Lets get the legal stuff out of the way first.  The Upper Clark Fork has a hoot owl restriction from Rock Creek upstream to Warm Springs.  The Bitterroot River from Hamilton to Missoula has a hoot owl restriction.  The Blackfoot, Lower Clark Fork, Rock Creek, Upper Bitterroot, and West Fork have no restrictions.  A Hoot Owl restriction is when fishing stops at 2 p.m. each day.  These restrictions were warranted and we agree with them. They aren’t closures, they are afternoon restrictions,  so please don’t call me and ask if the rivers are going to run dry. On a normal year these restrictions traditionally end between the 12 and 25th of August. It’s not the end of fishing or trout apocalypse. It just means on these particular sections you need to go early and be off early, regardless of the restrictions that is when the good fishing has been anyways.

Missoula Fly Fishing Guides Photography

Fly Fishing the Montana Sunrise

The morning fishing has been solid, the late afternoon fishing is poor.  We are waiting on tricos that showed up yesterday and still milking the Spruce Moth, PMD, and Nocturnal Stone bite. I have no idea why the PMD fishing has lasted so long. It has been an incredible run of that bug that showed up two weeks late.  Bizarre to see PMD’s mixing with the first tricos. There is a discussion about climate change and hatches to be had.  I am sure I will come up with a pithy sermon on the matter that later will be proven wrong by actual events, none the less my tone will remain utterly authoritarian.

We have some characters that come and go on this Missoula fly fishing blog.  Snangler is a repeat offender, due to his ability to find the mushy edges of the Missoula fly fishing drama. Snangler has asked me before who I write about on my “dumbass blog” that he refuses to read. I have assured him that illiteracy is not is not a virtue. I am not sure if he could read the blog he would recognize himself as one of its protagonists.  Changing a name to nickname would be an effective ruse with Snangler.  Even if he could sound out my sentences, not much chance of that though, he would be shocked that some other random fly fishing guide with a crappy nickname had created the same series of unfortunate events for himself, clients, girlfriends, and random river users.  The subjective view many times doesn’t match the one’s personal perception.

This disconnect from reality is what fly fishing guides specialize in.  In its best form it is the helping hand to an overstressed guest to disconnect from whatever work world they are escaping. However its most common form is the twist of ego that convinces a fishing guide that he is saving the world from imminent ruin one secret fly and trout at a time. “The battle is fiercest when the stakes are so small.”

Our river community of Missoula fly fishing guides that are on the water every day is actually quite small. In these close watery quarters rivalries, feuds, and friendships are in flux.  Everybody wants to catch a great deal of trout every day and the bigger the better.  However humans both on the oars and in the knee locks are the largest factor so that can prove unreliable.  Trout fishing on freestone rivers is at its heart a morphing chaos that constantly fights our deciphering nature as fisherman.  We  try to make it simple and at the same time overthink ad nausem.    The water moves either up or down each day on a freestone river and our area has over 350 miles of  drainage over multiple micro ecosystems with a fish population relating to fluid movement.

So we give our little world nicknames to box in complexity or fuel our egos.

The easiest ones to understand are the rivers.

When the Missouri is fishing well we call it “The Mighty Mo'” or just the “The Mo.”  When the weeds are up and the fish are down we call it “The Misery”

When the Bitterroot is throwing bugs and the water is right we are headed to the “The Root.” When it’s low, warm and clear with too many recreational floaters it is the “Shitteroot”or the “Dog Track.” We have had Hoot Owl restrictions on this river 4 of the last 5 years so “Hooterroot” is being thrown around a bit now.

The Blackfoot is the “Big Blackfoot” or “The Foot”, you know the river Norman McClain wrote about – majestic and free.  When its a blank stare from crystal pools from big fish who won’t eat – “The Trail of Tears” or “Dinks on Parade” or “The Badfoot.”

Rock Creek will always be “The Creek” unless it gets under 600 cfs for the floating season in June, then is “The Trailer Eater” or “That damn ditch with a dusty broken road that that should have been graded two decades ago with a bunch of hippy trust fund wade fishers driving way too fast on the blind corners. I am on my third flat tire this season and I think my bearings are starting to go on my axel.” That one is hard to remember, but if you spend a low water season up there you won’t forget it.

The Clark Fork is the “Clarkie” or the “The Fork” when when the flats are full of risers. When its flats and eddies are vacant it is the “ClusterFork”.

The guide nicknames are less clear and many times the owner of the nickname isn’t aware he has it. Some are too accurate to share with their owners.  I found out mistakenly out that my nickname for some time was “The Colonel”, because when I used to ask the guides how the day went I was too pushy on how many fish were caught. As one of my staff pointed out – You sound like you are dragging a razor blade through your arm for kicks as you interrogate us. It was funny and true. Hopefully I have shed at least the characteristics if not the moniker.

I have always liked the name the “Vanilla Gorilla”  He is a giant of man with light skin who rows a small boat that accentuates the his stature.  I don’t think the small boat intentional, but you can’t miss him on the river.

“Stinky” is a trust funder fly fishing guide with white guy dread locks who at some point had decided the only legitimate way to occasionally bathe was in a river.  I went by his boat recently purposely upwind as he was netting a fish.  When he stabbed his net at what was a nice fish Stinky’s full scent exploded upon the boat and his backseat jumped enough to throw off his balance from the knee locks and the guest ended up in the river.  Later at the ramp Stinky was wet as well. As Stinky wandered off to load his boat I noticed the client was smiling and informing  his buddy that the swim was intentional. Apparently Stinky’s client was going to continue to flail until Stinky was lured into river to save him.  His point was Wet Hippy is quite a bit better than Dry Hippy who has forgone traditional hygiene. I guess Stinky was quite surprised to see how strong a swimmer the guest was, yet unable to make it back to the boat quickly. Sorry Stinky you are stuck with name until the dreads come off and rivers are replaced with showers.  I don’t really know Stinky’s real name but I would guess it resembles the type of eastern blue blood name found on a donated library in the Ivy Leagues.

“Whitefish” is a Blackfoot River guide who specializes convincing his clients that whitefish are in fact trout. He tells his clients that the key to landing trout is staring at the rod tip to make sure they have the appropriate bend int he rod. I saw him last season while he was yelling at his angler “Never look down, Never look down! Do you want to land this hog trout or not?!!” He then keeps a small hook remover in his palm that pops the always barbless hook out right at the boat.  The grey tips fade into the blue with no one the wiser. Somehow the trout always get to the net first but other species escape before proper identification occurs. His clients alway hook at least 60 a day, so apparently he has quite a bit of skill in pursuing that particular species. They seem happy if a bit confused.

Pigtail, Predator, Busta Chines, Jonesy, Stool, The Professor, Circus Bear, Beaver, Slappy, The Monk, Wendy, and the Lost Boys are other characters in our river drama. But that is another blog.

We have been fishing the The Foot, Clarkie, and the Root.  Hopefully they don’t change their name anytime soon.