Friday, January 4, 2013

Montana Fishing Trip 2012

In the words of Jason:
In the beginning of October, my work partner, John Tanner, and his brother Matt and I, headed up to the Beaverhead River in Montana.  We stayed from 10/11/2012 - 10/13-2012.  All three of us piled into Matt’s Toyota Tacoma, (which was awesome that he was willing to take it) but the space was LIMITED!  the back seat is the stye where just the side folds down, and you have about two feet of space.  We woke up very early Thursday morning and headed out.  The day before we went to Costco and Walmart to get our food supply, and of course we had made multiple trips to Cabelas, Scheels and Sportsmans Warehouse.  The truck was completely packed with all of our fishing gear, food, drinks, and camping gear.

None of us had ever been to this river, or Montana, so we were going off of research and from what some other friends had told us.  It was a pretty last minute decision, with maybe two weeks notice.  With all of the pictures and videos we had seen of the incredible fish people had caught up there, we were pretty excited to get our lines wet and take our chance at getting some big fish.  Due to the late notice of the trip, we ordered some extra jigs but had to have them shipped to a fishing store up in Dillon, MT.  I had randomly called a fishing store up there, and luckily the guy was cool with us having the jigs shipped to him, and they were scheduled to arrive Thursday afternoon.

The drive had its pretty/drab sections, and I was surprised that the part of Montana we went to was more desolate than I had imagined, but it had its own unique beauty.

As we finally arrived, after 6 hours of driving, we were VERY excited to see the river, as well as the reservoir that feeds it.  The final 20 minutes of the drive took us from the headwaters of the river into Dillon, where we hoped to get the jigs. Well, they hadn’t arrived yet, and so we ate at McDonalds (saw some interesting folks) and figured we better not waste any time, so we put on our fishing gear, ripped some branches off of some bushes from the side of the road to hide all our gear in the back of the truck, and set off to fish the Beaverhead section that ran through town. ( reports had said it was good fishing, but not to compare with the upper section)

I was the first one with my jig in the water, and after two casts, I knew it was going to be a fruitful and worth while trip.  I caught a nice sized brown, around 15”.  We were especially excited to see the fish were obviously interested in going after the jigs, something we were hoping for.  Within the first 15 minutes we had caught around 8 good sized fish.  We decided to continue fishing up stream until, while keeping in contact with the fish shop that would be receiving our jigs.  The river was at a perfect flow, the visibility was great, and the fish were hungry.
We fished for around 3 hours, and it was incredible fishing.  I caught around 22 fish, with some very healthy and pretty looking fish.  The river winded back and forth between the town valley, creating perfect holes, and great undercuts.  We were all very impressed so far!

After getting the jigs, and picking as much info. as we could off the employees at the fish store, we set off to the headwaters in hopes of finding a camping spot that wasn't occupied.  To our surprise, and relief, not one spot was occupied at the camping grounds, which were right below the dam.  

We quickly set up camp, and with just a little bit of light left, we tried our luck fishing right below the spillway of the dam.  It looked deep, and we saw some big fish surfacing.  Within 10 minutes, I had hooked into a massive brown trout!  We were all shocked when we saw it jump out of the water for the first time.  This was a fish we did not want to lose, but none of our nets were nearby, and quite frankly they were not big enough.  I was as patient as I could be, and tried to wear the fish out for about 10 minutes.  As it approached, and we got a better idea of its size, we were even more shocked, and our first reaction was just laughter.  We couldn’t believe this was happening.  I finally landed the fish with the help of a wide basin we found 30 yards downstream.  The fish weighed 4.5 lbs and was 23” long.  It was by far the largest brown trout I had ever caught, or seen caught.  We ended up letting it go, for someone else to enjoy a nice catch.

For dinner the first night, we cooked some rice, fish, and wrapped in tin foil a Costco seasoned pork loin.  Dinner was great.  It was a bit chilly the first night, and luckily John had let me borrow a “bed roll”, which is a thick canvas sleeping bag cover, that already has a thick foam pad inside it.  We planned that night where we would fish in the morning!  

Day 2 (Friday)

We woke up to a frozen tent, frozen waders, and wading boots that were impossible to put on because they were frozen like a cast.  A nice fire took care of that problem while we ate bagels, chobani yogurt, and orange juice.  We decided to fish below the spillway for a little bit to take our chance at catching another big fish.  We had good success, with Matt catching a large rainbow, but it was very cold!

We wanted to fish the “prime” area of the beaver head which is below twin bridges, and about 10 minutes from where we camped.  We decided to go a little further downstream to enter the water. Usually, the Beaverhead has water flows that are much higher than when we were there, which attracts a lot of fisherman who use drift boats.  We found a pull out, with a gate that allowed fisherman access.  This section of the river wound back and forth between a picturesque valley.  We geared up quickly, and stuffed our pockets with Uncrustables sandwiches, cliff bars, dried mangos, trailmix, and waters.  We had a short walk until we came to the river.  It was incredible.  I am very glad we got to fish it while the river flows were down.  It allowed for awesome pools and holes all over.  We began catching a lot of fish, with some very nice sized ones as well (the largest ones being 20”).  The fish had great colors, with bright yellow bellies and distinct red and dark spots.  Several of the larger fish had awesome hook jaws.  Matt somehow broke the tip of his rod early on, and luckily we had a spare rod with us in the truck that he was able to use. He claims it was while catching a fish, John and I believe it was a one will ever know.  We fished this section for around 4 to 5 hours, with excellent success, and only ran into two other anglers.

After a quick lunch, we decided to try another section of the river that is past the town of Dillon.  There are few access points, but thanks to google maps, we luckily stumbled across one of them.  This section of the river meanders through large cow pastures.  It flowed a little quicker, which made it trickier.  We had good success, but we feel it was a little slower than it would normally have been, since two anglers had just come back from fishing the section all day. John ended up catching a fish that took him so long to get the hook out it ended up dying, but not without a lot of effort to revitalize him...and I mean a lot!  Finally, John gave up and without a stringer, went and found a reed.  Soon after, John had named his new friend, well, dead friend, Reed.  Without much respect for the dead, he dragged it behind him through the water, and Reed skipped right along the surface.  The intent was to cook Reed for dinner, but he ended up disappearing when we got to camp - pretty sure he became food for another animal.  It was fun fishing in the cow pastures, and when I go back someday, I will definitely try that spot again.

When we got back to camp, we wanted to fish for a little bit below the dam before it was completely dark.  The fishing there was like the night before...Incredible!!!  This night, I had awesome luck again!  This time, I caught another brown trout that was 23” but weighed 5 lbs and was a much better looking trout.  I could not believe it, and neither could John or Matt.  We attempted to take some pictures, but Matt was having some struggles with how dark it was, so unfortunately no great pics were taken.

We had the second pork loin and rice for dinner again, and it was delicious, especially after a long day of fishing...but a great day at that!  Luckily the second night was much warmer than the first.  We had had such great success on the Beaverhead already, but we were also interested in trying another river.  We had previously talked of trying the Big Hole river.  We did some research via our phones that night, and felt it was just too far to make it worth it.

Day 3 (Saturday)

It was a lot warmer Saturday morning, and there wasn’t even frost.  John and I woke up first, as Matt was too tired.  We wanted to get up early to fish below the dam again.  We started eating breakfast, when we noticed the culprit who had been running laps around our tent the previous two night...a cotton tail bunny.  It looked at us innocently, yet I decided to pick up a rock to scare it away.  The rock landed surprisingly close to it, yet it barely moved.  I was a little surprised and annoyed that it didn’t phase the bunny, but turned around to get back to my breakfast.  John, however, decided he needed a chance to scare the bunny.  He picked up a rock, a very large one, and lobbed it at the bunny. Although I wasn’t even paying attention, I quickly heard “Oh, I hit it”.  Yep, John hit the bunny, in his attempt to scare it.  A very maimed bunny now was dragging its half crushed body across the dirt in a frenzy of pain.  Matt, who was still in the tent, heard the commotion and that a bunny was injured.  He got out of the tent so quickly and excited I was pretty amazed.  This type of thing was right down his alley.  Without hesitation whatsoever, he approached the injured bunny, grabbed both ears in one hand, picked it up off the ground, and gave it a yank like you would crack a whip.  Mr. Bunny now joined Reed in the spirit world.  Thanks John.   

The same morning we shot Matt’s 357 Magnum revolver.  It was fun to shoot, very loud, and had a pretty decent kick back.

Off to the waters below the dam.  We couldn't resist.  Within 15 minutes John had on a trophy fish.  It was big, long, and very pretty.  It was similar to the one I caught the night before, but weighed just a little less.  We got some great pictures of it.  

Decision Time.  After fishing below the dam for a while, we discussed for quite some time where we would fish the remainder of our final day in Montana.  We went back and forth for a while, and decided to fish right below Twin Bridges and make our way down.  We quickly realized the fishing here wasn’t nearly as good as anywhere we had been so far.  We headed back to the truck, and after some more debate decided to go into town and fish where we had the first day we arrived, but to fish even further upstream

I was pretty against doing this, and wanted to return to the cow pastures.  However, it ended up being really really good.  We walked quite a ways up stream, and fished areas that I believe rarely get fished, due to the popularity of the upper areas.  We had fantastic success, and caught a lot of fish! There was one specific hole that ended up being incredible.  The hole in of itself did not look very special, and nor was it very big - quite small actually.  The three of us fished it for a while with pretty good success.  I decided to go more to the top of the hole where the water was moving very quick, and rather than do the typical jig motion, I dragged the jig against the current upstream.  BANG!  A big fish out of nowhere struck my line, but missed.  I tried a couple more times without success.  I couldn't believe a fish of that size was even in this hole to begin with.  So, I moved to the very top of the hole, where the current was very fast, and almost had a waterfall effect.  I used the same motion.  BANG!  This time I got it!  Whether or not it was the same fish as before I don't know, but it was a brightly colored orange brown trout, and it was fat!  The other guys were pretty excited, and once I landed it, we measured it at 20”.  Well, John and Matt started doing the same technique in the same exact spot.  I thought it was a waste of time - I had just caught the fish of that hole! Wrong.  John hooked into an even bigger brown with a couple of casts.  I was shocked, and so was he.  Never would any of us imagined to have caught such large trout out of this hole.  It was no wider that 7 feet, and about 13 feet long.  Unfortunately, the line broke as I was trying to help John weigh it, but it measured at 21”

It was the perfect way to end our trip!  We were Montana addicts at this point.  Luckily, we had packed up camp that morning so we wouldn't have to worry about it later, and plus it looked a little stormy.  We left around 6pm - just before it got dark.  I made a deal with John, that I would sit in the back seat the whole way home for the price of a red bull and $10.  The trip was amazing, and we were all pooped by the time we got back late that night.  We were pretty stoked to have had such great success.  We figured that in the time we were there, we caught over 180 fish, and had at least 12 over 20”.  We reminisced the whole way home about the trip.  We all got along great, had a lot of laughs, good food, and great fishing!

In Emily's words:

And while Jason was away, I packed everything up and took Charlie to stay with my family in Draper. We had a great time hanging out with them. Friday, we spent the day with Aunt Erin...and she really spoiled us. Erin had some delicious L&Ls ready for me and we just lounged all day watching movies. By evening, we made our way to Target where Erin bought an awesome ExerSaucer for Charlie! So nice and so thoughtful of her! And Charlie loves it! To top the night off, Erin treated me to dinner as well! Geez! What a fun day with Erin!


Saturday afternoon was another fun day. The Hillam girls came down from Idaho for a Girls Weekend Getaway. They stayed in a hotel in Salt Lake and spent the morning shopping at the new City Creek Mall. While they were there, they invited us to join them for lunch. This was especially fun since my mom and sister had not been to the new City Creek mall yet. I felt proud being able to show them around. We met up with the Hillam girls at Cheesecake Factory...and it did not disappoint! We filled ourselves with yummy appetizers and entrees, and even got several cheesecakes to pass around and share. It was a short little rendezvous, but one that we hope to have again in the future.

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