That is what we had to do when we arrived at the Madison River on day four. It was early afternoon, the air was hot and dry, and the wind was whipping a across the bench land of the Madison Valley flattening the tall grass. A long trail of dust blew high and far behind the car as we drove along a dirt road that runs long the base of the southern side of the valley about 10 miles up river of Ennis.
We pulled off the road at a spot we know that requires a 1/2 mile walk through a treeless, grass, cactus, and rock filled field before reaching the river. Paul and I rigged up and headed to the river, a bottle of water in each of our hands. Despite the wind and hot sun, the valley was a beautiful as ever. The cactus were in full bloom, the yellow, tissue-like flower petals surrounding the orange stamen and a pale green pistil center. Sun-dried grass awns scratched at my bare calves above my wading shoes. The deep blue sky a background for the high and snow-covered mountains that hug the broad valley. I love this place, it's as home as anywhere I have ever been.
When we got to the river the wind was blowing hard downstream. Paul tied on a terrestrial and began fishing the river edge, working his way downstream while using the wind to cast his fly on the water ahead of him. I sat on a large, moss covered rock at the top of the bank and watched, finishing my water and enjoying the view. After fishing our way downstream for a couple of hours we made our way back to the car, and sleeping Joe. Neither of us caught anything of size, but we had fun.
We hopped in the car and headed up river toward the slide checking out various spots, as the plan was to fish the evening hatch after got something to eat.
About six o'clock or so we settled on a spot a couple of miles below $3 bridge where a high bluff sheltered the river somewhat from the wind. Fortunately, when we got there, the wind had settled down to a light breeze. Paul headed up river and I down. Turned out we hit it right. Caddis were hatching and the fish were on them. I worked the banks with an Iris caddis and had a field day, barely stepping into the river except to land a fish occasionally. By dark I had caught dozens of trout, 2 browns and the rest rainbows. One of the browns was long and lean, taping out at about 21-22" or so.The sun set around 9:45PM. Just before it did, it threw its last rays of light on the mountains beyond, giving the valley a nice warm glow. Once those rays left the land though, the temperature dropped like a rock.
Life is good. Sometimes its even better....