It’s a Personal Preference….... – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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It’s a Personal Preference…....

Needless to say, I’m new to Fins and Feathers. Getting to know everyone has been an awesome experience, but one thing I’ve noticed about each person is where and how they prefer to fish. For example, Karlie really loves Henry’s Fork. And if you streamer fish on it, she’ll kill you. Ryan likes to float just about anywhere, but he does prefer being in a boat. Jim seems to have fished a ton of different places in Montana, but right now he heads up to special portions of the Gallatin. Toby doesn’t care where he’s going to fish, because (goddamnit) he’s going to catch bigger and better fish than you.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I adore alpine fly fishing. The entire process of preparing to fish in an alpine lake makes me weak at the knees and gets me through the winters. First, you have to find a lake you want to explore and hope there’s a trail that gets you to it without too much bushwhacking. Then, you’ve gotta prepare your backpack. You see, unlike fishing from a boat or parking a car alongside the road and wading, alpine fishing often requires you to hike a minimum of 3 miles into the backcountry and you need to carry everything on your back. I guess, if you’re lucky, your dog might help out.

Then, after all of the dreaming, planning and packing – you finally get to drive to the trailhead and hit the trail! Of course, it’s important to take all of the usual backcountry precautions (bear spray and sunscreen), but even just having to hike and “earn” your way to the fishing hole makes the entire process a bit more valuable. Upon reaching the fishing hole, the work has only just begun. Again, unlike other fishing options, alpine fishing often doesn’t come with a “Fishing Report”. The fisher has to look around and realize what’s available for bugs at the time.

But perhaps the hardest part is not spooking the fish. Alpine lakes and streams are notoriously crystal clear, most being filled and fed by snowmelt. The fish, while not the Moby Dicks of the trout world, are easily spooked by a splash/shadow/sound/bad dance move and so the approach is important. It’s worth it because these fish are inexplicably gorgeous. Again, not the biggest fish in the world, but the colors are outstanding and damn, they’re feisty.

After all of the preparation and all of the fishing, you’ve still got to either 1) set up camp and make dinner or 2) hike back to the trailhead and head home.

Then, to add to the pressure, the fishing season is significantly shorter. Due to the temperature difference between the valleys and the mountains, the lakes often aren’t ready to fish (at least, dry fly) for a few weeks after the main rivers start fishing well. At the tail-end of the season, the snow hits the upper parts of the mountains first and will cut the season short long before the rivers start to ice over. Getting after it in the alpine is a fast and furious season and not lackadaisical in any sense.

So what draws me to this version of fly fishing? I have no idea. But I love it. I love going to the places where no one else will. I love standing in ice cold water surrounded by a cirque of mountains and seeing snow in July. I love having to really think and plan the entire experience. Maybe what I love most is having to earn my fish.

Whatever style of fishing you love, I’m glad you get excitement from connecting with our watersheds and fish. Whether your throwing streamers on the Yellowstone or hiking 5 miles to an unnamed lake and camping for a few nights lakeside, treasure it. Not everywhere is as lucky as we are to have beautiful waters and healthy fish.