The Snag Hole

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by Randy
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on Friday, 11 May 2018
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   Watching the water rise around the state of Montana starting to give me that "sinking" feeling. All these shiny new drift boats with not a scratch...fancy paint jobs...lowgunnels...brand new designer oars handmade from imported tropical bubinga and cocobolo.

   The mighty Missouri topping 21,000 cubic feet per second at Toston, 13,000 at WolfCk.

   The Big Hole at 7800 cfs at Melrose.

   The Jefferson at 10,000 cfs at Three Forks.


   Impressive numbers for sure.


   But high water brings low bridges...and submerged cottonwoods...and hydraulics and whirlpools...and all other manner of  doom, danger and despair.


   It can get ugly out there...sunk_drift_boat_salmon_r

 A trip on the Salmon River that ended early.



  A fancy new wood boat that took a side channel on the Big Hole with some very jagged old metal posts hiding under the surface.



        A float trip on the Yellowstone that got cattywompus.



      A bad day on the Deschutes.



        Run Forrest, run!




Rowing drift boats 101: never float sideways through the Kelly Br. on the Madison.



            It's sunk but we can see it!





Tim Mosolf and others portage boats and rafts over Hildreth bridge...Beaverhead River, 1984.


   Should be a fun springtime on Montana rivers. Be careful out there.







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by Randy
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on Friday, 20 April 2018
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   lebron_rejection   In a stunning, unanimous, 4-0 decision, The Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission voted NO on the proposed Madison River Recreation Plan that would limit commercial use on the river and would have blocked out certain stretches from access by float craft.




     Architects of the plan were shocked, I tell you.

    All that work, all those surveys, stats, numbers, charts...all that negative sentiment towards fishing guides...POOF! Many thought most of the plan would be approved with maybe certain portions taken out or altered.     


   The entire plan was shot down with the Commission basically saying "come back to us when you have a plan that makes sense".

   Most sensible people agree the river is too crowded, so the basic premise to reduce pressure is a no-brainer. So what went wrong?


   They screwed it up.


   Rather than just put a cap on new outfitter licenses and call it good, the designers of the plan got greedy. Paralysis by analysis.

    Picture rooms full of nerdy types glued to computer screens with thick glasses and pocket protectors buzzing over stats and trends and three-second clicks from a river-cam hidden in the bushes. Hidden cameras!

   And by the way, those fishing guides are lying to us! The horror!

   More stats, more charts, more graphs...more, more, more. And pretty soon a simple plan that most could understand grew into a many-headed monster that got out of control. The finished plan totalled 67 pages.

   Your state government ran amok.

   They figured to dazzle with numbers and charts, but when they started carving up sections of the river like a Thanksgiving turkey, they went off the rails. Dictating days of the week when one can or cannot float a particular stretch was one of the deal breakers.

   If you have 300 people in a large room and force them into a smaller room, what do you get? Duh. 

   Who was in charge of this operation, Inspector Clouseau?inspector_clouseau

   Fishing outitters and guides were targeted as guilty. But the crowding problem is just not that simple. Many other factors are in play including:

   The ridiculous population explosion in Bozeman that slops over into the Madison every single day of the year.

   The opening of the Madison to fishing year round.

   The problems with just about every other river except the Madison: green slime on the Beaverhead, fish kill on the Yellowstone, low, hot water on the Big Hole and Jefferson, overcrowded wade fishing on the Gallatin up the canyon.

    And 70 miles to the south we have the uncontrollable shit-show that is Yellowstone National Park.

   All roads funnel toward the Madison River.


   The vortex.


    When the town of Ennis was founded back in the 1860s, it had become a crossroads... a convergence of wagon traffic, gold prospectors and snake oil salesmen. Today, over 150 years later, it remains a crossroads...for flyfishers from all over the land.


    So back to the drawing board. We are lucky to have a river full of fish...for now. Fish populations are even better than when I started fishing the Madison in 1972, forty six years ago, and when I got my first guide license in 1980.

   I have always supported FWP fisheries people. I feel they have done an admirable job keeping our fish stocks stable, even after the huge hit from Whirling Disease in 1990, when rainbow populations in Varney sunk to an all time low of 200 fish per mile (1993), and when the Hebgen Dam busted loose in 2008 sending a wall of water downstream.

   Kudos to them.

   But controlling people is a bigger problem.


   A problem that I'm not sure anyone can solve. 




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by Randy
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on Thursday, 12 April 2018
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Here is a link to a summary of the proposed plan:




   mad_river_mapMontana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has put out a proposed Madison River Recreation Plan with the purpose of limiting commercial use on the river. It is 67 pages long with lots of numbers, data, charts and graphs...but here are some basics:


* Overall use on the Madison River continues to grow due to an increasing general population, (especially the exploding growth in Bozeman, Mt., only fifty short boat trailer miles away), a healthy fishery and a growing interest in fly fishing and river recreation.


* Upper Madison River use has doubled in the last four years from 88,000 to 179,000 angler days per year.angler_use_chart


* There were 213 active Special River Permits (green sticker) for outfitters on the Madison in 2017. General outfitter licenses (red sticker) issued for the state total over 30,000 since inception, both active and inactive. srp_2018197








 * Outfitter trips on the Madison increased 72% in the last 10 years.client_day_use


* Since FWP opened the Upper Madison to year-round fishing, springtime outfitter trips increased dramatically.


* Quake Lake outlet to Lyon Br. "walk and wade" outfitter trips have doubled since


* 42% of the property bordering the banks of the Upper Madison is privately owned.


* There is a pervailing negative attitude toward fishing outfitters from Montana residents.


* There has been a hidden, automatic camera located between Lyon Br. and Windy Pt. taking photos of drift boats every three seconds since 2015. black_mask_guy


* 60% of boat traffic on Upper Madison is commercial.


* From a 2016 FWP "mail-in" survey, 54% of residents and 30% of non-residents feel the number of float users on the Madison is either
"unacceptable" or "very unacceptable".angler_satisfaction


* Trout populations in the Upper Madison are at all time highs.


* Proposed "no commercial use zones" are as follows:

Quake-Lyons...no Saturday

Lyons-Pal...no Sunday

Pal-Mac......no Monday

Mac-Varney...no Tuesday

Varney-Ennis...no Wed.

Ennis-Ennis Lake...no Thursday

   Outfitters will be allocated limited days of operation in these areas based on historic use.


* A cap (moratorium) will be placed on  SRP (commercial outfitter) permits issued for use on the Madison River based on 2016, 2017 use.


* No restrictions on non-commercial users between Lyons and Ennis.


* A ban of all float craft, commercial and non-commercial,  is proposed in the two wade-only areas of Quake-Lyon Br. and Ennis Campground to Ennis Lake.


    Lots to digest and ponder. Until then, the Soup of the Day is Rocky Mtn. Whitefish Chowder.















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by Randy
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on Friday, 23 February 2018
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    from The Madisonian newspaper 2/21/18 


ENNIS – According to a press release from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, at approximately 12:44 a.m. on Feb. 19, Madison County Sheriff’s Department responded to a 911 call of a disturbance at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Ennis. Upon arrival, deputies learned that one person had been shot in the altercation.

“One subject, a 48-year-old male, of Ennis, was transported by the Ennis Ambulance to the Madison Valley Medical Center in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the chest,” the press release reads. The shooting victim was later transported to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, and his condition remains unknown.

Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson reported a 57-year-old male, from McAllister, whose name remains unreleased, was detained at the scene. The McAllister man was treated at MVMC for multiple injuries, and later transported to Billings for possible head injuries.

Thompson said the investigation of the incident is continuing. “We are still trying to determine the motive behind the altercation and are hoping for additional cooperation from those involved,” the sheriff's press release reads. “There are many unsolved questions that have yet to be answered.”



   Such a strange world back there at the Sportsman's Lodge, behind the restaurant, behind the bar, in those quaint cabins Otis Crooker built way back in the 1950s.

   The 911 call came in at "approximately 12:44 AM" but by that time "Mr. 57" pretty much had his brains beaten in by "Mr. 48" who, eventually, had a bullet in him. Both men were in bad shape.  An ugly scene.


   The sheriff's office also reported:"A woman has been arrested due to interference with the investigation but is not a suspect in the shooting."

   Really? Strange.

   Who pulled the trigger?

Mr. 57 was beaten so bad he was helpless.

Mr. 48 had a bullet in his back and he was wordless.


   Did 57 shoot 48 in the scuffle? Did 48 shoot himself in the back? 

   Self defense?

   Suicide attempt?

   That leaves "Woman X". Did she pull the trigger? Since she was arrested and placed in custody, were her hands tested for gunshot residue? Were the two men's hands tested for gunshot residue? Where's the gun?


   Sheriff says "neither man was cooperating enough with investigators to determine what happended." Why not?

    48 is in a coma in the hospital. So he ain't talkin'.

   Since 57 was being beaten to a pulp you would think he would be happy to talk. But he ain't talkin'.

   That leaves "Woman X", but she ain't talkin" either.



    One of three people at the scene was the shooter.

   Even if you believe in UFOs, little green men and life on other planets, it's pretty clear the bullet wasn't fired by aliens from outer space.

   Or was it?

    It was after midnight in the dead of winter blowing snow sideways fifteen below zero Ennis, Montana.

   I guess anything is possible.




 If anyone has information on the incident and has not talked to the Sheriff's Office, they are asked to call 406-843 5301.






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The Snag Hole Goes Behind the Scenes at Exclusive Photo Shoot

by Randy
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on Wednesday, 24 January 2018
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   The Snag Hole has obtained classified photos taken behind the scenes in a remote location somewhere in Montana. These shots include wild animals, exotic models, local characters, a fishing guide, a one-man band and a convicted felon, among others. They are not available to the normal public. Or even the abnormal public.pio_shoot_2pio_shoot_2018nevada_city_shoot_trainnevada_city_shoot_bw


         Just another day on the set!

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