Well, there are some sure signs it's spring in Montana. It must be Mother Nature is moody as hell lately. Earlier last week the temperatures topped 80 degrees. As you can imagine this really got the snow melting which in turned stained all of our rivers brown. It is not impossible to catch fish under these conditions but why try when we are blessed with great spring still-water fishing. Spring is a great time to fish lakes. The ice is off and the fish are prowling the shallows where a fly caster can present them with deceivingly tasty morsels. When you throw rainbow trout into this equation you complicate things. Although they should be hungary from a long winter, but they have spawning on the brain and some take some convincing to eat. I guess I understand this...would you be thinking about a cheeseburger if a pretty lady wanted to spawn with you?
So Noah and I mounted up in the old Dodge Ram and headed out of Bozeman toward Canyon Ferry. Part of Noah's love for these little trips is the special diet he gets when fishing. I generally throw out all the rules and let him have stuff that is otherwise contraband. He grabbed a root beer and some powdered sugar donuts for the 1 hour drive to the lake.
When we pulled up to the lake shore I was surprised to see no other fisherman in sight. Canyon Ferry is one of the hardest fished waterbodys in Montana so this was amazing. Then I realized why. It was about 35 degrees and the wind was howling. The lake was covered in white caps and some waves reached 3 feet. It was going to be a tough day, but as I told Noah, "We are tough men!"
I bundled Noah in full on ski gear, snow pants, boots, hat, gloves the works. I brought two rods for Noah. One rigged for throwing lures and the other for bobber fishing with night crawlers. (I know, but you have to catch the boy some fish if its that darned cold!)
I rigged the fly rod with a red blood work tied to a 9 foot leader. From the lead fly I trailed a egg pattern about 12 inches behind. I placed a strike indicator about 5 feet above the first fly and prepared to do battle with the gale.
Things started pretty slow. On a calm day a person could sight fish for these rainbows, but with the rough seas, this was impossible. Its hard not to get discouraged. Canyon Ferry is immense in size and it seems like scratching a lottery ticket. Its daunting to think that somehow a fish is going to find your tiny little fly in that amount of water. But they did.
We found a small bay protected from the wind somewhat. I was able to cast 30 to 40 feet of line. Then it was simply a game of patience and concentration. I would strip in a few feet at a time and then just let the indicator bob in the surf. I was moving slowly down the shore line, kind of trolling my fly 20 feet off shore when the first fish hit. What I sensation! These were heavy fish. No they did not take off screaming to the middle of the lake, but the sheer power of these things was great. The fish had taken the red blood worm, which in my opinion imitates a chronomid. Noah was jacked, and immediately asked me to fish in my spot. The fish was beautiful. A classic colored rainbow with a disproportionate sized tail. I did not have a tape with me but she had to have been close to 20 inches. But it was not the length of these fish that made them big, it was there linebacker like physiques. They were so thick! That first fish must have weighed 4 to 5 pounds.
Unfortunately (and surprisingly) The old bait and lure thing never paid off for Noah. He had a short period of jealousy and frustration, but I reminded him that we were a team and when either of us caught fish it was a victory. His spirits eventually lifted and he finally stopped fishing and began watching me and waiting for the next highlight.
In the grand scheme of things the fishing was not exactly red hot. We only caught 3 fish in 5 hours but it was more than worth it. This fish took the fly hard and were a thrill to catch. As I set the hook on the final fish and it thrashed the surface near shore, Noah shouted, "Dad! You are awesome!" That is the best part of children...their naive minds. I am certainly not an awesome fly fisherman, but to Noah I am, and thats all that matters.