Report from the Big Hole River

The cottonwoods in the Big Hole Valley are on fire, the brown trout are copper colored and spawning; it must be fall. We ended our season at Craig Fellin Outfitters & Big Hole Lodge fishing hoppers, small mayflies, and streamers. The mornings have been frosty and the fishing gets better as the day progresses. For the past few weeks we have been fishing at mid-morning and staying out late. On the great days the tricos were thick in the sun and the blue winged olives came off when the clouds rolled in. On the marginal days…

Written by: Wade Fellin, Big Hole Lodge

The cottonwoods in the Big Hole Valley are on fire, and the brown trout are copper colored and spawning; it must be fall. We ended our season at Craig Fellin Outfitters & Big Hole Lodge fishing hoppers, small mayflies, and streamers. The mornings have been frosty, and the fishing gets better as the day progresses. For the past few weeks, we have been fishing at mid-morning and staying out late. On the great days the tricos were thick in the sun, and the blue winged olives came off when the clouds rolled in. On the marginal days the wind blew, and the bugs never hit the water so we fished streamers.

Despite the shortage of snow last winter, the Big Hole had a great water year. The rainfall was above average, and the temperatures stayed abnormally low, resulting in thick hatches and very healthy fish. The rain in June brought the water to record levels, and where we would normally be fishing salmon flies, we were stuck fishing nymphs. The hatch was thin, and the fish were back in the willows out of reach. However, the yellow stonefly hatch that follows its giant cousin was better than it has been in years and lasted well into July.  The other hatches were pushed back one to two weeks due to the weather, but the fish have really benefited from all the water. Now the brownies are in full spawning color as our Indian summer comes to a close and the chill of fall sets in. We are bracing for a cold winter and hoping for heavy snowfall to charge the river for next summer.

Big Hole
A Big Hole brown trout
Craig Fellin, Owner Craig Fellin Outfitters and Big Hole Lodge

Our head guide, Chuck Ravetta, is back in West Yellowstone–fishing, golfing, and looking forward to his annual three-month fishing trip in New Zealand and Tasmania. Chuck Page is guiding hunting trips in the Pioneer Mountains.  Rick Rossi is heading the math department at Montana Tech and teaching statistics. Craig Fellin is cutting wood, fishing, and photographing wildlife.  I am driving the chef, Lanette, back to Redding, California, and then fishing in Glacier Park and Belize.

Thank you everyone for a wonderful season; we really appreciate your interest and support.  Pray for snow and keep in touch!

Wade Fellin manges and guides for Craig Fellin Outfitters & Big Hole Lodge.

 

Montana Journal

Fished out of Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge today. Up before light, even though out West the norm is to start about 9 or 10 AM. It’s hard to get out of Eastern habits that go back thirty years, so Gary and I are sipping coffee by the stone fireplace at 6:30 AM. Hubbard’s Lodge is perched up on a ridge in the Tom Miner Basin of Montana’s Paradise Valley, and at first light the Yellowstone River down below wends its way north out of the Park, lit up by the early sun…

Written by: Eric Rickstad, Managing Editor

Fished out of Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge
today. Up before light, even though out West the norm is to start about 9 or 10 AM. It’s hard to get out of Eastern habits that go back thirty years, so Gary and I are sipping coffee by the stone fireplace at 6:30 AM. Hubbard’s Lodge is perched up on a ridge in the Tom Miner Basin of Montana’s Paradise Valley, and at first light the Yellowstone River down below wends its way north out of the Park, lit up by the early sun so it looks like a skein of molten silver running out of the earth. Fog lifting. Sun burning through. Hubbard’s serves up a grand hot breakfast, but we settle for the hot coffee and cereal and toast slathered with the best homemade jams I’ve ever had, and head out. 

A cold front moved in a couple days ago and even the famed rivers in the region, the Yellowstone, Big Hole, and Madison, are “off” from the crazy, hot-weather hopper action they’d just seen. We drive down into the valley, the fog so thick we have to drive at 25 MPH to avoid hitting the mule deer forever jumping out to cross the road.

Outside Livingston, MT
Gary Martineau fishes a bend on a small tributary to the Yellowstone River
Eric Rickstad

Today, we fish a tributary to the Yellowstone River that runs out of the foothills. As the day warms and the sun breaks out, native cutts start to take our hoppers and the droppers behind them. The trib snakes and winds, bend after bend after bend, riffle-run-pool. The water is green, like the Yellowstone itself. Cold too. 52°. Blowdowns and cut banks and back eddies and bubble lines taunt us daylong. Just when you think you’ve never seen better trout water, you look upstream to see it: better trout water. It pulls us along, Gary and I. Draws us farther upstream. We don’t even think to stop to eat “lunch” until 6:30 PM. The fishing is not lights out. It’s steady, though. And the fish are fat and wild and make us work for them. Which makes it somehow better than those days where the fishing is so great it really seems to have nothing to do with what you fish or how you fish.

Bear track in Montana
Bear track in Montana
Eric Rickstad

By day’s end we’re exhausted.

Driving back to Hubbard’s at dusk, the mulies and whitetails are back in the fields, appearing out of the cottonwoods like ghosts. 

Gary says, “Slow down, let me get a picture of these antelope up here.”

I slow down as he takes the shot. 

“Missed it,” he says.

“There’ll be others,” I say.

He nods. That’s true. There will be.

“We should figure out where we’re going to fish tomorrow,” he says.

I nod. That’s true too.

“Right after we have a beer,” he says.

As I turn off Route 89, up toward Tom Miner Basin, toward Hubbard’s where a delicious dinner awaits, I realize that back home in Vermont, it’s 5:15 PM. Being a Thursday, I’d just be getting out of work from a day at my desk about now.

 

 

 

Unconventional Dog Training

Come autumn, I have the best job in the world. As a bird hunting guide for PRO Outfitters in Central Montana, I spend 28 days a month with my dogs walking rolling hills under a big sky, looking for wild sharptail grouse, Hungarian partridge, and ring-neck pheasant. My dogs are ideal co-workers: every morning their eyes light up when they see me, and they can’t wait to get to work. Bird hunters know that few things compare to the bond you share with your dog in the field. And nothing compares to watching your young pointing dog gain confidence, put the pieces together, and finally “get it.”

Written by: Simon Perkins, Pro Outfitters

Come autumn, I have the best job in the world.  As a bird hunting guide for PRO Outfitters in Central Montana, I spend 28 days a month with my dogs walking rolling hills under a big sky, looking for wild sharptail grouse, Hungarian partridge, and ring-neck pheasant.  My dogs are ideal co-workers: every morning their eyes light up when they see me, and they can’t wait to get to work.

Bird hunters know that few things compare to the bond you share with your dog in the field.  And nothing compares to watching your young pointing dog gain confidence, put the pieces together, and finally “get it.” When it comes to training pointing dogs, nothing’s black and white, but I’d like to share an alternative approach to training. Now, I’m in no way a dog-training guru. I train my own dogs, and I am proud of them. But  there are many professional trainers I respect who subscribe to more conventional methods. I also know my job means that I get to spend much more time in the field with my dogs than the average hunter who may work a five-day week and squeeze in hunts whenever possible.

Often, the average hunter needs to research highly-regarded kennels, buy an English pointer, setter, or Brittany, and dream about it growing into the ideal hunting companion. Then they find a reputable trainer and send their dog to “boot camp” in order to be ready for the season.  Most dog trainers I know do a superb job under a short timeline.

But ever since I started working for PRO Outfitters, I found myself using a more unorthodox method modeled by my bosses and fellow guides.  Maybe it’s because our dogs sleep in our beds with us at night.  Or maybe it is because we have seen too many dogs come out to hunt with us who are slightly tentative and “hunting not to make mistakes.”

In Montana, upland bird hunters cover a lot of ground and they need a dog willing to get out there and work the terrain.  A dog that looks to simply follow orders will struggle.  When training young dogs, our priority is building confidence.

Unlike labs, a pointing dog’s hunting spirit can be broken at an early age, sometimes beyond repair.  We keep it simple throughout the entire first year. We get them out in the field, let them run with the big dogs, build up enthusiasm, bust through wild coveys, and cause havoc until they are tripping over their tongues, looking up at us with big happy eyes. We introduce them to the word “whoa,” whether it is making them wait before eating their food, getting in and out of vehicles, or playing in the back yard.  We use the locating beeper function on their collars in the field to initiate a form of communication.  We run them with the older dogs and watch them study and try to mimic the routines of their older counterparts. But we keep our thumbs off the “nick” button, maintain an enthusiastic voice, and prevent the pups from developing any negative connotation with the act of bird hunting.

Once the dogs have arrived at or around that twelve-month mark, their blood is pumping with enthusiasm, confidence, joy, and desire when it comes to anything having to do with birds, leaving you with a perfect foundation upon which to mold, direct, and discipline in the ways of pointing.

I like to always remind myself of the power behind a pointing dog’s instincts.  I know there are certain inherent hunting traits that I cannot teach a dog, and I love creating an environment that helps pups develop these attributes on their own.   It demands much time and patience, but one thing is for certain: it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Dog Food 101

Most dog owners get very excited when they get a new puppy or dog and really do not take the time or do the research to understand the dog food options that are available to them. If you are picking up a puppy, you most likely have a brief conversation about food with the breeder and maybe walk away understanding how much food you need to feed your pup and how often. Your focus is on developing a relationship with your new pup and introducing your pup to its new environment.

Written by: Mike Quartararo




Many new dog owners get very excited when they get a new
puppy or dog and really do not take the time or do the research to understand
the dog food options that are available to them. If you are picking up a puppy,
you most likely have a brief conversation about food with the breeder and maybe
walk away understanding how much food you need to feed your pup and how often.
Your focus is on developing a relationship with your new pup and introducing
your pup to its new environment. My suggestion would be to do some research on
dog food and puppy food and gain an understanding of the benefits of some of
the developments in dog nutrition that have recently taken place. Do this
research before you pick up your pup or new dog so that you can devote more of
your time to your new pal when he or she becomes a new member of your family.

 

Finding the right food for your dog requires a bit of effort
and experimentation, and should be an ongoing process. There are many different
types of food on the market today and almost all of them have different
ingredients and different concentrations of nutritional ingredients. I have
chosen to comment on this topic in general terms, as there are lots of strong
opinions out there about dog foods and their nutritional value. I am not going
to engage in this debate but will offer some information that will help you
better understand what you’re up against. Dog food ingredients are listed on
the label…but the makers neglect to mention how much of each ingredient is
actually in the food. Therefore, you have to review the ingredients and
understand that ingredients in dog foods are listed in order of their weight –
so the heaviest ingredients, those that make up the largest portion of the
food, are listed first.

 

It is generally believed that in most cases when evaluating
dog foods, “you get what you pay for.” The better quality ingredients typically
are more expensive and drive up the price of the food. It is best to look for
foods that first list ingredients that are easily digestible by the dog and
contain the right proteins like eggs, chicken, fish, meat. This will ensure
that you’re giving your dog a food that will provide the right kind of
nutritional content.

 

It is also important to understand that you need to know
your dog and its nutritional needs as your dog develops. No single dog food
formula will be absolutely right for your dog for the totality of its life. Your
dog will require different food formulas at different stages of its life.
Choose a dog food that is nutritionally matched to your dog age and activity
level. For example, a highly active dog or a working dog/sporting dog will
require a different nutritional formula than a senior dog or overweight dog.

 

I have first hand experience recently with changing food
formulas when I switched food for my five-year old Labrador, Wally. I had noticed
that he appeared to have dry skin and was shedding a lot. He also had gained a
little weight, but that could have been due to the fact that my two-year old
daughter was supplementing his diet with animal crackers and anything else that
hit the floor. I had been feeding Wally a standard grocery store brand of food
 with fairly low quality ingredients, and
after talking with some people, I switched higher grade Large Breed Adult
Formula.

 

I have to honestly say that my wife and I noticed a
significant difference in Wally after about three to four weeks on this new
diet. His coat was much more healthy looking and shiny, and his skin was no
longer dry. We also were able to actually feed him less (quantity) by half a
cup per day, as the other food had more filler in it and less nutritional
value. We will also continue to try other formulas as Wally moves through
different stages of his life.

 

I would urge you to review the ingredients in the food that
you are feeding your dog, and if you can afford a higher quality food with high
quality ingredients, get your dog on one. Matching your dog’s activity level
and condition to it food is the best possible nutritional scenario for your
dog. Feeding your dog a food that has high quality ingredients is a really a
goal that all dog owners should strive for. I will continue to feed Wally
higher quality branded dog foods as their worth has been proven to me.




The Orvis Gun Room

Ever since Orvis began selling guns in the early 1970’s, when we introduced the Orvis Wingshooting Schools, we’ve offered custom-fitted shotguns along with our completely handmade side-by-side shotguns. The custom-fitted shotgun program, unique to Orvis, provides the shooter a gun built to the shooter’s individual measurements. These measurements are taken by our skilled gun-fitters to insure your gun fits your specific build perfectly and, most importantly, shoots where you point.

Written by: John Rano, Orvis Gun Room Manager

Ever since Orvis began selling guns in the early 1970’s, when we introduced the Orvis Wingshooting Schools, we’ve offered custom-fitted shotguns along with our completely handmade side-by-side shotguns. The custom-fitted shotgun program, unique to Orvis, provides the shooter a gun built to the shooter’s individual measurements. These measurements are taken by our skilled gun-fitters to insure your gun fits your specific build perfectly and, most importantly, shoots where you point.

While the custom programs remain the core of our gun business, we have expanded our shotgun offerings to encompass the Orvis Field Grade shotgun, available in over-and-under and side-by-side models in all gauges except 16; Caesar Guerini guns of the highest quality and beauty for production guns, viewable at our Flagship store in Manchester, Vermont or at our shooting grounds at Sandanona in Millbrook, New York; and our pre-owned English-made side-by-side guns of outstanding value, fully inspected by the Orvis in house gunsmith with 30+ years of experience.

We’ve been busy at the Orvis Gun Room expanding our assortment to insure that we have an assortment of guns whether you are a seasoned or novice clays or wingshooter. Check out the Orvis web site, visit one of our two locations, call (802) 362-2589 or email me, John Rano, Orvis Gun Room Manager, at ranoj@orvis.com and I’ll help you find the shotgun just right for you.