Sunday, February 8, 2009

Skunked in the Bear Trap

I spent the past week planning a little fishing trip.  Noah and I were due for an all day outing that would take us further than our typical 1/2 day trips to the East and West Gallatin.  Being that we live only a 20 minute drive from one of the most famous trout rivers in the world, I decided it is probably time that we fished the Madison.  I am embarrassed to say that after living here for almost 6 years and in the state my entire life, I had never fished this river.
I began thinking and researching were on the river to fish.  I looked up a few fishing reports and contemplated a few options.  Being it was early February I decided that the head of Bear Trap Canyon just below Ennis Dam would be a logical choice.  I friend also informed me that the river was more defined there and one could wade the bank and fish the pocket water in the canyon.  This sounded perfect for a day out with Noah.
I of course then began to read about the monster fish that reportedly stalked the tail waters immediately below the dam.  The thought of even the possibility of hooking a lunker gets me a little excited and I might get a little carried away with my imagination.  Needless to say I was pretty excited as Noah and I packed the truck and headed towards Ennis early Sunday morning.
This would be the first time that Noah would only take his fly rod.  I hoped we could get at least one fish so he could receive the gratification that he has seemed to obsess about lately.
The drive over was absolutely beautiful.  As you drop into the Ennis area it seems all you can see is beautiful mountains surrounding the ice covered waters of Ennis Lake.
We parked the truck in the Canyon at 9:30 and there were no other fisherman in sight.  This is what I had wanted, even though the fish would probably not be very active until about noon.  
The canyon was beautiful.  It reminded me a lot of Yankee Jim Canyon near my hometown of Gardiner.  We waded and fished through various riffles and pockets with no luck.  Noah stuck to the red san juans while I experimented with some black stone flys trailed by various small nymphs.   Not a single strike all morning.
We ate lunch in the truck at about 11:30.  Suddenly fisherman began appearing all over the place.  By the time we had finished lunch there were 6 fisherman fishing the short stretch we had spent the morning on.  We waited patiently for a guy to move from a nice spot that we had not covered yet.  We decided to set up shop there and work the spot hard.
Noah struggled through his day of casting.  He did well at times, but the waters were a little advanced for him.  He rarely was able to get his flys to were fish might be.  We tried everything, nymphs, streamers and even a dry fly in response to a few random rises that occured.
Under less crowded circumstances I would have started to work down the canyon further, but it seemed like everytime we would head to a new spot, 1 or 2 fisherman were on it.  I really don't like fishing in crowds and to tell you the truth I don't really know the rules and etiquette of it all. Plus I had the little guy with me and we needed more space.  You never know when a 6 year old is going to get board and chuck a big rock into the river and ask you if you heard that fish jump!  Probably not a part of crowd fishing etiquette.
We gave up.  We called it good at about 1:30.  We drove back down the Madison and tried a few pull offs on the lower river, but once again...crowded with fisherman.  I either need to get more use to this or stay away from the Madison.  This is February mind you, the "off season". Imagine what it looks like in August!
We did stop and make a few cast from a boat put in.  The river below the canyon turns into a wide spanning indecipherable riffle with no real obvious holding areas.  I put a huge nasty double bunny on and swung it through the current for about 30 minutes.  I was brought back from my building depression by a huge strike.  I set the hook but had apparently missed.  I got back into it again.  I mean any bad day can be saved by a 20 inch brown.  Two cast later another jolt...and then nothing.  I made at least 20 more swings but nothing.  Noah was over it by now and was now on a mission to collect as many dried cattails as possible to make his little sister a fishing pole...uh ya, he had lost interest.  Who could blame him, six hours on the water and...nothing.
We loaded back into the truck and limped home, tails tucked, ears back...defeated.  But, as always Noah showed his appreciation by telling me "thanks for taking me fishing dad.  It was fun even if we didn't catch anything."  He is amazing that way.  We have been skunked together more than I would like to admit, but he keeps coming back, keeps saying thank you.  Then it always hits me, there is a little more going on here than just catching fish...