Montana Fishing Report for the week of 4/29/2018
First week of the season on the Mighty Missouri River!
Monday I was on the river with Bill and Dan. I have fished with Bill for a few years now, and this was my first day with his childhood buddy, Dan. We set the trip up for either Missoula or the Missouri depending on conditions. Since the local rivers around Missoula were on the rise we figured our safest bet was over on the Mo. I had heard they were letting water out of the dam today so we decided to fish the lower river and try to stay ahead of the push of water. We started off at the Dearborn access with deep nymphs and the first few runs came up blank. Then Bill stuck a rainbow as we were coming out of a side channel and after we released that fish the guys doubled up. A few more runs with nothing and a couple fly changes and then we scored again with a pair of fish in the same run. It was that kind of day for us. Bill and Dan would catch a couple in one spot and then the next couple of good runs would be vacant. We switched flies throughout the day and hooked up on just about every pattern we tried, but I couldn’t find anything that the fish were really zeroed in on. Every fly changed worked, for a fish or two and then we would have to change again. It was mostly rainbows today with a couple of browns mixed in and the size ranged from 12-17.5″. Water temps are still low for this time of year and there is plenty of water for the trout to spread out in.
I was back out with Bill and Dan again today. We caught some fish yesterday but didn’t knock them dead so we headed up to the dam to tangle with those big rainbows today. As we were getting underway the alarm siren sounded indicating they were letting more water out again today. That’s not the best case scenario, but Bill still managed a big rainbow close to 20″ out of the first run we fished. A couple more runs downstream and Bill had another big, fat rainbow to the boat. Then it got windy and the fishing got tougher. We managed one more before finally pulling in out of the wind for a break. It was busier this morning too but I didn’t see many other anglers hooked up either. We had to chip away at them all day. I changed flies and depths a lot, and worked different types of water but there was no real pattern. Not long after lunch Dan came tight on a solid fish, and after a good fight he boated a beautiful 19″ brown. Bill did most of the heavy lifting from the back seat with some really nice rainbows. They were all good looking fish that fought hard, and the upside was that every trout today was 17″ or better. Not a lot of small fish on the upper river but we had to work hard for every opportunity today. I put the pressure on Dan for our last run and he was up to the challenge with a good rainbow right above the take out. It was tougher than average for the Missouri the last two days. I think cold, rising water were the main culprits. Still, I could not ask for nicer anglers to fish with than Bill and Dan. We had a lot of fun on the water together and I look forward to getting on the Dearborn with them next month.
Wednesday was the first of 3 days on the Missouri with regular angler, Bob. We’ve been fishing the Missouri together for years and it’s always a fun trip. We had a late start today and decided to run up to the dam since most of the traffic would have cleared out. There was only one other boat around and Bob briefly hooked up in our first run. He converted in the next spot with a stunning 21″ rainbow. That same run produced a couple more hook-ups and one more solid bow before we moved on. At that point the wind was coming up hard and we tucked in behind some willows for lunch. Our first spot of the afternoon was one of Bob’s favorites and he boated 3 nice fish in there including a brilliant 19″ brown. A hot rainbow came out of the next run and then we had to battle some serious wind. There were big waves coming upstream in the flat above Wolf Creek and it was so hard to row downstream that we considered cutting the float short. But this looked to be only our day with cloud cover so I wanted to stick it out. Once we made it around the corner the wind was bearable. It remained a major nuisance all day, but we were able to fish. Fortunately the trout were on the feed, and every run Bob fished produced at least one nice trout. We did detour into one side channel out of the wind that wasn’t as good as I hoped, but I managed to stick a nice rainbow when I made a cast while changing over rods. One last big rainbow made it to the net just above the take out. Despite the wind conditions it was solid fishing all
day with a bunch of rainbows from 17-21″, a couple smaller guys, and one nice brown. The cloud cover and stable streamflows for a day were a big factor in our success.
Thursday Bob and I decided to fish downriver. Warm temps were in the forecast for the next couple of days so this would be our best shot to fish below the Dearborn river before it blows out with snow melt. I wasn’t too excited for the bright sunshine but did look forward to being warm on the river for a change. Bob started out with the deep nymph rig and the first run produced 4 hook ups and a pair of rainbows to the boat. Then we switched it up and started fishing a shorter nymph rig in toward the bank. That worked too with a couple more jumping rainbows down a long bank. For the balance of the morning we switched back and forth between the deep nymphs and shorter rig based on the water, and Bob came tight in just about every run we fished. It was mostly rainbows with a couple of brown trout mixed in. Then as we pulled in for lunch Bob spotted a bunch of giant carp in a slow backwater. I spooked them with the boat so we decided to eat and then take a crack at them after lunch. We put a bunch of casts on those behemoths but didn’t have any takers. Carp are a ton of fun on the fly rod, but they can be really hard to feed. After that we went back to the deep nymphs but couldn’t find a fish in the first few spots and so we switched over to the short rig and Bob hooked a rainbow right away. The short nymph rig would prove to be our workhorse for the afternoon. I was a little surprised with the bright sun and warm weather, but it was much more consistent than the deep nymphs. The morning was definitely best for overall action, but Bob stuck some really nice brown trout in the afternoon. His best was a big, hook-jawed male at 20″ but he had 3 more from 18-19″ and a few smaller ones too mixed in with a handful of rainbows. I’m sure it could have been even better with some clouds, but it was a stunning spring day without gloves, heavy jackets, wool hats and the fishing was consistent as well.
Friday was my last day on the Missouri with Bob. We decided to get up a little early and head to the dam hoping for some solitude. We had lines in the water by 7 and were rewarded with no one around for over an hour. We started off on the fencepost run and Bob connected with a hot rainbow on every pass. We had 5 nice fish before another rig pulled into the boat ramp and then coasted downstream. The bull pen was our next target. We had to do a little searching in there, but managed to come away with 3 nice fish. All of the regular spots continued to produce down the Wolf Creek where Bob stuck a brute just under the bridge. Our hearts both sank a little when that fish came unbuttoned just before the net. It looked 22+” with plenty of girth. A couple more fish below Wolf Creek and then it was time for lunch. It was another warm, bright blue day and the fishing got tougher in the early afternoon. We only briefly hooked one in the next several runs as I cycled through different flies and depths with little to show for it. Then like a switch the fishing turned back on with another jumping rainbow to go along with a smaller bow and brown. The final run of the day yielded another gorgeous 18″ rainbow just above the boat ramp. It was a stellar morning with a bunch of big 18-20″ rainbows up high, and then we had to work through the middle of the day before finishing up strong. I’m not sure how many years Bob and I have been fishing the Mo together but it’s always a great time with big fish, awesome food, and a lot of laughs.