Day T-Minus One
We pushed hard for Trout Unlimited’s national show, ‘On the Rise’ stop by for some fishing on the upper Mckenzie River’s wild trout managment zone. The time that they could do it was less than ideal. Mid-August isn’t exactly peak season but they agreed to come and we promised to put them on some redsides. Now, as the fateful day approached, I was becoming a bit nervous and my conversation with Jake, the production crew chief did little to calm my nerves. He wanted a camera man in the back of my driftboat and another on a trailer boat. I explained that we don’t run in-line and asked if we could experiment a bit, “sounds like a rodeo to me,” he said curtly. We agreed on a time and meeting place. I grabbed a beer, slammed it and reached for another . . . .
The production crew and host, Jed Fiebelkorn of Endless Drift Outfitters rolled up at the appointed time all smiles and I knew we would have a good day. As we prepared for the shoot, the Missoula Montana based crew admired the river. So lush and green with vegetation all the way to the water’s edge, the Mckenzie is very different than what they are used to. Our home water reminded them of New Zealand. They marveled at the clarity of the water and just how cold it is, even in mid-August. Clearly, they are the kind of guys that love the outdoors and appreciate a beautiful river and its native fish. My kind of guys.
As we set up the intro shot, getting miked up and the camera ready to roll, we discussed tactics and techniques and I agreed with Jake to let him sit on my rear seat with the tight lensed camera for the first rapid and we’d know right away if it was going to work. Mercifully, Jake is not a big guy and while the boat felt a bit unresponsive, I was able to negotiate the first set rapids just fine and we knew it was on. Not a few seconds later in the first spot, Jed was on his first Mckenzie rainbow. The smaller fish were plenty active all day, eating both dries and nymphs in the 90 degree sun. Jed caught a grip of wild fish, both rainbow and cutts between 6 and 10 inches with most being about the size of your average planter. I kept promising Jed that there are bigger fish in the river and to his credit, he believed me and was even enjoying catching the smaller wild fish. Myself, I was enjoying getting a bit of an inside view as to how a outdoors show gets made, at least on the production end.
We ate a lazy lunch, lounging in the shade, relaxing, swapping fishing stories and getting acquainted a bit more. Jed and I, noting that the bigger fish had all eaten nymphs decided to go down and dirty for the rest of the day with a tandem nymph rig under an indicator. The smaller fish continued to attack the flies and I was getting a bit despondent, we needed a bigger fish to come out for some watersports. Our perseverance was eventually rewarded when a chunky redside grabbed, (what else?), a #8 Possie Bugger. Naturally, it ate when Jake wasn’t rolling but taking a few stills with my camera. I think the other camera boat captured the take-down though. A couple times Jed thought the fish was ready for the net only to take another hot run.
We landed the trout and Jed admired it’s combination of beauty and power seeing right away why we’d like to see the river managed to optimize production of this magnificent fish. He noted how big, healthy and beautiful it was but also told me that the fish was punching way above its weight class, that it fought with strength and spirit beyond its size. The Montana outfitter was clearly impressed by the Mckenzie redside. This was the cast:
Once we had a bigger fish, our fishing became faster and there was a bit of a sense of mission accomplished, I was much more at ease and our talk turned to managment issues on the Mckenzie River. I did my best to express my opinion while being fair to opposing viewpoints and ODFW, giving credit when due, criticism when appropriate in my view and not mentioning anyone or any group, except ours by name. That is, after all, why we were there.
It started with a bang. As Chris and I readied our boats and the crew prepared for the shoot we were approached by a gentleman. His emotions clearly had the better of him and he yelled at us. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” This was repeated several times to apparently little avail . Chris calmy tried explaining his concerns for the wild fish. Our calm demeanor did little to calm this fellow. He informed us that we are “a bunch of girls.” Um, no. By the way, it’s 2010.
The crew was pleased get some insight into what we are up against. Having no stocked fish in Montana moving waters they found the assertion that reducing or eliminating stocking over a number of years would be the “end of guiding” interesting but puzzling. I think it was a bit hard for them to fathom until then how passionate someone can get over hatchery trout. You learn something every day I guess.
We went fishing with Chris guiding and me running the camera boat. Again the fishing was active with tons of 6-10 inch fish eating both dries and nymphs. In some heavy water Jed hooked a good redside and they pulled over to do battle but as happens so often up there, the fish came unbuttoned in the current.
Beautiful water, good fish, some good company and a good cause. Good times.
I want to thank all of the wild trout advocates in our community, the Trout Unlimited staff, host Jed Fiebelkorn, the crew of Barrett Productions, Chris Daughters and everyone else who worked to make this a reality. ‘On the Rise’ airs on the Sportsman Channel. It is available locally and the segment on the Mckenzie will air sometime during the 2011 season. We’ll keep you posted.–KM