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
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
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