About three weeks ago or so, I was privileged enough to be in the presence of some fly fishing pros in my books. A good friend of mine, Jon Tierney and his roommate, Big R Fly boy Sam Wike, who have both been fly fishing for most of their lives, went for a drift along the banks of the Mighty Mo’. It was my first float ever on the beautiful Missouri River. I know, right! It’s been in my backyard my whole life and I have never taken advantage of it. When I was younger, I bait fished around lower stretches of Cascade on a motor boat a few times, but for me that doesn’t really count. It was on a Sunday about noon we made our way out to Craig to get the latest news about river, and so Sam could talk with his buddy who works in The Trout Shop. After some chit chat, I bought a bad ass Buff and we were on our way. We decided to put in at Mid-Canon and float down to Pelican Point, about a 6-7 hour float. We rigged up and were off. The day was pleasant with partially dark rain clouds in the distance over Holter Lake/Dam and a slight breeze in an overcast sky. The temp decreased from about 75 down to upper 60’s throughout the float. Although the wind picked up heavily for a small stretch, I couldn’t ask for a better float. It wasn’t long before Jon had a fish on. A very nice hook lipped male brown, about 19-20 inches.
We pulled into the shore while Jon wrangled in this brute from the bank. A beautiful fish and the biggest I have seen this year. This was just the beginning of our float, and the adrenaline began to flow. I spent the next part of our float patiently waiting to catch a big fish. By this point Sam and Jon were taking turns rowing and fishing. Each had a few landed with a few getting away. I struggled a bit with a few tangles, but kept my cool and calmly untangled my messes. I was determined as ever to catch at least one fish, as Sam was optimistic about it and guaranteed I would before the end of the day. It was maybe 15 minutes later I felt a tug on my line as I watched my indicator go under the surface. At first I thought just might be another snag, as a few previously occurred. As soon as I saw my line make a few erratic direction changes, I knew I had a FISH ON! I was ecstatic! Finally all my outings and 1000’s of casts this year had paid off. The fish stayed down for most of its fight, but a quick bolt to the surface gave me a chance to see what I was battling. A flash of white instinctively made me think Rainbow, but then I realized it was darker as less shiny and I knew I had on a Mountain Whitefish. I am used to seeing these as I have caught many in the Yellowstone growing up. Undeterred, I kept up the fight and had him landed. That was fun I thought as Sam snapped a few picks.
It was a good size, at least 16 inches. I wanted more, I wanted to land a big brown or rainbow, and a fish I knew would put up a bigger fight. My next fish came about an hour later as I sipped on a white ale, setting my hook with beer in hand! I could see the fish as it was about 5 yards off the side of the boat in clear shallow water. Another whitefish, but this one was a bit larger than the first, and I was pleased. I made a comment about how I still needed to catch a large brown or rainbow, which I had yearned for all year. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited for catching some decent fish, but I like the variety of catching other fish, especially a big brown or rainbow. The float slowed for awhile with Jon missing a few on dries for a short section. I had a purple copper john on for the last section of our float and as we came off a small seam/back eddy. My line hit hard. My rod tip bent hard down near the water’s surface. Sam immediately said it must be a large brown and I got very excited. He told me to let him run if I needed to. As soon as he said this, my line was so tight from the boat drifting further from the seam where I hooked him, and without time to think and give him some slack… Snap! Shit! I had lost him. It had all happened so fast. A beast in my possession for a moment in time, gone, lost to the river. Could have been the biggest fish of my life, yet I will never know. I was hard on myself for losing that one, but it was a lesson learned and experience gained to help me with the next one. Towards the end of our drift, Jon slammed a late spawner near the bank on JJ Special streamer pattern. Her tail and fins had been ripped to shreds as we assume other fish trying to eat her eggs had done so.
Quite interesting to see a late spawner and the condition she was in to say the least. Overall, I had a blast on the river that day. Between the three of us, we calculated 17 fish on with 10 landed. Not a bad day at all in my books. I was just happy to finally have the smell of fish on my hands and to have looked in the eyes of a few very nice fish. I want to dedicate this post to Sam and Jon and thank them for taking me out that day as up to that point this year, it was the best day of fishing I have had. Yes, two fish of larger size is considered my best day on the water so far. Sam was kind enough to post a blog about whitefish with a pic of me from the trip on the Big R Fly shop website. Check it out on the bug blogs!