Rafting the Gallatin...

Fly Fishing and the Teenage Adrenaline Junkie

My teenage daughter, Kerri,  likes to fish.   Once a year, we catch a few crappie on spinning gear and she’s happy.  Especially if I bring along her favorite junk food.  However, she LOVES big, scary roller coasters.  Or anything that sends her equilibrium for a loop – quite literally.

Last summer, I suggested a trip to Yellowstone Park.   My exact words:  “Geysers, waterfalls, white-water rafting, zip-lining – that’s what we’ll be doing.”  She was excited.  I also asked her if she’d like to try fly-fishing.   From a boat… Drifting down at river…  With rapids…  She said sure.

I booked a float trip with guide Hank Bechard and asked him if he thought Kerri would be better off with a spinning rod.  He replied, “When in Rome…”  He was confident the fly rod would work.

We spent a day white-water rafting down the Gallatin River.  And another day zip-lining over it.  One afternoon we waded a gentle run and I taught Kerri how to roll cast, mend line, and control slack.   She wasn’t Lefty Kreh, but she could flip an indicator rig 20 feet upstream and let it drift back down.

After a day sight-seeing in Yellowstone, I phoned the guide to check arrangements for the float trip.  Hank told me our original destination, the upper Yellowstone, was still clearing up; we would be fishing the Boulder River instead.  He promised whitewater rafting with fly rods.  Kerri was pumped!  (And so was I!)

The next day, we were in his raft, heading down the Boulder River.  Big, ugly rubber-legged nymphs were hanging underneath big, ugly foam indicator flies.   I have to admit that I thought I made a mistake for about the first ten minutes.  I’d been in drift boats before but I wasn’t used to my rear end hanging WAY out over the back of the raft.  The targets were zipping past as we bounced down the river; I had a mess of line in my lap and not much in the river.  I had NO idea how Kerri was doing at the front of the boat.

Finally, I shortened up my line and starting dropping the fly where it was supposed to go.  Hank stopped the boat in a calm spot and gave Kerri a few quick casting lessons.  In no time, he had her picking the fly up and slapping it back down about 20 feet away.  (Forget about roll casts!)

The rest of the day was tremendous!  The raft rocked and rolled through riffles and rapids.  The casts were short and the fish were eager.  Kerri caught her first fly rod fish – a 15” ‘bow – and at least 6 or 7 more.

Crappie fishing will never be the same…

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