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THE FIRST TRIP OF THE SEASON
Now going fishing is nothing new to me. In one form or another I have been trying to catch fish since I was barely out of short pants, which now nearly equals 3 score and 10. However, as I approach the first trip of the season there is always more than a little anticipation. Even though I have lived in Montana for almost 40 years and all the major streams are open to year around fishing there are a few months each year when I do not fish. Now that I spend the winter months in Arizona those few months have increased to at least 6 months each year.
Unfortunately, when we arrived back in Montana in mid-April the weather was not real conductive to angling. The famous 'Mother's Day Caddis' hatch was delayed due to cold and wet weather, and just about when it started to think about starting spring run-off kicked in. The river got dirty, cleared for a day or so and the hatch sputtered and spit until the river was completely blown out - so much for Mother's Day Caddis.
I had planned a nice three day trip to the Big Horn for the week before Memorial Day. Over the years that has been a tradition, but again, due to personal circumstances I have not been able to make that trip since 2009. Well, if you have been keeping track of events here in Montana you know that the week before Memorial Day we had torrential rains in Montana, rivers and creeks flooded, they raised the flows on the Big Horn to over 10,000 cfs and the road into Fort Smith was washed out. In short, you couldn't get there from here or anywhere else unless you had a helicopter! Cancel one Big Horn River trip for this spring.
With rivers and streams across Montana out of their banks June was mostly a wash – no pun intended. In addition, there were plenty of chores to do around the old homestead – lawn mowing, gardening, etc. June was a continuation of May with more rain and cooler than normal weather. This delayed the hatches on the spring creeks where I might have gone to wet a line, but each time I considered making an attempt to go the weather persuaded me to do otherwise.
It has been said that good things come to those who wait, and finally when July arrived I slipped away after dinner to check out my favorite spring creek. I arrived just after 7 pm and saw that the spinners were dancing over the fields surrounding the stream, and with any good fortune the mated females would soon be on the water.
Well, in a word I was more than a bit rusty. Now I had all my gear, fly rod, reel, waders, vest, flies, but somehow I seemed to have forgotten how to put the reel on my rod. I cast with my right hand and reel with my left, but the first time I put the reel on wrong and didn't realize it until I had the rod completely strung up. Then I took the reel off and did exactly the same thing again, except I caught myself before I got it strung up. I finally got it right but when I went to tie on a fly in the fading light of day I realized that I had forgotten my glasses at home. Fortunately I had my bifocal sunglasses so by holding the fly up to the sky I could see it well enough to get the tippet through the eye and tie on a fly. Fortuitously the Lord is gracious to fools and old men, and on this evening I was both.
Fish were rising steadily when I slipped into the water. There were some respectable noses poking through the surface film and I set out to see if I still remembered how to catch one. The following series of photos taken by my nephew tell the rest of the story.
Readying the net
Safe in the net
A nice brown proves that I still know how it's done!
In Montana in early July it doesn't get really dark until nearly 10 o'clock in the evening and I took advantage of every minute of daylight on that first night. I was ready and the fish were willing. A summer night in Montana, trout rising, the last rays of the sun illuminating the surrounding mountain tops might not be heaven but it's about as close as this old fly flinger will ever get this side of glory.
Fishing Images courtesy of Tom Travis
Landscape Image by the author