Thirty years ago when I first moved to Missoula, it seemed like I couldn’t get enough time on the rivers in Western Montana. Back in those days, every Friday after work, I was heading to float and spend the weekend on the Blackfoot, Bitterroot or Clark Fork River. I was always joined by my fellow weekend warriors John Perry and Doug Stewart. Perry loved to fly-fish, while Stewart and I like to fly fish but we also brought along our Panther Martin, Thomas Cyclones and spinning rods and reels. It was always an adventure floating, fishing, and then recapping our day over a campfire.
So, just last week it was like the good old days as the three of us were floating and fishing down the lower Clark Fork River and having just as much fun as we did back in the 1985. Perry who now runs a successful outfitting business had donated a day fishing trip to a local charity. Clint Romney from Huson and Chris Koppang from Missoula and I decided to chip in and buy the trip. During the live auction of the trip I had convinced Romney and Koppang that it would be well worth the money and that they would learn a thing or two about fly fishing from Perry, who Stewart and I affectionately call the Mountain Man. He is 6 feet 4 inches tall and over the years has perfected as much as anybody I know the art of fly tying and fly fishing. His clients come from all over the U.S. year after year.
Last Tuesday, we hit the Clark Fork at noon with Perry’s drift boat and Kappang’s raft. While Perry would man his boat we needed to recruit an oarsman for the raft and Stewart was the logical choice. As Perry predicted fishing was slow to begin the afternoon but he purposely got us on the water a couple of hours early. He wanted us to practice reading the water and casting into ripples and eddies so as the day warmed up and the bugs began to hatch we would be ready to successfully hook some trout.
The slack time on the water was needed especially by me. It had been a few years since I had picked up a fly rod and I was a little rusty when it came to setting the hook. Perry had me casting a dry fly that he called the Bugmiester, trailed by a copper john dropper. As the daytime and water temperature warmed the trout started responding nicely to this combination. I hooked six fish but despite Perry’s constant reminder I missed twice as many because I kept lifting the butt end of my rod by the reel instead of the tip of the rod when I attempted to set the hook.
My prediction to Romney and Koppang was accurate. Both anglers saw their catch rate improve the more that they spent time in the boat with Perry. Anybody in the business will tell you being a guide on a river or lake is a challenging job. Clients want to catch fish, even if the water or weather conditions aren’t cooperating. It is for that reason that whether you are a novice or an experienced angler like Romney or Koppang, spending a day on a river or lake with a guide like Perry will make future days on the water that much more enjoyable and productive.
(Written by the Captain aka Mark Ward)