As we drove north the hills speed by in a blur. Soon we were deep within a canyon surrounded by towering cliffs. I fired questions at my buddy until he finally said, “Just wait a second, she’s right around the corner.” There it was, one of Montana’s famous waters, a lush ribbon of blue snaking through an otherwise arid landscape. I had heard of this river while living in Montana, but never fished it. When I got an invitation to a friends wedding near its banks, I knew this was my chance. Although a few trophies in the 10lb range are landed each year, the river is known for its population of surface minded browns and rainbows which average 16″-18″. I called him and asked if we were going to hit the river. He said, “definitely..but bring your A-Game.” I didn’t really know what to make of that comment until I saw the river. We pulled off the road, hopped a fence and crossed a field down to the river. We sat crouched behind some willows and scanned the surface. The river has been likened to the countries biggest spring creek. It is wide, the water is flat, and aquatic vegetation clings to almost every inch of bottom. Not only is the river chock full of trout, it is loaded with bugs. Luckily for me, I was there during prime hatches. In the mornings the air was filled with tricos, in the evenings the caddis were so thick that you were spitting them out of your mouth, and PMDs rounded out the afternoons. So we slayed them right?….Not even close! Hot sunny days, moderate fishing pressure, and thick hatches turned these trout into discriminating connoisseurs. At these times, the river demands long leaders, light tippet, small flies and perfect drifts. The river can be effectively nymphed with good success, but we were after the risers. The plan was to cross down-stream work our way into and up-stream position and approach a pod of rising fish with a fly first presentation. I got into position and needless to say I left my A-Game back in Maine. I quickly managed to put down the entire pod. By the end of the day I had given the fish a number of perfect drifts, but they were not having it. My buddy hooked up with a solid rainbow that nearly took him to his backing. On the way back to the truck he explained that it is not uncommon to get skunked on this river. Apparently 1-2 fish is a good day this time of year, with 1 in 3 breaking off the required 6X or spitting the hook. I had three more days and I was sure I’d be back. By day three I decided to get the stink off with a little nymphing. I hooked and landed a hard fighting rainbow, but didn’t feel satisfied. I got the call and we were set to hit the evening caddis hatch. The wind was howling when we stepped into the water and I wasn’t optimistic. We noticed a few random rises and within 30 minutes it happened. The wind died and the surface came alive. Everywhere you looked, caddis were fluttering in the air and across the water. Suddenly backs and heads were slowly rising above the surface. Pods of fish were working the bugs from bank to bank. I picked a pod and made my last stand. It was hard to imagine so many fish, so many bugs, and so many refusals. But eventually, the numbers worked in my favor. The cast felt good and I watched as the fly floated down stream without the slightest hint of drag. I paid out line to extend the drift to the max and SLURP! The fish was instantly on the reel and fighting hard. I netted the fish, took a photo and sent the rainbow on its way. I felt a sense of accomplishment like no other fish has given me. We reeled in and hit the trail back to the truck. On the way, my buddies friend said; “Well you made it through Graduate school.” He was right. It had been a long time since I fished a technical river and I realized a few days getting schooled by PhD trout can teach you a lot about fly fishing.