Fishing the Fourth!

Southwest Montana’s always scenic Big Hole River.

It was kind of a magical morning, though most mornings on the Big Hole River are magical.

As I waded up a side channel in search of rising trout I spotted a deer in the distance. Taking a closer look, I could see a tiny fawn along with the deer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in camera range, at least not for the point and shoot camera I carry in my shirt pocket on these outings.

Kiri, my Labrador retriever and faithful fishing partner, at least until September, when she takes on additional duties as hunting partner, took on clown duties. She went on a merry chase, as a killdeer used its best efforts to lead Kiri away from her offspring. There were three killdeer chicks in the muddy grass along the water, making their own little “killdee” calls as they scurried around, including hopping into the water and taking a short float down the stream before jumping back on shore.

A killdeer chick in the river’s shallows – a rare sight.

This 4th of July morning was a bit unusual, however. Most people in southwestern Montana woke up to frosty temperatures on that clear and sunny morning. I don’t know what the low temperatures had been that morning on the upper Big Hole River, but the water, as felt through waders, was icy. The river was still running on the high side, for early July, though with care it was finally relatively feasible to wade the rapid waters.

The fish? I was hoping there would be some insect activity going on, getting the trout to look up for their mid-morning snacks. There were some caddisflies and a few pale morning dun mayflies flitting about the water’s surface, though not enough to cause a feeding frenzy, though I did catch my first trout of the morning on a dry fly.

After several more hours, I called it a day. I’d caught something like five trout, mostly on nymphs, ranging from a two-inch rainbow, a couple brook trout, and an acrobatic 12-inch rainbow, the trophy of the day.

The fishing access site was doing a brisk business in the early afternoon. The parking lot was full to overflowing with vehicles and trailers, and more people were coming in, primarily families out for a fun holiday afternoon voyage down the river.

Of course, what was truly unusual about the morning was the freezing temperatures of the morning. In western Montana, we were under the spell of unseasonably cold weather, while much of the nation was sweltering in record-breaking hot weather.

On June 28, Denver tied its all-time high temperature of 105 degrees. Montreal, Quebec, set a new record high temperature of 97.9 degrees on July 2. Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, a place best known for horrendous winter weather, tied its all-time warmest low temperature of 60 degrees on July 2.

The parched southwestern states are far into a fire season that started way too soon.

The extreme heat wasn’t just in the eastern parts of North America. The British Isles, and Eurasian countries, such as Georgia and Armenia, recently set new hot weather records. If we have occasionally sweltered through some hot nights, we have never seen the likes of the 109 degrees, the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded, in Oman on June 28.

There is a long list of heat milestones set over the past year or so, all part and parcel of a planet that is continuing to get hotter as greenhouse gas concentrations increase because of human activity.

Of course, if weather predictions are right, by now we’re probably thinking we’d like to have some of that chilly weather of Independence Day back again. That was the abrupt end of a chilly spring and early summer.

The nasty reality is that if hot, dry weather persists we’ll be racing into fire season in the next few weeks, and those lush, green mountainsides of early July will have abundant fuels for wildfire.

Still, my garden, after hunkering down through the cold nights of June and early July, welcomes hot weather to finally put on some serious growth.

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