Sunday, November 28, 2010

Darlington Bitch

I suspected I was in for a large dose of rubbish as the gray Ford Explorer pulled up along the levee.
"Do you know where you are?" the man asked.
"Darlington Ditch," I responded.
"No, this is not Darlington Ditch. This is Spring Creek."
"Yes. And you are trespassing. This is the Rice Ranch."
"No, I'm not. I'm within the high-water mark on a natural waterway."
"Did you cross that fence with the signs?"
"Then you are trespassing."
"No, I'm not. I have stayed within the high-water mark at all points. I know I'm on private property, but I have a right to be here."
"On the river, that's how it works (pointing to the nearby Madison River). But not here."
"Is this a natural waterway?"
"Look sir, I will get outta here, but I am not trespassing."
"That's all I ask."
Click to enlarge
It might be easier to let it go, but then ignorant harassers win. I knew I had a right to be there, it was obvious that I was in fact on Darlington Ditch as it was named on a sign just upstream (which didn't ultimately matter - anglers have a right to be there no matter what it's called), but he wasn't about to let it go. The Rice Ranch will be getting a letter from me explaining: that that particular creek is Darlington Ditch; the Montana stream access law; the fishing regulations on Darlington; and that I will see them again soon. I will be back with cell phone in hand, and will get Gallatin County's finest involved if necessary.

The creek itself is intriguing. The vast majority of the water is about 6 inches deep, with a slot here and there that gets to about 2.5 feet deep. It's very mucky in places (I fell through some ice into waist-deep black-tar sludge), and very weedy in true spring-creek fashion. There are a few tailouts, but eventually it turns into a slow, placid, featureless lake. There is a nice blurb about Darlington Ditch in the current Montana Sporting Journal in the "Spring Creek Tour" article.


Caleb Reinhold said...

Stick it to the man. Way to be.

Troutburst said...

it's possible you were violating the regulations, but not trespassing. I've fished Darlington Ditch many, many times, and never had a problem. There is a sign next to the footbridge that crosses Darlington, and the sign clearly states that fishing is closed downstream from that bridge for (1/2 mile, 1 mile?). I can't remember the exact distance, but according to the map you provided, it looks like you might have been within the closed area. But it has nothing to do with trespassing though. According to the stream access law, you are well within your rights to be there, except when a section is closed by MT FWP.

Bigerrfish said...

Ha ah, The rules of Montana, what a hard life that is to live.
Try Colorado. Thats where youll be on the wrong end of the towns finest.
All in all, youll find your honey holes.

Josh Bergan said...

Thanks Caleb.
Troutburst - I believe that is an old regulation. Here is a link to the current regulations for Darlington:
Here is the pdf where the regulation is proposed to be changed:
I appreciate you keeping me honest tho. Anyhow, that is not what that man's problem was.
Bigerr - I certainly appreciate what we've got. That's why it's important to defend our rights.

Josh Bergan said...

Troutburst - it's on page 14 of that pdf.

Unknown said...

As a guy who just fielded a hair-raising phone call from his stepfather who told a tale of accidentally wandering onto private property while walking his black lab, an episode that included a rifle discharge, my stepfather being cursed at, slapped and manhandled and police, I applaud you for courteously but firmly standing up for your, and by extension our, rights.

Troutburst said...

neither of those links loaded for me. both said they were unavailable. The sign that has the closure information was still up as of about a month ago. Like I said, I've fished the ditch a ton, but I always head upstream, where it's a meandering stream with deep holes and undercut banks. i've never gone downstream, because of the closure. The closure is in effect to stop the spread of the New Zealand Mud Snail, if I recall correctly. Next time you're out there, check out the sign, it's right next to the footbridge. But to be clear, I'm firmly on your side regarding the trespassing allegations. Stream access is very important, and it's an issue we have to keep fighting for, otherwise it will be lost. I've dealt with these issues on Baker Creek outside of Manhattan, where a seasonal resident has strung electrified wire across the creek right at the water level to prevent people from exercising their lawful right to stay within the high water lines. It's an ongoing battle, for sure, and i wish you luck in your efforts to set the landowner straight.

Josh Bergan said...

Right on, Troutburst. Try copying and pasting those links without the period at the end. I go by what the official fishing regulations brochure says, but I certainly could be wrong. Conflicting information for sure. Here's another link with information:
And here's what the regulations say:
"outside of Cobblestone FAS boundaries
Standard limits apply.
Open entire year.
on Cobblestone FAS
Catch-and-release for trout.
Artificial lures only.
Open entire year. "
Funny - Baker Creek was one of my other options on Saturday if Darlington was froze, but decided not to fish elsewhere after wading with the mudsnail. I think Bud Lilly used to live (or still does) right near where I was going to hop on - figured it might be angler friendly since he was around.

Brad said...

Way to stand up for the stream access law, my friend. I salute you.