The sun crests the mountain behind our cabin a little earlier each morning, while birds chatter noisily at the feeder. As I step outside to greet the day, I breathe deep earthly scents that seem to rise as the sun warms the ground. Dirty snowbanks, the skeletal remains of winter, will be smaller by late afternoon.
It is March in Montana and it’s a good month to be an angler. Baetis and perhaps Skwala stoneflies will be on the trout’s lunch menu this afternoon.
Thick chunks of ice are scattered randomly along the streambank. The river broke free from its winter prison in late February leaving the chunks behind as proof of its victory.
My spring fly boxes are full. Winter evenings at the tying bench created a bounty of favorite patterns. Red Power Worms, Double Bead Princes, Pat’s Rubberlegs, Stonefly nymph variants, and a few buggy hare’s ear nymphs fill a box while BWO emergers and dries, along with midge patterns, complete a dry box. The Skwala dries have earned their own box due to their size.
I ply a pool with my favorite spring double nymph rig; a double bead prince and a worm trailer. A hungry brown trout takes the worm and the day is off to a good start. Another brown and two rainbows are fooled before I notice the first rise.
The debate begins in my head. Should I switch up? It’s so temping to catch a trout on a dry fly that I abandon my success strategy for the unknown. I tie on a small BWO parachute and hatching pupa as a dropper. A few casts in the general proximity of one rise yield nothing. Scolding myself for switching flies, another fish rises about 15 feet upstream. I reposition myself, make a lucky cast, and net a 14” rainbow on the emerger.
It’s now three-thirty in the afternoon. A light breeze is cold and reminds me that it is still only March. In another hour, the sun will slip over the mountains and the river will fall into a cold shadow. It is time to fish the pools close to home.
I walk and cast, fishing the way my grandfather taught me as a child. Cover every inch of water. Only one surprised mountain whitefish ended up in my net on the trek home.
After latching the pasture gate, I make my way to the deck of our little log cabin. I sit down in the last of the day’s sunlight and reflect on my good day of fishing and my good fortune which brought me to fly fishing and to Montana.
Not every spring day offers good fishing. I am young enough to go fishing often and old enough to acknowledge every day on the water as a gift.