Month: February 2018

While on our River Ramble through Montana, we had the honor and pleasure of sitting on the banks of the Bitterroot River with Andy Carlson, owner/head guide, Bitterroot Anglers.  We covered a variety of topics with Andy including his introduction to fly fishing in Colorado , the ecosystem of the Bitterroot River and fly tying (including Andy’s famous Purple Haze).  Most importantly, Andy shared his experiences in conservation, advocacy and activism beginning with that first creek in CO where he learned to fish.  That work has continued throughout Andy’s life, connecting him with other legends of fly fishing and conservation including Dan Bailey and Bud Lilly working to protect waters throughout the area.  Andy was the leader in supporting the Bitterroot as a wild trout fishery vs. a stocked trout fishery.  He detailed how he and other conservationists worked to make the Bitterroot the world class fishery it is today.

At the end of the interview, I asked Andy what we could all do to continue this stewardship of our rivers and streams.  His response really connected with us both, as I hope it will connect with you, as you watch his interview.  He responded, “hands on work with the kids” as they are the next to carry this mantle of conservation.   Barb and I both agreed, as soon as we can, we want to get our grandkids out to meet and learn from Andy Carlson.

We know you’ll enjoy this interview with Andy, but as importantly, we hope it will spur you to get involved, however you can, in protecting our nations rivers and streams.

Every year the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited  Chapter of Trout Unlimited holds TroutFest, a celebration of fly fishing and conservation along the Guadalupe.  This year, it was back at the Lazy L & L Campground on the banks of the organizations namesake river.  GRTU is the largest TU chapter in the US boasting over 5500 members and TroutFest itself draws nearly 3000 attendees and vendors.  GRTU also stocks some beautiful rainbows (pic 1 above) and browns that make fishing this tailwater so fun!

TroutFest is one of those events that draws folks for a variety of reasons.  Some come to support GRTU via fundraising dinners, silent auctions and live auctions with their donations.  Others come to see the vendors in the giant tents and checkout the latest in gear and fishing locations.  Many come to participate in hands on casting lessons taught by certified fly casting instructors.  Featured speaker sessions are a popular draw for the event as well.  This year, the lineup of featured speakers boasted the legendary Flip Pallot, Jen Ripple of Dun Magazine, Chris Johnson (pic 2) of Living Waters Fly Fishing, Noah Parker of Land of Enchantment Guides, Duane Redford, Author of the “Fly Fisher’s Playbook” and Daniel Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA.  We had a blast hearing all of these speakers imparting their wisdom on fishing and conservation, but the highlight was hearing Flip share a story about going to New Zealand to fish, Beware of What You Wish For.  It had people in stitches laughing as he unfolded his journey down under.  We had a great chat with Flip (pic 4) afterward talking about the opening of fishing on the Bighorn River and the work of Phil Gonzales.  As a bonus pic (pic 3), above you’ll find the top nymphs for fishing the Guadalupe provided by Chris.  Finally, one of our favorites that’s always a part of TroutFest is the screening of the Fly Fishing Film Tour films (pic 5).  This year was amazing with some of the biggest and baddest fish we’ve seen.  I’m sure ready to try tarpon on the fly now.   To top things off, the band Little Outfit provided some great music during dinners, the film festival and at other special times.

Every TU chapter around the US hosts annual fundraisers like GRTU’s TroutFest and we’ve had the pleasure during our River Ramble to visit one of these in North Georgia courtesy of Jimmy Harris at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen Georgia.   If you’re reading this and aren’t already involved in your local TU chapter, we encourage you to do so.  It’s fun, it’s rewarding and it’s critical to the ongoing support of these cold water fisheries.  There are over 400 chapters and councils across the USA.

Idaho is one of those states we’d heard a lot about, but had never fished prior to going on our River Ramble adventure.  We’d heard the legendary stories about two of the most technical rivers on the list, the Henry’s Fork of the Snake and Silver Creek.  Our good friend Tim Smith had for years tried to get us to come fish with him on the South Fork of the Snake.  All three of these famous trout streams are of course, in the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s Top 100 Trout Streams book, so off we went to Idaho.

Our first stop took us over the high mountain pass between Montana and Idaho and into our campground in Picabo, ID.  Great little RV campsite but even better little store in town that served as the gas station, post office, store, great grill and a first rate fly shop to boot!  After setting up camp we drove to the Silver Creek Preserve to see where we’d be fishing the next day.  Scenery was gorgeous as sunset approached but as a bonus, we saw a bull moose munching on branches along the creek.

The next morning we met Carl Evenson, Silver Creek Outfitters, at the Silver Creek Preserve Visitors Center, got wadered up and headed down to fish Silver Creek.  Silver Creek is a meandering spring creek that is gin clear and you have to use your stealth powers to get near big fish;  they spook and run at the slightest sound or shadow on the water.  We saw some massive fish but were only able to land a few small browns and a beautiful rainbow during our day with Carl.  We did however stumble upon that bull moose again by accident.  We all jumped when we noticed him just lying on the bank about 20’ from a 2 foot brown trout lazily feeding near the same bank.   Overall, we got a “Silver Creek Schooling“.

It wasn’t only fishing that made our time on Silver Creek special.  We took a day to visit Craters of the Moon National Park.  It was spectacular and eerie at the same time.  If you’re ever passing through this area, this is a must see.  We also made a stop in the little town of Arco which has the distinction of being the first US city lit entirely by nuclear energy.   Dinner one evening in nearby Ketchum, a bustling ski town in winter and outdoor enthusiasts mecca in summer, took us to Sawtooth Brewery for some burgers and brews.

After fishing Silver Creek, we made it to the famed Henry’s Fork of the Snake River and Island Park, ID, which boasts the “longest main street” in America.  To try and paint a picture with words of what that means, imagine about 17 miles of road (US 26) running through tall evergreens and at every point along the road a feeder road comes in, leading to fishable water.  A few times when these feeder roads come in, you’ll find a gas station, and finally at one point a few gas stations and even more fly shops appear at the infamous Harriman Ranch section of the river.  One of the most famed of those fly shops is TroutHunter.

We had the pleasure of meeting up with TJ Powell, a guide for TroutHunter, and fishing the Henry’s Fork below the falls.  TJ put us on fish with great regularity and we had an awesome float.  Later, we joined our good friends, Sue Doss and Dud Lutton for dinner at the TroutHunter Lodge and then fished the river just below the dam with their dog, Solomon.  We had a blast and we can’t wait to go back again to fish with “Trouthunter TJ Powell“.

Finally, our trip took us to see Tim and fish the South Fork of the Snake.  Tim’s description of the fishery and his persistence in getting us to come fish it were spot on!  We’d driven the road that parallels the river many times before but had never gone down to the river.  When we put in with Tim and started downstream, this whole incredible vista was revealed…. beautiful bluffs, soaring eagles, runs and pools full of cutthroat trout and even this small little backwater area that was like walking into a room with air conditioning.  We had the most amazing day fishing with Tim on the “SF Snake” and will be coming back soon to fish it again.  If you’re in this area to fish, be sure to stop by the Lodge at Palisades Creek and say “hi”.

The three streams were all amazing and deserving of being in the TU Top 100 book.  However, we heard a lot of rumblings about the Teton River so we’re sure to follow up there as well on our next trip back to Idyllic Idaho.

Maine Events

By Tom Burnett

We’d been looking forward to fishing in Maine from the moment we planned our River Ramble.  We even scheduled it so we’d be in Maine during fall colors.  There were three rivers to be fished in Maine that are a part of the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to the Greatest 100 Trout Streams book:  West Branch, Penobscot; Grand Lake Stream; and Kennebec.  Looking at where these three rivers were located, we knew we were in for an adventure.

Our first stop was the West Branch of the Penobscot River.  Bob Mallard, who you’ll read about in a bit, recommended we fish with Boz…. aka… Greg “Boz” Bostater.  Greg is the owner/head guide for Maine River Guides.  When we contacted Boz and asked him about what section we’d be fishing and where we should setup the SaraLinda, without hesitation he said “Big Eddy Campground”.  We looked up the campground and realized three things;  First,  it was in a beautiful location, right on the river at a very popular fishing spot aptly named, Big Eddy, which is exactly what it was, a huge back eddy on the West Branch.  Second, we’d be dry camping.  There were no electric hookups for the SaraLinda and no dump station either, but there was potable water so we could fill the RV tank for showers, drinking water, washing dishes and toilet flushes.  Third, and something we didn’t fully comprehend until we actually drove to Big Eddy Campground, was just how scary the road was from just outside Millinocket (ME) to the campground.   It was a logging road whose primary traffic was oversized logging trucks, primarily going to and from Canada.  We found ourselves driving around 30mph, dodging both potholes and the giant trucks to get to the campground. However, once we arrived, it was absolutely perfect…. Boz was spot on in his recommendation.

We had a great time fishing with Big Eddy Boz as well as wading several spots on the river.  While the fishing wasn’t “on fire” while we were there, the temps sure were.  We had days in late September in northern Maine that exceeded 90 degrees.  We wet waded everywhere we went and relished standing in the cool waters as we fished.  Boz explained that most of the fish were hiding in the deep, cold waters of the lakes that were a part of the entire Penobscot drainage.

While the fishing wasn’t epic while we were there, our time at the Big Eddy Campground sure was.  We had so much fun cooking most of our meals on an open campfire each night and some mornings as you can see from the video above.  We hated leaving the area, again for multiple reasons.  First, we had so much fun fishing and camping here…. and second, we knew we had to drive the logging road back to Millinocket to head to our next destination, Grand Lake Stream.

Grand Lake Stream (GLS) was incredibly memorable to us for a number of reasons.  Before I share more, know that GLS is both the name of the fishery and the name of the town we stayed.  The fishery, while again wasn’t fishing well at the time we were there due to the temps, was in a beautiful small section of the river that was easily accessible.  Our lodging, since there were no campgrounds nearby, was a cabin at Canal Side Cabins, right in the town of GLS.  Our hosts, John and Mary Arcaro, made our stay and fishing so memorable.  John was our guide on the river and gave us an incredible day of fishing and fun.  John was the epitome of “It’s Not About the Fish”.  While he’s a first class, Maine Registered Fishing Guide, he’s also an awesome storyteller, jokester and host, as is his wife Mary.  Finally, one more memorable facet of our time in GLS was the Pine Tree Store, the only store in GLS.  The store provides a gathering place for everyone in GLS, locals and visitors alike.  It is a grocery, tackle shop and restaurant right at the main intersection of town, population 82.  We enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Pine Tree Store and loved the hospitality everyone working there showed us.

Our last fishing stop in Maine took us to the Kennebec River to fish with Bob Mallard.   Bob is not only a Maine Registered Guide, but also a prolific writer of several books, Fly Fishing America magazine founder/editor and an amazingly passionate conservationist.   We learned so much from Bob about efforts to restore native fish populations, especially in Maine.  He was also kind enough to share the history of the river as we floated and fished the Kennebec, even ferrying us over at the beginning of our float to see petroglyphs carved into a large rock in the river.

We will definitely be back to fish Maine again, hoping the temperatures on our next trip are more “normal” than we encountered this time.  But again, Maine for us was not about the fish as much as it was about the experiences we shared and the people we met, making our time in Maine so memorable and why we’ll be coming back to see them as much as to fish.  Can’t wait!

Utah is one of those states we keep coming back to visit.  Its public lands are so vast and beautiful with hiking, biking, off roading, sightseeing and yes, fishing!

The Provo River was our first TU Top 100 stop in Utah.  We’d fished the Provo before several times, but this time, as a part of our “official” Ramble, we found it running super fast and off color.  When we called our ‘go to’ fly shop in Heber City, Fish Heads Fly Shop, they actually suggested a different river for a guide trip and recommended how we might fish the Provo in the condition it was in.  Their recommendations for the Provo were to find small eddies and pockets of water where fish could hide out of the raging waters.  We took their advice and fished the middle section near town and had not great, but OK success.  We knew what the river could produce from our earlier visits here, so we took their recommendation for a guide trip and headed elsewhere.

Heading west on US 40 out of Heber City brought us to the Strawberry River.  The section we fished, a tailwater just like the Provo, was running much clearer and manageable for wading than what we’d seen on the Provo.   We found some really nice runs with deeper water and landed some beautiful browns as you can see in the highlight video above.  I’m confident when we return to the area, we’ll be hitting the Strawberry again.

Our final stop in Utah was to fish the highly touted Green River near Flaming Gorge.  This area is stunningly beautiful with deep canyon walls above the dam and a TU Top 100 trout stream below.   We put in for our “Flaming Green” trip with Ryan Dangerfield, guide, from the Flaming Gorge Resort. Ryan had decided we would take the “AB” float which means, while we floated the entire A&B sections, we only fished the second half of “A” and the first half of “B”. It was great seeing the scenery as we “scenic” floated the first half, but then it was game on.    Lucky for us, we’d hit the Green in the middle of a famous hatch. The bug you see between my fingers in the video is a Yellow Sallie.  They were on the water and being gorged on by beautiful, hefty trout all day.  It isn’t often that you can tie one fly pattern on at the beginning of a day, and fish it all day.  In fact, we fished it all three days we spent on the Green…. just a Yellow Sallie dry fly that looked remarkably like the one I was holding in the video…. yellow body with that hint of red on the end.  Money!

We’d never fished the Green here before and after our experience, we’re planning on coming back regularly.  Its reputation as a world class fishery was certainly enhanced for us by our time spent fishing it.

We hope you enjoy our Life Elevated video of fishing and other highlights from our time in the Beehive State.

A recent Trout Unlimited article posed a question like, which lower 48 state has the most miles of trout streams? Montana?  California?…. nope, Pennsylvania!  We have to admit, when we first read the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s Greatest 100 Trout Streams and saw that PA had the most trout streams of any state listed, we were surprised.  We’d traveled to Philly and Pittsburg, but, never to anywhere in PA that was trout country.  When we finally started fishing our way through the state, we were amazed.

Our first stop in PA was near Carlisle (PA) on the LeTort Spring Run.  The LeTort is a famous trout stream rich in history.  It’s also apparently not the trout stream it once was and fishing was very hard.  In fact, we spent an entire day and never even saw a fish.  They were all embedded deep in the cress beds that line the bottom of the stream, happily eating the cress bugs that live in the beds.  Nothing was rising…. nothing was venturing out of the cress beds…. so, no fish on this stop.  BUT…. our guide, Jake Villwock, self confessed Spring Creek Junkie, called us a few days later and said “come back!  I’ve found a spot to fish!”.  Unfortunately, we’d already traveled up into Connecticut.  However, we had to come back to the LeTort, since it was the ONLY river we’d not caught fish on.  So, we came back in 2017, fished with Jake and caught our LeTort trout.  As tough as the LeTort was, we also fished Yellow Breeches and Big Spring several times, finding many more trout than the LeTort shared with us.  Not to be missed in this area was the Boiling Springs Tavern, our favorite spot for a post-fishing beer or hanging out with Appalachian Trail hikers.

After our initial 2016 swing through Carlisle, we went to Connecticut and then New York before heading back into PA.  Our next stop was in Slate Run (PA) to fish Cedar Run and Slate Run.  This stop became one of our Ramble favorites of our entire trip.  We had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Deb Finkbiner, owners of Wolfe’s General Store/Slate Run Tackle Shop, who befriended us and showed us such incredible hospitality.  We also were blessed to fish with Julie Szur and Brookie (her beautiful dog) who showed us “Run & Creek Fun“.  In addition to fishing for gorgeous native brookies in the two Runs, we fished Pine Creek, which is a gem of a fishery due to the efforts of the Brown Trout Club, headed by Tom.

From Slate Run, we drove down out of the Pine Creek valley, and up the next valley over to Kettle Creek.  We didn’t find a guide for Kettle Creek, but a local fly shop was enough help in putting us on fish in several locations around the area.  We stayed in the local state park which was right on Kettle Creek.  We ventured to several different tributaries of Kettle Creek with great success as well.  When we needed a bit of local flavor, we went into Cross Fork to Debs Cross Fork Inn for wings and beer.  Awesome!

Then came our time in and around State College (PA), home of Penn State University.  Montana State U calls itself “Trout U”, but I think Penn State has the right to use that moniker as well.  There are trout streams in every direction and we tried to fish them all.  We found ourselves on Spring Creek, Fishing Creek, Spruce Creek, Penns Creek and the Little Juniata…. and those were just the TU Top 100 streams!  We also discovered several other fisheries that were equally deserving of Top 100 status nearby.  Our guides along our State College area journey were Lance Wilt, JD Vera and Andy Wagner who were great.  Andy was a gem taking us to visit The Shanty along Penns Creek and then to “Disneyland”, better known as Spruce Creek.  We sampled Otto’s burgers, PSU ice cream (a must), Spruce Creek Tavern fries and many other spots here.

Our final TU Top 100 stop in PA was near Scranton to fish the Lackawanna River.  This is truly an “Urban Oasis” fishery as it flows through Scranton and its suburbs.  We fished the river in town, but you’d never know it, as you are surrounded by high banks on both sides and a beautiful tree lined river.  If you pop up over the high banks, you might find a restaurant, a lumberyard or anything.  We simply spent our time walking up river back to where we parked our cars.  After fishing the Lackawanna, our guide Adam, recommended we head to Smilers for lunch and he was spot on with the recommendation.  Great little neighborhood bar and grill in Dickson City (PA).  Oh, and if you stop by A&G Outfitters (Adam’s shop), make sure to say “hi” to Fly Dog Lucy!

We hope you enjoy the music video above of our time in the Keystone State.  We were surprised, amazed, humbled, and blown away by the fisheries and the people we met there.  If you haven’t fished in PA before, we highly recommend it.  On our Ramble, we were blessed to spend a full month in PA fishing its streams, enjoying its beauty, sampling its food and drink and meeting its gracious people.  We promise we’re coming back again…. and again.