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t some point during the past 20 years most people decided that Montana’s trout streams are best fished from a drift boat and that wadefishing has somehow become passé. Some of the credit or ridicule, depending on how you view that evolution, could be attributed to all those glossy tourism brochures that paint the perfect summer afternoon as including a drift down a wild trout stream, through a beautiful and broad valley, casting dry flies from the bow of a boat, while a guide does all the heavy lifting. I’m not one who routinely turns down offers to be that guy casting from the bow, and I fully understand the merits of fishing from a boat, including the option to transport and access at will those mega-sized coolers that are fashionable these days and hold armloads of the coldest and most delightful of summer beverages, plus sandwiches, salamis, fine cheeses and anything else you please. But, there is something special about


spending a day hiking along the banks of a trout stream and wading in the water with the fish, paramount being the option to work smaller waters that are too shallow and narrow for boats to negotiate. These waters allow anglers to fish at their own pace, to work particular pools and even individual fish to their heart’s content, testing theory and new fly patterns, all without the threat of invasion that is nearly inescapable these days on Montana’s larger and easily navigable rivers. And I’m not the only one who has shared that opinion. The late Doug Persico, who ran Rock Creek Fisherman’s Mercantile in western Montana, was the most vocal proponent of wadefishing that I’ve ever met. His words still resonate with me. During an interview he once said, “I think that fly fishing has become primarily a float sport. People want to get

in a boat and cover more water. To be honest, anglers who only float are missing the bet. When you only float I don’t think that you really learn fly fishing. You don’t really learn to read water, and stalk fish, and study the insects on the rocks, and learn casting and mending. If you really want to learn fly fishing you have to take a few unscheduled swims in the river and you wade.” Another advantage to wading is that you don’t have to commit to a particular section of water for an entire day. And that is important when the weather blows up. Or when the hatch isn’t coming off the way you thought it might, and you’ve already made that determination just a mile into a 10-mile float. If you’re floating, you may have to spend a few hours in a downpour, huddling in the brush, cold

Montana Headwall  

Outdoor Adventure Under the Big Sky

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