“We’re floating the Blackfoot tomorrow.” My former neighbor from the Lolo days, Whit, was calling to ask if I’d be interested in floating down from Russell Gates to Sunset Hill, a beautiful section on the Blackfoot which I had not fished in quite a while. I was shocked to get the call and responded with a jubilant “Sure!” He mentioned his friend Chris would be along as well. I thought I’d bring along our raft and a couple of the kids; however, as it turned out, they already had other plans, which meant I’d simply fill Whit’s third seat. Three salesmen in a green raft on the Blackfoot in July, why not?
Actually, Whit and Chris are experienced fly fishermen, with whom I’ve before fished. Whit and I have pleasant memories fishing Harold’s hole on the Bitterroot below what was once the Rossignol Orchard. The Orchard, as seems to regularly occur, became a subdivision for first time homeowners like ourselves, freshly out of college and recently married. Harold was a holdout, a retired minister, with an older place on the river adjacent to the subdivision. We developed a good relationship with Harold who gave us the occasional brief sermon and then let us through his yard to an excellent hole. “I always give the younger generation access,” Harold initially told us. Late nights after work, small flies and large subsurface sippers. The one thing I truly miss, having moved into Missoula to avoid the commute for work and school for the kids.
We’ve enjoyed some fishing on the Elk together in Fernie, BC, as well. Large cutthroat and bull trout are in the main river. Time spent below towering rock faces, fishing the tributaries for bulls while trying to wearily look over our shoulders for Mr. Griz. Cycling into the Fernie backcountry with rods and gear is one of my fonder memories, occurring prior to my becoming somewhat of a mountain biking fanatic, sticking with the utility of the bicycle. Things have a way of circling back around though. The scenery in the area is spectacular. In the summer Drake magazine, Mark Hume had a nice piece written on the Elk’s present selenium issue from mining. Seems to be a common theme in the waters I’ve frequented in W.Va. and Montana. Always having to find that blend, that tradeoff between the economy and the trout. Opportunity cost measured in trout fishing recreation foregone for resource extraction, fishing and nature being the highest of pleasures. Not quantifiable. I’ve not been to Fernie in a while. The local waters are too fine to justify the border crossing and soccer looms large lately. Fernie is highly recommended though for a trip or two if for no other reason than the scenery. A good town, Fernie. We managed a fine day on the Blackfoot, though the fishing was a shade off. Everything seems to have been cast, including some streamers in some of the deep sections. Below Russell are some rapids that were not an issue given the lower flows of July. I found myself thinking this would have been the perfect day to float Todd, Seth and Erin through the section. Gorgeous. I managed a respectable fish at the get go, which turned out to be around ten in the morning. A large cutthroat, netted by Whit, caught on a small parachute adams, cast tightly to the bank using an old Sage SP. A classic, floppy two piece rod I enjoy, bought used a while back on an auction platform. I have a few SPs and like the lively slow action.Whit mentioned something about a local fly shop having a photo on its main page of a fish being eaten by a snake. This had us visiting about snake encounters fishing or otherwise. I brought up a largemouth bass among three or four that happened to be on the bottom of a stringer I, while fishing when a youngster on a friend’s pond in West Virginia, had tied to the bank. I looked down at the stringer and noticed the stick holding it to the bank was being pulled out of the muck and a snake had the fish on the end of the stringer half in its mouth. I got the fish out of the snake, but the fish still became a meal. The ponds belonged to my best man and recent photos reveal these are now in the process of becoming a subdivision. Hard to look at the photos. Memories of hula popers and slurping bass in the night in the cattails still prevail.