by Phillip Dobson
(Butte, MT)

High water

High water

Temps are up and the snow is melting here in Montana. That means high flows and dirty water. I wanted to get out anyway, so I headed out to the Big Hole where I know of a spring pond full of clear water and smart trout.

The "frustration pond" lived up to its name. It was windy and cold, making the necessary patience hard to muster. I hooked a nice brown on a spiky nymph only to have him wrap me around some branches and force me to break the leader off. I called it good after bringing in a modest brown.

There was still daylight and I was curious if fishing would be possible in the flooded river. I found a slower section and landed a couple decent trout on a small sparkly nymph. Turns out that "blown" doesn't mean unfishable.

A little upstream, I found found another slow area mostly surrounded by trees. I didn't have waders on, but I was able to get some short drifts that soon yielded a hookup. This fish held by the bottom for a few seconds, then ran straight away from me. I was surprised by the power of this run and I almost lost control. Usually I would just take a few steps into the river, but I was hypothermic enough as it was. I barely managed to turn the fish in time, then brought him into the net. A nice rainbow to end the day.

Lately, I've been thinking about the differences between fixed line fishing and using a reel. I think much of it comes down to one word: "connection". With a fixed line rod and light line, my body has a tight connection to the flies. This provides control and sensitivity that no amount of mending can alleviate when using a Western setup. That connection means more fish "betrayed and condemned" by your fly, but the real magic comes after the hookset. Fighting a good fish on a fixed length of line is nuanced and personal. Because you can't simply overpower the fish, reading the movements of the fish and reacting appropriately are) become critical. The result is quick, dynamic, and very enjoyable. So much more fun than just hauling a trout in on heavy tackle.

This isn't to say that fixed line is always the right, or even the most fun choice, but it does have some solid advantages.

Return to Your Tenkara Stories.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


The hooks are sharp.
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The fish are slippery when wet.

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