Out My Back Door
Brian Ahern, Helena, Montana
The morning of September 18, 2003 dawned cool,
overcast and with an abundance of fresh air. A
real treat fallowing the summer heat and a month
and a half of thick, chocking smoke. My nephew
Dennis from Richland, WA, had graced us with his
presence the day before and we felt since it had
been a long dry spell of no fishing we owed it to
ourselves to spend some time on the water. Our
unanimous choice of destinations was Spring Meadow
Lake, about a 3 mile drive from my front door and
within the city limits. The lake is an old gravel
pit that was taken over by the State of Montana in
1981 and made into Spring Meadow Lake State Park.
It supports a self sustaining population of Large
Mouth Bass, Perch, and Sunfish.
Since it is spring feed and has no real inlet or outlet,
all Trout are planters. The lake has been planted each
year with Rainbows and in 2001 Westslope Cutthroat were
introduced. The Trout and Bass have been known to reach
10 pounds but my biggest, taken a couple of years ago was
In summer it is used extensively by the younger folks
for swimming and fishing but once school starts one can
often have the lake to themselves as we did. After a
little bantering about who was going to catch the most
fish we launched our float tubes and headed out. About
50 feet from shore Dennis hooked his first fish on a
Black Woolly Bugger with a Green Body.
Dennis with the first fish of the day
Most fish caught here are considered keepers as they
make good table fare due to the abundance of crustaceans
and the large population of Crayfish. This day though
was a catch and release day and the fish were gently
released to be caught another day (the above photo was
the only fish taken from the water). My nephew had a
banner day and brought to hand 6 or 7 nice Bows, one
Cutthroat and two Bass. I was not so fortunate and only
managed to land one Rainbow. Old age I guess. All fish
caught that day were taken on a black and green woolly
A good view of the one-time gravel pit
As the sun was close to setting we decided to call
it a day, pack the gear away and head to the Missouri
for a little Walleye fishing. I was hauling my last
load to my Trooper when Dennis hollered "Brian do
you always let your float tube drift out into the lake."
Having shed our waders what were we to do. He remembered
having his Salmon Spinning Rod and I had some Bell
Sinkers. The combination saved the day.
Dennis rescuing my float tube.
The next morning about 10:00 am my niece Loretta and her
husband Joe from Redmond, WA hit town and Joe wanted
to fish with folks who could take him where the fish
are. Back to Spring Meadow we went. Joe landed the
most fish that day with a Doc Spratley nymph that he
says is popular in Washington, but is not sold here.
He landed about 8 Rainbows and 1 cutthroat.
Joe taking it easy
Dennis had no luck on the Bugger and switched to a unnamed
brown nymph. His count was not as good as the day before
as he only caught two fish. I got skunked that day which
was okey because I believe the fishing is always good
the catching just ain't to hot some times. Besides that
I managed to solidly beach my float tube.
Dennis with another nice one
We are fortunate here to have a place like Spring Meadow
particularly if you fly fish. Most folks around here
consider it a 'kids pond' and go join the crowd on the
Missouri leaving the challenges it presents to just a
very few of us. A challenge is what this little lake is.
Dry flies rarely get a strike and a Bead Head Prince
Nymph will work well one day and be of no interest the
If you have such a lake in your area remember what it's
like to be a kid and take advantage of it. Some of the
best fishing can often be right out ones back door.
~ Brian Ahern