Category Archives: Trip Reports

Floating the Yellowstone River with Mark and Paul Bloch at the Oars

This is the trip I have planned for months…~5 months….almost the most planned trip I have ever done.  Why?  Because Mark is with me.  Almost 19 now, my times alone with him in the wilderness have been few and far between in the last couple years.  And next year he’s gone; off to college.  So, when Kelly opened a crack in the door for a father-son trip to MT as long as we visited MT State where he was accepted, and did it cheaply.  There is one splurge on the trip, though, we are floating the Yellowstone River with Paul Bloch.  And fishing with a guide in MT is expensive.  I have never fished the Yellowstone and it is frequently called the Yankee Stadium of the Rivers in MT.  So, we are paying the exorbitant guide fees for this once in a lifetime trip.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

As expected it was tough to get Mark out of Bed.  I had to lure him out with the crappy free Marriott breakfast thing.

I talked to paul on the phone and told me to try and find the base layer stuff.  there was a Walmart close and I needed to get beer, soda and water anyways so I trecked over there.  and I was reminded on why I hate Walmart so much.  tons of tons of crap but nothing in baselayers for anyone under 300 lbs.  so I bought us xls and cheap sox anyways.  and this was expenses out of the budget that Kelly always seems to haunt me about.

That excursion made us another 15 late but that was ok, because it was cold and snowing.   Paul picked us up at the hotel at 8:30am and we headed for the shop.

We drove 11 miles up river  (grey owl to carters bridge, I think)

In the beginning it wasn’t slow.  Mark was in front of the boat and missed 4-5 in a row getting his bearings to drift fishing in the boat.  We were catching white fish.  Within the hour we both had trout.  I was on streamers and just not catching like I should have.  Too early in the season.  Mark was on the bobber in front.  It was bitter cold, though.  30mph winds and snowing at times.

It was never really slow all day except for a 30 minute stretch and at times it was hot.   The first major accomplishment was when the weather got so bad we pulled over and landed to pee.  Paul took mark into the current out of the boat and he nailed a nice rainbow!  Out of the boat!  On the “Yankee Stadium” of rivers….the Yellowstone.  I was beaming.  So was paul.  Lots of high fiving.

Mark was killing it.  and I let him drink a couple beers in the boat.  He is almost 19.   He was out fishing dad again which made me so proud.  Paul was proud of him too.  he taught mark so much about casting and reading the water.

We got back in the boat and then it happened…..  in the fast water mark hooked, battled and landed a really nice brown on a dead drifted zonker.  Because of the fast water paul couldn’t back row it…so mark did a great job battling and landing that fish.

Then it occurred to me….the grand slam.  No way could a rookie get a grand slam on the Yellowstone….could he?  From the back of the boat I said to paul and mark: “Mark you have a chance at a Yellowstone river grand slam.”  Typically quiet and he was shivering cold, I said, “All you need is a genuine Yellowstone Cutthroat and you have it.”  paul immediately jumped on that and said, “we’ll do it!”

Well, the sun peaked out and it couldn’t have been five minutes later when mark was on and in a battle.  Paul seems to have the eyes of an eagle because at one point he said, “it’s a cuttie!”  Mark landed it.  high fives and “woo!”.  Paul carefully examined the fish and told mark: “in a decade this fish will not exist.  This is as pure a wild Yellowstone cutthroat as there is.”  Mark didn’t understand or appreciate that at the time and I’m not so sure he still does.  But, one day he’ll tell his kids he caught and released a fish that is extinct.

And there it was: Mark had a grand slam on the Yellowstone River.

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Now, there was only one thing left to do….and I knew exactly what paul was thinking….  Looking for risers.  We had been catching a lot of fish and with an 11 mile float we had to move so Paul pushed looking for risers.  He took us to one of his secrets spots…and it was like tuna feeding in the ocean.  I have never seen anything like that.  A full on boil in the foam with millions of bugs.

Paul shouted at Mark for what to do and for me.  Mark dragged his nymphs through there slowly as instructed by paul and boom!  A big rainbow.  Then, in typical paul fashion he said, “we have to do that again on dries.”  So, he back rowed to it and we anchored up stream of it because of the current being so strong next to it.  It was my turn so paul handed me the dry rig and I casted…missed to the left… cast again…miss to the right….cast again…in the zone… paul says, “twitch it.” I do.  Paul says, “Pull it back slowly…”  and I feel the tug and set and the battle is on and I scream “woo!”.  the fish runs to the fast current and jumps.  Paul says, “Big Cutty!”…. I’m on 5x and the fish in in the fast stuff below me so I’m panicking…  and he jumps again.  Paul says, “you are going to have to finesse him out of the current.”  And I say, “I’ll ruin the hole.”  He says that is ok.  So I try and try.  But finally I get the fish into the slower stuff about 50 feet below us and pull him up and through the hole and paul nets him, “Woo!”.  Late I found out paul had zero confidence I’d land that fish.

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We didn’t have bags; we were wearing other people’s clothes, and we didn’t care.  Great day.  We found out the next day that we were the only ones on the river that did well.  That is why I love fishing with paul.  He’s so good; and he always wants to do the special thing as opposed to the numbers thing.  he doesn’t seem to get the respect from the other outfitters and guides and I think I know why.  He’s only been fly fishing for a decade.  That is a rookie in that business.  Of course he’s only in his mid twenties.

We had a great day and mark and paul got along smashingly just as I predicted.

We took paul to the chophouse in Livingston. I insisted on treating; it is the right thing to do.  I love that place.  The food is spectacular.  Rivals anything Bozeman has that I have been to.   I had a buffalo rib eye.  Mark had lamb chops.  Paul had the biggest steak I have ever seen.  Awesome.

The other good news.  A long conversation with delta at billings and they overcame united’s screw up on the bags.  They were sitting idle in san Francisco where we missed our connection.  Even though I asked united on the phone to ensure our bags got transferred they blew it.  The delta gal I talked walked over to united and talked to them.  She rerouted the bags on two delta flights to Bozeman airport.  The only downside was that I had to pick them up at 1130 at night after that long day.  mark was so wiped he couldn’t even go with me and I didn’t mind.  He was worked.  I let mark drink a JD and coke in the room and since I had to drive to the Bozeman airport I passed.

I got all 3 bags at the Bozeman airport that night…thank god.  Because tomorrow was our “big day”.

Fly Fishing Report -Lower Owens River – March 19-22, 2014

Fly Fishing Report -Lower Owens River

March 19-22, 2104

Wednesday March 19, 2014

Because of work I got a late start from Las Vegas.  It was an easy drive, but I forgot there is no fast food stops for like 275 miles.  once you leave las vegas you don’t see anything until bishop…except for the whore houses; and I did see a wild burro.  It’s an awesome drive over the mountain.  And a one lane road through the canyon.

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I got to the river around 3:30PM.  Plenty of time.  I parked on the west side of the river where sloffy scoped the spot last time.  it’s a scramble down the hill and a tough hike up.  2 fish landed, one nice one, 5 misses and snapped off on a huge fish.   There weren’t a lot of bugs but I did try to fish on top for 1.5 hours and had some success before I switched to the “bobber”

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Thursday March 19, 2014

I parked at the power plant at the pleasant valley river dam.  I did really well in this stretch the last time I fished it.  It’s difficult fishing; not for beginners because of the trees and overgrowth and current.  But, there is a ton of pocket water and good runs.

I fished downstream all the way to the lake….i have never done that…it’s a long way…and just killed…  tons of action all day.  Nothing huge, but a lot of wild fish.  Totally fun.   Even called sloff during it to tell him how good it was.

No bugs, no risers, though.  I Fished the bobber all day and killed on huck-birds-nests as the trailer fly.  A few on the zebra midge above.  I probably landed 30+. And because of the difficult fishing I missed a bunch.  The best fish was one I stalked at the confluence of rock creek…exactly where I caught a fish the last time I went there.

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I moved in slowly but a big fish still saw me from 30 feet away and spooked…. So I paused and waited and he moved back in to place.  I casted up from him and “whack!”.  But, wait, no, not him.  a much smaller fish…. Darn.  I pulled him quickly out of that run so I could have a shot at the big one.   not expecting him to be there, let alone not spooked, I casted and “whack!”  much heavier… it’s him!  great battle, netted, pictured (above and below the water) and released.

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As I worked my way down river I forgot how beautiful that upper wild stretch is.  The entire stretch must have been awesome before the power plant and the dam.

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Overall, I believe the majority of the fish I caught were those wild brown holdovers from last years spawn.  8” to 12” fish the jump like crazy and fight like hell.

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Friday March 19, 2014

This time I tried an adventure….and I wont’ do it again.  I went on the dirt road on the west side of the river again, but went another 1.5 miles south looking for fly fishing trails down the mountain.  I found a place to park, but it was the cattle road and the trails down were for the cows.  I saw lots of cows to the south.  Really loud cows.  So I walked down the mountain and to what I thought was the quickest route to the river…mistake… totally overgrown and blocked…. Barely 2-3 places to fish in the first mile of hiking up river.  So I essentially started right before where I parked the first day.  Lesson learned.  Tons of calories huffing and puffing in the hot sun; which is not that bad either.

I caught two little wild browns on the bobber downriver early and then it just shut down….  no bugs; no action.  Non one else was catching fish either and there were a lot of guys on the river.  I talked to a lot of them.  I went a good 1.5 – 2 hours with nothing…beautiful stretch of river.

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Frustrated, I said to myself, “Screw this, I’m going to the streamer.”  That was around 230.  And it’s exactly when Brocky txt’d me begging to take him fishing.  He was my good luck charm.  For the next 3.5 hours I constantly battled huge wild fish.  One after another…. 4-5 from the same holes!  I worked back downstream.  Constant strikes on an olive, bead headed rabbit strip streamer I did not tie.  Some of the strikes were so violent I cut open my finger on the fly line ripping out line and cutting through my hands.  And for that entire 3 hours brock was txting me to take him fishing.  J

The highlight was an 18-19” fat hen that jumped numerous times.  I had to finish it up through the rapids.  It was a long huge battle and the fish still was hot after beaching her and taking her picture.

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I probably landed 20+ fish over 14” on that little streamer.  Awesome.  Interestingly enough there were a lot of fishermen on the river and no one was doing well.  They were all on the bobber.  I fished until around 630pm and even though I had some daylight and was doing well I fished all the way down, beyond my car and into the cows.  And was a bit worried about how to navigate back to my truck… which was well founded worry because I did run into some dead-ends and had to hike backwards.

Saturday March 22, 2014

Well, after 2.5 great days of fishing I was set to drive home early so I could work the weekend and do chores before mark and Kelly got back from Orlando.  But, how can you turn down a 14 year old that begs you to take him fly fishing?  You can’t.  When a 14 year old begs to you to take him fishing, you take him fishing.  So, my man Brock and I tackled the C&R section of the Lower Owens for ~4 hours.  In general terms it was not slow…we saw action all day.  But, for some reason we couldn’t land a fish to save our lives.  Of course when you guide a 14 year old you are not fishing a lot… you are tying rigs and pulling flies out of trees and tying on new flies and undoing tangles and teaching about reading the water and doubling back to get his forgotten backpack riverside and teaching about the hatches.  All totally worth it.  I love that kid and I love that he loves to fly fish.

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I did sneak in some fishing on top with dries when the hatch went off and did pretty darn well.  It took me forever to find the right caddis.  Once I did, I saw a ton of strikes.  Mostly small fish, but I did have a nice 14” brown take me on top and I battled him for 45 seconds or so before he went ballistic and shook my barbless hook.  That was worth the day.  Well, that and fishing with brock.  Fishing with my man Brock was a highlight of the trip.