A SPRING CREEK RUNS THROUGH IT
DePuy Spring Creek
I started my fly fishing adventure on the Au Sable River in Michigan. If you have fished the Au Sable you know that it has spring creek characteristics, and back in 1960, when I started fishing there, it was a tremendous fishery. Since those days I have fished some of the finest trout streams in the world, but given its size and the fact that it was a public fishery, I consider the Michigan's Au Sable during that time period as one of the finest brown trout fisheries that I ever had the privilege to fish. The hatches were dependable, they were heavy and the fish were plentiful. The browns averaged a solid 12 inches and fish that you measured by the pound rather than by inches were not uncommon.
In the early 70's, on a whirlwind trip the encompassed ten days in early September, three crazy fly fishermen visited the trout streams of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. In the process I fished Henry's Fork of the Snake River at Last Chance, Idaho, and the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park and Nelson's Spring Creek in Livingston, Montana.
Nelson's Spring Creek
It was a cool September morning when I first saw a true Montana spring creek. Three fly fishing addicts drove through the predawn darkness through Yellowstone National Park from their campsite at Madison Junction. The sun was painting the tops of the mountains of the Absaroka Range as we drove up the Yellowstone River and then down the long dirt road to the ranch buildings down in the valley. A pleasant lady met us when we knocked on the door and within minutes we were following her husband out to the creek. They operated a commercial trout farm adjacent to the creek and we walked passed the raceways teeming with rainbow trout, but it was the sight of the creek that remains forever etched in my mind. We fished all day during a sulphur hatch that continued all day until the tops of the weed beds were yellow with the bodies of the hatching duns. Using flies that were tied to imitate a hatch of similarly colored flies on Michigan's Au Sable we caught more trout than we had ever imagined was possible. As the sun was slipping behind the mountains of the Gallatin Range we reluctantly said good-bye but we vowed to return.
That experience changed my life. Two years later my family was living in Livingston in a house just a couple blocks from the Yellowstone River and just 10 minutes away from the spring creeks in Paradise Valley.
Armstrong's Spring Creek
Over the intervening years I have spent countless hours both fishing and working on the spring creeks. The owners, from the late Ed and Helen Nelson, Allen and Agnes O'Hair, and Eva DePuy, became personal friends which continue with the current owners of these precious places.
Big Horn River
To the list of spring creeks that have run through my life I would add the Big Horn. Flowing through the high plains of eastern Montana it is so unlike the other spring creeks but yet so very similar. My memories of the Big Horn are some of my fondest.
Norman Maclean's classic story of a family that was shaped by fly fishing reminds me of my own life. A spring creek runs through it, and so I pray that it always will.