Glory Days

Fly fishing rain

Boom or bust on the banks of a trout stream.

A cold rain is hammering down as Corey and I maneuver our packrafts around a painfully wide horseshoe bend. Our toes are numb, hands crimped in the paddling position, knuckles raw and white. It’s been a wild day. Before a late-afternoon storm blew in, we’d basked in the sunshine, casting to big trout gorging on mayflies in this lazy, serpentine stream. I, especially, was eking out an epic day—netting 20-inch browns every few minutes, along with a handful of bruiser rainbows. Good enough to rack the fishing rod for the rest of the season. After all, how could you top a day like this? My spirits are high, and I’m humming country tunes, not even concerned about the bike shuttle we still have to run in the rain, and possibly the dark.

Corey, on the other hand, is sulking in his boat. “It does not get any better than this!” he yells sarcastically, squinting through the downpour. He’s had a rough day. While I was fighting trout, he was untangling his line, blowing air into his leaky raft, or searching for the paddle he left in a mess of tall grasses. Somehow, over miles and miles of picture-perfect pools and riffles, he had only brought one small whitefish to hand. A beautiful specimen, but not quite the thrill of a big, wild trout.

Needless to say, Corey’s ready to rack his rod for the season. He’s had his one bad day of fishing for the year, and he’s calling it quits.

To add insult to injury, earlier in the day I’d paddled around a corner a few minutes behind Corey and come face-to-face with a huge bull moose standing thigh-deep in the water. I watched him wallow in the river for a couple minutes before he trotted out, blissfully unaware of my presence. Then, seconds later, a whole family of river otters swam across, just a few feet from the bow of my boat. “Holy cow, did you see all those animals?” I exclaimed to Corey when I caught up with him. “What animals?” he replied.

Needless to say, Corey’s also ready to rack his rod for the season. He’s had his one bad day of fishing for the year, and he’s calling it quits. The previous summer, it was a mountain-lake trip high in the Spanish Peaks—one in which it rained all day and turned to snow at night. Both times, Corey took it as an omen, and switched gears to more productive endeavors.

Myself, on the other hand? I’m already re-living the glory of bringing those big fish to net, thinking about the yarn I’ll spin to my friends. Not that it’ll take much exaggeration—the fishing was that good. It’s days like these that I live for. Untouched Montana trout water in the middle of summer, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and a great companion to take pictures of all my fish.

I turn to look at Corey, grimacing with each stroke, soaked to the bone and shivering. I’ll give him a few days, I think. Then we’ll start planning next year’s fishing trips, which with any luck will turn out better for him than me.