Friday, April 28, 2017

Out of the ordinary

The prairie is an intriguing landscape - it can be exceedingly more rugged than you might expect, or be soft and endlessly rolling like swells on the ocean.  Sometimes forested island mountain ranges pop up out of the sea of grass.  Other times deep coulees or canyons filled with stands of piney timber - and big enough to swallow entire cities - are abruptly carved from what first appeared to be flat land.  In the far east and north of Montana the prairie flattens and becomes wetter as the higher plains give way to the prairie pothole region.  Throughout each of these terrains flow streams.  Streams that wind through miles of empty space, draining vast pieces of America and southern Canada that most of the population never sees.

Across northern Montana, each of these make their way to the Missouri River on their eventual path to the Gulf of Mexico.  The waterways are not as plentiful as they are in the mountains.  The relaxed landscape contains watersheds spread over many more square miles than those squeezed into the small spaces between ridges and ranges.  Many of the tributaries only flow intermittently. Some perennial creeks flow muddy and are steep-banked.  Many flow surprisingly clear. Often I can find pike or walleye in them.  I've caught northerns in the tiniest trickles, in larger rivers, and in isolated ponds. None of these waters are places that many people purposely seek out.  The locals fish them of course, but no one travels to Montana with these streams in mind.  I enjoy the small opportunities I'm handed when travel takes me across them.  I make sure to be ready.  This time I was hoping for pike.
UPS truck on a rural prairie road

My vehicle was packed. Everything I needed for a few days of work was in there. And then there was everything else - a tote with various boxes of plugs and bags of plastics, several spinning reels, just as many fly reels, three different lumbar packs prepped for spinning or fly, waders and boots, a net, and multiple rod tubes. Surprisingly all this recreational equipment fits into nooks and crannies and was out of sight. Hopefully there'd be time when each day's work was done. I knew there would be. I have a way of always finding that time. Even if it is dark before I start.