Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fightin' It.

Skwala season is no longer any sort of secret in western Montana. Not even close. Guides know about it, college kids with pontoon boats know about it, clients know about it. And that's for good reason. The fishing can be downright outstanding--on big dry flies--while most of the western U.S. fishing scene is just starting to defrost from winter hibernation. That is, unless you hit any one of a number of unfavorable, but completely possible weather/water scenarios that can thoroughly bugger your trip at this time of year. One day the river is clear and dropping, three to five different species of bugs are popping, and the fish are on the chow. The next day the river blows out, it snows sideways and you're watching the bobber while counting the seconds until your guide will let you have another pull off the flask of Dewar's...or better yet take you back to the hotel.

Such was the case this past weekend. A spring warm-up/rain-on-snow event tripled the size of all the Missoula-area rivers just before I was to start a week-long run of work. Perfect. Day One's guests were somewhat local, and given the fishing report (what fishing??) during the crest of the initial tsumani-like wave, they canceled. That's fine. Better to try and get them back later in the season during more favorable conditions than lose them outright to shitty fishing and bad weather. Just like a powder day can make an average skier look like a superhero, while ice will make a strong rider look like a drunken peg-legged monkey, fishing the Bitterroot during an initial push of water like we just experienced can make even the most seasoned western Montana guide look less knowledgeable than the old dude slinging Zebco outfits from behind the Walmart sporting goods counter.

The next group of guests was in from Jersey for the weekend, so it was going to take more than a little bad weather and an apocalyptic fishing report for them to cancel. So off to the Missouri we went, along with every other freestone guide in Montana that was booked that weekend and scrambling to find a trout to catch. Fishing on the Mo was, well, early spring on the Mo. They ate pink stuff--preferably with a hot bead on it-- under the bobber, and occasionally a big olive streamer trolled off the bank on a sink tip. We didn't catch a lot of fish by Missouri standards, but we caught some really nice ones, and it sure beat the hell out of catching jack shit, which I can almost assure you would have been the outcome if we had fished the Root on Saturday. In classic Montana spring style, the Mother threw just about every single weather type you can imagine at us, often in the course of half an hour. You often hear it in Montana, and everywhere else for that matter, that "if you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes." Well, this past weekend, if you didn't like the weather, you just turned and looked the other direction.

Cold nights and "drier" weather put the Root back on the drop over the weekend, so Monday found us back on this side of the Divide. The river's still high, and the ways in which we caught fish showed it. But I like fishing the Root at high's a game, and when you get on 'em it can kick ass. I wouldn't say our fishing the past two days kicked ass, but it was acceptable, we caught some nice ones, and we even got a few to eat the big dry, which I wasn't really expecting this soon after the wave. The rest of the week looks to be just as cold and snowy as the past several days, so one can only hope that the river will continue to drop and by the time the next warm up comes along (what's warm this year? Like 50), it'll be on like Konkey Dong. Or so we can hope.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Heartbeat of 'Merica.

Two weeks ago, Butte, Montana hosted its annual St. Patrick's Day Parade/Drunken Rampage up on the Hill. Although I hear it's a good time, I've never gone..and in all honesty I don't think I ever will. Getting the crap kicked out of me by some wasted Buttant, spending a night in Silver Bow county jail and/or watching my own green beer vomit trickle downhill towards the Berkley Pit are not high on my list of things to accomplish at this point in my early thirties.

But last week Butte, America, which was at one time the wealthiest city in the United States, sold me a truck. More accurately, I bought a brand-spanking new, 2011 Chevy Silverado from some weathered, middle-aged biker lady who sells those sorts of things for a living down at the bottom of the Hill. Call it hokey, or blame the lingering East-coasty romance that still overwhelms me in random instances, even after living in Big Sky country for several years, but during these times, in this state, with the economy doing what it's doing (or not doing), it just felt good to buy a full-size, American-made pick up from Jane Doe in Butte, Montana. I'd like to think she went home and told her husband she sold a rig today, and maybe they went out to dinner up on the Hill to celebrate. More likely, she muttered "sucker" under her breath as I walked out of the dealership and went to the bar that night. And that's OK. I've been known to do the same thing after rough days with certain clients.

Regardless, I'm thrilled with the new whip. So it would seem are los huespedes (the guests) so far. I opted for the extended cab with the 6 1/2 foot bed, as opposed to the "more common with fishing guides" crew cab, mostly because I want to sleep back there during impromptu overnights. And since it seems like most days my two clients fit the "tall skinny guy and the short fat guy" bill, we just park Shorty in the back and there's been no complaints about the size of the back seat. She tows like a Clydesdale, but the ride is unquestionably smoother. I even got six months of OnStar. Lucky me. Now I won't get lost heading to the boat ramp.

The only thing that's left now is to name it. Well, that and a topper, bedliner, nerf bars, seat covers, floor mats and real tires...but those will come later. For now a name is needed. Thanks to my friend Dana, the top contender right now is "Chuck Norris." The white ninja, baby.