If you have a passion for fly-fishing for trout, life is better if you have the good fortune to live in an area with trout streams.
I’ve been fly-fishing for a long time, now, going back over 50 years, to the mid-1960s when I felt the urge to start fishing with a fly rod. The fact that we were living in Fargo, North Dakota at the time didn’t discourage me, and I caught some sunfish and crappies, my first fish with a fly rod, on a Minnesota lake relatively close to Fargo.
A job transfer later took us to Miles City, Montana, and I finally got to fish a mountain stream for trout. It was a hot four-hour drive to the West Rosebud River, south of Columbus, but it was well worth it.
A couple years later, another job transfer took us back to eastern North Dakota, and fly-fishing mountain streams became a two or three day drive on our summer vacations. Kevin, who was approaching adolescence, caught the fly-fishing fever bug almost more than I had.
Things change, of course. He went to college and then graduate school, and started a career as a math professor at Minot State University in Minot ND. For our part, my last job transfer with the Social Security Administration took us to Butte, a paradise when it comes to fly-fishing.
It’s not that Kevin doesn’t have good fishing in his backyard. There are lakes in the area, as well as the sprawling Lake Sakakawea, the impoundment created by the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River. When we visit there, we go fishing, and often fly-fishing, for smallmouth bass, pike, and other fish.
Still, it doesn’t satisfy the need to come to Montana and fly-fish on trout streams, and his summer vacations usually involve camping and fly-fishing.
We were able to join Kevin and his wife, Jen, for several days on the upper Big Hole River, including one day of floating the river on our pontoon boats, though late summer low flows made floating challenging. While floating, fishing was slow, though I managed to catch a beautiful brown trout, most likely my best trout of the year.
The next day, I suggested we wade, saying, “I think I can guarantee more action that way than with floating.”
We hit it right, as the spruce moth “hatch” had started and trout were responding to the new bug on the water.
On the next day of fishing, the trico hatch was also getting serious, with clouds of little bugs hovering over the water before completing their life cycle of mating and scattering eggs on the water. As it happened, I mainly caught whitefish, while Kevin caught several decent rainbow trout.
After taking a break for a few days, Kevin and Jen, along with Jen’s sister, Beth, who drove over from her home in Idaho, went back to the river to get in some camping and fishing without our supervision.
Before they got back, I went fishing for a day, going to a spot on the upper Big Hole where, a year ago, I’d had a banner day during the trico hatch.
The tricos were thick and the fish were rising, but I had nothing but frustration. I’d get rises that didn’t connect, or if I did get a fish on my fly, it would dive down and catch a clump of floating moss, and with that bit of leverage was able to get off the hook. In early afternoon, the trico spinner fall was done and the fish quit rising.
I called it a day, without landing a single fish. I got skunked.
When I got home. Kevin and Jen were already there, showered and ready to head up the Hill to take in some of the An Ri Ra entertainment. I asked him how his fishing was, figuring that he’d have a good fish story or two after three days of fishing the Big Hole.
“I got skunked.”
Like father, like son, I guess.