Fly-Fishing around Montana with Gwyn and Angie

29th August - 7th September 2013

Gwyn's first fish in the Missouri

On a tip from Steve, an angler from Pennsylvania, who we'd met in Glacier NP, we headed to the Missouri River. This was a river we hadn't really visited before in Montana, so after a stop to re-provision in Great Falls, we headed to the tiny town of Craig, right on the Missouri. Taking advice from the local fly shop about where best to camp, we set up the tent and RV in the fishing access right there in the town.

The boys had time for a quick spot of fishing and Gwyn landed a nice rainbow trout, almost right away. Soon the fishing was cut short by a thunderstorm then dinner.

Next morning we decided to head to Holter Dam, higher upstream, which was supposed to be a fishing hotspot where the camp ground was nearly always full.


Combat Fishing on the banks of the MIssouri

On arrival and finding the river fish teeming with large trout enjoying a hatch and that there were camp sites still available in the camp ground, it was quickly decided that the boys should start fishing, whilst the girls returned to Craig to pack up the previous camp site and relocate to this one! Also while they were doing that, an emergency run to the fly shop was also required and a list was handed over!

By the time the girls returned with the tent, Phil had just hooked a large rainbow which would become dinner. It turned out that not only was the river thick with large fish, it was also lined and filled with eager fishermen. Fishing was almost a combat sport as anglers vied for position on the riverbank! Apparently you daren't abandon your spot for a minute! After the initial success, the fish proved to be pretty smart and not easily fooled into taking the flies offered. They hadn't got that big by begin stupid!

The next morning brought a large trico hatch and the accompanying feeding frenzy amongst the fish. Phil managed to land several large rainbows before lunch. During the afternoon, we launched the canoes and floated the stretch of river from the dam down to the bridge about three miles away. The fish seemed reluctant again to take the flies on offer, perhaps they were still full from the mornings feed! However as we approached the bridge, Phil did manage to land a big rainbow trout, after it had towed us around in the river for a while! As we headed to the haul-out, the wind began to howl, making progress against the wind almost impossible, despite the current carrying us in that direction. We were glad we'd almost reached the bridge before the wind piped up! By the time Christine had peddled back to camp to fetch the RV and the others had deflated the canoes, we just had enough energy to enjoy the fish dinner and fall into bed, the camp fire idea forgotten!

Yellow Headed Blackbird

Next morning, having already explored the dam on foot, Angie and Christine decided to take the bikes over the dam and try to make it to the town they could see across the reservoir. Again a shopping list was issued, we needed a new small propane bottle.

The trip was an adventure. On crossing the dam, the bikes had to be wangled through an 'x' shaped gate, pushed up a muddy lane and ridden past some rather shabby looking cabin buildings. It was only on reaching the road and lifting the bikes over another gate, that the girls looked back to see the “no trespassing sign” - oops! There hadn't been any signs at the bottom! Better head back the long way around! Several steep hills brought them to a boat marina and miraculously they had one mini propane bottle left in stock, also ice-cream!

Hooked him right in the lip

Oh, has he got another one?

Gwyn kept a brave face as Phil pulled trout after trout from the river, pressing the call button on his walkie-talkie, to summon his resident photographer every time. By the end of day two, Gwyn had definitely perfected his nonchalant fishing face!

The day we were leaving the Missouri dawned bright and sunny and the boys just needed one last spot of fishing before they left. The girls packed, filled the truck with water, pulled over to the fishing spot at the time we'd agreed to leave and finally, in exasperation, tooted Harvey's horn to get the boys off the river. It was at that point, on his last cast on the Missouri, that Gwyn finally landed his fish and could abandon the nonchalant visage!

Was it Harvey's horn that scared it onto the hook?? We'll never know!

Next we were headed to the beautiful West Fork of the Bitterroot, with a brief stop en route at Missoula for our friends to take a tour of the National Forest Service “Smokejumper Center”. We'd visited previously and Gwyn and Angie were as fascinated with the activities of the fire-fighters who parachute into remote forest fires as we had been.

We headed to our favourite camp site on the West Fork, Rombo, and set up camp.

With an abundant supply of firewood, lying around the camp ground, Gwyn finally got the chance to attempt his camp fire flat bread, which was delicious and went exceptionally well with a hearty curry!

Christine and Angie found plenty to amuse themselves whilst the boys pursued the fish in the river. There was a trip to Darby to run some errands and check out the shops, bike rides to explore the beautiful valley, one of which ended in a puncture and finally they got around to a spot of jewelry making. Unfortunately it was as the beads were all carefully laid out on the table inside Harvey, that the boys suddenly urgently needed to go up the road in the truck to fish near the dam! The trip was made with Angie and Christine strewn across the table, trying to hold beads in place.

That evening brought another glorious camp fire and more delicious flat bread. It was only once we'd headed to bed and our friends were tucked into their tent that the wild thunderstorm hit. Lightning flashed all around and we were deafened by loud thunder and torrential rain hammering on Harvey's metal roof. We could only wonder how our friends were faring in their tent but reluctant to head outside into the deluge to check on them, decided just to unlock the door, so they could come in if they were swamped!

Next morning they emerged, slightly low on sleep but having survived the storm in their new tent. Of course, as we were headed on, we had to take down the tent wet and find some way to store it until we arrived at the next camp ground.

Our route to Ennis, led us right to the Idaho border and we couldn't resist the photo opportunity, even if that was as far into the state as our friends went. We climbed up Chief Joseph pass and drove slowly through the touristy wild west style town of Virginia City before arriving at Ennis. Here Gwyn and Angie had chance to explore the town while we took care of the laundry mountain we had accumulated.

We headed on to the fishing access at Raynold's Pass, on the Madison River and the fishing rods came out straight away. It didn't take much longer for us to be surrounded by stunning thunderstorms, which seemed to circle the valley all around us but missed us entirely!

The boys fished all of the next day whilst the girls explored the banks of the river, spotting wildlife, including curious swallow nests below the bridge, a snake which had bitten off more than it could chew and a strange naked man bathing in the river. At this point we decided to hike on the other side of the river instead and arrived where Phil was fishing just in time to take a picture of a huge trout he'd just hooked. We also enjoyed the surreal spectacle of a cloud climbing up a mountain.

Nests under the bridge

Greedy snake – no photo of the other wildlife fortunately!

Mountain climbing cloud.

We decided to head to Quake Lake the next morning and paddle the canoes in search of fish. On our previous visit there had been a huge hatch and the air was thick with flies, also Christine had fallen in the river. This time she was determined she was visiting by boat!

We set off early, having been warned that the wind usually picked up at 1 pm, making it hard to paddle back up the lake. The fishing proved slower than on the previous visit but Phil did manage to lure two good fish and one other which he took by surprise by dropping a fly right on its nose as it lazed below the anchored canoe. We weren't sure who was more surprised us or it. Of course the fishing, as usual, lasted longer than planned and it was as we began to head back up the lake at around 1.30 pm that the promised wind put in an appearance.

The fishing fleet on Quake Lake

Who looks more surprised?

Eventually we all made it safely back to the boat launch, which was a long haul in the howling wind and the chop which developed on the lake. Arm muscles were screaming in pain and we were all relieved to set foot back on dry land.

Exhausted we devoured lunch and headed back to Raynold's Pass. Somehow Phil and Gwyn managed to find the energy for another spot of fishing that evening, this time from the safety of the river bank.

Butterfly greeting us at the boat ramp

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