After a day of field work I found myself within 10 miles of a nice little tailwater I like to hit on occasion. It's always well worth the stop. And if I have time I like to hike a distance below the dam. It's a river I find buffalo bones in sometimes, remnants of
bygone days melting away with time. Once I came across a nearly complete skull. The river is not known as a trout fishery, except maybe in the extreme headwaters. Before today I hadn't personally seen any there. It's hardly known as a fishery at all for that matter. Somewhat obscure, but not unknown.
There was only about an hour of daylight remaining when I parked near the water - and I had walleye on my mind. But I have taken pike here as well and thought I might find some this evening. Actually, with the temps in the upper twenties and barely any time before dark, I knew I'd be happy with anything. Heck, even just a chance to walk along icy waters under cobalt-blue Montana sky on a strangely windless winter evening was reward enough for the effort made to carve time from the day.
I headed straight to a spot I anticipated would produce some walleye action and worked the hole hard with light line and one of my long nine-and-half foot rods. I rotated through meaty jigs and various retrieves.
The hookset was into SOLID fish. The slow, muscular, bulldogish thrashing without-really-going-anywhere gave me visions of a big walleye. The broad red sides were a complete surprise. Disappointment of it not being a walleye wore off very quickly as I slipped my thumb and finger around the tail of the mature buck rainbow - a tail square and stout enough to grip like a baseball bat. I was in awe of the huge trout that I'd never even suspected was there.
After a quick couple photos and sending it back on its way I started working that seam more intently with a new focus. Within only the next cast or two I hooked into a second. Spunkier and smaller, it was no surprise this go-round to see the pink cheeks of another mature rainbow, this time a chunky hen. I would have been equally in awe of this one if it hadn't been dwarfed by the first. An owl landed on a spindly limb overhead and watched with what seemed like keen interest. When the show was over and the fish was swimming away, he flew off.
Once again, making sure to Always Travel With Fishing Gear had paid off. The key was being there and simply trying, with confidence and persistence. An unexpected trophy had been waiting in lonely winter waters. And like always, I now know more about a river than I did before.