One perfect cast
When I walked from the studio to the house, there were caddis in the air. I'm fortunate enough to live part time on the banks of the Yellowstone River just outside Livingston, Montana, and it was finally a warm day after more than a week of cool, cloudy, sometimes rainy weather. The good thing about the weather was that it had stopped the snowmelt and the river, while still a bit high, was clear enough to fish, with about two feet of visibility. The Mother's Day caddis had started to appear before the cool weather hit, but this was the first day since that there were caddis flying.
Two hours until dark. I told my wife I ought to be fishing. She suggested I put the little Watermaster raft in at the house and float down to the Hwy. 89 bridge, about three or four miles, and she'd come and pick me up there. She didn't have to talk me into it.
There were indeed caddis in the air along the river. Not the full blown hatch, where millions of bugs are on the water, so many my buddies and I call the floating mats of insects "caddis pizzas". So many that their lime green egg cases totally cover whatever parts of your waders are underwater for a while. No, this was sparse for the caddis hatch, with pockets along the banks where there would be about a thousand caddis in an area the size of an automobile. And hardly any caddis on the water. No rising fish.
I put on a streamer and fished it as I drifted downstream, watching for rises as much as stripping the streamer. I briefly hooked one fish, didn't even see it.
Finally, a rise. Another one. I stopped, tied on an elk hair caddis a size bigger than the real bugs, and a drifted it over where I'd seen the first rise. Slurp. A little eight inch rainbow. Drifted it over the second rise area. Another rainbow, about ten inches.
No more rises. Still hardly any bugs on the water. I drifted on downstream, letting the fly drift along the bank along with me. Nothing. Then, in a big slow water eddy just off the main current along a bluff in deep shade, I saw a rise. Another. A couple more. I slid into the slow water, watching as the rises continued along the soft current seam. It wasn't a feeding frenzy, maybe one or two rises, then 30 seconds or so, then one or two more. But I started drifting over where I saw each rise, and I believe that I caught or at least hooked every fish I saw rising in that eddy, about 15 of them in all. That's nice about the Mother's Day caddis hatch, it's the first big hatch after a hard winter and the fish aren't picky.
By that time it was getting close to sunset, so I drifted on, looking for more rises. There were very few, but I caught a couple more fish. And then, as I was drifting down a fast run, I saw a single rise in reverse current a foot from a rocky bank, a long cast length from my drift line, well ahead of me. I had time, as I drifted down to a point adjacent to the rise and a long cast length away, to realize that I'd only get one shot and it would have to be perfect, because I wasn't going to get much of a drift in those differential currents. I'm far from the best fly caster, and my mends on long casts are shaky at best, so I figured I should lay the fly no more than two feet upcurrent from where I'd marked the single rise by a distinctive rock on the bank next to where I'd seen it. Two feet would be about all the drift I'd get.
The fly, amazingly, landed exactly where I wanted it to, drifted the two feet, and disappeared in a big maw. I had the fish on long enough to see it well, and it was over 20 inches. The hook came loose, however, long before I had the fish under control. I didn't really care. I was just happy to have made that perfect cast that paid off with the take. Sometimes it's almost enough to convince me that I know what I'm doing when it comes to fly fishing.
By that time it was nearing dark and I still had the rapid just above the 89 bridge to run. It's not really difficult but it isn't something I want to do in the dark in an eight foot raft. I called my wife on the cell phone and told her I was ten minutes away from the take-out. The rapid was uneventful, and I was just carrying the raft up the ramp when she arrived.