Guiding the Ant Hatch on the Kootenai River in NW Montana
Colorado & New Mexico Fly Fishing Guide Rita Adams
I've heard guides discuss ants and the singular way fish react to them before, and on the Kootenai this last week was no different. They're late this year. Most guides hoped they wouldn't come at all. Because once they're here, fish lose their appetite for anything else. Only the most adept anglers can catch these picky fish; impossibly long, drag free drifts, super light tippets and microscopic dries are a must. Not only that, but every fish in the river is rising. The water fairly boils with whitefish, trout and squaws. I shouldn't wonder if even the suckers come up for these guys. What is it with ants? Spicy like Thai food? A natural stimulant? I'll never know, but it was really something to see. The only fly I could reasonably expect clients to be able to float and fish to want to eat was a size 18-20 parachute adams with a grey body that darkens some when wet. We got our nicer fish that way. I followed it behind a larger dry for visibility. It was fishing this tandem rig that I achieved something that I believe is quite rare in the guide world: My client managed to land a fish that was not pierced with any part of a hook in any part of its body. It was a nice fish too; a 15" Cuttbow. I realize my part in this is only slightly greater than showing up, but it happened on my watch and I'm claiming it. This old trout had been caught and mishandled before, and his lip mandible had been ripped off so it was only attached at the base end. My client set the hook and I didn't notice anything untoward until the fish came close and I could clearly see both flies swinging in the current near his face. Somehow the piece of tippet that connected the two flies wrapped itself snugly around his ripped lip, got caught there, and stayed put through multiple runs and jumps. Go figure.
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