Sunday, 21 June 2015

A River Runs Through It - USA 2015

You could say I closed a chapter when I fished the Blackfoot River this past weekend. Two ends of rope being joined together to form a circle, whatever use a circle of rope may be. I'm perhaps one of many in a generation of fly fishermen and women who owe their very passion to the 1992 film 'A River Runs Through It'. I turned thirteen that year and after watching the film I read a library copy of the book. I was too young to understand its full meaning back then but I remember it still took me a while - it isn't light reading - although I suspect it also had something to do with reading the fly fishing references over and over again. I should purchase a copy and read it again to do it proper justice. The book's fly fishing is of course set on the Blackfoot River.

"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman."

It's quite conceivable that the quote above may have played a part in influencing my preference today for fishing a dry fly.  

I drove to the end of a gravel road and set up my camp. I'm still bear shy so I didn't venture too far with my tent. This was, to my mind, the quintessential American fly fishing trip, and again perhaps it has a great deal to do with my early literary influences. Mountains, pine trees, blue skies, clear, turbulent water, cutthroat trout, the threat of bears and long evenings spent around a crackling camp fire with bug spray never far away.

I chose to mostly fish with a dry fly and when I did they were large and bushy because when fish are in the mood to take large dry flies there is nothing more exciting. Golden stoneflies seemed to do the trick on most occasions although I did have trouble setting the large hook and missed many takes. I was going to say that cutthroat proved not to be the dry fly suckers they are made out to be because I saw a number come up to the fly and turn away in sudden rejection. But then one smashed my white plastic bobber indicator and destroyed the illusion. When a large stonefly pattern would spook a fish a smaller elk hair caddis or Stimulator would usually succeed.

I resorted to a nymph on two occasions. The first time resulted in two whitefish and my first bull trout. The latter was only a little specimen and was quickly released because it's illegal to target them. Bull trout are fish eaters and can grow to a prodigious size. I've heard several tales of bull trout attacking a cutthroat at the end of a fly fisher's line and being landed because they refused to let go! When I hooked my largest cutthroat - perhaps a good 16 inches - it was dwarfed by an excited bull trout which followed it around in perfect synchronisation like a Red Arrows wingman. The second time a nymph made it out of my fly box saw three cutthroat come to my net in less than five minutes. I got the idea I could have caught many more fish had I consistently used a nymph but dare I say it that would have been too easy.

Bull trout

Speaking of my landing net, regular readers will know that a few weeks ago I purchased a Brodin net to serve as a memento of this leg of my trip. Brodin is the Aston Martin of nets - fancy but traditional and if you can afford one it will probably be the only one you own for life. Well, I kissed mine goodbye when it floated away with the fast current. I searched in vain and its loss hit me like a missing puppy. I searched for it again the following day and eventually gave up. Then, a couple of miles upriver, something glinting in the sun half way up the canyon caught my eye. It was somebody else's net! I looked around for the owner but the net appeared to have been there for a while. If you recognise it, let me know and I will post it to you. If there are no takers, it's no Brodin but will make an adequate replacement.


  1. Justin
    What an interesting fishing trip on the ultimate river for fly fishing. What weight length fly rod and size dry fly were you using? Gorgeous trout taken on some fantastic water.This is the river we will be on in September, can't wait. Thanks for sharing

  2. Hi Bill. I liked this river. If you are going to spend some time on it there is plenty of different water from remote wading sections to big float sections. You will have a lot of fun. The fly shop in Ovando offers good advice. I used a 9' 6wt rod and dries ranged from #6 - 16.

  3. Lucky man I intend to be in the USA in a couple of years time, A significant birthday demands a significant trip..

    1. The American West would be a very fitting place for a special birthday trip!