Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Mid February Mo River Fishing
February in North central Montana has been a mixture and mild and pretentious weather for this winter season. It has been unpredictable, yet it always appears to show some beautiful days when least expected. This was the case Valentine's weekend. Saturday began a day thinking of heading to the ski hill, but when the plan fell through, I decided it would probably be a nice day to fish the Missouri. I hit the open road all alone, as I do all so often, leaving my cares and woes to the city life in Great Falls to bear. The soothing call of the river was all that focused my attention as I made my off exit ramp 234 from I-15 South, and into the town of Craig. For the first time since my last visit in early fall, I decided to stop in and take a look at the newly remodeled Headhunters Fly Shop, and to get some knowledgeable advice about where to head out on the river that day. After looking at some trout candy in the neatly organized bins, I was greeted by Co-Owner and fly fishing guide Mark Raisler. He pointed out some hot flies for me to use, and like a student attentively taking notes, I picked out the flies in a heartbeat, knowing they would pass the test. At the register, Mark and I exchanged our acquaintances, along with his knowledge of my fly fishing blog. I was humbled that he had mentioned he was a fan of my blog and had read every single one of my entries. I promptly replied back that I was an avid reader of the Headhunter blog he writes for the company website, and that it is what partly inspired me to begin one of my own. The friendly conversation grew into whereabouts and hot spots upon which to fish on the Missouri that day. More than obliged to, Mark scribbled out some marks and lines on a Missouri River map,directing me into some great runs and "secret" channels on the river. I expressed sincere gratitude and the pleasure of meeting him, and was off for an afternoon of solitude on the river.
I pulled off to a spot where Mark had told me to hit, eager to get on the water. As I was rigging up, an ephemeral hard sleet like, slushy snow began to pound down on me. Undeterred, I waded out across and side channel out to an island and began nymphing a nice deep run. It was a little faster than I wanted it to be, as I was told slower and a little shallower would be better holding areas for these wintry trout. A good two dozen drifts along the length of the island bank and tail out produced no results. I heard a commotion a hundred yards or so up river as I witnessed a fella wrangle in nice trout from my point of view. 10 minutes later, after he had left, I worked my way nymphing his same slow stretch with no luck. I decided to get into the car and work my way downriver to an area that has always intrigued me, Rhoda Island and Mid-Canon from the river right frontage road. Due to angling pressure on most other days, I had never waded across the small side channel out to the tail outs of the interweaving channels and islands that reside there. I explored the channels for quite some time, nymphing the banks, mid-currents and current seams also with no luck. I had been using a size 14 pink Amex fly the whole afternoon, call me lazy, but I was determined to catch something on that fly. After fishing a nice seam for 6 or 7 drifts, I finally had a hit. The fish tugged hard as I stripped the line in and put him on the reel. He went airborne 2-3 times and saw that he was a nice fish. Rainbow I thought, but as my line came in and the fish drew near, it was a healthy 18 inch whitefish, or as I like to refer to them as, Rocky Mountain Bonefish. I was happy to have the fish, his flank was pearly pinkish white, unlike any whitefish I had ever seen. I gazed at his beauty in the net for a moment and released him back to the river. I always say "one fish a day makes it all worth it". The adage being true and the wind bitterly picking up, I decided to call it a day.
Earlier, I stopped at another pullout that Mark had directed me to, I believe it to be his favorite on the Missouri, the Jackson's Rock area. I scoured the river structure, looking over the stacked rock piles along the outside bank and the inter-twined channels and islands, knowing this would prove to be a hard hit wading area for me as soon as the spring and summer seasons arrive. Bank to bank good water, I have an intuition this area will produce many fish in my 2010 future. This year is being considered a low water year that will make the months of April May and June particularly great wading conditions. Read about what to expect on the Missouri River here. Until then, dreams of large Missouri River trout will have to suffice.