Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Spring brown/Ralph Bartholdt
BUTTE—We passed the road south of Twin Bridges and had to back track.
It had been an uneventful morning and why I was here.
At Clark Canyon Reservoir earlier that day the wind scowled, tossing the water hard and dark like working mohair against the grain with a dog brush. We cast into it, threw our rod tips up like a mast, stopped at 12 o’clock then wrenched the forecast into the wind to make the line shoot the gale like a broken arrow.
Whitecaps sloshed at our thighs.
I dreamed of chicken sandwiches with red wine gravy and cabbage, lifted the rod tip, pumped the line and sent the hardware hard into the wind.
It landed out there with a sploosh.
Again and again.
The other fly fishers, all heavy with expectation when they rolled their pickups to a stop along the reservoir’s miles of beaches, had already gone and it wasn’t noon. Their faces shined with wind burn, their sights set on the nearby rivers where they did not expect to catch big rainbows like the ones they came to hook at the reservoir: The ones that cruise the shoreline at ice-out. The ones that growl and leap and bust your line.
They left to hunt other fish, maybe brushy bank browns in the Beaverhead with a cracked beer in their packs to sip quietly as the wind chugged like a train on the ridges above them.
We stayed on for a while until the effort seemed fruitless and discussed the matter over a burrito at a vendor in Dillon.
Otra mas, por favor.
Then we trundled through town north to Twin Bridges, missed the turn, did a U in the drive where they make the fly rods, found our way and headed west to Glen.
This country is hollow with memories like wind in a metal pail. Rusty barbed wire snaps from the sandy soil like snakes. Great Falls Select beer and Highlander cans half eaten by decades of rain, snow and heat crown scrap metal heaps. Girdled by beaver, cottonwoods wait to be toppled. Brushy dogwood rims streams. Trailers, line camps and shacks, muddy pickups out front and wailing cattle with their tails in the air are the landscape. Horses stand on the shoulders of swales with manes adrift watching cars pass with a noble disinterest, as if their day will prove larger in the next draw.
In the dirt lot at the Pennington Bridge we straddled a down fence and fished the river to the road realizing later we had, as many anglers before us, crossed private property . The scenic route ended at barbed wire where a sign facing the other direction warned Absolutely No! And another, Positively Not!
Having caught nothing in swirling water the color of steel, we drove upriver to Notch Bottom and the absolute knowledge of fish there and a bite that was on.
I read a story Nick Lyons wrote about this place. About getting lost, asking for directions and a futile attempt at punctuality in his effort to meet for fishing somewhere nearby.
He ended the day with a marginal afternoon catch.
Our day ended like that.
On the bank of the Bighole not far from Melrose we stripped out of dank waders and fleece, pulled on jeans as we watched last light fall on an angler whose elegant roll casts covered the current midstream from his place, waist deep near shore.
Then we drove north to Butte for beers.
Wind vanes had stopped screeching, the day turned less restless. There wasn’t much happening. It was why I had come.
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