Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Place to Hunt with the Tag of a Lifetime

Judith Breaks, Central Montana

The haunting beauty of the Judith Breaks in central Montana at sunrise.

Ron generally hunts public lands with traditional archery equipment. On rare occasions, he gets to hunt on private land. That was to be the case when he put in for the 426-20 Bull Elk Tag in the famed Missouri River Breaks. He used all of the Bonus Points he’d accumulated over the past decade or two and was finally successful in getting his “tag of a lifetime.”

Ron’s hunting buddy’s son-in law’s father ranches on thousands of acres in this gorgeous area in north central Montana. Before putting in for the tags, in mid-March, it was confirmed they could hunt on this man’s property the second week of September. So plans were made and vacations scheduled with work. In late August, Ron and his buddy made the six-plus hour drive to the ranch – not only to do some scouting, but to thank the land owner with some high-octane whiskey and ten hours of ranch-hand work.

Each evening they sat with the rancher on his porch, sipping whiskey and describing to him what they’d seen and where. They told lively stories of strong, mature bull elk carousing in the draws and big herds of cow elk languishing in early fall meadows. A couple of times, they saw a bi-plane fly overhead.

Judith Breaks, Central Montana

Forest-lined draws offer passage for wildlife in the Breaks of central Montana.

Sunday came, and the guys loaded up and went to bid the rancher ado. Ron’s hunting buddy said, “So we’ll see you on September 12th!” The rancher answered back casually, “Oh no, I’ve got a movie star gal coming in here with a film crew. I can’t have you guys messin’ that up. I’ve already got their check for $12,000.”

Ron is now scrambling to find a place he can access and hunt in HD426. He’s holding the tag of his lifetime.

Judith River, Central Montana

The lush Judith River landscape is home to some of the most prodigious bull elk in Montana.

Catching On – Fly Fishing in Montana

Rick Stockbridge, Fly Fishing, Georgetown Lake

Brother-in-law Rick Stockbridge fly fishing on Georgetown Lake. He had to borrow warmer rain gear from Ron due to the unusually cool weather we had in late August.

My brother-in-law, Rick, from Texas came to visit last week. Sister Marsha couldn’t make it because she’s not yet strong enough after major back surgery to correct scoliosis. She vows to come in December to go snowmobiling in Yellowstone.

We put Rick up in the Guest House – that’s our slide-in camper parked in the driveway. It offered privacy, a comfortable bed, shower, radio and microwave.

Then we took him fishing.

Sunday was supposed to be iffy weather, so we opted to take the little motor boat on Georgetown Lake. Although clouds obscured the surrounding mountain ranges and vast Montana skies, as we caught rainbow and brook trout (and one silver salmon), we could see Montana’s nature encapsulated in the spunky fight, vibrant colors and psychedelic patterns of these vivacious piscatorial gems.

Rick Stockbridge, Georgetown Lake, Rainbow Trout

After a little instruction and a lot of casts, Rick was able to land several nice Georgetown Lake rainbow trout.

Rick Stockbridge, Georgetown Lake, Rainbow Trout

Here’s Rick reeling in his last catch of the day at Georgetown Lake. Seconds later, Ron’s rod was bending too, and they simultaneously landed a couple of nice rainbow trout.

Ron gave Rick some basic instruction on fly casting (we were throwing shades of brown jigs, then retrieving), and near the end of the day the two of them landed double rainbows!

We saw a merganser duck with a fish in his mouth be flocked by seagulls before he swallowed it whole. We also broke the tip off a Sage rod and almost capsized the boat when we all went for the save. Oh, and we got the stink off our new Fishpond light-weight composite net.

Georgetown Lake, Rainbow Trout

Getting the stink off our new Fishpond net.

On Tuesday, we gave Rick a ride down the Big Hole River in the Saturn raft – a glorious late-August blue-sky day with temps in the 70s. We stopped in the fly shop to get a shuttle and bought a few of their new dry flies they said should work great on this particular day. They did not. I don’t think we got one fish on top all day. Ron’s clown worm and the bead head pheasant tail nymph were the winner winner chicken dinners of the day.

Rick Stockbridge, Big Hole River, Fly Fishing

T-shirt weather on the Big Hole River.

Fishing nymphs, we landed lots of native white fish. But Rick didn’t care – he was fly fishing. In Montana. On the Big Hole River. And the weather was fall t-shirt weather while it was 100 degrees back home in Texas. Plus, he had the company and instruction of both Ron and I!

We made the four-mile float from Jerry Creek to George Grant in about six hours. We stopped often to fish good holes. Ate sandwiches and Cheetos. Admired our surroundings. Rick’s casting continued to improve. As Ron rowed, Rick stood and cast off the platform in front of the raft, as I fished languidly in the back. Surprisingly, as we cast from side to side, our lines tangled just once. Rick’s stability in the front of the boat was also impressive. I only saw him bobble one time as Ron pulled back a bit aggressively on the oars. We fished each hole diligently and often went back up river to, of course, fish the other side.

Brown Trout, Big Hole River

Ron landed this beautiful brown trout on one of our newly-tied clown worms.

Throughout the day we landed browns, rainbows, lots of white fish, and even one arctic grayling. We saw a number of raptors soaring overhead. A large flock of black birds made a ruckus in one small tree, then rose and fluttered off as we floated past.

The river flowed cool and easy, with riffles and rapids around each bend. There was barely a breeze. The sky was sunshine bright blue. Puffy white clouds, high rocky crags, and riverside trees offered just enough shade.

By journey’s end, Rick had caught his share of fish, and lost twice as many. For him, it seemed casting was easier than catching. Ron complimented him, saying, “Rick, you’ve developed a natural pause on your back cast.” Rick only nodded and talked about coming back to fish next spring. I think he’s catching on.

Big Hole River, Fly Fishing

Ron, doing his own thing – hoping for a bite on the Big Hole River.

Making Memories with Family
August 23-27, 2014