We are inside our mountain cabin here in Montana with the air dense with smoke, (rated 230), only sixth tenths of a mile from the most beautiful river in the area. We ask ourselves: should we be fly fishing? Do we wear a N95 mask? We step outside , smell the nasty air and decide to stay inside and play cards and pray for rain to clear the air.

Later, it miraculously begins to rain!

We decide to raft the river and see what will happen.

First, we have to decide which fly to use. We decide to put (2) dry flies on the same line. At the top position , a small Stone Fly to support the lower tiny Parachute Adams. Why two flies you ask??

The tiny Parachute Adams is so itsybitsy, it gets impossible to see in the sun’s glare or current. When the Cutthroat trout hits it, without the Stone Fly, it is easy to miss the strike and fail to set the hook. With the small Stone Fly dipping down as an indicator of the strike, one can set the hook before the trout spits out the Parachute Adams. Now let me clarify. On the West Fork of the Bitterroot River, all trout are “catch and release” and a good fisherman/woman makes sure all hook’s barbs are clamped down. Thus the hooks are not swallowed and are easy to remove to quickly return the trout to the river.

Off we go, on our raft. The rain has partially cleared the smoke. No blue sky yet, but no stinking smell or burning eyes. The water is cool but not so cold as to keep us out of it. Now, will these flies be what the trout want? Drifting down along a rocky edge , we see swirling indications of trout feeding. Casting and mending the line to allow the flies to drift naturally brings a HIT! As I bring in my trout, we realize we left so quickly we have failed to bring a net. Never mind, I bring the line close enough to grab the 8 inch trout, remove the hook with hemostats and hold my prize gently in the river (facing upstream) until the trout wiggles and pulls itself free into the river.Now where are the big ones?

We have nicknamed the biggest trout “Monroe”. These are the ones who have been smart enough and lucky enough to to grow into a trout that we will not land in our raft without a net (18 inches- 26 inches). We are officially on the hunt. With one trout caught under our belt, the trip is now a success. Instead of “fishing” we are officially “catching”.

We continue down the river, watching for Osprey diving into the river to fish, and hoping for a glimpse of a bald eagle or hawk hunting from above. It is a challenge to enjoy the drifting kaleidoscope while simultaneously correctly presenting the flies to entice the trout underwater. The “presentation “ must convince the trout that the artificial flies have just hatched.If you properly present the fly pattern that the trout want, the trout will hit it. Patience is required to cast over and over. This repetitive fly fishing concentration can truly be a“ZEN” experience. After a refreshing rain and a day on the river, one feels renewed.

Susan Hall RN
Darby, Montana