Spring Break on the Fly
Three O’clock in the morning and the only people who should legitimately be awake are dairy farmers calling in the cows and miners coming off of the night shift. But my son and his road-warrior friends were determined to turn spring break into an epic fly fishing adventure in Montana.
I am three months past the delivery date on my new house and have not slept soundly since Christmas. The slightest sound jerks me awake. My ears detect voices that take me back in time to a debate team adventure across the expanses of Wyoming. But no, it is just Wade Vandine and Nate Lechner sneaking in to pick up Lane.
Perhaps no advice I ever gave my son has rewarded him more than fly fishing. Somewhere along the road through his junior year of High School I pointed out that if he grew up in Spearfish and never took the time to wet a fly in the canyon, he would never forgive himself.
I had to the leave the Hills when I was a young man for a tour in the military and can still remember slamming on the breaks as the sun was setting the first time I came home. The sight of her pine-covered slopes set off a John Denver tune about country roads that pulled tears of gratitude. I’ve avoided extended trips away ever since.
I love to fish, but would rarely do it on my own. It is the company of other fishermen that makes the waters a true place for making memories and from the pictures they brought back, the boys are stockpiling quite a few.
The water levels of the Big Horn River in Fort Smith Montana are lower this time of year before the ice melt swells the river up its banks. Later in the season, it will require a float boat to take advantage of the many pockets and pools that hold the trout as the temperatures drop into the teens. But over the break, it was low enough that neoprene waders could block the cold for short bursts, especially when the icy runoff was warmer than the air. They were just fooling themselves, it was frigid. But their waders afforded them opportunities just long enough for the boys to grab a few trout and whitefish from her depths.
This is not dry-fly fishing weather. There was snow on the ground and they woke one morning to temperatures in the teens. But the sun shone just enough to allow them out of the heated truck to take turns casting. They used submersible lures that they tied themselves. Nymphing allows a fly to float past a trout’s nose below the surface and they caught and released some great fish.
A motherly woman at the guide post took the boys under her wing. Possibly out of amazement that anyone would abandon the beaches of most college student spring breaks for the Big Horn river in March. She gave each a souvenir hat and told them to come back next year. That they had special rates for the slow season when most folks are searching for warmer pursuits.
They appreciate her gesture and they took pictures, printed them out, and dropped them off the next day at her shop. Apparently she posted them to her board and their faces got recognized by the float fishermen who drifted by later in the day.
“Hey that whitefish was huge! Looked like a state record.”
If you’ve never caught one before, it’s hard to imagine that you released the state record, but it is all in perception. One’s record book entry is just another fine dinner to the next.
The same goes for beaches and spring breaks. To each his own.