Coming Off Montana

A couple of things announced their need for me to post this item. I was dreaming of another fishing visit to the western part of the country, knowing that it had to be on hold. Also, I had just finished rewriting a memoir called Beautiful Like a Mayfly, which I hope to have published in the next year or two. One chapter of the book, called “Coming Off Montana,” contains the following excerpt, a piece that helps me remember what the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfishing was like in southwestern Montana and the Yellowstone country a few years back. Please enjoy.

“… I wanted to fish the feeder creek flowing past the camp site, so I grabbed a small cane rod and a four-weight line. Sure enough, cutthroat trout began to rise for a Stimulator laid down on the surface of this stream. I expected fingerlings or stunted fish, not the big ones averaging nearly a foot in length. These cutthroats, possibly remaining from the spawning season earlier in spring, were far more colorful than their noted Rock Creek brethren down below the camp. This stream that averaged maybe 10 feet wide, along with its plentiful fishery, reminded me of the Pecos River headwaters in New Mexico a couple of years before. It was that sublime. It was that challenging and wild, although this stream had a quiet gravel road nearby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tributary had its share of log-jams and inviting holds for trout as it poured off the mountain slopes through spruce and fir and aspen forest. I returned to it for a second day of fishing, after hitting up Rock Creek in several more locations.

The wind was horrible on Rock, so I looked forward to bushwhacking the feeder stream above camp. I caught the first 10-inch cutthroat just a stone’s throw from my tent, then headed upstream casting a Yellow Sally. I plied the pocket water, undercuts, and quiet spots behind gray boulders. I hooked, in addition to foot-long cutthroats, a massive brown trout in a piece of fast water locked between boulders and a fallen tree. The little cane rod took a deep bend as I held the downstream trout at the bank and then approached it. Unfortunately I didn’t have my net along. The trout looked to be 18 inches long, but the fly popped out.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Later, as I climbed to the roadway through this splendid valley, I looked to where the creek flowed out of wooded slopes and scattered meadows. The sun was setting and reflected a golden glow and fresh tranquility from the great escarpments of rock and talus. Everything was trout-colored and new, and I gave thanks to the 14 cutthroats and five wild browns that I captured and released this day. With a final glimpse at the upper valley, I imagined swimming toward the source like a trout on a mission. Given the restraints of time and muscle, I could never walk there on my own. All of a sudden I had fins and I could swim. It might have been a dream, but it was Montana….”




About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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20 Responses to Coming Off Montana

  1. Les Kish says:

    Geez Walt, now I want to go fishing in Montana too. Oh what the heck, I’ll go tonight. Maybe someday I’ll make it over to Rock Creek too. Glad you’ve got some good memories of the “Big Sky Country.”

  2. Yeah, yeah, rub it in, Les. Some of us Easterners romanticize it, of course, especially in summer when the East goes into warmwater doldrums, but my theme in “coming off MT” is how reality levels everything off. I stayed in the campground where a mother griz with 2 cubs went on a rampage, killing a couple of campers, a few nights after my stay. The stuff of memories, for sure. Anyhow, I feel your pain, having to go out and fish MT tonight. Enjoy!

  3. Amazing countryside out/up there. I’ll have to put Montana on my bucket list and your book on my to-buy list. I

  4. LQN says:

    I want to go to Montana!

  5. Brent says:

    Memories of sunshine, blue skies, and quality fishing must have been nice for you to recount. Glad you were able to get this post up and running!

  6. Mike says:

    Yes, sir, one of my dreams is to fish the Big Sky. Thanks for the tease and I look forward to the book!

  7. Mark W says:

    Walt, I’ve only fished out west once in Utah the vastness of the landscape certainly does inspire one to dream of experiences like yours.

  8. Mark, the wild portions of Utah are so vast and inspirational that dreams come easy there. I never fished the upper Green but I’ve hiked it, and would love to return there on a fly-fishing venture. Thank you for reading.

  9. Kenov says:

    A book, eh? Good to hear. I’m very interested.
    As for the West, I have plenty of room in my ID home and at my MT cabin.

    • I’m putting the finishing touches to a memoir with plenty of fly-fishing and life experience in it, the title of which comes from Hemingway. Wow, K., I sure would love to visit the area again, perhaps next summer. Thank you for the cool suggestion.

  10. Alan says:

    The Montana of my youth.
    So many streams, such beauty. Why an I here?

  11. Alan, I would say that we’re located where we are for reasons that make sense to us, including the enjoyment of some beautiful trout streams in the East. Whereas places like western Montana will always beckon us and tantalize with their possibilities, there’s always the sense that, even here in NY or CT, there’s more beauty for a lifetime of discovering than any one of us will ever see or fully know.

  12. Kenov says:

    The book sounds great. Keep us posted; I’m a guaranteed reader. And if think about heading West, give me a shout. In the meantime, enjoy those PA spring creeks and other special spots, which I actually miss quite a bit.

  13. Walt
    This place is on my bucket list of places to fish before I hang up the fly rod. Enjoyed the post and the outstanding scenery. Thanks for sharing

    • Bill, I’m glad you liked the post and might consider a visit sometime to this special region, not only for its great fly-fishing but for its many other beauties. And thanks for the comment, as well.

  14. Thanks much K., will keep you posted. The weather looks good for a visit to the Breeches tomorrow (if not Letort).

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