Spring, Montana, Madison

The Madison Ramble

I grew up in Seattle back when Seattle had really bad weather. It’s no wonder that Seattle produces so many serial killers—that gray and soaking rain is a real bummer and there are times when depression penetrates the soul. I don’t even think they made sunlamps when I was growing up but I sure could have used one.

I spent a lot of time after school at Kevin Whitinger’s house listening to AC/DC’s Highway to Hell and Night Stalker, hoping his mom wouldn’t come home anytime soon, and examining his .22 caliber pistol. We took the weapon to the beach sometimes and shot across Puget Sound at seagulls, brant, scoders and goldeneye. For a high-school kid it was top sport. And it kept us from turning the gun on each other or other people. Could we have been the next Ted Bundy’s? Doubt it. But I got out of Seattle the first chance I had and moved to sunny Montana.

What I’m getting at is this: coming from Seattle makes me feel like there’s not a nice day to be missed and that each bright, sunny day ought to be celebrated to the max. Well, one of those days arrived yesterday with the sun shining bright and temperatures creeping into the mid-sixties. Mid-sixties in arid southwest Montana feels like 80 elsewhere. So I quit early and was on the water, in my Watermaster, by noon. In the past, I think I’ve lost jobs over my urgency to celebrate such nice days… or I just quit.

The Madison is the most heavily fished stream in a state full of heavily fished streams. I can’t remember fishing the Madison without seeing a half-dozen or more anglers. And some days it’s one driftboat after the other until you’ve seen hundreds of anglers during a single day. That was not yesterday. I floated from Burnt Tree Hole to Ennis and didn’t see anyone. I landed about five nice trout, and a few whitey’s, and lost several other good trout. They ate eggs, San Juans, rubberlegs, and Baetis nymphs. The water was low, crystal clear, like the sky, and the fish were where they were supposed to be, stacked in some sidechannels and hanging in the deeper runs and midstream buckets.

It was so nice in Montana yesterday that I ended up stripping off my shirt for a couple hours before a breeze picked up and I threw on a short-sleeve. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to float along at nice pace, to have every inch of water to myself, to have a ready supply of cigars and Coors, and to have someone waiting to pick me up at a friends house in town.

As you may have noticed from my recent streamer post, spring is my favorite time to fish Montana for the very reasons I’ve described here. So now is the time to get on the water. And by the way, it’s now 9:43 a.m. Montana time, the sun is climbing higher, the temperature is on the rise, and the Watermaster is already loaded and ready to launch. A cup of coffee, a pack of Backwoods, a stop at the Town Pump, and I’ll be setting sail again.

Here are a few shots from yesterday that urge you to say, “Hey bossman, I’m leaving early today.” Go get ‘em.

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