The Snag Hole
Well...magic girls, really. Tonight the rock group Heart will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Those girls are good!...I was the lead pony in charge of making sure Heart tunes got played on the radio all over the USA and it was a wild ride! Heart signing dinner...lots of important people...lots of Dom Perignon...just a normal day in show biz in the 1970s...I'm in there somewhere!
It was fun...well, sort of. One of the moves we made was to put Heart on as headliner for WRKO radio Boston's "Spring Fever" festival in April, 1977. This was a big deal...175,000 people showed up to see Heart, Burton Cummings and Orleans perform live at The Hatch Shell at the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, Mass. It was a big day...traffic backups, unemployment and antiracism demonstrations...over 50 people arrested for assault and battery on police officers, stabbings and possesion of marijuana...not to mention several people injured after falling from trees to get a better view! Just another day of rock n roll mayhem! Me, RKO General VP Programming Paul Drew, Nancy Wilson, WRKO/Boston PD Les Garland, Ann Wilson (Mr. Drew is pointing at me because he knows I am a great guy :o) Before the concert, April 30, 1977.
Heart was a big hit...and on they went. Ann and Nancy Wilson are huge musical talents...they will be inducted into the R&R Hall along with Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush, Albert King, Donna Summer, Lou Adler and Quincy Jones. HBO will be televising the ceremonies on Sat. May 18 at 9pm EST. My time with the Heart girls was all good...they treated me great...I always think back on my days with Ann and Nancy with a big smile...it was magic!
The platinum record I was awarded for the Heart album "Little Queen"
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From his obituary –
"Cam Sigler Sr. was a pioneer in not only the Pacific Northwest , but the world, helping to pave the way for innovative outdoor hunting and fishing products. In the outdoor community he will for ever be known as the man in the “Broad-Brimmed Hat” who brought fishing waders, billfish flies and much more to the fly fishing and hunting industries.
His billfish flies won honorable mention as one of the 10 most innovative fishing lures of all time.
Cam was born in 1941 in Plaquemine, LA, but lived all over the country in his youth. In 1962 while in Virginia, Cam married Sue. The family then headed west so that Cam could accept a job opportunity to work for the Eddie Bauer Company. Upon arriving in the PNW in 1968 , they asked around for a good place to live and raise a family and it was suggested to try one of the Islands. They moved to Vashon Island, settling on the north end.
After leaving Eddie Bauer in 1986 Cam started his own outdoor business, The Cam Sigler Company. On March 20, 2013 Cam Sr. died at the age of 71, after a year long battle with cancer.
In memory of Cam, he has asked that if you want to show your support to donate to a cause he believed in, please make a donation to the Billfish Foundation in his name."
from Randy Brown: I was lucky to know Cam Sr....a gentleman, an innovator, Axolotl Society stalwart, fly fisher and just a wonderful guy...RIP.
So reads the sign on the road as you enter Ennis, Montana from the south. Eleven million is a big number…more than the population of New York City…the same as the entire country of Cuba! But how many trout do we really have in the Upper Madison River?
Over the many years of guiding anglers on the Madison, two questions keep popping up…”how do we get back to the truck?’…and “how many fish per mile?” The first question is easy…just pay the shuttle crew a few bucks and the truck will appear like magic. The second question is not so simple.
Westslope cutthroat trout
Prior to 1920 the Madison River was mainly populated with Westslope cutthroat trout, grayling and Rocky Mountain whitefish, the original "natives". By the 1930s, rainbow and brown trout were introduced (“stocked”) and the Westslopes and grayling began to disappear. The building of the Ennis Dam in 1908 and the Hebgen Dam in 1914 may have had something to do with the decrease in Westslope cutts and grayling populations.
Through the 1940s, 50s, 60s the Madison tumbled along its way with the State of Montana generously adding stocked trout every spring to the delight of everyone looking for a tasty rainbow dinner, shore lunch or trout-on-a-stick-kabob.
But the “sports” were getting restless. Fly fishing was gaining in popularity. Through writers like Joe Brooks and Dan Bailey, the Madison was becoming a go-to spot for anglers from NY, the Midwest , California and all around the world. Visitors to Yellowstone Park were making the Madison River an important part of their trip. The tourists got tired of catching mostly little stocked trout that couldn’t jump and didn’t make it through the long Montana winter. The “bait boys” were bagging the big ones but the fly folks wanted more. A few pioneers like Dick McGuire and Frank Valgenti and Tom Morgan and Bud Lilly and Dick Vincent began to hatch a plan to increase the size of “catchable trout”…those fish in the twelve to sixteen inch range that that the public said they wanted but were in short supply. The Madison had lots of little trout, and a few really large trout, but not much in between. The plan went something like this:
1. STOP STOCKING THE RIVER . The horror! Panic swept through the masses like a plague. The outrage! Public meetings were held with much yelling and screaming . No way!
2. INSTITUTE A CATCH AND RELEASE POLICY. More horror, shock and outrage!
3. LIMIT BAIT FISHING. Flies and artificial lures only on specified stretches of the Madison. Blasphemy! Ruination! Damnation!
As part of this new approach to fisheries management, Mt. FWP with Ron Marcoux and Dick Vincent leading the way, closed off the Snoball section of the Madison to all fishing for a period of time so as to monitor the effects of a no fishing zone populated with only wild trout. The Snoball section consisted of a put-in just below Squaw Ck . on the East side of the river through an easement provided by the Sun Ranch, down to the Kelly Br. It included the Shelton Br., Haystack Hole, Horse Ck., the Geysers and Windy Pt. This section was closed to all fishing from 1980 to Jan. 6, 1983. Dick Vincent and crew electro-shocking above the old Shelton Bridge, Madison River, March, 1981.
photos by Randy Brown
I took the photos above as we followed Vincent and his electroshock crew down through the closed section in March of 1981. This section was closely monitored through 1980, 81, 82. The results were astounding. Fish populations exploded. Rainbow trout thrived. Vincent and his cohorts had proven that wild trout could not only survive in the Upper Madison, but flourish!
FWP decided to re-open the closed section on Jan. 6, 1983.
The first nice day in January, 1983, Frank Valgenti and I drove up river and parked along the road to the Shelton Ranch (now the Sun West Subdivision). I walked up the road (gravel), waded across to the Haystack Hole, tied on a size six Bitch Creek nymph and started to fish. Without hardly moving my feet I caught thirteen nice trout in about an hour. Frank had the same type of success. We both knew that good things were in store for the Upper Madison River!
Even though these unheard of regulations were bitterly opposed by many, eventually cooler heads prevailed and the Madison River became the template used for wild trout, catch and release fishing all over the U.S. and the world. Fish populations thrived, average size grew larger…the wild trout were stronger, brighter and a whole lot more fun to catch. The Madison River was in its Hey Day.
“So how many fish are in this river anyway?” One of my good clients, Mr. Dave Lurie popped the question as we floated down through the Madison Canyon, under the Kelly Bridge, headed for the Palisades one sunny day late in the 1980s.
“Around 5000 per mile, Dave, as near as we can tell”, I answered.
“And how many miles have we floated?”
“About two miles, Dave” said I.
“You mean we’ve floated over ten thousand goddamn fish and I haven’t caught a single one?”
Herb Oechler fishing the Madison in the Varney stretch.
I break the trout population in the Madison down into Five Eras as follows:
ERA ONE: From Lewis & Clark through the 1920s…unknown populations of Westslope cutthroat, graying, Rocky Mountain whitefish.
ERA TWO: 1930s-1970s Pre-wild trout/catch and release…rainbow and brown trout introduced…annual stocking of hatchery trout into the Madison…10 fish daily limit per person or 10 pounds whichever came first.
ERA THREE: 1980-1991…The Hey Day…wild trout only/catch and release regulations implemented…no stocking…flies and artificial lures only…float and wade only sections established…electro-shocking population studies established. ESTIMATED TROUT POPULATION SIX INCHES PLUS: 5210 PER MILE*.
ERA FOUR: 1992-1998…The Whirling Disease era…ESTIMATED TROUT POPULATION: 1657 PER MILE*. ( 70% decline)
ERA FIVE: 1999-Present…The New Hey Day!…ESTIMATED TROUT POP: 5063 PER MILE*
Maybe 11,000,000 trout is a stretch…but several thousand should be enough for everyone…after all, you can only catch one at a time ( unless you're really good!). Come to Montana and see for yourself. Good luck!
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Kate has won first prize...a free float trip on the Madison river personally guided by Randy Brown.
We understand Kate is currently hooked up with Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander which is just fine because we are big Tigers fans, however Justin will be busy with spring training when the Montana fly fishing season begins and will be unable to join Kate...so Kate will be on her own...no problem, we are here to help.
Congratulations Kate...see you in Montana this summer!
The slow, circling dance between fish and skiff continued. Randy as choreographer on the pole, drew us agonizingly ever closer while deftly managing to maintain an excellent casting angle.
About 50 feet away the fish tailed again, producing another huge mud. I cast about six feet in front of the mud, and as the permit swam out along the contour line, as I knew it must, it saw the crab suspended in mid-water and started toward it. As I started my retrieve the fish swung slowly in pursuit until it came straight at the boat, 90 degrees from its former course. Leisurely it came, flickering straight down the pale gray arrow of the fly line, as if supremely confident that there was no way this slow-moving creature could possibly escape. Closer.
I was on my knees trying hard to make myself invisible when suddenly the fish seemed to show a slight acceleration, perhaps only imagined; the pale mouth opened almost languidly and then closed again. I felt nothing but somehow I knew this had to be it, so I struck, and there it was, a pulsating vibrant life arching the rod relentlessly as it moved slowly away. The fish seemed reluctant to break off our three-way dance. And the line strewn on the deck took an eternity to float its way back to the reel.
Spear Crab permit fly tied by Kimberly Spear
The fly was a barbless size 4 Spear Crab and it was attached to an 8 pound tippet. Care was the name of the game if this dance was to have a successful denouement. Fighting a big fish is almost always anticlimactic; the strike is the thing, the instantaneous justification for all the time, effort, money, assimilation of skills, and whatever else goes into preparing for that magic moment. But this fight was different for I wanted this permit as much as the first and the realization that I could lose it at any time kept my nerves on edge, my adrenaline pumping as the fish dragged us inexorably off that flat and into the deeper water.
With its nose in the turtle grass, the fish was impossible for me to move for what seemed like minutes. It was a great bulldog of a fish straining to break the tie that bound us.
Soon, however, the unyielding pressure of the big Winston rod had the fish on its side at the boat just as it had done with the first fish. But this fish looked easily twice as big – the first one had weighed 24 pounds. It was enormous. The second permit I had ever cast to with even a ghost of a chance for success. And as it lay in the bottom of the skiff, its great, dark eye seeming to suggest some unimaginable, unfathomable rapport, I wondered what unearthly combination of moon and stars, of wind and tide had led the fish onto this particular unimposing flat to this rendezvous and this particular destiny. Bemused, I wondered the same thing about myself.
I don't really know how big that permit was – 32 pounds by Randy's rusty Chatillon. I think it was bigger, but it doesn't really matter, for it and its kind have me hooked. I'll go back next year and the next, for as the Bard said, "It's better to be lucky than good anytime", and perhaps well meet again."
George Kelly released this great fish alive to swim another day...photos by Jo Kelly.