Sunday, November 19, 2023

A Day on Nelson's Spring Creek with 406 Fly Lines

The drive over to Livingston was everything that an you'd expect in early October with the day starting in the low 40's, fog sitting heavy and then burning off to reveal the foothills awash in fall colors.  I had been looking forward to this day since I was meeting Tom and Alexis Brodhead of 406 Fly Lines for the first time in person and spending a day on the famed Nelson's Spring Creek.

I pulled into the Safeway parking lot to find Tom staying warm in his Jeep Gladiator with decals slapped all over it.  I smiled since there were several T.F.M. ones on the driver side and a large 406 Fly Lines logo decal across the back tailgate.  This is unmistakably Tom's Jeep.  We shook hands and it's easy to tell that he's a character.  Seemingly clean cut oldish guy but with tattoos of fish from his neck and down his arms.  He has a humor to him, you can hear his east coast accent when he speaks, and oh, and he likes to look for Bigfoot on some wild expeditions in his spare time.  No joke.

I followed Tom to Nelson's Spring Creek Ranch and when we arrived, Alexis was already waiting on us.  We walked over to the small ranch fly shop and checked in with Jacquie Nelson, who had her hands full with her little baby girl born earlier this year.  Tom and Alexis spend quite a bit of time at the ranch and Jacquie squared me away with flies, pointed out some things on the map that I should know, and wished us a good time.  It was actually a perfect fall day of sun, just enough clouds, and the wind had laid down too.

We drove down to the creek and when we parked, I couldn't help but immediately walk to the edge of the creek just to get a first look at this place.  In the gin clear water I could see dark green grass beds undulating slowly under the smooth creek flow.  A trout rose.  Then another.  A few bugs were in the air.  This was going to be a fun day.

Tom had made it easy on me to be ready for our day by sending a copy of Satoshi Yamamoto's book,
Trout Foods & Flies for Livingston's Spring Creeks a few weeks before the trip.  I had read the book several times and then read it again on the flight to Montana.  If you're headed to the spring creeks, this is an essential primer.

Even though I've known Tom and Alexis "online" for years, this was the first time we'd been able to meet them both in person.  It was great to spend some time with them as we readied our gear at the cars.  There was no reason to hurry as there would only be six of us there with lots of room to spread out.  Tom put together his 406 Spring Creek Rod, which is a long 3-weight, and Alexis her bamboo fly rod, which was a beautifully built 8' 5-weight by Gordon Koppin.  The taper was based on a Dickerson 8013, and he beefed up the mid-section to help with the wind.

Tom and Alexis have a great story and moved to Livingston, Montana at retirement after decades living out east.  Tom wanted to start a boutique fly line company making true to weight fly lines.  Using vintage taper designs, he worked with Scientific Anglers in producing, with modern materials, what have quickly gained renown as a perfect match for fiberglass and bamboo fly rods. 

406 Fly Lines purposely has a simple catalog, two of which are the Vintage Series Double Taper and Vintage Series Weight Forward fly lines that are offered from 2-weight to 8-weight in both series.  They are made right, priced right, and come with a guarantee that if you don't like it, send it back for a refund.  No questions asked.  Not easy to find too many businesses like that anymore. 

Once in our waders with all the necessary gear assembled, we split up.  Tom and Alexis started downstream and I walked as far upstream as I could finding a corner near the boundary line where two creeks came together over a shallow riffle flat that then dumps into a deeper grass filled run.  There were trout everywhere.  Some were very large were nestled in the grass hardly moving.  Others moved from the deeper water to the flat and then back down.  They were interesting to watch and the occasional rise followed by periods of no rises had me working through different flies, adding weight, changing flies, taking weight off.  Honestly, the real struggle for the day was trying to thread the tippet into the hook eyelet.  It had been a few years since I've been anywhere that "Tiny Ass Flies" were absolutely needed.  6X tippet with size 22 and size 24 hook eyes might actually drive me to get fit for reading glasses.  Damn me.

I pricked a few trout on missed hook sets, caught several others, and just had a wonderful time up at the top of the property before slowly working my way downstream to meet up with Tom and Alexis.  I like it when fly fishing is hard and the technical approach needed to be successful on Nelson's Spring Creek is something that I could really get into if I lived nearby. 

In mid-afternoon, Tom and Alexis decided to call it a day for them and I spent the next couple of hours walking downstream to the lower boundary and then walking upstream again.  It started to cool down and cloud over.  The wind picked up and then it started to sprinkle.  The bugs lessened and along with that, rising trout became more infrequent.  I needed to get back to Bozeman for dinner but still had a hard time leaving such a special place.

There will be an upcoming gear review post of everything that worked on Nelson's Spring Creek but the sneak peek is that the Steffen Brothers 8' 3/4 weight with a Bozeman Reel Company SC Series fly reel lined with a 406 Fly Lines 4-WF, of course, couldn't have been more perfect outfit for these waters. 

A special thanks to Tom and Alexis for hosting me at Nelson's Spring Creek.  It was certainly one of the highlights from the trip and I look forward to getting back there again.  Thanks to Jacquie Nelson for making sure I felt welcome and had everything I needed.  Her tiny, but well-equipped, fly shop couldn't have been more perfect.

Visit the 406 Fly Lines website and if you haven't tried one of their fly lines for a favorite fiberglass or bamboo fly rod, you should.  If you find yourself in the Livingston area, treat yourself with a day on Nelson's Spring Creek but bring your "A Game"...and maybe your readers too...

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