Last Days Fishing December 11-12, 2008

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mark tinsky

Jan 29, 2008
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Last Days Fishing December 11-12, 2008 Mo River, Wolf Creek, MT

I took my daily look at the weather on Thurs, Dec 11, 2008 . A big
storm was looming. The Weather channel site on the web was flashing
lurid red & orange storm warnings. Frigid, -20, six to nine inches of
snow, high winds, wind chill off the charts.... In other words we were
going to get clobbered. This was the death knell of fishing 2008.
However, that Thursday t was still pretty mild. Densely cloudy, yet in
the low thirties with mild and variable winds. I packed up my stuff and
headed to the river after lunch.

I was hoping to catch the last hatch of Blue Wing Olives that
afternoon. I had seen some a few days ago and tho they were sparse,
there were fish still rising occaisionally to them. I parked on the side
of I-15 crawled under a barbed wire fence , under a wooden railway
bridge, thru some brush and was in the river; a place called Hemmingway
flats as the Hemmingway family has a house just above it.

I could see a few fish working to the left of me and some to the right
and headed across a small channel to an island to get my bearings put on
my new " secret" midge I had just developed and was eager to try . (
there were no BWO s) I elected to fish to the right as I ve caught
some nice ones on that side of the island before. There s a small riffle
coming down the center of that channel with some deeper slower water off
to the left and a dead end slew off to the side of that. Fish can be
right in the riffle, or on the edge of the current and the slew .
Unfortunately, they were on the edge of this slow moving seam and not
in the faster water where they re much easier to catch. A fine test of
my new midge I thought .....

While the water and air were cold, I was pretty comfortable in neopreme
waders and a couple jackets. The main problem caused by the temperature
were the guides icing up and restriciting the passage of the line thru
them. However, after a few clumsy casts I was able to get a decent
drift over one of the occaisionally rising fish. I could see plenty of
midges on the water tho there was no steady feeding activity going on.
I waited as my tandem rig, the secret adult midge with folded back wings
and a midge pupa about 12 inches behind it drifted down the current.
There was a very lazy rise to my first fly.

In the past, while fishing a midge, I ve immediately tried to set the
hook and never once have caught one. The tiny hook just doesn t have a
chance to embedd itself. Coupled with this slow take, I must have waited
three whole seconds before lifting my rod tip. I was rewarded with a
solid take ! While water this cold doesn t encourage trout acrobatics
this fish ran pretty hard towards the back of the island and the channel
I had just crossed. I knew there was all sorts of things he could wrap
himself around so I put as much pressure as I thought the tippet would
bear to bring him back towards the slew and slower deeper water.
Luckily, this tactic worked and soon I was able to land a nice 16 "
rainbow. I discovered I had waited too long this time to set the hook
as the only thing holding him was the tailing midge pupa stuck behind
his dorsal fin, foul hooked .... Sheepishly, I took it out and set him

After the ruckus the other risers went somewhere else and I left the
channel and walked the approx. half mile of Hemmingway flats, up and
down and back again; seeing a fish come up here or there but off in the
distance; nothing I could cast to. I was kind of bummed, thinking the
last fish of the year would be one I foul hooked ! I would have liked
one more, gamely I tried to find one but to no avail. It was getting
colder and with a heavy heart I retraced my steps thru the channel,
under the bridge and barbed wire fence and headed home to await the

The next day I checked the weather at lunch again. This time the
Weather Channel site was flashing lurid red s & purple s; instead of a
storm warning it just said, " GET OUT OF DODGE".

The wind had been picking up all day, a front was imminent, yet it still
wasn t all that cold yet. I figured a ride to the river wouldn t hurt. I
repacked the car and went to a spot I rarely fish and save for emergency
s like today. It s a little back channel set in against a pretty high
bank with lots of trees protecting it. Too small for boats to bother
with ; it isn t heavily fished tho in the summer holds some big fish.
This isn t summer, and the big fish are wherever they hide in the cold
weather. There were lots of little eager fish tho; a fairly large group
of them in a seam that ran along a weed bed. Was I ever greatful! It was
here I had a bit of a fly fishing epiphany....

I floated my adult midge trailed by an emerger thru the pod with nary a
look but stripping it back thru them I started getting strikes and once
in awhile a fish, albeit very small ones , but fish nonetheless. I
started jiggling the emerger as it went thru addiing a strip now and
then and every cast I had a strike. Most of the fish were too small to
even take the tiny fly but every now and then I d hook a six incher. At
certain times, it will make me fish a little differently next season.

After all the fish in the pod took a whack at my fly and were either
caught or spooked things quieted down for good and I realized the day
was over. The wind was picking up but still out of the SW . Wanting to
stretch the season even another 30 minutes, I thought of one more spot I
could try that was sheltered in that type of wind .

I parked above an island off Beartooth Road and was surprised to see
another car in the small pulloff. I looked out by the island and didn t
see another fisherman so I hopped the fence went down to the water and
as the sun was setting behind the mountains saw some fish rising just
off the island. Slowly, I waded into position. I also noticed some ducks
floating in the water as well and was surprised when they didn t fly
away. Concentrating on the fish, I inched my way closer, still no
movement from the ducks, really odd I thought as they are the spookiest
things on the river. Just then, I heard some voices, damn I thought,
those other fisherman must becoming back also I heard a dog along with
them, his collar jingling. Frantically, I made a couple of casts before
they could return and spook my fish. I had one strike but missed him.
The voices got louder. Finally, I had moved across the channel and was
on the tip of the island; now I could see that the unmoving ducks were
actually decoys ! The voices were coming from an impromptu blind across
the channel that I had crossed . I could here them talking, " He s going
to ruin everything now.... Look he s even smoking a pipe! "

I looked to the sky, up and down the river for almost a mile and saw no
ducks flying overhead . I thought a few more casts wouldn t hurt as I
had ruined everything already. <G> I did quickly leave tho and thought
it a fitting end to my year s fishing. I figured in a way I was hep' ing
them out. After all, what could be more natural then a lone fisherman ,
standing in the water casting into the dusk; nothing any duck should
ever be afraid of .



Dec 9, 2007
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Sounds like a great time to me. I've been trying my hand at fly fishing when I go and visit family in MT but I never seem to get enough practice in to be very effective. I did manage to sneak out a couple of mornings by myself on the Bull River. Enjoyed the hell out of it.


Well-known member
Dec 10, 2007
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Marks not a very good fisherman... if he was he'd have learned to lie and make those 'strikes without fish' epic battles..... and those six inchers would have been tripled to at least 18 inchers. :D :D :D :D


Well-known member
Dec 17, 2007
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Nice story Mark and indeed a fitting end to the years fishing. :D It's not always in the catch.


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Dec 10, 2007
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Chestnut, IL
Always amazes me how late the season lasts for them that far north.

Trout Bum

Well-known member
Sep 11, 2008
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I work in a little fly shop in Crested Butte, Colorado. Things were a little slow last night, so I logged on and read your post... and thoroughly enjoyed it. So there I am, in this little fly shop at 9,000 feet, with a 3 degree temperature and snow everywhere, reading your post, when in walks this middle aged tourist from Tulsa. We get to chatting, the talk turns to winter fishing, and I mention that I just read this great post by a fellow member of this on-line pipe forum that I belong to. This guy perked right up, and said HE was a pipe smoker too! So, being the friendly shopkeep that I am, I offered to let him read your post. So this guy walks around the counter, looks at the screen, and virtually yells out, "Mark Tinsky wrote this? Tinsky the pipe maker?!!!" It turns out that this guy owns three of your pipes and is a big fan, and he sat in front of the shop computer and simply devoured your story on the last fly fishing of the year. When he finished, he looked at me, cocked his head, and declared, "Okay, that was AWESOME." Just wanted to let you know you've got fans everywhere!

Best Regards,

Trout Bum

PS So, what was the recipe for that midge pattern?

mark tinsky

Jan 29, 2008
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Trout Bum said:

. When he finished, he looked at me, cocked his head, and declared, "Okay, that was AWESOME." Just wanted to let you know you've got fans everywhere!

Boy amd I flattered and even a bit abashed <G> ! I ve been thru Crested Butte a beautiful little town . I hopped in the river without knowing a damn thing and just goes to show you how well you do when you dont know a damn thing ! Nada
I was at the Taylor R before that. A small fishing resort I stumbled on just driving down the road near Altmont, I can t remember the name it was 8 years ago.. Was the fishing ever good there in late Sept. I did find out it was artificially enhanced but still fun for a relative beginner/nympher at the time. There is just so much good water in CO. You re a lucky guy!
Send me your address and Ill send you a couple. my patterns are incredibly simple as I m not a great flytier . I use a 22-24 dry fly hook. A black body thread or lite dubbing, I have some lite tan swiss straw that I cut into a small fan or triangle to use for the swept back wing and just a little grey hackle one wrap for some legs. The positive thing is you can see it as it floats pretty well and looks different from any small white bubbles on the water. But generally an emerger rules....

Speaking of fly tiers , most dont know Rad Davis was a pro- tier before he became a pipe maker. He did them for shops, his clients when guiding and even sold some on e bay. He was fast and neat and I still have some of his flies that work well. If you ve got some good very small patterns I d love to have a couple. I fish the Spring creeks in Livingston MT and they re really tough there always could use something different.

Trout Bum

Well-known member
Sep 11, 2008
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Mark -- The small fishing "resort" that you mentioned, I am pretty sure, would have to be "Harmel's." Believe me when I say that this valley has an incredibly diverse amount of fishing in a very close proximity -- if one so desired, one could fish Spring Creek, the Taylor, the Gunnison, and the East River in one afternoon. That would be 4 different rivers in the span of 4 hours, and three of those are rated "Gold Medal" trout streams. Come visit!

As for patterns, I fish a lot with midges and emergers; would love to trade some with you. When people see my friend Tom catching fish on every cast, they often ask (or yell), "What are they hittin' on?" And my friend Tom, a crusty local guide and talented tyer, loves to reply with this: "A hook and some thread!" Your midge pattern may be simple, but hey, as someone once said, beauty is simplicity. Besides, when you're trying to tie stuff onto a size 22 hook, it'd better be simple!

I will PM you for trading info!

Yes, I did know that Rad Davis used to be a guide and a tyer. Hmmm... When I eventually get around to ordering a pipe from him, which is inevitable, I may just hit him up for some extended body green drake patterns...

Thanks for responding Mark! Perhaps this will spur me to order one of those tasty looking coral bulldogs from you... Yes, that would be proper and just, would it not?

Best Regards,

Trout Bum