Pine Siskins Arrive

winter pine siskin

A winter pine siskin (click to enlarge)

Last week a flock of pine siskins appeared. These cute little birds are manic fliers. They swoop around the bird feeder, practically climbing over each other. Some hang upside down. Others circle the feeder waiting for a spot to open up. A group of 15-20 cluster on the ground beneath the feeder, cleaning up the spilled goodies. Then all at once they fly off together. When they leave, the goldfinches, nuthatches and house finches come back to snack. I don’t know how long they will stay this year. Usually just for a few weeks at our house, but others stay in the area all year round.

Hike the Trail at Kelly Creek

The temperature is in the single digits this week. Frozen fog coats the bare branches of the trees out the window. I haven’t seen the sun in days.

So I am taking a break from my to-do list, and looking back at sunnier times. Scrolling through my folder of Kelly Creek pictures, I came across this one and decided to share it along with a little story. If you come to Kelly Creek via Superior, Montana you follow Moose Creek until you hit the road that winds along the creek. Instead of turning right to follow the river, if you turn left, there is a camping/parking area just before the bridge that leads you on to Cayuse Creek. That is also the trailhead to hike upstream along Kelly. If you are a back packer, you can follow it all the way to the junction with Cayuse and beyond.

Upstream from the bridge along Kelly Creek

Upstream along Kelly Creek (click to enlarge)

When I visit Kelly Creek, I always allow one day to fish the trail. The walk isn’t strenuous, the scenery is incredible and the fishing pressure decreases with each mile you hike. The water gets smaller as you go, but there is always nice fishable water. I’ve had some amazing days along that trail. This picture, taken 10/19/2010 is from the high point of the trail.

In the picture, you can see a small outcropping just above the riffle. Well about 10 years ago, I was hiking back down the trail at dusk. Like every other fly fisher I know, I watch the trail to see where I am going, but keep an eye on the water, because isn’t that what it’s all about?

It had been a long day with dozens of fish and hours of hiking and wading, but when I saw rising fish I stopped to watch. You can see in the photo that from the trail to the water is a steep drop. So it wasn’t an easy decision. I was tired and hungry, but there were rising fish. I gave in and skidded down to the river.

Stripping out some line, I made an awkward steeple cast to let my parachute Adams drift down riffle. Before the first strike, I heard a snort and the splash of a rock rolling into the water. Looking upstream fifteen feet to my left, a huge bull moose stared back at me.  Let me say that I didn’t waste much time reeling in my line and backing down stream. When I got far enough to feel safe, I scrambled up the bank to the trail and let my heart rate get back under a hundred and my breath down to normal.

Now every time I hike the trail, I pause at this spot and remember my adventure. It keeps me humble and reminds me we share these waters with each other and the native residents of the this wonderful country. You never know who or what you’ll see along the trail. Each trip is an adventure, but you want to make it home to share your tales.

Be safe.

Bad Hair Day

Lopsided Deer

Lopsided Deer


You know how you feel after a bad hair cut? Embarrassed to be seen in public. You imagine everyone is staring at you; laughing behind your back. But you still have to go to work. I think this fellow feels the same way. But it isn’t just the bad look. I think he has a headache. Take a look at this next picture. Ouch!


White tail deer minus one antlerr

White tail deer minus one antler


Winter Chickadees

Winter black-capped Chickadee

Winter black-capped Chickadee

I was on my deck trying to get a picture of some birds with snow capped Mountain Ash berries in the background, when I noticed that there were two species of Chickadees swooping in to grab a sunflower chip from the feeder. I couldn’t recall ever seeing the smaller Mountain Chickadee at my feeder before. Of course, it is easy to take home birds for granted. You see them every day. And we have lots of red breasted nuthatches that have such a bold eye stripe.

In any event, it was fun to catch a few pictures of these cute little fellows. Here is the mountain Chickadee. (Click to enlarge pictures.)

Winter Mountain Chickadee

Winter Mountain Chickadee


White-tailed Deer in a Pine forest

Large white-tailed buck

Big buck in November forest.


I went wandering down this trail looking for a moose that has been hanging around the area. I couldn’t find the moose, but this big fellow was out and about. He let me snap a quick shot before he raised his white flag and took off.

Remember Summer?

North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River in July

Sunny days on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River


All right. I’m already tired of the snow. To get out of the winter funk, I looked back to last July and better days. I feel better already.

Seasons Change

November Snow

Early snow means winter is right around the corner


You think there will be time to rake those leaves and get ready for another winter. But sometimes Mother Nature just doesn’t let you relax. That is the case this Veteran’s Day. A harsh reminder that even though there are still leaves on the trees and the grass is green, snow can still fall and winter…well it could just be here already.

Kelly Creek is Smokin'

Kelly Creek Drainage from Hoodoo Pass

Smokey vista from Hoodoo Pass

Back from my fall trip to Kelly Creek, Idaho. Once again it was great. Four days of blue skies and 65 degree temperatures. Of course, since it is October, the nights dropped into the low 20’s. The humidity was so low, that even along Moose Creek where I camp, there was almost no frost. Coming over from Superior, I stopped on the Idaho side of Hoodoo Pass to view the drainage. I knew that there would be smoke. Fires have been burning for two months. As you can see in the picture, the horizon showed the extent and range of the fires. I can’t imagine what it must be like fighting those blazes.

In recent years I’ve made my fall trip in September. So I was struck by several differences. The water was low. Without any rain for months there had been none of the usual spikes up in flow. So the discharge flow had steadily dropped from 1600 to 700 cfps. That is the lowest I’ve ever seen it.

Whether it was the low water, the cold nights, the time of the year, or maybe just me, the fishing was different also. Instead of the 25 – 30 fish per day I usually catch, this year it was 15 – 20. Still very good, when you remember the days are short. The water temperature was 40 degrees, so don’t try wet wading now! I didn’t start fishing until 11 am and quit by 4 pm.

The other difference was in which flies were effective. For the first time ever, I caught no flies on my Rusty Stim. That is usually my number one fly on Kelly. But this time, small and technical fishing caught the fish. My Biot Mahogany Dun in a #16 worked great, as did the Harrop’s Thorax Dun. Another good fly was a CDC emerger. I’ll tie one up for a step by step later. There was a spinner fall around 2:30 that I never did figure out, but it got fish up and feeding. Being fisherman friendly cutthroat, they took my flies pretty well even though I couldn’t match that hatch.

The scenery was incredible as always. The Kokanee spawn was nearly over. Some of the riverside trees were past their prime color, but the Aspen on the hill side were perfect. The crowds were gone (only three other rigs on the road each day). The food was great. I’ll have to post my favorite dinner sometime. As always, it was tough to pack up to come home. But isn’t that the way you want a fishing trip to be? If you are excited to leave, you picked the wrong place to go.

Hoodoo Colors

Wonderful Colors

My Rig on Hoodoo Pass

My Rig on Hoodoo Pass

Color on Hoodoo Pass

Color on Hoodoo Pass

Tamarack in Color

Tamarack in Color

pocket water

Pocket water

Cutthroat trout

Another great fish

Stars shine like diamonds in the night

Night Skies

Along the Road you can see the water

Roadside views

Dark Waters

Dark Waters



Kelly Creek water

Gin Clear Water

Afternoon Shadows

Short Days in October

Cold Mornings

Low of 23 degrees!

Beautiful Cutthroat troat

Beautiful Cutthroat at Kelly Creek

Fall Color

The hills in their prime color

Sunny Fall Days on Kelly Creek

Love those big pools!

Western Bluebirds

Western Blue Gathering Food

Western Bluebird hard at work

One of the advantages of living in the west is having Western Bluebirds to watch. They add color to the day and flashes of light. Once the eggs hatch, it is nothing but work. They grab bugs and grubs. They often pause on a limb above the birdhouse, which is a big plus for a photographer. Very considerate of them to offer a photo op!

October Caddis and Hoppers of Kelly Creek

I was looking through my pictures from Kelly Creek and came across these two photos. They aren’t particularly good shots, but I was going to sit down at the bench tonight and wanted to refresh my memory about the size of the hoppers I had seen there in the past.

Grasshopper from Kelly Creek

Kelly Creek Hopper


This little fellow was sitting on a tarp in front of my trailer door. I took the picture 9/31/11. The small squares are 10 to an inch, so he is about 3/4 inches long. The color is pretty accurate, so you can see he is a bright yellow-green shade.

October Caddis is the dessert of the bug season. After midges, March Browns, Mother’s Day Caddis, stone flies, the spring and summer series of mayflies and all the rest, the final course before winter is the October Caddis. And these mountain cutthroat are eager for a snack.

October caddis found at Kelly Creek Idaho

October caddis found at Kelly Creek Idaho


I scooped this guy out of the water for a quick picture on 10/19/2010. You can see that although we think of them as orange, they really are more yellow. No matter what color, they are tasty. I use my Rusty Stim pattern all the time at Kelly. Even though it is a rusty orange color, the fish let me know they like it. Maybe I’ll tie some up in a yellow to try this fall. That is the joy of tying your own flies. Tie some up and try them. The fish will be your judge and jury.