Missoula Fishing Wrap
This was our first year of operating some guided trips over in western Montana and things went better than expected. Rick Wesiend, former Fins & Feathers Manager and head guide, moved to the Bitterroot Valley last fall and has quickly picked up the many nuanaces of guding on some different waters. The area around Missoula has lots to offer the fly angler with a wide variety of accessible waters in the headwaters of the Clark Fork River.
While Rick is our primary guide over there, we’ve also had a couple of our other guides off and on a few times throughout the season. Toby just returned from a week of guiding around the area with some longtime customers that wanted to see some new rivers this year.
The big difference between the Bozeman and Missoula areas has to do with the amount of dry fly opportunities that can be found late in the year. While we are still fishing hoppers off and on around Bozeman, the rivers of western Montana are known for heavier fall hatches that bring fish to a variety of larger attractor patterns on the surface. Also, all of the rivers in western Montana have relatively healthy populations of our state’s native trout, the Westslope Cutthroat. The occasional Bull Trout is seen on most of the rivers in this part of the state as well, which always makes for that “something different” experience for most of the folks that fish primarily around Bozeman.
Typical of fishing this time of year, Toby found the fish activity to vary day to day with the most consistent days being overcast and cooler. The lower Clark Fork is similar in character to the lower Yellowstone, but prolific hatches of Mayflies like from Tricos in the size 20-22 range to Hecubas in 10-12 generally make for some consistent dry fly fishing both “blind” and targeting rising fish. The Blackfoot is a much wilder river where large attractor dries, hoppers, and ant patterns are the mainstays on sunny days. The lower Bitterroot is similar to a larger version of the lower Gallatin and is well known for the fishes tendencies to hold and feed in water that we normally wouldn’t fish in southwest Montana. We were able to see a lot of different water, had a couple of great days, a few good days, and a couple of tugh days so all in all, it turned out being a good trip with some new experiences.
The highlight of the week out west for Toby was just getting on some different water with some great folks he’s been guding for several years. The best fishing day was the last day on the upper Blackfoot and the trout were eating Zonkers and lightning bugs all day long. The best fish of the trip came at the takeout on the last day and was a great Brown Trout just a bit over 21”. What a great ending to a great trip! We caught Cutties, Browns, Bull, Rainbows, Brook, and Whitefish that day…was just one of those days when the fish decide to eat all day long.