The Big Day

Fly Fishing, Perfect Fishing Days
Added Date:
Tuesday, 26 Jul, 2016
Knowing that we needed to get up early, we decided to prep and pack that evening. We loaded the car with fly rods, backpacks, water, etc. The boys came over and gave a hand. We had them start thinking of the things they need for tomorrow. Sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, hat, etc.

Does He Have the Fishing Gene Part IV

(See Part I, Part II, and Part III)

Knowing that we needed to get up early, we decided to prep and pack that evening. We loaded the car with fly rods, backpacks, water, etc. The boys came over and gave a hand. We had them start thinking of the things they need for tomorrow. Sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, hat, etc.

I handed Ethan some fishing pants and shirt. Ethan at 12 is the same height as me. Nice for providing second-hand fishing clothes. He looked at me perplexed. I explained that these were designed for fishing. That they could get wet and dry quickly, that it covered your body so you didn’t get beat by the sun. I then showed him how to unzip the pant leg to make shorts. He got a big kick out of that. I helped him understand the layers for the fishing trip. How it was going to be cold in the morning, and hot in the afternoon, and how to remove one layer at a time to stay comfortable and the need for constant use of sunscreen and lip balm.  

I went on to explain the plan for the fishing trip. Spencer and Ethan were going to share the boat with Sharad, and Eric was going to be their instructor. I explained that Eric was going to show him a few things ahead of time and it was going to be easy to get started. He listened intently, paying close attention to the details. He is always like that, understanding the more nuanced details. He asked a few good questions and then the conversation ended. It was time to slow things down for bed.

We got the kids prepped for bed. Brush your teeth, PJ’s on, retainer, kiss goodnight. Lights went out about 9pm. It was a full day. They didn’t know it, but they were tired. It didn’t take long before the idle chit-chat between the boys ended. I lay there thinking about the day. It was great. We all had so much fun. Alex and I even got to fish a little. I hoped we could top it the next day though.

I woke up startled like you slept through an alarm and knew you were late. I looked over to my phone (5:30am) and quickly calmed down. We had plenty of time. That morning we needed time to fully pack the cars as we were checking out of the Rainbow. We were moving to a VRBO rental in town. It would be much better for our group size.

After doing some schedule calculations, I quietly got up, put on some clothes and slipped out to the lodge for some coffee. As usual, Ed was at the desk as I walked through the front door. “Good morning,” I said. Ed returned the greeting as I walked to hook up my IV to the caffeine machine. I quickly poured a cup, added some cream and sugar, and commenced drinking. Ah, that’s better. I walked over to Ed to get the fishing run-down from the day before.

The Salmonfly hatch was over. Fishing was just okay. Hmmm. I went back for a second cup, grabbed a glazed doughnut, and went back to the room. It was still early and no reason to wake everyone up. I opened up my notebook to see what was going on out there in the real world. After a few short articles, it was time to go, so I set my notebook down, and started the process of easing the kids into the daylight. One by one, they rose and started the process of getting ready.

As Alex and I were fishing up some minor details to go, the kids snuck out to get some hot cocoa and doughnuts. They came back shortly afterwards, bouncing as they approached the car. I guess we all have our own morning drugs. For adults, its caffeine. For kids, sugar. We climbed into the cars and headed out to Trout Stalkers fly shop to meet up with Eric and Anni.

We parked right in front of the fly shop. There was quite a bit of activity for 7am. As we stepped in, it was like I was a kid in a candy store with all of the gear hanging on the walls. I informed the kid at the counter that we needed fishing licenses. He proceeded to ask a series of questions: name, address, age, social security. Oops, I don’t know my kids social security number. Oh well. Not a show stopper. As we were going through TSA for fishing, I looked over and saw a $100 snipper. Unbelievable.  “What is this sport coming too?” I thought to myself. “Who in this world would spend that much on something we use nail clippers for? Wow.” But I digress.

Shortly after Eric and Anni walked through the door of the fly shop. “Boys. How are we doing on this fine morning?” Eric asked with a big grin. This guy is always smiling. You can tell he just loves what he does. What a great spirit. We exchanged pleasantries and headed out of the fly shop.

Ethan had met Eric once before in Utah while we were on a family ski vacation and had grown a fondness towards him. Eric had driven up to ski with us for a couple of days. On the first day we had some unbelievable ski conditions. Ethan has a great respect for experts, and Eric really showed his stuff as he shredded the mountain and showed me how old I was. The scary thing is Eric is older than me!

Across the street were two trucks with boats on trailers attached. The boats looked very familiar. They both had the recognizable Yobi Adventures Outfitter sticker on them. Anni’s is the boat I learned how to fish on and Eric’s was the new boat he bought this year that I was lucky enough to christen with him in March. That was a cold float. You know its cold when your fly rod is in the water more than in the air.

We divided up into the two trucks and off we went. I was fortunate enough to load into Eric’s car. I wanted to spend a little time with my buddy who opened the world of fly fishing to me and get a little caught up before the day began.

I wasn’t going to be fishing with him that day. We needed the fish whisperer for the boys. As we ran through the day, he caught on that I was a bit nervous. With a big smile he looked over at me and said “I got this.” With that, we pulled up to the Madison River at Palisades, one of the more beautiful fishing access sites on the Madison River

Our Day on the Water

We quickly unloaded from the trucks and immediately began getting setup. You could immediately see Eric orchestrating the show. He pulled the beginners aside, added a layer of clothing, setup their rods and took them over to a grassy area to work on beginner’s casting techniques. Alex and I started setting up our gear and loading the boat with Anni. Periodically I would gaze over to watch the maestro instructing the boys. It gave me flash backs to my first day with Eric. The fly rods were snapping back and forth like someone with a fly swatter. Oh my, lots of work is needed there! It is easy to forget how long it takes to cast well.


After about 15-20 minutes of instruction, we were ready and slipped both boats into the water. I looked down at my watch and it was about 8am. I began fishing the front of the boat with a Turd and Prince. Alex was fishing from the back of the boat with a Salmonfly. The beginner boat was setup with a single Turd each. They were rotating 2 rods in the water at a time with the boys switching off in the front. What a great idea. By putting the kids in front, Eric could watch and give them direction, and by rotating who is fishing, the kids could take turns and not get tired or bored.

Within the first few minutes, I had fish on. It was a white fish of decent size. On the Madison, the white fish help with boat count but they are more of a nuisance. But to Ethan, he just saw his dad catch a fish and that got him excited.

Within the next hour, I was the only rod catching fish on either boat. The Salmonfly Alex was fishing clearly was not working and the kids were just ramping up. Alex finally switched over and put on the same flies as me and almost immediately started pulling them in too. The kids were amazed and we looked like super heroes. 

Periodically, I would look over to see big smiles on their faces as they drifted down the river. Good, at least they were having fun. I pulled out my IPhone to capture some video of their big smiles. My line was in the water so I let it just drift as I started capturing some video of the kids. Bam! The video was cut short as I had a decent rainbow on the line with no tight lines. So lucky. I began stripping it in to the boat. “16” rainbow. “Not bad, for not paying attention,” I thought. I smiled at Alex and Anni and said “Don’t hate me for being lucky.”

While I was doing some housekeeping on the boat, I looked over and Ethan had a fish on his line. He was laser focused as he listened and did exactly what Eric told him. “Keep your tip up, tight line, strip, strip, strip.” That grin of his was ear to ear. He brought the rainbow to the boat and Eric netted it. You could see he was having a blast. “Daddy, I caught a fish!” he yelled out to me. What a thrill I felt at that moment as I realized he was experiencing the true joy of fishing, something that is more than scores or sizes, or winning – the basic animal instinct of hunting your prey, capturing it, and then releasing back to the wild.

During the rest of the morning, Eric mixed drifting with wading. What a great idea. By showing him wade fishing, he would have the tools to fish without a guide on the following days. While we were both anchored across from each other, their crew was in the water wade fishing. Alex and I sat in the boat and watched as we occasionally cast upstream. The kids caught a few more while we were there.

After another short drift down the river, we decided to stop for lunch. Anni and Eric switched gears quickly, from calm relaxing captains of their boat to people with a purpose. They setup a picnic table and pulled out their coolers. They unpacked the food and setup quite a spread.

As we sat down to devour our food, the kids were talking boat fish count. Ethan asked “How many did you catch Daddy?” I let him know I had 5 in the boat. Then he asked Alex. Alex told him he had 3 for a total of 8. They started to rub in that they had 12. How cute. I remember when my only concern was to do as well as Alex. Competition has a place for beginners. It helps them stay focused.  

After lunch, Alex and I went over to the shore with our weapons in hand. There was a nice little riffle that looked stocked with little fish. Good for fish count. Alex went upstream and I went down. Within about 10 minutes Alex and I brought in 5 more fish giving us 13. The kids watched in amazement how quickly we brought in fish and quickly realized they were now behind again on the score card. After the short catching spree, we each came back to the picnic area to enjoy the last of our meal. The kids walked down to the same spot I was fishing and cast a few flies in the quickly moving water but got no action.

After lunch we packed-up and loaded the boats and started back down the river. Eric led the kids down first with our boat behind, hitting the opposite shore. We pounded the water but fishing was much slower in the afternoon. We totaled 16 fish, a great day for many rivers but just good on the Madison. I was quite satisfied with fishing and had the familiar feeling of peace I get when fishing.
As we drifted up to the pullout, you could see the kids were enjoying themselves just sitting in the boat. They were talking amongst themselves about the fish they had caught and the ones that got away. They sounded just like fishermen. As they noticed us pulling up, the kids yelled over, “How many fish did you catch?” I informed them our boat count. They smiled and yelled back “twenty-one!” They were very pleased with themselves.

Eric and Anni anchored the boats then went to get the cars. Alex and I were very familiar with the exit process and proceeded to grab all of the fly rods and place them on land in a safe place, directed everyone out of the boats, and then aligned each boat for the trailers. First Eric then Anni backed onto the boat ranp and loaded the boats. We walked to the cars, fly rods in hand, grabbed the rest of our gear from the boat and began breaking down our fly rods, then loading up the trucks.

Hearing What I Wanted to Hear

After we completed packing the cars, it was time to do my final check. I walked over to Ethan, put my arm around him and asked, “Well, how was that? Do you want to go fishing again” He looked over at me with that smile and asked, “When are we going again?” That is all I had to hear. He does have the fishing gene! Thank you Eric.

As we reached town, you could see the wear on the kids from the day. They were zonked. We stumbled into the gravel bar for a little dinner. The kids quickly descended to the table in the very corner and put their heads down on the table. They were really worked. You could see their sun kissed skin starting to show. They quickly ordered food while Alex and I compared notes with Eric at the bar, beers in hand.

Eric started mapping out the following day for us. “Guys, take the whole gang on my lake boat on Ennis Lake by fletcher channel. Make sure to get there by 7:30am. Spread everyone out, hit the confluence for a while then move up the channel. The whole thing will shut down by 11:30.”

That sounded like a great plan except I wasn’t sure we were going to get everyone up two days in a row, especially with the tired look on their faces. We thanked Eric for the next day’s plan and then Eric was off to tap into his information network from fellow guides and anglers. The kids quickly ate dinner and then Sharad decided to run them to the house and get us situated. Alex and I decided to stay back, and drink a few beers. This ended up not being the best decision as we ran into some old friends we had not seen in years, and talked and drank till late. We ended up rolling into bed past midnight. Ouch! That was going to hurt in the morning.

Part V Coming Soon!
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This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
Ennis Lake is a medium sized reservoir that separates the Upper and Lower Madison Rivers. A day trip on Ennis Lake is a great option when planning a Montana fly fishing trip. The lake ... moreis located just minutes from the town of Ennis and is also a short drive for anglers fishing around Bozeman. 

Ennis lake is a very shallow impoundment with most of the lake less than 8 feet deep. The inlet where the Channels of the Madison drain into the lake provide shallow flats with weedbeds that harbor outstanding trout habitat. These shallow flats also allow for wade fishing. We use drift boats to access the upper half of the lake during prime hatches that take place on the lake in the late summer. The majority of the fishing on Ennis lake is sight fishing to large cruising browns and rainbows. We either fish directly from the drift boat or get out and wade on some of the flats. Occasionally we split a day with the morning spent casting to rising trout on Ennis lake and the afternoon spent fly fishing the Madison River.

Fishing is good early in the season when the ice first melts but the fish are deeper and blind fishing around drops and structure is most productive. As the summer progresses callibaetis and tricorythode mayflies become the dominant food source for the trout. Intense hatches occur daily in the late summer producing a daily feeding frenzy that every fly fisherman should experience. Trout feeding during these famous hatches have been labeled "gulpers" after the frequent sucking noise they make as they swim around with open mouths while inhaling the hatching mayflies.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Fishing Access Sites:
Given its association with transport, commerce and business development, it’s easy to forget that there remain parts of the Missouri set aside for fishing, boating and enjoying nature’s ... morebounty. From source to mouth, it is the longest river in North America, over 2, 341 miles. The river’s watershed consists of over a million square miles and includes parts of 10 American states and 2 Canadian provinces. When combined with the lower Mississippi, it is the 4th longest river in the world. Whew! That’s a lot to take in. But, if you’re a fly fisher in Montana, the only section of the Missouri you really need to know about is a tiny, 40 mile, stretch downstream of Holter Dam, near the towns of Wolf Creek, Craig and Cascade and not far from the city of Helena. This is the “Blue Ribbon” trout section of the Missouri.

Water released from Holter Dam keep this section the river at a fairly consistent level, helping to maintain cool temperatures year round. Some guides describe the river here as a gigantic spring creek surrounded by weed beds with long riffles, great banks and undercuts that provide ideal habitat for the river’s substantial trout population. By substantial, we’re talking 3,500 to 5,500 fish per mile on a yearly basis – and many of these exceed 16 inches! The first ten miles of the river from Holter Dam to Craig tend to have the largest number of hatches resulting in the highest concentration of fish.

In this “gigantic spring” part of the river, rainbow trout outnumber browns by a ratio of 6:1. In addition, stable populations of burbot and stonecats live below the dam. As a bonus, the reservoir is surrounded by the Beartooth Wildlife Management Area as well as three other designated nature preserves and wilderness set-asides. Look up and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a bald eagle, various types of falcon, red-tail hawks, osprey and golden eagles – you may even get a chance to see them snatch a fish from the water. Shore side it’s not unusual to sight bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats. This may be an area small in size but its large in its grandeur and many offerings.
The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
1 day
Fishing Waters:
Ennis Lake full day float trip with lunch and flies provided. Enjoy a day on the water and reel in some fresh Montana trout. The Madison River flows into and out of Ennis Lake, and ... moreprovides the setting for your beautiful Montana day.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
1 day
Experienced anglers will apprediate The “Mighty Missouri.” Well develped skills of stealth and accurate casts are required to catch the large, cautious rainbows and browns. Wade fishing ... moreis great on the Missouri, with abundant hatches of BWOs, Caddis, PMDs, Tricos match-the-hatch dry-flies that compete with thousands of the real bugs, and a drag free drift are required to catch the huge, wary and finicky Rainbows and Browns rising to Caddis, BWO’s, PMD’s, Trico’s and more. The Missouri river can be one of the finest in Montana for experienced wade fishermen. But float trips can also be good when there are no fish rising. 

We fish the Missouri from Holter Dam to Cascade, a 30-mile stretch of river designated a “Blue Ribbon” tail water fishery. Our guides know this section well and can help you hook an awesome catch.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
1 day
With over 55 combined years of experience fishing the Madison River, we have the deep knowledge needed to guide you down this Blue Ribbon River. Located in Ennis, Montana, one of the ... moretop fly fishing towns in the world, Red Mountain Adventures is conveniently located to help you with your fishing experience. 

Our guided float trips on the Madison River are perfect for:

First time anglers who come here first to get easy, effective, and mindful instruction on fly fishing

Novices to experts who gain from our deep knowledge and instruction on the Madison River

Anglers with particular needs including stalking monsters, increasing the score card, or "dries only"

Book with us today and enjoy the best in Montana fly fishing.
On the edge of the Town of Ennis, Montana, where the sweeping Madison River Valley opens wide, you’ll find the Rainbow Valley Lodge. Warm, welcoming hosts, Ed and Jeanne Williams, ... morewill make your visit to the Old West Town of Ennis, Montana a special one. Rainbow Valley Lodge provides welcoming accommodations at an affordable price.

Make the Rainbow Valley Lodge your fly fishing headquarter as you tackle our world-class trout. Get fishing tips in our O’Dell Creek Fly Shop located in the Lodge. The Lodge caters to fly fishing on the Madison River and O’Dell Spring Creek. Partnering with Riverborn Outfitters, we offer fly fishing vacation packages.

The private waters of the O'Dell Creek are available to the discerning flyfisher for a nominal rod fee and the lodge limits rods to 4 per day. This beautiful, clear flowing tributary to the Madison River in Ennis, Montana, is a challenging and technical fishery. Meandering through meadows, the stream is a series of riffles and pools. Fish sit tight to the banks, fly presentation is very important to caught these wary trout. The scenery surrounding O’Dell Spring Creek is nothing short of spectacular. To the East, the peaks of the Madison Mountain Range soar into the sky while the gently rolling Gravelly Mountains are to the west. Water temperature in the creek on summer days only reaches as high as 65 degrees.

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