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Montana solitude

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God, it was hot. Monster flies buzzed loudly and gnats incessantly sought the moisture in my eyes. The sun in the Rockies bore down and stung my skin with its intensity...but my feet were soon to be in 55 degree water and a fly rod was in my hand. On balance, not so bad.

It was just a blue line, this little stream, not even a name on the map. But, it was accessible from a forest service road. When I'd asked at the fly shop the guide working the register said give it a go. He knew really nothing about the stream, but thought if I wanted solitude in Montana, I would find it there along with enough little brookies to keep me happy.

The meadow where I found the water was flat and hot with not a breath of air moving. The stream was in poor shape, with a small herd of cattle breaking down the banks and no cover from the sun. In an effort to save my skin from melanoma and fish in some measure of comfort I passed on the meadow section and moved upstream into the trees. Happily, I found pools and slicks giving way to pocket water as I moved up.

Bush whacking through thickets, clambering over downed logs, sweat cooled me as the low humidity provided welcome evaporation...and at last a whisper of a breeze greeted me as I rounded a bend. Taking a deep breath from the exertion, I glanced upstream and was greeted by about 100 yards of the prettiest water ever.

Woo hoo! Time to fish! Sitting comfortably in the shade of an old cottonwood I lazed a minute and watched, listening to the sounds of the breeze rustling leaves, the water burbling over the rocks and looking to see if there were any critters coming off the surface.

There were shucks on the rocks from what looked like stoneflies and hoppers in the weeds. I turned over a couple of rocks and sure enough, caddis larva were there, just as they are supposed to be, although there were no little mothy looking bugs in the air.

"Well," I said to myself with a smile "Looks like a hopper dropper day to me." And so, I rigged up a Dave's hopper and a dropped a tiny caddis about 18" below it.

Cottonwoods provided a full canopy and the softest of breezes flowed downstream along with the water. Shaking about ten feet of line out of my rod, I dropped a cast into a little hole that looked about a foot deep, holding my rod high to allow the flies to work down into the target pocket, just below. Nice little fifteen foot drift, but no love.

Fishing upstream I kind of lost track of time and just settled into the rhythm of the water...the cast and drift of the dry fly. Comfortable now, with my feet and ankles cooled by wading wet and enough air movement to rustle leaves, I was startled when there was a swirl and, I'll be darned if something didn't suck that hopper right down.

Setting the hook in spite of myself I came tight to the prettiest little cutthroat ever, a fat eight incher that made my day. He came quickly to hand and shot straight back to his spot when released.

So, I dried the hopper and lobbed it about fifteen feet into the next likely pocket. The fly didn't float ten seconds before that cutty's identical twin ate it, with some level of purpose. Actually, he swallowed the fly and it took care to get him on his way.

Hmmm, the guy at the shop said brook trout and I was suddenly slaying these cutthroats. Immediately, and with joy in my heart, I clipped off the dropper and the fun really began. I'd never had two fish after the same fly at the same time, but I saw it happen in that 100 yard stretch of water. VERY cool.

I don't count fish, mostly because I lose track after a handful and don't care anyway...but there were two thoroughly chewed hoppers in my box when done. Not a single fish over a foot long, but maybe the most satisfying afternoon of my trip. There's just nothing like a lonely piece of stream full of willing little wild fish. What a day!


  1. milt spawn's Avatar
    If I get up to double digits, I lose count too, and I always forget to bring my abacus.
  2. mikel's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by milt spawn
    If I get up to double digits, I lose count too, and I always forget to bring my abacus.
    When I wear shoes, if I get to 11 I have to unzip.