A CHRISTMAS FISH STORY 2003
Yesterday dawned early as most mornings in Montana do. My son Glenn was
off in Pa so there was no patter of little feet, about size 11 now,
pounding down the hall early asking if it s time to open presents.
So I was able to sleep in till around 10 , leisurely eat breakfast,
get the wood stove going in the shop, and read .
I had decided a couple days ago to spend Christmas on the Missourri
river, as what better way to spend a holiday with friends and family
in distant places. I wasn t even planning on fishing ( tho I brought
my gear) but after getting some work done in the shop, I headed
up to the river in the mid afternoon.
Getting off at Wolf Creek, I headed down a dirt road towards the Dam
and saw a car in my favorite spot. I couldn t believe it , what other
whacko would be out on the river on Christmas day? I coolly sauntered
down , smoking the dregs of a tin of Hamborger Veermeister in an 01
Christmas pipe. The guy was just flinging and stripping , probably
using an , ughgghh, woolley bugger. He turned and I asked him if
anything was happening and he told me he was just killing time. He
knew there was nothing to be caught but was enjoying being in the
river, which was a chilly 35 degrees! We exchanged Merry
Christmases and I left him to his solitude. Even tho that was MY spot
, an excellent example of Christian charity , if I do say so myself...
I got back in the car and headed down the river stopping
occaisonally in favorite spots. In each I got out and sat awhile,
puffed on my pipe, and thought about the summer past.
I must admit , I couldn t help but look for bugs and rising fish
but the water was serene and unmarred by any large heads gobbling
helplessly floating flies.
At this point I couldn t stand it any longer. I wanted to fish ! I
didn t particularly feel like donning the arctic gear necc. to get
in the water. You need so much stuff you fell like a spaceman. A
compromise was in order and I headed down past Craig where I could
lazily sit, high and dry, up on some rock out crops . I had caught
fish, at will, nymphing at this spot all summer long, and I figured perhaps the Trout
G_ds would deliver me one Christmas fish....
Before casting I took a few moments to reflect on all the
wonderfull memories I had of this 1/4 mike stretch of the river. Above
this long slow pool is a double riffle with an island in the
middle. In July, I caught fish after fish rising to emerging Pale
Morning Duns on both sides of the island. A little further down,
Mike Cherba and I fished a backwater slew during trico time. He made
long cast after cast most times resulting in a splashy tussle
; while I watched a true master at the top of his game. In order to get
there you had to walk over the "Bridge of Death" a narrow bridge spanning
the Mo. on US 15 where tractor trailers often pinned you to a narrow
walk way speeding by at 85 mph ! Under the B of D we had some of the
best fishing all year. As two or three pods of hundreds of fish each
indiscriminately gulped floating masses of trico spinners in the
early summer mornings. Along the cliffs where I was about to fish , Josh
got his elusive Montana " Whitey".... The current runs along the
cliffs and form a backeddy where fish usually congregate. One time
while floating by with Mo. River Guide, Rad Davis, I could see the fish in there
chowing down. As we got close I told him to STOP THE BOAT,BACK ROW,BACK ROW ! He said
the current was too strong. I said DROP THE ANCHOR!, He said the
water was too deep and rocky as we floated by all those feeding
fish. Missourri River Guides sadly dropped a notch in my estimation
after that episode ... <G>
But a I nymphed down the cliff to the aforementioned back eddy, with
nary a bite; and lo and behold there were a couple fish working in
there; feeding on little tiny midges that I could just make out flying
in the air. With the sun in my eyes, and a glare on the water, I
bravely set out. On my first back cast I hooked a telephone pole
which was inconveniently sited behind me. I lost that fly. Tying up
again and moving somewhat I was able to get my fly into the back eddy
and for a couple casts tried to see it floating. On about the 5 th
cast I saw a rise nearabouts where I thought my fly might have
been. I lifted and Eureaka, my prayers were answered. He was on long
enough for me to see the telltale irridescent band that marks a
rainbow trout before slipping back into the river.....
To celebrate I lit up my Cabin pipe with some Navy Flake and waited
awhile to see if they would rise again. After 10 mins with no rises I
moved on. By this time, even tho it was getting late and a little dark
the hatch of midges was intensifying. I could see across the river
small pods feeding on top but there wasn t enough time to cross the
Bridge of Death and fish them. Working my way down towards the bridge
I saw another pod working. The sun had gone low behind the clouds
and I could now see my fly outlined on the water. I found a clear
spot to cast and immediately hooked one.
The fight was on and I played him very carefully on 6X tippet .
I was able to net a nice 17 " rainbow. The pod moved further out
after that and I was forced to move and find fish I could reach. I
saw some about 100 ft down about 30 feet out, easy pickings... Then,
an old friend came down to see me and I was afraid she d ruin
everything. She was carrying what was obviously a new Christmas gift.
A florescent orange rubber playtoy. I motioned for her to sit and
surprisingly she did and waited until I fished the next pod. Somewhat
sadly these were whitefish and I did catch a couple as the sun went
down and the wind came up and Christmas fishing was over. The black lab
was patiently waiting on top of the bank. I climbed up and spent the
next 20 mins throwing her new toy in the water for her and a golden
lab who came to join her. What a smart dog ! I had been invited to a
friends house in Craig for a Christmas dinner. Like everyone else I
ate too much good food and thoroughly enjoyed my Christmas day !