I really figured that I’d be able to fish…a lot… in the 4 days during the process of moving my son Mark into his dorm at Montana State University in Bozeman. I cannot tell you how much pain, suffering and frustration was spent in the first 2 days as my wife spent gobs of money on him and his dorm room while I following them around, sulking through Costco, Walmart, Target, the Salvation Army store, etc. All those rivers so close and no matter how much I whined I didn’t get to fish in the first 32 hours. I was dying; and Kelly was pissed at me.
At the end of the 2nd day Kelly was tired from an exhausting day of shopping and setting up the dorm room. So, I saw my opening. It was around 5 pm. I knew my buddy chuck’s house in the Gallatin Canyon was about 30 minutes away. I asked him the week prior if it could park there and fish the awesome run of the Gallatin right behind his house. This is the stretch of the Gallatin that the fly fishing scenes were filmed for the movie “A River Runs Through It”. In fact, “Brad Pitt Rock” is just 300 yards upstream from my buddy Chuck’s house. I had to be back at the hotel by 7pm so we could go to dinner. So, off I went. I ended up only having 45 minutes to fish and it was totally worth it. 4 rainbows to net, one of size. And I missed a few others. I fished the entire time within 100 yards of Chuck’s house. So fun.
There was one very concerning moment, though. With me facing downstream I was startled and turned quickly after a loud thunk in the water and splash happened just 10 feet up from me. It was way too loud and too big a splash for a fish jump. I immediately thought someone had thrown a rock at me…a big one. I scanned back at the bank and there was no one. These are vacation homes on private property on the road side of the river and rarely have people in them. It is total wilderness on the other side. I have heard of fly fisherman having incidents with property owners, but I was in the river, totally legal. Then I thought it might have been kids… but the throw would have had to have been a long one…and really accurate. Had I been hit in the torso I would have went down; had I been hit in the head I would have been dead. But, there was no movement, nothing on the houses side. Kids could have scurried off, I guess. Then I looked across the river up into the hills. Having recently watched a bigfoot show on Discovery channel and all the “supposed” bigfoot incidents where bigfoot throws rocks at people I wondered. Then I thought it was a world record brown so I casted at the spot. No matter what it was I was freaked out. It wasn’t until the next day that I figured out what it was….
Kelly had never been to Yellowstone so, a run into the park was a must. And from Bozeman it’s an easy trek to Old Faithful from the Western entrance. But, it’s a 2+ hour drive there and back. I figured I could sneak in a few casts on the Firehole River on the way there or back, but the weather was just miserable. And I wasn’t about to fish without my son and he was totally hungover and tired (welcome to college) and not up for a few casts. Plus fishing in the park takes a special license and we didn’t have one.
We got lucky and timed the old faithful thing perfectly. It erupted just 5 minutes after we got there. The wait can be as long as 2.5 hours. So we turned that whole thing in 20 minutes and started heading back. We saw animals (bison, elk, etc.) , but not a lot like the huge amount of animals in the northern side of the park.
On the way back I asked Kelly if she could just drop me off at Chuck’s house so I could sneak in a little fly fishing. And she agreed. Now that Mark’s dorm was set up she really didn’t care if I fished. Mark wanted to get back to all his new buddies in the dorm so I was on my own. But, the plan was sound because Kelly could take a little nap then have the time to get ready to go out to dinner and I could fish for a bit. Then, she’d just come back and pick me up. She agreed. I fished for 1.5 hours. It was raining and cold the entire time. And I just killed and had the time of my life even though my right hand was completely numb by the time I was done. It was close to frostbite from releasing trout. I landed 8-10 fish, many of size to 18”. I caught a few browns and a bunch of rainbows. I missed a bunch of fish too. I was never short of action.
The Mystery solved: about an hour into fishing I casted up river and something floating way up river caught my eye. “What the hell is that?” I said to myself. As it got closer it looked like a dead human. Then we made eye contact and I knew…. It b-lined for me swimming fast, went under water and ten feet from me came up and whacked it’s tail on the surface of the water. A beaver. A huge one. And he was not pleased I was fishing in his stretch of the river. So, it was not a rock the prior day, just one big-ass, pissed off beaver.
The highlight was one of those “last casts of the day” things. With time running out I pressed a little upstream towards Brad Pitt Rock and saw a perfect channel and seam of slow moving water on the bank. I had already figured out the prior day that the fish had moved out of the typical runs and closer to the banks because high, fast water as a result of the storm. So I casted 40 feet upstream just a foot off the bank into what I guessed was a foot of water. It drifted 5 feet or so and whack! I set the hook from a far; big fish. It turned into the current and jumped for the first time. It ran into the current and started moving downstream toward me. I turned him and he jumped again in front of me. I didn’t realize it until now that the fish took my huck-hopper on top! I got him to rise in driving rain. He jumped one more time and shot down river…. I followed as best I could because it was treacherous at this point of the river. Since he was on the hopper I knew there was 3x above it and I could muscle him and not have to tire him too much before releasing him. 16” if not more; Male rainbow beautifully colored like he was in spawn. I took a couple pictures quickly and released him. I was now 5 minutes late from my 6pm pick up and smiling ear to ear.
And that’s it: 4 days in Montana and just 2 hours and 15 minutes of fishing. And that 2:15 was so fun. And now my son lives in Bozeman…and I cannot wait to get back to visit him…. in 4 weeks…when I can fish 14 hours a day… J