We left Tuesday afternoon to drive out to Montana so that I could pick up my brand new drift boat and fish some famed western trout waters. We arrived Wednesday afternoon, and after picking up the new boat, we were ready to fish.
I learned a lesson on this trip, a very valuable lesson. That is: The weather can change at the drop of a hat and you better be ready for it.
Wednesday night after driving the 19 hours to our destination, we wanted to fish. And so fish we would. We saw some clouds starting to form over the mountains, but really weren’t very concerned with them. With the help of a local fly shop, we chose the stretch of water that would be the maiden voyage for my boat. It was short piece of water that we were told we could “row out of in 30 minutes if you need to”. Sounded good enough for both of us, and so we were off. In 15 minutes we were geared up and on the water with too many rods, reels, and fly boxes like any good fly fisherman would be.
Not more than 30 feet from our launch, I smacked into a bridge piling. “My bad, just getting a feel for the oars!"
About a 1/2 mile down the river, and a gust of wind came. It blew 40, 50, hell maybe even 60 mph straight down the river. It was absolutely howling, and there wasn’t much we could do about it. Next came the rain, and it wouldn’t stop. This wasn’t your normal summer rain shower. No, this was much more than that. This was Mother Nature having too much Starbucks and deciding to drop trou right above us and let fly. The other fun part of the storm was the lightning. Watching lightning strikes hit in close proximity of you is never a good feeling. It’s an even worse feeling when you’re in a wide open meadow, standing in the river with a 9’ long graphite lightning rod in your hands with nowhere to hide. For the next two hours we would get beaten up by wind, rain, hail, and hide from lightning with no other option but to keep on truckin’. By the end of the float, hypothermia was starting to become a real worry. Hands were numb, teeth were chattering. After a hot shower and warm meal, we finally started warming up.
There were fish caught that night to spite the rain, hail, and lightning though. Nice fish too! Unfortunately, I was too cold and wet to have the motivation to take pictures. I was rowing downstream as quickly as I could muster to get back to my car.
Thursday found us waking up to some more wind, and after the cold miserable night on the water before that, we wanted something easier. We were looking for Cuts within a reasonable distance. With the help of some of those same fly shop guys that felt bad for us for the night before, we got hooked up with some stream info. This adventure would send us deep into a mountain wilderness in the middle of grizzly country. The guy in the fly shop warned us about it, but said “I wouldn’t worry too much about them today. They probably won’t be out, and I reckon the chance for a mauling if you see one is probably only 25%”. Oh, well in that case, let’s get over there!
We arrived to some seriously majestic water that was still a bit high from the snow melt, but running very clear. This water didn’t just hold cutthroat, it also had brown trout, rainbows, grayling, and the famed bull trout. Unfortunately, we would see none of those species on this trip up there. None the less, this was an awesome hike through the woods.
This time we had a chance to watch the storms develop from a safe distance. We were more than happy to not be in the boat that day.
Friday morning was our last real day to fish before starting the long drive home. We wanted to do an all-day float, so we started out at the dam next to our campsite, and proceeded to float 9 miles downstream in what could be considered a drift boat circus. This is likely the most fished water in all of Montana, and for good reason. At 8000 fish/mile with a legit chance to catch monster trout, why wouldn’t you want to fish it?
A friend with a football sized rainbow
A few of my own fish.
There is something romantic about the way a Missouri River rainbow trout fights. They’re big to start with, but the amount of fight these fish have in them is unbeatable. They’re just one long slimy torpedo with an engine that doesn’t ever burn out. These are the kinds of fish that will snap your rod for fun and laugh about it. They’re bullies. But they’re damn fun to catch!
Overall, this trip was excellent. We learned many new things including how to row a drift boat, how fast weather can change in the mountains, and how to fish a western tailwater stream. Now it’s time to plan for the next trip out west.
I want to finish by thanking everyone who took some time to give me some tips for the trip. They definitely helped. While we didn't get a chance to fish everything we wanted thanks to the time restrictions and weather, we couldn't have had a better time out there. For those that helped, just know that you always have a spot reserved in my boat if you make it up my neck of the woods for some smallmouth, musky, or Driftless Area trout. Thanks!