January 14, 2019
Who in their right mind fishes mid-January in Montana in 36-degree water with 28-degree air temperature?! Well, me, my son Mark and my buddy Eric do. And the best part is: we had success! We fished two different stretches of the lower Madison River. if you are familiar with the Lower Madison, we first fished the launch at Warm Springs which is close to the entrance to Bear Trap Canyon. And then we tried a session farther downriver by the bridge. We only fished 2.5 hours or so; mostly because we waited for the warmest part of the day. But, also because it was so frickin’ cold. I swear by the time it was done not only were my feet numb, but the numb went up all the way up to my knees.
If you are a frequent reader to this blog, you are well aware that one of my top 5 fun things to do is fishing with my son Mark; now 23. Mark is a stick. He reads the water well and his overhead cast matches up to the best of ‘em. And he’s only 23! Well, the reason we were in Montana is that Mark has moved back to Bozeman to complete his degree at MSU. Clearly that is pure joy for me because visiting him is such a “sacrifice” for me. ? I drove with him in his car with all his stuff all the way from Carlsbad, CA to Bozeman. 1200 miles in two days.
Rounding out the group was my buddy Eric Schmidt who is quite the stick himself. I met Eric on a fly-fishing trip to the Bighorn a few years back, put together by a mutual friend, and we have been friends ever since. Eric lives in Bozeman. He’s a professional photographer and filmmaker and director. By staring at the pictures in this post you can see why that makes sense. Check out Eric’s work on his site here: Eric Schmidt Photography
I only saw one rise all day. Eric saw a handful of heads. I really tried to induce a rise, but with 36-degree water temperature it just didn’t happen. Interestingly enough we did experience a midge hatch; just not the rises that went with it.
There’s one thing I’ll never get used to when fishing in Montana in January: sheets of ice floating down the river, smashing into me, and startling the bah-Jesus out of me.
Glow in the dark flies
Part of the reason we caught trout in mid-January on the Madison river had to do with some conventional fishing reading I stumbled into on the internet over the holiday break. Long story short, conventional fisherman, especially in salt water, have been using glow in the dark materials in their lures with success for 50+ years. I thought to myself that glow in the dark would translate to fly fishing; especially in winter when the trout are hunkered down in deep pools. So, a little internet research later I had made a number of glow in the dark materials purchases; from flash-aboo, to larva lace, to foam, to blah , to the actual tying thread. And I started tying the flies I already knew worked in winter (like the Huck-midge cripple and the Huck-bow warrior with glow in the dark wing cases and abdomens. And guess what? After sending samples to some guides and advanced fly-fishing buddies they proved the glow in the dark flies worked in the field and practically begged for more. In addition, on the Madison in January we proved that glow in the dark huck-nymphs kill. So, after some more perfection through testing i will probably offer those on my site.
But the story gets better. I read about fly fishing constantly. I’m obsessed. And I love learning. I read that all in the fly-fishing competitions the professional fly fisherman from all over the world only use squirmy wormy patterns in competition because they are so effective. Like a San Juan Worm, a squirmy is a pattern that imitates a worm; just with a more realistic worm like material.
Trout love worms. We all know this. We were all kids at some point. Now, I’m not a big fan of making fly fishing into a competition in the first place… especially if none of the professionals are throwing flies that imitate bugs on top or below the water. But, if every professional is fly fishing worms then what is the point? I guess that is a discussion for beer. But, being that said, when the fishing gets tough, especially with beginners, I don’t know a single guide (including myself) from here in California to Montana and everywhere in between that doesn’t turn to a san juan worm when things are slow. Or when a river is blown out. Or even more effective, the squirmy wormy. This is why I’m afraid to unleash what seems to me like cheating: A squirmy Wormy tied with glow in the dark materials.
Here is how it went down: On the interweb, I stumbled into a company in china that makes what looked like the squirmy wormy material, but really bright green glow in the dark. I figured for 10 bucks if they stiffed me it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. When the material came from china I almost fainted. It took it into a dark room… my God. It is awesome. My next dilemma was finding or inventing a squirmy wormy pattern that I like. The problem with fishing Squirmys is that they are one fish flies. They just are not durable at all. in many scenarios, for me, that is acceptable. But, for many guides durability is important.
All the flies I sell on my site I have invented either with my ideas or by taking a grouping of techniques from the masters, adding my own ideas and calling it good. Well, the Huck-Glow-Squirmy is very close, if not identical to a pattern I found on the internet called “The Durable Squirmy Wormy”. It was created by a professional fly tier named Clark “Cheech” Pierce; he really does deserve the credit for the pattern. I don’t use all the same materials for different reasons, but, it is similar. You can find how to tie it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RE0G8pJg7w. You can find Cheech and his amazing work on his Fly Fish Food site here: http://www.flyfishfood.com/p/about-us.html. I have not met Cheech, but from his bio he sounds like a hilarious guy I’d love to fish with one day.
So, after some initial testing of the Huck-Glow-Squirmy I have to tell you it’s like cheating. I will not fish with this fly. It’s too effective and I’m too advanced a fly fisherman. But, if I am to guide a kid or beginner this is the fly for when the trout are hunkered down in deep pools… and in many other winter or low light scenarios. This thing is going to kill in the deep pools of the upper kern.
Here’s a great story of how effective Huck-Glow-Squirmy is. The day after I left Montana my son ran out to the Gallatin. It’s only 10 minutes from his apartment. Even though all the fishing reports said the Gallatin is too cold, all the edges iced, and the middle a slush and unfishable, he went to check it out. And sure enough it was unfishable where the only castable water was total slush in the middle with icebergs floating by. So, he said to himself, “I’m out here. what the hell.” He tied on one of the Huck-Glow-Squirmy I left with him to battle test in the field. he casted to the moving part of the Gallatin into the slush and the fly didn’t sink though the slushy ice. It drifted for a 2 count on top when a big brown came up from ten feet on the bottom and hit the Huck-Glow-Squirmy on top! Mark battled the brown to his net over the ice and quickly figured out how to get it back into the river unharmed. My guess is he had to toss it.
So, with this blog post I’m going to make the Huck-Glow-Squirmy available for purchase on my site. Just be responsible with it because I feel like I have invented a nuclear weapon and consequently am going to regret it because of my “narcissistic” ethical structure. ?