Eschewing my usual tradition of celebrating the 4th with a 5th,
I chose instead to exercise my God-and-divorce-given right to
spend the day fishing. Though the rivers are still a bit high
and fast, run-off is over, and I decided to check out a spot
on the Bitterroot that I learned of from guide Ben Hart (but
only after heeding his admonition not to share).
I arrived early and foolishly crossed the river at a spot that,
though shallow, was about ten times the cfs I felt comfortable
wrestling. Crossing a river like this is kind of like going
rom single to being married; you can try to turn around and go
back, but you'll get knocked around in the process. So I forged
on and made it to the other side, still not sure how, but not
before I had another one of my "this is how stupid people die"
insights. I hope the lesson is learned.
But though I wouldn't attempt it again, the other side was worth
the effort. A short walk across what turned out to be a mid-stream
island brought me to a nice, slow, side channel, invisible from
the other side, where, just after my arrival, trout began to rise.
The problem now, though, was figuring out exactly what they were
rising to. It was the dreaded multiple hatch, with mayflies and
caddis, and, I think, a few green drakes on the water.
through my dry flies, first one, then another, and finally figured
out what these trout were feeding on—it was whatever was not on the
end of my tippet. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so
I tied on a bead-head hare's ear and swung it in the current while
slowly stripping it in. Though counter-intuitive, this had the desired
result, and I caught three vividly colored rainbows before three
knuckleheads in an aluminum canoe thrashed through the pool, sending
all of the trout to whatever netherworld it is that they disappear
to when spooked.
And before you think 'knuckleheads' is too harsh, let me explain.
That they paddled through the pool does not bother me—they were
floating the river and there was no where else for them to go
(though they could have practiced a bit more stealth). What
did bother me was when they passed within 15 feet of me and I
pleasantly said "good morning," they chose to rudely act as if
I wasn't even there. But the river gods have a way of striking
down the unworthy, and as they paddled ten more yards they hit
a bit of fast water, the canoe turned sideways, and all three
took a swim. The water was shallow and they were in no danger,
so it took all of my will power not to burst into loud guffaws.
I only hope they learned that rivers tend to punish the ill-mannered.
As that pool was ruined, I moved upriver and came to the penultimate
fly fisher's dream—a wide pool with a prominent eddy caused by a fast
riffle at its mouth. In the pool were numerous trout sipping spinners,
all within 20 feet of shore.
I'm a saltwater guy, and this serious trout fishing is new to me,
but I amazed myself by not rushing into the pool and whipping the
water into meringue. Instead I got down on all fours, crawled
slowly into the water at the edge of the pool, and kept a low
profile by fishing from my knees. The water was so placid that
any poor cast would have scattered the trout, so I lengthened
the leader with 6X tippet, tied on an 18 pmd (I didn't have any
spinner patterns, of course), and as delicately as I could I
fished for those trout feeding closest to me, gradually extending
the cast so as to reach the entire pool.
I caught three chunky cutthroats, left the fly in the mouth of
two others, and missed numerous strikes. I'd been there maybe
an hour before a guide came through in a drift boat with two
sports and scattered the pool. But, unlike the boorish canoers,
all three of this boat's occupants gave friendly salutations,
and, as I was ready to call it a day anyway, their foray into
my fishing nirvana didn't really bother me. In short, I was
I've frequently had 50 fish days when fishing for striped bass,
have hooked fish that took off to the bottom of the Atlantic
that I never even caught a glimpse of, and even once hooked
a mako shark that shot out of the water like a Polaris missile,
but I have to say that casting to and catching feeding trout
in a crystal pool on a translucent Montana river using small
dry fly has to be the pinnacle of the sport.
I've said it.
My saltwater brethren can now officially label me a trout weenie. ~ Dave
Until recently Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
He just moved to Missoula, Montana. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He wrote a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and taught a fly fishing course at Boston University.