Tuesday, January 16, 2024

BWO'less on the Bitterroot River

I didn't think that I'd still be talking about last fall's trip to Montana but here we are with at least three more posts to sort through.  I have one more post on a shop visit in Bozeman but am going to jump ahead to the few days that I spent with guide Joel Thompson of Montana Troutaholic Outfitters and my buddies, Mike and Dave, in Missoula.

Over the past fifteen or so years, Mike, Dave, and I have been doing trips together out west to Colorado, Wyoming, and the last several to Montana to see Joel and his wife, Deb.  This friendship with Joel started on a fly fishing internet forum years ago with an invite to stay at his family's cabin outside of Deer Lodge and it's continued with multiple trips that you can search for in the T.F.M. archives.  There's some good stories in there.

Our timing to be in Montana in early October was deliberate since Joel figured that we'd still have good chances at decent weather, blue-winged olives around on cloudy days, and the trout should be tracking down streamers crashed on the banks and around dead fall.  That was the plan anyways.

Mike and Dave arrived into Missoula without any issues and that kicked off three days of fly fishing where we started with a float on the Bitterroot River.  Joel asked Captain Brian McCravy as our second guide and drift boat and we met mid-morning to find bugs in the air and trout rising to them just downstream from the boat launch.  This was going to be even easier than we thought... 

We quickly assembled our gear, figured out who was in which drift boat, and pushed off.  Mike quickly caught a trout even before Dave and I had flies tied on and we were all figuring that this was going to be a pushover day with waves of BWO's and rising trout.  I picked off a couple of risers as we eased downstream and then it was like someone turned the bug lights off. 

No mayflies.  No risers.  Well, damn.

The rest of the float was a mix of clouds and peaks of sunlight, the occasional blue-winged olive, and a rise here and there.  I switched back and forth from dry flies to streamers in hopes that something would kick off but mostly didn't.  What we were missing in bugs and trout eats we more than made up for when pulled over the Boulder Boat Works drift boats for lunch and drinks.  Is there a better boat lunch than dried meats, cheeses, crackers, and whatever else can be arranged on a wooden board?  As a side note, the Tin Cup Adventure Pack is perfect to have along for these kind of trips, though watch your friends that they don't drink it all...

After lunch, I took over the front seat in Brian's boat and had a good time being "guided".  Almost always, I jump at the chance of being in the back seat since I like playing clean-up.  I can pause to take photograph and not worry about missing good water.  There's also an added bit of S*$% talking that can happen when you pick off a trout that your buddy missed on his first drift. 

I am not really used to being in the position where the guy on the oars is more or less manipulating the drift of my fly line.  It was fun working together in getting the cast where it needed to be and keeping it there as we drifted over good looking water.  Brian would feather the oars this way and that to maximize the length of the drift.  All that work and the trout didn't really notice though.  I moved a couple of worthy browns on streamers that quickly dipped out of their place of cover to swipe or sniff at the streamer as it passed but didn't make the connection.  Oh well.  It's still fun to get them to react.

Slow scroll for a few more photographs from our day...

If you ever find yourself in the Missoula area and are looking for a guide to spent the day with, Joel Thompson and Brian McCravy can't be recommended enough. 

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