Prosopium Williamsoni - That's not normally the term you hear when a fisherman brings a mountain whitefish to the net. More familiar terms that are often heard are similar to "damn" and/or "crap". Although I have grown to have an appreciation for this native "montana bonefish", I have been guilty of the same reactions. Usually they come when nymphing a perfect hole that you just KNOW holds a big trout, the indicator pauses, and BANG, you're hooked up to what you are certain is a 22" rainbow, and before you pull in any line you are anticipating sending the pics to your "know-it-all" fly fishing buddies down south. Then, you feel the "machine gun tug", that unmistakable head shake that can send feelings of disappointment up the leader, down your line, through your eyelets, and directly into your heart. You won't be sending these pics down south.
I'm not exactly sure how the whitefish got the bad rap that it has. Sure they're slimy, and it's not very easy to throw one in the pan, but catch a good one, especially this time of year, and hold on. As far as eating them goes, try smoking one, trust me.
Last weekend I took a trip up the Madison just above where it dumps into a lake and in spots, couldn't see the bottom of the river for all the whitefish. I happened to be hucking meat all day looking for a bruiser, but my compatriots and I couldn't resist tying on a lightening bug and getting our fill of pescado blanco before moving on. This got me to thinking, "what a great way to break in a new fly fisherman (or woman)?" What better way to put somebody on fish (they're schooled up and easy to spot) and let them practice casting, mending, setting a hook, playing, and landing decent sized fish? They'll eat anything that floats by, they could care less if you're throwing a size 16 prince nymph with 3x tippet, and if spooked, immediately regroup and start eating again. Fellas, if you've got a gal that you're trying to get into fly fishing, or a kid, or somebody like me with the attention span of a 3 year old, get them on the whites. It'll pay lots of dividends down the road.
So, I can tell you the whites have begun their march to their spawning grounds and they're hungry. As for the bruits I was looking for, it'll be a while yet before they make their way up. Until then, perhaps the train to Brownsville has a stop or two to make. Allll aboooard!