Today was a beautiful cool Fall day in MT; bright sun scattered clouds, snow on the mountains; the leaves on the Cottonwoods a brilliant yellow gold. In other words, a miserable day for fishing !
I waited until 5 PM to go out for a tour of the river. The sun was still shinning brightly and the wind blowing briskly. I wasnt optimistic about my chances to eventually fish. I hedged my bets some, and skipped the laborious chore of putting on various layers of underclothes , waders, and boots and just chucked the whole mess in the car and took off.
The river was a bluudy mess ! Wind had turned the river into a roiling maelstrom. Sometimes things 5 miles down river can be completely different. I lit up my coral hawkbilliard and went for a drive. First, to the most sheltered spot that the I knew of, California island, and while it wasn t quite as bad as the Wolf Creek bridge it wasn t fisheable. Contented with my pipe I watched the river awhile , the wind carving sweeps in the water and debated whether to go home and work.
There was one other sheltered spot I knew of back up river, towards the dam, nicknamed the BullPen, for the bulls who hang out there and have created a mud wallow, I decided to check that out. There was about a 50 sq feet area of calm water there, no bugs no fish......
The sun was just about to set above the mountains and I decided , hey caveat emptor, carpe diem, smell the coffee etc. etc, the pipe was smoking great why not go for a walk? I set out in the bull field, sans bulls , and walked up the river towards the dam as the sun was setting. I got about 1/4 mile or so and lo and behold the wind died to a mere whisper and along the bank I saw a couple steadily rising fish. Hmmm.... I looked back to where I could just see the car parked, looked at the dimples on the water, and walked back to the car to put on my stuff, the hell with the smell of coffee!
After putting on my ton of gear I walked back to the fish , threaded my line thru the guides and waded out about 10 ft into the river about 40 feet above the fish that was still feeding along the bank. He promptly quit when I got in the water..... This gave me lots of time to consider what fly to put on. The only bugs I could see where tiny midges swarming above the water; with my incredible powers of deduction honed by years of fly fishing I concluded that that s what the fish must be eating as that s all there was. I looked thru my box of midges.
Midges by the way are really tiny maybe 1/8 to 1/4" long ( the large ones) generally there are thousands of them on the water and inducing the fish to eat your particular tiny speck of feathers is an adventure all by itself. There are many patterns you can use and it generally takes me 5 or 6 attempts to get the right one; but due to my position, almost straight upstream of the fish, I was only going to get one cast . Retrieveing my line, dragging it thru the water, right over the fish, if he didn t take my offerering, was going to send him swimming for the Atlantic Ocean.
I remembered a pattern given to me by my friend Chuck while we were fishing the Spring Creeks this past Aug. in Livingston, MT. These creeks are quite technical , tough drifts over educated fish that see artificial flies almost 250 days a year. This pattern worked well there and I decided to send it on it s maiden Mo. River voyage. The fly itself is kind of strange. Picture a guy back in the 80 s who desparately wanted to be cool and tie his hair in a pony tail months before it was long enough to do so. That s Chucks midge. a feather tied to the back of the hook and pulled tight to the hook eye, with a little fringe of feather end over the eye. Its supposed to imitate a midge floating with it s wings folded, or so one hopes....
I hedged my bets some and put it trailing an October Caddis, a fly about as big as a baby hummingbird and somewhat present this time of year. Still waiting for the fish to start feeding again I lit up my second pipe of the night, a ring grain Ser Jac straight apple. My patience was rewarded as by the time I got the pipe going the fish rose again. I estimated the distance to the fish, false casted the appropriate amount of line out and thru it in the current stream about 3 feet from the bank. After about 30 feet of drifting I saw a burple on the line of my drift and lifted; I was rewarded with a quick tension in the line, a splash , as a big fish headed out into the river firmly attached to my fly line.
I inwardly congratulated myself on the decsion to add the Caddis figuring thats what he must have taken that. Which goes along with a common fishing saying " Big lure, Big fish.... " After some give and take mostly take at first I managed to get the fish close to the bank, and out of the water pops the Oct caddis with the fish still hooked onto Chucks Midge. Was I surprised ! While I was releasing this fine fat 18" rainow I thought about Chucks generosity in sharing his prize pattern with me and how much I appreciated it. I thought about the the long walk back to the car to get my stuff, and the walk back all for one chance cast to get this fish. I briefly pondered if it was worth it, and said to myself , " You bettcha" !