have been the windier than forecast conditions or the looming storm clouds, but regardless I was able to find one of my favorite pools wide open.

Sunday morning I wanted to fish the Upper Madison and was sure it would be swarming with people.  I fished all morning in complete solitude.  The 25 mph winds might have had something to do with that, but still.  You get the point.

It’s a lesson that is hard for me to relearn and I have to do it every year.  Even if the rivers are going to be busy, just go.  You’ll never find that quiet little honey hole by sitting on the couch.  Get out and go fishing.

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Northern Fly Fishing from Whip Fly Fishing on Vimeo.

Pike on the fly. Very well done.

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Speaking of photography today, one of the fishiest guys we know cranked up an Instagram account (@bigskyanglers) back in January – Joe Moore of Big Sky Anglers.

Joe is a rare combination of fly fishing rocket scientist, gentleman guide, winter Yellowstone bombardier operator and guide, practical conservationist and river steward, bird hunter, who, as if you didn’t have enough to be envious of already, even married well (Molly).

Joe’s beard is even the envy of beard savants worldwide.

[I don’t believe any of our crew has met Molly, though we favor her immensely given her penchant for reading and insightful book reviews that pop into Joe’s fishing report / blog now and again. Books have very high priority for us in moves as well, Molly.]

Joe’s website and Instagram.

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Get up high. On a boat with a flying bridge, this means a bit of climbing is in order. Here, Pete Kutzer puts the hurt on a bluefish on Cape Cod.

Get up high. On a boat with a flying bridge, this means a bit of climbing is in order. Here, Pete Kutzer puts the hurt on a bluefish on Cape Cod.

There are still images to be made in the monotone seasons. For this early spring shot in central Montana, I looked for strong lines leading into the frame. Composition is key.

There are still images to be made in the monotone seasons. For this early spring shot in central Montana, I looked for strong lines leading into the frame. Composition is key.

I’ve had a couple emails this week from folks getting ready for the coming season (come on, spring) and wondering what they can do to up their photography game while out on the river. Somehow life always shines a bit rosier when we are on the water, fly rod in hand, but the perennial question is how do we capture those “big” feelings we get when we are fishing?

That quiet moment rigging up at the truck when the rest of the world begins to fade away, and the gurgle of that water through the trees is just about the damn sweetest sound you’ve ever heard? That top-of-the-world feeling when you shoot line and the cast lands exactly where you want it to? And that spellbinding golden light as the sun dips below the horizon, highlighting your buddy as he casts amidst swarms of caddis? How do we capture such grandeur in pixels and paper?

Basically, we’re looking at recording memories. Moments. Feelings. And it’s a damn sight harder than it sounds. A good rule of thumb for judging photography is this: does it make you feel anything? Sure, we all enjoy pretty colors and dynamic shapes on a page. But what emotions does it elicit? I’ve got images pinned all over my walls at home, shots I’ve pulled from magazines and ads over the years that simply make me feel something. It’s nothing short of astounding the way we can get lost in a good picture.

So how do you make photographs? Good ones? For a start, follow these few key tenets:

  1. Get outside. Very few (if any) great photographs happened on the couch. Get thee outside.
  2. Move around. Eye level is boring. Crouch. Climb trees. Stand on the cooler. Get in the water. Move thy ass.
  3. Keep your gear handy—it doesn’t do you any good if it’s sitting at home. This was the day the Millie Fire ran, in the Gallatin Mountains a few summers ago. Jake and I were up nearby logging roads target shooting, and happened to be in the vicinity as the fire blew up. I got the shots before the Forest Service could close the road, and had the top fold image on the local paper the next day, and a contract to cover the fire for the duration. Couldn’t have done it if the camera wasn’t present.

    Keep your gear handy—it doesn’t do you any good if it’s sitting at home. This was the day the Millie Fire ran, in the Gallatin Mountains a few summers ago. Jake and I were up nearby logging roads target shooting, and happened to be in the vicinity as the fire blew up. I got the shots before the Forest Service could close the road, had the top fold image on the local paper the next day, and a contract to cover the fire for the duration. Couldn’t have done it if the camera wasn’t present.

    Light. There’s a reason photographers tend to look sleep-deprived. We are. When I’m on assignment I’m typically up an hour before dawn to get into position, and shoot as far past dusk as I can. And then I edit for a few hours. Rinse, rest a few hours, and repeat. (Coffee is our friend.) Midday light is boring. Dawn and dusk are thine allies.

Most of all, just shoot. Experiment. Play. There is no better teacher than experience, and I’m constantly reminding myself to look at things from a different angle. Let your mind run wild. Photography is, after all, a creative pursuit. I’m in production preparation for a big commercial shoot at the end of April, and am trying to find that balance between a shot list of needed images for the client and keeping it loose enough to play it by ear. Weather, water conditions, gear trouble… you never know what is going to happen. The most important thing is to stay loose, stay open, and just get it done.

Sometime in all that, to have a little fun. (Remember, there’s nothing better than a celebratory drink at the end of a good day on the water.)

As the great Ansel Adams once said, “You don’t take a photograph. You make it.”

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Sometimes “move around” (rule #2) means squeezing into small spots. Here, jammed into the back of a Jeep returning from a dawn striper excursion on Martha’s Vineyard, with two of the savviest striper guys I know in the front.

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| The Bench |

by Mark McGlothlin on March 15, 2015

in Flies

| The Bench | from Jake Patton on Vimeo.

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Trout underwater from Patrick Daigle on Vimeo.

No sound, but this will ensure you get on the Madison early this year (shot near Cameron). Hot damn.

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There’s still room at the inn (banquet) for you and a plus one at the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Annual Banquet in Naples tomorrow night featuring one of the legends of salt water fly fishing – Chico Fernandez.

Tickets here.

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Tony Reinhardt of Montana Trout Outfitters in Missoula shared these pics yesterday of an incredibly nice skiff build by guide Karl Jones of Bitterroot Boat Works. Now that is one sweet skiff.

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Growing up with roots in the South there are certain foods you just assume folks everywhere eat just like your clan and friends always did.

Take pickled okra for instance.

The Talk O’ Texas Crisp Okra Pickle brand was born in San Angelo, Texas in 1950 and their first major delivery contract was signed shortly thereafter with Neiman Marcus in Dallas (go figure that one). Their okra pickles were in just about every fridge I ever peered into growing up and were invariably close at hand when eating fish, shrimp and gumbo at my grandfather’s beach house near Matagorda.

While Talk O’ Texas is the undisputed king of commercial okra pickles, they can’t hold a candle to okra pickles hand-crafted in your own kitchen with the first tender pods of the season.

Well, low and behold those first tender okra pods have shown up this week at our local independent market and our first batch hit pint jars last week and is already just about gone.

Dammit, they’re that good.

Another double batch is going in tomorrow, and yes, these are the perfect accompaniment to your brunch Bloody Mary. We like these spicy and add both pepper flakes and a dried or fresh chile pepper to most jars, though they have plenty of punch without the additional pepper.

The recipe looks long, but the hands-on time to get these set up to process is easily less than 30 minutes. They’re a piece of cake to do.

2 pounds fresh young okra (2-4 inch pods)
1 and 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
3 tbsp. kosher or pickling salt
1 tbsp. sugar
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
4 jalapeno or serrano peppers, stemmed (optional)

Okra Pickle Spices
2 tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. celery seeds

4 pint canning jars, lids and the gear to process in a hot water bath

Prep your jars (sterilize, we still do 10 minutes in boiling water) and lids.

Mix the brine. Combine the vinegars, water, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan, bring to just a boil stirring to dissolve the solids; reduce heat and keep warm.

Mix the pickling spices.

Rinse and trim the okra, trimming the stem end to about 1/4 inch (leave the cap on). Prep the garlic cloves and peppers if using.

Pack a pickle. Pour a generous tablespoon of pickling spices into each jar then drop a garlic clove in each one. Now pack the okra in, alternating stem-up and stem-down; they need to be packed in snugly so the okra won’t float in the brine.

Now pour the heated vinegar brine to within 1/4-inch of the jar tops; run a knife around the inside of the jars to dislodge air and adjust brine levels. (If you run out of brine for some reason, just top off with a bit of either vinegar.)

Process. Wipe the rims, place the lids and bands. Place back into your boiling canner and process per your routine for 10 minutes (some recipes suggest 15 minutes, though we’ve never had a problem keeping ours fresh and tasty – they never sit on the shelf that long around our place anyway.) Remove to a towel on the counter, wait for the pop to show they’ve sealed and cool to room temp.

Best serve chilled or gracing a Bloody Mary.

Enjoy.

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Bass on the fly 2014 from Alvin Dedeaux on Vimeo.

From Alvin Dedeaux, our peep Winston Cundiff and the rest of the gang at All Water Guides.

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While tempting, man cannot live by bacon, baby ribs and brisket alone. I can see these set up in the food cooler for a multi-day run this summer.

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