Fly fishing has been a part of my life since I was old enough to hold a rod. Dad and Grandpa patiently taught me much of what I know today. I cut my fly fishing teeth on the small streams of South Dakota: Rapid, Castle, and Spearfish Creeks. Big water introductions were made in Yellowstone National Park where I struggled and succeeded to catch wary cutthroats on Slough Creek, the Firehole, and the Yellowstone. It was a big deal when I finally became old enough to tag along on the annual guy's trip to the Bighorn in 3rd or 4th grade. My siblings and I owe much to our parents, not least of all our love for the outdoors.
Fast foreword 25 years. After months of Craigslisting and deliberating, my brother Matthew bought a used raft and fishing frame last spring. Dad turned 70 in January. For over a year, Matt and I have talked about treating Dad to a special overnight river trip; sort of a 70th birthday/thanks for teaching us the all the important stuff (i.e., fishing) trip. We decided on Montana's Big Hole river. Just so happened to schedule it over Father's day weekend. Matthew and I precooked food, chilled adult beverages, and loaded the raft. We were on the river by 12:00 Saturday.
The trip went off (surprisingly) without a hitch. Matthew and I normally have some sort of misadventure thrown in to the mix, but not this time. We found the perfect island to camp on, complete with campfire ring and firewood, nice trout water to fish after dinner, and sunset views of the Pioneer Mountains. We dried our feet out and enjoyed a gin an tonic while the willow and cottonwood burned down into perfect pork roasting coals. Dinner was baby back ribs, vegetable kebobs, and potato salad followed by Aunt Melanie's famous chocolate sheet cake.
While we were a week or two late for the salmonfly hatch, it's hard to complain about being on a beautiful river. The fishing was slow, but that has never stopped us from enjoying the experience and casting a fly to that perfect piece of holding water just around the bend. We fished hard: Dad never faltering from his die-hard, dry fly or nothing tactics. Matthew covered all the bases throwing dries, nymphs, and streamers (also nailing record numbers of mountain white fish). Myself finding it hard not to put down my go-to streamers. We all caught at least one memorable fish, an experience made even better by sharing it with my two favorite fishing partners. While we Ohlen men have never been much for words, we make up for it in unspoken actions: a handmade Christmas gift, flowers at the end of a hard work week, or a Father's Day river trip. I think Dad knew just how much we've learned from him, and how much we value our time together on trout streams. Thanks Dad!