April was cold in Montana. Snowing. Windy. Probably not the best time to learn to fly fish. But it was the only time I could make the trip, and I had booked my guide, Tracy, months earlier. The drive from Bozeman was easy, with elk, deer, and pronghorn crossing the road as I approached the small town of Ennis along the Madison River. Putting on waders over five layers of windproof fleece and nylon was more difficult. My fingers went numb as I laced up my boots.
But this legendary river beckoned despite the weather, and we climbed into Tracy’s boat to start my first drift about eight miles south of Ennis. Tracy had anticipated the conditions and so we had the right flies; I would start with a tan McCune’s sculpin tied at a friend’s little factory in Kenya. A quick introduction to the day’s casting technique and we were headed north with the river as the sky threatened more snow. I was not optimistic.
I was rewarded with this 21-inch brown trout within three minutes…still within view of the boat ramp, still with numb fingers. The perfect way to start fly fishing.