Fresh coffee and a homemade breakfast made for a late start fishing the Madison. I had suggested that we get up at 5 a.m., but that idea was voted down, especially after getting in late the previous night from fishing Box Canyon. With our gear packed, we headed over to the Slide Inn fly shop to visit with Kelly Galloup and pick up some of his infamous streamers.
With the jolt of a Jim Kazkoff signature stop, we pulled into the turn to the boat launch. With the boat in the water, Jim went and parked the truck. As we waited for Jim to return, Mark used the time to get in a few yoga stretches before we fished.
One of the guys working at the Slide Inn suggested that I start fishing with an olive cone-head T&A because it was a sunny day. I tied one on, and Jim took the oars first while Mark let me start at the front of the boat.
“I got a hit!” I yelled, as a fish darted from the shade and nailed my fly. A bump was all I felt, and I saw the whole thing happen. I threw my streamer as close to the bank as I dared, and I saw another fish dart for my fly! Once more, a slight bump was the only thing I felt.
“They are just bumping my fly.” I said, as Mark continued to cast from the back of the boat.
“I’m not seeing them.” Mark said, keeping an eye on his streamer. The fish were definitely active, but no real takes. Flashes at my streamer was the only indication fish were nearby, and as we drifted further downstream there was little to no action at all.
I soon got behind the sticks as Jim took the front of the boat with his dry flies, and Mark kept in the back with his streamer. The Madison River itself is a relatively shallow river with rocks everywhere. Casting to pockets of water near the bank and dropping a nymph in the buckets, as Kelly Galloup would call it, was not producing anything for us that afternoon.
Jim had a purple chubby on and was casting it exactly where it needed to be in hopes of catching a fish, but nothing was interested.
“Come on fish!” I yelled out to the water, but they were not listening. Jim plopped his purple chubby right near a seam that would sweep behind a shrub, creating a nice pocket of water. The chubby glided over the water perfectly, acting like a helpless terrestrial, and a fish noticed. A mouth poked up out of the water, taking in the chubby.
“Ohg!” Was what came out of Jim’s mouth as he set the hook, pulling the chubby out of the fish’s mouth before it had a chance to close around it.
“CRAP!” Jim yelled, as his fly line came hurling towards him with no fish attached. We were all a bit disappointed with the results of the day thus far. We stopped for lunch behind a nice back eddie, and I noticed the one lone cloud in the sky.
“Look, that cloud looks like an S.” I said, as Jim and Mark looked up.
“It does.” Both Mark and Jim said.
“Yeah… It stands for SKUNKED!”
A little further downstream we stopped the boat to do a little walking and wading. Mark waded downstream as I went up; Jim stayed in the boat to tie on a nymphing set up. A small seam near the bank was where I presented my terrestrial. In a flash, a fish came up and ate it.
“A fish!” I yelled, as I stripped in line. The weight of the fish was almost nonexistent with my 10 foot 5 wt. Helios, but with how the day was going so far, a fish was a fish!
“What did it take?” Jim asked, as I netted the fish.
“Like you have to ask…” I said, pulling out my camera for a quick picture.
“Well, there was bound to be one suicidal fish willing to take a Pico Spider in this river.” Jim said with a smile.
When floating and streamer fishing, Kelly suggests that if you have no hits after ten minutes, change the color of your fly. By now we had tried olive, black, white, yellow, brown, orange, chartreuse, and combinations of all the above. While still wading, I switched rigs and was back to throwing a streamer. I chose a fly that our very own Ryan Spillers created in the shop one day, and immediately caught a fish. It was a nice rainbow trout, and I had it hooked for just about 15 seconds before it came off.
“That was a nice fish you had on.” Mark said, as we all gathered back into the boat.
“Yeah, in fact I better get a picture of this fly before I lose it.” I said, pulling out my camera.
A few flashes of interested fish was all the attention I was getting with my setup. Small braided sections of the river looked good, so we parked the boat again to do some walking and wading.
The fish weren’t interested in anything we had to offer at this stretch. As I walked up, I saw that Jim was nymphing behind some large rocks. He didn’t get a fish, but it made for a good picture.
We continued drifting without a fish in sight. It had been a long time since I had caught that first fish, so I rigged up a European style nymph setup.
“Oh my God!” Mark yelled, “Erik’s nymphing… It must be a bad day!”
“Well it hasn’t been a great day.” Jim chimed in as he rowed us into position. I dropped the nymph in the water and kept a steady lead on the fly as we drifted. Nymphing is my lease favorite method of fly fishing, but sometimes you got to do what you got to do. I slapped my fly down in front of a rock and as we drifted by, a sudden jolt caused me to set the hook.
“It’s about damn time!” I said, as my rod tip danced with a fish. The weight of the fight signified I didn’t have on a dink. Mark reeled in quickly and handed me the net, and with one quick scoop the boat had its first real fish!
“I caught that on a nymph just to prove to you guys that there are fish in this river.” I said, feeling cocky after I let my fish go.
“Thank you so much, Erik. You are wise beyond your years.” Mark said sarcastically.
I quickly switched back to my 7 wt. rod to chuck streamers. I moved back to the front of the boat while Jim took the back and Mark took the sticks.
“Oh, great shot!” Mark yelled out as I slapped my fly into some nice pocket water. “Come on fish… Boom! That should have been a fish!”
I kept my eyes downstream, and shot my stream into another small pocket of water. WHAM! A trout hit my fly as soon as it hit the water!
“There it is! There it is!” Mark yelled happily, as he back-oared to steady the boat. Jim quickly handed me the net, and I lifted the rod to hoist my fish in.
“Yeah baby!” Mark yelled, before snapping this picture of me and my prize.
My fish slipped away, and we continued downstream. I kept casting into every pocket I could find, while Jim nymphed off the back of the boat.
“My fly is snagged!” I yelled at Mark, hoping he would slow down. We were in a portion of the river where it would be easy to stop, but Mark gave no sign of stopping.
“Are you going to stop?” I asked, “This is my good fly.”
“You are in your backing!” Jim pointed out, as Mark dropped the anchor. The anchor was not catching so I jumped out and grabbed the rope, stopping the boat; that was when I realized that the anchor was no longer attached…
“Jim, your anchor is gone!” I yelled.
“Really?!” Jim yelled back, and looked at Mark.
Mark quickly hopped out and parked the boat. I retrieved my fly, and together we swept the river looking for the lost anchor.
“I should paint this damn thing orange.” Jim said, as we waded around looking for his anchor. Mark felt really bad about losing it in the first place, and stayed in the deeper section of the water with his eyes open. After about 15 minutes, the hope of finding the anchor was gone.
“Well, let’s head back to the boat.” Jim said sadly, but Mark and I stayed in the water to look a bit longer.
“There it is!” Jim yelled.
“Seriously?” I asked, but I didn’t need an answer, Jim was already up to his elbows in the water.
Everyone was all smiles as Mark waded over to help carry the anchor back to the boat.
Happiness from the current blunder filled the boat. We poked a little fun at Mark for losing the anchor, but now that it was back all was good. In the distance there was a nice portion of stagnate water I had to get my fly to.
“I can get you a little closer.” Mark said.
“Don’t worry, I can hit that.” I said, pealing off line from the 7wt., double-hauling fast, and blasting my fly to the stagnate water. The arch of the fly line turned over beautifully, presenting my fly right where I wanted it. I dropped my rod-tip and made one strip. BANG!
“Yeah!” I yelled.
“Oh, baby! Get em!” Mark yelled, as Jim found the net and handed it to me. I stripped the fish in fast and with a heave, netted the fish. I handed my camera to Mark so he could take a quick picture of me. It was clear downstream, so he could take his hands off the oars for a few seconds.
Turns out, multitasking is not one of Mark’s strong suits in a drift boat. In the process of snapping a picture of me, he had his foot on the anchor foot-release, and the rope holding the anchor zipped out completely.
“Oh no! Damn it!” Mark yelled, “I lost the anchor.”
“No you didn’t.” Jim replied, thinking it was a joke. I looked down at Mark’s feet, and saw that there was no more anchor rope.
“He’s not kidding…” I said, dismally. As soon as I said it, a cloud of melancholy loomed in the boat. Jim sat down, and Mark felt terrible. It got quiet in the boat as we drifted downstream.
“I hate to be that guy…” I said, carefully, “But do you think you could paddle me a little closer to the bank so I can hit those pockets?” The anchor was gone for good now, no sense passing up good water, I thought.
“Yeah.” Mark said, and paddled over.
No more fish were caught the rest of the way. Jim hooked into a nice one, but it got away. In that same instance, the excess fly line he had by his feet had slipped overboard and caught onto something in the river. In a flash, line was being pulled backwards through his fly rod, which Jim tried to stop. He grabbed the line, which seared through his hand, bring Jim’s big streamer to the rod tip, breaking off the fly and the rod tip simultaneously. Needless to say, the takeout point was a welcomed sight.
We pulled into the Bear Tooth Fly Shop on the way back. Lucky for Jim, they had an anchor, which he was happy to purchase. However, that did not stop us from razzing Mark a bit more about his blunder. The jokes sounded a little something like: “Hey Mark, you’re looking good… did you drop 25 pounds or something?”
After a long day on the water, it was nice to meet up with my grandfather and his lovely lady-friend, Lois, in West Yellowstone for dinner.
Together we had a fantastic dinner paired with even better company. We were staying in Lois’s house just outside of West Yellowstone; a perfect place for any dedicated angler.
“I think fishermen are great!” Lois said with a smile. “They are the only people who will travel miles and miles… ALL FOR A FISH!”
Her charm made us all smile.
“Well tomorrow we are waking up at 5 a.m., all for fish!” I said back with a smile.
“Well then we better get back so you guys can get to bed!” Lois suggested. And we did, ending an interesting day of fly fishing.