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.