Category Archives: Hook Removal Technique

Rough Start to an Epic Night of Fishing on the Big Hole River

Editor’s Note: To our surprise, one of our friends wrote the following story about his own outdoor adventure on the Big Hole River with Ron a couple of years back.

Rough Start to an Epic Night of Fishing
By Jeremey Conlan, 06/11/14

The night started a couple of days before, in the lunch room at work. Ron Watt, Chad Heath and I decided to go fishing on the Big Hole. We were going to go right after work, so at 5:30 we set off for some fly fishing and floating.

The evening began with Ron’s first experience with Twisted Tea. Most people who live in Butte know how far it is from Butte to Maiden Rock access on the Big Hole. The drive does not take too long, so when Ron was on his fifth Twisted Tea, I knew it was going to be a good night.

As we pulled up to the Maiden Rock put in, after a long shuttle, and feeling pretty good, we got out to get the raft ready. The moment we stepped out of the truck the mosquitoes were thick, so we were hurrying to get the boat in the river. After a run and gun session, we were ready to push off. Ron climbed in to row and Chad jumped in the back. Ron grabbed the oar to get it in the water and smacked Chad in the back of the head knocking his sun glasses off. I almost pissed my pants I was laughing so hard. After a long laugh we were off, and within 50 yards it was fish on! I had caught the first fish of the night – a vibrant-colored rainbow.

Green drake hook in ring finger. Ouch!

Green drake hook in ring finger. Ouch!

As we floated another 150 yards, Chad and I were mid-cast when Chad’s green drake hook landed in my ring finger. As he went to back cast, I tried to grab the line so my finger wouldn’t get ripped off. Calmly I said, “Look at this Ron,” and he busted out laughing. To the bank we went, all three of us laughing – them more than me. But it was still funny until Ron asked Chad if he pinched the barb. The look on Chad’s face was priceless – let’s just say the barb was not pinched. So we tried to push the hook through, but it was buried in my knuckle. Ron said, “I know how to get it out.”

Hook Removal Technique

As he explained how we were going to remove the hook I thought to myself, “No way that will work.” Chad was all for it because it involved him pulling as hard as he could. This is how it was going to go – Ron was going to push down on the barb in my finger with some hemostats, Chad had 20 lbs. line around the butt end of the hook, and on the count of three Chad was to pull. I was certain that this was a bad idea. After a long drink of Twisted Tea the countdown began. “One, two,” and Chad pulled, no three, just pulled. The hook popped right out, no blood, nothing. It was pretty cool. After another Twisted Tea we were back on the river. *

We floated for about half an hour with not much action with the green drakes. Ron pulled to the side. “It’s time to change the flies out,” he said. He handed Chad and I a fly I have never seen before, and he called it a “purple chubby.” After we tied the PC on we started down the river, and let me tell you it was epic. It was like someone turned the light switch on. We were hooking fish left and right. It was unreal.

We came around a bend and there was a straight stretch in the river. Ron said, “Throw to the bank, just about a foot off.” Chad and I threw to the bank, and at the same time, fish hit both. Ron yelled, “Set!” but we came up with nothing, so we cast back to the bank. Within seconds two hits again, and again nothing. This went on for about five more casts. For about 200 yards we cast, the fish would hit, we would try to set, but nothing! Then quiet. All we heard was, “You two are @#$! killing me.” We had missed every fish in that stretch, and Ron was about to kill us. So we gave him another Twisted Tea and kept going.

We hammered the fish until dusk. As we floated in the twilight, Chad was turned around in the seat with his line behind the boat. In the darkness all you could hear was splash! He yelled, “Fish on!” This was the biggest fish of the night – a big fat brown!

That was the best fishing I have ever experienced. Being on the river with Ron is like playing poker and knowing the other people’s hands. He knows what to fish with and where to be. It’s like watching Picasso paint, a true artist. When I say epic that’s what it was – good friends, great fishing, and Twisted Tea. Could it get any better?!

Big Hole River brown trout

Chad with a Big Hole River brown trout.

* Never try this hook removal technique if hook is in the head or face area. Under those circumstances, see a medical professional. Also, it is a good idea to always wear some kind of eye protection when fly fishing!


Missouri River boon-dogging

Missouri River boon-dogging, Rainbow Trout

Missouri River boon-dogging, Rainbow Trout

The ice was still thick on most Montana rivers, but the sunshine and warmer March temperatures beckoned us like, well, like fly fishermen to trout.

The tail waters fishery of the Missouri River (the “Mo”) was our best choice, or so we thought. But when we pulled off onto the access road, we saw a half dozen ice fishermen, including the couple we’d come to hook up with, if you’ll pardon the pun.

The old man (my husband Ron) had recently discovered this central Montana land of the giants, and he was super excited to share the experience with me. So around we went to see how far we’d have to drag our aluminum boat off the iced up boat ramp and onto the ice before reaching open water. We put our waders on and headed up the bank to assess the situation. We saw where someone had tossed a large rock onto the ice, so we commenced to do the same. Thunk! A mild scrape on the ice , but this close to shore, she wasn’t going to break through easily, if at all.

Ever the optimist, Ron said, “Once we get that boat on the ice, it’ll slide like a sled.” So we backed ‘er onto the ice, slid ‘er off the trailer, then pulled, and tugged, and pushed. She was no sled. Back onto the trailer with the Mirrorcraft.

We drove back around to our ice fishing friends to discuss other input options. And so began our 50 mile trek to gain access through a gulch on the other side of the river. We drove by “the cribbage capital of the world,” if you can believe the sign the town had posted. A few more miles, a few more goings around the mountains, and just through a quaint little town where two school boys played in a small park by the fire station, the pavement ended. We pressed on, and it really was a pretty nice 25 mile dirt road, all things considered.

Missouri River boon-dogging rig

Rigging up to go boon-dogging.

Rigging up to go boon-dogging.

At last we reached open water and an accessible boat ramp. Then began the tying on of the weighty Mighty Mo rig we’d be using. Well, I should say, the finishing touches. An hour had been spent the previous evening in preparation.

We used Bigfork Anglers’ adjustable thingamabobber nymph leader technique so we’d have a strike indicator easily adjustable to varying water depths (view on YouTube). Then a black swivel was tied on, proper leader, and another swivel.

Today we just had to put on a little weight, an egg pattern, a trout bead, and a hook. Pinch the barbs, back the boat in. Motor up the river. We were going boon-dogging!

Missouri River boon-dogging

I’ve fly fished for years, but this was my first time to “boon-dog.” The old man instructed me, “Just cast it back behind you, let it hit the water, but not sink, then break the water and throw it out in front of you. There’s not much finesse involved – it’s just chuck and duck.” To say the least! It took me a few frustrating tries, but by putting my weight into it and heave-hoeing, I was able to get ‘er out to where the old man thought (or somehow knew) the fish were. Bloop! Down went the strike indicator on my first good cast! Holy heck, reel, reel, reel, let ‘im run a bit. Wizzzzz! Reel, reel, reel, lean back, reel sideways, pull his head up. “Grab the net!” This rainbow had the jaw of a bulldog and was a 25” chunk. He glistened with deep red and pink spawning colors.

As happens with every first fish of the season, of any trip really, we were both excited. And when we get excited, things happen. Uh boy. Wetting my hands on the bottom of the net to ready myself for a photo with this brilliant fish, I promptly got the fly hook stuck deep into the flesh of my finger. I looked down to see massive amounts of blood. Not really, but it seemed that way. Did I yell? “Release the fish back into the water and cut this line free!”

So the first, and biggest fish, lives only in our memories. I’m sure he was a ten pounder. Or maybe he was a tirdy pounder (said in a Minnesota Norwegian voice). Over to the bank we motored, to surgically remove the hook from my finger. Ron called his buddy Larry over to help. I laid back in the brush, eyes closed, acting like the calm grown woman I am, even while the old man kept calling me by his daughter’s name.

Hook Removal Technique

Ron has always told me about his “hook removal technique,” so today I was going to get to experience it first hand, so to speak. He tied a couple loops of line around the bend of the hook and handed the loose end to Larry. Pressing down hard on the eye of the hook he said aloud, “Give the line a little slack, then on three, jerk it outward.” One … two … plink! The hook was out, the pain was gone. I said, “He pulled it on two!” Come to find out, that’s part of the technique.

Back in the boat we go. Heave ho. Heave ho. Bloink! A lovely satin silver and pink hen. Thank you and back into the water she goes. A minor tangle with the boat rope, grunt and groan, get ‘er out to where the fish are again, and what do you know? Another lovely. Another cast, another fish. His jaw got caught in the net, and I could plainly see a big white pointed trout tongue the size of my finger! It was something I’d never seen before. He, too, was set free back into his cool flowing home waters. Then another, and another, and by this time I’m sweating and my shoulder aches. I make noises, umph and argh, to cast, but Ron says, “Just one more time, further out.” So I comply. Shlunk! Oh my gosh, it’s the king! Whizzzz, whirl, reel, reel. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. This guy’s a fighter. He jumps. He splashes. My new Ross Diamond 5 weight rod is bending in the most awesome way. I finally get this big guy to the boat so Ron can net him. Oh the glory of a 22” Mo ‘bow.

This could, and probably should, be the end of the day’s great adventure. But no. On the way back out on that 25 mile dirt road, what happens but the axle breaks on the trailer. We had to toss the old boat into the back of the truck and leave the trailer on the side of the road.

Darn it, we have to go back this weekend to pick up the trailer.
Boat’s still in the back of the truck …

by Ron and Tracy Watt
Sunday, March 9, 2014