Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Seventy-two

Is Spring Here?

By Bob Krumm, Guide and Fly Tier

After reading Mark Henckel's article [Billings Montana Gazette] about spring and how bad he wanted it to arrive, I decided I would do Mark a favor and go fishing so I could tell him all about an ideal trip. Of course, I figured it would rain or snow or just be cold and windy when I went out so I would have to embellish the story a bit just to make him feel bad.

Well, I did go fishing and I didn't have to embellish the story because the day was about as good as an early spring fishing trip can get.

My fishing buddy, Dennis Cook, had called last Thursday to see if I wanted to go ice fishing over the weekend. I told him I would much prefer to go fly-fishing on a stretch of river I really like.

The drive to the river was great - deer were grazing on the sunny hillsides, turkey were moving about in the fields, and bald eagles and rough-legged hawks soared in the clear blue sky. Though there was plenty of snow on the flats, the hillsides and draws were a pleasant sight - they were bare of snow and a pleasant brown.

Mark, you should have seen it, no sooner had I turned off from the asphalt highway I found nice, gooey, orange-brown mud in the gravel road. A little ways further and there was snow melt in the road. A mile further and, to my joyous senses, was a male mountain bluebird sitting on a reflector post. He was as blue as the skies above. All of a sudden my thoughts turned to spring and the coming warm temperatures.

We finally arrived at the ranch house, secured permission to fish, and headed to the first hot spot I had in mind. I had to pinch myself when I realized I was dressed too warmly, I would have to shed a layer. Dennis and I rigged up for nymph fishing, donned our waders and headed for the river.

The river was running clear as the air, midges were flying all around, and, to my disbelief, fish were rising in a slow run just downstream from us. Of course, Dennis and I had not planned on this so we didn't have any dry flies that would do the trick, so we continued on.

The first hole was at the base of a cliff and ran through a rock field. The river ran over a riffle and shelf and dropped into a six-foot deep pool and slow run. Large rocks dotted the pool. The water was deep enough to obscure our view in all but the slowest water.

Dennis and I started fishing the pool. I gave him the upper end where the water dropped off the shelf into the pool while I took the lower end with the slow run and rocks. We were both using rat-faced Krumms while Dennis used a green caddis larva as a dropper. I elected to fish with a single nymph.

It took me about six floats before the strike indicator plunged. I set the hook and felt a substantial fish at the end of the line. The showy rainbow jumped almost immediately then ran to the other side of the run. It jumped five times and made eight or more runs before I was finally able to slide it onto the snow. My first fish of spring was a handsome, dark, male rainbow with a blood red stripe. It was 20 inches long with a 12-inch girth, a real football.

I had hardly released my fish when Dennis hollered, "fish on." I ran upstream and took a half dozen photos of his fighting the exact replica of the fish I had just landed. Sure enough, when Dennis landed it, the trout was 20 inches on the nose and had a 12-inch girth. His fish had taken the green caddis larva.

What a start to a great day's fishing it was. I managed to land three more rainbows—all of football proportions, while Dennis landed two more. We both lost a couple of fish apiece. We continued to enjoy warm sunshine, no wind, and lots of wildlife.

There were flocks of goldeneyes, buffleheads, mallards, and mergansers flying by throughout the day. Turkeys strutted in the flats along the river, deer bolted from the willows as we walked along the stream, and hawks and eagles soared overhead. Large schools of suckers and carp cruised the calm backwaters. Why, I even caught a gorgeous carp sucker, also know as, red horse sucker. It looked much like a carp, yet it had a deep pink-red, forked tail.

As we finally quit fishing and returned to Sheridan, both Dennis and I agreed it was a great day and spring had arrived for us. We already started to plan more trips for the year. We have decided there should be trips for walleye, bass, and trout, with and without a boat, and some with Dennis' young daughter, Tracey. It's amazing how one warm day can bring out the optimism and plans in two fellows that had a bad case of winter blues. Mark, you should give it a try! ~ Bob Krumm

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