The Professor and I just snuck out to Montana for a few heavenly days of vacation which was heavy on fall fishing, food and football.
We fished the Big Hole with our friend Eric, co-owner of Sunrise Flyshop in Melrose. I’ve said it before, Eric is seriously one of the hardest working guides on the planet.
The air temp was 17 when we woke up that morning and the water temp was hovering somewhere around 33 degrees when we started our day. Fish were sluggish so we had to go BIG to get their attention. As in big, big streamers.
We caught a number of browns early but the real fun started when the sun came out after lunch and the fish came to life. We had a blast! All of the fish were in the 15-19” range but we each caught several and had some super fun chases toward the end of the float. Nothing cooler than watching these trout hot on the trail of these massive streamers.
Did I mention we were throwing BIG streamers? I threw one fly all day long. Eric had tied it as a prototype so it was the only one in existence. Which was touch and go each of the two dozen or so times I caught it on rocks and in trees and on bushes. I was hung up a lot. But hey, I was trying to get tight to the bank to get these troutcicle fish interested!
A massive articulated streamers with two giant hooks is simply going to get caught a few thousand times…or so. Right? (Yikes. Sorry for the extra backrowing, Eric.) Luckily we were catching enough fish to mask any potential frustration over my multiple snags.
I cast that colossal fly so many times over the course of seven hours that it actually started to hurt. I swear I think I developed tendonitis in my right arm. The Professor has recently suffered serious tendonitis in both elbows, resulting in two cortisone shots, so he wasn’t particularly sympathetic and maintains I was just “a little sore”. But I am telling you, I was one cast away from a steroid shot myself. Pitiful that just last summer I paddled 260-miles in 73 hours and was AOK, yet somehow I contracted a “sports” injury after a guided day of streamer fishing.
But it was damn worth it.
We celebrated a great day on the water and the official close of the Sunrise Flyshop season (we were the last clients for Sunrise in 2011) with Eric and his business partner Ryan. We watched Game 7 and TCU-BYU at the Melrose Bar and warmed up with homemade onion rings and other bar fare.
Ryan, Eric (of Sunrise Flyshop) and myself. Have I mentioned we are big fans of these guys? Not only have they become good friends of ours, the Professor and I are both keen to tell anyone and everyone about their operation in Melrose. If you need a guide in SW Montana, run don’t walk.
The Professor’s philly cheese steak and onion rings.
The next day we were planning to fish the Jefferson but some juicy intel advised us it wasn’t worth it right now. Which was probably for the best given I was suffering with my inflamed streameritis elbow. I wasn’t up for chucking another 5-pound fly and rowing all day – this time in gusting wind. So instead we opted for something new, a roadtrip over to Willow Creek.
That’s right. After a killer day on the Big Hole with big streamers and big fish, we decided to go dainty on their ass. We wade fished the Willow Creek spring creeks. Smaller water, smaller flies, smaller fish.
I think this little guy was actually smaller than the streamer I’d been throwing the day before. That said, he was lots of fun to catch. I had a few other bumps on the teeny nymph and one good take on an ant, even though the fished missed it. The Professor switched to an ant pattern and outfished me with this beast:
The spring creeks provided nice lite fishing and the scenery on this last-minute audible daytrip was to die for.
One of the many outtakes of my experimentation with the self timer.
After our breezy angling afternoon on the creeks, we sought out the Willow Creek Cafe and Saloon which we heard serves up the best ribs in Montana.
The barkeep was kind enough to switch the TV over to the Carolina-Wake Forest game for me. Go Heels.
In keeping with that juicy Tarheel victory, the North Carolina style mustard-base sauce on these ribs won us over as well.
Another fabulous October Montana trip punctuated by this big sky view for the ride home last evening. Replete with a little picturesque sliver of a moon…
Adios Montana. Catch you on the flipside…in 2012.