We had fantastic Indian Summer weather last week and, happily, it’s continuing into this week, too.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, as we had a houseguest, Eric English, who hails from the Richmond, Virginia area. He’s an emergency room physician and he likes to take traveling jobs to exotic places, like Sidney, Montana, to put himself closer to Montana’s fly-fishing waters.
After a day on the Big Hole, I suggested we try something different, so we found ourselves bushwhacking our way up Durant Canyon to fish Silver Bow Creek.
It’s one of those outings that 20 or more years ago, if I’d suggested going fly-fishing on Silver Bow Creek, I might have found myself being evaluated for commitment to the state mental hospital a few miles further downstream at Warm Springs.
Silver Bow Creek was one of the most abused waterways in Montana, an industrial sewer full of mining and smelter waste, along with untreated sewage.
After millions of reclamation dollars were spent to clean up and restore the creek, a miracle happened. Westslope cutthroat trout found their way down German Gulch, a tiny tributary, into the larger waters of Silver Bow Creek and, unbelievably, prospered. It didn’t take long before some people started posting photos of nice cutts on social media.
To be sure, fishing this creek isn’t for everyone. It’s way too small for a drift boat and scrambling around in the rocky twists and turns of this canyon creek is a workout.
There are rewards, however. Even if you never see a fish, it’s a beautiful hike along this sparkling waterway in the narrow Canyon.
I caught the first fish of the day, a spunky 8-inch cutty. Eric caught a carbon copy, if not the same trout, out of the same pool.
He also managed to work his way into a pool where, using a “hopper and a dropper” combination, he hooked three trout, the last a fat and feisty trout we estimated to be about a 17-incher, though we didn’t put a measuring tape on the fish. Eric agreed with my philosophy that, “a measured fish can’t grow.” In fact, on our trek out of the canyon Eric considered that it might have already grown a bit.
When I suggested that catching that fish made the whole day, Eric said, “It made the whole trip.”
While fishing the creek was fun, I confess that I was somewhat distracted by thoughts of pheasants, as the pheasant season opens on October 10. Of course, the pronghorn antelope rifle season begins this Saturday, too.
I have nothing against hunting antelope and I have great memories of past hunts of these prairie speedsters. Pheasants, however, are special.
I grew up on a farm when pheasants were plentiful in southern Minnesota. My dad didn’t hunt but the fathers of some of my schoolmates at the one room country school where I began my formal education did, and I was envious when they’d open their lunchbox and take out a pheasant sandwich. I decided that when I was older I’d learn to hunt pheasants so that, some day, I, too, could have a pheasant sandwich.
I quickly learned that I had a lot to learn when it comes to pheasants, but over the years the pheasants taught, and continue to teach, me a lot of things about how to come up with sandwich fixings.
Over the years, as a career took us to Iowa, North Dakota, back to Iowa, to Montana, then back to North Dakota, and, finally, to Butte, I have always had opportunities to chase pheasants. Since 1970, these pheasant hunts have been with the partnership of five different Labrador retrievers, all of whom helped our outings become successful. Kiri, our current Lab, is now five years old and starting her sixth season of pheasant walks across the prairies.
I’ll be hunting other things, of course, but until the season ends on New Year’s Day, chances are that, at any given time, I’ll be thinking of pheasants and scheming my next outing.