During the past weekend over the 4th of July break, I had Friday off from work and while most of my friends were on their way to Bigfork for a weekend of partying, I decided to stay home for the annual family barbeque and to go fly fishing. My cousin Jacob, whom shares the same passion for fly fishing as I do, had decided to come and spend the weekend from Bozeman with his family. This was one of the main reasons I had decided to stay in town for the weekend. It’s actually just nice to associate myself with someone who enjoys fly fishing as much as I do. Not one of my friends whom were all raised in Montana, fly fish, let alone make any attempt to just fish period. Pretty sad right!? Sure, I have a great fishing buddy Nate, but he likes the old fashioned, easy, laid back, unchallenging spin fishing. I just think it’s taking the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on this type of fishing on the Lakes of Minnesota, on the Yellowstone River right in my backyard for 3 years of my life and then growing up on the Missouri. Why not mix it up a bit, make things a bit interesting and challenge yourself to something new? When I first picked up the fly rod when I was about 6 or 7 years old, I hated it, but over time I learned to love it. It’s just hard to relate to somebody out on the river though we are doing the same thing, but in completely different fashions. A good metaphor to compare bait vs. fly fisherman for example would be like comparing a deaf and blind fisherman. Let’s say the deaf person being the fly fisherman and the bait/lure fisherman being the one who is blind. I would assume without a doubt the deaf fisherman would fly fish because the technical approach to using a fly rod is all about sight. On the other hand, the blind bait fisherman would be better off using a spin rod, because all you need to do is just cast it out, wait or reel in for a bite. In my mind, spin casting is like pulling a slot machine and is hit or miss whereas fly fishing uses the visual aspect and technical side of the sport to its advantage. These analogies might spark some controversy, but it’s just an opinion and I respect both sides of the case. I will never be completely for or against either of the two. I don’t want to get too deep into the debate; I just needed to put in my two cents on the subject which has been going on as early as the 1600’s as it was in the story of “Piscator” and “Viator” from Izaak Walton’s "The Compleat Angler."
The whole interlude before this section of this blog post actually relates to the fishing experience I had on Belt Creek last Friday afternoon. I believe I would have never caught as many fish as I did in one hole if I would have been spin/bait fishing. The lures would have without a doubt spooked out the trout quicker than quick. A worm may have enticed a few, but I perceive they probably would have gotten bored and moved on downstream. This is where the beauty of fly fishing comes into play. As previously posted, I spoke of a hole I have fishing many times without coming up empty handed. I again worked it for a good hour and a half with two fish landed and three lost, all average size. The fishing slowed dramatically for the next half hour without a single bite. At this point in July, the creek’s flows are down and perfect for summer fishing compared to April and May. So after another few dozen casts into the hole, I realized I had become numb to my surroundings being so focused on this spot, I took a look around and noticed a nice back eddy/current seam that seemed to have just recently formed 30 yards upstream. I noticed this section was deeper earlier in the season when the flows were up, but showed no such holding spot. The flows which have still been slowly lowering week after week must have revealed this little gem only within the past week or two. I was always so hell bent on getting to the same hole every time; I had overlooked it without giving it a second thought. So after the slow lull I thought, what the heck, I’ll give that hole a shot. The fly which has been producing well for me in this area has been as size 16 purple bead head prince nymph. I tied it on and began dead drifting it through the seam. After a few drifts a fish hit hard and moved straight down into the hole. It felt like a good fish. I quickly worked it out towards the shallow riffle at the end of the pool and got it in the quicker water to tire it. After about a 1 minute of tiring it in the current, she gave up and had landed the healthy 16 inch rainbow onto the bank. I jumped with joy and couldn’t believe I had caught this beautiful fish. I reached for my bag to get the camera, only to realize I had left my pack down on the bank near the second hole. Damn I thought. I needed to snap a pick of this fish for it was the biggest I had pulled from this creek this year. With the hook still in, I wedged my rod, tightened the drag and left a foot or two line for the fish to hang in the pool. I dashed down and grabbed the pack, raced back hoping to see the fish resting in the pool. I was in luck. I pulled the brute back on shore and got out the camera. She violently flopped around on the bank covering her self in dirt and debris. The perfectionist that I am, I wanted a clean shot of her elegance so I locked onto her tail and gently washed her off without realizing with all the thrashing about had released the hook from her lip. As I had her in the shallow water, she slipped my grip and with a flick of her tail was gone. UUGGHHH!!! I sat in disappointment for a moment, which didn’t last long. The adrenaline had taken over and I told myself I’d just have to get another one. Determined, I cleaned my line and began to drift the purple nymph once again. About 4 or 5 casts later, BAM, another fish on! This one tugged a bit at first, feeling like a little guy so I rolled my rod tip to my right and toward the bank and immediately felt a huge surge of energy with a few massive head shakes it let out. Whoa! This guy is big. I watched my line make two and half circles in the pool. Fearing a snag, I rolled the rod to my left hoping to move it out into the flat downstream. He did and I then caught a glimpse of his size! .
A very nice fish! I thought I better get him in quick or I’ll lose him. I tired him in the current quickly, keeping constant pressure on the rod and slowly backed up while reeling in the line. I had enough room to back up and drag him up far enough on the shore to be sure he wouldn’t escape. I was impressed with his size and threw out a fist pump as if I were Tiger Woods on the 18th green at the Masters! I got out the camera, laid him down by my rod, snapped a few pics and later measured the length from the photo and determined he was a good 18-19 inches.
I couldn’t believe I pulled this beast out of such a small creek. A good look at his awe and I released him back into the pool off the bank. Some might not think a fish this size would get you as excited as I was, but for me, this was a milestone in my fly-fishing course. My biggest to date as far as I can remember, though some may have compared from my younger days on the Yellowstone, it’s hard to really say. But this one will be remembered for some time to come.
I fished the hole till dark, having an epic day. I pulled another 4 fish from including another brown brute at 17-18 inches on a size 18 flashback pheasant tail, a good healthy 16 inch cutthroat, and a couple nice sized rainbows.
I caught a few on dries rising mostly only to the flies I threw at them. A yellow size 12 stimulator, size 14-16 olive elk hair caddis and parachute Adams. I felt like Pooh and this was my very own Honey Pot. I have found that I need to work a little on my dry fly techniques as I had at least a dozen or so strikes come up empty handed. A split second too soon on most of my sets was the culprit. Overall, one shy of a dozen on a solitary day of fishing was exactly what I needed to get my spirits up. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had really only caught enough fish to count on one hand, and now it’s hard to keep track of my catches. I am just grateful my fishing experiences this year have allowed me to keep a fire burning inside and for my ever-growing passion for the sport to stay alive.
“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” - Vince Lombardi