Before we return to the descent in the Black Holes, I need to start out with our first relevant fishing report of the season.
We officially started the thaw on the Bitterroot today. No, there isn’t even the lonely random Skwala out and about yet. Yes, he was supposed have trickled into the system the last few days of February, but this year’s spring has been delayed by heavy snow that has lasted into March. Thankfully, the snow has stopped and we have begun replacing worn out shovels with upcoming heavy fly rod use.
If you fished today it would be on the upper Missouri. No weeds with plenty of fish to eat little flashy pink nymphs. Provided your hands didn’t get too cold the day would be very productive. Patch is driving the Bitterroot today to see where we are at and I am thinking we will float on Wed. or Thursday. It is going to be the cold water game at first, but provided the weather holds we should have the mid river bugs in by next week sometime – I am guessing. To be honest I don’t really know. We have never seen this much snow this late. The optimist in me says – If the bugs follow their general time table it could happen in one massive wave quickly. For the last seven seasons the early March guests had exceptional fishing during the first stage of the stonefly emergence. We see that with salmonflies and goldens all the time; when a hatch stalls because of temps, then it bursts as if pent up. The pessimist on my left shoulder says we are going to have to be patient for next week’s dry fly fishing opportunities. If that is the case then the early 2014 season is going to have a bit more Missouri in it as we wait for our freestone rivers to warm. Either way the weather is turning and the Missoula valleys are filling with the cacophony of boats getting prepped, fly boxes stuffed, rowing hands warming, and trout creeping into the spring feed lanes.
14 years into my guide career and it still feels l am getting ready for my first float trip. I do love this environmental chess match we call trout fishing in Missoula, MT. Bring on the 2014 season!
Trade Show Darkness Conclusion-
There was only one way in or out of our trade show booth. Even though I was pinned in the corner I still had the firewall of first time at a trade show Caleb to work with. I figured once he engaged with the sinister Dark Hole my phone would ring off the hook and I would quickly, politely excuse myself from the booth.
The exhibitor killer started with the classic opening line – “Montana? I drove through in the 70′s. I never understood what was so great about it then. Just seemed like a long drive through a bunch of mountains.”
Caleb falling right in smiles and says with sincerity – “Did you fish while you were there? Our trout populations are vastly higher than the 70s.”
EKDH (Exhibitor Killer Dark Hole) smiles like a rattler lining up a mouse – ” I didn’t fish that time and certainly not with flies if I would have. I have never liked the long polers. No sir, give me some light tackle with #3 Black/Yellow Meps and I will fish circles around the ‘Artist Angler’. But please tell me about what has changed in the history of Montana fisheries beginning in the 1970s and how it applies to the tenets of Montana’s modern Fish and Game Management.”
Caleb took the shot well, dropped his head for a moment that was long enough for EKDH to ask ” Are you Okay?” to which Caleb responded – “Sorry, I think I just had a stomach cramp come out of nowhere. I suddenly don’t feel well. Here let me introduce you to the outfitter Joe Cummings. He is extremely well versed on all the historical data and its interpretation going forward well into the future of Montana Fisheries.”
Caleb learned faster than I had anticipated.
As I shook the hand of my adversary I realized I needed to find my phone quickly. Caleb frantically exited the booth hunched over in pain, yet as he reached the end of the aisle of exhibitors to turn out of sight he miraculously recovered his stature and managed a smirking wink over his shoulder.
So there I was stuck on the edge of a Dark Hole on a Sunday afternoon at a Trade Show running as low on talk juice as the EKDH had in surplus. I politely began a brief anecdote about the river flow regime in the mid Bitterroot and how cooperation with the State of Montana gave a minimum level that caused our trout population to skyrocket in the early eighties. Suddenly out of nowhere my phone began to vibrate violently in my pocket and I had to excuse myself to take the call.
EKDH said calmly – ”Go ahead and take it, I will wait. We haven’t even got through the eighties fish per mile data and the whirling disease dilemma.”
I was physically shaken at his immunity to phone call power. The Hole force was strong with this one. As I chatted with my dead phone I dragged on my end of boring one sided imaginary conversations trying to outlast EKDH. But at every break in my false discussions that he was obvioulsly eaves dropping on for his re entry in our conversation he would smile and patiently finger through our brochure remaining cemented at the booth. After twenty minutes of manufactured dialogue with a silent smart phone I gave up and headed back in.
Just before we started up again I saw Caleb coming wheeling around a corner with a hot dog and Coke smiling talking to another exhibitor. In the knick of time for him but not for me, he gazes down the row of trade show booths and sees that the Hole has survived the phone deception. Caleb quickly buckles over in pain without spilling a drop of soda, mustard, ketchup, or relish and bails hunched over in the other direction. The exhibitors in my row who like me had not much going on a Sunday afternoon are now fully enthralled in the drama unfolding. The guy from Alaska who had knocked over booth dodging EKDH exclaims “Damn, no he didn’t!”
So I settled back into the an old time trade show Dark Hole. I had no way out and decided to see if I could turn it into a sale. What the heck, its Sunday afternoon at trade show that was closing in 51 minutes. The earlier whirling disease comment gave me pause to think maybe there was something more to this EKDH than just a time suck. As our conversations about Montana’s fisheries history brutally wore on my suspicions of his education became valid. Someone had imparted to the EKDH excerpts of fairly advanced knowledge. The way it was coming out I would have sworn he had been guided before. I started to think maybe I could turn this into a hard fought sale. My mood improved as hope of a sale sunk in.
I bluntly changed the subject and asked – “You sound like you have been guided before. Who do you fish with?”
EKHD – “Oh, I take a few trips each year with guide in Missoula. He knew I was going to the show and asked me to stop by late Sunday afternoon and say hello. It was weird, he said whatever you do, don’t cut your conversation short with Joe, make it a minimum of 45 minutes. Joe gets so bored on Sunday’s at trade shows that it will help him pass the time. I laughed when he gave me a time limit, because Lord knows I do love to talk.”
It only took a second for me to guess the identity of the guide who would take float trips that centered on Meps spinners and so kindly helped me with my trade show.
So I laughed beaten, bruised, and wanting the last 45 minutes of my life back – “Let me guess you fish with Snangler.”
EKHD was shocked – “Wow, how did you know that? You know him?”
I hunched over and said – “Only too well sir do I know that confounding fellow. Now if you will please excuse me I have some vicious stomach cramps to attend to.”