These Columbia River Redbands in NW Montana wanted Big Dry Flies

Last week I made a discovery while riding my bike, just eleven miles from our house. I came out of dense dark cedars into bright sunshine and beheld a beautiful lake abuzz with life. A large lake where I come from, but only modest here in the land of giants. Deep clear green with the odd patch of lily pads, a hidden surprise in a place that seems to be forest forever. There were fish going nuts everywhere.

Trout. TONS of bugs- huge dragonflies, midges, moths, mayflies, and by the billions…Ants! Not a soul. I didn’t have a rod but stood a while and watched fish cruising and eating mad splashy grabs, mid air assaults, silent sips, toilets flushing. I watched a big rainbow cruising fast and straight along the banks absolutely crush a spent moth right at my feet.

I was back the next afternoon. Johnny and I have spent most afternoons in the boat here this week. At first it seemed like it might be too easy. On a scruffy moth my dad ties, right near the put in, 20 inch rainbow. Hot fish. Clean. Johnny got a similar Bow on his first cast too-it went for and aborted on a red Turk’s Tarantula twice before he gave it his full attention.

The water here is so clear that all of this dance was visual and in your face. We drifted about at the whim of the breeze and both fished to rising targets. Since the fish are always on the move, you have to either smack it right on his forehead or decipher his direction and speed and give him a lead, a fun game in itself. Fun when it works. If you look at a rise form, you can often see that it elongates on one end, and so guess the fish’s intended path.

This lake fishing game wasn’t all easy. The fish got difficult when the ants came-there were simply too many to compete with. Lull times when only rogue fish are eating were also tough. The challenge for me is not to second guess myself; stay the game, fish the chosen fly. I’m coming around on lakes. This is fun stuff.

Out of the boat you can head hunt for risers, or cruise the edges stripping streamers, or plumb the deep. And it’s nice after rowing the big river to know you can take your hands off the oars for a minute or ten and you won’t be bouncing off rocks. Right now the fishing everywhere around here is great. It’s like those fish know it’s all about to come to a frozen halt- time to get your feed bags on! It’s looking like another gorgeous autumn afternoon.