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"Bighorn Brown"

By Gary Borger


Our usual Eye of the Guide story is from a commercial guide. This week we have the author of Presentation, Gary Borger, guiding his wife Nancy on Montana's Bighorn River. As part of Nancy's vacation time, she requested a float trip with Gary rowing and guiding. Here it is:

"While we floated and watched, Nancy put on a size 16 Griffith's Gnat. There were occasional rises down the left bank, and we could see midges drifting on the misty surface. If the hatch held, there would most certainly be some good fish working.

Other boats moved quickly down river, hoping to be the first on the Glory Hole, the Snag Hole, the Duck Blind Run, and other well established holding lies. None of them seemed interested in the dimpling rises along the river's overhanging grasses nor the potential the hatch held.

We drifted under the power lines, and I kept the boat turned so that both of us could watch well ahead for the telltale snout of a good fish. And then I saw it. Poking gently above the dark, glassy surface, it disappeared with hardly a ripple, only a phantom to the uninitiated.

"I've marked one, Nanc," I said. "I'll take you down 40 feet to the outside of it, get ready to cast."

She pulled the line off the reel and sat in readiness.

"OK, 30 degrees downstream, off the bow."

The line worked out in two strokes and fell softly, right on target. The fly drifted into the slot and I held my breath. Nothing. It drifted beyond the phantom zone, still riding drag free. And then as softly as a fairy's fingers, the trout nose poked out and plucked the fly from the surface.

Nanc's reaction was instantaneous and strong; she leaped to her feet and slammed the hook home with robust enthusiasm. "Whew," I said, "Good thing you're using 5X." She laughed, embarrassed at her obvious, eager excitement. "Stay braced," I cautioned, "I'm going to put you on the gravel bar so you can play the fish more effectively."

Nancy with her brown!

The boat ground to a halt, and Nanc waded into the shallows as she continued to fence with the big brown. Slowly it gave line, quickly it took it. But eventually, the delicate, constant pressure from the Thomas & Thomas worked its magic, and the fish came to net. Its 18 inches of copper-brown skin flashed brightly as I photographed the fish and fisher.

Nanc's cheeks were flushed with excitement and the exertions of the fight. "That was great!" she said. "Let's do it again." ~ Gary A. Borger


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