Latest gimmick or wave of the future?

I love my Lamson Litespeed fly reel. It help convert me from a fishing gear Luddite into a fan of the high-tech stuff. The reel isn't just eye candy, but a real tool that helps me catch more fish. But I'm not sure what to think about Lamson's new Center Axis setup.

If it's as brilliant as suggested, maybe we'll all be fishing with a rig that looks like a cattywampus lollypop in the future. If not, these rod/reel combos may find a home in the discontinued clearance bin before too long.

One other consideration about the Center Axis. All fly fishing equipment uses the same basic setup. You can mount a 30-year-old reel to a $1,000 Sage rod, and it will work. The Center Axis breaks that tradition of interchangeability. And fly fishers are if anything, traditionalists.

Here's my latest Flathead Beacon Out of Bounds column discussing the progression of my fishing gear preferences.

Griz hunt opponents challenge Wyo quota

Groups trying to stop Wyoming's planed grizzly bear hunts this fall say the state borrowed part of Montana's quota to increase possible females killed from one to two. Officials in both states dispute this.

Under the Wyo proposal, hunters could kill up to two female grizzlies, even though the state's allocation is just 1.45. Montana's female allocation is 0.9 females. The states have agreed to round up or down the allocations, so Wyoming should only have one female tag, as would Montana if it had set a hunt.

Wyoming's hunt also provides tags for up to 10 male bears. All grizzly hunting would cease, however,  once two females tags are filled to prevent more females from being mistakenly killed.

Keeping an eye out for brucellosis

FWP and the state Department of Livestock are monitoring for brucellosis in Montana elk. The disease is carried by elk, bison and cattle. It can cause females to abort their calves. Controlling brucellosis is the main rationale offered for culling bison as the animals enter Montana as they migrate out of Yellowstone National Park.

Billings breaks snow record

A storm on April 13 meant Billings had tied the all-time record for snowfall in a season at 103.5 inches. Well, it appears the Magic City broke that record today. The photo shows white stuff on the grounds of the MSUB campus at lunchtime today. One-tenth of an inch had accumulated this morning, allowing the winter of 2017-18 to be the snowiest in Billings ever, at 103.6 inches and counting.

Montanans to Brokeback winter: “We wish you knew how to quit us.”

Court considers Montana access case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing a ruling that established a prescriptive easement across the Wonder Ranch in the Madison Mountain Range southeast of Ennis. The Court has been asked to overturn a District Court decision that a prescriptive easement had been created by years of public use accessing public lands beyond the ranch.

Overturning the ruling could have a significant impact on prescriptive easements elsewhere in Montana.

It’s gonna get busy out there

With temps climbing into the 70s for the first time this spring, all that Montana snowpack is going to start converting into river water. It should be an interesting high-water season.

US caribou almost gone

The last remaining caribou herd in the lower 48 has been declared effectively extinct, according to a story in the New York Times. Recent aerial surveys counted only three animals in the herd.

Woodland caribou once ranged into Montana as far south as Lolo Pass in the Bitterroot.

The small and dwindling herd that roamed into the United States used the  Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and Washington near the Canadian border part of the year.

A University of Montana wildlife biologist blamed mismanagement in British Columbia for the vanishing herd.

“The functional loss of this herd is the legacy of decades of government mismanagement across caribou range,” said Mark Hebblewhite, a wildlife biologist at the University of Montana, in the story in the New York Times.

The animals require old growth forest to survive. During the winter the animals move up slope in areas of heavy snow. The caribou's large hooves allow it to stand on, rather than plunge into deep snow. This allows them to feed on Old Man's Beard, a lichen that grows in old growth trees.

The deep snow also protects the caribou from predators, which move down slope in winter.