The 12-hour drive to Craig, Montana from the Front Range is a nice one. Good views, high speed limits, few cars. I like to put on an audiobook or long playlist of podcasts and just zone out. It makes the drive go surprising quickly. Lindsay and I were on our way to visit friends there. My buddy who used to be a ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park
now works at Cross Currents fly shop
there. He and his girlfriend invited us out to do some fishing and hiking. Fishing for me, hiking for Lindsay.
We got there Thursday evening and first thing we did was walk a quarter mile to the Missouri River and sighted some bruisers holding in some slack water and some risers further out. I instantly regretted not bringing my rod, but Blake was right, if I had brought it, I wouldn’t have left the river till dark and we had to prep for the drift boat trip tomorrow.
I’ve never drift boated before and it took some getting used to. We woke up early, had eggs and bacon, and on the water by 8:30, before the guides. Lindsay joined us too. She had a book and enjoyed the weather and smooth trip, occasionally giving her some entertainment and asking for her to take some photos. We were covering about 10 miles of the Missouri River, “the best dry fly fishing river in the world”.
This early, we started out nymphing. It wasn’t too long before we had some whitefish
and small trout caught and released. Fun stuff, but not really what I was hoping for. After about a mile or so, we got out and wet waded on some islands actually not too far from Blake’s place. We spotted some good-looking fish holding behind some submerged large rocks. After watching them for a couple minutes we noticed that the big looking one would occasionally rise to eat. We decided I should try a dry for it.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not a great caster. It’s hard for me to determine distance, I’m not super-accurate, I usually need a couple false casts before I can feel the rod load, and after nearly three years of fly fishing, I still tangle up way more often than I should or care to admit. After a couple casts that weren’t exactly on target, I put a good one in the correct seam that put the fly right over our fish, nearly lining him. But not spooked and looking up, he ate.
One other thing that was frustratingly hard for me to get used to was the wait from watching the eat to the set. I mostly still water fish and so I strip set whenever I feel a bump. Here, I had already pulled a couple flies out of some mouths and was determined to stop doing it. After a couple minutes, I had my first 18-inch Missouri River rainbow trout
to net. It was a great feeling. Duh.
Things were a little slower (and smaller) after that, but at around 1:30 we stopped on a flat to eat lunch and wade. This ended up being the best decision of the day because soon a huge caddis hatch happened and fish started rising seemingly everywhere. You could pound water with splashy casts or other boats could go by and the fish would still be there rising after a couple minutes of resting the water. Blake ended up catching four 18-inch plus trout, including one 20-inch brown
. I had seven huge eats and hook-ups, but couldn’t bring them to net. This was frustrating. Really GD frustrating.
“Hey Tom, come look at the color of this ‘bow!”
“Shut up Blake, I know what rainbows look like!”
After a little over an hour of this, Blake suggested we continue down the river. I looked at the flat to see rising eating fish and thought no way. But he (having caught good fish here already) insisted there were some great runs to hit and that we had to be pulling out of the river before too soon in order to meet his girlfriend Katie for dinner. So we left. I still regret this decision. Only a couple more dinks would be seen for the rest of the river.
But overall, I have to say it was a great day. I caught a nice 18-incher and saw and had the chance at a number of others. It was my fault I couldn’t land these fish. Means I need more practice, right?
Continues tomorrow in Part 2
bron, CO 7/2/2015 6:58:54 AM
Nice Tom! That is a dream vacation for me!
Flyrodn, CO 7/2/2015 9:21:34 AM
Good fun without a doubt. One of the hardest things anglers have to learn when dry fly fishing is to ignore what you see and wait until you feel the fish. Same goes for any topwater fishing. Most think they're slow in setting the hook and strike faster, mistake. Slow down, and wait until the fish has turned down. Looking forward to tomorrow's read and to the stories about your Florida adventure.
MAC ATTACK, CO 7/2/2015 9:38:17 AM
I'm jealous! You know it's customary to take the BOOT with you when ever you travel to any fishing destination. Us OG's need a photo of it in Montana!
IceFishingFool, CO 7/2/2015 1:05:29 PM
Tracy, He must not realize there is a lot of fishing luck in that BOOT !
team FMFO , CO 7/2/2015 1:18:16 PM
Great read & pics
yard dogs, CO 7/2/2015 1:49:27 PM
Looks and sounds like a great time!
anglerwannabe, CO 7/2/2015 7:35:54 PM
gee Tom I wanna feel bad for ya missing all those hooks sets.. really I do. But for some reason I can't bring myself to do it! lol Seems to me like an adventure to rediscover in the near future
Tom McInerney (opencage), CO 7/3/2015 5:42:21 PM
Yeah, it took some getting used to, but I also understand not exactly feeling sorry for me :-) Definitely planning on going back next year.
Tom McInerney (opencage), CO 7/3/2015 6:05:16 PM
There's also a bunch more great photos from his GoPro, but Blake has yet to get those to me.