One thing we knew for certain was that shit seemed to be happening a week or two early this year-peak flows were the first week of May (or at least we were keeping our fingers crossed), and there was rumored to be a muffled conversation of "my cousin's sister's boyfriend knows a guy who overheard a guide in the bathroom at Charlie B's after one too many instert name of current beer-du-jour for douchebag guides who are trying to look cool here or PBRs, a solid-if not completely safe to the point of making me want to puke choice for someone who is afraid they may accidentally order last year's cool guide beer, slip up and tell his equally drunk buddy that he had seen an adult salmonfly on lower Rock Creek earlier in the day".
After hearing a solid tip like that we were more than ready to drop everything and haul the raft up to Rock Creek and start slamming the banks with giant orange foam "flies". Well, as it turns out, and as it is wont to, one thing led to another and the instructions got all fouled up..... anyway last minute turned into very last minute and before we knew it we had decided that the report may have been a little too "second cousin once removed on Uncle Slayton's side" to completely trust, so we called an audible and decided to hit the lower Blackfoot. We had convinced ourselves that the river was probably dropping back into "fishable" levels, I mean it had been a full 24 hours since that inch-and-a-half of rain downpour we had the previous afternoon.
And so it was decided, even though we had hemmed and hawed all morning and half of the afternoon, that we could still get the boat on the water by 2:30 for a short float. OK, stop by the house, throw my shit in the trusty 4runner and head south. Halfway to Missoula...."damn, did I remember to throw in my 8 wt? Fuggit, too late now. Wait, there may be an upside to this...didn't Brooks tell me he bought an Orvis H2 in 7 or 8 wt?" I hope so. This could turn into a good thing. (I swear that's how it went down Brooks, I didn't 'forget' my 8 wt. on purpose).
Regardless, after meeting Brooks and dropping my rig off at the takeout, we rushed upriver to get the boat on the water. The whole way up the conversation went down like this:
Me: So, do you think the water has gone down?
Brooks: Um, yeah, maybe a little.... I mean, ok, yeah it has, some.
Me: There's at least, what.... 2 feet of visibility?
Brooks: Well, foot and a half anyway.
My first step into the water, my flip flops and maybe my ankles were covered with water.....shit, really? I can barely see my toes! More like 4 inches of visibility! I was in my flip flops because not only had I forgot my 8 wt., but my waders and wading boots as well. At least the sun was out and it was pretty warm.
Soon enough we were on the water and all worries suddenly aside. Anticipation was high, I've caught some big browns on the Blackfoot, especially in this time of year, so I put on a streamer and started looking for any inside soft water. The slots were almost non-existent, the Blackfoot was still a BIG river at the moment. There were some, but they were small and we were rocketing by them in a hurry. One shot at each spot, if I was lucky AND made a good cast. Fuck's sake, this fishing was asking alot out of my limited skill set. As luck would have it, Brooks had indeed bought a new Orvis H2 Helios 7 wt., and without turning this post into a thinly veiled endorsement in hopes that, against all odds an Orvis rep will read this and think not only is the greatest blog and also the most epic story he's ever read, but deicide that at all costs he must find me and not only hook me up with some rods, but
Halfway through the float we had landed a couple of respectable browns, with Brooks having brought a solid 20 inch plus buck to hand. Brooks had told me to be at the ready, he thought there would be a good slot around this next bend, with some skillful oar work, he set me up to lay a medium length cast to a promising looking slot amongst the willows. "Dude, don't fuck this up" I thought to myself, it was as fishy of a looking spot as we had seen all afternoon and something told me I needed to make this one count.
Ok, strip out a little extra, lift, lay it out.... nice cast if I say so myself. One twitch and whoa, it just stopped, like completely stopped. I instinctively lifted to set, whether it was an unseen log or a fish I was going to take the "set first and ask questions later" mentality.
It didn't take long for the fish to answer that question for me! "Brooks!" I half shouted, half squealed, "I've got a big fish on here, a REAL big fish!" The fight was most definitely on. Fortunately for me there wasn't much visibility and I wasn't able to see the fish until right as Brooks was getting it in the net. "HOE-LEE FAWK dude, is that what I think it is?"
|meet Mr. Blackfoot Bull Trout|
Thank you Mr. Blackfoot Bull Trout, and hopefully many more generations will be fortunate enough to have the same experience I just did.