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Fly fishing’s 2015 rewind

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‘Tis the season for reflection

By Patrick Straub EBS Fishing Columnist

It’s go time. For many of us, the clock is ticking and our lives are full of shopping lists, school recitals, and holiday performances. But amidst the scraps of wrapping paper near the carpet stain where the drunk uncle spilled eggnog, find time to take a breather and reflect on the past 12 months.

My reflection typically occurs a-stream where my thoughts are often interrupted by a trout eating my fly. I’m lucky in that regard, but my getting out is the result of shirking other responsibilities for a few hours.

If you’ve got time to put your feet up, or have someone read to you in between shopping stops, here is 2015’s year in fly fishing in and around Big Sky.

Pat Straub fishes the Gallatin River with his daughter Adela, near their home in Gallatin Gateway. PHOTO BY THOMAS LEE

Pat Straub fishes the Gallatin River with his daughter Adela, near their home in Gallatin Gateway. PHOTO BY THOMAS LEE

Best March Ever. A local fishing guide is notorious for overzealous fishing reports. “Best. Day. Ever!” are the texts I often get at day’s end. But if the guide was talking about any day in March 2015, he would be correct. An extremely mild weather pattern brought warm, dry, and calm skies to southwest Montana. Skiers quickly became anglers, and folks were grabbing 4-weight rods instead of powder boards. Fortunately for the ski biz, early April saw a few big storms and ski season finished as strong as it started.

Fire season: Heat wave? Not this time. Timeline: June 29, 2015. Air temps reached 95 degrees at Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport. Gallatin and Yellowstone River streamflows were dropping faster than ever recorded and late-summer fishing and streamflows appeared to be apocalyptic. Then a miracle happened – cool and wet weather predominated for nearly a month. July weather was similar to what I remember as a kid: temps in the high 70s and low 80s, and afternoon thunderstorms with plenty of rain. It even snowed on Lone Mountain on July 28.

Madison River is first pick. When towing a drift boat coming down Lone Mountain Trail and hitting the junction of Highway 191, the choice can be tough: Turn left and head to the Yellowstone or turn right toward the Upper Madison. This year, the Upper gave it up big time: Salmon flies in June; PMDs in late June and early July; and then caddis, tricos, and hoppers dominated late. Many anglers fell in love all over again with this gem of a river.

Big fish on the Gallatin. I feel like we said this last year, but it was true then, and was in 2015 as well – this year included reports of more, and larger fish, being caught out of the Gallatin River in the canyon north of Big Sky and coming out of Yellowstone National Park. Perhaps due the mild spring and more food in the river? Perhaps due to our cooler and wetter summer? Theories abound and rivers cycle, so let’s be thankful for another year of big fish.

Big Sky Fly Fishing Festival and Hooked on the Gallatin Banquet. 2015 marked the third annual Big Sky Fly Fishing Festival. The Gallatin River Task Force created this event in 2013, and thousands of dollars were raised to preserve and protect the water quality we see here on the Gallatin. We appreciate all who donated money and time to make this growing event a success.

Flip-flops in October. They’ll be a run of flip-flop sales come summer because 2015 was the longest season on record. At the cringe of many streamer anglers, summer-like weather lingered deep into fall. Even if the thrill of a trophy brown had to wait until November, as the snow piles-up, flip-flop tans are distant memory.

2015 is nearly in the books. As you enjoy family and friends the next few weeks, toast or pause to appreciate some pretty good angling fortune of the past year. All things considered, this year was as good as it gets.

2016, you’ve got some big waders to fill …

Pat Straub is the author of six books, including “The Frugal Fly Fisher,” “Montana On The Fly,” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing.” He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and Pat operates the Montana Fishing Guide School and the Montana Women’s Fly Fishing School.

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