Every year I try and plan a multiday trip where I am off by myself fishing without any phones, email, kids, or other distractions. Some years I hike and fish, while others I take a road trip and try a bunch of new spots. This year in May I decided to do a road trip with my new fishing kayak to fly-fish for northern pike at a few prairie reservoirs. I took time off of work months in advance, and tied up flies and leaders in eager anticipation. When the time came to hit the road, it was snowing in Bozeman. Instead of waiting another week for better weather, I decided to go for it. What a mistake that was.
Anybody who has been in the west during Spring knows how fickle the weather can be. During my journey I passed fields with chest high snowdrifts. When I was 30 miles from my destination I started seeing telephone poles broken off completely along the highway, with many more damaged beyond repair. I stopped counting at 40 poles broken off! Given the extreme winds that the region had experienced, every single prairie lake was cold and the color of chocolate milk – not ideal for spring pike! I knew I shouldn’t expect much but still held out hope that I could find fish. As I eased my truck off of pavement I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t have much further to go but the roads were a disaster, not to mention my four-wheel drive had gone out the week prior. Still, I went for it, keeping the pedal down so as not to get stuck and bouncing down the rutted two-track. When I stopped at a cattle guard to appraise the situation, a local rancher came up to “visit”. He was extremely agitated after having lost a few calves to the weather and strongly advised I head for pavement.
After taking the rancher’s advice, I headed for the nearest Dairy Queen to drown my sorrows. All of that planning and driving and nothing to show for it. After lunch, I got the kayak out on a big reservoir until the rain started and then I headed to my parents’ house to meet up with my family. I arrived at my parents’ house in a terrible mood, 14 hours after I had left earlier that day. That is way too far to travel for a DQ Blizzard, I don’t care how good they are! The next day I decided to fish a local reservoir and try and salvage what was left of my trip. With no trout gear packed, I was forced to call some friends to borrow a trout rod, flies, and float tube.
The next day began with more anticipation. May is a tremendous time to be trout fishing, and I expected the fish to cooperate. After getting into the tube, and easing into the water, I tied on a maroon seal bugger and began stripping. I was fishing in a big bay with lots of fish in shallow for the spring spawn. It didn’t take long until I was hooked into a nice rainbow trout. Finally! The day ended on a good note, with many solid rainbows hooked and landed.
While this trip hardly went to plan, it was a good reminder to be flexible and adaptable when the weather and fish don’t cooperate. On future road trips, I will remember to throw in all of my flies and rods and have alternative waters in mind. If I wouldn’t have had friends along the route on this trip, things would have been even more disappointing. Having the right gear for different scenarios can make all of the difference. Keep your options open, you never know where the next detour will lead!