My last visit to the Missouri was mid week June when I went on a memorable drift. Up to that point, a half dozen times of getting skunked in late winter early spring, I finally had some redemption. Maybe I spoke too soon, after all it was only one afternoon of delight. Feeling confident, Nate and I packed up the car and the coolers and made our way down Sheep Creek Road near Cascade to a relatively secluded stretch of the Missouri. This spot holds a special place near and dear to me. Throughout my high school years, some close friends of mine had some great days spin fishing in this beautiful area. I remember catching a healthy 18 inch rainbow one of my first times out. I brought it home (wasn't a catch and release guy then) and had a wonderful dinner with the parents. This stretch mostly was guaranteed to give up at least a nice sized fish every time. Even this time last summer when I hadn't rekindled my passion for the fly, I walked away with 5 or 6 notches on the belt after only a half day of fishing with the spin rod. Towards the end of August last year, I decided to bring along the old beater fly rod for the first time in 5 years. The only action this rod has seen has been the dusty corner of the garage. I figured what the hell, I hadn't casted it in years. After hours of no luck, I tossed it downed and luckily had my trusty spin rod along for backup. Then, I was so quick to give up, take the easy way out for the lesser challenge. I look back at this and realize how much I had been missing out on the passion I had buried deep inside my soul for fly fishing. I missed out on a lot of years and probably some big fish.
Off topic, the last year of fly fishing Montana's streams and rivers solo has "changed me". This may sound ridiculous to some, but I somehow have a deeper understanding of my life and what matters to me. I find it amazing that an instrument such as the fly rod and this magnificent playground God has made for us for the sport somehow puts things into perspective. Don't ask me how I know this, but it's just that everything seems so clear and focused, natural and intuitive when I'm on the river. Nothing else comes close to what and how I feel when I'm in this setting.
Back to the story, Nate and I were now on this same stretch of river I know like the back of my hand. Working the current with a Hopper/dropper rig, I diligently made blind cast after cast as I hadn't seen a rise all afternoon. An hour and half passed with no action as we decided to pack up and head further upstream in the car to find better fishing water. We drove all the way up past the Untouchables bridge to another bridge where we saw clouds of Caddis above the small pines which lined the banks. With a few scans of the water before hopping in, I could see a few rises off a riffle 20 yards off the bank. I tied on a pattern to match the hatch, though slightly darker than the natural, I figured the trout would take it over the hundreds of others on the surface. I casted to the rises, drifted over the top of the rises, sides, every possible angle. Frustration began to set in as I watched rise after rise and no hits. Darkness was creeping upon as I kept telling myself "one more cast, I got this". No such luck. Skunked again, head hangin' we called it a day. Nate never even had a bite on his spin rod which even surprised me. A positive for the trip is that Nate decided to try my backup fly rod for a change. I was bummed he had no action, wishing for him to catch one. Maybe I can get him to pick it up again next time, in a place guaranteed to catch fish. This is what I can't wrap around my head. I hear and read in so many places that the Missouri is one of the best rivers/tailwaters in Montana. And I understand this to be best fished in a raft or boat, but why can't this be true for us wade fisherman as well. Maybe I just don't know the "hotspots" or know how to fish it. I do know that it is a very technical river and that the fish think differently here. Seriously though, can it really be this difficult to catch fish here on the fly!?
I came across an article just days after fishing the Missouri last weekend, and it actually shed some light on why I may have such a challenging time on this river. I found the article on the Fish Wildlife and Parks website written by Neale Streeks in the recent publication of Montana Outdoors. Neale Streeks is long time Great Falls resident and guide for Montana River Outfitters. I have actually read a book written by him called "Stalking Western Trout". The book is written well and really encompasses the sport on Montana waters like the Missouri. This particular article from Montana Outdoors actually flicked a switch for me in regards to fishing the Missouri. I'd rather not go into detail of trying to describe what he writes, but I find the "The Rhythmic Rise" section very interesting. I've heard of the concept before, but have never applied it, which I hope to do the next time I'm on the Mo'. It just might be the key to some of my issues I've had in the past. You can read the article here. As always, keep on fishin'.