Neil Travis - Jan 05, 2015


It's early in the morning and the valley is shrouded in a fog. It twists and rolls as the first early morning breeze stirs in the trees making the scene quite ethereal, almost otherworldly. Everything is covered with dew; like glimmering crystals the tiny droplets catch and scatter the shifting light turning blades of grass into kaleidoscopes reflecting a spectrum of color. The thick fog shrouds the landscape and all of nature is wrapped in a fine gray film like a soft moist blanket.

In the half light of this cool misty summer morning I pull on my waders, shoulder my fly vest and pick up my rod. Out there, in the shifting mist, a trout stream awaits. Despite the fog the path to the stream is a familiar path to my feet. I have trod it so often that I believe that I could walk it with my eyes closed. The stream appeared out of the mist; like a sheet of molten glass moving and reflecting the surface above. I kneel at the edge of the water scanning the surface looking for the telltale sign of a trout feeding; an underwater flash of a trout turning to take a nymph or the fading rings created by a surface feeding fish. The stream flowed on unbroken revealing nothing. I settled back on the grass watching the fog waft through the streamside trees, lifting and descending as the early morning Montana sun began to work its magic.

Lost in the wonder of the drifting fog my revere is broken by an insect that settles on my face. I reach up to brush it off and it flies up and lands on my hand. Thinking that it's a mosquito I look down and notice it's not a mosquito but a close relative; a midge. I had been anticipating that I might find some early morning midge action but this lone midge seemed to be the only one. This morning the midges never came in any number and there was only an occasional riser. I moved a couple fish on a small midge emerger; both of which were less than ten inches long. I had one better fish, an ethereal shadowy form emerging from the edge of a weed bed, which followed my fly for a short distance before disappearing back into the depths of the pool. As the sun burned away the last of the morning's fog the sporadic rises ceased, the sparse hatch of midges ended and decided to move on to another part of the stream.

Throughout the day I encountered a smattering of hatches; a small hatch of mayflies that produced two quick responses, both of which I missed and then the action stopped. By the end of the morning I had managed to hook and land about a half dozen trout and missed an equal number. They were a mix of rainbows and browns, and they all had one thing in common – they were all less than twelve inches long.

I sat under a huge old cottonwood tree and ate my lunch as a thundershower began to move across the lower end of the valley. The clouds pushed up, the lighting danced from the clouds and thunder rolled across the landscape. Since I was a little kid sitting with my father on the front porch of our farm in upstate New York I have always loved to watch thunderstorms. I moved from under the tree and sat in my vehicle as I watched and listened to the storm move across the landscape. A brisk wind pushed up the valley but the rain stayed away and when the storm had passed the bright summer sun returned. I reclined the seat and took a nap while the summer afternoon slipped away.

As the sun began to push toward the western horizon lengthening shadows began to creep across the valley and the cool air from the surrounding mountains began to settle into the valley. A spotted whitetail deer watched me as I got out of my vehicle and started walking upstream to a spot where I like to fish in the evening. It's a long flat that has extensive weed beds that harbor a nice assortment of brown and rainbow trout with an occasional Yellowstone cutthroat. I sat on the bank and waited for what I hoped would be a good spinner fall or perhaps a mating flight of caddis.

Like the rest of the day the evening spinner fall failed to develop when a cool wind wafted down the valley and pushed the bugs back into the grass. A few caddis began to flutter around the surface and I noticed a few sporadic rises which were more indicative of fish feeding on spinners. I bent over the water and after a minute or so I did see a couple rusty spinners flush in the film. I tied on a size 18 rusty spinner and stood watching the water looking for a fish that might be somewhat steady. In the tail of the small riffle at head the flat I noticed a nice swirl in a small piece of flat water next to the near bank. I moved slowly up flat until I was in comfortable casting range and waited to see if the fish would rise again. After several moments the fish rose again so I stripped off some line and made several false casts and dropped my fly slightly above where I saw the last rise. The fly had barely settled when the fish rose again but not to my fly. I was about ready to pick up my fly when it disappeared in a whorl and I lifted the rod and I was fast to a good fish. Feeling the hook the fish cartwheeled out of the shallows and made a determined run for the deeper water and the thick weed beds. I dropped the rod toward the near bank and applied all the pressure that I dared which forced the fish to turn back from the weeds. Moments later he came to my net.


The day was over and another storm began to push up the valley as I sat on the back of my vehicle and pulling off my waders. The sun was setting in a blaze of reds and golds as I stowed my gear at the end of a very wonderful day. I had spent an entire day completely cutoff from all the hustle and bustle of our modern society. No phone calls interrupted my day; I did not hear any news about some tragedy involving some terrorist, I did not need to try to please anyone except the trout, no politician assailed me with campaign promises, and I witnessed beauty that only God's creation can provide. I love the thrill of seeing a trout rise to my fly but what I love most about fly fishing is that it has the power to take me away from all that I find distressing about the modern world and helps to restore my perspective about what is truly important. 

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