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UNDERCOVER FISHING GUIDE

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on Friday, 24 February 2017
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  The Undercover Fishing Guide will be a guest contributor to this site adding commentary and observations on fishing, the environment, the good, the bad, the ugly. He prefers to remain anonymous and his identity will not be revealed. black_ski_mask

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SILENT PARTNER

by Randy
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on Saturday, 04 February 2017
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Sept. 23, 1987... 4am. Beaverhead Nat’l. Forestmtn_lion_track

 

     Pitch black except for a million stars spreading a blinking blanket over me, trekking up the trail in the dark. I really didn’t need any light, I had done it so many times. I knew every boulder, tree stump, juniper bush, creek crossing. Make it to the saddle before day break, take a breather, stop, listen. The wind was down, a silent darkness slowly being overtaken by first light, no bugles yet.

 

   Picking my way up the sidehill on the switchies. Huffing and puffing past the jack pines through the scree, climbing up...looking way down and across the canyon to the old ski hill over my right shoulder. Not much more to the steep part, gonna get up on top of the ridge and take another blow.

 

   Into the timber now, a sliver of first light squeezing through lodgepoles, doug firs and whitebark pine. Trail levels off, finally I’m on top.

   A light, misty September sprinkle happened up here…silent foot falls, moist for a change…no crackle to the sticks and leaves. Next year half of Yellowstone Park would burn, but for now...

   I walked over to the left edge and looked down the cliff into the creek, listened to it barely audible tumbling down the mountain over huge boulders and moss covered rocks. Took in patches of quakies turning gold. A raven croaked way down in there somewhere.aspens_2

 

   Moving slowly back up the trail, the several-hundred foot drop off to my left, a gentle slope downhill of to my right...I am in the trees at 8500 feet, noiseless. No snow up here. Good light now.

   Three black strands of sewing thread dangled from the tip of my recurve…I held it upright in front of me to check the wind. The strands blew back dead into my face. Head down looking at the soft earth for a sign…a nutcracker chattered off through the trees. I stopped, stood stock-still and listened.

 Nothing.

   My eyes scanned ahead, up the trail, left and right, through the trees. Off to my right was an opening, just before the lodge poles got thick. My eyes searched.

I froze.

 

   The big cat was standing crouched, bent at the knees at forty yards, quartering away from me, facing left, into the wind, ears up, eyes staring dead, focused like lasers. A mature tom around 140 pounds congealed like petrified wood, powerful shoulder muscles rippled through a tawny coat, blending with the pine bark and understory. His long, tan, graceful tail, curled up at the black tip, barely twitched. He had no idea I was there.

   At first I tensed up. But the longer I stood there, the longer the wind stayed right and the longer the big cat didn’t see me, the more relaxed I felt.

   I thought, “how lucky is this?...what are the odds?” Here I am within a bow shot of one of the most secretive, elusive alpha predators in the mountains and he is unaware of my presence. He had his eye on some unseen prey and the thought of a kill had his full attention.

   I stood there, barely blinking, watching him coiled motionless.

   I thought about all the history this impressive animal carried with him…mountain lions had survived years of being chased, treed, hazed, shot at, trapped, snared, speared, poisoned…the bounty hunters of old cutting off ears and tails for $10, $20, $50 per cat…females and kittens brought bonus money.

   The campaign of killing was often waged by professional hunters like Ben Lilly, Jay Bruce or Uncle Jim Owens… in New Mexico, Idaho, California, Arizona…anywhere they could find a cat to kill. Mr. Bruce claimed responsibility for 669 lion kills in California alone and “Uncle Jim” laid waste to over 500 lions in Arizona.

 

 

indian_bead_work

 

        Before them, Arapahos and Nez Perce, Mandans and Blackfeet , Cheyennes and Lakotas and many other tribes hunted lions.

   While I watched the big tom I thought about how the Native Americans killed the mountain lion to utilize them, making quivers and blankets with the hides and eating the meat, while the European invaders killed the big cats to eradicate them off the face of the earth, hanging them by the neck from a tree limb or the side of a barn, to rot in the sun.

   In one fifty year period in the USA and Canada, over 66,000 mountain lions were killed. By the early 1960s, only 4000 survived in the lower 48 states.

   I watched the big tomcat intent on his business, the business of survival. I felt insignificant in his world...the natural world. I only had to make it back to the pick-up, turn the key, start it up, get home, feet-up, crack a beer.

   He had to make it through another brutal Montana winter in the wild.

   I hunted for fun, the big cat hunted to survive.

   I clucked at the lion like you cluck at a horse. His big head wheeled on a swivel, looked straight through me with piercing yellow eyes, locked in, without fear.

   I stared back, feeling small, out of place, like I didn’t belong.

   Then two or three astoundingly swift and graceful leaps…a blur of movement without a sound…and he was gone.

   I just…

stood there…dazed…impressed…humbled.

   I squinted hard down through the maze of lodgepole and jack pine and downed timber. Nothing.

   From somewhere a red-tailed hawk let out a scream, a pine squirrel chattered, a chipmunk poked its head out of a stump to get a look.

   I turned around and headed back down the trail the way I came from. 

   A chill of a north wind whistled through the timber with another Montana winter not far behind.

   I had a lot of time to think during the long hike down the mountain.mountain-lion-eyes

  

 

 

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BUD LILLY 1925-2017

by Randy
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on Friday, 06 January 2017
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   A whole lot of how many of us love and respect fly fishing started with Bud Lilly. His "Trout Shop" in West Yellowstone survives today along with his beliefs about our sport. Fly fishing is in a better place because of him.bud_lilly_2

http://mtstandard.com/news/state-and-regional/fly-fishing-legend-and-catch-and-release-pioneer-bud-lilly/article_e832eae3-1b43-5a20-90f1-5242e8ddfa24.html

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My Friend Survives Grizzly Bear Attack in Madison Valley

by Randy
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on Sunday, 02 October 2016
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    Watch Todd Orr's video here:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK609rbSBLs

 

       Todd Orr grew up in Ennis. He is a life-long outdoorsman with many years of experience in the mountains. I have known him since he worked in the local fly shop here in Ennis in the 1980s. He went on to own and operate his very successful business, Skyblade Knives in Bozeman, Mt.

        http://www.skybladeknives.com/

 

   On Sept. 30, 2016, he was attacked by a sow grizzly bear with two cubs in the mountains near here...not once, but twice.

    He survived.

 

   Here is Todd's story in his own words with photos he provided:

 

 

 

 

 

Grizzly 10/1/16

Hello everyone.
 Thought I should share yesterday morning's Grizzly incident.

I took an early morning hike in the Madison valley to scout for elk. Knowing that bears are common throughout southwest Montana, I hollered out "hey bear" about every 30 seconds so as to not surprise any bears along the trail.

About three miles in, I stepped out into an open meadow and hollered again. A few more steps and I spotted a sow Grizzly bear with cubs on the trail at the upper end of the meadow. The sow saw me right away and they ran a short distance up the trail. But suddenly she turned and charged straight my way. I yelled a number of times so she knew I was human and would hopefully turn back. No such luck. Within a couple seconds, she was nearly on me. I gave her a full charge of bear spray at about 25 feet. Her momentum carried her right through the orange mist and on me.

I went to my face in the dirt and wrapped my arms around the back of my neck for protection. She was on top of me biting my arms, shoulders and backpack. The force of each bite was like a sledge hammer with teeth. She would stop for a few seconds and then bite again. Over and over. After a couple minutes, but what seemed an eternity, she disappeared.

Stunned, I carefully picked myself up. I was alive and able to walk so I headed back down the trail towards the truck 3 miles below. As I half hiked and jogged down the trail, I glanced at my injuries. I had numerous bleeding puncture wounds on my arms and shoulder but I knew I would survive and thanked god for getting me through this. I hoped the bleeding wasn't too significant. I really didn't want to stop to dress the wounds. I wanted to keep moving and put distance between us.

About five or ten minutes down the trail, I heard a sound and turned to find the Griz bearing down at 30 feet. She either followed me back down the trail or cut through the trees and randomly came out on the trail right behind me. Whatever the case, she was instantly on me again. I couldn't believe this was happening a second time! Why me? I was so lucky the first attack, but now I questioned if I would survive the second.

Again I protected the back of my neck with my arms, and kept tight against the ground to protect my face and eyes. She slammed down on top of me and bit my shoulder and arms again. One bite on my forearm went through to the bone and I heard a crunch. My hand instantly went numb and wrist and fingers were limp and unusable. The sudden pain made me flinch and gasp for breath. The sound triggered a frenzy of bites to my shoulder and upper back. I knew I couldn't move or make a sound again so I huddled motionless. Another couple bites to my head and a gash opened above my ear, nearly scalping me. The blood gushed over my face and into my eyes. I didn't move. I thought this was the end. She would eventually hit an artery in my neck and I would bleed out in the trail... But I knew that moving would trigger more bites so a laid motionless hoping it would end.

She suddenly stopped and just stood on top of me. I will never forgot that brief moment. Dead silence except for the sound of her heavy breathing and sniffing. I could feel and her breath on the back of my neck, just inches away. I could feel her front claws digging into my lower back below my backpack where she stood. I could smell the terrible pungent odor she emitted. For thirty seconds she stood there crushing me. My chest was smashed into the ground and forehead in the dirt. When would the next onslaught of biting began. I didn't move.
 And then she was gone.

I tried to peek out without moving but my eyes were full of blood and I couldn't see. I thought that if she came back a third time I would be dead, so I had to do something. Staying in position on the ground, I slowly reached under my chest to grab at the pistol I was unable to get to earlier. I felt I needed something to save my life. The pistol wasn't there. I groped around again but nothing. I wiped the blood from one eye and looked around.
 No bear.

The pistol and holster were lying five feet to my left. The bear's ferocious bites and pulling had ripped the straps from the pack and the holster attached to it. Now trashed, that backpack may have helped prevent many more serious bites on my back and spine.
 I picked everything up and moved down the trail again. I couldn't believe I had survived two attacks. Double lucky!
 Blood was still dripping off my head and both elbows and my shirt was soaked to the waist and into my pants. But a quick assessment told me I could make it another 45 minutes to the truck without losing too much blood.
 I continued the jog just wanting to put more distance between that sow and I.

At the trailhead was one other vehicle. I really hoped that person didn't run into the same bear.
 I snapped a couple quick photos and a video of my wounds, laid some jackets over the truck seat and headed for town. I stopped a rancher along the way and asked him to make a call to the hospital. When I got into cell service, I made a quick call to my girlfriend to ask how her morning was going, before freaking her out and asking her to bring me a change of clean clothes to the hospital.
 Another call to 911 and I gave the operator a quick run down of my injuries and asked her to call the hospital and give them a heads up that I was ten minutes out.
 Moments later I was met at the front door by the doctor, nurse and an officer. I had to ask the officer to open the door, put my truck in park, and unbuckle my seat belt. My left arm was useless. He was impressed I had taken the effort to buckle.
 Once inside, the x-rays revealed only a chip out of the ulna bone in my forearm. Following was eight hours of stitching to put me back together. Most were arm and shoulder punctures and tears. A 5" gash along the side of my head will leave a nasty scar, but I'm hoping my balding doesn't come on too quickly and leave that one exposed. smile emoticon:)
 And finally, this morning, numerous deep bruises and scrapes are showing up from the bites that didn't quite break the skin. Dark bruising in the shape of claws, line across my lower back and butt where the bear stood on me. Also a few more chest bruises and facial abrasions from being smashed and slammed into the ground.

Not my best day, but I'm alive.
 So thankful I'm here to share with all of you. smile emoticon:)
 In a couple weeks I will have to clean out the truck a little better. My girlfriend says it looks like I had gutted an elk in the drivers seat.
 Todd Orr. Skyblade Knives.

 

    

  

 

 

 todd_orr_1todd_orr_3todd_orr_2todd_orr_4

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THE DAY THE RIVER DIED

by Randy
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on Monday, 22 August 2016
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   yellowstone_r   The recent news of thousands of rocky mountain whitefish going belly up in the Yellowstone River has aroused much angst and trauma amongst the local populations of  fishing towns like Gardiner, Livingston, Bozeman and Ennis. Widespread panic is working it's way through the fly shops, motels ( lodges, inns, resorts, "ranches", etc.).

   As the ospreys, eagles and turkey vultures are celebrating over their new-found bounty of fish flesh and bones, fishing guides are pouting and moping over their Bud-Lites in the Pastime Bar and The Murray Hotel in Livingston. Dozens of Fish and Game employees are firing off emails, texting each other and nervously checking on their pensions and 401Ks.osprey_eating_fish

   You really can't blame them. The Yellowstone kill is only one of a string of many bad fish-news events on Montana's Blue Ribbon streams. Starting with Whirling Disease on the Madison in the early 1990s and the blowout at Hebgen Dam in 2008,  we have had fish kills on the Lower Madison, brown trout fungus on the Big Hole, green slime on the Beaverhead, a 30 million gallon treated wastewater spill from the posh Yellowstone Club into the Gallatin River, vanishing grayling, full closure of the Jefferson...and mysterious goings-on at the Missouri and Henry's Fork in Idaho. Did I forget anything?fish_kill_2

   It's a fragile situation. I remember sitting in on one of the many "public meetings" held by the power company after the Hebgen Dam broke. The meeting, as it usually does, was disintegrating into a whine and bitch session when one bright eyed fishing guide raised his hand.

   "When you guys finally get this dam fixed could y'all make sure you make it a bottom release? This would cool the water down a few degrees and we all know trout love cool water."

   A lady sitting right next to me shot her hand up and nearly jumped out of her seat.

   "My name is so and so and I am a water quality person and we have taken many core samples from the bottom ooze of Hebgen Reservoir and you really don't want to be stirring up that stuff...it's ugly down there."

   The room fell silent. I had visons of swirling, turbid murky slime mixed with mercury, pestisides, cyanide and who-knows-what tumbling its way throught the spillway and into the gills of thousands of trout in the Upper Madison River. I never did find out what she found down there.

   But I'm really not all that worried. If we lose our wild trout in the Madison, so what? Fish and Game will snap into action. The fish hatcheries will step into full reproduction mode. Holding ponds will overflow with trout sperm and egg-laying females. The hatchery trucks will line up and carry the payload, backing up to boat launches at Raynolds Pass, Pine Butte, Lyons Bridge and McAtee, dumping thousands and thousands of six inch stocker rainbow trout into the Upper Madison. hatchery_truck

   The little rascals will be lost at first, but soon they will find a home behind a rock, along a bank or maybe in some soft water. They will do just fine until whirling disease eats out their brain cells and wipes them out or maybe a 20 below zero winter and the gorge freezes them to death. The next year and the years after? No problem. Lather, rinse, repeat.

   Fishing guides? No worries. Your future is secure. The hatchery truck schedule will be well published in advance. Just anchor up below Lyons or McAtee boat ramps, tie on a few fish pellet flys with a BB and a bobber and let 'er rip. A hatchery bow on every cast!

   "How's the fishing?"

   " We had a big day...we caught a dozen six inchers, a few eight inchers and a whopper twelve!"

   So don't worry about a thing... Big Brother will take care of you.

 

  

 

  

  

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  • Ralph Watson
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    Ralph Watson says
    Good News Lots of good deals on new pick ups, drift boats and rocket launcher rod boxes here in Bozeman