I stuffed my 32 year old son Brandon in the front of the scull boat and off we went down the Flathead River from Perma Bridge. Everything seemed to work against us. The upstream wind made it difficult to steer the scull boat, and the small, lapping waves made a racket against the boat spooking ducks a hundred yards away. Then we would pick the wrong side of the river, and watch the mallards jump on the other side. Finally, we caught up with three swans, two honkers and a handful of mallards. The swans and geese were on the tip of an island, while the mallards were just off the island forty yards on a gravel bar. The swans were the closest on the tip of the island, and they were making a racket on our approach, but they didn't fly. (Twice during the day we could have dropped a swan.) The mallards watched the swans flap their wings and croak. The honkers, about ten yards below the swans, decided it was no place to stick around so they stepped out into the water and started swimming away. I headed for the mallards and got in range just as everything picked up. Brandon, who was laying flat on his back, sat up and was distracted by the swans, then by the geese, who were just out of shooting range. By the time he shifted to the mallards it was a tough shot. Thank goodness he did get a big greenhead at the end of the day. Nice float, but my shoulders were pooped out at the end, and then I remembered how much more difficult it is to scull on a river.
We saw perhaps a 50 to 80 mallards during the trip. Most of them were in large groups. We saw maybe 25 honkers and lots of divers. The problem is that no one was on our seven mile float to push the birds up the river to us. I think it would have been a slow day with dekes. We took out at Kookoosinn launch. About a half mile from the launch, about 50 mallards jumped on the opposite side of the river. There were a number of pairs hiding in the grass still, but my son had just taken the sculling oar. He was convinced he could learn in one session from watching me when he was a kid. He was going in circles and very frustrated and vocal. I kept my mouth shut and watched the birds jumping out of the grass as he floated past them far out of range. I couldn’t resist as we were driving home and sang out, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
“Yeah, yeah, I knew it was going to be hard, but I thought that I could at least keep the boat straight so that we could just float down on them.”