Cherished spring ritual fulfilledA stiff wind blows out of the southeast, a pair of flags along the gravel road to Canyon Ferry Reservoir are flapping straight out in the breeze, and angry, three-foot waves are everywhere on the water.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
A stiff wind blows out of the southeast, a pair of flags along the gravel road to Canyon Ferry Reservoir are flapping straight out in the breeze, and angry, three-foot waves are everywhere on the water.
Our host, Lee Richards, is undaunted. “Let’s try Holter Reservoir … Gates-of-the-Mountains. We’ll have better shelter from the wind.”
So as the sun rolls up into a clear sky, we head north in Lee’s pickup, pulling his custom-built 24-foot jet boat. A year ago Lee took me fishing on the boat, but until today, Laurie never has been aboard Lee’s boat.
It is almost another hour’s driving to Holter Reservoir, but there the water has improved considerably. A breeze still blows, the sun’s rays sparkling off the water, but here the mountains and cliffs offer some protection.
While I wait on the dock for Lee to back his boat trailer into the water, I see many dozens of rainbow trout milling about in the shallows. If I couldn’t see them so clearly, I’d think they were carp. However, an ominous sign at the dock reads, “NO FISHING IN MARINA.”
Soon, Lee has the big motor started and we are running toward Gates-of-the-Mountains, where Lewis & Clark passed more than 200 years ago. Canada geese gabble in the shallows, drawing the interest of Chloe, Lee’s three-year-old yellow Labrador. Parker, Lee’s 12-year-old, is deaf and more interested in the food cooler.
At one point Lee instructs us to hang onto the grab bars inside the cabin, and I swear, at almost full speed he changes directions 180 degrees! I think the boat might flip, but he explains that this is a white-water river boat and designed for such extremes.
“I could show you some even more impressive ways this boat will handle.”
“No, no, that is fine,” Laurie and I say in unison.
We rig four rods, two of them on downriggers, and dragging various Rapalas and Luhr Jensen “Needle Fish” spoons. It isn’t long before we get a strike, and Laurie brings in a rainbow trout of about 19 inches, which we quickly release. Chloe, “the fish dog,” as I call her, wags her tail wildly and tries to take the trout out of the net. Then she goes back to watching the lines.
It has become a glorious day of sunshine, light breeze and the clean smell of freshwater. We have lunch and troll back toward the more open reservoir and the marina, and the closer we get to the dock, the better the fishing becomes. We end up trolling in the reservoir in 10 to 20 feet of water. We take turns bringing in rainbow trout, releasing them all.
“If I had a smoker, I’d probably keep a few,” I say to Laurie.
“It’s a lot of work,” she replies, being an old hand at smoking salmon in Alaska.
I smoke a cigar in the stern of the boat and think about the pheasants and pronghorn antelope we saw on the way. I’ve lived in this country for almost 26 years and still harbor a great fondness for it.
Like most young people these days, Lee takes an unending procession of text messages and phone calls during the day, including from his wife Abbie, who is on business in Washington, D.C. He needs to pick her up at the airport this evening.
At 4 p.m. we pull into the marina, Lee loads the boat and we begin the drive back to Bozeman. I am very tired but happy that we got out and onto the water — a cherished ritual of spring.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for The Sun since 1974