Sometimes you just can’t fit all the stuff you need to do into your allotted weekends. Drives a guy nuts. So in September my buddy Brian and I busted loose for a day of riding and fly fishing — motorbikes up the St. Joe River, stopping to cast into holes all along the way. It’s a win-win . . . if the fishing isn’t great, we’ve still got an awesome twisty road with great views. And if the fishing is great, well, our lines will be in the water.
We busted loose at around 5 a.m. — still dark and with foreboding skies, light rain, and lightning. A lot of lightning. Not exactly a promising start, but what the heck, we were free for the day, so we were going anyway. Besides, you never know what the weather is going to be like up in the mountains. (I had a NOAA Hi-Def Radar app installed on my iPad, but not my iPhone, and the iPad was at home; even if it was raining, we would have kept going anyway.)
Once we hit the river past St. Maries, though, the rain was done, skies cloudy but not dark. We pulled the pickup off the side of the road a few miles shy of Avery and unloaded the bikes.
We weren’t sure how we were going to strap down our fly rods, but we had plenty of bungie cords. I’ve got a big rack on the back of my XR650L, so I knew I could strap my rod to that. Brian, though, found a round front brake cable guide on the front fork of his Yamaha WR450 that would accept the butt of his rod with the reel keeping it in place. A bungie on the fork and he was good to go.
As we pulled away from the pickup and took off up the highway along the river in the cool morning air, it was pretty freaking awesome. Guys who ride motorbikes understand crisp air and a twisted throttle. To combine that sense of adrenaline, freedom, and low-end torque with wading for cutthroat trout — even better.
Fishing with Motorbikes
In some ways, riding the bikes was slower than simply using a pickup. After all, you’ve got to get your helmet and gloves on each time you get on the bike, plus strap down the fly rods and nets. With a pickup, you can just throw it all in the back or lay the fly rods on the windshield and let the windshield wipers hold them in place.
In other ways, the bikes were faster. Instead of needing a true pullout to park a pickup, we could bail off the road at most any point, needing only a ditch to park the bikes. We got to hit a few spots we usually ignore because the bikes brought us better access to the river.
And the fish? Excellent, as usual. The cutthroat trout on the St. Joe seem to get up to 15-17 inches in good numbers, and are healthy thick fighters. Over previous years, the largest I ever caught was 17 1/2 inches. They tend not to get much bigger than that on the Joe, I’m guessing because the growing season and the window for body-building intake is so short — the winters are plenty long up there.
But this trip, I caught the biggest yet — 18 inches of wild muscle. And the story? Another time. But I had to work for it, and it was pure fun.