The lone drake arrows upstream and begins to cup up over the decoys. My partner rises to take the shot as the bird sees him and starts into a steep climb. Too late. The shot string centers the drake, and he takes a death glide into a patch of Russian olive brush on the far bank-an easy retrieve for Phil's Lab.
The morning drags on before the next opportunity presents itself in the form of a single mallard that flies upriver, and then toward us and passes over our blind. The bird is barely visible through the branches of an overhanging cottonwood. I let loose with a shot from the bottom barrel of my old Winchester 101, then fire the second as the bird disappears from view. I wait a second, and then hear a satisfying thump as the bird nosedives into the brush behind us. It's a full half hour until the next targets appear, a pair of mallards that decoy without hesitation and are dumped into the river by a short barrage from Chris and Kevin.
As the Lab makes the retrieves, Chris comments, "Gee, that was nice, but the hunting is really slow. Can't count on the ducks, can't count on the weather."
"Yup," I answer, "but there is one thing you can bet your hat on." I look toward Phil's blind, then at my watch, and start the countdown, "Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . ."
A Touch of Class
Bighorn River Lodge overlooks the Bighorn River and has a commanding view of the Bighorn Mountains. The facility is 12 miles downstream from Yellowtail Dam and is one of the premier lodges on the river, catering to waterfowl and upland bird hunters and fishermen. For more information, contact Phil Gonzalez at 800-235-5450. The lodge's Web site is www.bighornriverlodge.com
You Get a Line and I'll Get a Pole
Participants in the Bighorn River writers' hunt were introduced to the new SLT series fly rods by Sage. The all-new graphite SLT features a medium-fast taper that offers anglers a lightweight rod with an ultrasmooth action, resulting in a more relaxed casting rhythm. Available in 2-, 4-, and 5-piece models. The rods were equipped with Sage's new large arbor 3300D reels, which are machined from aircraft-grade aluminum and custom anodized for corrosion resistance. The reel's multigraphite drag system is completely sealed, and has a numbered, positive-click drag adjustment that allows anglers to pre-select drag tension according to fish size and fishing conditions. For more information on these and other fine Sage products, visit your local Sage dealer or see the company's Web site: www.sageflyfish.com