5:30 came a little to early but the chance to fish got me out of bed after only a couple snoozes. With the local rivers looking nice and brown, we decided to hit up the Missouri River with our good friend Jeff and get a couple days of fishing in. [If you missed our first trip to the Missouri River read about it here.] After a couple hours we rolled into Craig and got our shuttle situated at the Headhunters Fly Shop. These guys know how to run a fly shop and if your in need of almost anything, chances are they can get it for you or point you in the right direction. Soon we were on the river and the weather was impeccable. No wind and decently warm temperatures kept our hopes high.
The day started off with a handful of small fish. Although fun, we were hoping for something a touch bigger to get the rods bent on.
We soon drifted off the main channel of the Mo and got into one of the small side channels. There were a lot of midges on the water and a few risers. We stripped streamers through the slower holes but with minimal success.
We kept moving and found a pod of risers. After about an hour of fishing we only came away with two misses on top. We were running 5X tippet and a small BWO and were able to trick a few but no fish in hand. We learned that some days 6 or 7X and a very, very tiny fly are the only option on these trouts meal plan.
We kept the train chugging downriver only to be interrupted by another bathroom break. Only this time is was a very opportune time to pull over. As we sat on the side of the river cracking fresh PBR’s, we saw a single riser about 100 yards downstream. A short drift and we were anchored up on the entrance to a small side channel with one slurping fish in sight. A few empty handed drifts with the nymphs and I had had enough. We were going to get one on top or go out trying. I was able to get a slurp from the back of the boat and we decided to get out and put our dry fly fishing to the test. After about an hour all three of us were able to catch rainbows on dries ranging from 17-20 inches. These fish had moved up into a small hole only about 40′ square and about 2-3 feet deep.
After putting the hurt on the few risers in that hole we pulled anchor and kept things rolling. Again we found pods of rising fish but couldn’t connect with the setup we were running. When they say these fish will humble you, they aren’t lying.
After floating past countless risers with no luck we slowly drifted back into Craig America. It’s definitely a very cool experience to see a big fish nosing up and sipping ever so slightly. To catch one like that is even more exciting. We rolled in around 730 and drifting past the last seam we were able to see a train of rising fish. There were at least 20-30 trout nosing out of the water with anywhere from 5-10 up at a time. And there were some big ones in the bunch. That’s something you just don’t see around Missoula and I can see the appeal that the Missouri has to offer. Unfortunately, our batting average on these fish was probably close to like 5% or less. When it’s midges on the meal plan the fishing can be agonizingly tough and a little maddening.
Day 2 we were up an hoping for a bit better day on the river. After some eggs in camp scrambled up with a tasty stick, we were back over to the Headhunters to pick up a few flies and get a shuttle all squared up. Contrary to the weather forecast, we had strong winds and clear skies. The bugs weren’t out in the numbers they were from the day before and the fishing was just plain slow.
We again floated the dam to Craig. The fish were few and far between and small. Not exactly fulfilling our vision for the day.
Around 3PM the wind started to die down and the fish started rising again. We were again in a side channel, trying to snipe those pesky sipping trout.
We counted close to a hundred noses over the last two hours of the float but just couldn’t find the mojo. The casts were right but the setup wasn’t fooling them. 5X wasn’t cutting it and a #18 midge apparently wasn’t either. Hey we’ve been fishing nymphs all winter and spring so we were happy just to get a few over the course of the two days on top. We weren’t the only ones having trouble either. Lots of fellow floaters were complaining of slow conditions from the dam to Craig. Apparently we should have floated from Craig to Mid-Canyon as we found a note from our buddy Tyler Trudeau saying they got into about 40 fish on their float. The Missouri River is one that your going to spend some serious time on before you can say you understand it. We had a great time and hopefully next time the river will be a touch more generous. We did get a small amount of video so we’ll probably make a short mash up here in the next couple of weeks. Be checking back as we near spring hunting season, get closer to getting Contrast done, and hopefully get a small video from this trip up on the site.