What I Lost in Montana

Yellowstone River, Montana Fly Fishing

What I Lost in Montana

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Noah Davis

1. Dry shirts and faith in my studded wading boots.

2. A 19-inch brown trout after the pheasant-tail dropper caught the lip of my net, while the elk-hair caddis still clung to the soft, white mouth. He swung his great maw back into the current and sunk into the stained riffle.

3. The opportunity to take my future wife out for a huckleberry milkshake. She was blonde, and cute, and buying apples across from me in the grocery store. She had high, round, rose-tinted cheeks and green eyes that kept looking up at me from beneath a Simms trucker cap. Her jean shorts showed tanned thighs from sitting in a drift boat. She waited at the register till I paid and asked how the fishing was. When I got back in the car, my dad raised his eyebrows, questioning if I’d made plans for later. I said I hadn’t caught a fish bigger than fifteen inches yet.

 My pious innocence after the eighth straight fourteen-plus-inch trout shook my barbless pheasant tail. I replaced the dropper with a rubber-legged Copper John. The forceps were in my hand to mash the barb, then I put them back in my vest.

5. Sweat, lots and lots of sweat.

6. Four pounds (likely sweat).

7. My father, almost. The section of Rock Creek we typically wade was still running high with snowmelt. We’d crossed three times already and before our fourth, Dad’s expression looked the same as mine when my basketball coach told me to run a 25th suicide. Really? Another? We made it three-quarters of the way across when both his feet slid out from under him and the current carried him toward me, all 215 pounds of solid father rushing past. I lunged and grabbed the straps of his waders. He got up swearing and asking if I knew how slick the rocks were.

My nymph box, from a neglected, unzipped pocket; the box fell into the river as I leaned over to grab my father.

9. My appetite after watching a shirtless man check into a Days Inn. The white and gray body hairs swirled on his lower back like an eddy in moonlight, hiding the flesh beneath. The darker shades of black, tan, and red wrapped across his shoulders and down his front, holding such magnificent melon breasts that the front-desk attendant could not tear her gaze away.

A 25-inch bull trout that swallowed the five-inch cutthroat I’d hooked in a shallow run. My three-weight bent at the handle as the predator’s gills flared. The thrashing lasted 30 seconds, then he made his way to softer water and wrapped the 4x tippet around a stump. After the line snapped, the bull trout spat the cutthroat, which listed before righting itself. Its dazed glare mirrored my own, mouth agape, muscles quivering, a desire to lay down and regain the breath I’d lost.

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