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When fishermen are out on the water, they don’t spend all their time reeling in fish. In fact, actual catching time – for most of us, anyway – is minimal.

That leaves plenty of time for reflection on what’s actually going on down there in the depths, as the fish below interact with our flies, lures or bait.

Dick Zimmer, of Pablo, is one of the more active lake trout fishermen in Montana, chasing the big mackinaws of Flathead Lake. Nicknamed “The Macman,” he sent an e-mail recently talking about some of his conclusions on how and why lake trout bite. They’re worth sharing.

“After considering the striking patterns that mackinaw follow, I’ve come to some conclusions that will help you understand the importance of different bait presentation,” Zimmer wrote.

“As is true with most predator fish, mackinaw have two biting modes. The first is the attack mode, which renders its victim immobile. The second biting mode is the devour mode where the fish actually ingests its prey,” he continued.

“A mackinaw attacking is a sight reminiscent of a Jurassic Park scene. Their ferocity and speed is awe-inspiring. Trolling high fast jigs, or “bombing”(reeling quickly from the bottom up 30 to 40 feet and then releasing your jig to fall again to the bottom) and “drift-jigging” both elicit the aggressive strike of the attack mode,” he said.

“The devour strike, on the other hand, is at the fish’s leisure and often is barely perceptible. The original attacker or another opportunistic passerby – who have no scruples about taking advantage of somebody else’s effort – can eat the victim. Because these victims are stunned or dead, the positions in which they are found aren’t normal. They can be floating in a variety of positions or lying on the bottom,” Zimmer said “The important point of simulating this food source is lack of movement. Some death throw quivers are natural so a little movement interspersed with holding your bait still will simulate this. To avoid movement, anchoring is also important.

“So, I vary my jigging procedure between the two methods. Quick, high jigs for a short period interspersed with a slow and immobile/mobile lure action for longer periods,” he concluded.

Zimmer’s views and tactics are well worth pondering and trying yourself when you’re out on the water. After all, you can’t beat success – and Zimmer is one of the more successful lake trout fishermen around.

Wildflower bookAn outdoor experience is best enjoyed when you stop to smell the wildflowers along the way.

That’s one reason why a new book, “Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers,” would be a fine addition to the gear you pack along on a camping trip, a hike or just a pleasure drive through the Montana countryside.

Authored by Wayne Phillips, a botanist and current president of the Montana Native Plant Society, the book shows 300 flowering plant species that can be found in the Northern Rockies.

It includes large and clear photographs, blooming seasons, where they’re found and comments of interest. Best of all, the book is arranged for non-professionals, separated simply by flower color – pink flowers, yellow flowers, white flowers and blue and purple flowers, for example.

The 296-page, paperback book is part of the FalconGuides series, published by Globe Pequote Press Press. It sells for $24.95 and is available at local bookstores, by calling 1-800-582-2665 or on the Internet by going to:

Commemorative riflesDon’s Inc., of Lewistown, has commissioned the Shiloh Sharps Rifle Company, of Big Timber, to create a limited commemorative series of rifles in honor of the Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery.

The rifle will be built on the Model 1874 Harford frame, with a 30-inch, heavy, octagon barrel and buckhorn sights.

Livingston engraver Suzi Bradley will add her art to the rifles with “Voyage of Discovery 1804-1806” engraved on the barrel and a silver inlay with an engraving of a silhouette of Lewis and Clark on the receiver.

The series will be limited to 100 rifles and will sell for $3,700 until July 4, 2002. After that, the price will be $3,900. A non-refundable deposit of $1,000 is required to reserve the rifle. For $200 more, a number in the series can be reserved.

For more or to order, contact Don’s Inc. by phone at 1-800-879-8194 or by e-mail

Mark Henckel is the outdoor editor of The Billings Gazette. His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be contacted at 657-1395 or