Short casts: Spring in Montana, steelhead in the Tongass, Minnesota expo

Every year about this time, I’m lured over Monida Pass into the Beaverhead drainage, and, inevitably, after a day or two of fishing, I go a bit farther. I’ll venture from there, up the Big Hole to the Bitterroot, or maybe even farther north to Rock Creek, where I tell myself a sqwala might make an appearance, and I could be in for one of those epic days, all alone amidst the Montana splendor, enjoying some of the best dry fly fishing known to man.

The reality is usually a bit different. Last year, on the Beaverhead, fishing was so slow on that sunny March day, that I resorted to going deep with a San Juan Worm in order to feel the tug on the other end of my fly rod. And the Bitterroot? I caught a couple of nice browns on streamers, and came home with a hell of a head cold. But I did spend a solid night at the Moose Bar in Dillon—sometimes, a seedy bar stocked with a host of misfits on a Friday night is all it takes to cure the ills of a wandering angler.

This year, the Montana trip is going to wait a month or so. I’m meeting buddies up on on the Missouri at the end of April, where I’m going to cast a spey rod in earnest for the first time. I’ll be the guy all tangled up in his fly line, swearing like a sailor. Look me up. We’ll hit the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge in Great Falls afterwards.

Spring is springing everywhere, and steelhead fishing in southeast Alaska is just around the corner. I adore the Tongass National Forest—it might be my favorite place on earth. I often find myself in this rainy corner of Alaska in late summer, when the silvers and pinks are running and the Dolly Varden are haunting the deepest pools of the darkest, tannin-stained streams. If you can get your hands on a truck, it’s a great place to “do it yourself.” I’ve never fished it in the spring for steelhead, but it’s on my list. The coastal rivers and streams in Southeast don’t have huge runs of chromers, but they do have huge fish. One day, I’ll make the trip.

Finally, if you find yourself in the Twin Cities this weekend, you need to set aside an afternoon (at least) to visit the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo presented by Minnesota Trout Unlimited. It’s the biggest event of its kind in the state, and includes the usual fly tying/fly fishing expo fare, like tying demonstrations, destination presentations and the like. But, with MTU leading the show, some of the proceeds will go toward making fishing better in Minnesota. It’s “expo season” all over the country, too, so if you can’t get to this one, there’s one near you in the weeks ahead.

— Chris Hunt

By Chris Hunt.