My favorite holiday, Halloween, has come and gone. My second-favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is coming up. I am thankful for all the things folks give thanks for as they sit around the Thanksgiving table.
However, I am thankful for something not usually thought of over plates of turkey. I am thankful that I’m still able to work on my goal of catching a fish, on my fly rod, in every state of the union. And in October, I put another notch on my fly rod. North Dakota now is in my record book.
For those of you who have never been to North Dakota and perhaps see no reason to visit the state because your vision of it comes from the movie “Fargo,” you should think again.
My quest took my fly-fishing partner and good friend, Randall, and me from the east boundary through the heartland of the state, then south to the South Dakota state line. We entered the state from Montana on Interstate 94 and soon were at our first fishing spot.
About 10 miles west of the state line is Camels Hump Lake. This was our first stop. We were told the lake holds trout, smallmouth bass, panfish and catfish. It is accessible from well-marked dirt and gravel roads and has many day-camping sites at the waters’ edge. This was great for us as we didn’t have a boat.
Randall and I booted and suited and headed for the water. The weather was clear and warm, so I was hopeful for some dry-fly activity. My third cast, with a dry, resulted in a strike. We fished this area a bit longer without hooking a fish, then moved to the dam. That is where North Dakota entered the scorecard.
I changed my dry fly to a green Woolley Bugger and immediately caught two large panfish. Randall wasn’t having any success, so being the thoughtful fly-fishing buddy that I am, I gave Randall my green Woolly Bugger. Five casts later, Randall hooked up. He caught a really big ... live oak tree. He lost my only green Woolly Bugger. I took it like a man.
We decided to drive a little farther east to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, thinking it would be fun to fish there. However, because of the government shutdown, it was closed. I wish more members of Congress fly-fished; if they did, the shutdown might not have happened.
By this time, it was late, so our first day of fly-fishing in North Dakota came to an end.
Our plan for the next day was to fly-fish the Missouri River on the way to a pheasant hunt in South Dakota. We did fish the Missouri, however, the weather had changed to windy, cold and rainy. So after we gave being miserable a good try, we decided to become tourists and just see some of North Dakota. Folks, it is a beautiful state.
On our journey south from Bismarck, we were privileged to see what makes this state, and country, so great. There were lakes and rivers everywhere. The great grasslands with slow rolling hills were everywhere. There was even hay being combined from the highway rights of way. And the people were the most friendly, helpful and gracious of anywhere I’ve been.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a plug for Thanksgiving. Take time this Thanksgiving to give your friends and family an extra hug and thank them for just being there when you needed them.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.