As hard as it is to peel yourself away from the Salmonfly craze of the mountain rivers, you are always glad you did when you are standing at the Wolf Creek boat ramp at sunrise. Gulpers and sippers work the greasy water, while pelicans and seagulls flop and squawk on the goose shit covered islands. Bugs are already peeling off the river, their obvious dun forms gliding lazily into a twenty inch rainbow’s mouth. Ah, the Mo! Back Home.
Don and I have fished this river many times together, probably more than any other river. We just keep coming back; or at least Don keeps calling me and booking trips, so I’m all in as long as he is! You never know what you are going to find on the Mo, maybe nothing. This is a tough river: definitely not for the beginner if you have any hopes of seriously throwing a dry fly. That takes a different beast. Patience and precision are absolute virtues on the Mo, and the more you have the more you unlock the river. Untouchable fish start to become possible, and eventually even predictable. But I better watch what I say lest the Mo Gods punish me next time with howling winds and frog water.
This trip goes down as an all time epic Missouri foray. Three days we gave it hell: first boat in every morning, and on our favorite haunts while the water was still fresh and the fish just starting to move. We search out flats where the river shallows up to knee deep or less, some of them football fields in size. When the hatch gets cranking, PMDs in this case, fish move onto the flats to feed where the bugs are most plentiful and accessible. A cautious eye will find pods of feeding fish, sometimes almost indiscernible in the rippled water.
This is when it gets glorious on the Mo. Slipping out of the boat and into the flat on foot, risers eventually surround you. Some are untouchable because of the angle, and some are just too far to get an effective drift. But once again, patience and precision are the name of the game. A well placed, mended, and drifted bug has every chance of bringing home a twenty inch rainbow on that long piece of 5x terminating a fourteen foot leader. Anything less than perfect, you might as well throw rocks at them.
It’s been a great week on the Big Hole for the mid June happenings: Salmonflies and Goldens rushed through the river and belted off tremendous hatches, making for excellent fishing throughout the week. Some days were pretty slammed with boats-I must have seen 60 last Saturday on Divide to Melrose-but there’s plenty of good fishing for those in the know. Most boats are playing Hank Williams Jr. on a D battery boom box and chucking Rapalas and spoons so really no threat there. Just smile and wave and hope they chuck you a beer while we get down to business with the sneaky dry flies.
I ran this week for the Complete Fly Fisher in Wise River, guiding new guests to the lodge and showing them the best of the river. We fished approximately 60 miles of the Big Hole: from the upper water at East Bank to the lower end at the Notch Bottom, the river entirely different at each end. The week started strong on Salmonflies and Goldens, but eventually I had to resort to the sneaky stuff to really find the fish.
Sometimes our hatches get a bit played out, to say the least. Guides start hucking Salmon bugs weeks before the hatch-I am guilty-and the fish are pretty much hook shy by the time the ol’ hatch comes around. Well, throw it while you can, and when it’s not working, go smaller. Then smaller again. Until you start finding bugs the fish will take vigorously, as well as searching out water not being hit heavily. There’s a bit of guide knowledge not to be taken lightly! Look where people are NOT fishing, or at least not fishing well. Heavy water, strong insides, deep under willows, and back channels are all places not overfished. Keep searching; the fish are feeding somewhere on something you have in your flybox!
Here we go, the journey begins. Fishing is pretty stellar at the moment, and I only see it getting better for the next few weeks. Pre Salmon and Golden stonefly fishing is off the hook if you know where to look. The main Bitterroot is shaping up sweet and the upper end is a wonderful as ever, a third the size of the mainstem.
So it’s off to the races on the river for us guides. I’m slammed with personal trips until August, starting tomorrow on the Big Hole. The boys are manning the homefront, taking guide calls and setting up trips. Schedules are getting tight so get to us sooner than later to book a fishing journey with us. Reach us by email or phone, numbers on the contact page. See you on the river.