An Essay on Spring Creeks: Part I


“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

* * *

We pulled out of Twin Bridges and the Professor asked me one more time, “So you’ve really never fished a spring creek?”

I knew precisely what he meant, but nevertheless I offered, “Well, I mean the Missouri is like a giant spring creek, isn’t it?”

He wasn’t playing along with my contrived flakiness, so I resubmitted, “No, I’ve never fished a true spring creek.”

It was a clear day in early July and we were headed to McCoy Spring Creeks, a premiere fishery on a ranch just outside of Dillon, Montana. My lack of experience with spring creeks well-documented, the Professor offered me a primer on what to expect. He explained that a spring creek originates as an underground aquifer whose water temperatures remain consistent throughout the seasons. For this reason a spring creek does not freeze during winter, it just keeps flowing. Not only does it persevere through a full spectrum of year-round weather conditions, it is also characterized by pure, nutrient-rich water which uniquely supports a multitude of hatches and a vibrant trout population.

Ooh la la, now we’re talking. I liked the sound of that. You see, I already had an academic grasp of the spring creek hoo-ha. The juxtaposition of catching a big fish on a small piece of water. Fighting a hearty trout on a 4-weight rod. Clear water and perfect presentation. Oh yeah, I got it. And I was fired up to give it a shot.

But of course my academic grasp was just that, academic. I really hadn’t a clue. I sat blissfully in the passenger seat, rolling down the highway dripping in optimism and dramatic irony. Because as the protagonist of this little odyssey, I was actually the only one in this vehicle who didn’t have an inkling of what to expect from these waters.

The Professor had fished McCoy’s several times before. He was excited to share such a special place with me, and he was also fired up to fish the creeks again himself. Of course everyone knows about the spring creeks in the Paradise Valley, their reputation leaves a remarkable wake. But among those technical anglers who are passionate about spring creek fishing, it is readily accepted that McCoys is nothing short of nirvana.

Not only are the creeks maintained to a meticulous standard, the fish are big and the surroundings majestic. McCoy’s is insulated by a panoramic view of four mountain ranges, the Tobacco Root, the Ruby, the Snowcrest and the Pioneer. Like a team of fairy god-mountains encircling these creeks and keeping a protective eye on them.

It was after lunchtime when we arrived at the ranch. We exchanged greetings and introductions among friends that were already there and then promptly suited up for benevolent battle.

The scenery was breathtaking – how could all of this be just a few minutes away from a town the size of Dillon? The poetry was all there in the landscape. The western fields with mountains in the distance. The white brushstroke clouds against a blue-sky canvas. And winding through the bright green pasture was a creek so precise and so narrow that it looked as if it had been carved into the ground with a scalpel by the steady hand of a surgeon. Or perhaps an artist. The result was a watery sculpture that would bend and fold and arch to accommodate the raw, unwieldy nature of its grassy base.

It is safe to say that until this point, my fishing maturation process had stalled somewhere in the Adolescent Stage. I was turned on by the adrenaline rush of big water and big fish and big float trips. I boasted experience on rivers like the Missouri, the Blackfoot, the Madison, the Smith, and most recently, the Big Hole. I didn’t know what to make of this lovely, but sneaky little creature in front of me.

It’s a good thing I was ignorant or I’d have been nervous.

I couldn’t get over how narrow this creek was. Actually I could get over it — in fact in places I felt I could jump right across it. How could a trout of any size live in anything so small? And if it was in there, wouldn’t I just be able to see it?

Oh wait I could. There it was. And there was its friend…and its neighbor….and all of its cousins. Good Lord, there were fish everywhere!

When we stopped walking you realized how quiet it was without the swishing of grass and clomping of feet. And that’s when you could hear the trout eating. Sip…sip…sip. They were everywhere. Above us, below us. Right under our noses.

Okay, now certainly I could catch one of these. My biggest problem on any given day was usually not being able to cast far enough. Whether on the Missouri or bonefishing in the Atlantic, I always seemed to need just a little more distance. But good heavens, I could cast from here to there…right?

Well, let’s just say that in my excessive hubris I grossly overestimated the power of proximity where spring creek fishing is concerned.

* * *

This is the first of three posts on my experience on these spring creeks. If you simply can’t wait, you can go ahead and contact McCoy’s at to schedule a visit. In the meantime, I will post Part II tomorrow…

14 Responses to “An Essay on Spring Creeks: Part I”
  1. Harry says:

    I can tell already that this is going to get interesting by the way you left us hanging at the end.

  2. El General says:

    Wow. That got the heart pumping, and reminded me I need to buy those Montana plane tickets.

    I love spring creeks.

  3. Redbeard says:

    Great, great post. You make it hard to get any work done after reading that.

    Also, nice work on already making the homepage of their site.

  4. Redbeard says:

    “To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities!”
    - Bruce Lee

  5. Monty Montana says:

    Ok I forgive you…(the Bud thing), amazing writing. Talent, talent with a capitol “T”, very nice work and a beautiful subject line.

    Monty Montana

  6. itchy dog says:

    Eloquent, teasing…sorta like a spring creek itself.
    Ever read “A Good Life Wasted” by Dave Ames? If not, put it on your list. He writes about a spring creek near as good as the Chick does.

  7. oh this spring creek did more than just tease me! stay tuned for parts 2 & 3

    in the meantime, THANKS ALL for indulging my stories!! I really appreciate each of your comments

    and I am really glad to be off Monty’s Bad List. Whew! It’s okay, I have gone off/on it a few times now. I know he can’t stay mad at me long…

  8. Kentucky Jim says:

    Great writing. My experience here in California is with Hot Creek. Same thing as you’ve described, but perhaps a bit wider. Lotsa, lotsa fish…lotsa big ones.

  9. Daniel says:

    I agree, you’re a talented writer. I stumbled upon this blog, only having fished maybe twice in my life, but this was a really interesting read! I’m gonna stick around, if you don’t mind…

  10. I agree with the other comments, you are a talented writer. I look forward to reading Paddlefish…

  11. So poetic and descriptive — I felt like I was there!

  12. Jason says:

    “The white brushstroke clouds against a blue-sky canvas.” Beautiful image! I’m hooked on this blog…

  13. wow! thanks jason! glad you are enjoying it

  14. thanks anthony! I have finished the first draft and am now editing with the publisher. fingers crossed the book is out this OCT

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