Wind and Water on the North Dakota Prairies

Flyfishing for northern pike is fun – and tasty.

Wind and water.

That sums up some our travel of the last couple weeks.

Last week I wrote about impending flooding on southwestern Montana streams. The cold weather around Memorial Day pretty much put the local flooding on hold, though flooding in other parts of Montana, particularly in Hardin and Roundup, made national news.

We took a road trip out of Montana, though that didn’t get us out of flooding areas. In fact, it put us right in the middle of flooding. We went to Minot, North Dakota for Memorial Day weekend to take in the festivities of a granddaughter’s graduation from high school. While we were there, it also seemed like a good idea to do some fishing on area lakes with our son, Kevin.

There are a lot of lakes in north central North Dakota, though there is always the question of whether the wind will let you put a boat on the water. Our first day of fishing was breezy, though there wasn’t any problem with boating, at least not on the smaller lake we fished. In an afternoon of fishing we caught a number of pike and invited a couple of them home for a fish dinner.

The next day was one of those windy prairie days. It didn’t keep us from fishing, though we elected to leave the boat at home. We’ve fished this lake a number of times over the years and there’s a concrete pier at the public access point on the lake where we’ve tied up Kevin’s boat in the past. With a couple winters of heavy snows, the lake level is up and the pier is under a foot of water. This actually made for a good fishing spot, as there was deep water easily accessible for casting streamers for pike.

Flyfishing for northern pike still seems like kind of a novelty in Midwestern states, even if it’s a trendy thing to do among a lot of fly anglers. In any event, flyfishing seemed the most effective way to catch pike on this trip, with a purple Wooly Bugger, which resembles a leech in the water, the hot fly.

While we spent several days fishing, the weather continued to be a hot topic. This past winter was a hard one, with heavy snows all across central North Dakota and on into Canada. Back in 1969, Minot had a major flood that dominated the national news. Since then, Minot built a system of dikes along the Souris River, which flows through the city, and flooding in the city seemed to become a thing of the past.

This spring there has been a long flooding season in rural areas both above and downstream from the city. Driving out of town, looking at flooded areas downstream from the city, Kevin remarked, “It’s been like this for a couple months already, and there’s no end in sight.” That week, City crews feverishly hauled dirt to build up the level of the dikes in town.

Over that weekend rain dominated the weather. Heavy rain fell the night before Memorial Day, though it stopped by midday. Kevin and I took another fishing trip, fishing through what the Irish might call a “soft rain.” We hit the road to go back to Minot when Kevin’s wife phoned, concerned about our being caught in the storm. “What storm?” he asked. A thunderstorm had rolled through Minot that afternoon, with heavy rain.

Coming back into town, we could see rivers of water pouring down road ditches and hilly draws. That evening another rainstorm pounded the area and the next day large areas of the city were evacuated in fears that the dikes would fail, following reports of 4 inches of rain in areas northwest of Minot.

Other areas of North Dakota were bracing for a deluge of water coming from Montana’s Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, and the night before we visited friends in Fargo, they had winds estimated at almost 100 mph.

Yes, this is the season for wind and water and Montana and the Dakotas are at the center of it all.