A fly trip to fish and film the Missouri river…
Winter?… What Winter? It’s pretty much spring here in the Western part of the state, and spring means one thing, some mean fishing to break in the new year. The plan was to cruise over to the Missouri River and catch some more nice fish to start off the year. We got up at 4:30 AM to get the boat and headed off down the highway headed east. Temperatures dipped to -8 degrees along the drive, and we were wondering if we may have underestimated Old Man Winter. Fortunately, as we wound down through the windy highway to Wolf Creek the temperature quickly rose into the mid 20s. We swung into Craig and stopped by the Headhunters fly shop. The guys were super nice and we picked up a few nymphs. The fly selection definitely can be drastically different at times compared to the river’s surrounding Missoula. If your lost just ask anyone at the Headhunters and they’ll put you on the right track.
After getting our shuttle taken care of with Mark, we got back in the truck and headed to the put-in at the dam. We quickly got to the put-in only to realize Travis had left our boots in the truck bed. They had been wet and had frozen on the way over. A mandatory beer delay had to take place while we did some thawing. We soon were in our waders and gearing up to another trio of Missoulian anglers. By the time we put the boat in there were about 7 other boats that had showed up for a day of fishing. Some of these fellows seemed to have a little attitude. As Jeff put it, “These dudes are mean muggin us.” Let’s just say we got the vibe that either these guys didn’t like us being there or they really must hate fly fishing. I can only account for the other boaters that day, but we all were pumped up to be getting on the river. We even left a PBR for the shuttle driver (we left a note telling him not to drink and drive).
Finally we were drifting down the river and fishing. Travis was rocking a Sow bug and a Lightning bug rig with some splitshot about 8′ deep. It was windy and on the cold side, but things soon heated up as Travis hooked into a solid rainbow. After a few missed netting attempts, Jeff was finally able to slide the black rubber net under our first fish of the day.
The Missouri River is known for it’s large fish size and entertaining wind. This respectable rainbow is extremely common and very often outdone proving this is an exceptional trout fishery and one everyone should fish at least once.
After that things started to pick up. Travis had multiple hookups on some large Whitefish and one smaller Brown trout. Jeff was getting itchy at the oars and soon the guys switched spots and we got back to fishing.
Finally we were catching up to some boats that had left earlier in the day. They were anchored up fishing some nice bends in the river. We stopped for lunch and then quickly drifted through in search of our own little slice of river that would hold a good number of hungry fish.
I immediately spotted a nice pool where a small branch of the Mo came back and met the main channel. We beached the boat and Jeff started casting. The pool was slow with a nice drop off providing some holding water for what appeared should be a good number of fish. After only a couple casts Jeff had a strong rainbow on the end of his line. I’m sure he told himself to “let er run!” Jeff had his first nice fish of the day just as another group of floaters drifted by.
We proceeded on as the sun was beginning to drift lower and lower. We continued to get into fish and we were more than happy with the day considering it was only the 4th of February. Travis and I have never fished this river before and Jeff has only a handful of times. Reading a river that large is definitely a different mindset. I’m glad we were able to read enough good water and get the fly in the right spot. Oh and it always helps when the fish cooperates.
The fishing only got better as the further the sun started to set over the western skies. Again this warm weather had some good things going for the river. There was a strong midge hatch from about 1-530 PM and we saw numerous fish hitting top water. With the fish feeding we were able to land another few good rainbows to add to the day’s list.
The river was in full form as we found good trout and good views throughout the whole float. I felt like I was capturing some good video of the day and vibes were high. As we neared the end of our day, Travis once again layed into another fun fighting rainbow. If you start it with a bang then ya better end it with one to.
We found our way to the boat ramp in Craig and got the raft loaded for the long ride home. Another solid day on the river in the books and many more on the way. Travis is working on editing all the footage together from that day and we hope to have that up for you guys by Friday. If your around Missoula we hope to see you at the Fly Fishing Film Tour on Friday night.