Fly fishing

Turn, Turn, Turn Season – Flathead Beacon

There is a season to fish, but for every season there is a time to turn the page, at least when it comes to summer fly fishing, because summer, in the northern Rockies at least, is nearing its end.

My first season in Montana, in 1992, I wrote a fishing report for the Hamilton daily, where I had failed for the first time in Montana. The weekly report was going great until about mid-August when I suddenly had a hard time finding my sources in western Montana. And when I reached them, they were of little use.

A guide in Libby, who had been providing me with detailed reports on the Kootenai all summer, finally came straight.

“You just moved from California, didn’t you?” ” He asked.

“Of course,” I told him. “I reported all year there before I moved.”

“Listen,” said the guide. “It’s August in Montana. Nobody fishes anymore. It’s either hunting season or preparing for hunting season now.

It was the end of my fishing report, at least until spring.

In 1992, Montana was a different place. It was still pretty old school, although things were changing. This movie was responsible for a lot of that, but the tsunami was brewing long before America saw the shadow of Brad Pitt on the big screen. But at the end of the last century, especially as one moved away from Missoula or Bozeman, August was still a time of transition between fishing and hunting.

There’s not much off-season for fly fishing in Montana these days. Even in the dead of winter, someone somewhere will be trudging through the snow to drift nymphs in search of “whitefish”. And the winters aren’t what they used to be – or so people who were here before 1992 say – so there’s more time for that.

But the transition we will, at least around my house. August is a time to refocus dogs on bird hunting. This year, it’s just “dog” for me. My longtime hunting partner, Doll, now 12, is no longer ready to hunt several days a week, as she was for most of last season when, after our first hunts in October, my young setter, Jade, was the lead dog.

Doll had her moments, including a few standouts that pinned indelible stamps in my memory, but by the end of the season, she was just out for the ride.

Her best moment was her tip sitting on a quail which she sniffed while standing in the wind. The bird was right under his chin. She had to look from her nose to her paws to indicate where she wanted me to direct my flushing efforts.

This fall, the old maid will mostly stay at home, although I intend to work for her in a few days on easier places to hunt.

Jade’s summer refresher course started while visiting my daughter in town. The child lives on the third floor and going down the stairs proved to be a challenge for Jade. By challenge, I mean she was running ahead of me, jumping the last three or four steps of each flight. It was fun, but she usually ran out of leash mid-jump. To avoid that clumsy jerk, I started chasing her at the top of each flight, outpacing her, then giving her the “find birds” command so she could fly without throttling.

I also realized that I had winter fly fishing duties ahead of me. Casting a weight 8 with heavy carp flies this spring helped me recognize the value of the double line. I’ve been single forever, but it’s time to introduce that extra tug to my front throw, for the heavy stuff in particular.

My casting practice will wait until after highland bird season. After all, there is a goal for every season.

Rob Breeding’s website is