Written by: John McKinnie, Lone Mountain Ranch
Even though New Zealand is world famous for fly fishing, not everyone who is from there, or who has called the islands home, has tried their hand at the sport. Over the last eight months, I have been educating my girlfriend about fishing. Gwyneth lived on the South Island of New Zealand for more than ten years, but never experienced the famous fishing destinations that surrounded her. Since she has arrived in Montana, she has had the chance to learn on the Gallatin River, Madison River, Clark Fork River, and Rock Creek—which aren’t such bad places to start your fishing journey, either. After a little bit of a slow start, she has finally started to put it all together and is becoming a pretty good angler. One of her first cutthroat trout on the Clark Fork was so small that I was surprised it didn’t slip right through the holes in the net.
Recently, I had the chance to take Gwyneth’s dad out for his first fly-fishing experience. Ken grew up in New Zealand, but his most extensive fishing experience included using dynamite on longfin eels as a kid. The three of us headed for Rock Creek on a somewhat gloomy fall afternoon. Driving down Rock Creek Road, I decided to stop at one of the first pull outs that was available with some decent looking water. Never having fished this upper stretch of the stream, I was really not sure what to expect from this fishy looking run right next to the road. While giving a demonstration and some instruction to Ken, I hooked a small cutthroat right off the bat, which made me think that it could be a decent afternoon. Within the next 30 minutes, Ken starting bringing them in left and right, landing a few beautiful Cutthroats and a bunch of frisky Mountain Whitefish.
Gwyneth was a little baffled at first, since she was not having as much success as her dad. After I had tried a few casts in a hole upstream, I was walking back down the bank and noticed she had hooked a fish that bent the rod a little deeper than the cutthroats and whitefish that we had been landing. Even though it was difficult, I decided to fight the urge to switch into guide mode. Instead of barking out orders on how to fight the fish, I remained calm and gave only a few encouraging words as I stood by with the net. After she did a masterful job of playing the fish, we eventually got it to the net—a beautiful 17-18 inch brown!
Even though I didn’t even land a fish that afternoon, it will still rank up there as being very memorable for me. The smile on Gwyneth’s face while she held that brown and the fact that Ken didn’t want to leave and made about a dozen “one last casts,” will stick in my memory.
John McKinnie is the Fly-Fishing Manager at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.