Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Check off one more from the bucket list

One of the items on my bucket list has been to fish the Madison River. I have lived in Montana all my life and although I have fished the Madison before I hadn’t really fished it. My dad said I caught my first fish on the Madison, but I don’t have any memory of the event. I was probably about 5 years old and I wasn’t using a fly rod. In fact according to my dad I didn’t even reel the fish in. I just ran up the bank with the pole in hand until the fish was dragged ashore. The only other time I had fished the Madison was when I took a short excursion out of Bozeman after purchasing a new pair of waders from a fly shop there. I fished along the bank for a couple of hours. I caught several fish in the 6 inch range and did get one brown that was probably 10 or 12 inches. Oh yea I just remembered another time I fished the Madison in the park during a rain that had been going on non-stop for a few days. The river was muddy and pretty much no visibility. Zip caught that day! So now I had just quit my job and didn’t have to start my new job for 10 days. I figured this would be a great opportunity to spend some serious fishing time on the Madison. Then I was informed that because I had filled out a health questionnaire for my soon to be employer and mentioned having gone to a doctor a couple of years ago which resulted in a diagnosis of gout I was required to be checked out by an occupational therapist to make sure I was physically able to perform the functions of my new job. My original plan was to leave Friday after my last day at the old job and head for Ennis MT. Now I would have to be home Monday to show up for the earliest possible appointment with the OT. I reverted to plan B. I went fishing for the weekend on the MO and had a good time then returned home Sunday night. The next morning I left for the appointment and passed the physical requirements to continue as a gainfully employed wanabe trout bum. The trip was still a success as far as getting to do some serious fishing on the Madison. However catching fish was another thing. All my fishing guide books tout the Madison as a great river for beginners because it is fast riffles and the fish don’t have a lot of time to scrutinize your fly. The fish take the fly and a bad cast doesn’t necessarily bother them. Someone forgot to tell the fish and apparently fish can’t read. No one was catching any fish to amount to much including me. I did some reconnaissance at the fly shops in Ennis and at the local drinking holes. Yep it was confirmed that no one else was catching much either. In fact it was rumored that a lot of guides were having clients cancel after a trip or two down the river. The most common theory was that since the salmon fly hatch had just recently passed through the fish were to full to eat any more. I had trouble buying into this because I have often caught fish that took my fly even though they were so full of hoppers they still had one in their mouth because they were to full to get it down their throat. As one guy at a fly shop said even after pigging out on thanksgiving you still eat the next day. Another guy in a fly shop said the fishing was good early in the morning before the water temperature rose. It’s just that the tourists didn’t want to get up early enough to fish and wanted to be off the water in time for the cocktail hour. This made more sense to me so I decided to check his theory out by hitting the water as early as possible. As early as possible was a little later than planned since I over slept a bit. I woke up an hour later than intended and was afraid the shuttle I had arranged would get to the put-in before I did. I was amazed how fast I could break camp when motivated. I got the boat in the water before the shuttle driver showed up to pick up my vehicle and plenty early to fish before the sun was up enough to put the fish down. Another theory shot to hell. I did manage to catch the one fish of the whole trip worth mentioning though. It was a nice 18 inch brown that took my nymph on the second cast. Other than this one fish I did catch a smattering of other fish ranging from 2 to 6 inches. No kidding I think I did catch the smallest fish I ever caught. It was 2 or maybe if I really stretch it 3 inches. I couldn’t figure out how it got the hook in its mouth. As for why the fish weren’t biting that is another of those mysteries that only explain why I always bring a few good cigars and a flask of bourbon with me when I go fishing. The trip was a huge success in spite of the lack of catching. What really made the trip a great adventure was the people I met. One night a Mustang convertible pulled into the camp site next to me and a couple got out and started setting up a tent. The tent was big enough for four people and maybe a couple of dogs, but there was only the two of them. The next morning I had made a full pot of coffee and was doing the breakfast dishes when I noticed the guy wondering around aimlessly outside the tent as us guys do when we’re waiting for our dream girl to finish what ever it is they do that makes them our dream girl. (My wife reads this ya know)  So anyway I grabbed a couple of extra cups and went next door to offer the coffee I wasn’t going to drink myself anyway. A tactic I usually use on other fishing persons to ply them for Intel. Obviously these were not fishing persons but I wasn’t going to drink all that coffee myself anyway. As it turned out he was from Quebec Canada and she was a French lady who currently lived in Italy. We had a very interesting conversation and enjoyed each other’s company for just the appropriate amount of time to not keep them from there adventures or me from my fishing. Another interesting incident occurred on the river as I was fishing the inside of a big bend in the river. I noticed a real cowboy trying to move some cattle across the river. I know he was a real cowboy because he was trying to move cattle using a horse. The horse was a pretty good cutting horse to. Also I could tell he was a real cowboy for two other reasons. One his cowboy’s hat had that worn and sweat stained look that only a serious working  man gets, and two because after he finally got the cattle to cross the river he rode up to me and asked if I had a beer in my cooler he could buy from me. I told him that not only did I have a beer in the cooler but that I would give it to him. In fact I had one my self, imagine that. I didn’t mention that I also had cigars and bourbon though. After all he was on the job. I really enjoyed visiting with him and it was nice to see a real cowboy and a real cattle ranch still existed in this part of Montana that has been pretty much invaded by the rich and famous. Then there was the two couples that invited me to share their campfire my last night on the river. In the end the trip was a smashing success because of the great people I met and the knowledge of the Madison I gained. I can’t wait to take Gigi there. Speaking of Gigi what a great time we had last Sunday on Belt Creek. Well I’ll save that story to next time. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it. I did.