The day dawned early as they usually do in MT , tho from the thick snow heavy low clouds you wouldn t have known it. Checked the weather and they promised lite snow, temps just above freezing , and lite winds. I ve been out scouting this week with temps in the 50 s and brite sun, not a rising fish was seen but today could be the day, I hopefully thought.....
After lunch I debated whether to stuff myself into neopreme waders and boots somewhat comfortably in the shop, or check the water first in case that ordeal was not neccesary. I commited, put all the stuff on and waddled out to the car. I dug out my fishing pipes and selected a big Coral bent ball my son had made, added a tin of Navy Flake and a large Cavichhi bent apple to my vest and I was rolling.
I stopped on the Wolf Creek bridge to check out my first spot just down from the boat launch, a good early midgn spot from last year. Sure enough some jerk was in my spot! Happily, from the bridge I could see fish rising above him, a hopeful portent of things to come! Magnanimously, I passed the spot by, its a big river and went to search other locations.
My next two spots up river were void of fish. Perhaps the hatch hadn t started up that high? There was no wind , no sun and lite snow falling. Absolutely perfect conditions, but no fish... To console myself, I lit my GT pipe and watched the water for awhile before moving on.
Down river this time, no fish at California Island, none by the Craig bridge. At this point I was starting to have second thoughts about letting that guy in my spot by the WC bridge.... I headed down to Cardinale's , a local guide with a home on the river , and looking down from a high bank I saw fish rising intermittently, tho enough to give it a shot.
For the last 7 years I ve been on the river, there s been an abandoned railroad track running along the North side . Kind of a nice highway to get to spots along the river rather than pounding the bushes.. Now some asshole railroad executive who obviously doens t fish or smoke a pipe, in his infinite wisdom, decided to park 60 MILES of empty railroad cars between Wolf Creek and Great Falls on the no longer not so abandoned track . Getting to the river is no longer such an easy task ! Too low to climb under and a major pain in the ass to climb over when wet and icy especially with a $600 flyrod in hand . Anyway.....
I quietly slipped into the river didnt even fall in when I tripped over a rock . The day was looking up! Going into stealth mode, I crept up on some fish rising in some quiet shallow water. Using midges I had on from last Dec. I got to work. After about 20 mins with nothing to show for my labors I decided it was time to switch flies . A course of action I had been avoiding as my fingers were damn cold by now . It took two or three tries to get my tandem rig of flies tied on but perserverence does pay off and I was ready to rumble once more. Having lost my spring midges last season while trying to escape the entanglements or a barb wire fence I had most recently tied very small midge patterns pretty much only usefull for the Fall, miniscule in fact. Now on the water were the selfsame midges but they were doing the naughty in various positions and in large groups. Trout being as smart as they are were eating the large groups . I looked at my small box of miniscule midges and realized I was going to get screwed as well......
However, I was rescued by one fly given to me a couple days before by another fisherman while we were standing by the river yakking on a beautiful brite sunny fishless day. I took it, as he was a nice guy and proud of it. I thought to myself there s no way this big ugly hairy sucker going to fool any trout. Today it was just t he fly I needed as it imitated the libidinous ball of midges. Also it was so big you could actually see the thing.
A smashing strike came on my first cast with the new rig. The fish broke the water rolled on the fly and ran about 5 streaking yards untill it came to an abrupt halt rolled on its side and let me drag him in : a white fish. Realizing the rest of his buddies near him in the slow water were probably of the same ilk, I turned my nose up at them and headed off into the faster water on the other side of me.
Not as many fish rising but more likely trout.
A few casts later a swirl besides my big ugly hairy fly indicated that a fish had taken my trailing midge emerger. I lifted an sur' nuf. one was on. This time the fish did more than run 5 yards . Out into the current he ran . I just let the line burn, there was no stopping this one! Luckily as in most cases, he got tired before I ran out of line and it was just a matter of time before I had him in the net , a real nice fat sassy 19" rainbow. A great way to start the new year. I celebrated by lighting up my Cavichhi even tho it was touch and go for awhile with my cold jet lighter. Sometimes matches do come in handy.
I moved a few yards down and spotted the next client swirling the water. I put the BHUF ( big ugly hairy fly ) over him and he took it. The first two fish were on the emerger so I was kind of surprised to see this work. This time was a brown and a nice one as well......
I moved up and down the flat taking a fair number of fish alternating between the emerger and the BHUF. All good things have to come to an end and even tho there were still plenty of concupiscent midges having wild group sex with reckless abandon and an endless variety of positions and permutations ; the fish in that area were no longer interested.
I moved on.
I knew of a good spot about a 1/4 mile down river. Used to be an easy walk down the old "abondoned" railway line. Now filled with cars right along a steep bank , walking down there became a difficult and muddy proposition. But I was up to the task, the thought of big rising fish driving me ever onwards. :)
Safely navigating the railline and ducking under a barbwire fence I was at the spot and so was someone else.. I called out to him , not wanting to scare him. You always think you re alone on the river , you cant hear a whole lot above the rush of the current and then some friendly guy, who you didnt see comes up to you and says hi and scares the living shit out of you . Being curteous, I triy to avoid this, especially as he was there first. Turns out I knew him .Chris lives just up the road and is a partner in the local fly shop. He thought it was great we met as just about no one ever sees him fish and now I could vouch for him. Kind of strange logic..... but fisherman are like that.
The spot was plenty big for both of us and there were lot s of fish rising and we both started catching them. This time they were on the BHUF exclusively. For a good half hour there was lots of action. Then some assholes in one man float boats came thru. They were cold and done with fishing. The first one started yakking with Chris, I was down river stalking the bank , looking for big browns that often lay up there. I had seen some swirls and was just getting ready to cast when this inconsiderate jerk who had the whole 1/4 mile wide river to row thru drifts between me and the 40 feet to the bank , over the fish. Day is done. Where did he think he was going ? What did he think he was doing? Perhaps he just wanted to stop and talk to me about what a great day he had or that his hands or feet were cold or that he s a closet she-male.....This is why I hate other fisherman!
But I got to duly complain to Chris about it as we walked out. Complaining can be fun too. He said that s why his shop has stopped renting those damn things. They are truly and anathema on the river. I d like nothing more than to pellet their tubes as they unconsciously float over my fish; hoping that they can t swim either !
But that s life on the river, the good bad and the Ugly... ...:)