Thursday, February 16, 2012


Well it didn't take long after attending this year's installment of the F3T to get out on a river.  Last Sunday, despite the day's best efforts to keep me from fishing, I made it out to our local "big" river.  I had been keeping an eye on the flows and when they began dropping I figured it was time for a change of scenery from the "home waters" of my favorite little river.  Our local big river is not near as well known for it's trout fishing as most of our state's flagship rivers, and (for the most part) justifiably so.  It doesn't harbor thousands of trout per mile or boast prolific hatches.  It is better known as a place to chase pike, and more recently as a very popular smallmouth bass fishery, and with good reason.  The number and size of smallmouths has exploded in the last few years.  Although it has always held a few sizeable trout it has more recently shown a marked increase in trout population and has become somewhat of an as-yet  mostly undiscovered decent trout fishery for a handful of fly fisherman.  It is a welcome relief from dodging a seemingly endless string of drift boats on the Madison, some asshole wading every bend in Rock Creek or (perhaps) the never-ending flotilla of drunken tubers on the Blackfoot (on second thought, maybe not the last one as there is usually bikinis involved!).  However I suppose I digress seeing as how it is only mid-February and none of the aforementioned scenarios would be playing out quite yet.
Anyway, back to the gist of this story which was a couple hours of fishing the big river when I was jonesin' bad for some time on the water.
I chose a spot just a few minute drive from home and decided to fish at the mouth of a tributary.  As with most days on this river I had the place to myself, it was a balmy 34 degrees and the sun seemed to burn a hole through the patchy overcast just often enough to keep me comfortable.  Although the streamer fishing has slowed considerably with the true onset of winter here in western Montana I couldn't help tying on an olive conehead and working the slow inside seam of the riffle where the tributary dumped into the main river.  As I worked my way down the seam, sunshine repleatedly bathed the river in a welcome glow, if only momentarily.  I noticed a couple of fish began to rise somewhat rhythmically to pick small swarms of midges from the surface.  A cursory glance in my sling pack showed nothing but wire worms, beadhead nymphs, double beadhead nymphs, and conehead streamers the likes of which seemed to get progressively larger and uglier with each compartment of my fly box.  So much for hoping to get some surface action.
Silently chastising myself for not bringing any dry flies (I might as well be known as the dry-flyfishdude for shit's sake, I love fishing dries) I reminded myself of how lucky I was to be a mere minutes from my house alone on an beautiful river with a few big fish and with nary a soul in sight.  As luck would have it I didn't make two more casts and heard a truck rambling down the hill, encroaching on my little tranquil slice of riverine nirvana.  Are you shitting me?  Sure enough the piss-poor excuse of an exhaust system pukes out one last backfire and the next thing I hear is doors slamming.
I squint against the slanted rays of the afternoon sun and I'm able to make out two forms weaving through the brush that quickly transform into two carhartt coveralled, lawn chair-totin' rednecks (don't get me wrong, I rock carhartts and lawn chairs, just not when fishing) and immediately assume the worst, that they're bait-dunkin', carhartt coveralled, lawn chair-totin' rednecks.  My assumption is proven correct soon enough but not before insult is added to injury as they also see the rising fish below me and promptly figure that low-holing me is the correct course of action in this particular instance!  Un-fuckin'-believable!
I scrounge up the remaining scraps of my nice-guy-ness and force a part friendly, part "get the fuck out of my run" nod of recognition.  I also decide to fish out as much of the run as possible, fully intending to stop only when the arc of my swing carries my streamer into their taut lines (they had managed to rig up rather quickly and promptly plunked some bait to the bottom and had already found two forked sticks, or maybe they brought their own).
Sometimes the universe takes time out of it's busy schedule and recognizes a particularly vile instance of someone "pulling a shitty" and decides to intervene to bring karmic forces back into balance, and sometimes these interventions happen to good flyfishpeople and this particular time that flyfishperson was the dude himself.  Not far above the bait-dunkin', carhartt-coveralled, lawn chair sittin' redneck's claim I laid out a beautiful cast down and across the seam, made a couple of mends, let it swing and dangle as long as I could stand.  I secretly wished I could will a fish to take my streamer in front of these hillbillies.  Sure enough on the second or third slow strip I felt a tug.  The tug promptly turned out to be a 21" rainbow that, despite an obvious weight problem, promptly made a sprint downstream, sizzling line off my reel into the backing, making three acrobatic aerial displays along the way.  Once i was able to lean on him enough to turn him and start making progress he made two more graceful leaps clear of the water.  By now I absolutely cannot help myself and I am making somewhat of a scene.  I may have even resorted to letting out a couple of whoops and a holler.  The mad plank of 'bow at the end of my line wasn't done as he decided to make another run that almost took me to my backing again.  After finally bringing the fish to hand I had regained my composure and quickly snapped a couple of pictures before only having to wag his tail once or twice before he finned back to the comfort of the depths.

Karma.  I'm glad the dude abides.  I'm also glad the hippie guy at the shop in Missoula reminded me.  As I left a shop the other day, he simply pointed to the jar on the counter with an unassuming "TIPS" written in sharpie on some recycled cardboard duct-taped to the front.  While pointing to the tip jar he simply said (and I'm not shitting you one bit here)  "Dude, karma"   Thanks brah........

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