Runoff has been a pretty major event around Missoula this year. It’s basically a flood and even the sure bets like Rock Creek are blown. The creeks are still closed and fishing reports from around the state are ominous. That leaves the Missouri and Bighorn for rivers and rubbing elbows with every guide in the state just sounds terrible. I don’t care if the fishing is bonkers, I don’t want anything to do with that scene and decided my 3 day window for a Montana fly fishing trip would lead elsewhere.
That leaves a few sneaky moving water options and a bunch of lakes. I have a few awesome friends who are living out of their camper, tying flies for a living until they head to Alaska for their guide season.
That’s right, they tie beautiful flies while camped on rivers, living off the grid. Pretty inspiring program and their flies are beautiful. Check out Skylar and Chapin’s flies on Instagram @treestartrailerflies or @driftsky_fishfly.
One of their friends who guides in Sun Valley also joined to complete an awesome crew of 4 people and 3 dogs ready jump on one old bucket boat raft. And somehow we made it work and crushed some fish. We were still within sight of the boat ramp on day when I stuck a 23″ brown on a bugger. I was pretty well set for the trip after that fish and watched everyone catch brook trout, browns and whitefish all day. We had a great camp that night and made plans to move on day 2.
While everyone was rigging on the bank the next day, I high sticked through a slot with a few large boulders. Within minutes I had a brown that may have gone 2-feet. It fought like crazy too.
Chapin and spotted another nice brown a ways downstream and I jumped down a few runs with the dogs to give him space. I chucked my rig in a narrow inside corner and another 2-foot range brown slammed the tan worm.
Fish like this don’t come easy or often in these zones but they were all over my bugs. Nice to have a hot hand. I even managed a third 20 plus inch brown before we wrapped up for the day.
I had to run out for the evening and find wifi to hit a deadline and they went back to camp. We planned on meeting at a lake the next day. I camped at the lake that night and watched a group of rainbows false spawn while I ate breakfast. I hit a deep drop off away from the spawners and picked up two studly bows before everyone showed up. We kept fishing the deep ledges and Skylar caught a beautiful bow around the 23-inch mark.
A storm started rolling in and it was looking like the day would be over in the next hour or so. I kept retrieving a bugger through a deep trough and felt a grab followed by a heavy head shake. The fish didn’t budge or panic, he just took off and put a deep bend in my rod.
It took some time to get a clear look and realize I had a big bull trout. After a long back and forth, I got him onto a shallow grass mat for easy handling. He never really did give up his head. Not only is this the biggest bull I’ve caught (you can’t target them in most places), it’s one of the prettiest fish I’ve ever landed. And he took a basic black wooly bugger tied with midnight fire chenille.
I don’t think reports like this will be too regular of a thing here but this was one of the best Montana fly fishing trips I’ve had for big fish being caught daily. It’s one I won’t forget for a long time and sharing the experience with great friends really made it special.