Sandy, Sandy, Sandy

Well she’s at it again.  Sandy considers herself a fair-weather fisher person.  In other words, she patiently waits in a yoga studio on her days off from teaching, until I arrive home with “big fish” reports.  She then allows me to organize the boat equipment and float her down a fishy stretch as long as the sun is out most of the time and the wind is at a minimum. There is a formula that I have developed over the years “reading into” water levels and weather predictions to satisfy Sandy’s requirements.  Sandy has built this strategy over the years after a few uncomfortable trips spent in gale force winds, downpours, and blizzards.  The dogs appreciate this too, since they lounge in the back of the boat soaking up the rays, sniffing and licking each fish brought to net. I don’t blame her, it’s a brilliant plan and I’m not sure why I insist in fishing through the “Suffer Fest” some days.  I guess I appreciate a warm truck, dry clothes and/or a nip of whiskey much more after fighting through bad weather potentials.  Anyway, Sandy considers herself a bona fide streamer fisherwoman, only targeting large specimens that can’t help themselves from charging out from an overhanging bush or bank establishing territorial boundaries.  Though streamer fishing isn’t considered a delicate and precise approach it is very exciting way to fish.  Even when the fish aren’t actually taking the presentation, they still rush the streamer exposing them just long enough for the angler to receive an explosion of excitement satisfying everybody in the boat lucky enough to catch a glimpse of what might have been.  This is also a great way to target brown trout, since they have school yard bully disposition.

The weather has been mild for the tail end of winter.  Spring like conditions has allowed us to camp and float already.  Bug hatches are already seasoning the water’s surface all over southwest Montana, creating a “buzz” in fair-weather fisherman that are usually spending their time on the slopes charging the last bit of powder skiing available.  In between Sandy’s streamer sessions, I’ve been able to stop the boat and stalk rising trout. This has been one of the better midge hatches that I can remember in the past few years.  Conditions have allowed each pool to present a different challenge.  Some pools have fully exposed trout snouts indicating that they are probably eating midge mating clusters which is my favorite because it actually requires a skating presentation.  Other pools seem vacant at first, until you stare for a bit.  At first you might think you’re just seeing things or you might think it’s just a riffle but when slowed down you notice a bulge accompanied by a dorsal or a tail fin. This indicates that the fish are probably eating emerging midges caught in the surface film.  With limited patience, I like to split the difference, approaching each pod with a dry dropper combination.  Sandy, on the other hand, prefers not to complicate things and crashes her streamer down and rips it directly through the middle of the pod.  I don’t blame her, she usually gets one and it’s usually the dominant fish of the bunch.

All that said its time to head into the attic or gear room and bust out the fly rod.  Summer is just around the corner now and it’s never too early to start building muscle memory in those wrists and forearms.  Practice is the only way to improve distance and accuracy. Trust me the guides will thoroughly appreciate this as well as you will.  Instead of spending our time on the side of the river untying beautiful macramé, we will be netting and hoisting a lot more.  There is only just over a month until the Firehole Ranch season begins so, if you haven’t already, its time to start practicing, making reservations, and booking flights.

Fish On!, Josh Duchateau

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