Having been conscious about social-distancing all spring in Seattle and on Whidbey, Carol and I made our first trip to Missoula around June 1st, when Montana went to phase-two conditions. It's been wonderful to visit with our son, David, even while continuing to be careful about proximity. We've hiked and read and watched the rivers drop to our heart's content.
While the Montana Outfitters Association has just advised guides who are not among the top tier called by their outfitters for guiding to look for other work this season, David is fortunate to be booking trips again and thinks he'll manage to make it through the year without having to "mortgage the farm". So far, most clients have been locals or others who have been living in-state for several months. Only now are out-of-state bookings coming in, but everyone is watching to see if the inevitable rise in Covid-19 cases--here and around the country--will put a damper on out-of-state bookings again. The outfitters and guides are taking appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their clients (disinfecting trucks, boats and gear, serving bottled drinks and pre-packaged lunch items, etc.). David, and other guides he works with are still careful--perhaps more careful than the general population--about limiting their social contact outside work so that they stay healthy. Still, we all know how our assessments of risks have changed in the past few months, even for this kind of outdoor activity.
When we arrived here, David had one free day in his calendar, so I booked him for a trip. Two days ago he took me out on the Blackfoot River for what turned out to be a fantastic day of fishing. Well, every day fishing is fantastic, but this day the catching was noteworthy. The river is still high, but clarity is reasonable, and we found salmon flies galore on the willows lining the banks. While the fish weren't totally committed to feeding on bugs on the surface, our dry-dropper setup yielded a good number of takes on the Chubby dry fly we were using. One beautiful brown trout simply nosed up and gently slurped the bug in. Another treated us to a bullet-like rush from four feet away ending in a powerful slam into the fly. There's little to match such surface action!
Still, I'm not particularly picky about how I fish, so I was more than pleased with the fish I caught subsurface--on both stonefly and mayfly patterns. Large (18") and small (6"), the were powerful fish and, particularly in the strong currents of this higher flow, put up wonderful fights. Two days later my shoulder is still sore.
We're back home next week, and I hope to get up to Whidbey in time to partake in the weekly casting practice sessions that Clarence has been so graciously hosting. The practice I've done at those sessions I've been able to attend earlier made a big difference when I was trying to shoot that Chubby under the overhanging willows of the Blackfoot.