Sweet Sixteen Fishing Tournament – Yellowstone Region First Round Winners

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4th, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

Post courtesy of Rowan Nyman, Senior Firehole Ranch Guide

The Firehole Ranch Fishing Tournament enters its second round, with the results from the Yellowstone Region coming at you. The first round had some great match-ups.

A quick recap:

#1 seed Madison River vs #8 seed Grayling Creek
#2 seed Yellowstone River vs. #7 seed Gibbon River
#3 seed Lamar River vs. #6 Ruby River
#4 seed Hebgen Lake vs. #5 seed Quake Lake

WINNER #1   Madison River
As expected the Madison River breezed through the first round with a dominating performance over the feisty and diminutive Grayling Creek. Despite offering many strengths, such as a soul cleansing isolation game, Grayling Creek couldn’t hold its ground versus the all around game that the Madison brings to the table. The Madison had a strong season and brought that to the matchup. Float and wade, browns and rainbows, riffle and rock, mayfly and caddis, stonefly and midge, dry fly and nymphs, streamers or soft hackle, the Madison threw every play out there and ran away with it!

WINNER #2   Yellowstone River
The whole tournament was put on notice after this game was over. The Yellowstone came to play big time. With over 400 miles of free flowing river, the Yellowstone brought a diversity of style to the floor that overmatched the quaint and sneaky game of the Gibbon. The star for the Yellowstone was the brilliant play of the Yellowstone Cutthroat that would inspect every offering the Gibbon had with professorial intent. Slice and dice every aspect of the Yellowstone and you come up with a winner.

WINNER #6   Ruby River
Our first bracket busting upset occurred in this intense match-up. The Lamar came in cruising with a beautiful game of unparalleled scenery, native Cutties, and world class dry fly fishing that really could match up against any other river or lake in the tournament. But the Ruby snuck up on the Lamar with its bigs; nice size Rainbows and Browns, and good hatches, and overpowered the Lamar down the stretch in the final minutes.

WINNER #5   Quake Lake
Wow, what a game. We really hope you didn’t miss it. Two heavy weights went at it for the full 40, never letting down for one moment, but in the end Quake Lake came out on top. Despite the legendary “Gulpers” of Hebgen and their 12 weeks of consistent dry fly fishing, Quake Lake grinded out the win. This one could have gone either way, but Quake Lake had a ringer in the game named Spruce Moth, and it overpowered the star player for Hebgen, Callibaetis. Quake Lake’s game is just plain spooky, not for the faint of heart, but simply reel screaming fun!

Fly Fishing Tournament – Sweet 16 Bios

Posted in Fishing, Uncategorized on March 20th, 2013 by admin – Be the first to comment

Rowan Nyman’s Sweet Sixteen Fishing Tournament, featuring world class contenders in the Greater Yellowstone area

Yellowstone Region

#1  Madison River: The 50 mile riffle, this number 1 seed deserves its ranking based on legend alone. Dry flies, nymphs, or streamers, all day any day of the year, an angler will have a chance at 14″-18″ rainbows and browns. Classic Montana scenery greets both the wade and the float angler. This river brings the full game to the table and has stood the test of time. Multiple championship winner means championship pedigree and caliber. The Madison is a longtime favorite, a workhorse that brings its own style to the tournament.

#2  Yellowstone River: History might deem that the Yellowstone maintain a number 1 overall seed, period. The longest undammed river in the lower 48, the Yellowstone has numerous strengths – unparalleled scenery, native Yellowstone cutthroat, diversity of water and angling experience. Why is the Yellowstone not a number 1? It might be a conspiracy of the selection committee, maybe there can be only one number one, or maybe it is the randomness of the universe. A scary matchup for any challenger, and a legendary winner that can match up with any river or lake anywhere and anytime!

#3  Lamar River: America’s Serengeti (Yellowstone Park) is bisected by this high meadow river that is home to native Yellowstone cutthroat. The Lamar’s strength is its ability to provide great dry fly fishing with large foam and rubber leg patterns in the middle of some of the most wildlife infested gorgeous scenery in the U.S.. The Lamar brings a strong game as long as it didn’t rain the night before. Hint: don’t be too quick on the draw here. You decide what that might mean!

#4  Hebgen Lake: Home of the “gulper”, Hebgen’s challenging rainbows and browns can get under your skin. Large trout sipping dry flies off glass smooth water every morning in July, August and into September can be incredibly addicting. Hebgen is detailed oriented and brings grit and preparedness to the ultimate level. Look out for Hebgen, it has a long history of bracket busting the more infamous blue ribbon rivers.

#5  Quake Lake: Some may consider this fishery too highly ranked, others might consider it too low. Quake is hard to figure out. Rainbows and browns up to 22″ can be enticed to both the dry and nymph. An all summer fishery that shines when the wind is down, tough when it is up. Which Quake is going to show up, might just determine how far into the tourney this fishery can go.

#6  Ruby River: When the Ruby River shows up in the tournament, look out. Capable of producing good numbers of nice size Browns and Rainbows, this little sleeper of a stream has been know, for those in the know, to become a favorite to go all the way. Inconsistency of conditions is the river’s only weakness, as some seasons it wants to underperform, other seasons it shines. A doppleganger of the tournament, this one is going to make it fun!

#7  Gibbon River: A hidden gem in the Park, the Gibbon winds its way under the radar, giving up some nice browns and rainbows down low, and a combination of rainbows, browns, brookies, and even a few grayling in the sneaky upper meadow stretches. Often overlooked, the Gibbon can put a challenge on any river in Yellowstone National Park. This one can surprise you.

#8  Grayling Creek: Blow by this river on your way to Bozeman and you might be missing out on this 8 seed’s ability to provide a day of solitude and dry fly fishing, both characteristics of an upset in the early rounds.


Montana Region

#1  Henry’s Fork: A much deserved number one seeding, no other river or lake in the field can match its diversity.  Box Canyon, the Ranch, Mesa Falls, the lower. From canyon deep water nymphing hogs to highly selective spring creek professors, the Fork has all the angles covered. With no apparent weakness historically in its game it will be a tough match up for any prospective competitor. But in all tourneys, you have to show up for every game, is the Fork going to live up to its fabled reputation?

#2  Slough Creek: America’s most infamous backcountry river, Slough is legendary among anglers who want to strap on a pair of hiking boots, a can of bear spray, and a desire to catch Yellowstone cutties that love to inspect every nuance of your presentation. Slough Creek is unassuming yet crafty. Be prepared to bring your “A” game here if you are match upped against the agile Slough.

#3  Firehole River: The most unique river in the whole tourney, the features of the Firehole make this a tough matchup for any seeded fishery this year. Lined by the world’s largest collection of geothermal features, mixed with fantastic hatches, and an abundance of wildlife, the Firehole River is always a favorite among experts. Although its members, Rainbows and Browns, are a bit undersized, they have more hops than just about anyone else in the tourney. The Firehole’s weakness is that it might be a little lethargic during the heat of the summer, but it shows up big, early and late, and the Firehole can be expected to do some moving and grooving!

#4  Gallatin River: If you are thinking classic Montana fishery, the Gallatin plays this game with perfection. Gorgeous mountain scenery, spunky diverse fish that eat year round, and a plethora of rocks, chutes, runs and pools. The Gallatin is a rough and tumble competitor. The Gallatin may be the hardest matchup for any round. Why? Because it plays hard, for the full length of the game, and brings a consistently tough character. But it maintains its joyful youthfulness that make it a delight to be a part of. Watch out for this overlooked favorite.

#5  Gardner River: The Gardner has something unique it brings to the tournament – 6 different species of fish provide the Gardner the ability to shift its game in numerous directions. A nice rainbow on a green drake, a spunky brook trout on a royal Wolff cripple, or stripping a bugger for big browns in the fall. The Gardner brings surprises and unpredictability to the table. Shifty, sly, and quick, the Gardner can become a bracket buster favorite.

#6  Soda Butte Creek: History overlooked this little meadow stream, until the past 10 years, otherwise the Soda Butte would have a better seed. But have no doubts the Soda Butte brings a strong game. From July through October, the native Yellowstone cutties that call this river home love the diversity of aquatic and terrestrial bugs that line its grassy banks. Plenty of holding water, bountiful food sources, and stunning scenery. The Soda Butte brings a delightful and underrated game to the tourney.

#7  Yellowstone Lake: One of the long time greats has fallen. The largest lake in the U.S. over 7000 feet used to boast unparalleled fishing from opening day through August, but the introduction of Lake Trout a few years back has decimated this program. But the lake still has some game left. Gutty and fierce, the tenacity of this selection can still provide the angler some fun and exciting times and make it a tough game in the first round.

#8  Taylor’s Fork: A moody entry into the field of sixteen, Taylor’s Fork can be overlooked easily, but don’t be fooled by its diminutive size, it brings a fun and beautiful game to the tourney. Chock full of rainbows and cutthroat that love to rise, the Taylor’s high rising game plays above the rim. Look for excitement in this selection, and you never know when it might shine above all others!

Let the Sweet Sixteen Fishing Tourney Begin!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18th, 2013 by admin – 2 Comments

It is tourney time! College basketball’s tour de force hits the airwaves this month with all the drama, last minute heroics, and memories made for a lifetime. In that vein we have launched our own tournament here at Firehole Ranch. What to expect – the long time greats holding court, maybe a upset or two, and a whole lot of fun and discussion. So what is this all about? Simply put it is the sweet sixteen of fishing destinations in the greater Yellowstone area, which the Firehole Ranch is blessed to guide and play on every day all summer long. A race to the Finals with one river up against another for fishing domination.

The sixteen finalists (of hundreds of possibilities) have been broken into two divisions. The eight “teams” in each division have been given a seed (ranking) and matched up with their opponent. The river or lake’s seeding was based on three criteria: #1 – Historical significance in fishing legend and lore. #2 – All around “game”, what does each fishing destination offer the angler. #3 – The ability to haunt an angler’s dreams when they have the misfortune to not be angling on said river or lake. We will face these “teams” off against each other and move the winner into the next round. The Great Eight, The Final Four, Finals, and eventually the winner!

So grab a bracket, read the bios (coming later this week), and fill it out to see if you can figure out (and influence) what fishing river or lake will be left standing come summer time. This tourney is intended to be interactive. Please post your comments about each “game” on our Facebook page, keep it short and sweet, but make a case for your favorite, all input will be used to determine who moves on to the next round. The stronger the argument for one river or lake over another goes a long way in determining which fishing destination “wins”. So lets have a little fun as we prepare for the summer fishing season here at Firehole Ranch!

Tight Lines, Jumping Fish and May your favorite river win!

Winter Flies

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7th, 2013 by admin – 1 Comment

If you have ever fished with me you obviously know that I can’t leave the truck without at least a few hundred flies if not thousands.  More than once I have been forced to a bank side seat only to watch on as fish fed recklessly while the one magic fly rested in a fly box back in the truck or worse at home.  Over the years I have condensed my selection and discovered better techniques for organization so I don’t miss out on these critical moments.  My personal approach to a framework of organization has become general and seasonal for the most part.  During the cold months I will usually carry a few boxes full of what I would consider standard patterns including Rubber Legs, Wooley Buggers, San Juan Worms, and even Glo-Bugs.  Since most of us who are fishing during the winter probably know and have a varied selection of the general patterns mentioned above, I thought I would share a few of my favorites that don’t always make the average list and could be applied just about anywhere in the world.

1.) Pink Scud – Some say because of its color that fish are eating it for an egg. I can agree with that…sometimes.  At least it is a guilt free approach of fishing an egg.  Either way there are various colors of this “freshwater shrimp” and pink is my favorite for winter.  If you are going to fish a spring creek or tailwater with weed beds, this one better be an option.

2.) Hot Spot Sow Bug – This is a variation of a few sow bug imitations.  I originally used the fire orange colored thread so that when the fly got wet the orange would illuminate through the dubbing, but it also accentuates the bug from other naturals, “triggering” a reaction bite from the quarry.  Once again, for the most part, this is a spring creek or tailwater bug.

3.) Emerging Midge – I originally created this bug by combining a couple of trigger features from two other proven  patterns during this past hunting season but I wasn’t able to actually test it until December.  A friend of mine eventually exercised its ability and it has become one of my “go-to” midge imitations, especially on the tailraces of the Missouri and the Bighorn Rivers.

4.) Buzz Ball – Created by my personal favorite fly fishing author and theorist, Gary LaFontaine.  Not only do I chose this pattern because it can be applied for just about any small insect hatch but that it shines during midge mating clusters and it’s a great dry fly to hang a light nymph off of in larger sizes.

5.) Olive Sculpin – We are definitely in the midst of the major “streamer revolution” and there are countless variations of the same goal.  They all work, but during the winter I like to keep it small and simple and almost always fished on a sink tip or a full sinking line.

Fly Fishing in Kaua’i ?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8th, 2013 by admin – 1 Comment

Finally! Sandy and I etched out time to get out of Montana during the winter, do some fishing and squeeze in a little time for our long time pending honeymoon. We headed for Kaua’i, the oldest and one of the least populated Hawaiian Islands. This was the first actual vacation either of us had ever taken. I have to admit it’s difficult to find a reason to leave when you live in and around a vacation destination. A car ride, a couple of layovers, and three planes put us into one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. No offense to Montana but between the ocean and the mountains in Kaua’i, this also has to be one of the most rugged places I have ever been. We found plenty of hiking, body boarding, fishing, coffee, fresh fish, geckos, chickens, plantations, local markets and gorgeous beaches for a full sensory overload. I cannot speak for the entire island since we spent the majority of our time on the north side, but this had to be one of the friendliest places in the world. Maybe it was all of their fun in the sun. Along with their beautiful setting, self sustaining routines, and laid back attitude, Hanalei is definitely one of my favorite towns ever. Contagiously friendly and not once was I handed a plastic bag from any of the stores or markets. Thank you Hanalei, Kaua’i, Hawai’i.

And yes, there are trout in Kaua’i, if you were wondering. This fishing excursion was definitely not about the method or size of the fish. It was all about why and where. Why? Because if it’s a trout and I am within close proximity of it, why not? Where? Not only was the setting stunning, but come to think of it, I’ve never caught a trout in this state. Originally, Rainbow Trout were planted in the 1920’s, now many of the fish are wild even though there is still some annual stocking. Even though there weren’t many, the trout were very spunky and well fed. Unfortunately, many of the locals here don’t practice catch and release. Otherwise, I could see where many of these pools could hold piles of fish. Trout Unlimited along with a few other locals including my guide, are trying to change this standard and encourage regulations to be implemented especially on the stream we fished in particular.

Now I allocated only two days of fishing and wanted to fish everything I saw. I had to chose and decided to dedicate my second outing in the salt even though my guide was slightly apprehensive. The weather and tide was as good as it could get for this time of season. Other conditions were not. There were snorkelers, paddle boarders, wind surfers, swimmers, and rock skippers all over the only flat on the island that held bonefish. Dangerous surf conditions combined with peak tourist season confined everybody to the safest beach for all of these activities. No worries though, we found a little space and I had a handful of great chances. Nearly every fish that I cast at followed, approached, or charged my presentation but never committed when it came down to the final inch. It was heartbreaking. This has to be one of the toughest skunks I have ever had to swallow since I knew I wasn’t going to get another swing at bonefish for a long time. Great, now I have another afflicted addiction. Was it my presentation, human scent on the fly, tippet size, fly pattern or just the fact that I haven’t paid my dues yet? Either way this is my favorite type of fishing. Even though I had only made about six objective casts the entire outing, it was all about the hunt and just experiencing something new. One fish, one cast and a handful of outcomes. The overall technique was very similar to searching and stalking gulpers on the glassy surfaces of Hebgen Lake so it wasn’t entirely out of my comfort zone but I have to admit I was definitely out of my element.

I know that Kaua’i probably doesn’t even make the list when it comes to fly fishing destinations, but it does have some of the largest bonefish in the world and I thought it was a great avenue to immerse myself into this unique environment. Even though my entire focus was tunneled towards my quarry, it still gave me a different perspective than the rest of the tourists just doing the beach thing and sticking to well known attractions. If you ever find yourself looking for something to do in Kaua’i, consider booking Nigel Warrack. He is the only fly fishing guide on the “Garden Isle” that fishes for trout. If trout aren’t your thing or the conditions don’t cooperate, there are plenty of other fly fishing deviations. Bonefish, trevally, smallmouth and peacock bass are all fun diversions. All are well worth the time. If there was anything that I would suggest on the fishing side, I would plan my trip somewhere between early summer and well into fall because of better fishing conditions, more trout options, and fewer tourists. If you have any other more questions about fine details and expectations, feel free to contact me through the ranch.  You can check out more photos from the trip on the Firehole Ranch Facebook page.

Happy New Year!
Josh Duchateau
Head Fishing Guide and Outfitter