Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter for real.......probably

So it looks like winter is here in Western Montana for real, maybe...probably.  Anyway with forecasts of heavy snow, highs in the high teens and strong winds I will take this chance to post some memorable moments from 2011 as I wait for the pow to pile up on the mountain.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the spring of 2011 was wild to say the least.  Every river west of the continental divide was blown out.  Unfishable.  Period.  The winter of 2010-11 was longer than a.... well it was long and by mid-May my buddy Brooks, Marshall and I were jonesin' hardcore for some action.  So much so that we decided to load up our box with czech nymphs, wire worms and as many bobbers as we could find (a feat in itself since none of us care to fish underneath much, but that's another story). 
After the hourlong drive to Missoula, we picked up Brooks and hooked up his drift boat to my trusty Dodge.  After the requisite stop at Rattkesnake Trading Co. for a sandwich, it was eastbound and down to the Mighty Mo.  Visions of 20" trout danced in our heads, overshadowing the image of 12' leaders with an indicator, 3 split shots, a wire worm and czech nymph dangling from the end of our rods. 

After a quick piss stop in Lincoln, we stopped in at the ranger station on the edge of town to look at the famous 700 lb. grizzly that was hit and killed on the highway near Lincoln a few years ago.  A couple of ooohs and aaahs and it's back on the road, there are monster Missouri trout to be had after all, and by now we're almost close enough to smell them!  Did I mention it had been a long winter?

On the way up Roger's Pass I noticed the trusty dodge was running a little warm....oh well we're almost to the top and now we're even closer to all of those 4000 trout per mile.  As we drop into Wolf Creek, the weather clears and we glimpse the mighty Mo for the first time.  It doesn't look THAT much different than the Clark Fork, which is not surprising considering the absolute deluge that blasted the Missouri River corridor the night before.  It's HUGE but it is running clear, thanks to Hauser Dam.  We head downriver to Craig MT and Headhunters fly shop for some last minute advice and a shuttle.  Apparently the knob-turners (local jargon for the US Army Corps. of Engineers who control flows out of Hauser Dam) have decided today was a good day to dump another 3000 cfs over the dam in a attempt to keep up with inflows.  Well we're here, the water is clear-at least above the Dearborn, and there are 4000 trout per mile here after all.  After picking up a few must have flies, we heed the last bit of advice "don't be afraid to fish the hole on someone's lawn, just remember to wave as you float through".
Well the Missouri didn't disappoint, even for non-dredgers like Marshall and I.

Day one was spent getting used to chucking and ducking that long of leaders with that much weight.  It also brought quite a few fish, and as usual Brooks spent most of the time on the sticks (one advantage of a guide buddy, they fall into their routine so easily!  Just kidding Brooks, you know I'm always offering to row!)
Oh yeah, part of that routine is netting your fish and taking pictures.....

Day two dawned nice again, but again the knob-turners bumped the flows, oh well maybe now we'd be fishing soft water behind porch steps, but the fish were still there somewhere.  Nothing another 6-8" of leader and another little split shot wouldn't take care of.  Once again the Missouri gave it up like a freshman cheerleader on prom night to the homecoming king.

By the time we got to the takeout there were a few fish rising, after a quick round of rock-paper-scissors Marshall got to throw to the risers.

I told him he risked his built up dredging mojo casting to risers, but what do you do?  We hand't seen fish rise in almost 6 months.
With the boat loaded up we reluctantly prepared ourselves for the trip back over the divide and into the western half of the state and the biblical flows that were the reality getting ready to slap us upside the head.

It was tough driving away from the Mo and her rising fish.  After a quick gas stop in Wolf Creek it was homeward bound.  15 miles out of Wolf Creek my trusty-ish dodge began running warm again.  Damn, I was hoping that sh*t would have magically fixed itself during one of the shuttles, or at least waited until we were back home to really go belly up.  Well not only did it run warm, it overheated.  Not only did it overheat, it puked most of the coolant out the overflow tank.  There we sat, a long ways from home, and less than 20 miles from the Mo and her 4000 fish per mile.  I would be lying if I said thoughts of coasting back into Wolf Creek and fishing some more didn't cross my mind.  Unfortunately reason prevailed and after a phone call to my cousin he agreed to bring a trailer to haul my truck home.  Another call to Brook's wife and she agreed to come and rescue him and his boat.
Oddly enough, the toughest part of waiting wasn't worrying about what was wrong with the truck or what time we would eventually  make it home (I had to work at 7 am the next day and Brooks ironically enough was going to be back on the road EARLY the next morning to guide for a couple of days on the Mo).  The toughest part was sitting there, a mere twenty miles from 4000 fish per mile and not being able to do a damn thing about it!

We made it home sometime after 1 am the next morning.  Oh well, just another day in paradise!


  1. Where can I find a good looking guide like that, that??

  2. I don't know since amvets closed down!