Full Combat Fishing
There I was at 30,000 feet without a parachute.
The flight attendant was out of olives for my
martini. Oh, wait; this is a fishing war story,
not an Air Force one.
Okay, I'm on a nine-day pilgrimage to the
storied waters of Montana. Salmonfly hatch
on the Madison just below Quake Lake. Just
gonna wade out here to the middle of the
stream, what the? Wade? WADE? If I wade
out there, they'll be rifling my vest on
my bloated body in Ennis, 40 miles downstream.
This is definitely "big water."
Okay, so I'll fish from shore. I'm gingerly
sitting on the bank (I'd broken my tailbone
the week before I left whilst falling down
the stairs) and a salmonfly lands on my shirt.
I pick him up, examine him, weigh and measure
(about 6 pounds and 27 inches), photograph
and then play catch and release. In this
case, catch and release means chuck him in
the river. Well, I guess this is like
chumming, 'cause a huge brown slams it
after about 10 feet. Hmmm. Momma Reid
didn't raise no dummy. I tie on a salmonfly
dry with a Kaufmann's Golden Stone dropper
on 2X tippet. Pull out some line, drop the
fly into the current, and WHAM!
Now, Bubba Brownie ain't dumb either. He
wants to show off his catch to all his buds
that live downriver. He proceeds to take
off at a 45 degree angle into the big water,
heading for the opposite shore. I decide to
follow and do a "River Runs Through It."
Useless wading staff in my left hand and
rod held high in my right, I'm heading
north at full tilt.
By the way, what's with this river running
north stuff? Seriously screws with your
sense of direction.
'Bout this time, my buddies call me on the
walkie-talkie and say its time to go. They
get no answer from me, as I'm now water
skiing behind this fish, a Montana sleigh
ride. My silence worries them, as they
believe I may have a penchant for falling
in the water. Don't know where that comes
I endeavor to get below the fish, but
between the 800 CFS of the current and the
snot covered bowling balls I'm wading over,
it's a loosing cause. I ship a little water
over the top of my waders. No, make that a
lot of water. I now have three rainbows and
a Rocky Mountain Bonefish nipping at my shirt
buttons. Step, slide, step, step, YEHOOO.
We're going in boys!
Found a hole. Now I'm floating. The wading
staff makes a lousy tiller. Got. To. Keep.
Tension. On. The. Fish. I lift my feet
up and head downstream in the proper whitewater
safety position. I don't worry about sweepers
because I'm now about 20 yards from shore and
I pass three drift boats and get a thumbs up
from all the guides. I grab for the gunnel
of the front boat. It's my last chance at
salvation. As my outstretched fingers reach
for the prow, the sport in the front gives me
a high five, slapping my hand away. "Great fish,
fight 'im bud!" he hollers as I slip past my
last chance at survival.
My life flashes before my eyes. Most of the
scenes highlighted are similar to this, i.e.
up to my eyeballs in water. Hmm, sounds like
Just then, my heels hit bottom. I'm not out
of the woods yet, as the current is pushing
me towards my lunch date in Portland, Oregon.
I jam the wading staff into the bottom, get
my feet under me, and stand up. Ops check,
all parts attached, fish still on the line.
I fight my way to the bank and drag the fish
with me. If he thinks he's gonna pop my tippet
after all this, he's wrong. After four tries,
I get him close enough to net. I pop out the
fly, hold him in the water, get out the camera
(waterproof) and try to sit on the bank.
My body uncoils like a switchblade as I
remember that busted tailbone that is now
bearing my weight. 24 inches of brown trout
flies through the air like a flapjack. I
spin back down the bank, catch the fish in
the net, plop him down for three seconds on
the bank, snap a pic, and then hold him in
the current as we both huff and puff for
About this time, I recognize the plaintive
calls for me coming from the walkie-talkie
in the Ziploc in my wader pocket. They're
ready to call out search and rescue. I tell
them that I'll meet them on the road. They
drive up, only to be greeted by my soaked
self, 300 yards downstream of where I started.
Then again, these guys have both fished with
me before. No surprises.
"Didcha land 'im?"
"Get in, its beer time."
Hmm, this is only my first fish of the week.
Wonder what the rest will be like. ~ Frank Reid
Born and raised in Southern California, my mother
taught me to love fishing. I would fish from the
piers around Los Angeles as all my friends hung out
on the beach. At age 19, I joined the U.S. Air
Force to see the world and liked what I saw, so
stayed in for 23 years, finally retiring in 2000.
I've lived and fished all over the US and the globe,
from the deserts of California to the Philippines,
Germany, South Korea, England, beautiful Omaha,
Nebraska and about 1,000 other places in between.
These travels taught me to fish for whatever happens
to be in the local water. I now work in the Baltimore
area as a computer consultant trying to earn
enough to buy that next new rod or go on that next trip.
My wife is Brenda (who's quilting addiction rivals my
fly fishing/tying obsession) and we have two lovely
daughters. ~ FR
Lighter Side Archive