Tuesday, March 1, 2011

River Soul

I am engulfed in perpetual bliss. Mother nature's song sings a familiar tune. Mayflies dance upon a canvas backdrop as if scaling the distant mountains on the horizon. A calescent sun peaks above the skyline as it's rays peek through the translucent wings of the tiny Baetis, like miniature stained glass windows held within the holiest of all chapels. Caddis tickle the water's apex, tantalizing the trout below. The quaint pulse of the river whispers the sounds and the story of it's abiding past. Rocks swell with growth from hard earned time; undisturbed. The innermost sediment imprisons their words and the truth of their existence for the rest of eternity. As an Earth bound by limits within a vast expansion slowly revolves in an inexplicable realm; the trout swim freely amidst her arteries, witness to the aqueous beginnings of life. I get lost in rivers and streams, like water loses and carries away its secrets with age. Water is my lifeblood; it penetrates my soul and permeates my existence. I am one with the river. The River is one with my Soul.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Missouri River Valentine

I actually didn't fish the Missouri on Valentine's Day, but I was able to the day before so I'll consider the title of this post relevant. The weather in Montana has been much like a NASDAQ stock exchange line chart. Peaks and valleys with weather temps in the high 30s - mid 40s for a few days, then back to miserable chilly, cold single digit temps. The pattern has been uncharacteristic lately for this time of year in Montana. When the peaks of warm weather come around, local anglers get the itch and head out on the familiar Missouri River tailwater in the middle of winter to give their mid winter woes a kick in the ass. There nothing better than getting out on the water after a month or two hiatus from not fishing, or just getting away your fly tying bench.

With the wind howling in Great Falls, I decided to call out to Headhunters Fly Shop to see if she was howling along the banks of the Missouri itself. Mark actually took me outside on the phone with him and said it was relatively calm, about 10 mph. Compared to the 30 to 40 mph winds in town, it was a mere breeze considering. So I got my things together quickly and was out the door in a flash.

The night before I had attended the Drake Fly Fishing Film Tour and tradeshow. Great food, great beer, and great fishing films! Along with the freebies I was able to get my hands on, I was ecstatic to hear my ticket number called during the raffle prize drawings. The prize, a new Simms Chest/Hip Pack in camo fabric ($90 value)! I was very excited and was well worth the $10 I spent on the tickets themselves. I was so excited to use it, I decided to transfer a few things over from my Orvis Sling pack. It has tons of space and pockets and is very accessible by design. I love it!

I went to the Bull Pasture fishing access sight off Recreation Road once again, as I had on my last outing Christmas Day. Before, not a single car was in the parking area, but this time three other vehicle were lined up. It was a little discouraging, as I hoped that nobody was in "my spot" below the dam. Luckily as I walked the long trail towards the dam, I passed all the other angler's and was able to get to the run I like to fish with no one else around. I tied on the go to Firebead pink sowbug pattern which landed me the variety of many nice fish on Christmas.

The early afternoon began slowly but it wasn't long before I saw my orange thingamabobber stop and dip under the surface just feet away from me. This fish made a few good runs, sticking near bottom during the whole fight. I figured it was a whitefish with the way it stayed down, not once breaking the surface to dance. But as I reeled it closer and closer, it became apparent that this was a nice 'bow, about 20 inches. This beauty had very dark mottled complexion, the type of Mo river rainbow you don't see everyday. Could have been an early spawner, with the tells tale signs of her chewed up pelvicl fins. I snapped a pic and gently slid her back into the chilly water and off she went.

It wasn't three or four more casts later as I saw my indicator dip under again in just about the same place as before. Before I knew it, an even bigger rainbow was on the line and was dancing out of the water directly at me before I had a chance to strip in excess line after the hookset. I quickly started to strip the line in as I saw the brute relax and head down to the bottom just a few feet from me. By the time I got the line tight, the large trout had spit the fly and leisurely swam away as I watched what about a 24 inch fish swim from my sight. It all happened so fast I didn't have a chance to get upset. I was actually calm and reserved and was a bit excited by the action the fish had given me. I told myself just to keep fishing, I'd stick another one soon.

Little did I know, that was the last action I'd see over the next two hours and for the rest of the afternoon for that matter. The only thing I caught was a case of some pretty cold feet from not moving around so much. I did slowly make my way down river in those two hours, with an emphasis on SLOWLY. My feet were aching so I decided to walk back to the truck. In previous outings, I've always stopped on the way back to look at the water just below the parking area for any last chance of landing one last fish. It never seems to fail, I always see a few risers if I sit and watch for a few minutes. This time the riser looked like a large one. At one moment while just leisurely drifting a pink amex in the slow water, a very large back broke the surface and made a HUGE wake! Big enough to make me think it was a Beaver's back. I figured this thing was taking midge emergers or just chasing baitfish of sorts. I was thinking of swinging a streamer out there, but decided just to pack it up and whatever it was probably wouldn't be interested.

All in all, I had a great day with nice weather. Although the wind did have it's moments of strong gusts, it was very manageable. At least the Mo was kind enough to let me land hold that one single rainbow, which I will remember as my Missouri River Valentine.

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Back on 2010

As I reflect upon my fly fishing adventures in the year 2010, I can't help but to think how far I have come since I first picked up a fly rod at the age of 7 or so. Those days as a kid were spent trying to cast and fish bushy hoppers and salmon flies with my cousin Jacob on the Yellowstone River in our backyard. Although I had no concept of fly fishing and the world it entailed, seeing an eager trout rise to the fly at such an early age is a memory I will cherish forever. Little did I know, this would be a memory that would be buried in the depths of my psyche until nearly 20 years later; where it would be resurrected by experiencing the nostalgic episode time and time again as a mature fly fisherman; where it would spark a passion that would burn inside of me the rest of my time on this earth.

It disappoints me to not know and not understand why I decided to put away that fly rod for so many years of my life. I dabbled with that old rod a few times throughout my adolescence, but not enough to gain much understanding of the sport. The distractions of growing up as teen such as girls, sports, and girls would be my only guess as to why I never gave fly fishing a shot during that time in my life. If only I could go back in time and gain the experience of what I know now at a younger age.

The year began slowly as high water levels on Belt Creek reduced to normal flows in early August, nearly 2 months later than the previous year. Most of my fishing was spent on the Missouri, until Holter dam managers released 1000's of CFS from it's grips causing wade fishing to become a very dangerous environment. Reaching nearly 20,000 CFS for 1-2 weeks, banks and boat ramps became flooded. Not my cup of tea.

A highlight of my year included fishing the North Fork of the Teton River near Cave Mountain on the Rocky Mountain Front. My cousin Donnie accompianied me with his bait rod, and hooked himself a nice cutt or two. Beautiful, full-bellied cutts and brookies eagerly took hopper patterns from the swift shallow riffles, and pockets behind large mid-stream boulders on my fly rod. Of the baker's dozen of fish caught, a 15 inch lavender-chrome toned brookie caught with a Joe's hopper was the "trophy" of the trip. Even the 18 inch cut-throat couldn't beat the beauty the brook trout possessed.

I'm dissappointed for not making a trip to the Bozeman area to fish with my cousin Jacob, who is lucky to have the Madison, Gallation, East Gallatin and Yellowstone Rivers, all within a hop, skip, and a jump away to fly fish at his disposal. I'd say a trip this spring before the run-off is in order.

I also fished the Middle Fork of the Dearborn once again at Scott's cabin near Lincoln, MT over the 4th of July weekend. Compared to the 30-some fish I caught in the previous year, a mere handful is all I could muster to the fly this go around. It's a beautiful area and look forward to making another trip in 2011.

I also made a couple trips out with my girlfriend Missy to the Sun River and Belt Creek. Although she didn't fly fish, she was content taking photos, relaxing with music from her ipod, as well as studying the stream-side insects. I intend to buy an 8 foot 4 weight for the smaller creeks I intend to fish, and for the new ones I intend to explore in the new year. Montana has hundreds and I see no reason why I shouldn't be fishing them. Who knows, I just may find a new gem with some beautiful fish to catch, and this way, I'll have an extra fly rod for Missy to take along and learn with.

Other highlights of the year include catching what is the largest trout I have ever caught on the fly rod. It happened on Memorial Day, the day my nephew, Ethan Elliot Baker was born. I was out fishing on my own on the Missouri River near the Mid-Canon fishing access. I hooked into the heavy fish in the heavy riffle water, just a along the seam. The fish fought hard, as it took off down the river I frantically chased it in the same fashion as Paulie had in "A River Runs Through It." This fish went aerial more than once during the fight, thinking it was a rainbow. I knew this was a special fish as my heart raced and finally landed him 50 yards downstream. I was surprised to see a light chrome brown trout in the net as I laid the fish to rest near the bank. I was lucky to have gotten a pic with my not so good camera on my phone. The fish taped out near 23 inches and in my best guesstimation, it had to be about 4 lbs. Truly a pinnacle in my life of fly fishing.

Just recently, on Christmas Day to be exact, I nearly trumped that 23 inch brown with another monster. This fish, another brown, measured in at just over 22 inches. Not nearly as fat, but another trophy fish. Besides that brown, I also caught some fat 19-21 inch rainbows, and a nice whitey. Overall, I could not have asked for any better gifts on Christmas Day.

In other exciting news, I took a spey casting class in October on the Missouri River. Organized by Big R Fly Shop, Bruce Berry of Beulah Fly Rods came to Great Falls, from Oregon to teach a class of about 10 a few of the many different spey casts. I learned the switch, spey, double spey, and snap "C" or snap "T" casts. I can't say I am a "pro" yet at casting, but it has definitely opened my eyes to brand new possibilities to explore, even on the Mo'. Recently I purchased a Loop Evotec reel for the 11' 6WT Imperial Switch rod I've had since February. I have a Skagit and a Scandi head for fishing dries, nymphs, and streamers. As soon as the weather warms up this spring, I will be actually applying the casts I have learned and use them to put me into some fish in some runs I would never have been able to cast to before. It's amazing to know that I have learned the foundations to be able to easily cast 80 feet in any direction, 360 degrees around me, no matter my position in the river. I'm super stoked!

Once again, my sweet girlfriend decided to surprise me with an extreme gift (switch rod on Valentine's Day) this time with a 9' single man pontoon boat. I am so fortunate to have a girlfriend who fully supports my passion, and provides me with the tools to continue pursuing it. I am forever grateful to her. I CANNOT wait to put this thing together and float down the Missouri on a hot summer day, soaking in the sun and catching trout in fishy lies in which I would have never been able to reach without this boat! I also intend to search out some small mountain lakes and spend time camping and fishing. It's great how many new possibilities have opened up just by having access to a kick boat.
A new year arrives with new frontiers. My passion for this sport grows with every new adventure. I find myself constantly daydreaming about going to far off exotic places. If only money were not an issue or my career, I'd be on the next flight to fish the backcountry, gin clear rivers for large brown trout on the North and South Islands of New Zealand, or to the Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina in search of sea run browns, maybe to the Dean River in British Columbia for world class steelhead, salmon, and rainbows, or maybe even to the Florida Keys, Ascension Bay in Mexico, or the saltwater flats of Belize to achieve the Grand Slam of fly fishing, catching a Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit all in the same day. For now, these mere dreams will have to wait to become a reality, and while I wait, the many of Montana's beautiful streams and rivers will have to suffice, with which I have no qualms with whatsoever.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Guided on the Mo'

Last week, I was fortunate enough to have been able to take a mid week break from work and have friend and fishing guide, Kris Keller, take me out for a float on the Missouri River. We made plans to meet in Craig Wednesday morning around 10 a.m. I rolled into Trout Town a bit early, got my gear ready and went into headhunters to get the daily buzz. After chatting with owner John Arnold for a few minutes, Kris and his friend Alisha came in to meet me. We shuttled my vehicle to the Mid-Canon access and then made our way back to Craig where we would start the float. We got our rods ready, put our gear on the boats, hopped into the boat and we were off! At last, the river was calling my name! The forecast called for cloudy skies with mostly rain all afternoon. Part of me was hoping for partly cloudy skies for a chance of a baetis hatch, and the other part of me wanted relaxing beautiful blue skies and a sunny afternoon. The first part of the morning remained a bit cloudy, no bugs were coming off, so we just nymphed. It wasn't 20 minutes into our float and a nice little 15 inch rainbow took the pattern Kris ties himself called Keller's Good Night.

"Kris Keller's Good Night is a BWO nymph/emerger he designed to be a cross between the lighting bug and more traditional style BWO patterns. The dun colored CDC wing gives the nymph a pre-emergent look and the flashy color makes this a great nymph when baetis are hatching, even in off color water." - Big R Fly Shop.

Learn how to tie it here.
This little fly turned out to be a killer pattern on bottom feeding rainbow trout throughout the day. As the day wore on, before I knew it, the clouds had dissipated, showing off the beautiful big sky Montana is known for. I was expecting an afternoon of rainclouds and showers, instead Montana showed off her glory, which made the float that much more relaxing. As we neared a nice little run near Jackson's Rock, I had a tangle in my line which made perfect way for Alisha, whose first time fly fishing, to cast to a hungry trout in the swift riffle water. In a flash, Alisha had a feisty rainbow trout slam her bead head nymph. Kris anchored the boat, angling the boat in the best position for her to retrieve the fish. He instructed her well and as the fish neared the net, the line went limp. It's one of those things that happens in fishing sometimes you just can't control. Alisha kept her composure and was happy with her semi-victory! For her first time ever fly fishing, I was very impressed by how quickly she was able to learn.

Just around the bend, off the tail out of an island, a popular seam that is great holding water for trout, my line went tight as a nice rainbow struggled to free himself from the fly. The hook was set perfectly into his upper lip as I brought him into the boat. Another one down, and still lots of good water to float.

We came to a quick riffle at the corner of an outside bend. I immediately positioned my fly along the seam between the slower and faster current, guaranteed to hook a fish. As I had predicted, a nice rainbow took the fly and circled the boat quickly, entangling my line with Alisha's. In a matter of a few seconds, the fish was gone, but we were still only near the head of the riffle. I knew I had another chance at the seam. Again, with one quick flick of the wrist, my line was in perfect position for another take. BAM! My indicator dipped below the surface as if I had hooked into a large rock. Instantly after setting the hook hard, a bright football sized slab of rainbow burst out of the water and this time completely cleared Alisha's fly line which was in the riffle from the rear end of the boat. The fish then took a sweeping Nascar like right turn out 180 to the starboard side of the drift boat. Again, the thick rainbow blasted through the water plane and danced about a foot above the water's surface. It was a beautiful sight indeed! With the fish under control, Kris decided to anchor the boat and not to follow the fish. As soon as we came to a halt, the trout position himself in the riffle column, gaining courage to make a run for it. My reel sang as he bolted for open waters, SNAP, I had lost him! The disappointment was short lived as I knew more trout had to be holding in the riffle we had just anchored near. We took a nice little break there, ate some sandwiches, and it turned out to be a good chance for Kris to get a line wet.

He ended up hooking into 4 more fish out of that run, only 1 of which he was able to land. The three that got away were just "long distance releases" and Kris liked to call them. I was not so fortunate, only having a few weeds to show for my efforts. Kris also brought along his 8 month old black lab, Fergie. After chasing our indicators all day with her eyes, she was happy to have Kris throw around her fetching toy for a while. Though she wasn't too sure about the gang of cows that had congregated, she seemed quite content.

Alas, we were off and running down the river. We were in no hurry, the day was gorgeous. Not a care in the world, it felt great to be out on the water in good company. As the day wore on more fish were caught and a few were lost. I landed a lengthy rainbow in a slow moving section of water, possibly one of the hardest fighting fish I've ever caught on the Missouri. Even with Kris chasing this fish with the boat, my arms and wrists felt like they had just come out of an arm wrestling match.

As we neared the Dearborn tributary, the water coming into the Missouri was dark as chocolate milk and was flowing heavily. Thinking we were screwed, Kris encouraged me to put on a girdle bug with a San Juan dropper and drift them out and along the line between the muddy and clear waters. On my second cast, a rainbow slammed the San Juan worm.

I was impressed by the fly selections Kris had told me to use. I let Kris give it a try with my rod, and a half dozen casts later, he hooked himself a nice Rainbow on the Girdle bug pattern.

We worked the area another 20 minutes. I hooked another nice rainbow before we closed up shop and headed towards our take out.

Over all, double digit numbers of trout were caught, with a few being lost. I had a blast and it turned out to be my single most successful day ever on the Missouri River. If the early season has started out this way, I can only imagine what the summer and fall months will have in store. The caddis should be out in huge numbers soon. If I can't hitch a ride on a drift, you can bet your ass you'll find me roaming the banks of the Missouri in search of rising pods and trouty lies, chasing that elusive trout of a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Breaking News... Belt Creek Robbed! The River Bank Robber Strikes Again!

The headline says it all. Belt Creek starts off with a bang in 2010! Fishing this gem of a creek in a dose of days from high noon till sundown has yielded this rodslinger a mighty 3 dozen + trout of all sorts! Rainbows, Browns, Cutthroat, Cut-bows and Mountain Whitefish. The River Bank Robber has gotten away with murder! These trout ranging from 8 to 16 inches were all slayed and released by the hands of a legend! The man behind the buff must be stopped! A glimpse of this clumsy killer has been caught on film. To the one who apprehends this fly flicker alive will be rewarded with the location of this trout massacre! Who knows which poor trout will be next!
Click the video below to view The River Bank Robber in action!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Foolin' Fish on April Fools

"Now that I felt confident with my choice of fly, I flicked it back out into the current seam, only to have a slick 19 inch brown gobble up the synthetic treat".

I was lucky enough to have the afternoon off from work and with the weather being absolutely gorgeous out, the Missouri River was once again beckoning my return. I hit the frontage road off the Hardy Creek exit and made my way to Rhoda Island area. Only one other vehicle was parked off the road, I was excited for a bit of solitude. Upon exiting my car, I immediately spotted risers off the bank in nice little run. After world record speed of getting my waders on, my rod lined up and fly tied on, I slid into the river ever so quietly. After casting along the seam of the run a couple dozen times, I made a fly change from a Griffiths Gnat to a Parachute Adams. A few casts later and a nice rainbow took the fly. A strong fight and the rainbow in my net.

Now that I felt confident with my choice of fly, I flicked it back out into the current seam, only to have a slick 19 inch brown gobble up the synthetic treat. He fought hard, but quickly tired and was in my reach in no time. One of the skinnier browns I have seen, but I was very pleased with my catch.

I decided to move across the river and over to the area I had caught some nice fish a few weeks before. As I crept up to my familiar spot, I heard a guy telling me to take it slow as there were risers all along the tail out of the run. As I got closer, I recognized the voice as a buddy of mine, Jeremiah Watt. It's funny because I seem to run into this guy on the Mo' most randomly. Usually I see him floating by in his raft with his girlfriend Brooke on the oars. I was excited to actually get the chance to spend some time fishing with him. He gave me a fly of his choice to use and we began to hit the area hard. By this time, I finally became fully aware that fish were rising in every direction. Literally 360 degrees around me. I felt like a kid a candy store, picking and choosing the spots to cast to rising fish. I worked a run for a good 15 minutes, only to have the small, finicky trout tease me with their look and turns at my fly. I decided to work up the river to the tail out of my favorite run. Jeremiah had now hooked into a couple of nice looking trout.

A few moments later I had small rainbow on the end of my line. It was good to finally have one on after about an hour of casting dries to hundreds of risers. Here's where the foolin' part comes in. Now one might think that with hundreds of fish rising around me, which I have never witnessed on the Missouri River before, catching a handful or two of fish would be an easy task. Not the case. I tried about 4 or 5 different flies in hopes of fooling at least one more of these fish. These fish are so selective and key in only on the naturals and if your fly is not the right size and color... forget it! I came ill prepared. The fly that Jere' had given me would not work for the life of me, the Adams was the flavor of over an hour ago, the big and ugly were, well just too big and too ugly! I figured I needed a tiny ass size 22 midge pattern of sorts and I had nothing. The closest thing I had was a spent trico pattern which after a dozen casts yielded only frustrating rises inches to the left, right, front, and side of it. What's happening here?! Well, that's the world famous Missouri River laughing in my face is what that is! Of all days to get fooled by a bunch of picky trout, it just so happened to be on April Fools Day. Although the day wasn't a complete bust, I still feel I was taken for a fool. Maybe these fish here are a little more cunning than I give them credit for. Who knew Missouri River trout have a secret calender with a big red circle on April 1st that reads "Fool All Foolish Anglers".

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Missouri Gives Up Some Nice Trout

Montana offered another beautiful day in late winter, and once again, I was not going to pass up a wonderful day of fly fishing the Missouri River. This time, a co-worker Dave and I would team up and hit the Missouri hard. We ended up in Craig at Headhunters Fly Shop around 11 am. After getting some great tips in the Headhunter blog earlier that week, I knew the exact flies I was going to pick out for my arsenal that day. I asked where a good place to go for some dry fly action, and was directed towards the Rhoda Island area. This area is full of small braided side channels and islands, and has the structure and feel of smaller creek fishing which I hold near and dear as my preference of fly fishing water. With a guarantee to catch 4 0r 5 fish from the dudes in Headhunters around that area, Dave and I made our purchases, including my renewed fishing license, and hit the frontage road with visions of rising brutes.

As we rigged our lines, Dave noticed a surface feeding fish just at the tail out of a nice run near the bank. The setup I decided to use was a size 20 Midge Modger hung about 8 inches from a size 10 Wilcox JC Special dry fly.
Funny as it is, the JC Special is an attractor dry of sorts and resembles no insect of any sort, especially for the chilly winter months. Apparently it has been a hit the past week on the Missouri so I thought what the heck! Large attractor dry fly fishing in early March, hell yes, count me in! I was the first to get my rod ready with the tandem flies, Dave followed suit. Like a predator creeping upon its prey, I slowly made my way to the edge of the bank in position to cast to the progressive rising fish in the tail out. I false cast out enough line to place the flies about 10 feet above the fish so they would drift directly over the unsuspecting trouts head. Dave and I watched patiently as the flies approached, they drew closer, nearer, right on top of him now... BAM! The little rainbow had made a pass at the top water dry, but a last second change of mind put the Midge pattern directly into his lip! It's been a long time since my first cast of the day yielded a catch. I stripped my line in, netted the 12 inch rainbow, and gave a little whoop! Dave was impressed with the reward of the trout from a single cast, and applauded my victory as I released the little guy back to his home. With the adrenaline rushing through my veins, it was a great start to the day indeed.

Just out and across from the bank where I had just landed the rainbow was a nice riffle created by the end of an island. Dave decided to attack it from river right as I waded across to mid river to work it from river left. Eager to get on the water, Dave had just realized that he had his sink tip line on and not his floating line. Not an ideal setup for a dry fly dropper rig. As he changed spools and re-tied his flies to the leader, I drifted, and re-drifted the riffle seam hoping to bump into another unsuspecting trout. As soon as Dave was ready to fish again, I gave him the run and told him I was going to explore the other bank and side channel for risers.

I made my way down a shallow side channel searching the banks for rising and porpoising trout. The water was quite low and figured I'd have to find some deeper water that would be perfect for fish to hold in. I came to a V shape point at the end of an island where another side channel met the one I was scouring, and immediately stumbled upon a deep, slow hole and began counting the surface breaks. 1, 2, 3, 4.... "Bingo!", I thought. I crouched and crept closer, ensuring a prime position for make my back cast. With a few flicks of the wrist, I made my presentation about 3 feet above the center of the 4 rises I had seen only moments ago. The flies moved into position. The suspense was killing me, seconds seemed like hours as I waited for any notion a fish would take the phony meal presented to him in a delicate fashion. The endless wait my anxious mind had ensued was abruptly interrupted by the heavy tug at the end my fly line. She had taken the midge dropper. I began stripping in my line as if it were a lifeline and my life depended on not letting go of it. As the mystery at the end of my line drew near, it immediately made a bolt for it and danced across the small pool with grace. A gorgeous brown had been duped by my fly and was now victim to the battle that was now to commence! I let her run a bit, but not too far. She was mine, and I was not going to lose her! I put her on the reel after her first run, wrangled her in closer and again, she ran, and again. Finally, after what seemed like the Hundred Years War, I had the large brown in my net and then into my grips. A stunning brown, the likes of which countless other anglers before me on the Missouri have accomplished, I felt like I had toppled Troy at that moment! All the hard work, countless fish less days on the Missouri and I had staked my claim, a 19 inch golden nugget of a fish in my hands, worth more to me than its weight in gold! To some, and most who fish the Missouri, this fish would just be another catch, an average size for this river. But for me, the biggest trout on the Mighty Mo' and it came righteously deserved after a solid year of fishing it. I was victorious!

After studying the beauty for a minute, I gently released her back to the water. I regained my composure and cast right back out to the same deep, slow moving water to the fish rising madly to the midge hatch. A cast or two later and another fish had rapidly inhaled the midge again. This was another heavy fish and he was ready to fight. He rose to the surface ferociously and danced wildly with passion across the surface. Rainbow I thought, but as I tugged him up to the bank, it was a plump whitefish, and a brute he was! A solid 18 inches and a chubby pot belly on him. I was blown away at the size of these fish!

The whole setup I was fishing with was actually working just as I had hoped. A simple yet ingenious and powerful solution. Attract 'em to the surface, and hook 'em on the emerger pattern below. I released the rocky mountain bone, and another half dozen or casts later and I finally had a brown snatch the dry fly! He was about 15 inches, but a tough little guy. I was ecstatic he had taken the large fly on the surface. It's a great feeling to accomplish in winter!

The hatch was beginning to die down as the rise forms on the surface began to dissipate and become very few and far between. About 40 minutes had passed during all this and Dave had just reached the area I was in. As I was explaining to him what had just happened, I felt another tug at the end of my drifting flies. Another medium sized brown was the culprit as I brought him to the net just in time to show Dave. I quickly released him and moved aside in order for Dave to have a shot a the end of the frenzy. It was bad luck, and just plain ole' bad timing on Dave's part as not a single rise or bite occurred since the moment of his arrival. The "window" had completely closed. Matter of fact, it had slammed shut! We fished most of the area for another couple of hours without seeing a single rise or hatch. It's funny how fishing can turn on and off at the flick of a switch.

We headed back to the truck, ate some lunch and decided to head over to the Jackson Rock area. We noticed 2 or 3 drift boats anchored in the area, hoping it was a sign that the fishing was good. To change it up, we decided to chuck some streamers against the banks, and through the deep runs. I chose to use a bright white and red sculpzilla pattern and Dave went with an olive wooly bugger. Another good hour passed of chucking and ducking, stripping and swinging with no hits, it was time to pack it up and head out.

The day was very exciting early on and I caught the most fish I ever have on the Missouri River. I felt like I was on Belt Creek on a nice Spring/Summer day casting to risers with attractors! It was a blast! I had hoped Dave would have hooked into a few, but for him, he was just happy to have gotten out on such a beautiful day.

The Missouri River, for me, is a tough fishery, and I'm sure I will spend most of my life trying to figure out how to catch fish from it. For a moment in time that day, she opened herself to me, giving me the satisfaction I yearn for and the fuel to keep me coming back over and over again. As it usually goes, I'll fall into a fish-less slump for awhile, but this experience has only fired me up to work harder to catch more and more fish, and ultimately has given me hope to land the fish made of dreams!