Montana Fishing Memories

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MSN-Fishing Memories
Photo courtesy Lou Parrett


In spring an old man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of—fishing, what else? In my seventh decade, I seem to do lots more thinking about fishing than I do actually fishing. The actual fishing is harder than it used to be—harder to tie knots, harder to see small flies, harder to wade, and, yes, harder to catch the wily trout.

Thinking about past fishing adventures is far easier. It may also be more successful, because memory seems to stretch the sizes and numbers of trout actually caught.

I grew up in Butte and have many pleasant thoughts about fishing mostly small streams in southwestern Montana. My earliest memory about fishing was the trip my younger brother Lou and I went on with our dad and his friend, Murphy.

I was about 7, and Lou was 5. This was going to be the trip when we caught our first fish. Being the older and wiser brother, I was sure to be the first sibling to haul in a lunker trout, right? Well, the thing I remember most clearly from that trip was little brother Lou running lickety-split along the stream bank toward Dad and me, fishing pole in hand with a scared little brook trout still dangling from the end of the line.

Lou was screaming,“I caught a fish! I caught a fish!”

Dad and Murphy were both laughing out loud at that happy and excited little speedster running at us for all he was worth. That vision of Lou running and yelling still plays like a YouTube video in my mind. But my other memory of that day is that I was not pleased—the wrong kid caught the first fish.

That was supposed to be me, dang it! I And I shamefully must admit that I crabbed and whined about Lou’s good fortune instead of being happy about it.

As I look back almost 70 years to that little episode, I see that the fishing gods were not happy about my petulant attitude, because Lou went on to be a crazy good trout catcher with a 10-pound rainbow and a 10-pound brown to his credit. My biggest trout was…well, let’s just say it was a lot smaller than either of those two lunkers.

One other fishing memory I will leave you with happened about five or six years after the “first fish” trip with Lou. This combined fishing and camping trip was to another small southwestern Montana stream with a neighbor kid and his family.

We were there for at least a week as I recall, and fishing was great because we kids caught a lot of fish using flies. The fishing was so good that the memory I am going to relate is still the strangest thing that has happened to me in over 60 years of fishing.

Of course I was alone when it happened (no witnesses), and you’re going to say that it is greatly exaggerated because we fisherman (especially we old-timers) tend to stretch the truth a wee bit. I swear on all that is sacred that it really happened, and I promise not to stretch the truth or the fish.

I was fishing a nice little hole below a riffle when a small brook trout about 3- to 4- inches grabbed my gray hackle fly. As I lifted the line to pull him out of the water and onto the bank, a bigger rainbow trout jumped and grabbed the brook trout just as the small fish cleared the water surface.

The rainbow hung on as I continued lifting the line in a single, quick motion to get the little trout on the bank. The result was that both fish landed on the bank, so I caught both with a single fly on the same cast!

Now the bigger rainbow trout was no “brother-Lou sized” lunker, but he was 9 to 10 inches and big enough, I reckon, to try to make a meal out of a piddly 3-to 4-inch brookie.

So there you go, Mr. Ripley, that’s the only fish story I have that you can put in your “Believe It or Not” chronicles! MSN