Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
July 25th, 2005

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 from.

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 speeding up.

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 a trend.

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. EEEEYOWWW!!!

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 five minutes.

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?"

"Yup."

"Get in, its beer time."

"Okay."

Hmm, this is only my first fish of the week. Wonder what the rest will be like. ~ Frank Reid

About Frank:

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

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