Rivers Coming Down

July 2018 may be one of the best in memory for doing that thing that makes July so great: bobbing down a river

By Rob Breeding

There’s the typical July buzz in the air. Rivers across Montana are dropping into fishing shape, and the first signs of fire season are beginning to rise in plumes from the ridgelines.

Barring a descent into furnace-like temperatures, as was the case in Montana a year ago, late-summer fishing might be pretty good. Much of the snowpack from a record winter has been converted into river by now, but a wet spring helped. A quick glance and the U.S.G.S. streamflow map reveals mostly green dots (average flows), quite a few teal dots (above average), and a fair number of dark blue dots (above above average). A few below-average orange dots mar this otherwise pristine landscape, and fortunately, brown or red dots — leading indicators of impending hoot owl restrictions — are absent.

The Yellowstone River is running a touch higher than normal following spring high flows that were especially high. A few access sites on the Yellowstone were rendered unusable by high water, as the river cut new channels and dumped berms of silt in inconvenient places such as launch ramps. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks got most back in usable shape, except for the access at Reed Point. That site will require more extensive reconstruction. It’s still open for walk-in access, however.

If you’re thinking about floating or fishing, you should be doing so right now. July 2018 may be one of the best in memory for doing that thing that makes July so great: bobbing down a river.

I’ll be fishing, of course, but the peak of the season is about the time of year a distraction creeps into the back of my mind: bird hunting. We’re less than two months away from opening day for grouse and partridge. Early September is a little too early in my book, as my favorite partridge, chukar, inhabit some of the most rattlesnake-infested country in Montana. October is my target, after a good cold snap has put the buzzworms away for the season.

Still, Doll gets rattlesnake vaccine, just in case.

More importantly, it’s time to get my now older hunting companion in shape. She’s a little heavier than past years. Doll once stayed in top shape year round running along side me as I jogged 10 to 15 miles a week. That was enough to keep her fit year round. Unfortunately, my knees aren’t what they used to be and my doctor has suggested a choice: continue to run for a few short years until they finally fail me altogether, or save the knees for walking the chukar grounds for decades to come.

In other words, I’m getting old. It’s time to find exercise that’s easier on the limbs.

That works for me. I can stay in shape on a rowing machine while I shout at the nonsense coming from the evening news. But the dog seems reluctant to come to heel and run in place while I’m at it.

Another good exercise option, long bike rides, won’t work as the dog can’t keep up.

So the solution means setting aside time each day for long walks in open country where Doll can’t get herself into too much trouble. Since I live in town, that’s not always convenient, but it is a heck of a lot more convenient than starting up a slope after a noisy covey of chukar, only to look back and see my bird dog laying on her belly with an “I’m-too-chubby” look on her face.

Fortunately, that’s an experience I’ve only had in nightmares. Doll has always been an eager hunter and a great chukar chaser. Like me, she’s getting on in years, so to keep her great, I might have to skip a float now and then to make sure she’s getting the work she needs.

Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com, which covers outdoor news in Montana.

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