Miles and Richard on De Puys Spring Creek
EVERYONE fished in my family, my mother and sister as keen as any, but it was my father Richard that led us there, and sowed the seeds that would lead me on this voyage to far lands and foreign fish.
One of my earliest recollections remains, perhaps as a four or five year-old, fishing in the Mersey River from a rental “tin dish” and catching something, probably a mullet. Growing up we would spend weeks every year on the coasts, fishing from a variety of boats, mainly for the tastiest of species not the gamefish.
Eating your catch, especially the delicious flathead species, was part of the experience, and my old man and his mate Barry evolved an extremely efficient system for catching, cleaning and preserving the haul for the table. . But I always felt fishing was secondary, to my father a means of spending more time boating. That it was really the freedom of being afloat he was after.
It was that efficiency that ultimately got to me, knowing what, where and how you were going to catch every day. There were raised eyebrows at a host of experiments, live bait for trophies, jerk baits big and small, light line, but that was perhaps the start of the search which ended up in fly fishing.
So I’ve never really known whether the Old Man liked fly fishing on our brief forays in this country. Sure we had a good time but we have always had the best of times doing odd stuff together _ did I mention he had a fetish for combing country dumps for useful stuff, like rope, abandoned sails and other oddments before recycling killed it _ often stuff which involved getting wet or muddy or fixing something which broke or breaking something previously fixed.
Dad’s had a total of may be 6 hours fly fishing under his belt when Miles and I took him to DePuys Spring Creek. De Puys Spring Creek isn’t the normal spot you would take a relative newcomer to the fly rod, but there wasn’t a lot of choices around, given the state of run-off in southern Montana.
This is one of those fancy private Western spring creeks, full of picky bug-eating trout well-educated in the wiles of fly fishers. Magnates and Presidents, rock stars and trout bums, all equal in the eyes of the trout, have been left scratching their heads pondering the contrariness of pursuing trout on the fly.
Miles Nolte, was our edge if you like, you have met him here before: teacher, author, long time western guide and angling columnist for Gray’s Sporting Journal, and now an outfitter: Swallowtail Fly Fishing. Seriously look him up if you are in the area.
It was my first holiday in a decade and it wasn’t supposed to be a fishing trip. A visit to the Rockies in summer and it wasn’t to be a fishing trip. WTH I hear you say?
No this was the second and last summer my father, Richard, and stepmother Trish, would be touring the US in their motorhome. And on our suggestion, well you really can’t visit the US for any length of time without hitting the Yellowstone region fly fisher or not.
We had driven through epic scenery, alongside epic rivers, flowing high and muddy in epic proportions. Run-off, nature’s annual spillways releases as the snowpack melts, plus a seriously wet spring out west, had most waters the color of strong milk coffee. The west looked weird, from the Kansas prairie to the sagebrush plains of Wyoming everything was uncommonly green, and festooned with wildflowers.
So we did quite a few things I’d not done, but wanted to, in past trips when fishing was the thing: like visiting the Little Big Horn Memorial, take the time, walk the trails, listen to the excellent talks by the rangers. Yellowstone was phenomenal as always, and it was good to catch up with Kelly Galloup and his crew over at the Slide Inn and the guys at Tim Wade’s shop in Cody.
But until that second last morning we really hadn’t had the opportunity to mess around as we always had done. But this wasn’t to be the easy trout or Arkansas, plus the natural hazards of tall grass banks, trees and more. Of course these provoked plenty of Aussie cuss words but nothing that probably hasn’t been said here before.
I’ll put it down to Miles’ inspired fly choice, our mutual instruction, and finally the wise decision to leave him to his own devices for a couple of minutes and bugger me, Richard was tight to a nice little brown trout, before Miles and I were finally rigged.
We all caught fish, and Dad grew relaxed enough we all fished separately, though coming back to him to change flies adjust rigging as the bite changed. .
Not long before he was due to leave, having some maintenance he wanted to get done on the motor home, I heard a shout and looked up in time to see a line ripping through the water and the cartwheeling belly of a seriously solid fish, comprehensively better than anything Miles I or would hook for the day.
A fish which would have beaten any of us without experience, soft hands and a fair slice of luck. I was half expecting some disappointment, perhaps some recriminations, having been so close to a real trophy fish,
Yet all I was hearing was, perhaps with some amazement, that he had spotted, the fish cast to it until it ate and then hooked it. The loss of the fish barely came into the equation. There was even a grin.
I think he really got why we do this thing _ which was as much entertainment for me as if he has scored the trophy.
What could be better than that.