It’s 1 am. Pitch black. And you can’t see a damn thing.
It’s hard not to turn on your headlight, but if you do its game over. It really is amazing how well you can cast when you cant see. You lay down what feels like the perfect cast and start to twitch the hell out of the tip of you rod.
All you have for reference is the sound of the fly skating across the water. Just when you think the drift is over an explosion at the end of your line. And nothing. He missed… Or maybe you botched it. You strip in the slack and as the fly reaches your feet he’s back. And hes hungry. It’s a mix between a toilet flushing and a cinder block being thrown in the water and it’s scary.
The fight is on. Before it’s even over you want more.
Go ahead and forget sleeping. Just knowing you could be out throwing junk like that makes it even harder to fall asleep at night.
Flies the size of your hand and 20 lbs test Maxima. Its like a grind-house version of fly fishing. It’s too easy to get addicted too. Dark circles under your eyes, bugs bites everywhere, bruises from falling, and now leeches. You have to pay to play.
Bringing one fish to hand is a good night. But when the one fish looks like that… It’s okay.
The next time we look like we are dragging in the morning you can guess why.
It seems that we stepped into a bigger pile than expected when we reported the newest Mitchell Slough drama. Its now at a point that we feel obliged to continue updating everyone even if we are pissing a few of you off.
As of the end of last week nothing had changed in the actual stream bed, however things are still being uncovered in the paperwork side of the debate.
FWP, DNRC and host of other “In Charge” organizations are perpetually too busy or out of the office to answer our phone calls or see us when we pay them a visit. Because of this we haven’t been able to get our questions answered. Whenever we get a hold of anyone we will be sure to let you all know.
Here are a few more photos to help everyone visualize what is really happening.
DEWATERED? Headgate Closed?
Doesn’t Look Like It… Can’t go above the water line. I hope you can squeeze between those fences.
That Head gate looks more annually open than closed. Isn’t there a season for pulling water out of the river for irrigation?
One more good look at it.
We know this isn’t the only issue going on in the Bitterroot. Or Montana for that matter.
We know this isn’t only the work of a single individual but also the organizations that allow this to happen.
We got a lot of people fired up about this. That’s exactly what we wanted to do. The more people that are aware of whats going on in their backyard the better.
We did get something we didn’t expect though. Someone defended the landowners who benefit from this project. I wanted to post the comment up here for everyone to read but thought better of it. We have our response written out but would love to hear what you all think first.
If anyone has any information for us we would love to know as much about this as we can. If something doesn’t change whats to stop the entire river from becoming a rip rapped irrigation ditch project? I know that a far out claim, but the river cant defend itself.
Release the hounds.
Read it here if you haven’t already.
The Bitterroot is one our favorite rivers. Its close proximity to Missoula, a strong trout population and the fact that their are still a few hidden gems where you can find some pretty respectable fish.
One of those gems is gone. Yes the Bitterroot is infamous for completely rearranging itself every year after runoff. However runoff cant do what a bulldozer and concrete barriers can.
The Mitchell Slough debate is a hot topic in the valley. The public’s right to legally recreate on public water vs. landowners protecting their property and the water that runs through it. It’s been a debate that has gone on for years with some pretty, now infamous, celebrities involved on the landowners side. It’s not limited to fishing access but includes waterfowl hunting and a host of water based recreation activities.
Fences across the waterway making it impossible for fisherman to legally access the water to feeding ducks and geese so no one can legally hunt the “baited” birds along the slough. These are the tactics that keep the public out of Mitchell slough. All of these efforts to keep the public out and for some “Rockstar” who actually sees this water maybe once or twice a year… Fine, you win. Keep the slough.
But keep your greedy hands off OUR river.
I don’t want to get on a soapbox or a moral high horse, but what I saw last week really upset me as a fly fisherman, a recreation management student and as someone who believes we should protect what resources we have left.
The East Side Tucker Crossing fishing access site along the East Side highway just south of Victor in the Bitterroot valley. This was one of our favorite access sites. Little water with plenty of fish willing to eat big streamers and dry flies. It was a great stop on your way back from the Big Hole or a perfect spot to finish out a day on the Bitterroot.
Not any more.
Mitchell Slough “Orginates” out of the East side channel of the Bitterroot right there at Tucker Crossing. Big wooden water diversion gates, metal fences and signs warning fisherman and hunter the the full force of the law will be brought upon them if they step anywhere above the high water mark. ( Metal fences running from the water line to much higher than the high water mark makes it impossible to even get into the slough).
While this prison like gate stood guard in a very unnatural way in a very natural place, it did do one good thing. It turned the flow of water 90 degrees and dug out a very deep and dark hiding spot for some pretty big healthy trout. This was a spot that when approached correctly and fished strategically, would produce one if not two 20+ inch fish most every time we were there. It was great. Not many people would walk much further than the access site so the spot was never occupied when we would go there to fish. And best of all, it held big fish that could be caught.
This was a pretty standard fish for East Side spot. This won’t happen anymore.
But that spot is gone and what’s left is skid steer tracks and a man made gavel bar. The channel was completely diverted to dump all of the water into the slough and virtually no water was left to flow into the natural channel. Concrete barriers were sitting on the bank waiting to reinforce the “improvements”. It looks more like a parking lot than a river now.
An upstream view of the “New and Improved” East Side Channel
What is now left after the water flows into Mitchell Slough.
They were generous enough to let this much water continue to flow down the rivers natural course. Forget the rest of the channel below this, it will dry up and become an empty stream bed.
I will be the first to admit that I am no expert in water law, river reconstruction or public vs. private rights. But what I see here is wrong. Destroying a public resource for the betterment of an already private and over controlled waterway? I just don’t get it.
If someone who gave this project a stamp of approval would be willing to explain why this is the right thing to do, I would love to hear them out and maybe come to terms with what has happened to this once loved fishing spot.
I won’t hold my breath.
I am sure Ed Abby’s, George Hayduke would have a few choice words for the fellas that gave this the go ahead.
We Finally were able to get it together and get out to do some fly flickin’. And just as I remembered it was pretty dang fun. I knew there was a reason we played this whole game for a reason.
Enough B.S. here are the best photos from about the last week of so.
Streamer season in on its way and its looks to be spunky. The weather is headed in a favorable direction and duck season opens this weekend. Maybe a little cast and blast is in order.
Take the time today to educate yourself about the Pebble mine. Make sure you learn what a bad idea it is and then help us fishermen everywhere in a stand against it.