Well It’s December 19 and winter finally decided to show up. After last year’s drought we are in dire need of the much appreciated snow that has been falling and adding to our accumulating mountain snowpack. I would like to share with you some of the reasons I took up fly fishing over 35 years ago. I also am writing some about a buddy of mine Craig. The next blog or two I’ll share a couple of fishing trip stories that Craig and I have had over the last quarter century. He’s one of my few lifelong friends that I luckily still have and he’s also the dude who got me into this fly fishing lifestyle. I consider him my brotha from anotha Mutha, well you know!
It was the early 90’s and I had been racing motocross for a few years and hadn’t really fished for quite a while. I had briefly dabbled with fly fishing but knew very little about it. Racing motorcycles takes a physical and mental toll on riders. If you want to succeed you need to constantly train and achieve a high level of physical fitness and endurance. You need to be on the bike almost daily. I was now riding in the expert class and it was paramount that you were 100% to do battle on the weekend or you would most likely get injured.
I called my good friend Craig and asked him what fly rod I should purchase. Craig had been fly fishing for years and agreed to meet me at the sporting goods store in Ronan MT. Somewhere I had picked up an old Lami-glass noodlely rod that I had no clue how to use. Craig convinced me that a change would be good so we grabbed a couple of rods off the rack and stepped outside to the grassy lawn in back (perfect spot for a lesson). There Craig taught me how to cast. I had muscle memory from years of spin fishing that contradicts the fundamentals of how one should cast a fly rod. Thanks to Craig’s patient assistance and training we eventually decided on a graphite rod that seemed to work for me. Immediately after my lesson I unsurely picked out a few flies, some leaders, floatant, and took a short drive to a local watershed. This stream was fairly accessible. However you had to hike through some thistles, thick brush, and a bit of steep terrain to get there. Previously my dog Zeke and I had hunted pheasants in this creek bottom and once I noticed trout swimming and surfacing for dry flies below a riffle.
I tied on a Dave’s hopper, it didn’t stay on very long. I immediately caught trees, sticks, grass, and it seemed like everything possible except a fish. I tied on more flies and found myself content just being outside casting. I enjoyed the coolness of wet wading as I searched for gravel and other suitable footing beneath my river sandals. For the first time in a while I didn’t find myself thinking about how to get faster and beating other riders. I wasn’t craving the competition or the adrenaline that racing motorcycles instills in you.
I noticed a splashy boil maybe 20 feet across the stream and thought to myself was that a trout? This gin clear spring creek was surrounded by tall grass and there were grasshoppers everywhere. This part of the stream made a bend and gradually formed a small deep pool below. My casting was pretty bad but I finally got the fly in the vicinity of where I witnessed the boil. At the time I didn’t understand the concept of a drag free drift, mending, or really a whole lot about fly presentation. I had been a good spin fisherman and caught many fish prior to this fly fishing thing but this new sport was a different animal all together. I kind of felt like a fledgling osprey attempting to figure out how to feed himself. Then it happened, as luck would have it. As my grass hopper drug a bit and started to sink, BAM! A silvery yellow flash with a boil similar to what I had earlier witnessed. I Instantly however felt my fly line get tight as the #5 weight rod firmly bent and flexed. The fish fought like mad, it was my first decent sized trout that I had hooked on a fly rod. I clumsily stripped in line and after a few minutes I slid this beautiful golden yellow, vibrant fish to my hand. He had the tell tale orange slash along the bottom of his gills and a bright pink chunky underbody. I gently released this native fish as he splashed and darted back to the safety of the deep pool a few yards upstream.
I had a huge grin and pardon the pun, was officially hooked. Pretty much right then I decided to leave the dirt bike in the garage, who wants to go race in Spokane WA anyway? My new plan was to throw a couple of micro brews in my igloo cooler and spend the next few days standing in a Montana river fly fishing.