After the first heat wave of summer, and a strong thunderstorm last week Missoula area rivers rose above fishable levels for a few days. We made the trek across the Continental Divide to the Missouri River. We were greeted by a low, clear tailwater happily pumping out Pale Morning Duns, Caddis, and a few different species of stone flies depending on what sections you fished.
Last year the during this timeframe the streamer fishing was excellent, however the flows were drastically higher from the flows encountered on this trip. We committed to streamer fishing the first afternoon half day, which resulted in a blank stare from the rip rap banks, canyon walls, shaded back eddies, and riffles. Two large browns wanted to get our hopes up and levitated up behind the streamer, examined the offering, only to fade back into the depths.
Day two brought us up to Holter Dam. The typical menu of sow bugs and scuds ruled the morning, keeping the rod bent and the reel spinning. After floating under Wolf Creek Bridge enough Pale Morning Duns began to emerge that we shifted gears and sought some softer water to look for rising trout. In a small side channel we found some actively rising fish, and fed a few trout the royal chubby. After lunch the wind picked up put and end to the rising fish, however the nymphing continued to cooperate all the way to Spite Hill.
We picked up where we left off at Spite Hill the next day, with a change in tactics. For two days straight we fished the canyon section with a dry-dropper set up picking apart the shallow riffles, seams, and eddies. We targeted big fish water, and hunted through their haunts. The browns were happy in the canyon, racing away upriver with the fly. An accurate cast against the bank made all the difference, because they weren’t going to move for a meal when there was already food present in the water column.
The fifth and final day was humbling. We fished from Pelican Point to Cascade, on a gorgeous early summer day, with hardly a breath of wind. Caddis and PMD’s began to hatch early and built in volume throughout the day. On paper we should have caught a lot of fish, however the trout had other ideas. Trout are hardwired to sense changes in their environment, an ill timed anchor drop, the slight wake from the current pushing off the back of the drift boat, a fly line landing a touch too forcefully. It is safe to say the trout did not let us get closer than the length of an entire fly line. If we chased the pod to the back of the flat, after a brief lull they would begin to rise again…. Behind the boat.
Guides Jacob and Dylan got out on Rock Creek after it dropped into shape the other day, and had an epic day throwing big dries in tight to the willows. Salmon flies have begun their yearly appearance, and most of the logs are cleared out of the War Zone.
As of this writing both Rock Creek and the West Fork of the Bitterroot are dropping hard into shape, and we should be able to fish close to Missoula this week.