Last week, I had the fortune of joining Jim on the July Idaho/Montana leg of the Ridgeline Tour. Conditions were perfect for an outstanding week of touring, hiking and fishing. Jim picked me up in Boise, Idaho with the specially outfitted, gleaming and plushy Ridgeline pick-up. The vehicle was certainly comfortable and functional but it raised a few eyebrows in “cowboy country” as it was not a burly Ford, Chevy or Dodge. Jim soon corrected that image of a pretty pick-up by backing into a fishing guide’s Chevy Tahoe and smashing the Ridgeline’s tail light, bumper and rear quarterpanel into a gnarly mess. For the rest of the trip we looked a lot “tougher” and more acceptable to the Montana natives.
After some challenging and exciting fishing in Henry’s fork of the Snake River, the tour proceeded into Montana for some world class casting in the Madison and Gallatin Rivers. The day on the Madison was notable for the fact that Jim and I were on our own. No guide. No help with equipment. No directions on how or where to fish. We had a beautiful, sun-splashed day. There was typical fly fishing frustration – endless casts with no bites – as well as fish hooked but lost back to the river. Finally, after much experimentation with various combinations of flies, I hooked into the “big one”- a massive brown trout. The current was fast and the fish was furious. The fight went on for what seemed like an eternity. Gradually, I was able to maneuver the fish closer to the bank. Jim gallantly jumped into the water in order to assist with the landing. Although tiring, the fish was still moving quite rapidly. Jim readied the net to grab the fish. The water was rushing. In an instant, before Slim could react, the trout swam between his legsand snapped off the line. It then disappeared back into the Madison. Massive disappointment set in. At that point, Jim and I knew how Bill Buckner must have felt when he let that ball go between his legs in the 1986 World Series.
None of this deterred us. The rest of the vacation was outstanding with excellent fishing, hiking, sightseeing and honkey-tonk hanging. A new crew including expert fly fisherman Pete “buzz” Mathieson will be returning in August. They will have another crack at the “Buckner” fish. Hopefully, he can be landed this time.