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Out My Back Door
Brian Ahern, Helena, Montana

The morning of September 18, 2003 dawned cool, overcast and with an abundance of fresh air. A real treat fallowing the summer heat and a month and a half of thick, chocking smoke. My nephew Dennis from Richland, WA, had graced us with his presence the day before and we felt since it had been a long dry spell of no fishing we owed it to ourselves to spend some time on the water. Our unanimous choice of destinations was Spring Meadow Lake, about a 3 mile drive from my front door and within the city limits. The lake is an old gravel pit that was taken over by the State of Montana in 1981 and made into Spring Meadow Lake State Park. It supports a self sustaining population of Large Mouth Bass, Perch, and Sunfish.

Since it is spring feed and has no real inlet or outlet, all Trout are planters. The lake has been planted each year with Rainbows and in 2001 Westslope Cutthroat were introduced. The Trout and Bass have been known to reach 10 pounds but my biggest, taken a couple of years ago was 6.25 pounds.

In summer it is used extensively by the younger folks for swimming and fishing but once school starts one can often have the lake to themselves as we did. After a little bantering about who was going to catch the most fish we launched our float tubes and headed out. About 50 feet from shore Dennis hooked his first fish on a Black Woolly Bugger with a Green Body.

Dennis with the first fish of the day

Most fish caught here are considered keepers as they make good table fare due to the abundance of crustaceans and the large population of Crayfish. This day though was a catch and release day and the fish were gently released to be caught another day (the above photo was the only fish taken from the water). My nephew had a banner day and brought to hand 6 or 7 nice Bows, one Cutthroat and two Bass. I was not so fortunate and only managed to land one Rainbow. Old age I guess. All fish caught that day were taken on a black and green woolly bugger.

A good view of the one-time gravel pit

As the sun was close to setting we decided to call it a day, pack the gear away and head to the Missouri for a little Walleye fishing. I was hauling my last load to my Trooper when Dennis hollered "Brian do you always let your float tube drift out into the lake." Having shed our waders what were we to do. He remembered having his Salmon Spinning Rod and I had some Bell Sinkers. The combination saved the day.

Dennis rescuing my float tube.

The next morning about 10:00 am my niece Loretta and her husband Joe from Redmond, WA hit town and Joe wanted to fish with folks who could take him where the fish are. Back to Spring Meadow we went. Joe landed the most fish that day with a Doc Spratley nymph that he says is popular in Washington, but is not sold here. He landed about 8 Rainbows and 1 cutthroat.

Joe taking it easy

Dennis had no luck on the Bugger and switched to a unnamed brown nymph. His count was not as good as the day before as he only caught two fish. I got skunked that day which was okey because I believe the fishing is always good the catching just ain't to hot some times. Besides that I managed to solidly beach my float tube.

Dennis with another nice one

We are fortunate here to have a place like Spring Meadow particularly if you fly fish. Most folks around here consider it a 'kids pond' and go join the crowd on the Missouri leaving the challenges it presents to just a very few of us. A challenge is what this little lake is. Dry flies rarely get a strike and a Bead Head Prince Nymph will work well one day and be of no interest the next.

If you have such a lake in your area remember what it's like to be a kid and take advantage of it. Some of the best fishing can often be right out ones back door. ~ Brian Ahern

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