Missoula, Montana Trip

What a great experience….again.  A couple years ago, Gina and I attended the Annual Orvis Guide Rendezvous which is held in April every year in Missoula, Montana.  This year, River Run Outfitters was again a finalist for the “Outfitter of the Year”.  Sorry to say we did not get the title this year, but being among the finalist is always a great accomplishment!  Congratulations this year to North Bank Outfitters in Walden, Colorado who received the award this year.
Missoula, Montana is a fly fishers dream.  They have the Missouri about 2-1/2 hours way.  Within 30 minutes to an hour, you have the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, Clark’s Fork and Rock Creek rivers to fish.  And, what awesome fisheries they are.  Miles and miles and miles of nothing but tall pine trees, lots of moving water and exciting fly fishing.
Gina and I again fished with Tony Reinhardt of Montana Trout Outfitters.  If you ever head that way, we can say without hesitation that he will provide you with a great experience.  Following is the blog from his site.  Looks like we should have fished the Missouri earlier in the week with him!  Enjoy!
A couple days on the Missouri early in the week before flows dropped back in for some more great fishing around Missoula!
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Some hefty trout this week in Montana!
After a couple days off I was back on the water Wed. with local angler, Jim.  Today was a special treat though as I found myself holding a fly rod instead of a set of oars.  Jim invited me to a unique fishery called the Land of the Giants.  It is a short stretch of the Missouri river located between two dams and is only accessible by jet boat.  We were guided by a friend, Capt. Scott Willumsen, for the day.  We had warm, blue bird weather for the run upstream into an awesome canyon stretch of water.  The river is loaded with fish this time of year as all the rainbows in the reservoir are on spawning migrations.  It was ridiculously good fishing, almost too good.  We hooked big trout all day, in every run we fished.  The morning started off quickly with Jim coming tight on a big bow in the first few minutes.  It took me until the end of that run for me to find my first trout of the day, but the first hour definitely belonged to Jim.  Not long after that he landed a thick 23″ bow and followed it up a couple runs later with another that was pushing 24″.  Those were the best fish of the day, but the average fish was a fat 17-19″ bow with 20 inchers not that uncommon.  Just before and after lunch the fishing slowed a little until some clouds rolled in and the afternoon fishing came unglued.  At one point Jim and I were doubling up 3 to 4 times on each drift!  It was sheer gluttony, and the 3x tippet allowed us to play the fish quickly and get back in the game.  By 3:30 we had had our fill, and the black clouds topping over the rim of the canyon encouraged us to run for the boat ramp.  I can’t remember the last time I actually fished for a whole day, and it was an awesome day in gorgeous country with big, healthy trout.
Land of the Giants Missouri River
Running up the canyon in the jet boat
Missouri river rainbow trout
They call it Land of the Giants for reason.  23″ slab!
My view all day…gorgeous canyon and Jim with a bent rod
Thur. I was back at the oars as Jim was joined by his friend, Charlie, for a float on the Missouri below Holter Dam.  We launched early at the dam and once again Jim was hooked to a big trout within minutes of putting his flies in the water.  He scored again on the next drift before he and Charlie doubled up with nice bows on the pass after that.  The takes were subtle, but the trout were definitely on the feed this morning.  In the early going every run that we fished produced nice trout.  We cycled one run in particular 4 or 5 times.  Charlie was the hot hand there as he hooked up on each pass and Jim connected with a gorgeous 21″ male as well.  The guys had 4 doubles in the morning as we continued to put big fish in the net all the way until lunch.  The first run of the afternoon gave up another bright rainbow, but then I could just feel the fishing start to fade out.  Instead of 2 or 3 strikes per run we would only get one and then even the most reliable spots started to go quiet.  We still found some trout willing to play, and Jim boated another great 20″ bow, but it was much more hit and miss.  The bright sun was having a negative effect and our afternoon was tougher than we hoped for.  Overall it was a great day with a spectacular morning of fishing and a handful of quality trout in the afternoon.  I had a blast the last two days with Jim, and it is always a pleasure having Charlie in the boat anytime.
21″ battle-scarred male
Perfect Missouri river rainbow
Fri. I fished with a couple ladies from River Run Outfitters in Branson, Missouri.  Carolyn (owner) and Gina (guide) were back in Missoula for the annual Orvis Guide Rendezvous.  The rivers around Missoula have been on the rise for the last 4 days so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I had the most confidence in the lower Clark Fork.  Skwalas have been pouring off the Clark in the afternoons and with that kind of bug activity those fish will continue to feed even in high and off-color water.  We started the morning with dry/dropper rigs but it didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to cut it so we switched over to nymph rigs and Carolyn hooked the first two fish, landing a spunky cuttbow.  The fishing steadily improved from there and I was a little surprised at how well the trout responded.  Nearly every good seam was producing solid hook-ups, and the bigger back eddies kicked out a couple fish each.  The ladies were impressed with how hard those lower Clark Fork cuttbows were fighting with most of the trout coming in at 14-16″.  We stopped for lunch were a clear tributary joined the river and on the first pass in the afternoon Carolyn landed her first ever bull trout on the nymph.  Gina tagged another big rainbow on the next corner and then it was time to see if the trout would look up for us.  It was a cool day, even cold at times with the wind and while I didn’t see any skwalas around I still thought the fish would eat a dry.  Right away we found two rising fish and got one to eat the big skwala.  We fished dries the rest of the afternoon with solid results.  The ladies nymph their home water in Missouri mostly so it was a lot of fun to fish big dry flies with them today.  There weren’t a lot of rising fish, but the one we found were willing to eat our bugs and we raised a number of others in the likely water.  Their enthusiasm was infectious as we laughed and giggled our way downstream.  Despite the marginal water conditions it was a great day on the water.  Gina even remarked that it was the nicest batch of trout she had ever caught in Montana in a day.
Gina was all smiles with these hard fighting Clark Fork cuttbows
Carolyn gave me bunny ears while posing with this nice Clark Fork bow
 A rare Clark Fork bull trout
Sun. I was back out with Carolyn and Gina from River Run Outfitters in Missouri.  The ladies had a flight to catch in the afternoon so we decided to stay close to town and float a lower section of the Blackfoot.  They were excited because it was a new river for them.  It was cold and rainy, but the weather made for some solid fishing.  We started off nymphing and Gina connected with a jumping rainbow a few runs into the float.  Not long after that Carolyn hooked into what I think was a good sized bull trout, but the fish came unbuttoned before we got a really good look at it.  The next inside produced a few fish including a big 20+” brown that Carolyn tagged.  Another big brown hammered Gina’s fly in the following run and she had to battle that brown through a long rapid before finally putting him in the net.  Gina caught another nice brown right off the side of the boat while we were anchored and then it was a mix of nice rainbows and cutthroat for both ladies.  Gina also had one of the big bull trout chasing around a 15″ rainbow on the end of her line.  The bull never grabbed her trout, but we got a good look at him as he slashed around the boat.  Our float today took us into the Clark Fork and that river produced as well.  We had a brief double in the first good run on the Clark, and a couple banks were loaded with fish with several hook-ups in each run.  Unfortunately time was against us as a massive March Brown hatch came off.  I tied on a couple of skwalas before the mayflies really popped and we did have a couple fish eat the big bug, but the last bank we fished was lined with rising trout.  They were keyed in on the mayflies and didn’t pay much attention to our big dries.  We literally didn’t have a minute to spare to change flies and we had to leave all those risers behind to make it to the airport on time.  It was a chilly, wet day but there were some great fish on the prowl and the ladies brought a lot of those to the net today.  I had a great time fishing with Carolyn and Gina, and look forward to seeing them when they show up for their next Guide Rendezvous in the next year or two.
The rain and cold didn’t slow these two down on the Blackfoot toady
It was “A River Runs Through It” moment for Gina as she fought this brown through a long rapid
Liquid gold for Carolyn with this big brown on the Blackfoot
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Some great fishing is taking place right now on all the local rivers but I’m not sure how long it will last.  Tuesday is forecast for 78 and then 70’s and rain in the days after that.  It looks like our window is closing for spring Missoula fishing, but fortunately the Missouri is coming on strong.  If anyone is interested in a trip to the Land of the Giants please let me know and I’ll connect you with Capt. Scott.  In the meantime I will be on our local rivers through Tue. and then we will see what happens.Tight Lines,

Tony Reinhardt
Montana Trout Outfitters
406-544-3516

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