Call nowBook now

Missoula Fly Fishing : Photos, Season Wrap

Missoula Fly Fishing guides photo heading out

Fishing in Montana Late and Solo on the Clark Fork

I took some time off lately to hunt, fish, sleep, think, and digest the Missoula fly fishing season. We had been running boats everyday since the beginning in March of 2018.

In the early days of my guiding career  it was just me and boat.  Anglers would show up and I would take them fishing. Most days we caught enough fish and some days we didn’t. I didn’t have enough on my outfitting plate to keep it going everyday, so I would get plenty of time to take off and fish on my own.

Black and White Photo Angler in Missoula Montana

Empty Rivers in the Late Season

I fished a lot by myself in those days.  Even though I grew up in Stevensville, Montana I certainly didn’t fish all of the water that we now guide on.  I stuck to the Bitterroot River, which was close to home and vacant in the 80’s.

Aerial Photo Bitterroot River

Aerial Photo Bitterroot River Near Missoula Montana

There was so much that was new as guiding anglers out of Missoula forced me to expand my knowledge of all our water.  My friends had real jobs. I hadn’t even met yet the great group of guides  I fish with now.

The Clark Fork was the river I knew the least. Which is funny because we ended up building our lodge on the banks of that river just downstream of Missoula. My office overlooks it’s water now and I see her every day in through the season.

Aerial Photo Clark Fork River

Clark Fork Just Downstream of its junction with the Bitterroot River

As the numbers of boats grew that were on our team at Missoula River Lodge along with the coming of children to our growing family my time spent alone in a boat diminished.  The Missoula fly fishing season now is multifaceted with other concerns and time commitments taking precedence.

Aerial Photo Banks of the Bitterroot

Patterns of the Late Fall in Montana

So after two decades of guiding in Montana my relationship with water is less juvenile.  I have leaned on all our water. What was new when I was in twenties is now familiar, but in many ways more layered with memories casting complex hues into the Missoula fishing world.

Global photo Milltown Missoula

Global Photo: The Old Dam site at Milltown Montana

Somehow water has become more intense and easy going at the same time. The season can be a tightrope of managing what the river conditions will give you and how much you make of its natural cycle of feast and famine.   The bent rod feels better than an empty stare. The wet net trumps the drudgery of having to keep changing the fly to fool a trout who seems to consistently see through your charades.

Photo of Angler catching a fish in Montana

Hooking a Trout Up in Missoula, Montana

As the leaves fall and the cottonwood skeleton’s show along the banks there is a need for decompression.

aerial photo clark Fork river near Missoula Montana

Empty cottonwoods along the Clark Fork River

10 years ago I would wrap up the season and the next day I would winterize all the boats to not be seen again until the Spring.  I look back on that now as the burnout phase of guiding. I think it comes from staring too much at the fly and refusing to look around at the arena.

Fishing Missoula Montana November 2018

Wadefishing Near Missoula Montana – November 2018

The camera lens is what saved me from getting out of the guide business. It forced me to focus on the fishing as a whole and not whether the appropriate number of trout were caught daily. Rainbows over the river matter just as much as those that swim in it.

Portage of a boat in Missoula Montana

Pulling a Drift Boat in Missoula, Montana

I go fishing again in the offseason. Sometimes it is with friends and family. Sometimes it is solo. Occasionally it involves a fly rod, but always has a lens tagging along.

The boats are no longer winterized. They stay ready to float when the weather and light is right.  Don’t ask me to do it for pay until March swings around in 2019.

I’ll send you pictures. They will be light on trout and heavy on everything else.