Dream vs. Reality: Springtime Fly Fishing

Fishing season

After a cold Montana winter, every angler aches for warm days on the water. And what could be better than a pleasant spring afternoon, fly rod in hand? Birds chirping, sun shining, fish jumping, right?

Forced to suffer a long winter of fly tying and trip-planning, you emerge from inactivity to find the warm days and cold water of spring. Years of standing firm in swift currents mean your legs are like old-growth timbers, strong and resolute. The mechanics of the cast endure, much like a seasoned cyclist returning to the saddle after an extended hiatus. Your quarry, unguarded after months of respite from the angler’s attention, is gullible and hungry—a winning combination guaranteeing dawn-to-dusk action, fantastic photos, and a full belly ‘round the campfire. 

Deeply content, you smile toward the heavens. The weather gods smile back, blessing your pasty visage with soft, warm rays. A gentle breeze swirls, carrying fragrant smells of high-country snowfields, greening valleys, and fertile earth. Turning to your significant other, who’s got a fish on, you cry out, “Can it get any better than this?” You count your blessings, thank the universe for your remarkable fortune, and reach for an ice-cold White Claw.

It’s freezing. This is the coldest 42-degree day of all time and the wind hasn’t stopped blowing. You’ve lost four flies already as your useless digits fumbled with the knot. Your line is tangled up and wrapped around you like Rapunzel caught in a vortex. Somehow, the wind is blowing up and sideways, jettisoning your brand-new trucker hat toward Big Timber. The air reeks of dead fish, rotting deer, and bovine afterbirth. The sun hasn’t made an appearance in weeks and you’ve gone from pale to translucent as the blood rushes from your extremities to warm your rapidly cooling core—hypothermia is undoubtedly setting in. Why didn’t I bring the damn handwarmers! And why do I need handwarmers in freakin’ April? The rain turns to sleet as you gaze skyward and cry out in despair, begging the gods for mercy. 

After finally executing a few serviceable casts, your shoulder reminds you of that Pilates for Anglers class you forgot to sign up for, and your quaking legs have you wishing you’d taken your friend up on that intensive Barre class. Resigning to your fate, you return to the truck to drown your sorrows, finding your White Claw frozen solid.