Thanks for FFIM returning-
As we all seem to be socially distant and -on occasion, self segregating( I am on day 8)…. A trip report is due. Read this as if it were a doctor you don’t trust, but who is saying things you want to hear.
Planning for a trip like this starts on the flight home from the last trip, but with so many changes in our lives based on internet options, old ways are subject to change. For example, we use VRBO to reserve places on the Madison, and have considered using rental cars from private people (and would have if we had seen an option that could fit 4 large men). We basically had 90% of the trip lined up in November last year- places, car (Ford Expedition), flights...but as always, the PEOPLE seem to ebb and flow--- YES! I am in! Is common in November….but less so in April, and damn near all out by May. This year, we had 4 - Gussa and me- and Mr stinky finger (Bob the Veternarian) and Walker-San...who now is known as “Deuce”.
Then all went to shit with Covid. Montana was closed- people were panicked and our flights went where the flying monkeys live- Far, Far away. As an aside, life is a lottery- and I won...but SHE lost. The wife did NOT go to Florida in April- did not(and still can not)go to PEI in Canada in June...all her craft shows are cancelled, and the shops she sells baskets in are often closed. Sucky year for her. Then there is ME...I was AT camp in March when The Governor opened the fishing early, and 20 minutes after we heard, Gussa landed the first salmon on GLS for the year...and I moved into camp. Between March 23 and June 20, I was AWAY from camp 6 nights-total. Gussa made a joke with a guide we hired out west that I had more days on the water than HE did---and it was true.
Anyway...the flights went south, and for some weeks we were sure we could NOT get a flight in any way...but in the end, American offered a flight that was both stupidly long and terribly early---but did get us there and back..Portland to Philly-Philly to Dallas, Dallas to Bozeman.
The flight home was possibly worse-and we lost Waker-san on the way as they skipped/cancelled his seat. (He go home the next day)
So...we did land in Bozeman...and did pick up the Expedition, which was 2 wheel drive. I didn’t know they made them 2 wheel drive...but man, was that thing BIG!!!!!!! Worked out sweet! After only a 22 hour day, we were safely in our place in Craig, Montana.
The river was blown out. Typical river runs in July are +/_ 4400 CFS…. we met 11,800 CFS. Luckily, we had 2 days float with Robert Boyce the guide, and we split those days up between 3 of us (Walker only came the second week at switch over day)...Gussa and Bob the stinker were first, and landed- a serious 30 fish each. 6 fish MEASURED over 20”, and yes, we DO have pictures. I, waded. Poorly. For 5 hours, and never hooked a fish. Just too high for most of the areas I wanted.
The second day, Gussa and I went floating with our guide, and we also did well- just not quite as well numbers wise- the fly of choice was a nymph called a “Frenchie”, which I have now tied 98 by count. For the next few days we watched the flow charts at fly shops, and the water dropped slowly each day, and our fishing improved...we found 3 NEW places for us to fish and were happily doing it up fine…….and then it happened. Bob the anal gland guy saw a rattle snake. From 5 feet. And HEARD it,... and WATCHED it slither away. Did I mention Gussa may be slightly off world about fear of snakes? He was 10 feet behind Bob...They survived. I was downriver 400 yards, and they came to round me up to return to the truck, and I was in the front.
The snake I met was 32 feet long, and maybe only a yard across between the eyes….and yes, they RATTLE...I was quoted in my obit as saying, “F---, that is a BIG snake!” This event MAY have clouded my opinion of the Mo as a place to fish...but maybe not.
In the end, each day got a little better, and dry flies were coming on, though we did not see any tricos. PMDs were okay- but caddis ruled. On our last day, Gussa went to Blaisedell Island (Lone Tree), Bob the (dog) nailer went to Sterling Channel, and I went to Holter channel. We all had that night we wanted...dry flies, risers for hours, and tough, picky fish of 16-20 inch range. Gussa was high man with 14...and I was low with 6- but to be honest, the 6 were enough, as they were hard, strong, picky, serious, and furious at feeling the hook.
The Missouri River in Craig is, in my opinion, a place one must fish at least once- and preferably every year for 100 years. It is a fishing town. Everything revolves around fishing and trout. Everyone is a trout bum, or wants to be. They have (now) 4 fly shops in reach, and the people inside each were nuts about fishing and talking fishing.
We moved on Saturday, and picked up Walker-san at the airport. He was pumped, and was ready to hit water.
We had VRBo’ed a place from online...and we were worried pictures were worth more than they were worth…. The pictures showed a cabin best for 5, with a deck that quite literally hangs over the river . We have pictures of Gussa fishing from the deck. While the camp was built for people significantly shorter than any of us but Gussa, it was heaven.(The doors, bathroom showers, toilets, BEDS...were built for shorted than Walker’s 6’4”...and my height.)
The Madison is simple...really. The water is easy to read, and the fish-while smaller than the Mo, are willing, strong and often very decent size. We met all the now friends we have met on Raynolds pass camp area from years passed,...and met more new ones. We fished $3 bridge...the Quake lake area (epic at night- and right at DARK...spinners will load the boat)-( 8 hookups on 8 casts).
We fished hard, but also went shopping in West Yellowstone, and visited each fly shop (Arreks? Was a disappointment as they have switched to mostly tourist stuff) - Big Sky fly shop is stellar, and my new favorite. Any fly shop that has a well behaved Griffon sitting on a stool behind the counter, that never jumps down...is impressive to me. I like shop dogs- like Jamison was.
Oddly, the water on the Madison was LOW...below average at less than 600 CFS. Salmon flies had just ended. Here, I had my best numbers days, and to tell the truth, I think we fished LESS hours of each day, but caught more numbers.
After 7 great days, we knew we would be getting up at 3am to catch our stupidly early flight home, so we set 5 pm as closer time. I said any good fish to hand after noon would be my closer...and I ended at 12:02 on a rainbow of about 15 inches. Gussa finished at 12:23 on a Brown of larger than 17 inches...Bob the dog sitter finished on an 18’ Bow at 2 pm...and it was a true 18” fish (which on the Maison the 18 inch fish often are 16 inches)...... but Walker. Walker was slow...and we all fixed a good drink, and gathered a crowd--- and went to $3 bridge. WIth a Go Pro on, and the over/under being 9 casts to land his closer… Walker stepped into the river JUST under the downstream shadow of the bridge. We that were standing on the bridge could SEE the fish...and while Walker-san’s first cast was errant, he landed a Bow on cast Deuce. Which earns him the name forever more as “Deuce”.
Pizza from the Bear, and the dregs of the 7 half gallons of Pinicle we had...and to bed. Up early, and home by 9pm. (Except Deuce)
NO fly from last year will work this year….I have 6 dz Zirddle Bugs...and 15 dz PMD emergers…
We bought TOO much beer...left an unopened 30 pk.
In all, the costs were higher now than when we were young. Adding a guide, having better places to stay, and better rides to drive has brought costs up. But, if split 4 ways, it becomes doable. Gussa did the BIG computations on the flight home, and 15 days with class A food and booze/rents and boats/car and licenses …-$2900. Were I to be young again, I know I could do this trip for about ⅓ of what this year cost...but I no longer want to sleep on the ground and eat peanut butter on stale bread. Drive the old car, camp and take 2 friends- killer. Knowledge is wasted on the old.