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We have another FREE online-issue lined up for you. This one is loaded with amazing
imagery supplied by some incredibly talented local photographers and artists. We
also have some solid written work too on Fall brown trout tactics, fly tying, and even
a piece outside our region as we sometimes like to add, this time Alaska. So, be sure
and check them all out.
If you enjoyed reading the investigative article in our Spring 2017 issue, about Big
Sky Resort and the developers’ plans to discharge effluent into the Gallatin (an idea
which has been recently nixed by TU, American Rivers, and GYC) get ready; as we
have another one for you. This time the subject is on the Yellowstone River fishkills,
which began in 2016, causing FWP to close a 183-mile stretch of the river that
summer, then a secondary, unexplained, kill in summer of 2017. While some have
written this off as a naturally occurring event, the kills remain scientifically unsolved.
New information gathered by Montana Fly Fishing Magazine reveals interesting and
never before released information about this event. We also interview a 30-year
expert on bryozoans and PKD* in trout, and what is revealed will be surprising to
To top it off, we’re beginning an online campaign to independently bring in this
expert and his team to conduct extensive research on the Yellowstone, in July of
2018. You too can be a part of this unprecedented endeavor by donating toward
We’ve always remained a FREE online-magazine and never actively requested
donations from our subscribers. Today, however, we do request that you go to the
Go Fund Me account, provided at the article’s conclusion, and give as generously as
you can toward this unique PKD research project. All proceeds collected online go to
the research team and the proposed project.
It’s important to our western rivers that we gather more scientific data, by actual
experts in the field, on what potentially caused the largest fish-kill in Montana’s
Publisher / Montana Fly Fishing Magazine
*PKD refers to Prolific Kidney Disease
Montana Fly Fishing Magazine
Volume 6 Issue 1
Senior Editor:Greg Lewis
Stephen C. Hinch
Stacey Schad Randall
General Inquiries and Submissions:
Cover Image: Zach Clothier
tos By Ed Coyle Photography
Harrison Lake, Self Portrait. Image By George Kalantzes
St Marys Lake. Image By George Kalantzes
SPECIALIZING IN LANDSCAPE
AND SCENIC PHOTOGRAPHY
8 Tips for
Written by Ehren Wells
Photo: Charlie Smith
When to go.
The best time to begin fishing for fall browns can vary slightly from year to
year but is generally found from mid-September through October, after the
crowds have pretty much cleared out for the year and the fall colors have
reached their prime. If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone country, be aware
that fall weather here is on a different timeline from that of much of the state,
bringing early ice and road closures, so it is advisable to plan to fish earlier
rather than later in the fall.
Know your boundaries.
Before planning your fall brown trout excursion, it is a good idea to familiarize
yourself with the park boundaries. You will need to buy a separate license for
the either side of the boundary you wish to fish – a Montana license won’t cover
you in the Park and vice-versa – and each side of the boundary has its own
regulations covering harvest, possession, and gear requirements.
Playing the weather game.
Slow down, stay warm. Fall air temperatures in and around the park generally
run 10-20F cooler than Bozeman and Ennis, with nighttime temps often
dipping into the teens and twenties. Weather cycles and road conditions
also can be dramatically different. You could leave bluebird skies in town and
drive into a blizzard near your destination.
As the saying goes, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It’s easier to
remove a layer than it is to put on a layer you forgot to bring with you. Even if
I don’t plan on wearing them, I often carry an extra pair or two of my warmest
socks,a warm hat, and long underwear, and a heavy winter jacket to go under
my waders if I get too cold. It is also not a bad idea to keep a spare change of
warm dry clothes in the vehicle in the event of an unexpected plunge.
Perhaps everyone’s worst pet peeve this time of year is ice in the rod guides.
Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done to curtail this time-sucking
line-grabbing menace. Solutions range from applying a coat of Vaseline or
Pam cooking spray to your line and guides to just flat staying home. My solution
is to hit the water anyway and take time to dunk the affected guides in
the water and swish the rod back and forth a few times to melt the ice, and
perhaps crunching it away with my fingertips if that seems to be taking too
long. The same technique can be used to free an ice-bound reel, although
submerging a reel in sub-freezing conditions can put the brakes on the spool
in a hurry, locking your setup into an impromptu Tenkara mode… not exactly
the ideal situation for tackling a beefy brown on 50 feet of line.
Matching the rod (not just the fly) to the hatch.
For most applications, a nine-foot five- or six-weight single-hand rod will work
just fine. However, since the topic here is targeting larger than average prespawn
browns, there are some things to consider when gearing up for a
If you plan to focus on nymphing, you might look for a 10-foot with medium action
and good sensitivity. An extra foot of rod length can help cover more water
with each cast, and lift more line off the water to eliminate drag.
If you plan to chuck sizeable streamers at pocket water and behind structure
“bank robber” style with your single-hander, consider going up a weight class
or two to a 7, 8, or even 9-weight. A bit more backbone will handle the larger
flies and lessen the time it takes to haul that bruiser to the net.
If making long casts is your game, consider fishing with a two-hander, like a
switch rod or a short (11’-13’) Spey rod. Spey casting strokes allow for greater
distance when bank vegetation limits your backcast. A minimum of a
6-weight two-hander is recommended for throwing streamers, consider a
9- or 10-weight for handling heavy articulated patterns. Two-handed rods
can also be rigged for nymphing. Long-belly “Speydicator” lines allow for
extremely long drag-free drifts. Being on the longer side as opposed to most
single-handers, and two-handed rod allows you to fish and retrieve a longer
nymphing leader without the necessity of beaching your catch in order to land
Feeding those hungry browns.
Fall browns are notorious for being hungry and aggressive, meaning they can
be targeted with dry flies, nymphs, and streamers.
Dry fly: Greater Yellowstone in the fall can provide a world-class level of dryfly
action. Often times, as temperatures rise in the afternoons and evenings,
midges and mayflies can hatch to the point that the fish will feed on little else.
It is not uncommon to find a pod of a dozen or more fish exceeding 18” chowing
down on these insects. Bringing one of these fish to hand can be highly
challenging but also highly rewarding. It often takes time to discern exactly
what the fish are keyed into, though varying midges, Parachute Adams, BWOs,
and Callibaetis are good starter flies. You might identify four or more insects
present in the feeding lane, but only one imitation will work, forcing you to try
multiple patterns/combinations before dialing it in. Conditions may also force
you to put effort into getting the presentation and placement right. A foot one
side or the other of a lane might be asking a trout to go too far out of its way.
The slightest ripple or v-shape from drag can ruin your drift.
Nymphs / Subsurface: If you’re looking to land a number of fish, with the idea
being that the more you land the better your odds that a few will be larger
than average, then nymphing is likely your best bet. Golden stones, like Pat’s
Rubberlegs, Copper Johns, Pheasant tail nymphs, Prince nymphs, and Hare’s
ear nymphs, and San Juan worms should be in every angler’s fly box.
Streamers: For many, fall brown trout fishing is synonymous with streamer
fishing, and by and large these are indeed the best patterns for singling out
large and aggressive pre-spawn brown trout. If you’re fishing a lightweight
single-hand rod, single-hook streamers (Baitfish Emulator, Gonga, Sasquatch,
Kreelex) are most effective. Heavier setups are needed for articulated flies
(Circus Peanut, Sex Dungeon, Drunk ‘N Disorderly, etc). Streamers come in an
array of colors, and if you go to buy these flies at the fly shop, you can empty
your wallet in a hurry. To narrow down your selection, I’ve found it best to stick
with natural colors. It may be somewhat ironic to point out that the best colors
for catching big brown trout are often those you find in a baby brown trout
(yellow, orange, brown, etc). I don’t know if there are scientific papers on this,
but my feeling is that patterns with eyes get better results.
A sink tip (T-6 to T-11) or some split shot placed a few inches away from the fly
can help drop a streamer into the strike zone quickly – an essential component
to success when conducting a vigorous “seek and destroy” mission down the
Be bear aware.
Whether you’re headed out for a week or an hour, it’s important to remember
that this is bear country. The bears don’t care if you are “only fishing,” and
Fall is primetime for grizzly and black bear activity. Just a few weeks ago, a
resident outside of West Yellowstone shot and killed a grizzly that came onto
his porch looking to make lunch of the freshly killed elk he had hanging in the
garage. The same rules apply to fishing as with hiking and backpacking: travel
with partners, make noise (particularly where visibility is low), keep your food
in storage when you’re not cooking or eating it, carry bear spray and know
how to use it. These precautions can certainly help minimize your encounters
with a bear, and they can help you keep distances between you and other species
that can do you harm if too close. These include bison, elk, moose, and
even river otters.
For those who live to fish in southwest Montana during the fall one of
the allures, beyond the hope of landing a big feisty brown, is taking time
to enjoy the scenery and be part of the landscape. These days it can be
tough to find solitude, so don’t be surprised if you arrive at your dream
hole to find another angler fishing through it. On the flip-side, you might
be blissfully lost in your fishing, content that you’ve got the hole all to
yourself, when another party shows up and tries to muscle in.
When deciding what to do in these situations, consider what is needed to
preserve the quality of the experience for all involved. Even if it appears
obvious that you both have plenty of room to fish, it is considered courteous
to announce your intention or ask your fellow sportsman if he’s alright
with your stepping in. Likewise, if you’ve already put good time in, it’s
considered good form to allow a little room. Low-holing, or stepping in below
and angler within reach of where he’s fishing, or where he soon might
be fishing, is almost never considered acceptable stream-side etiquette.
It’s better to begin at the top of a hole or run and then fish down, the assumption
being that downstream anglers have already fished through.
If you find it difficult to fish a stretch effectively without someone interfering
with your cast or presentation (or your interfering with someone
else’s), consider stepping back and allowing the other angler(s) a turn. If
push comes to shove, move to another stretch up or down stream; or go
back to your vehicle and try putting some miles between you.
Where to find them
Big browns can be found almost anywhere in the fall, but some places are
more likely than others. Riffles likely aren’t your best bet, though it’s never a
bad idea to hit a bucket if it looks just right. Give these places a knock on the
door and move on if nobody’s home. The same can be said of structure. Any
structure that lies in slow water or slows the water down, like a protruding log,
a boulder, or an undercut bank, can hold a brown looking to ambush its prey.
These spots can and do often hold big browns, but don’t spend too much time
in any one spot. Instead, it’s best to focus on deeper, slow-moving water,either
in the form of deep hole, say at the end of a bend, or a long, steady run with a
distinct separation in water speeds at the seam.
PATAGONIA • SIMMS
KORKERS • WINSTON
TENKARA • TFO
REDDINGTON • HATCH
ABEL • ECHO • SAGE
GUIDING • TRAVEL
1682 S. Vista Ave • Boise
Montana Fly Fishing Magazine interview
on the subject of what caused the u
Written by Greg Lewis, Publisher
s a 30-Year Expert in Bryozoans and PKD,
nsolved fish-kill from 2016-2017
By most guide and outfitter
accounts the Yellowstone
River has recovered from
the year-long event from
2016 to 2017, and in some
cases as far as fishing goes
anglers are catching more
trout per-mile than whitefish
in the past. So why revisit
this unfortunate episode in
our state’s past, some might
…Because the event still
What we know:
In the summer of 2016 the Yellowstone River began experiencing the largest
recorded fish-kill in Montana state history. This unprecedented event caused the Fish
Wildlife and Parks Department to close the river for a 183-mile stretch, as well as all
its’ tributaries for over a two-month period during peak fishing season. This extensive
closure resulted in a loss of angling and area tourism business totaling over $500,000.
What we didn’t realize at the time:
Contrary to multiple articles in the local and national press through misinformation
provided by Region- 3 FWP, anglers across the globe were led to believe that only
native whitefish were killed by the tens-of-thousands in the original event during the
river-closure in summer of 2016. This is untrue. Thousands of rainbow, cutthroat,
and brown trout, were also decimated during this episode, as the unexplained kill-off
carried on throughout the winter and lasted well into the summer of 2017.
This new information was revealed within internal reports and research-work
conducted by FWP over the past 16 months, obtained by Montana Fly Fishing
Magazine, through special-request in January 2018.
Timing - August 2016:
At the time of the initial fish-kill in August of 2016, I was living in Big
Sky fulltime. There we had recently experienced what a river looks
like only months earlier, in this case the Gallatin, when on April 2015,
30-million-gallons of muddy wastewater spilled out of an effluent pond
discoloring the river for over 50 miles. Information had materialized
soon afterward amongst those in the conservation community about
the potential for direct-discharge in the near future; so, my focus as a
journalist was on effluent, capacity-issues, and treatment.
Given that mindset while I was reading the news of the Yellowstone
river-closure, I began to wonder if the fish-kill might be related to the
upcoming 100 th Anniversary of Yellowstone National Park and the
anticipated 1-million visitors?
I asked myself a basic mathematical question, how could the small
rural-facility designed for 1,800 local Gardiner residents be handling the
volumes of raw wastewater being produced, by what had already been
estimated to be an arriving 900K in tourists annually, over the previous
I did some preliminary research online and realized the Gardiner plant
was renovated in 2012, advertised as state of the art at the time, yet
and it was designed for 600,000 annual visitors. The plant has not been
expanded since that time, to adjust for the significant increase in tourism
I then began looking into bryozoans and Prolific Kidney Disease in fish
species (PKD) online. After a couple days of research, I came up with a
name of an expert in the field of “bryozoans and PKD in trout” - the very
culprit FWP was now blaming on the massive fish-kill occurring. Since
there appeared to be very few scientists dedicated to this field of research,
I emailed Dr. Timothy Wood and after a brief introduction, I asked him this
Q) Is it possible, in your professional opinion, the wastewater treatment
plant in Gardiner inadvertently flushed some type of bryozoans into the
river over the few weeks leading up to the initial fish-kill in August 2016;
inadvertently causing this event?
Twenty-four hours later, this was his reply appearing in my in-box:
A) The short answer is: Definitely yes, the
discharge of nutrient-rich water at Gardiner
could be an important factor in the spread
of PKD downstream.Some bryozoans
do thrive in wastewater plants, and it is
conceivable that the plant in Gardiner is
discharging statoblasts or live bryozoan
Whether or not this is really happening, and
if so whether those bryozoans are infected
with PKD are things we could easily check.
I then followed-up with this question:
Q) FWP originally stated the bryozoan and PKD parasite was “an invasive
species, likely introduced by an angler or boater” and that “the fish in the
Yellowstone River were naive to it”. Does this sound accurate?
A) Bryozoans and their associated PKD parasites have probably been in
the Yellowstone River since the last glaciation.
In general, the infection rates are thought to be low and hardly
noticeable. If the latest fish kill was really caused by PKD the most
likely reasons would include: (1) Increase in the infection rate among
bryozoans, (2) increase in the bryozoan population, (3) a lowered
resistance to infection among fish, and (4) a change in the virulence of
Dr. Timothy Wood has published over 60 scientific papers, books, and book chapters on
* Named 26 species of bryozoans;
* Conducted full bryozoan surveys in Ohio, Illinois, Britain, Ireland, Panama and Thailand;
* Published the first molecular genetic phylogeny of freshwater bryozoans;
* Currently serving as elected President of the International Bryozoology Association.
An FWP Introduction Gone Wrong
This information (above) shared by Dr. Tim Wood, was then immediately
relayed to FWP officials at the public meeting in Livingston on August 24
2016. The meeting was designed for FWP to explain the river-closure and
was attended by over 300 concerned locals, a senator, and news media.
About 20 minutes before it began I spoke to Sam Shepard, who was at the
time Region 3 Supervisor, as well as Dr. Eileen Ryce. I read the information
that the expert had said “the bryozoan and parasite have been in our rivers
for hundreds of years and are commonly transported by waterfowl”, thus
impossible to control. They both openly dismissed my input, then went on
stage to further spread a false narrative riddled with multiple inaccurate
statements, as to what was occurring on the river.
All attempted connections afterward between actual experts on bryozoans
and Region 3 FWP, were dismissed in 2016.
After reading countless articles filled with false information between Region
3 Fisheries and the press, as well as a second fish-kill occurring in the
summer of 2017, (when recorded-flows were higher and water temps much
colder), I decided to conduct this in-depth interview.
– What is a Bryozoan?
“moss animals”) are small, invertebrate animals that
grow as branching colonies attached to submerged surfaces.
Often they resemble brown moss or plant roots and so they
attract little attention. Using tufts of ciliated tentacles
they feed on microscopic particles in the water. In turn,
they provide food and shelter for insect larvae that help
support fish populations. Bryozoans occur in lakes and
rivers worldwide as a normal part of any healthy freshwater
Q) Would bryozoans be considered an “invasive species” such as zebra
A) No, not at all. The bryozoans harboring PKD are well established
across five continents. They occur throughout North America, especially
in cold, flowing waters like the Yellowstone River. By contrast, zebra
mussels invaded North America from Europe about 30 years ago and we
are now seeing them move across southern Asia - a true invasive species.
Q) How is the bryozoan most commonly spread from river to river and
commercial bodies of water?
A) Most freshwater bryozoans produce dormant capsules about the size
of a period in newsprint. Called statoblasts, these can survive freezing,
drying, and other harsh conditions. We know that statoblasts are
easily transported by waterfowl - on the feet, feathers, and even in the
digestive tract. However, I have found bryozoans in glacial lakes at high
elevations where waterfowl seldom go, and I have no idea how they got
Q) Besides your 30+ years as a professor at Wright University in Ohio, you
also own and operate a commercial company called: Bryo Technologies,
which routinely treats certain commercial facilities of bryozoan outbreaks.
(www.bryotechnologies.com). What types of problems can bryozoans cause
inside these facilities and what does your company do to stop the spread?
A) The problems we fix begin when water from a lake or river is drawn
through a pipeline. Very soon things are growing on the inner pipeline
walls. Among these are zebra mussels, which most people know, but
there are also bryozoans, hydroids, peritrichs, sponges, and other
unfamiliar aquatic pests. They can completely block a pipeline, or if
they break loose they can clog equipment.
This is what we deal with, and it is a very common problem. Every
situation is unique, but over the years we have developed a variety of
successful methods to handle them.
Q) How many years have you been studying bryozoans and their association
with Prolific kidney disease in trout species?
A) As a graduate student in Colorado in 1968, I discovered a way to
grow bryozoans in the laboratory. One of the species I worked with was
Fredericella, which is now known to be the primary carrier of PKD. In
those days I knew nothing of PKD but I did notice tiny, sac-like things
moving around inside the bryozoans, very likely the PKD parasite itself.
Years later I collaborated with Dr. Beth Okamura to study myxozoan
parasites in bryozoans, which led directly to discovering the link
between these parasites and PKD in salmonid fish.
Q) What is the relationship between PKD and bryozoans?
A) PKD is essentially a bryozoan disease. Bryozoans with PKD can
infect other bryozoans, they can infect the next generation of bryozoans,
and they can also (accidentally) infect salmonid fish.
Fish with PKD cannot pass the disease to other fish, they can only reinfect
bryozoans. So, without infected bryozoans there would be no
PKD in fish.
Q) In spring of 2017, FWP reported they found an entire larger age-class
of trout missing from the Yellowstone river in roughly the same general
location as 2016 year’s fish kill*. While they initially reported that the public
shouldn’t make the connection to last year’s event, given ice scourging and
possibly it being a cyclical event was to blame, now that we experienced
another fish-kill this past year, isn’t it plausible that we’re actually
experiencing a PKD event still unfolding?
A) It does seem unlikely that there would be a single isolated PKD
event without the effects rippling into the following years. But I would
emphasize that we know little about how PKD operates in the natural
world. Most of the research so far has been clinical, not ecological.
Regrettably, there are no PKD data from the Yellowstone River in years
prior to the recent fish kills.
Records provided by FWP in 2018 show “a population decline, of as
many as 50% in all trout species”: Brown, rainbow, and cutthroat occurred
between 2016-2017 on the most impacted stretches due to PKD. This
information was verified in more detail within FWP’s internal records and
research work, which was obtained by Montana Fly Fishing Magazine in
Q) In your scientific research could a substantial increase in arsenic, which
was being introduced to the wastewater facility in Gardiner, have any impact
on the bryozoans present?
A) Possibly, but the fish would be affected even more.
It was revealed in an article published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Oct. 20, 2017 that
“high levels of arsenic were found in the district’s sewage treatment facilities”, originating from
a leaking pipeline in YNP. This has now resulted in a $2-million-dollar lawsuit. According to the
complaint an engineer told the district in February 2015 that high levels of the odorless chemical
were entering the treatment facility. The engineer also said that 95 percent of the arsenic was
coming from Yellowstone, and testing showed the park’s sewage had levels nearly 40 times that
of Gardiner sewage.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality had directed the district to empty the ponds,
but the engineer recommended they wait to do so until the park fixed its arsenic problems,
according to the complaint. The Gardiner treatment facility legally and routinely discharges its
treated effluent into the Yellowstone River. Source: Link
Second Recorded Fish Kill – August 2017
Q) Is it possible that the theory which FWP reported as recently as August
2017, “that the bryozoan colony, or host, was swept below last years’ killsite
during ice-out”, and now this is why the 2017 fish-kill occurred 20 miles
A) No, this does not strike me as very plausible. Most freshwater
bryozoans overwinter in the form of dormant statoblasts attached firmly
to rocks. It is unlikely that these would be significantly affected by ice-out.
Q) In your experiences treating wastewater facilities and nuclear cooling ponds
for bryozoan outbreaks how does the bryozoan grow to some problematic
proportions and what does your team do to stop it from recurring?
A) Many bryozoans grow best with continuously flowing water and
plentiful food. To control these populations, we use a variety of chemical
and nonchemical tools, all depending on the species, water chemistry, and
characteristics of the site. There is no single solution that works in every
Q) At the heart of the 2016 fish-kill and where biologists also located dead whitefish
again in 2017, a vital tributary, or artery known as Mill Creek, has long since been cutoff
from reaching the river due to ranchers’ diverting 100% of its spring and summer
That much lower volume, (if any) which does eventually enter the river, after usage for
commercial scale agriculture is then from irrigation ditches or leaching along the edges
of fields; with fertilizers mixed within the water. Could this be a possible factor in the
spread or bloom of bryozoan colonies, and a potential cause of PKD outbreaks in the
A) Possibly. We do know that elevated nutrient levels in the water promote
strong growth in bryozoans. Whether this also promotes higher infection rates by
PKD parasites is not known.
Q) Could a wastewater plant performing a by-pass, either authorized or unauthorized,
and sending into the river system untreated sewage be the cause of the bryozoan/PKD
A) Yes. It has been shown that the nutrients from wastewater have a positive
effect on the growth of bryozoans, including the species that carries PKD.
Q) There were reports by FWP in May 2017, of “septic shock as the cause of death
in whitefish in the hardest hit areas of the 2016 fish-kill”. Does this sound correct?
Have you or colleagues ever experienced or witnessed anything on this scale before in
hatcheries or in nature?
A) I am not aware of any instance where a massive release of PKD spores
resulted in septic shock in fish. If this has been reported by FWP it would be
reasonable to inquire about any evidence.
Q) Why is FWP calling Prolific Kidney Disease now PKX?
A) PKD is proliferative kidney disease; PKX is an old term for the parasite
causing PKD. For a long time, it was clear that another species was involved
in the life cycle, but no one could discover what it was. The “X” represented
the unknown species. Now that bryozoans are known to be the final hosts the
expression “PKX” has fallen out of use.
Q) Can anglers do anything to help stop the spread of bryozoans from one river to
A) It is always a good precaution to hose off boots and other equipment
before entering a new fishing site. Live bryozoan fragments or statoblasts
can adhere to fishing gear, especially in standing water. The statoblasts remain
viable even after being dried or frozen for months.
Q) FWP stated in early media reports and also at the meeting held in Livingston
after the Yellowstone River-closure, that they “had only located both the bryozoan
and PKD parasite in two isolated locations in the past 20 years, Cherry Creek and
an irrigation ditch (neither related to a fish-kill)”; yet in your paper on the subject:
Bryozoans as hosts for Tetracapsula bryosalmonae, the PKX organism it was
recorded as present in Ennis Lake and the Lower Madison in 2000.
How did you come to find both the same bryozoan and PKD parasite in this
region and for whom were you doing research at the time (or from where was that
A) From various sources we compiled a list of sites where PKD had been
reported. The goal of this study was to find out what bryozoan species occur
in the same vicinities. The species we found were well known across the
northern states. This work was funded by the Natural Environment Research
Center in the UK.
Q) The question most asked after these back-to-back fish kills is why the Yellowstone
river is seeing reactions when both the bryozoan and parasite are in all of our rivers? If
it were merely temperature and flow rate which is triggering it, certainly the Jefferson,
Lower Madison, or Big Hole, should have experienced mass fish-kills, since both
rivers’ flows are typically lower and warmer (and Hoot Owl restrictions* go into effect
on) well before the Yellowstone’s levels drop.
So why the Yellowstone?
A) Bryozoans are a normal part of any healthy river ecosystem, and they
probably occur in every river system in Montana. However, we do not know
where the PKD parasite occurs or how much of any bryozoan population is likely
to be infected.
*Hoot Owl restrictions are when FWP halts fishing after 2PM to alleviate pressure/stress on trout during high watertemps.
Q) Also, why is a certain section seeing a fish-kill if temperatures and low-flows are a
cause? Others have questioned why wouldn’t the degree of fish-kill be more extreme
much further downriver where water is even lower and thus much warmer?
A) These are good questions that need to be asked. At this time, I have no answers
Q) Why do you suppose the parasite is targeting whitefish primarily, versus rainbow or
brown trout? Or do you think it is and we’re just not seeing as many of the latter*?
A) Scientists now believe there are many different strains of the PKD parasite,
and some of these may be more lethal to whitefish than to other species. At this
point we are still learning to distinguish one strain from another.
*Information was later revealed within internal FWP reports, to indicate thousands of trout also perished
between the summers of 2016-2017.
Q) Approximately how many times have you corresponded with Montana FWP and
state officials since 2016-2017 fish kills? Have they been asking related questions?A)
We initially made half a dozen contacts with various people. There seemed to be
very little interest, and no one has responded with questions of their own.
Q) In your initial written proposal to FWP in September 2016 you laid out a plan that
you and your team would conduct if the state brought you in to help research the fishkill.
It appears they simply read your outline and followed your proposed methods
themselves. Has anything like this occurred before?
A) Our proposal contained no privileged information. FWP was free to use it
any way they wished. However, following through with those ideas would have
required specific experience and knowledge that FWP seems to lack. For that
reason, they may have given the proposal a low priority. We found a similar nonresponse
from the State of Idaho, where there have been numerous unexplained
fish kills on the Snake River.
Q) Do you think it was perhaps because of budgeting reasons or cost concerns, why
FWP decided not to bring your team in?
A) Cost was never discussed as we’d not yet determined the amount of time
required to investigate the outbreak and its potential causes. I think a more likely
reason is that FWP preferred to focus on the fish rather than the less familiar
Proposal for Research - 2018
Q) Would your scientific findings after a two-week research project on the Yellowstone,
then be of benefit to other scientists and students studying PKD outbreaks, once its
A) Absolutely. Most studies of PKD have been done in laboratories. This would be
one of the first actually performed on site.
Here is what we want to know: What is the population size of bryozoans in the
study area and how are they distributed? What is the infection rate? Can we
identify PKD “hotspots?”
If so, do they suggest possible factors triggering the PKD outbreaks? Can we
identify steps to be taken that would decrease the likelihood of another severe
There may be additional information of interest mainly to researchers: is there
more than one bryozoan species harboring PKD parasites? Is this the same PKD
strain that afflicts trout farms in Europe? Etc.
Q) Could the two events, or back-to-back fish kills on the Yellowstone during August
2016/2017, be something that is naturally recurring and possibly something to some
degree we might experience annually from now on?
A) I certainly hope not. But I think the people supporting this investigation are
taking the right approach. You can speculate all day about PKD outbreaks and
what the future holds for the Yellowstone River, but without reliable data it is just
talk. I look forward to investigating the PKD outbreak area in 2018. If all goes well
we will be able to provide some real answers.
If you’d like to help us come closer to discovering what truly
caused the fish-kills on the Yellowstone River during 2016-
2017, and thus further help prevent similar events in other
western rivers, we are collecting donations toward independent
The costs for bringing Dr. Wood and his team of experts in
to conduct a two-week Bryozoan Mapping Project, in July of
2018, are significant - so we’re also searching out major donors
in the fly fishing industry, as well as foundations.
Please log into our Go Fund Me Campaign here:
Here is the link to the 2018 Research Proposal and the dedicated website for more
Q&A with Craig Campbell,
Builder of Gravitas Boats
Interview by Greg Lewis
Q) How (and what age) did you get started in woodworking?
I grew up in a house with a wood shop. My father has been a
woodworker longer than I’ve been alive so I was always around tools
and equipment, stacks of wood, and the smell of stain and lacquer. It
was in my early teens when I truly started woodworking and since that
time I’ve built everything from a rubber band pistol to a hand shaped
Sam Maloof rocking chair.
Q) How about fly fishing, when did that bug kick in?
From Canada originally, I moved to Montana in 2001 and with a
degree in Biology and Chemistry worked as a wildlife technician. From
the moment the ice melted I was fishing the streams and rivers and it
wasn’t long before I began fly fishing. I’ve never regretted the decision.
Fly fishing from a wooden drift boat is the only activity where I am
completely relaxed and rejuvenated at the end of the day.
Q) How did you get into making custom drift boats?
I was searching for a drift boat that met my needs and quickly became
frustrated in the lack of personalized options. Given my woodworking
experience I decided to build my own drift boat and that was the
beginning of a passion. I did a lot of online research, bought some
generic plans, and started my build.
It wasn’t long before I had compiled a list of all the changes that
would make the boat a more appropriate fit for me and, as it turns out,
for others as well. I had a great time completing the build and realized
that this was a career I could fully embrace. There are many challenges
in “getting it right” and I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve
drift boat designs but these are reasons why it’s such a rewarding
Q) How do you figure out which custom boat design you offer, is ideal for
The first and most important conversation that I have with a
customer centers around what type of water they float and how they
plan to use their boat. Not every drift boat owner is a fly fisherman. A
family may simply want a hard-bottomed boat which will offer both
stability and safety for young kids and their gear. Then of course
there are those who want all the necessary accessories for a great day
of fishing. Wooden drift boats don’t fall out of a manufacturers mold
and consequently they can be designed and built to provide whatever a
Q) How many custom drift boat projects do you take on per year?
My mission statement is built around quality as opposed to quantity.
I’m capable of working on two boats at a time while still paying
attention to the details that set my boats apart. If an interested
customer finds that I am occupied with other orders they are welcome
to join a waiting list. I think the wait will be worth it for them but I
also have boats available for immediate purchase.
Q) What’s the usual turnaround time on a custom wooden drift boat you
It is dependent on the complexity of each boat but the average time
is approximately 4-6 months.
Q) What custom features do you offer?
First and foremost, adjustability. I am working very hard to
make the current designs absolutely user friendly. For example, the
most important feature for a rower is that the boat floats level and
is easy to maneuver. The only way to achieve this is to move weight
throughout the boat accordingly.
The fishing seats in my most recent design have fore and aft
movement set on a track system which is set into the floor. The
rower’s seat has the same fore and aft movement, more than any
other on the market. When the seats are properly positioned based
on weight, the boat will always ride trim. Gone are the days when
the boat’s bow points to the sky or is buried in the water because of
your passenger’s weight and where they are sitting. The seats are
also removeable allowing for a cooler or dog bed.
My boats are designed more closely to the McKenzie style which
means they have the appropriate amount of rocker which equates to
easier maneuverability and less effort to stay stationary at a fishing
Q) What types of wood are you using when constructing a custom drift
I use 3/8” marine grade Mahogany plywood for building the
hull sides, dry boxes, decks and hatch covers. 1/2” marine grade
Mahogany plywood is used for constructing the hull bottom and
interior level floors. The gunwales are made of Ash or White Oak,
both of which offer a great deal of strength and are relatively easy
to steam bend. Parts such as the breast hook and anchor mount are
made from Mahogany with Black Walnut accents.
Components that require a great deal of strength, such as the oar
lock blocks, the rower’s seat, and adjustable rower’s seat frame are
constructed of White Oak. Unlike other manufacturers who simply
draw the side panels together into a point and then use a stem cap to
protect the bow, I use a solid Ash post which is inset for attaching the
side panels flush to the post. Not only does this provide a structurally
sound bow, it also provides a solid surface for attaching the bow eye.
Ash, White Oak and Mahogany have a very long history in wooden
sailing ships and serve equally well in a drift boat.
Q) What are some of the biggest challenges when building a drift boat from
wood versus fiberglass?
Occasionally a piece of wood will have a flaw below the surface that
reveals itself after the start of the milling process and these are to
be expected on occasion. The solution is to mill a new piece. Wood
has very few challenges that can’t be overcome. It can be cut and
shaped with basic tools, steam bent to provide flowing lines, and easily
repaired. It’s quiet on the water, has a natural insulating factor, and
catches admiring glances and comments from everyone who sees it. It
is a wonderful material to work with and when using the appropriate
species and with a little care, will last a very long time.
Q) Do you test float each craft before delivery?
Every completed boat is loaded onto its size specific trailer and taken
to the river for “trials.” I’m not only getting a feel for the boat in the
water, I also want to confirm that each boat sits well on its trailer and
that the loaded trailer pulls easily at all speeds. Once in the water I’m
listening, looking and feeling how everything is responding to the water
and my oar strokes. Each boat is floated several times to ensure that
the product is perfect. My wife jokes that this is not the time for deep
conversations because I’m usually in a world of my own.
Q) Personal favorite river to float and fly fish in Montana?
The Bitterroot River between Tucker and Florence. The Bitterroot is
my home water and I love every moment I’m floating that stretch. It
doesn’t matter what time of year or whether the fish are biting, it’s one
of those spots that has clear water, spectacular mountain views, and a
lot of structure to hold fish. I do float other rivers but the Bitterroot is
a special place to me.
To learn more about Craig Campbell and Gravitas Drift Boats, visit
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A National Treasure
Words and Photos by Patrick Clayton
At the turn of the century,
the industrial revolution ran
like a wildfire up and down
the west coast leaving
ecosystems in tatters and
the once iconic salmon
runs a mere shadow of
their former selves. Dams
were erected, forests were
chopped down, mines
constructed, and irrigation
diversions all sapped
the once vibrant salmon
rearing grounds of what
was needed to sustain their
were some of the first
along the Columbia
and overharvest was
commonplace. Before we
even knew what existed it
was gone. The keystone
species which supported
all forms of life entered
a precipitous decline
continuing to this day. In
the far north, there was
one place which avoided
this fate, Bristol Bay Alaska.
This vast region was
protected by its shear
remoteness, harsh climate,
and unforgiving wildness.
Like an apparition from
a bygone era, sockeye
salmon still pour out of
the Pacific Ocean by
the millions to these
untouched and pristine
waters. The long arm of
industry long held at bay
now has its eyes squarely
set on developing and
thus destroying this, our
last functioning mega
salmon run. Pebble Mine
is the vanguard industry
which wants to build
massive open pit mines,
dam free flowing rivers,
and drill for oil. During
the Obama presidency,
the mine got a temporary
hold, it has reared its ugly
head once again. The EPA,
under notorious fossil fuel
advocate Scott Pruitt, has
proposed to cancel the
that, if finalized, would
have blocked development
at the Pebble gold and
copper prospect in
from a bygone
pour out of the
by the millions
The long arm of
No single species defines the Pacific coast
more so than salmon.
No single species defines the
Pacific coast more so than
salmon. While efforts to restore
and preserve these salmon
runs in the lower 48 continue,
in Bristol Bay things exist as
they always have. Salmon;
A thousands year old native
culture rely on them, the tundra
springs to life due to them,
apex predators gorge on their
abundance, and sustainable
economies rely on their return.
The Aleut-Alutiq, Athabascan,
and Yup’ik cultures catch, dry,
smoke, and subsist off this
source of protein as they have
for time and memorial. Their
first language is their own and
they are the most intact native
cultures in North America.
Salmon push to the headwaters
of every available river system
resulting in an irreplaceable
transfer of nutrients from
sea to sky. These still intact
salmon runs support the largest
populations of Grizzly bears on
the planet, caribou herds graze
the salmon fertilized plants,
everything relying on this
food chain even down to the
smallest plants and organisms.
senses and enlivens
the spirit; its mere
existence gives us
hope and a place to
Sustainability is more than a
buzzword when it comes to
the commercial fishery. This
massive region supports the
largest sockeye salmon fishery
on earth and is managed in
such a way to go on forever. It
is a billion dollar a year industry
that provides the healthiest of
food to the most discerning of
There is not a sportsman
on earth does not dream of
someday wetting a line here,
and this thriving industry in
itself is worth another hundred
million dollars and provides
employment for thousands.
This place overwhelms the
senses and enlivens the spirit;
its mere existence gives us
hope and a place to dream of.
Bristol Bay now faces its most
dire of threats, at its very heart;
mining interests have found
some of the largest deposits of
precious metals on earth and
plan industrial development as
large as any project on earth.
The intensity with which this
ecosystem and landscape
hum is unmistakable. At its
center are Lake Illiamna and
the Nushagak River. Alaska’s
largest lake and its tributaries
are responsible for almost half
the regions sockeye salmon
and represent the largest
salmon run on earth. The
Nushagak is the next largest
producer and one of the top
king salmon rivers on the
planet. The proposed Pebble
Mine is directly above these
drainages and exploratory
mining is occurring throughout
the region. Hard rock mining
of this magnitude spells disaster
for the fish, the culture, and the
ecosystem. In scientific terms
these fish stocks are known as
a strong portfolio. The genetic
diversity guaranteeing their
sustainability and vibrancy.
The potential loss of this core
population threatens not only
the immediate area but the
region as a whole.
Salmon are counted by the
hundreds as they wriggle
over concrete barriers
up and down the Pacific
coast while in Bristol Bay
they are stockpiled by the
millions. So numerous
is this run, if you were to
stack them nose to tail they
would stretch from Bristol
Bay to Australia and back.
The fact that salmon still
exist on many southern
rivers is a testament to
their fierce determination
and evolutionary mastery.
Stragglers still perpetuate
their species amongst the
steepest of odds. Their
efforts know no limit.
A Sockeye salmon known
only as Lonesome Larry
was the only one to return
to a Lake in Idaho after
swimming 900 miles and
passing 8 dams. Redfish
Lake, which in a bygone
era saw tens of thousands
of these oceans going
vagabonds return, had nearly
lost its namesake. This story
has been repeated over and
over from the Puget Sound
to Las Angeles.
The usual culprits who led to the
downfall of our iconic Pacific
Coast species now want a repeat
performance in this last great place.
Bristol Bay is the last treasure in the
chest and it is where the line will be
drawn. Whatever comes down the
pipe, we must be prepared to fight
once again, and this time fight for
permanent protection by whatever
means necessary and never allow
this resource to be destroyed for
the profit of a few.
Words and Photos by Patrick Clayton
About Fly Tying Feathers
~A Beginners Guide~
By Terry Dunford
When I first started the art of fly tying, I had many questions
about Fly Tying Feathers. I’ve done extensive research since
then and now aim to provide you with an exhaustive, thorough
guide to Fly Tying Feathers and their uses. This article will
provide you with information about the most used types of
features used in tying flies. I will also include great photos so
you can gain a visual perspective when reading the information
provided to you herein.
Fly tying feathers are usually broken down into two main
categories - Dry Fly Feathers and Wet Fly Feathers. Feathers
are utilized in a variety of ways. For example, feathers can be
used as body material, wings, throats, collars, tails, hackles,
cheeks and sides.
Dry Fly Feathers
The most widely-used feathers for dry fly wings are mallard, wood duck, and
teal flank feathers. Other feathers used include hen, mallard quill and turkey flats.
Certain feathers are selected for their coloration and visual appearance, whereas
others are chosen for their capability to absorb or deter water.
Wet Fly Feathers
Feathers used in tying steelhead, salmon, streamers,
saltwater and other larger flies are often very colorful
and are usually wet flies. Here you will be using the
larger saddle and schlappen feathers from chickens,
flank feathers from many waterfowl species and
some of the more colorful pheasant species. The most
common feathers used for wet flies include marabou,
hen, mallard quill, and ostrich herl.
CDC is an abbreviation for the fly tying term “cul
de canard.” CDC feathers are exceptionally fluffy
feathers and are also known as “oil gland feathers”
due to the feathers being located close to a duck’s
oil production gland which is the preen gland. This
location enables oils to become absorbed and will
then result in dry flies becoming buoyant and water
resistant (dry). These very useful feathers are available in nearly all colors, including
dark olive, natural brown, medium olive, light dun, yellow olive, white, wood duck,
slate dun, dark brown, light brown, black, salmon, rust, pale and yellow to name a
few. CDC feathers can be used for a very long list of fly patterns, but to name a few
CDC feathers can be used for parachute flies, caddis wings, or looped for emerger
wings. CDC can also be of huge value when used as hackle for both dry and wet fly
CDC Oiler Puffs are great for both emergers and dry flies. These tiny feathers lack
observable stems and are frequently called nipple plumes due to the fact that they
are located on the nipple of the preen gland. When tied in as wing posts, these fluffy
feathers entrap lots of air. Oiler Puffs can be tied the usual way, or reverse tied to take
advantage of the naturally integrated bubble created by the base of the feather. This
“CDC Bubble” is usually intended to float the fly in the surface film of moving water.
Marabou, or Blood Quill, is the supple, fluffy, soft feathers from turkeys and chickens and flow marvelously
in the water. Marabou gets its name from the Marabou stork located
in South Africa, which was formerly the singular source of this fluffy
feather. However, in the late 1930’s, it was discovered that turkey
down was incredibly alike, and a new, innovative industry came
into existence. Poultry processing now produces mass quantities of
Marabou is frequently used for tails and wings in flies and jigs. Once
a marabou fly penetrates the water, it immediately becomes lively,
and this dynamic, vivacious act draws curiosity from even the most
laid-back fish. This classic fly tying material is also widely used in nymph patterns and big saltwater streamers.
Marabou is dyed many different colors, and come in numerous different types, such as strung marabou or
blood quills, marabou plumes, wooly bugger marabou, mini marabou, and grizzly marabou.
Of all the diverse feathers used in fly tying, marabou feathers have to be one of the most distinctive and
valuable. The great thing about Marabou is that beginner fly tyer’s can still create realistic replications, which
is great reason why beginning fly tyer’s should use it frequently.
Peacock herl is well-recognized and cherished by fly tyers for its
glistening quality and vibrant color. These feathers are used to imitate
bodies that are energetic and lively when they enter the water. The
finest peacock herl can typically be located near the eye of the feather.
Peacock herl as well as Ostrich plume herl is used as “butts” or at
times as body material on numerous fly patterns. Peacock and Ostrich
herl is also occasionally used as wing, overwing, or underwing
material on numerous streamer fly patterns. Peacock Herl is also
commonly used to form naturally flashy tails, great great looking
nymphs and other various types of bodies.
The most commonly used pheasant feathers are taken from the Ringneck pheasant; however, there are various
fly recipes that call for Amherst or Golden pheasant neck feathers. Ringneck pheasant whole skins can be
a tremendously precious asset to any fly tyer because any tyer should be able to tie hundreds of flies with
just one full skin. Pheasant Tail feathers can, as usual, be tyed to imitate bodies, legs, wingcases, and tails.
Pheasant body feathers can be used to create very appealing.
Most of the pheasant feathers can be used for one thing or
another. There are many species of pheasant, which in the tying
field usually include Ringnecks, Golden, Silver, and Amhearst
just to name a few. The crest (head) feathers from the Golden
and Amhearst pheasant are frequently used as tails on Atlantic
salmon, Steelhead, and other fly patterns. Body feathers of the
Golden Pheasant can be used to tie on wings, body hackle and
About the Author
Fly Tying enthusiast Terry Dunford has been a very active fly-fisherman and fly tyer for decades and has
worked 10 years for Platte River Fly Shop in Casper, Wyoming and has written several articles on the topics of
fly tying and fly-fishing. For any questions or comments, please feel free to call the author at (435) 862-8151.
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Above: On an early spring morning, a crane aggressively defends its
nest against an unwelcome intruder. Each spring, small populations
of sandhill cranes stop over to nest in wetlands throughout the state,
with some paying a visit to the Lake Helena Wildlife Management Area
just north of Helena. Just a few frames captured an amazing glimpse
into crane behavior— and certainly a memorable moment for this
photographer! JASON SAVAGE
Right: Sitting at just over 4,700 feet, Square Butte in Cascade County
(not to be confused with the other Square Butte in Chouteau County)
is a prominent landmark visible throughout the region just south of
Great Falls. JASON SAVAGE
Below: In Crow mythology, Old Man Coyote created people, animals,
and the earth. In some versions, Old Man Coyote is also a trickster,
and that characteristic has remained part of the coyote’s character.
Trickster or not, the coyote relies on stealth to hunt, using all of
its senses to locate prey. STEPHEN C. HINCH
Left: A nonnative to Montana, California quail were introduced in the not so distant past and now
thrive in the western part of the state.. JASON SAVAGE
Far left: The Beartooth Highway is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
Starting in Cooke City, Montana, the road winds up through the mountains and crosses into Wyoming
before dropping back down into Montana and the beautiful town of Red Lodge. The view from the top
looks down into the heart of the Beartooth Mountains, a true Montana wilderness. STEPHEN C. HINCH
Below: The viewpoint at Devil’s Canyon Overlook towers more than 1,000 feet above the water
below in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, established in 1966. The point where Bighorn
Canyon and Devil’s Canyon come together is an incredible sight to behold. STEPHEN C. HINCH
Above: Bald eagles can be found throughout
Montana and are frequently seen around the
state’s rivers and lakes. Fish compose a large
part of their diet, and it’s not uncommon to
see an eagle harassing an osprey to make
it drop its catch. In winter, bald eagles hunt
waterfowl. This eagle was perched in a tree
above the Madison River looking for injured
or ill mallards. STEPHEN C. HINCH
Left: The Absaroka Mountains rise high
above the Yellowstone River as it flows
through Paradise Valley, a beautiful valley
north of Yellowstone National Park and south
of Livingston. Large herds of elk and deer
reside in the valley, while eagles and osprey
perch in cottonwoods above the river.
At sunset, when conditions are right,
the clouds and mountains light up in a
multitude of colors. STEPHEN C. HINCH
Jodi Monahan: Pain
“Patriotism Catch It“
ting For A Cause
There are times in your life when things fall into place and if you allow
yourself to follow your heart , passion and creativity it can lead you
to a spectacular place. My son-in-law asked me to paint fish and from
that I have entered the world of flyfishing and fly tying! I follow many avid
fly tiers on instagram and wait for one of their flies to grab me. When they do
I have to paint it to get it out of my mind. I’m well into over 100 fly paintings
One of my favorite sources told me he was coming to Montana to volunteer
with an organization called Warriors and Quiet Waters out of Bozeman.
They match up a veteran with a wounded warrior and teach them to fly fish.
When you are out on the water it’s a lot like when I paint, you can only think
about that one thing. Your mind is clear of everything else. I decided to look
into this organization and was so impacted and impressed. I took one of
Son Tao caddis flies and painted it on a Lazy Susan. I had it delivered to the
ranch while he was there volunteering for a week. I couldn’t stop thinking
about the impact an organization like that
makes in a community.
Helping veterans enjoy the freedom that fly
fishing gives you. I had an idea to use another of
Son’s flies and changed it into a America flag. I
choose a large canvas 36x36 to make the impact
I wanted. On February 7th I delivered it to the
Warriors and Quiet Waters Ranch to donate the
Original to them. What a wonderful group of
uplifting people that ingulf this special gift to the
warriors who are blessed to make it out there.
“Floating The Hole”
Check us out
Photo: Stacey Schad Randall