Fishless Days

By Beacon Staff

I didn’t catch any fish the other day. It may have been the best fishing trip ever.

By way of explanation I’ll just say that the week didn’t unfold as planned. My daughters were on spring break and they were primed to join me on the little tailwater river in Wyoming I fished with great success all winter.

Well, that seemed like a good plan. Early April is generally the end of the great winter fishing over here. Come April 15 the gates open up on the dam at Buffalo Bill Reservoir and the agony of tax day is made even worse by the lousy fishing caused by the rising river.

I understand why it’s that way, and realize that without the dam that great trout stream I work all winter would be a terrible place to fish in January. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it when the water comes up.

We thought we were good, but we hadn’t accounted for this rotten winter now finally ending. It snowed and snowed, and then as March rolled around, it snowed some more, with storms alternating with sunny, bright days and highs in the 50s and 60s.

Schizophrenia, thy name is March.

So three weeks before normal, the high water started. Still, it wasn’t unfishable. After the water came up we had a couple of great days stripping streamers along the banks as the heavier current pushed the fish out of the main channel. We’d been forced out of our winter nymphing routine, but all seemed good.

Then the media got on the story, with designs on ruining our fishing plans completely. Reporters noticed that the snowpack in our corner of the world was in the neighborhood of 150 percent of average, and was still gaining at a time when normal spring temperatures usually have the melt underway. The reservoir was too full to handle the expected runoff. More room was needed behind the dam, so the flows were ramped up once again.

My trout stream of dreams now looked more like the mighty Mississippi in spring: high, brown and in a hurry to get to the Gulf of Mexico.

That all might have been enough to cancel our fishing plans and instead road trip to a mall somewhere. But I wasn’t ready to give in yet. Fly fishing is an expensive pastime, but even dudes bedecked in Orvis gear from head to foot are cheapskates compared to the guy who spends the holidays taking his teen daughters shopping. Even the April Fool’s storm that dropped nearly a foot of snow in these parts wasn’t going to keep us off the water.

But something else nearly did.

On the day the girls were driving out they followed the usual routine. The one serving as navigator kept me updated with text messages that marked their progress. Missoula. Butte. Bozeman. You know the route.

Only this time, after the Missoula text, the next message came in the form of a phone call. When I saw it was from one of the girls I figured it wouldn’t be good news.

I was blessed the call came from one of them and not the Montana state trooper or Powell County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the accident scene. That told me even though I was about to make an unexpected late night run to Deer Lodge, and that I’d be dealing with a wrecked car, the important stuff, the two of them, were OK.

We finally made it to Wyoming for our spring break rendezvous and decided we were going fishing, lousy weather be damned. Big rainbows cruised the shoreline of the small lake we fished, but it was spring so eating wasn’t really on the trout’s minds. We got a few looks, but no takers.

As we drove back to town one of the girls said that our fishless excursion was great fun nonetheless. It was enough to just spend time together, on the water on a sunny, almost-spring day in the shadow of the Yellowstone Plateau, she said, or something to that effect.

I’m still looking for the words to tell her how right she was.

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