Madison River Morning
White flame mountains leaped into the pink Montana sky. Headlights sparkled in the cloudy dust as we drove down the washboard gravel road to Palisades boat launch. It was a great spring morning with promises of large leaping trout.
We parked at the rigging area to put waders on and get the boat ready for the morning float. Our fishing dog, Plato, ran around sniffing bushes and wild flowers.
I strung two six weight nine foot rods and tied on stout 2x fluorocarbon tippets. I opened my suitcase-like streamer box and eyed every row trying to make a decision.
I picked a streamer with olive marabou, olive grizzly hackle wings and a spun olive rabbit fur head. It was a sculpin pattern that I created several years ago. It had taken many trout in Southwest Montana and is always a must in my fly box.
I tied it on Lexi’s rod and put it in the back of the boat. I picked up my flyless rod and looked deeper in the fly box. Neon yellow rubber legs caught my eye.
The night before I was tying streamers and went a little on the wild side. I tied an an olive rabbit strip over the back with the neon yellow rubber legs coming out of a sparkly Lite Brite body.
When Lexi saw this creation she said, “Hey, Baby, I need my sunglasses, that fly is so bright!”
Without hesitation I plucked the neon fly from the box and tied it on my tippet.
We pushed the drift boat into the pink blue Madison. Lexi said she would row first since there was no wind. I picked up my rod and pulled out some line.
The mint colored line went shooting out across the Madison, landing behind a large stone. As I stripped it back I could easily see the yellow legs dancing in the current. I cast a few more times and thought about changing the fly.
As I pulled it through the water the fly stopped suddenly and a crimson sided rainbow came flying out of the early morning water with the yellow legged fly in its mouth. It made a fast sweeping run toward a large stone and Lexi moved the boat to keep it from breaking off.
After a few runs we were able to net it and Plato made a great victory woof. We released the fish in the hammered silver current and I was ready for more neon action.
As we floated down the silver winding path I caught and released several more rainbows and browns.
I took the oars and Lexi tried the new neon sensation with the same results. As the morning floated awa we lost a couple of flies on underwater snags and a few on the bushes. The supply was gone.
Going back in time when Elvis was the King and Jerry Lee Lewis played Great Balls of Fire on his golden piano, my parents gave me a subscription to Outdoor Life as a Christmas gift. Every year the summer issue had fold out posters of game fish.
I had my bedroom walls plastered with pictures of leaping trout. An old table was set up as a fly tying bench. During that time somebody gave me a yellow and red Herter’s catalog.
I spent hours reading about various lures and checking out prices on fly tying materials I could afford. Getting a dry fly grizzly neck was the ultimate. Orders seemed like they took eternity to arrive in Montana.
Each month Outdoor Life would arrive. I eagerly read everything about fishing first. As the magazines kept arriving, one issue had an article by the outdoor writer Erwin Bauer.
The topic was the muddler minnow, a fly Don Gaden invented in the early fifties. He tied it to imitate the sculpin minnow that the large Canadian brook trout loved. After reading this article I became a lifetime streamer fisherman.
I used the muddler along with other flies for years. As I kept tying flies I became more interested in trying new patterns rather than following traditional ones. I start crossbreeding flies, taking successful elements from one to add to another.
Another Madison Morning
A week after I tried the yellow rubber leg creation we got a phone call from Marty who wanted to know if we had room for him in the boat. We said we always had room if he could row.
A surprisingly quick study, after only two days of learning, he had the rowing figured out. The next morning we fished the bigger runs close to Ennis.
Marty unsuccessfully fished several flies from his box and was frustrated. I opened my fly box and handed him one of the new neon yellow rubber legged creations. I said, “Put this fly on.”
I was rowing and noticed a nice drop off close to some fast water. “Throw your fly in there.” Wham! A huge yellow Madison River brown came flying into the air throwing water sparkles in the morning sun. The fish made a sizzling run upstream and vanished in the silver currents.
Smiling, Marty reeled in his line and said, “I like that fly.”
That evening Lexi and I were looking at the new fly. She announced, “That fly looks like it has an attitude. Let’s call it the Bad Boy.”
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Copyright © Bern Sundell 2007. All Rights Reserved.