May is a precarious time to fish in Montana. Rivers are swollen with extra water and moving high and fast. Our Girls Trip occurred just before the hatches really turned on. There were a few callibaetis fluttering about with sporadic rises here and there, but apparently not enough to get the fish to key-in on my humble dry fly offerings. There was just too much water for the fish to explore, so we were sinking nymphs and stripping buggers just below the surface.
The spring-fed creeks and ponds at McCoys are so clean and pure that the water visibility is near perfection. Even though we were dropping nymphs and stripping funky bugs, I still had the thrill of targeting fish and watching them follow, refuse and sometimes even take my fly.
But I’m afraid sharing fish pictures with you is a bit of an albatross around my neck, I just don’t have very many. I wasn’t as diligent as I normally am about having the camera on hand. So I don’t have images of the browns I pulled out of the riffles in the creeks. Or the feisty 16″ rainbow that jumped and fought like a tarpon. Okay so that’s a tinge of hyberbole, but hey, that’s how it happened in my mind’s eye and without photographic evidence to the contrary, that’s what we’re working with here.
Luckily I was fishing the pond with all the girls (and their cameras) when I hooked this brookie. I was set up with a dry-dropper combo, a pinkish Adams with a bubbleback emerger trailing below. This fish took the emerger – and put up quite a fight. I felt pretty lucky to land this one.
One day, we took leave of the peaceful waters on the ranch to tackle a big float on the upper Big Hole. When we set out for this adventure, the sun was shining and all seemed rosy. But the winds shifted and a storm rolled in by the time we reached the put-in. I don’t know which member of our party angered the spirits from the land of mist and snow (certainly it couldn’t have been I!) but man, did we all bear the brunt. Bitter wind, cold temps and incessant rain pummeled us for the entire day.
We held onto the river as long as we could. My boat partner caught a gorgeous 20” brown while nymphing. I was determined to draw them up on streamers, with virtually no reward. I tried yellow, black, rust/black combo. The only fish I moved was a brook trout on an olive streamer.
Now if you look closely you can see a fish somewhere behind my brookcicles – uh, I mean frozen fingers. I know, I look like I’m holding a cheeseburger. My hands were so numb I think I was trying to hold the fish for warmth.
It was toward the end of the Girls Trip when I heard someone throwing rocks against my bedroom window. Lo and behold The Professor was in the neighborhood! He stole me away for awhile, and we fished some spring creeks in the Ruby Valley.
We saw a few risers and I offered a dry fly the best I could, but no deal. So I resorted to a streamer and had all kinds of action. I had a number of fish crashing on the streamer and following it, but it was all so exciting I couldn’t seem to actually hook and land any of them! I did manage to land a nice brown:
And at the very end of our day I managed to land another one. It wasn’t necessarily a picture-worthy fish, but it suddenly hit me that this was the end of the line for this trip and so rather inexplicably a spring of love gushed from my heart for this whole vacation and this creek and the scenery of the valley. I just couldn’t resist snapping a pic of this guy to freeze the sentiment of the moment.
So there you have it, my verse & rhyme about the fishing on our trip.
Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest !
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small ;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
excerpt from The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge