Missoula is an amazing place to live. There are very few cities where you have access to multiple fisheries within 30 miles of your home and actually would want to live. Warm sun and rising temps have been making their occasional appearance, and with this year’s early signs of spring comes amazing fishing.
Zack and I have been busier than usual, not allowing us to get many days on the water. Between school, work, and planning some big projects, we are lucky if we make it to the river once a week. Although our days have been minimal, we have managed to land more big fish than ever before. I myself am having a record book year, landing 3 of my biggest rainbows to date. Our latest day on the water took us to the frigid waters of the west, and would be our first day testing some newly acquired gear.
We had just gotten a few fine products in the mail and we’re excited to break them in right. The Yeti Tundra 50 was full of the goods; beer, sandwiches, and cookies. After a mildly sketch drive to our location we saw the river and our emotions began to rise. Today would be the first day for us to break out the new rods and reels from Orvis and see if we could show them a good time on some of Montana’s finest waters. We put together the Helios 2 rods in weights 5 and 7 and pulled out a couple sexy Mirage reels. We’re not the kind of guys to get too picky over how nice or good looking our setups are as apparent by looking at Zack’s old Echo rod and Ross reel but damn these two Orvis setups look good. Function is priority number one and we quickly waded across to the far bank so we could get to casting. I had the 5 wt. with a double nymph setup and Zack was below me in the run with the 7wt and a streamer. On my second cast I saw my indicator dip and I was hooked up with a 26 inch rainbow. Yes, you read it correctly. My first hole, second cast with the new fly rod, and I was listening to the Mirage reel scream as I got bent over by a monster rainbow. Did I mention Zack hooked into a nice brown trout seconds later on a streamer? We were doubled-up and the circus had started. Zack managed to fight his brown trout and net my monster rainbow all at the same time! Crazy is right. Below is a sequence that Stan shot of the madness that went down.
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Zack managed to net my rainbow while still fighting a spunky brown. After a quick holler, I grabbed the net and quickly scooped up his seemingly small brown trout.
It was definitely a surreal moment. We quickly snapped a few photos of the two trout and sent the brown back on his way. It was time to pull the big boy out and preserve what may be my biggest rainbow for a long time.
He was a fine specimen and I felt truly blessed to catch such an awesome fish. Again this is another reason I love Montana, you really can catch steelhead here haha. We were off to a great start, and we didn’t stop hammering fish. The following photos speak for themselves.
To summarize our March day of fishing in one word, it would be stupefying. We brought a wheel barrow full of different trout species to the Larkin Works net (rainbow, cutthroat, brown, and bull trout).
The next day we received our new HDSLR. I don’t like to talk about it, but a couple weeks ago I dropped our at the time brand spanking new camera. The body cracked, but fortunately we had insurance. The bad thing is I had to send out our camera and we won’t be seeing it for over a month. We have some badass projects in the works over the next two months, and with no choice, I had to go broke funding another camera. Oh well, the investment continues. The next morning Zack and myself headed out for an early morning fishing/photo trip. We had to test out the new Nikon and see if the mojo surrounding the new rods and reels was as good as it seemed.
The temperature read 19 degrees as we left the truck. It was frigid and freezing and we had left our gloves at home. After about a half hour it appeared that some mojo still remained as I managed to hook a fat football of a rainbow. He was chunky and spunky, and gave our new camera the test we were looking for regardless of poor lighting conditions. We packed up our frozen streamers and headed back to Missoula, to slave away at another night of work.
Overall I can say I love the new rods and reels from Orvis. I never really thought a high-end setup would be worth the money that they often cost but I can say I was wrong. The way they cast is in another league and helps you get the fly in the right spot more often and a lot more easily. We’ll continue to try to sneak out over the coming weeks so we’ll have more photos and blog posts coming at you soon! Fishing is just starting to get HOT. We have a handful of awesome projects/films planned for this year. I cannot tell you how excited I am for 2013. God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.
Predator vs. Prey. It’s a dynamic balancing act. During most of the hunting season I am the dominant predator, or so I thought. Seeking to find my prey, preferably elk or deer. This is the time of year when I get the chance to harvest my own wild meat and enjoy all the amazing wild places found here in Montana. I never realized how many other predators were out there until the past two years. Wolf tags have been issued in Montana for a reason. In 1995 & 1996 federal Fish and Wildlife Service transplanted 66 Canadian wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho. By the year 2002, the Northern Rockies wolf population surpassed the federal recovery goal of 300 wolves in 30 packs. In the past decade, Fish and Wildlife has killed about 7% of wolves annually (1,200 wolves in total over the years). The wolves have expanded into most mountain ranges now in Montana, and we are seeing a decrease in elk & deer populations in many areas. As of now, the population has grown to over 1,700 and stronger measures were taken this year to help hunters reduce the population. One thing is clear, hunting is conservation. As a hunter I feel I should do my part. That’s why I bought a wolf tag and if the opportunity arose, I would be glad to use it.
This past weekend we met up with our Dad for some time spent elk hunting. He was looking for his first elk, and we were excited to help him try to achieve that goal. Unfortunately the trip started out with a flat tire just a few short miles from camp. We threw the spare tire on and got geared up at the trailhead. That night and the next day we spent our time attempting to still-stalk elk through the dark timber. A tough venture when there’s three guys and frozen, crunchy ground. With a stormfront moving across western Montana, I made the decision to change locations for the night. We navigated our way through the falling snow, often not able to see more than 50 yards in front of the truck. We knew with the fresh snow in the morning we would have a great chance to get close to some elk. The snow would allow us a huge advantage come morning.
After my 6AM alarm, I opened truck topper door to a fresh 3 inches of snow covering our two-truck campground. Zack and I gathered ourselves in time to eat a quick meal and move our Dad’s truck 1.75miles to where we planned on exiting the timber later that day. We dropped the truck off and made it back to the trailhead for a 3/4 mile hike through the squeaky fresh snow. I made sure not to tell my Dad exactly how far we were going to be hiking, for I wanted him to forget about miles hiked, and just focus on shooting a bull. Fortunately we made it over halfway up the first ridge before shooting light was upon us. Once making it to the top of the ridge, I saw my first set of animal tracks on an old logging road. It looked like snowshoe prints from a distance, but upon further examination it was a fresh set of grizzly tracks!
Of course the bruin was walking in the direction we were hunting, so I carefully followed the tracks, hoping he jumped off the game trail further ahead. My Dad was getting antsy, always thinking the worse is going to happen. I reassured him that the bear didn’t want anything to do with us. Soon we came across two sets of elk tracks heading the opposite direction we were hiking. They obviously had sought out lower ground during the night. We pushed on, glad to see the grizzly tracks head off the trail a 1/4 mile later. As we hiked we passed multiple sets of deer tracks, but never caught a glimpse of a single deer. My Dad was in awe of the beautiful white landscape before him, helping to keep his mind off of his aching legs. We finally got to the location where I shot my very first elk. Unfortunately, the elk were not there feeding in that same spot. We sat down and ate a quick bite, boosted our energy, and set out looking for fresh elk tracks.
As we worked our way back over the steep ridge, we came across 4 sets of elk tracks. I asked my Dad, “you have the energy to follow these tracks a ways?” He replied he did, so we started following the tracks. Soon enough we found some fresh beds, but no sign of elk. We followed the tracks further, as they spread out in the same general direction but a good distance apart. We positioned my Dad in the lead so he would get a shot if he caught view of a bull. Zack was between us with the camera hoping to have enough time to film if we saw an elk. After about a 1/4 mile of slowly creeping through the dark timber, my brother stops us dead in our tracks. He mouths “bull”, pointing to the hillside 150yards away. My Dad and myself look, unable to make out an elk. The timber was blocking our view and before either of us could move he trotted off. Zack was smiling, thinking it was funny that the cameraman could have just shot a nice 5×5 bull elk while the two hunters could see nothing. I didn’t share the same feelings at the moment. We continued following the set of tracks through the overgrown larch trees, hoping for the best. After tracking another 1/4 mile, I see another bull looking at us through the trees!! As I raise my Vortex scope up to see the bulls rack, the bull takes off once again.
The whole time we were tracking these elk we noticed that there was dirt kicked up along their tracks. Almost as if they were trotting through the woods. We knew it wasn’t us pushing them so we pushed on hoping to catch up to them if they slowed to feed for the morning. There were 5-7 sets of tracks in the snow so we knew there were more elk to find than just the two bulls we had bumped.
As we bypassed a small clump of thick brush I saw a dark figure moving through the timber to our left! At first I thought bear, but I saw a long tail! I instantly dropped to a knee and said “wolf” to Zack behind me. I quickly aimed my rifle into the only clear gap I had in the trees. The wolf finally trotted into my shooting lane. I settled the crosshairs and let the 8mm Ultra Mag rip! The wolf dropped instantly, my quartering away shot killing him instantaneously. “I just shot a wolf!” I glanced back at my brother, with the camera on me. “I just shot a black wolf!” I was so amped up and couldn’t believe what had just taken place! One second I’m following bulls, the next I’m seeing wolves hunting the same group of elk as we were!! This was my first real up close encounter with a wolf. I’ve heard them howl, and seen fresh wolf kills, but have never had the chance to get this close undetected. I approached the black mass of fur, completely in awe of the sheer beauty these animals behold.
To see the size of these animals is quite amazing. Upon further investigation of the area, we found multiple sets of wolf tracks, some being larger than this black male. Obviously a pack of wolves had the same idea we did that day. To be able to share this moment with my brother and Dad was priceless. My Dad only gets time to hunt a couple times during the year and this was truly an eye opening experience for him.
After knotching my tag and getting a handful of photos, I loaded the jet black wolf into my Mystery Ranch Long Bow and began arduously placing one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steep snow covered hill. It would be a good 500 vertical foot climb to the ridgeline and then 2 miles downhill to the truck.
After cresting over the small peak we came across the logging road which would take us back to our truck. Before I stepped foot onto the road, I noticed once again a set of large tracks? It honestly looked like bigfoot had ambled through. Of course we knew better and upon further investigation it was another set of grizzly tracks, this time even larger! Once again the tracks were going in the direction we were heading. Another 1/4 mile down the logging road the tracks made their way back into the forest.
We peacefully made it back to the truck, all things intact. No we didn’t get a bull for my father, but we did have one heck of a hunting experience! I couldn’t believe it, I had just put down an elk killing machine, another predator. The same predator that was hunting the same prey as I was. Not to mention we saw grizzly tracks twice that day. As humans we feel we are at the top of the food chain, when in reality, grizzlies and wolves rank very close seconds. We all have the same motive, survive. If it weren’t for grocery stores, humans would have to go out and harvest their own meat, which today is the healthiest meat in the world! The wolves are taking a toll on elk here in Montana, and I have seen this first hand. There out there, and we cross paths more and more often. This time we crossed paths a little too close. I may have just saved those elk I was pursuing today, and ya that feels good! The balance between wolves and elk is off right now and it felt great to help do my part of the management that FWP sets out for hunters each year.
My watch woke me at 6:00. We had survived another night camped on the edge of some serious bear country. We begrudgingly crawled out of our warm sleeping bags and stepped into the crisp morning air. We quickly packed up camp and headed north up the dark logging road. We were again headed to a new location, situated below the ridge we had hunted only one day earlier. Just as the sun began to creep through the tree tops we slipped into a good location to call.
We called for 20 minutes. Nothing. It seemed as if the elk were ghosts. Leaving us sign but never seeming to show themselves. We moved up through a ridge full of the regular downfall.
We worked slowly and patiently, knowing a bull could be lurking anywhere in the dark timber. We called again with no success. We tried cow calls, bugles, raking, and a combination of all three at times. The elk were just being stubborn, or at least that’s what I’d like to think.
We continued on undeterred. We were constantly reminded of the bulls that roamed and call these thick mountains home. Rubs would crop up out of the blur of grey trees, and often in the most dense areas. This only served to fuel the fire further.
We pushed on and stuck to the game plan. Sneaking through the woods as quietly as possible and calling in any area that seemed good.
Over the course of this trip we were thoroughly impressed with the Open Country pattern on this trip. While one might not think that a lighter patter would be ideal for the dark timber, the pattern actually blended with the woods amazingly well. Let’s just say if an elk came in it wasn’t going to be seeing us.
As we neared the truck that morning it was beginning to set in. We were running out of time and we needed to find an elk. When half your time is running the camera your season is cut in half, and Travis and I needed to seal the deal soon. We had worked hard and knew it could only be a matter of time. Just keep a positive mindset and keep pounding away. As Cameron Hanes would put it, “Go Beast Mode.” We hung out at the truck and had lunch, contemplating the options for the evening. As we sat and talked we began talking about a water source. In the two years we had hunted here, we had never found a creek, wallow, or seep. We knew the elk had to drink somewhere, and we decided to check out a small pond back down the road. It’s easy to access and I figured wouldn’t hold any promise. Well I was wrong. After some inspection we found some quality sign around the pond. Nothing to amazingly fresh, but we knew they’d be back sometime. We continued to walk the waterline and found a natural blind another hunter had created. I knew it was there for a reason and shortly after I found why it was there. There was a heavily used wallow that had been carved into the ground almost three feet from years of use.
The only real fresh sign were a few sets of bear tracks. I still had my bear tag and a good feeling began to make it’s way into the depths of my brain. We got back into the truck and decided to quickly head to a new area and make a final decision for the night around 3PM. After a few hours of exploration we had yet to uncover anything too mind blowing and relied on our instincts. Travis and I both had a good feeling about the wallow, and with our knees sore from the constant climbing over and through deadfall we decided to go back and spend the final evening sitting in the natural blind on the edge of the treeline. I’m not usually one to sit in place for long, but I knew our chances were better here than busting brush all night. We threw on new layers and walked the 400 yards from the truck to our natural ground blind. We setup and settled in for a patient evening.
As we sat I wondered about the hunter who had made this blind. Was it meant to be that we found it? Did he already shoot an elk from here or had he made it and was looking to come back to it at another time? I said a prayer and leaned up against the log as Travis and I waited and listened. After about thirty minutes I decided to lay down. Sitting in one spot usually isn’t my thing, and I can get very sleepy staring at the same piece of real estate for too long.
Soon I felt like I should man up and be ready for anything. This was our last night and I needed to be in the best position to have my bow in hand if something did sneak in. I got back up and waited. I’m glad I did because twenty minutes later Travis told me he heard something walking our way. He always seems to hear things before me, and I got my bow in hand and waited. Sure enough the sound was unmistakable, an elk was making his way through the tight trees and headed for the pond. Soon I could see a chocolate set of antlers peeking through the limbs. He was getting close and the adrenaline hit hard. I hoped our wind was good and got into my shooting position. He was on a path that would bring him very close to us. As he finished his way through the tight trees he soon closed to twenty yards. When he made his way behind the last set of trees, I drew my Bear Anarchy. He stepped out at 8 yards and stopped. At this point I could only see his head and half of his huge neck. Travis had a full view of him only a few feet to the right of me. I was nervous as the bull waited and listened. Moments later a squirrel began chirping 100 yards behind us. The bulls head swung instantly, inspecting the area. He wasn’t looking directly at us but soon turned his head and stared at the two of us, sitting dead still staring back at him. With his ears alert I figured a mature bull like this would bust and I’d never get a shot. Well he didn’t. He looked right through both of us, and I know that our camo served its purpose. He didn’t see us as humans. He slowly turned and began walking towards the wallow. At this point I’d been at full draw for a minute. Between holding my bow back and the adrenaline, I was beginning to shake. He slowly walked away, only giving me a Texas heart shot. I waited. He neared the wallow, taking one slow step at a time. Soon he turned broadside with his front leg back. My pins were shaking all over even though he was 30 yards away. It had been almost two minutes now and I was on the verge of letting my bow down. I took one last deep breath, and as he stepped forward with his right leg I released my arrow. It was a hard hit behind the shoulder. He instantly bucked and went screaming into the timber. I could see the blood instantly coming from his right side as he ran off, and I knew that he wouldn’t make it far. I could hear him crash up onto the road. He ran down the road and then there was a loud crash followed by silence. I sat and listened. Nothing. He had to be down. Travis and I decided to give him thirty minutes just to be safe.
We grabbed our packs and slipped out into the golden meadow. As we neared the wallow we could see where he had stood when I shot him. A few short feet later the blood trail began. It wasn’t huge, but enough to follow easily.
We slowly made our way into the timber and soon found my arrow, covered in rich red blood and broken off just behind the broadhead.
I slipped the arrow back into my quiver knowing it would only be a few minutes before I laid hands on my second elk. We made it up to the road and followed his tracks down the side of the gravel logging road. The blood had been covered by a truck that had passed earlier leaving us only his hoof prints. We soon began looking for blood where he had crashed off the side of the road. That’s when I saw those white tips just over the weeds on the side of the road.
I couldn’t believe it. After 120+ miles this year and hunting through some of the gnarliest deadfall imaginable, my bull was laying only 20 feet from the road. It was ironic but also a blessing as he was truly one of the largest bodied elk I’d seen.
He had wedged himself in a very interesting spot. His rear half was on top of a rock and wedged against a tree. His front half was about to slide under a downed log just behind him. They just don’t always fall in the best spots as this year has shown us, but I couldn’t care, my #1 goal for the year was complete.
The character and the mass on this bull was also truly awesome. His left side held incredible mass throughout. His third tine was palamated and thick. The right side also had good mass but only held three points. Along with that he either had lost his brow tine or G-2 over the years as he had one set of tines protruding from his forehead. I figured with the huge body, heavy mass, and a degenerated right side that this was an old monarch of a bull. A true king of his domain.
I couldn’t believe it, after so much hard work it was the most simple of tactics that paid off. It truly goes to show you that you can make elk hunting as complex or as simple as you’d like and still be successful. This bull had lived a long life. He had survived many winters, avoided numerous predators, and kept his distance from many hunters, only to be killed in the most simple of setups. I later had him aged by a biologist, and he was estimated to be 9 or 10 years old. I’m extremely blessed to have harvested such a beautiful, old bull in only my third season of chasing elk. He’s going to be tough to top next year.
Not only was I able to harvest an elk, but I was able to do so with my brother by my side. A guy just can’t ask for much more. It’s a memory that will last a lifetime for both of us, and Travis was able to beautifully capture the whole hunt on film. We’re really excited to share the footage here in the future as it’s by far the best elk footage we’ve captured in our short two years of filming our hunts.
Once we had taken some photos we began the process of determining what to do with him. If we cut him up as he lay he would slip down under the deadfall below him and it would be miserable to attempt to cut him up. We drove up the road and got service. We called our dad and told him the good news. We told him of the situation and asked him if he could bring a chainsaw and a tow rope up the mountain and help us pull the beast from his final resting place. After an hour and plenty of time to relive hunt he showed up. Smiles were had by all, and then the work began. The tow rope barely made it to the elk. We tied it up to both rear legs and cleared some small trees. The diesel quickly pulled the 700-800 pound elk up to the side of the road.
God truly answered my prayers on this night. We shot an awesome elk, on film, and didn’t have to spend at least 12+ hours packing him out of the jungle. Not only that but my brother was there for the hunt, and my Dad made it up to see my bull in one piece this year. I’m truly excited for the future and all the amazing things that lay ahead of us out there in God’s country.
I also found a few thing interesting about my hunt this year compared to last. Last year I shot my bull on my first day hunting the mountains of Western Montana after hunting the Missouri Breaks. This year I shot my bull on my first full day back in the mountains after 5 days in the Breaks. Last year I ambushed my elk at 40 yards from my knees. This year I ambushed my elk from 30 yards off my knees. Last year I shot my elk quartering away, and he ran and looped left only making it about a hundred yards before he took his last breath. This year I also shot my elk quartering away and he also made about a hundred yard loop to his left before crashing. Nothing too crazy but definitely an interesting comparison of the two seasons.
Thanks for reading my story. This is a post that I look forward to writing each year, and I can’t wait till 2013. So far it’s been a truly awesome season. We helped my good friend Tyler McCann kill his first bull this year, and I was able to take a great elk also. Now it’s Travis’ turn, and we’ll be working hard to get him a bull before archery season is over.
For me elk hunting has become a passion and a lifestyle. For now, my #1 goal each season is to arrow a bull elk with my bow. This year was no exception. In 2011, just my second year bowhunting elk, I was able to arrow my first elk. He was just a raghorn, but a trophy nonetheless. If you you’d like to check out my 2011 bull elk please read a bit more here – My 2011 Bull Elk. Being the person I am, I constantly am looking to improve and challenge myself no matter what it is I set my mind to. This year it was two-fold. One I wanted redemption in the Missouri Breaks. Last year I had been very close but couldn’t seal the deal. After time spent with filming Travis in the Breaks this year, I knew I had a very solid chance at doing just so. My second goal was to arrow not only a bull but a mature bull. Mature can mean a lot of things and each elk is different, but in my mind I had a solid idea on where I’d draw the line.
After 5 days in the Breaks I had only one stalk to show and no elk. The action was slow and with lots of other hunters pressuring the elk, it was just tough hunting. It was turning into another year chasing elk and not much as far as actual hunting. I hadn’t given up on the Breaks, but it was time to switch gears and hunt a bit closer to town. This summer Travis and I had placed game cameras in a few areas that seemed promising. With photos like this cropping up, I knew we had to at least devote a weekend to chasing elk in the deep, dark timber of Northwest Montana.
Our bags were packed and on the morning of the 23rd we hit the road. We arrived at our spot at 5:45AM and started our hour hike in with camp on our backs. As we made our way up the old logging road we hoped that we would be catching some part of the rut and that the elk would be fired up. We heard no bugles on the hike in, but we quickly set up camp and dropped over the nearest ridge to begin hunting. Travis was up first. I’d run the camera for the first day and a half and then we’d switch. As we began hunting it was very apparent, the dark timber was starkly different than the open country in the Breaks.
From stands of lodgepoles scattered with downfall, to more open slopes covered in brush that grows overhead, it’s beautiful and frustrating at the same time. It really is a magical place and this area has to be one of my favorite places to hunt elk even though it’s one of the hardest places also.
As we worked through the brush we finally heard our first bugle. The bull was below us, and we knew he was working up the north facing slope to bed for the day. Unfortunately the wind was headed straight downhill. After exchanging some bugles we had closed in to about 200-300 yards attempting to flank him on his right side. As we tried to sneak along the only game trail we heard hooves pounding up through the jungle. We were busted. There is literally no such thing as stalking a bull in these woods. Between the thick brush and downfall, it’s impossible to move around without sounding like a rhino. Add a backpack and the noises that a human makes moving through the woods, and you simply aren’t going to get close to much. You simply must call them to you or sit in wait in one spot and hope an elk passes by. We pushed on, at points wondering if we were even elk hunting. It surely wasn’t possible that an elk would want to be in this tangled mess. As soon as you begin thinking that your often humbled by an obnoxiously large rub.
We knew they were around and it was only a matter of time before we found one. Most of the rubs were easily less than a week old. The fresh smell of pine lingering and the sap freshly beaded up on the tree. Now if they would just pipe up and bugle it might get exciting. Before long though it was mid-day, and we worked back to our camp to rest up for the evening hunt.
Around 3:30 we headed back into the darkness. We worked a couple old growth ridgelines and dropped into the tops of a few drainages in search of a bull. We called multiple stands, waiting for 20-30 minutes before moving on with no success. Half the battle was moving any considerable distance in these woods. It’s so thick that you sometime can only hike a mile an hour. We continued on. Our only find that evening being another impressive rub and some scattered elk sign.
The next morning we were back at it again on the same north face. Travis and I worked back down the hillside to where our trail camera had been posted up this summer. The camera had been on one of the only game trails in the area, and it cut across a wide face that the bulls came up in the mornings as they headed to their beds in the deep, brushy thickets. After just a couple minutes of calling Travis could hear an elk coming up through the bushes towered overhead. We held our ground and hoped he’d come up to the game trail. We couldn’t move because he’d hear us and know we definitely weren’t two elk, so we sat and waited.
The brush was so thick here he’d have to work to inside 20 yards. As he pulled within 50 yards we crouched behind a down tree. Moments after I spotted antlers just above the brush at 30 yards, a solid 6×6. Seconds later he stopped behind some trees at 20 yards. He listened and stood still. He either trusted his instinct or didn’t like the complete silence above him. He turned and bolted down the hill and stopped. Travis bugled and raked and then threw out some excited cow calls. The bull came back up the hill but flanking us to the left. Travis had a glimpse of him at 40 yards until he stopped and began circling us trying to get our wind. Well with nowhere to move, it was only a matter of time. He finally smelled us and was gone for good. That’s just tough conditions, conditions we need more practice in. Again the bull was silent the whole time. Not necessarily the conditions you’d dream about. Hopefully we’d be able to catch the rut somewhere, but apparently not in this area. We hunted back to camp and made the decision to move locations.
We drove back down the logging road and decided on a new spot. The beginning of the hike in was actually bearable. It was fairly thin and there was sign hidden amongst the brush. We kept pushing on hoping for some clearer forest and talkative elk.
The only problem was that it just kept getting thicker. Up here it can be frustrating trying to move to areas when you don’t know what the vegetation consists of. A map only tells you so much, and once your in the woods you never get a chance to see out. It’s just trees and brush in every direction. Sometimes you just have to set out and explore and hope something good comes of it.
After a while it got downright silly. You definitely couldn’t say we were elk hunting. Bushwacking some major jungle was the name of the game. Wouldn’t you know it though there was sign in here too. The animals are straight crazy to call some of this home.
After a solid hour we finally emerged onto a ridge that significantly opened up. We began slowly working the deadfall in hopes of being quiet enough to setup further down the ridge and call. Some rubs started showing up, and we knew we were in the right area. Again we felt it was only a matter of time.
After calling three setups we had not had any luck. We slowly made our way out and hoped Tuesday would be a better day. We’d have one day left to try to seal a deal on a bull before we had to head back to Missoula for work. We cooked dinner, dumped the SD cards, and got in the tent for the night. Tomorrow was going to be a good day.
This year we explored once again the great Wilderness of Montana with fly rods and cameras in tow. Let me tell you, Wilderness is one badass dude. It’s a place where a man can get lost and never make it out. It’s the perfect spot to find some of the most amazing country you’ll lay eyes on. An adventure lies in your back yard here in Montana, and this is only one of the many gems found in this amazing state. The fishing is top notch for those willing to push themselves a bit and by the end of the trip, society looks like a much larger nuisance than you ever thought possible. Waking up to this sure helps a guy out after 10 hours on the river with 30+ pounds of camera gear and miles of treacherous river travel laid down.
No, it’s not easy. But is it worth it? Hell ya! Granted your gonna fall and get smacked around by mother earth. You’ll be sore, injured, mad, and tired at times.
But when you lay your eyes on a killer pool around the next bend and nail a wild cutthroat on the first cast, your emotions get tossed upside down. It’s a roller coaster and our good friend Ian Orlando got a good taste of it. Ian just graduated college in Missoula and is one of our good buddies. He told us he was working on getting a big boy job, and we figured we better show him a real fishing trip before he got to far into the real world. Little did he know that Travis and I are just a bit crazy. We took Ian to places where if you fall, your dead or in some serious trouble. It all pays off in the end though.
For this trip we had six days blocked out to explore the crystal clear waters of the wilderness of Montana. Were not going to openly tell you the location because anyone with half a brain could figure it out. It’s more fun that way right? The plan was to spend our time laying out line for native cutthroat and bull trout that inhabit these waters. Of the six days we only spent a half day fishing water that we had fished before. The rest was all exploration with only the help of some Google Earth maps at home. When you hike in a few miles and find that there is in fact no trail down to the river, you only have one option. Bushwack. Travis and I both hunt so this is nothing new. The same principles apply to both sports as far as being successful. Go where no one wants to go and find the fish. It helps when this is the view on the way down to the river.
A few of these days were spent camping upriver along stretches with difficult access. When we made it down to the river we weren’t left with many suitable camping spots. Turns out the best spot had the best view.
We had four things on our minds while out there: fish, food, water, sleep. Usually we would be on the river by 8 or 9 AM everyday. The areas we fished are difficulty to navigate as they often were in canyons with rock walls and steep forested slopes on both sides. Getting out early and staying out late helps when three guys are fishing and the camera is rolling.
The fish would feed fairly consistently on top during the majority of the trip. The smaller canyon creeks held the best dry fly fishing as they saw little to no pressure. We did see some boot tracks in a few spots where we thought we’d be the only ones fishing. Apparently a few others think like us. Only one morning did we see a strong hatch. During the end of July and into August, caddis are the #1 bug on the trouts menu. The morning that we had a strong hatch was awesome. You had fishing rising everywhere and the bugs were fairly heavy. Fortunately these fish don’t see too many fakes floating overhead and often destroy almost any fly. That day was almost too easy. Other than that day though there wasn’t much for bugs. Some days it definitely was tough to turn the big fish up and often it was tough to keep the small trout off your fly.
Certain holes are so slow and clear it’s hard not to jump the gun on the hookset as you see a trout rise from behind a boulder.
The clear water made for some great GoPro shots. Without spooking the fish we made it into a few holes and caught some awesome footage of rising fish. Be looking for a solid video to be released in the future. When the fishing is good and the scenery world class, it’s hard not to push yourself out here. When every corner tops the next and the fish seem endless at times it really helps a guy push all day to fish as much water as possible.
Often our days would end just before the sun would set. Perfect time to boil up some water and watch the view as your freeze dried meal cooked. Let me tell you those things taste amazing in the backcountry. After a long day you really appreciate a good meal. We also found that strawberry cheesecake is a necessary item to round out a good day on the river. Just add water!
Shortly after dinner Ian often took on the look of one tired ass bum. He quickly found his way into the tent and zipped into his sleeping bag. Out here you have to be able to treat your own water to stay longer than a day. Having a good water filter is huge. It’s the best way to keep three people hydrated and nothing beats a full Nalgene of cold river water out there. Each night we had to make a trip for water so we could get up and begin our day. Fortunately we had a small creek nearby.
Each morning was better than the next. Get up, eat, and toss on the waders. Hit the water and start tossing line. When the hardwork pays off and all your intuition and time spent scouring maps leads you to a one of a kind hole it’s a pretty damn sweet.
Ian was able to swing into the groove quick enough on the trip. His first cast of the trip yielded a great cutty and held his own during the trip. I gotta say it though, he did break a rod during the trip. I laughed my ass off while he got all torn up about it. Turns out everything’s gonna be alright, and he quickly forgot and got back to fishing.
Even though Ian got a damn good trip, we didn’t let him off the hook all the way. Travis was fishing to a fish up a long narrow canyon below camp. It was a long cast in tight quarters. After hassling Travis, I finally got to throw it a few times. After two great casts my fly finally found a target. Ian’s neck.
Woops. After deciding that it was going to be difficult to get it back through the skin to de-barb the hook, it was decided that it was coming back out the way it went in. I figured it would just have to be quick and painful. I grabbed the fly tightly and gave a big yank. Uhhh damn. It was still stuck in his neck. My hand had slipped off the fly. Round 2 began shortly after. This time the fishing pliers got used. After securely grabbing the hook a quick yank had the hook out. I was pretty amazed at how good his neck looked. There was only a small pinhole in his neck and zero blood. Fish on brother!
Travis happened to decided to fish better than our last trip and continued to lay into trout after trout.
A big shout out goes out to Vortex Optics, Grizzly Hackle, and Cuttroat Leaders. All of these companies are strong supporters of the outdoor lifestyle. Vortex Optics makes amazing hunting optics and appreciates the outdoors as a whole. Their support of a fly fishing trip solidified my respect for them as an outdoor brand. If your a hunter or are in the market for a great set of binoculars be sure to check them out at vortexoptics.com. Grizzly Hackle is an awesome fly shop in Missoula. It’s run by Dan Shepherd who’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. They helped us out on this trip and always have the angler’s success in mind. Swing buy grizzlyhackle.com to see the best fishing reports for the local Missoula rivers. And all week we were running Cutthroat Leaders on our dry fly and nymph rods. These things rock and you need to pick up a pair and at least give them a try. Hit them up at cutthroatleader.com
Now the cutthroat fishing was amazing. They’re some of the most beautiful fish you’ll find and they fight hard for their size. Speaking of fighting hard, these waters also lay claim to the home of the menacing bull trout. These elusive fish are fickle beasts. They either destroy your fly or simply sit in place even with the fly only inches from their faces. On this trip we were lucky enough to fish for these fish. We learned a lot about where they live and how to fish them on this trip. We might have tricked a few so be sure to read Part 2 right HERE.
As you progress as a hunter you expect the best out of your equipment. When it comes down to that one moment of truth, you want your arrow hitting its mark everytime. To me a custom bowstring is one of the best ways to get your bow to shoot more consistent and tighter groups. We recently approached Amanda and Joe at Proline Bowstrings (www.prolinebowstrings.com) about getting some for our Bear Anarchys. Some online research had pointed me right to their strings, and when reading about them I only heard great things about the strings. We immediately got a couple sets sent out and got them broken in immediately. Right off the bat my bow felt 100% better on the draw and at full draw.
To me a custom bowstring gives your bow a more solid back wall that delivers less string creep. This helps me hold my anchor the same every shot and leads to tighter and more consistent groups. They also are made of a superior material in most cases and aren’t nearly as prone to stretching out as most stock strings will do. This eliminates problems with your bow such as timing issues and inconsistent arrow flight. You also don’t have to worry about your string twisting and throwing your peep off. Immediately after the new string were on, my groups improved and I was far more accurate. You also get to pick your colors and customize your bow which is pretty sick in my opinion.
These strings are going to last longer and provide superior durabilty. When we had the new Prolines installed they fit to the spec of the bow perfectly. All the servings and loops were built better than any I’ve seen. No flaws or imperfections could be found.
If you looking to make your bow that much more deadly or are in need of a new string be sure to talk to Amanda at Proline,and she will get you all dialed in with a killer setup for your bow. Give her a call at 513.259.3738.
Anything that makes you more confident as a hunter and is withing your budget is a must in my opinion. Everytime I pick up my bow I’m a lot more confident it will be slinging arrows perfect just as it should. Get a pair of strings, you won’t regret it.
Be looking soon for some sick wilderness fly fishing content from a 6-day trip and also some elk scouting photos to show up to keep that stoke high.
Here’s our first summer fly fishing video. After runoff we’ve been doing a decent amount of fishing, but just haven’t really had good enough fishing to justify taking the time to try to film an edit. On Sunday I decided that summer just doesn’t last as long as you ever hope and that the camera was coming out. Travis and I headed up to a small creek in the Blackfoot Valley and got ready for an afternoon on the water. This is what we came up with. Watch in HD you fishin fools!
Here’s the link to our original write up on the afternoon – Creekside
I’m sure we’ll be filming again soon enough, and we hope to have more summer fishing up soon to keep the stoke alive.
Sun, fishing, and beer. They all go together real well. Maybe throw in a few other items of choice, and it’s hard to beat a good summer day in Montana. Recently Travis and I decided to hit up some smaller water and see if we could find a trout to snipe. No sooner had we pulled into our parking spot and there were already fish rising within sight. We tied on some tiny dries and started wading upstream. After failing to connect on a few rising fish we soon moved to the next bend and sat and waited to see the next nose break the surface. After 15 minutes of imagining rising fish, the silence was broken by a wild thrash on the surface. A few minutes later and another hit. We had a target. After about 6 casts he took my green drake, and immediately I knew I had a nice slab on the other end. After a few jumps and a long stay on the bottom, Travis netted my largest brown and on a dry to boot.
I was pumped up. To top it off the camera was rolling, and I think we got some quality footage. He definitely filled the net up and it was difficult to even grab him with one hand. It’s been a very long time since I’ve landed a fish over 18″ (the Missouri doesn’t count) on a dry. Last summer seemed to sneer in our faces as we struggled to find any solid fish during the summer months. Hopefully this is a good sign of things to come this summer.
We’ll be back home on the lake for the weekend and no fishing is planned for a little while but we’ll be back after it soon enough. We’re banking on the fishing really being off the charts in a few weeks and we plan on getting out with the camera and hopefully cranking out an edit in the near future.
For 2012 we kicked off the hunting season with a few days of turkey hunting at the parents house. We got up bright and early to the sound of gobbling turkeys off in the distance. We made it down into a small clearing unnoticed and proceeded to get to calling. A few toms we’re headed our way but never got close enough for a quality shot with the bow, those dang turkeys! This was our first attempt at calling in a bird and we got real close. A bit of lack of experience and no decoy probably was our downfall, but we got to lay eyes on some toms and got them all fired up and strutting like champs. The second day out we were hoping our luck would swing, but the weather had other plans. Snow was falling and the birds were shut up and hunkered down in the woods. After that Travis and I spent the rest of the spring in the mountains chasing bears and never got another day of turkey hunting in. We decided to throw a short edit together from our short time spent chasing turkeys and we hope you enjoy it. Next year I can guarantee we’ll be back on the birds and this time I think we just might bag one or two. And again, for the best viewing pleasure please watch in HD with a pair of headphones.
Tomorrow were headed out to cast some line and hopefully lay into a few fish. We plan on getting some filming in and we’re crossing our fingers the fishing is good and we can have a little summer fishing edit up in the next week or two.
It’s been a long last few months. Travis and I have had hundreds of miles pass beneath our feet this spring in search of black bears. My search has been for a bear that I could arrow with my bow and it’s no easy task. As the season was winding down we still were optimistic about getting one last chance. It was another early morning as we left the house at 6 and headed into the same spot where I had stalked a bedded bear previously. We mostly have mornings off and had been hunting them with more success than one would expect. On this morning we decided to leave the bikes and hike down a steep face to a logging road that ran about 600yards above a creek bottom. The hike down was not fun. I fell three times and was starting to think we were wasting our time and energy trying to find a bear with everything in sight being so green. About two minutes later I spotted a black blob. Bear! A nice bear was feeding up along a tree line and right onto a logging road that ran 300 yards below us. Travis and I quickly started moving. We were hoping this was finally our moment where a bear would walk along the road and we could set up and take a 20 yard chip shot from above.
We soon were down above the logging road at twenty yards and began to wait. The bear had fed behind some trees on the logging road where it makes a turn and heads our way. After fifteen minutes we still had yet to see him come out of that spot. We decided we better sidehill above that position in case he decided to start up the small draw above the logging road. We made it up the hill about 250 yards before we spotted him carelessly feeding on tall green grass in the corner of the road. We watched him for a few minutes, but decided we better go back and get in position again. Well we make it back and again waited for another fifteen minutes and still no bear. Back up the hill we go, wondering what the hold up is. This time we only had to go about twenty yards before we spotted him down the road slowly walking out of the corner. I’m thinking ok, he’s just filling his belly and then he’s gonna keep walking down this road and walk right by us. Nope. He’s obviously was in no hurry to go anywhere as he continued to feed in that spot. With the wind and rocky hillside we just couldn’t stalk him there either. It’s either he comes to us or no dice. After about ten more minutes he decides to run down into the draw below the road. S&*i! The brush is so thick there’s no way we’re going in after him without being heard. We sneak down to the road and start looking for Yogi. Out he pops at 140 yards, and he plops down next to a stump and starts licking his paws and belly.
This bear decides it’s officially nap time and after grooming himself he settles in and begins to take a nap. It’s still really windy and not very warm for June. We decide that it’s best to give him at least an hour to settle in and see if he’s going to really fall asleep or get up and move on. For the next half an hour he slept and only lifted his head twice. We were situated in a small draw with the wind swirling behind the first ridge and then continuing on over the second ridge. Either he caught a few small wiffs of our scent or just was uneasy with the windy conditions. We figured while we wait we can put the spotting scope to use and get some good close ups of our sleepy friend.
So an hour passes and he’s bedded in a bad spot for a stalk. I can’t go down into the brush without him hearing me and I guess the shot from the road above him at about 40-50 yards. The only reason I didn’t opt to try the shot from above was I didn’t want to take that length of shot in the wind and at such a steep angle. Before we could make any kind of move he slowly sat up, yawned, and started moving back up towards the road. I know he’s not going to stick around long and this clearing is maybe two hundred yards square so he’s going to be headed for the timber. We start busting it around the road hoping to catch him before he beats us to the road. I figure I can either get a close shot on him just off the road or catch him as he comes up onto the road. As we round the bend and start down the home stretch I feel the wind hitting the back of my neck. More stellar conditions eh. At this point we are no more than 50 yards from the bear. We slowly keep creeping forward when all of a sudden he comes running up and across the road and up into the timber. At this point I had some very choice words that started with f,s,d,a and possibly others. Another failed stalk and again within 50 yards of a bear. What happened to all the stupid bears that stare at hunters as they walk straight at them? Oh well, I had my chance once and blew it already so I can’t complain too much. We hiked a bit more but it was already late in the morning, and we decided to face the hill we had come down earlier in the morning and get back to the truck.
Over the course of the next week we made it out four more days before the season ended but didn’t get a chance to see another bear. The weather was rainy almost every day and made for poor conditions to hunt in with a camera in tow. By this time of the year it was green everywhere, and it was simply just luck to actually see a bear out on a road or in a clear cut. It’s ok though. We got one bear down on film and saw 22 this spring. We hunted about 18-20 days so we averaged about a bear a day, and I figure that’s pretty darn good for my second year of bear hunting. I’d call it my first year since I only hunted one day last spring, but I shot a bear that one day so I figure I better count it as a year.
Overall it was an awesome spring and we got to see a lot of sweet critters out in God’s country. Any day your blessed enough to be out there is a good day in my book. We learned a lot about bears this spring, and I’m already looking forward to next year. We have a handful of good spots now and know where to look for the bears so I’m confident next spring will be even better, and the bears might want to be a bit more scared. Next spring both Travis and I will be trying to get one with a bow, and our good friend Cole McCann just moved to Missoula to attend the University so I’m sure we will be trying to get him one with the rifle as well. That does it for hunting until September, but we’ve already set up a game camera and got a little fishing in so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we switch gears and start posting up a whole lot of good Montana fishing.
Travis and I have been getting after it this spring, and if you check in often you’ll see that we may just have put down a bear on film. Anyways it’s been an interesting spring around here. Its felt more like summer than spring at times and it helped those hillsides green up in no time.
After spotting our first two bears of the season it seemed we couldn’t go a day without spotting one. We had started mixing things up and were hunting the mornings hoping to catch them before they went back to the timber. We had went back up to an area that we know holds bears all spring and where we had failed an earlier stalk. Sure enough we round the corner that leads us to an overlook of a whole drainage and bam, bear spotted. We start moving up the logging road, because at this point were about a mile out still. As we get further up the road we stopped to glass again. Just our luck, it was a sow and two cubs. Man those little guys are cute.
We tried to go up and get closer to the sow to get some footage and actually spooked a bear right off the logging road. We didn’t find the sow and cubs and we hunted hard the rest of the day. We knew the area was holding bears, but we thought we’d let things cool down in the area before going back. On Saturday we loaded up the truck and headed to a new area west of town about an hour. We drove way up the mountain and were glassing clear cuts hoping to make out a bear. We’ll the only thing we found was big white truck that had beat us up the mountain that morning. We weren’t sure what he was up to but we knew any bear stupid enough to stay out in the open after this truck drove by was probably already dead. We turned around and went back to the tried and true method of hunting, gate hunting.
Chances are if you find a gate and go in a mile or two your bound to find more game than cruising the dirt roads. Our friend Adam had told us this could be a good area to bike into and glass the clear cuts, and we were more than happy to check it out. We had biked only about ten minutes when we rode up on some extremely fresh scat. We figured we’ll ride the trail another 1/4 mile and if we don’t see him on the logging road we’ll sit down and see if we can call him in with the distress call. Well about twenty minutes go by and we hadn’t seen anything so we took a seat on the edge of the road and I pulled out the trusty distress call. Now I figured if I call in a bear it’s probably gonna be a big one, and to be honest I didn’t think I actually would call a bear in. Well about five minutes in I see a brown head coming up the hill and its only about 40 yards away. A very pretty, chocolate colored black bear was coming in.
So this bear is at thirty yards and what do ya know, my bow is on my back. Good one idiot. So I start trying to size up this bear. I really was shooting for getting one with a bow unless it was a real toad and then I wouldn’t mind slinging some lead. Well this was a mature bear and had a perfect coat on it. To top it off it was in the sun at thirty yards on film. I finally decided I’d use the old thunderstick. Right as I look through the scope to take a shot the bear trots off about sixty yards into some downed trees and bushes. Dang it you idiot Zack! I throw out a few more distress calls hoping it will show up again and offer me a shot. I ask Travis if he can see it and he says he’s pretty sure it’s going to come up on the logging road. I start scrambling to get the bow off the backpack and an arrow nocked. Right as I get my bow off the bear comes out on the logging road looking right at me sitting in the middle of the road. I get an arrow nocked and range him at 52 yards. He’s still there looking at us and acting goofy. I figure he’ll come a little closer and at some point he’ll present a shot. Well right then he turns and starts walking away. A few whistles and he stopped and looked back. I figure he’s at 60 at this point and settle my pin in. I shoot and it slips right over the top of his back and he’s gone. Well that was a rush.
At this point I’m a little bit pissed off. I just had broke numerous rules I set for myself for the year. Number one and the biggest flaw was that I shot at an alert animal past 40-50 yards. Now depending on the animal this can fluctuate with it being the shortest for deer. After watching the footage I could see that old Yogi had dropped a solid foot before my arrow got there. Yes I’m a slow learner and no you won’t see that happen again. I am confident past 60 and just should have know that he wasn’t going to sit there and watch the arrow hit him. Second I rushed the shot. I knew the bear wasn’t going to hang around very long and I shot as my pin was rising up to my spot. I’m almost positive I shot higher than I had intended to because of this. These two factors led to a clean miss which I’m totally ok with. It’s amazing how hunting can go from nothing to an adrenaline fueled frenzy in a matter of moments. Things happen so quick it’s easy to forget the basics. If anyone has any ideas on how to practice for these situations please let me know because I can’t think of too many ways at the moment. Overall, it was an awesome day and one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Be sure to check back as there’s going to be more stories about bears and this time they’re coming home with us.
We told you that ever two weeks we’d be releasing another hunting video from 2011. Well true to our word we’ll be releasing Episode 2 – The Haggard Horns Buck later this week. Look for it to drop late this week on Friday or Saturday. Head over to our Facebook and if you haven’t already go ahead and [LIKE] us. Once you’ve done that then look for the post about Episode 2. [LIKE] that post and once we get ten or more likes we’ll randomly pick two people who will receive the password to the video. Who doesn’t like a sneak peak?
This episode is an awesome one as we follow Travis on opening day in the badlands of central Montana. We were able to capture some awesome footage of this rare velvet covered buck on opening day of rifle season.
On another note Travis and I have been hitting the mountains each weekend in search of those black fuzzy critters called bears.
So far the bears have been eluding us. We went back up into the mountains where I killed my bear last spring but the area seemed devoid of life. We didn’t spot up a single animal. The area was just starting to green up and we were out about three weeks earlier than last year so I think the area just needs a little more time before it’s a go in that area.
This weekend we hit up two different areas again in search of a bear. Unfortunately, things are still a little brown for my liking and the snow still has some melting to do in those upper elevations. We covered a lot of ground and only managed to find a smaller den that had recently been abandoned.
In my opinion “most” bears are probably out of the den by now. I think there’s definitely going to be more coming out in the next week or so and with the rain and warmer weather things should green up fast. I feel that most bears are lower in elevation right now, but unfortunately these areas are fairly dense and don’t allow much as far as glassing. We’ll wait for them to move up into the clear cuts and higher elevations where we can spot and stalk them much easier. Yesterday we again spent a lot of time looking through the glass at mile upon mile of timber and clear cut. We only spotted a few deer and one moose. It’s amazing how animals just pop out of nowhere when you sit and glass. We probably sat looking over a few square miles of clear cut for 20 minutes before we spotted a moose out in the open. You really have to pick apart every little area of land meticulously if your gonna do it right. I’ll be glad when the spotting scope shows up later this month. Until then we’ll be in the mountains getting in shape so when we do find a bear it will be game on. This week might be a little slow with rain and school but we’ll be really hitting things hard starting next week.
5:30 came a little to early but the chance to fish got me out of bed after only a couple snoozes. With the local rivers looking nice and brown, we decided to hit up the Missouri River with our good friend Jeff and get a couple days of fishing in. [If you missed our first trip to the Missouri River read about it here.] After a couple hours we rolled into Craig and got our shuttle situated at the Headhunters Fly Shop. These guys know how to run a fly shop and if your in need of almost anything, chances are they can get it for you or point you in the right direction. Soon we were on the river and the weather was impeccable. No wind and decently warm temperatures kept our hopes high.
The day started off with a handful of small fish. Although fun, we were hoping for something a touch bigger to get the rods bent on.
We soon drifted off the main channel of the Mo and got into one of the small side channels. There were a lot of midges on the water and a few risers. We stripped streamers through the slower holes but with minimal success.
We kept moving and found a pod of risers. After about an hour of fishing we only came away with two misses on top. We were running 5X tippet and a small BWO and were able to trick a few but no fish in hand. We learned that some days 6 or 7X and a very, very tiny fly are the only option on these trouts meal plan.
We kept the train chugging downriver only to be interrupted by another bathroom break. Only this time is was a very opportune time to pull over. As we sat on the side of the river cracking fresh PBR’s, we saw a single riser about 100 yards downstream. A short drift and we were anchored up on the entrance to a small side channel with one slurping fish in sight. A few empty handed drifts with the nymphs and I had had enough. We were going to get one on top or go out trying. I was able to get a slurp from the back of the boat and we decided to get out and put our dry fly fishing to the test. After about an hour all three of us were able to catch rainbows on dries ranging from 17-20 inches. These fish had moved up into a small hole only about 40′ square and about 2-3 feet deep.
After putting the hurt on the few risers in that hole we pulled anchor and kept things rolling. Again we found pods of rising fish but couldn’t connect with the setup we were running. When they say these fish will humble you, they aren’t lying.
After floating past countless risers with no luck we slowly drifted back into Craig America. It’s definitely a very cool experience to see a big fish nosing up and sipping ever so slightly. To catch one like that is even more exciting. We rolled in around 730 and drifting past the last seam we were able to see a train of rising fish. There were at least 20-30 trout nosing out of the water with anywhere from 5-10 up at a time. And there were some big ones in the bunch. That’s something you just don’t see around Missoula and I can see the appeal that the Missouri has to offer. Unfortunately, our batting average on these fish was probably close to like 5% or less. When it’s midges on the meal plan the fishing can be agonizingly tough and a little maddening.
Day 2 we were up an hoping for a bit better day on the river. After some eggs in camp scrambled up with a tasty stick, we were back over to the Headhunters to pick up a few flies and get a shuttle all squared up. Contrary to the weather forecast, we had strong winds and clear skies. The bugs weren’t out in the numbers they were from the day before and the fishing was just plain slow.
We again floated the dam to Craig. The fish were few and far between and small. Not exactly fulfilling our vision for the day.
Around 3PM the wind started to die down and the fish started rising again. We were again in a side channel, trying to snipe those pesky sipping trout.
We counted close to a hundred noses over the last two hours of the float but just couldn’t find the mojo. The casts were right but the setup wasn’t fooling them. 5X wasn’t cutting it and a #18 midge apparently wasn’t either. Hey we’ve been fishing nymphs all winter and spring so we were happy just to get a few over the course of the two days on top. We weren’t the only ones having trouble either. Lots of fellow floaters were complaining of slow conditions from the dam to Craig. Apparently we should have floated from Craig to Mid-Canyon as we found a note from our buddy Tyler Trudeau saying they got into about 40 fish on their float. The Missouri River is one that your going to spend some serious time on before you can say you understand it. We had a great time and hopefully next time the river will be a touch more generous. We did get a small amount of video so we’ll probably make a short mash up here in the next couple of weeks. Be checking back as we near spring hunting season, get closer to getting Contrast done, and hopefully get a small video from this trip up on the site.
Montana Wild is proud to announce that we have teamed up with Bear Archery and Trophy Ridge for the 2012 season! I have developed a relationship with Bear Archery for the entirety of my bowhunting career. My first bow was the Bear Assualt, which brought me my very first bow kill, and got me hooked on the sport of bow hunting. All I know is Bear, and I am very excited to continue into 2012 as part of the Bear Nation.
Our first day shooting the Anarchy was in inclement weather. We had a steady rain, wind, and colder temps, but weather is not always sunny for a bowhunter and we weren’t going to let a little weather rain on our parade. Most guys would have stayed in because they don’t want to get their new bow wet. Not us, we expect the most from our equipment because you never know what the conditions might be when you chasing that trophy of a lifetime. We have put over 150 arrows through the Anarchy over the past 3 days, and I must say I am impressed. The Anarchy was very stable, regardless of the gusting winds, and felt very dead-in-hand upon release.
We have mostly been just getting comfortable with the new bows and have been shooting mostly inside the house. We will have more feedback and info in the near future along with some pre-season videos. Make sure to check out our gear page in the next couple weeks for a complete review and specs on our hunting gear for 2012. Tomorrow we are heading back to the Five Valleys Archery range to start sighting everything in. Only 16 more days til opening day for bear/turkey season here in Montana and we are really going to be busy from now til then. One of our goals for this spring is to get a turkey on film with a bow. We also will be putting in the miles chasing black bears. We hope to get one if not two with our new Anarchy’s. The word on the street is that some are already out so we should be able to hit the ground running once April 15th rolls around. We will be filming everyday we get out and we hope to capture some amazing footage and stories. Our 2011 hunts will be showing up online sometime in mid-May so be sure to check back for those.
Big thanks to Jason over at Bear Archery. It’s great when people can respect what you do, see the potential that we have, and want to invest in us.
Finally some video is showing up here at Montana Wild. Check out the teaser for our 1st short film of the year, CONTRAST!
It took more time than I could have ever anticipated to sort and organize all of the footage we have captured for this short film (over 40 hours of HD footage). This piece contains our highest quality cinematography to date and this is only a tease of what’s to come. It is insane how much you learn everyday about filming and editing! CONTRAST is set to showcase a single river in Montana, which we fished over the course of the late winter and early spring of this year. We didn’t write a script or set out with a direction in mind for this project, we just fished and filmed. We were able to catch 5 species of fish and have a number of great hook-ups to show. It’s going to be a daunting task to sort through all the footage and piece something together that is captivating and unique. We should start editing shortly and hope to release this in it’s entirety by the end of April.
After a long week of school and work, we finally had some light poking through at the end of the tunnel. Sunday was forecasted to be in the upper 50s and we figured the fishing just might be worth a little excursion. Despite the great conditions we were hearing about on the Bitteroot, we decided to avoid the crowds and boat parade for smaller and lesser known water. We wanted to fish a long, winding stretch of river with no access that we had yet to fish, and decided to make the four mile hike downstream from access to access. We dropped Travis’s bike off around 11:30 AM at the lower access and drove the truck back upriver about 4 miles and got ready for a long day. We knew we would find some lightly fished water and hopefully a hog or two.
As we worked downstream things started off slow. Sometimes you go 10-15 holes without a fish out there, but once you find them they stack up. Travis unfortunately had some ill fate attempting to catch fish. He had numerous missed hook ups and a few spit the fly before making it to the net. I put him on the bench and grabbed the St. Croix and got to casting. With so many pockets of fishable water, we made slow progress. About two hours into the days adventure, I hooked into a bright red rainbow that was around the 20 inch mark. Unfortunately, Travis and I have had some rough times trying to net my larger fish this year. This one again broke off in an attempt to tote this beast up from the depths and allow Travis to get the net under him. Some choice words were had and we pushed on. Pushing past the halfway point and with the sun beginning to lower on the horizon, I finally got to net a solid chromer.
The water was looking better and better as we moved on. Over the course of the day we missed our share of good trout. I know between the two of us we probably lost/missed about 4-6 18+” fish. I guess we left them for next time eh. This unlucky trout was spunky and it felt good to get one solid one on camera for the day.
We pushed onward to the west. The only problem with the long hike was we couldn’t spend as much time as we would like to thoroughly fish all the holes. The good thing was that the walking was easy and the weather was in top notch form. We only saw two risers and one skwalla on the water. This river just doesn’t fish on top like the other rivers in the area. The character more than makes up for it I say. Soon we were forced to walk the last mile back to the bike as the sun was beginning to set for the day. Travis had to bike back on the highway and doing so while it was still light seemed like a better bet then a nighttime ride alongside high speed traffic. As I sat and waited I decided to battle the dropping temps by getting in a little fishing right at the access. Ironically, we walked all day to find good trout and I caught one of the biggest of the day right within view of the road and withing ten feet of the parking area. This stud of a bow took it upon himself to break the surface with aggression. After forcing him into submission Travis finally showed up to snap a few photos.
This fish was in stark contrast to the other rainbow I had caught that day. His mouth was at least 2-3 times larger and his teeth some of the sharpest I’ve seen on a fish of his size. He is a sure fish eater and must have been warming up his evening with an appetizer as he munched my stonefly nymph.
Overall, it was one solid day on the water here in Montana. With a little ambition and some free time, you can find an adventure in your own backyard. That’s the great thing about Montana. You don’t need a fancy trip to another state or country to get some solid thrills and feel miles from civilization. Check back tomorrow as we release the teaser for our new short film Contrast. Until then, tight lines to ya!
Montana Wild has recently teamed up with the Montana based company Ripcord, maker of the #1 fall-away rest. Zack and I have had great results with Ripcord in our past bow ventures and are very excited to have such a reliable rest on our bows for 2012.
The Ripcord Code Red is one of the most highly acclaimed fall-away rests on the market. With no bounce back and full arrow containment, its tough to beat Ripcord. If you’d like to know more head on over to the Ripcord website and check them out.
The bows should be showing up on Friday and soon enough we’ll be set up, sighted in and ready to hunt.
After a long night of studying I was ready to get another exam over with and head to the river. After a solid twenty minutes I was the first one done and happy to be leaving campus for the day. The more and more I go to school the more I resent it due to the fact that I learn twice as much during during the course of my life then I’ll ever be able to attribute to the classroom. Just as we were about to leave the house we heard a knock on the door. A new lens for our camera had showed up and I was pretty amped. After some weekend eBay maneuvering I was able to get my hands on a new but MINT Nikkor lens. I was a little skeptical about buying glass over eBay, but it showed up basically in new condition and it shipped crazy quick.
Our lenses are of fair quality, but we knew an upgrade was in short order. I won’t get all techy on you but it’s sweet and we got to break it in right away. With the rivers dropping after a solid bump in the flows, we were hoping to catch some hungry fish off guard. Things started off slow, but as we got further and further from the access we started seeing a few hits. Travis quickly let a couple slip the hook, followed up by a couple white dogs and a small rainbow. I soon thereafter stepped up to the plate and started drifting a couple nymphs on a slow water seam. Two quick seams split and then came back together leaving a prime piece of real estate for a hungry trout. Sure enough a few short casts later I had a pretty solid fish fight going. A good brown came leaping out of the water multiple times and sealing his fate as another fish fallen victim to the internet.
We know there’s some large browns lurking in this river but haven’t caught anything worthy until today. We’re trying to wrap up filming for our still un-named film, but it seems like every time we go out we add to the bank of solid footy. This one should make the cut.
We kept working upstream and a few holes later my eye was caught by a slim slice of holding water. This was a quick run about 4 feet wide by 20 feet long and only about knee deep. First cast I hooked into a large and colorful spawing rainbow. As I lured him closer to the net he somehow managed to eat my nymph. “#$%%!” was the reaction from us both as we both yelled at each other. We fished well into the afternoon without much excitement. Travis was able to end the day with a fair rainbow that came from a small turbulent hole. The camera rolled once again as we reached the turning back point for the day.
We ended the day with a timelapse mission on the way home. Unfortunately, it was quite windy out and the wind wreaked havoc on that plan. The footage turned out all bumpy from the cameras being swayed by the wind. Oh well, we learned something at least. We got a few solid pictures anyway.
Another long week is ahead of us. We’ll have more product and gear showing up this week so I’m sure there will be more soon here at Montana Wild.
Yesterday we finally had some hunting product show up at the doorstep. That means it’s only a matter of time before we have the bows setup and the bears start showing themselves. I know we’re on the verge of some great spring fishing but it’s never to early to think about hunting.
We got 6 dozen of the Carbon Express Maxima Hunter KV’s. We’re both pretty excited to get these badboys cut, wrapped, fletched, and shooting straight. The KV is the strongest arrow on the market, so it’s should put a solid hurt on some critters.
The arrows are made with a layer of Kevlar, which is pound for pound 5 times stronger than steel and considerably lighter. They also have Dual Spine Weight Forward which helps your arrow recover out of the bow faster and get on target. Combine all that with the a BuffTuff finish and BullDog nock collars and you have one wicked arrow.
If your in the market for arrows be sure to head over to Carbon Express’s website and check out their selection. They can get you all setup with an arrow that’s perfect for your current bow and have a solid variety of options to choose from. As soon as we start shooting them we’ll have product reviews and some video up. Tomorrow hopefully we’ll be back on the river somewhere so keep your head up cause it’s almost the weekend.
Well another Monday has come and gone. Monday is one of our “off” days where we get a chance to hit the water. It’s always tough to try to pick a spot that you hope wasn’t viciously attacked by other fellow weekend warriors. No sooner could we drop our wader boots in the dirt, and a game warden had pulled up with a sly look on his face. Tom ended up being a great guy, and we chatted with him for a bit. Travis tried to give him his 2010 fishing license the first go round. Apparently it’s 2012. Tom also mentioned that someone had been seen with a camera on a tripod and a harpoon on the river, and asked us if we knew anything about it. Well either someone is pretty rugged and enjoys trying to harpoon fish in March, or someone mistook a GoPro on the end of a ski pole for a harpoon. Were not sure which but we geared up and settled into the first hole. Second cast and a trout was airborne. This little brown quickly got netted, and we let him torpedo through the flats and back into his home.
After a few drifts and by the looks of the hole, I felt the need for some extra lead. After tossing on a little shot, I quickly had a dip in the bobber and a trout on my fly. After a less than exciting fight I had a long, skinny rainbow in the bag.
Another slew of casts and some stripped streamers left us empty handed and we were off and rolling to a new spot. A few weeks ago I had drove into a new fishing access and the road was very muddy and a wild ride. I was hoping it was in a similar condition and we could get a few shots of us muddin to our fishing spot. Unfortunately, the road had dried up considerable and only a few patches of mud remained. That little bit of mud was all we needed to get some use out of the GoPro.
We were hoping that by facing it backwards it would avoid some of the mud slangin, but after the first good hole it was more than covered.
We once again set out for the river. I was able to catch a few smaller fish and got a chance to witness an elusive early March riser. I tied on a small BWO and it was on. About ten casts in and I had my first top-water action of the year. Unfortunately my knot failed, and I still am in search of my first fish on a dry.
I think we were able to get some more shots for our short film we have been shooting this winter/spring, so hopefully those can get tossed into the mix when we finally get to editing. Were looking at close to 30-35 hours of footage that’s piled up on the hard drives so it’s gonna be a little while before we have much to show, but it’s most definitely going to be our best yet. Stay tuned and hopefully this can break up your mid-week rut.
Lately we have been busy filming a bunch for a short film, so today we finally decided to take a break. We called up local fishing legend Ian Orlando and headed out to the Rock.
We haven’t been on this creek since pre-runoff 2011, so most of the holes we used to love and cherish have disappeared. Today was a day to explore and hopefully find some good pockets of fish. While the water looked good, the fishing was slow. I was able to get a few to eat but the good ones spit the hook.
We headed upriver in search of some new water and found a hole that looked fishy. Ian and I decided to play a game of FISH, and we both did well under pressure. Multiple rainbows and white dogs were fooled in this single hole. We didn’t really have rules, other than you had to catch a fish in less casts than the person before hand.
We left the remaining fish in the hole to rest in peace. After hiking upriver a good mile, we found nothing but flat water. We jumped in the Dodge and took the icy roads south. Along the way we managed to plow through some impressive puddles, which the Dodge handled like a champ. Our next fishing access was semi-ice covered, but looked like a fun/dangerous challenge.
The trout were being picky, but one hungry white dog made his way onto the ice. Not much to complain about when your fishing in pure sunshine and 50 degree weather in March! The fishing can only get better.
If you missed our last post, Travis landed a very respectable bull trout on Sunday. It was the last fish of the day and his biggest to date.
The very next day we were back on the river. The sun was out but the temperatures were a touch lower than in previous days. Cold hands and iced up guides were about the only bad thing we had going for us though. The very first hole I hooked into another bull trout. Back-to-back bull trout on film in two days. I guess the fishing is pretty good right now. This bullie came screaming out of the water at me after I set the hook, nearly spraying me with ice cold water. After attempting to keep him in the tail end of the pool, he decided to run downstream. The chase was on and soon I was tangled up in my line with both feet. I shuffled about 200 yards downstream through continuous riffles trying to get close enough to net him. Finally, he tired and I got in front of him. He drifted into my net and I had my best bull trout to date.
We continued fishing without much luck and decided to switch spots. After a short lunch we were back on the river. I wanted to fish a couple holes within throwing distance of the truck, and figured I could tough it out in my sweatshirt and without gloves. A stiff breeze had picked up and it got miserable quick. I was about to pack it up when my bobber sunk under once again. I had another solid fish on and once again got run over attempting to land him. My fish landing abilities have been far from beautiful, but once again I made it work out and we had another solid trout in the net and on camera.
I landed a few more fish but nothing too exceptional. We picked up our gear and headed to one last spot as the sun dipped low in the west. The only thing we caught were more cold hands and iced up rod guides.
We have gotten a chance to log some solid shots so far this winter/spring. Hopefully we can pull in some more fish on film in the following weeks as we hope to make a short video highlighting the exceptional early season fishing of Montana.
Another weekend is upon us. We’ve been back on the sprawling expanse of rivers that course across Montana, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Friday we set out to begin filming for one of a few short videos we’ll be producing this spring. Not much for details on the project other than we’re going to be filming about 7-10 days for just this project, and I hope we can make it better than I envision it in my head.
The day started with a bang though. Travis and I were looking for a new area to fish and had our eyes out for the parking area. We passed it and turned around. As we took a left off the highway, our attention was on the river and where we were about to park. We only had to cross the railroad tracks and gear up. As we slowly neared the tracks I instinctively looked right and left. When my eyes made it to the left side of the vehicle I saw a gut wrenching site, a train barrelling down upon us. I stopped on a dime as the train roared past us just 15 feet away. No horn, no warning, just raw reality. A little unnerving doesn’t quite describe it, but I’m glad it happened. I truly think God meant for that train to scare us. It humbled both of us and made a lasting reminder that life is never to be taken for granted. We enjoy so many amazing things in our lives and especially in a state such as Montana. It’s just a good reminder to be thankful for what you have and to make sure you put forth your best foot each and every day because you never now when it’s going to be your last. We quickly tried to forget what had just happened and get out on the river. About five minutes after wetting my boots I was into a spunky rainbow. Three fish were pulled from that hole and the vibes were good. We knew some big fished lived amongst the depths and snags of the river and it was only a matter of time before we laid into one.
We moved on and decided to hit a hole hidden under a bridge that has netted us some good fish in the past. With the camera rolling I began methodically working the hole. After about 5 minutes I hooked up on a strong fish. At first it was more dead weight than anything. I slowly worked the fish into the slow side water and caught my first glimpse of this beast of a fish. It looked like a baby steelhead. Once it saw me it was headed deep back into the current. I yelled to Travis that I was gonna need a bit of help to land this brute. After about 10 minutes of trying to wear him down, I wasn’t making much progress. With a 5wt rod and 4x tippet I had less control than the fish did. As he tired he wouldn’t move into the slow water. He would only slowly drift backwards towards the tail of the pool. I knew if he made it out of the pool I was toast. Travis got in as deep as he could and we gave it a go. I pulled as hard as I dared to try to get him close to the surface. It was now or never and I tried to impart my will upon him. Travis swooped in with the net and chaos ensued. The fish fought with all its might. All I could see was a monstrous trout thrashing on the wooden edge of the net. My line went slack and I hoped to see the net rise from the water with my largest fish ever. Unfortunately, it came up empty. That pig of a fish won. We were a little upset, but after our close call with the train I easily remembered how blessed I was just to be on the river with my brother. Travis estimated this rainbow at about 24-26 inches. It was the biggest fish either of us have seen in the rivers of Montana. We continued to fish on and did catch a small brown who was set on trying to fly. A decent rainbow finished our day off and considering the time of year we were pretty stoked. We still have room to improve.
Today Annie and I headed up to Rock Creek to see how the infamous river was faring with such a light winter. It wasn’t long before Annie had her first fish hooked up.
The river sure has changed since last spring. The heavy runoff we saw last year has altered almost every hole. It’s cool because it’s almost like fishing the river for the first time again. There’s still a decent amount of snow and the water temp isn’t quite there yet. There’s fish to be had but not in true spring fashion. We landed about 5 fish today, and I was reminded that the fish of Rock Creek make up for their size with their stunning colors.
Tomorrow Travis and I are headed back out for a full day on the river. Hopefully, we can get some shots. I can’t decide if snow is going to be a good thing or not. Might make for some sweet shots or it might make for some slow fishing. I guess well find out soon.
Its January 3rd, most people would be thinking about skiing, sledding, and yes maybe even some ice skating, but not us! We’re thinking about fishing! The weather has been so spring-like that we have the fly fishing itch once again. We met back up with Jeff and took off for the Bitteroot. Today was going to be more of a filming mission, since we managed to land some nice browns last week. We were greeted with frost and some colder temps on this particular morning. Jeff is sometimes a little ‘clumsy’ on his feet and he started out great for the first 30yds of wading into the river…….before he tripped and fell into the river! Haha I couldn’t believe it. Fortunately he didn’t get water in his waders and we had extra layers in the truck.
Zack was rocking some tandem nymphs (zebra midges are working well), while Jeff was throwing his prototype streamer we named the J-Pro (aka Jeff Prototype). As the story goes the J-Pro streamer came about as an accident. Jeff said he accidently tied this deadly combination together by accident one night and decided to fish it, and has been catching nice browns ever since.
The morning was starting off slow, and could have been due to the colder morning temperatures.
We saw hundreds of birds that morning and were constantly being watched by a couple of wary bald eagles. Ducks were constantly flying overhead, along with large groups of Canadian Geese.
Jeff made his way to some calm water and was stripping streamers off the opposite bank. The ‘J-Pro’ did the trick and Jeff hooked into a nice brown trout. At the time I was filming Zack and didn’t get the hookup/fight, but still managed some photos and small amount of footage.
The rest of the day was slow fishing. Zack ended the day with two nice hookups. He landed a nice rainbow, but I was way downriver filming Jeff at the time. That is the tough thing about trying to film two people. Sooner or later your going to miss shots of fish, but oh well. We had to end the day short and go to work. Have to make the money, or there’s no fishing. Fishing>Working. More updates soon, including our Missouri River trip!