Big "Y" Flies

Big "Y" Flies
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Discussing fishing flies, trout flies, salmon flies, fly fishing gear and equipment, Idaho and Montana fishing rivers, NW rivers, fly tying and fly fishing trips. Over 50 years experience in fly fishing, best flies, fly tying, fly fishing techniques, fish stories, directions to rivers and lakes and great fly fishing tall tales with special communications from area guides.

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Here is the scoop. We will also be going on some shorter side trips this summer as well. They will be posted here. If you live in Montana, Idaho or Washington state, you may want to contact IdahoAngler@live.com for details. You'll meet some really great fellow fishers!
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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The "Skunk"

"The Skunk" wooly bugger tied and published by YellowStoneFly of the Idaho Fly Fishers Blog, but not an original YSF fly. I first used this fly on a drift trip on the middle portion of the Colorado River in the late 90's. It was very effective then and is now as well. After fly fishing my entire adult life, I am convinced that using a large, foreign fly in new waters will often bring trout to the net when conventional flies won't. Springtime is a good time to try different large flies when waters are off color, high and fast.

What happened here, on a recent Memorial Day float in my pontoon boat on the Bull River in Montana, I was doing a little experimenting. In my usual "honey hole", nothing was hitting on top. I had tied up a skunk pattern to use on a June/July float on the Kootenai River with friend and fellow Idaho Fly Fishers Association member, Paul (Hopper) Spear. Paul is a new convert to Idaho fly fishing and we frequently fish together even though he lives in PA. I was hoping this new/old pattern might catch some good Kootenai rainbow, brown and maybe a bull. The results of my experiment were two cutties over 16 inches then a break off. That to me is a successfly 1 hour float.

If you are a used to tying wolly buggers, this is a very easy pattern to tie. Instructions are as follows. PS-Paul, I'll have plenty of these ready for you and the Kootenai.

Black thread on a 1-0 long shank hook.

4 tufts of barbs (20+) off the rachis - 2 black, 2 white.
Alternate placement.

Add grizzly hackle. Tie in small end.

Tie in large black chenille..

Add wire for weight and wrap almost to eye.

Wrap chenille forward and tie behind eye.

Wrap hackle forward and tie in behind eye.
Multiple wraps for head, half hitch then
add head cement. Done!
If you have questions please email me at IdahoAngler@live.com. Also if you have any secret, old patterns join our blog or add your email to our mailing list (right had column just below spinning globe). Your email will not be shared with anyone. Happy, successful Idaho fly fishing.

          YSF Stinger
          Hot Wings 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kootenai River - The Forgotten Mighty River

"The Kootenai River, Idaho/Montana" is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers blogspot. "The Kootenai River has its origins in British Columbia's Kootenay National Park in Canada. From there it flows 485 miles into northwest Montana and through the towns of Libby and Troy. It flows into northern Idaho, then back into Canada and Kootenay Lake. Ultimately it joins with the Columbia River. Sixteen miles north of Libby, the river is held back by Libby Dam, creating a 90-mile long reservoir which reaches into Canada.

The Kootenai River is the second largest tributary to the Columbia River in terms of runoff volume, third in terms of drainage area. In Montana it is second only to the Clark Fork in volume and size. The major tributaries of the Kootenai River are the St. Mary, Bull Elk, Fisher, Yaak, Moyie, and Slocan Rivers. The Kootenai Basin is largely mountainous and dominated by three major ranges. The Rocky Mountain Range and its offshoot, the Flathead Range, constitute the eastern boundary; the Purcell Range roughly bisects it from north to south. The Selkirk and Cabinet ranges mark the western boundary. Elevations reach a maximum of about 12,000 feet with most summit elevations between 6,000 and 7,500 feet. Except for a few areas, the entire watershed is heavily forested.

The Kootenai River supports fisheries populations of westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout, Kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout, among other species. White sturgeon also live in river, mostly below Kootenai Falls. Libby Dam, completed in 1972, has impacted fisheries values and water quality, although to what extent is still undetermined. Water quality within the Kootenai River basin is generally considered high and the river is considered to be a Blue Ribbon trout fishing river providing exciting sport fishing action. The drainage contains a wide variety of insect life, resulting in prolific hatches throughout the season. The Kootenai and its tributaries are the only waters in Montana to contain a native strain of rainbow trout, called Columbia Redbands, which are indigenous to the head waters of the Columbia River, and known for their excellent fighting ability.

The river varies from big and broad to the rushing waters in the China Rapids Canyon and over Kootenai Falls. The waters between the falls and Libby Dam offer a variety of deep water, shallow rapids and mid-stream islands for fishing access. Many people fish from the banks and islands or use drift boats and float tubes. Boat launches can be found along the shores of the Kootenai. Consistent angling usually starts around the middle of June and lasts well into November." ***

In Idaho, the Kootenai is a wonderful trout fishery. The last three times I have fished here, I have only seen one drift boat each day. Floats are generally long and will take most of the day. My favorite access points in Idaho are the Yaak River ramp in the campground and the access at Twin Rivers Campground near Moyie Springs, ID. While there, check out the Moyie River which dumps into the Kootenai at Twin Rivers. After snow melt, throw Adams and Elk Wing caddis to trout in feeding lines below rapids. The action is frequently non-stop for hours. The bigger fish however are in the summer once the hoppers arrive. The larger rainbow and cutties are generally hanging everywhere along the banks, near structure and even in the "frog" water. A midge caddis dropper off of your large foam hoppers will also bring fish to the boat. Another suggestion is large foam, ugly stonefly patterns. PS-Don't forget to stop frequently, take in the beauty and fish the multiple rapids and shoals all along the river which are only accessible by drift boat or raft.

The Idaho Kootenai is almost never fished and can provide just as much action as the Montana side. Also, do not forget your Idaho and Montana fishing licenses if you put in at the Yaak. The first six miles of river is in Montana and the rest is in Idaho. And they do check licenses here, particularly around Leonia, ID. Have a great time and do fish the Kootenai when you can.

          Moyie River
          Bull River, MT

*** Our thanks to the US Forest Service for providing some of this information.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sandpoint Idaho Fly Fishing Information

View of Lake Pend Oreille from Schweitzer Mountain

YellowStoneFly of the Idaho Fly Fishers Blog proudly presents for your pleasure the coolest town in the northwest--Sandpoint, ID. Voted this year as the most beautiful town in the lower 48 by USA Today and Rand-McNally; you have got to see this town! There is easy access by car from I-90, I-80 and I-15 or by plane directly into Spokane, WA from many major hubs. You can even take the AmTrak directly into town if you prefer. But I must warn you, once you have experienced the “Long Bridge Effect” you may never want to leave.

Nice North Idaho Buck
The effect of which I speak is the breathtaking, panoramic view once you cross Lake Pend Oreille. This is a glacial lake which has a small hydroelectric dam on the Pend Oreille River on the west side. Reliable maps put the maximum depth at 1158 feet at its deepest near Whiskey Point to the south. A must see in the summer is the Bayview section to the south with it sailing regattas and houseboat village.

Sandpoint itself is small and quaint with great shoTpping, restaurants and wine tasting. While you are there, don’t forget to go up to Schweitzer Mountain ski area and see why it is rated #9 for tree skiing and #21 overall in the US. It is now Thanksgiving Day and they have already received 77” of powder. PS-Schweitzer is a great mountain bike destination in the summer as well.

Lake Pend Oreille Kamloop
Now how about the fishing? Well, if trolling for large lake trout is your thing, go and catch some of theirs. The Kamloops can be huge and put up quite the fight. There are several guide services available to show you a really great time. But what about the fly fishing?

The fly fishing Idaho season is now open year round in the north. There is some good nymph and streamer fishing when it’s cold, but you will have to wear neoprene waders and stop frequently to kick the snow off your boots. The season for hatches and hoppers is generally April until late October. Rivers within a 2 hour drive of Sandpoint include the: Bull with its own special brand of “hogs”, Clark Fork, Flathead, Kootenai, Moyie and Vermilion rivers. And you really should not forget some of the smaller, yet very productive creeks like: Grouse, Lightning and Rapid Lightning creeks that are all only a stone’s throw from Sandpoint.

Kids Tubing Down the Moyie R.
Don’t miss this jewel located in the panhandle section of the state. Breathe the scent of the evergreens, take in the vistas and relax in the temperate climate. You can cool off in the summer and warm up in the winters. Come fly fish Idaho with us. Sandpoint should be on everyone’s “Bucket List” if you consider yourself an outdoor person. Oh yeah! I almost forgot! The hunting is incredible too.


Wildlife Galore

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kootenai River Ghost Town (Leonia, Idaho)

"Kootenai River Ghost Town (Leonia, Idaho)" is provided by YellowStoneFly of the Idaho Fly Fishers Blog. What Idaho fly fishing float trip would be complete without passing, or even visiting, at least one certified Idaho mining ghost town? Leonia (aka Boulder City, Boulder Creek, Leonai and Lenia ) is (was) located at the western Montana/eastern Idaho panhandle line on the Kootenai River right where Boulder Creek dumps into the Kootenai. You would float right by the ghost town if you put in at the Yaak Montana state park. I'm guessing, but I would say it is about 6-8 miles down stream from the Yaak.

Read on and do your own research. Check out Boulder Creeks' founder John M. Schnatterly at Ancestry.com. Sounds as if he may have been a con man. Nothing much is left there but the cemetary and thank goodness nothing remains of the hydrolic mining operation that once raked the Boulder Creek gorge in the late 1800's and early 1900's. You might see the remenants of the old goat bridge crossing the river if you look carefully. 

Leonia (Boulder City) Idaho 1917 Depot and Town Buildings RPPC

Photo courtesy of ebay and WorthPoint: "Matte black and white real photo postcard showing the Great Northern Railway depot and town buildings at Leonia, Boundary County, Idaho. “Leonia” on the depot sign is readable on the actual postcard. The wintertime view is looking east toward Montana with the Kootenai River on the left. Postally used 1917 from Milwaukee, Oregon. Sender’s message does not say anything about the picture. Light surface wear, corner and edge wear, edge bends at upper left, slightly trimmed at the sides (3-3/8” x 5-5/16” actual size), good condition only. Rare location, though, since the Leonia Post Office was discontinued in 1954. The buildings that appear in this picture no longer exist."

Leonia (aka Boulder Creek), ID

"Ghost town" (several buildings and a cemetery); established as a post office named Leonai in 1892; named changed to Lenia in 1901 & to Leonia in 1923.

Leonia Cemetery

View all Internments 1898-1922. Check out one of the original settler’s obituaries: Jacob Lang. He was "Killed in Hay Meadow”. Or you might even want to read the obit of Frank Blakely who was “was shot to death in Leonia” in June of 1912.

Panning For Gold

Boulder Creek....Bonners Ferry area
"Aaron, panning for gold on Boulder Creek during our 2003 family campout. The only thing I can say is he didn't get rich but had a great time. There is also a ghost town nearby with old buildings (some still standing) and a graveyard, also lots of exciting history about a town called Leonia that my son Leigh is researching. Toni"

Boulder City Ghost Town

Eighteen miles east of Bonners Ferry, in the shadow of Katka Mountain and above Boulder Creek lay Boulder City Ghost Town. In the late 1800s, Idaho Gold and Radium Mining Company President, J.M.Schnatterly, founded Boulder City, also known as Ruby City, during the gold rush era.Boulder City sits precariously on the southern edge of a sheer gorge that drops into Boulder Creek. The city had an estimated population of 150 people with approximately 60 buildings along the banks of Boulder Creek.

Schnatterly controlled about 3,500 acres of land there in the Cabinet Mountain range and had water rights to Boulder Creek and its tributaries. Tons of gravel was washed from the canyon walls in those years, but little of the gold or rubies, which were really garnets, were ever discovered. The Idaho Gold and Ruby Mining Company separated gold from gravel in a unique and modern process for its time but as remarkable as this mine was it only managed to extract $150 in gold after 15 years. Tales of the fist sized rubies found no doubt kept the town growing at that time.

This is the legacy of Boulder City, an Idaho Gold and Ruby Mining Company town. Limited remains on site.

Access from County Road 24 east of Bonners Ferry turn left on to Forest Road No. 314.

Cool article about the town’s history

It’s no longer riches that draw folks to Boulder City

Kootenai Bull Trout
Enjoy visiting the Leonia (Boulder Creek) ghost time the next time you are fly fishing Idaho and the mighty Kootenai where the fly fishing will be great in June.


Tags:  Kootenai River
           YSF Stinger
           Bull River Hogs - MT

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Bull River, MT

This article is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers. The Bull River is a real jewel! High in a beautiful mountain valley above and between the Kootenai and Clark Fork rivers lays a mountain lake of indescribable grandeur. Situated in the Cabinet Mountain Range in Lincoln County Montana is Bull Lake. Spring fed and without a dam and naturally flowing into the Kootenai River, you would naturally think it is the headwaters for the Bull River. Well it is not. The river is actually a very deep, meandering naturally spring fed waterway arising in the mountains just west of Bull Lake. I do not know the exact depth, but locals say it is in excess of forty feet in points despite the fact the average width is only about fifty feet and it sports many shallow riffles.

Bull Cutty caught on a Brown Drake 6/14/2011
The Bull flows for about twenty-five mile due south and ends in the Clark Fork River at the junction of highways 56 & 200 and the Bull River Kootenai National Forest Campground. This is a beautiful stretch of river, but I must caution the last four to six miles is steep and treacherous. This lower section is not really floatable unless you are and expert kayaker. From where the lower section begins at highway 200 and almost up to the lake, there are several access points. Pitch is very gradual after milepost 6 and it is easy to row. Fishing in the spring is in this middle section can be incredible! There are some huge browns and nice cutthroat as well.
I own a twelve foot, two person raft in which I love to use in this river. My wife rows and I fish. Who could ask for a better arrangement? By the way, I bought my raft from Kootenai Valley Inflatables for a lot less than other outfitters and the quality is excellent. Anyway, back to the float. I recommend putting in at the canoe access about milepost 11.5 and float to the eight mile bridge. DO NOT USE THE MORE NORTHERN ACCESS I PREVIOUSLY SUGGESTED AT MILEPOST IN MY POST "BULL RIVER HOGS". IT IS NOT SAFE AT ONE POINT JUST PAST THE MILEPOST 12.5 HIGHWAY 56 BRIDGE. As much meandering as the river does, I would guess the actual float I like is about 5-6 miles and takes a good 4-5 hours to float from the canoe access. The flow is mostly slow here, but it makes for good, easy fly fishing. The take out at the 8 mile bridge is very easy and I can load easily reload my raft directly onto my trailer.

The Brown Drake hatch is unbelievable in the spring. Insects are huge (size 6-10) and the trout are ravenous. The Bull is predominately known for its huge brown trout, but I have personally seen large schools of bull trout weighing on the average five pounds and perhaps more. I have also caught some really nice cutthroat trout in the 16-20 inch range and an occasional nice rainbow. The fishing seems to slow down in the summer with less prolific hatches, but fish can be had. If you see one other boat while you fish there, I would be very surprised. Out-of-the way and a little hard to find, this is really a great spring fly fishing river. Find highway 56 going north off scenic highway 200 along the Clark Fork River just 10 miles east from where it crosses into Idaho. The Bull parallels highway 200. If you can find no other person with whom to fish, call or email me. I will definitely go with you.
Don’t forget, in the US bull trout are endangered and must be released as soon as caught. You cannot deliberately fish for a bull trout either, but if you do accidently catch one measure quickly, photograph and release quickly. Do not miss fishing this river if you are ever in western Montana in the spring. Now check out our most recent post "Bull River Hogs" for suggested fishing access points and flies.