Author Archives: WattsUp

Easter on the Missouri

“If fishing is like religion, then fly-fishing is high church.”
– Tom Brokaw

Ok, so we went fly fishing on Easter.

We booked a guided trip (with Brent) through Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, Montana, the day before, kind of on a whim.

What a good whim it was. It was a little chilly early on, but there was a mild breeze, plenty of sunshine, and very large rainbow trout.

It was a little slow to start, but things really picked up after we stopped for lunch. Our compliments to the gal packing lunches now for Headhunters. One of the best on-river lunches we’ve had in a long time – home-made fried chicken fingers, broccoli carrot and fruit salad, cut strawberries, and cheesy lemon cake.

But I digress – the fish and the fishing! The Missouri is a wide, slow river where we put in up by Holter Dam. There are those spots where the old saying, “It’s called fishing, not catching” is very apropos.

However, twice, just as I was ready to sit down and take a break during a long, slow drift, I caught a fish. One time I actually said to Ron, “Well, as soon as you start to light it up … woah! I got a fish!”

We’ve learned you fish the Missouri differently than a free-stone river. Our guide called it fishing “inside out.” Instead of throwing to a cut bank or under a bush or tree, most of the time you’re casting to mid-river. We did have some success casting into what Ron calls “diamond water” – areas that ripple slightly and reflect the sun’s glitter.

While most folks we ran into seemed delighted to be outdoors, at one point we could overhear a guy on the boat across from us saying, “I couldn’t look at a strike indicator all day. That’d be so boring. I can’t believe people can do that. It’s so boring. Just looking at a bobber all day. I couldn’t stand it.”

Then suddenly, Wham – my bobber went down! I had a jumper on the end of the line. I laughed and reeled, then laughed and reeled some more, as the judgmental bastard across from us floated on down the river.

Our guide Brent had asked us earlier in the morning, “What do you like? Streamers? Dry flies? Some people are particular.” Ron and I both said, “We like to catch fish.”

We caught about a dozen large rainbows. The biggest were 21 and almost 22 inches! Beautiful, strong, healthy, fish. All in all, a great way to celebrate a Holy Day.


“Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God.”
Tony Blake

The Things You See Out Hunting

Ron and I headed out to German Gulch last Sunday afternoon in search of our 2015 bull elk. We did not find him, but we did see a lot of interesting things.

We walked in to an area we’d never hunted before. The weather was mild and the landscape was easily navigable. There were some rocks and snow, but mostly grassy meadows and rolling hills.

Mule Deer Buck

A young mule deer buck, bedded down and chewing his cud.

As we topped the first knoll, off to our left below some power lines, we spotted a bunch of white butts. There were about a dozen mule deer does feeding at this lower elevation. As we veered north to avoid spooking the herd, we saw a young buck bedded down and chewing his cud without a care in the world.

We continued our easy hike, through red rock, pine and juniper to an open hillside overlooking a valley to the west. It was shrouded in winter’s grey but highlighted by large mountain meadows and bright -white snow-capped mountain peaks. Near the rocky edge of this view, we found the oddest thing – a bouquet of sorts – made with now-dry roses and pine boughs and held together with none other than duct tape!

While hiking German Gulch, we discovered a wilted bouquet of roses and pine boughs, held together with duct tape.

While hiking German Gulch, we discovered a wilted bouquet of roses and pine boughs, held together with duct tape.

Ron left the memorial where he’d found it, and we headed eastward and up. We side-hiked to a saddle in between peaks, then went up again towards the top to a jagged red-rock abutment overlooking the next valley. Across a wide gulch and on the next hillside, on private fenced-off property, we spotted a herd of elk. Not a bull in the bunch.

We glassed them for a while, mostly waiting for dusk. We’d seen a game trail of sorts below and behind us, and wanted to see if it would be used.

Glassing, Rocky Crag, German Gulch

Ron glassing a herd of elk in the distance.

About this time, world war three opened up beyond the ridge in front of us – it sounded like a group of people shooting at a whole herd of critters. But it kept up for so long we decided they were just using up their ammo or target shooting.

As sunset approached, we headed back down to the saddle then continued up the next hill in front of us to look over the game trail below. It was not being utilized on this day, so we trekked off in the direction of our vehicle.

Glass Eye, German Gulch

A glass eye found in German Gulch.

Up and down and over and through, we were back on flat land as it was getting dark. I was looking down and had my head lamp on, when I stopped to look at some green lichen. I really was looking at the plant, but there in the middle of it was a round, brown object. I picked it up and for the life of me it looked like an eyeball! Ron handled the glassy object and said, “Oh, it’s probably just some sort of porcelain electrical piece.” I said, “No, I think it’s an eye.” Once we got home and he saw it in the light, Ron agreed with me.

Now, what was that doing out in the middle of a walk-in hunting area? I’ve had friends who’ve found old shovels and buckets out hunting. But I think a bouquet and glass eye take the oddball prize!

Tracy Watt, German Gulch

German Gulch was shrouded in winter’s grey but highlighted by mountain meadows and bright -white snow-capped mountain peaks.

Early Autumn on the Blackfoot River

There was an early October crispness to the air, but the mid-morning sun and light breeze quickly melted it away. We stuffed our polar fleece hats and gloves into the dry bag with our rain gear – just in case. Another day on the Blackfoot River – from Scotty Brown’s bridge to County Line, a short four mile float that we would milk all afternoon.

Scotty Brown's Bridge, Blackfoot River

Scotty Brown’s Bridge on the Blackfoot River.

Shortly after we pushed off, a little dun horse came down through the burnt-red bushes and golden grasses along river’s edge to have a drink of cool water. Beauty and harmony, peace and quiet. The Blackfoot River is my Heaven on earth.

Blackfoot River Cutthroat

This autumn-colored Blackfoot River cutthroat put up an exhilarating fight!

Except for the evergreens, trees and brush were morphing into the brilliant colors of fall. The trout, too, seemed to be donning their autumn wardrobes. Several 12” to 16” rainbows of bright silver and pale pink, a 16” brown with deep golden fins and bright red spots, and a feisty 18” cutthroat with brilliant salmon-colored cheeks and belly. This fish took hard and swam deep, fighting to get behind boulders in the middle of the River. When I finally got him to the net, we were both exhausted. Absolutely thrilling!

The entire day was five-star from start to finish. A mile or so from our take out, we anchored downstream from a sharp bend in the River near a couple of VW-sized boulders. It was not long before I had a small cutthroat on the fly, when Ron shouted, “Look! A bull trout is trying to eat your fish!” Sure enough, this freight train – about 24” of bull trout – was attacking the poor little fish with my hook in its’ mouth. I reeled the cutty in to the safety of our net, and though his sides were scrapped, there were no mortal wounds.

Apparently, the bull trout are just finishing up spawning and are very aggressive this time of year. It is illegal to target this protected species on the Blackfoot, but what a privilege to see them in action.

Always an adventure on the Blackfoot River!

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River is Heaven on earth during any season.

Hebgen Lake

Ron got off the phone with his buddy George and said, “What do you think about fishing Hebgen Lake and the Madison River over Labor Day?” I said, “Sure! … now … where’s Hebgen Lake?”

Ahhh, West Yellowstone – I have fallen in love. We camped for only four days, but I could have stayed a lifetime.

Day One:

Bald Eagle, Hebgen Lake

Bald Eagle on Hebgen Lake.

We left Butte around 7 a.m. and were on Hebgen Lake by 11:00. We immediately spotted a bald eagle standing tall and proud along the lake’s edge amongst the pine forests and purple mountain majesty. The sun twinkled on the early afternoon ripples in the water. And life was good.

A flotilla of coots swam tranquilly in the middle of the lake but took flight as we motored past. Canada geese honked overhead.

Coots, Hebgen Lake

A cover of coots on Hebgen Lake.

George Withey, Hebgen Lake

Our friend George Withey fishing solo on Hebgen Lake.

We found our friend George in his aluminum boat and gave him a half dozen black leech flies he’d requested. He had been fishing since early morning but had boated no fish. With the wind picking up, he decided to call it a day.

Utah Chub, Hebgen Lake

Utah Chub were introduced to Hebgen Lake in the ’30s.

Ron and I motored around the Madison Arm of the lake and to several coves in the main body of water. As an afternoon squall blew in and white-caps appeared on parts of the lake, we toughed it out until at least two fish were landed – a huge white fish and a four-inch Utah chub. Ron two, Tracy zero.

We headed to shore, disturbing another flock of fish-eaters – this time grebes and pelicans.

Grebes, Pelicans, Hebgen Lake

Grebes and pelicans take flight over Hebgen Lake.

Day Two:

Boat Dock, Hebgen Lake, Rainbow Bay, Grayling Arm

Boat dock on Hebgen Lake.

We planned to be on the water at sunrise, but we launched around 8:30 a.m. We were camping on the east side of the lake at Rainbow Point Campground, so we put in at Rainbow Bay in the Grayling Arm of the lake. The dock loomed invitingly in the still, quiet water under a cloud-laden sky. Perfect fishing conditions! As the sun peeked through what appeared to be eyes in the clouds, we cruised the unchartered waters looking for possible fish habitat. Much of the bottom was covered with thick weed-beds, and we had been advised that the fish often feed along these edges. It was a slow, cold day. I caught my first Hebgen fish – a Utah chub. At least it was a bit larger than the one Ron caught the day before! Ron finally landed the first Hebgen trout – a healthy 16-inch brown. Once again, around 11:30 the wind began to pick up. We stopped in for  a cup of coffee at the marina and headed back to camp.

Hebgen Lake

Cruising Hebgen Lake under early-morning cloud cover.

Since the afternoon was young, we drove in to the town of West Yellowstone. Feeling somewhat lackadaisical, we opted to go sit in the IMAX theatre, eat popcorn and candy, and watch “Yellowstone” on the giant screen. Our next order of the day was to find somewhere to watch the Montana Grizzly game that night against Cal-Poly. We sat in creature comfort that evening in the Buffalo Bar watching one heck of a game – unfortunately, the Grizzlies lost by one point.

Quake Lake

Remnants of the massive earthquake and landslide that created Quake Lake.
On August 17, 1959, this area was hit by the most devastating modern geologic disaster in the Rocky Mountains. An earthquake of a magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale violently shook the earth, triggering a massive landslide, large surface cracks expanded and contracted, and fault lines – miles long – tore into the mountainsides permanently altering the landscape, tragically resulting in 28 deaths.
The 80-million ton landslide formed a dam on the Madison River, creating Quake Lake. Quake Lake is 190 feet deep and 6 miles long.

Day Three:

Because ol’ Hebgen was not giving generously of her trout, Ron and I decided to wade fish the Madison River on Sunday. We drove below the Hebgen dam, past Quake Lake and the 1959 landslide, and we fished from the bank above Lyon’s bridge. Ron caught a couple of pretty rainbows, but I was struggling.

Ever in search of better fishing, we took the truck back up river and waded a portion between Hebgen and Quake Lakes near Campfire Lodge Resort. We were having no luck with our two-nymph rigs when a few Utah guys showed up spin-casting with worms and whooping it up big time. Ron asked if I wanted to change out to a big pink worm, and I said heck yeah, they’re my favorite! Bingo, that was the ticket. Almost immediately Ron hooked into a big Cutthroat, but the bugger flipped his tail hard and got off. Ron re-cast to the same spot, and boom! landed a bright rainbow. Then another and another. I was getting disheartened. Finally, just before calling it quits, I hooked into a big ‘bow. I reeled it in to shallow water, Ron got a hand on it, but then he spit out my rubber worm and headed to the middle of the river! Back to camp we went, to eat microwaved casserole in the camper and listen to a Louis L’Amour audio book until we both fell asleep around 8 p.m.

Madison River, Rainbow Trout

Ron with a bright rainbow on the Madison River.

We had wanted to fish Hebgen on this, our last evening, but we were just too tired. A good reason to return, I think!

Final Day:

Hebgen Lake

Peace-filled day on Hebgen Lake.

We slept in and did not get on the lake until about 9:30 a.m. Most beautiful day yet – cool temps, no wind, blue skies – glorious. The weatherman had said it was going to be cold and wet, but that did not happen.

Ron had previously seen a family of canoers doing well on the west side of the main body, so we headed that way. There they were again in a big red canoe slaying the trout. Dad would hook into a fish and hand the fly rod to one of his two kids to reel in. Mom was in a little yellow kayak landing her own fish. We motored over, a respectable distance from them, and let the drift fishing begin.

Hebgen Lake, Rainbow Trout

Ron with a Hebgen Lake rainbow trout.

In a moment of pure peace and quiet, I asked Ron to take my picture. I handed him the camera, and he placed his reel under his booted foot. As he took the camera, I saw his strike indicator go down and yelled, “Oh! Fish!” He looked at me quizzically just before the trout leaped in the air. I remember looking down to make sure we weren’t going to lose the Winston fly rod, and happily the reel was still seated snugly under his foot. I grabbed the camera, Ron grabbed the fly rod, and a feisty rainbow was brought to the boat.

After drifting and motoring back to our “spot” a number of times, we finally decided to anchor. We’d cast and twitch, pull in and re-cast. By this time we had abandoned our initial leech with nymph dropper set up for straight two-nymph rigs. Ron landed another rainbow. We were planning to fish until around 11:30 when typically the winds blow in. But as the Good Lord would have it, come noon Hebgen was still calm and basking in sunshine. We had neglected to put on sunblock, but the Vitamin D felt heavenly – and, after all, we reasoned, we were about to go into another one of Butte’s long, cold winters.

As time ticked on and we thought about the three-hour drive home and work the next day, we began the “one more cast” routine. And thank goodness we did! Fifteen minutes before we called ‘er quits, I finally landed a Hebgen trout – possibly the largest fish of the trip – a handsome 18-inch brown.

Hebgen Lake, Brown Trout

Hebgen Lake brown trout.

Four days was not nearly long enough to enjoy this country. Next year we hope to spend a week or two in the area. I’d like to fish some of the smaller streams within Yellowstone Park, as well as the Firehole River. And of course Hebgen Lake and the Madison River. But Quake Lake? That one’s a bit macabre for us.

Yellowstone Half Marathon

In mid-June I ran Vacation Races’ Yellowstone Half Marathon with a couple of girlfriends. I use the term “ran” very loosely. It was more of a run, jog, hike, walk through the piney woods of the town of West Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Half Marathon, staging area

Clear blue skies at the start of the race lasted throughout the day. L-R: Erica Norland, Tracy Watt, Cynthia Helland.

Regardless, our race day was glorious from start to finish with mild temps and blue-bird skies. We arrived at the starting area around 7 a.m. My friend Cynthia, her sister Erica and I got a few photos with Smokey the Bear – by the way, this was the first race ever that I carried bear spray. The organizers mentioned in their literature that bringing some might not be a bad idea. This was also the first time at a race where complimentary bug spray was offered in the staging area. Luckily, neither of these ended up being needed!

Yellowstone Half Marathon

The race started out on a dusty dirt road at an elevation of about 6,670 feet.

When the gun went off for the start, twenty-something Cynthia, thirty-something Erica and, uh, fifty-something me, went stride for stride – for at least 50 feet. I then allowed them to sprint ahead and graciously took up the rear of our little threesome.

The 13.1 mile course started out on a dusty dirt road and eventually wound through the pine trees on a single track trail. There were a couple of kick-ass hills and sometimes the going was super rocky and technical. I witnessed one gal fall, and I stubbed my toes and almost went down a couple of times. For a few miles we ran along a dirt road that had clearly been blasted out of the Rocky Mountains. I had to walk a portion of this, not only so I would not trip and fall on the rocks, but because I was admiring the sparkling of the sun off of a pretty little creek below.

Yellowstone Half Marathon

The sun sparkled off a meandering creek flowing through the back woods of West Yellowstone.

A few miles from the finish, the road leveled out and the dust kicked up again. I began to see a spackling of spectators with signs and bells and shouts of encouragement. I was able to finish strong with arms raised through the finish line.

Yellowstone Half Marathon, finisher medals

The Yellowstone Half Marathon finisher medals were big and beautiful. L-R: Erica Norland, Tracy Watt, Cynthia Helland.

Yellowstone Park, Uncle Tom's Trail to Lower Falls

Uncle Tom’s Trail includes 328 stairs down to Yellowstone’s Lower Falls.

Erica and Cynthia had been hydrating and re-carbing for 20 and 30 minutes respectively. I got my medal – the largest and most beautiful one in my collection – we took a few more photos, and back to the hotel we went to shower and change out of our dirty, salty clothes.

Now, at this point, I figured I would be toast. The twenty-something wanted to go do some hiking in Yellowstone. I must have been on a runner’s high, because I got in the car with those two gals and off to the Park we drove. Cynthia, ever the planner, took us to traipse around the Hot Pots, the Cliffs of the Yellowstone River, Tower Falls, and the Lower Falls at Uncle Tom’s Trail – some 328 stairs down, and 328 stairs out! Along our drive, we saw elk, deer, bison, bear and a multitude of thrill-seeking, foolhardy tourists – folks, these are wild animals!

Yellowstone Park, elk and tourists

Tourists taking selfies with a bull elk in Yellowstone.

This wild animal was spent. We headed back to the town of West Yellowstone, and I cannot even remember what we had for dinner. It was a beautiful day with beautiful people in beautiful Yellowstone.

Next year I might try Vacation Races’ Grand Teton Half Marathon.

Fun at the Bench

Scribbles Paints and Clear Cure Goo Hydro were used to make the 3D head on this Perch Fry Streamer.

Scribbles Paints and Clear Cure Goo Hydro were used to make the 3D head on this Perch Fry Streamer.

Scribbles on your fly tying bench are awesome. No, I’m not talking about what your children, or in my case, grand children, did with their crayons. I’m talking about those fun little bottles of fabric paint you can buy at the craft store. But don’t let your little munchkins get at them unsupervised or you will have a mess.

Recently, I have undertaken the daunting task of trying to catch walleye on the fly. As of yet, I have not had the honor of hooking one of these elusive fish. But I have had more fun at the bench creating perch-looking streamers and jig flies than I ever thought I would. Using Scribbles Paints and Clear Cure Goo Hydro, you can create a good looking fly. By layering, you can create a great 3D look. As a side bonus, the trout have loved them, so my efforts have not gone in vain. They have given me great entertainment while I still wait for my first walleye.

Perch Jig-Head Fly

Perch Jig-Head Fly

These flies and jigs are not (at least for me) a quick tie. You need to let the paint dry at least 20 minutes before applying the Hydro. But if you enjoy being creative and making flies using your imagination, give them a try. You’ll be surprised how fun it is and how amazing your flies look.

On a final note, any advice on ‘eyes on the fly would be greatly appreciated. Now get at that vice and have some fun.

Perch Fry Streamer

Perch Fry Streamer

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

Arctic Grayling, Big Hole River

Fluvial Arctic Grayling, Big Hole River

We caught (and released) this very special Fluvial Arctic Grayling in the Big Hole River on a #16 bead head pheasant tail nymph.

Grayling from the Big Hole River! We caught this little gem (on a #16 bead head pheasant tail nymph) between Jerry Creek and George Grant Memorial on the Big Hole River. This is just the second Arctic Grayling I’ve had the pleasure to catch and release.

At this time, the last viable native populations of these Fluvial (river-dwelling) Arctic Grayling are found only in the Upper Big Hole River, so they are extremely special trout. Their outstanding characteristics are the large sail-like dorsal fin and black spots on the body.

For the past many years, they’ve been considered for the Endangered Species List, but through cooperative efforts their numbers have been sufficiently restored, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.