I fished alone today. I drove about an hour out of Bozeman, seeking silence and fishing. As I went along the Gallatin River, famed for its beauty and fish, I sought out the upper reaches that were far away from the madding crowd of the newly burgeoning metropolis of Bozeman. Finally, on one turnout, I found solitude. I assembled my gear and donned my waders, moving through the practiced choreography that 20 days on the road had perfected. The location I had selected was particularly appealing, with long riffles and occasional pools stretching through meadows of sagebrush and grass with sparse pines and willows alongside.
On one side of the river stood giant buttresses of grey-red granite extending hundreds of feet vertically. These Titans, born of earth and sky, stood inscrutable and nonjudgmental over my endeavors, comforting me in a way I cannot describe. The fluidity of my casts today seemed to meld with the serenity of the place, where rock, sky, and water coalesced into perfection. I seemed a part of it and connected. I worked up the river slowly and methodically, having ample room to focus on dissecting the water’s anatomy, estimating where the fish were holding, and delivering the perfect cast for the conditions.
At one point, the wind came up as a prelude to a passing summer thunderstorm. I took this time to sit on a grassy bank, have a sip of water, leisurely rearrange my fly tackle, and appreciate the grandeur about me. As quickly as it had come, the wind was gone with only a light breeze remaining. The quiet of the river was back, with the muted laughter of water tumbling over smooth stone now accompanied by the occasional scree of an eagle circling high overhead.
When I resumed fishing in the warm slanting light of the late afternoon, I immediately raised a fish with a flash of gold and a splashy attack on my large dry fly imitation of a spruce moth. Then later, another on a grasshopper imitation and yet another on a caddis fly imitation. In the end, I raised six fish, fought two, and did not land a single fish. Yet I was supremely happy when I finally reeled my line in, propped the rod on my shoulder, and waded to the bank of the river in the twilight of the canyon. I was a fly fisherman on the Gallatin.