In the past month, I've taken a weekend trip to the Mo three times. Pretty good for a "poor college student." I owe a lot of thanks to my mom and dad who have helped me out with money for gas. Thanks parents. Cody and I headed out early on Saturday morning. We arrived at the Mo about three hours later and hit up Headhunters Fly shop for a shuttle. We decided to do a float from Craig to Mid Canyon, a section with less crowd and arguably, bigger fish.
The Original two!
The first couple of hours went great. I stuck with streamers and landed some nice bows off of deep banks. I started with flashy flies but quickly resorted to my favorite small black and brown streamers. They worked pretty well.
I saw Cody walk up on the high bank to talk to two game wardens. And then begun our first happening of the trip! I rowed over to see what was up. I figured they were just checking licenses but I was wrong. I was pretty disturbed when they explained to us that we would not be able to continue our float for "Insufficient number of PFD to wit."(as read on the tickets that we were both issued.) $45 EACH! our day was pretty much ruined as they explained to us our options. I know that the officers were just doing their job, but this is what really bothered me........ Instead of the guys asking if we needed a ride to Craig, they proceeded to tell us our option was to walk. Walk. Two and a half miles? Hell no. Cody politely asked for a ride and the officers actually hesitated because of the boxes in the back seat of the truck. I was stunned that these two guys would even hesitate at the thought of giving us a ride. Had they not given us a ride, Cody and I would have surely continued our float. It's crazy how some people can be. I do believe their is a difference between doing your job the right way or the wrong way. As we stood there talking to the officers before they did give Cody a ride into Craig, a drift boat passed by the bank. They didn't even ask to see their PFD's. Unbelievable.
The best part of the whole game warden experience was surely before Cody got in their truck. The officer asked Cody to put his hands on his head and proceeded to pat him down for weapons. I couldn't believe it. I was actually laughing my ass off at how ridiculous the whole situation was. Cody went to Craig and I fished until he returned with two PFD's that Headhunters generously gave us to use for the weekend. We continued our float.
Now that the ridiculousness was over, we could finally get back to fishing. We had killed more than an hour and by the time we got to Stickney access, it was getting late. We still had some water to cover and Cody was way ahead of me. I didn't fish much in the last hour or so. When I finally got to our takeout, Cody was blasting music from the truck and I knew that something great had happened to overcome our downed moods because of the game wardens. He quickly explained to me "the most epic fight of my life" and showed me the picture of the brown he caught. The photo speaks for itself.......
I was just as excited as he was. It was a monster brown and I wish I had been there to see it. The photo credit goes to some Albertans who had witnessed the fish take Cody into his backing and beyond. Truly a trophy Montana brown. Congrats Cody!
We headed back to the Campground at Craig and set up camp. It was a good day on the water and I ended with 7 fish, all on streamers.
During the evening we went to Headhunters to talk a little with the owners Mark and John. For many years, Headhunters has been Montana's premier fly shop and guide service composed of a great staff, great products and great guide service. I guess the one word used to sum up Headhunters is just Great. As I let my Go Pro charge in the shop, Cody and I started to talk to Mark and John about an variety of different topics like guiding, cameras, video editing programs, steelhead, etc. It was only us four in the shop. We literally talked for two and a half hours. John was very helpful with giving me suggestions for editing programs and we talked a lot about the Missouri video that I made last week. Mark actually decided to post my video on the Headhunters Blog. I was very happy with the kind words that Mark said about Cody and I. The post can be viewed here....
After our long talk with the guys, we walked back to the campground. Wouldn't you know it, the guys over at False Casts and Flat Tires, another Missoula based fly fishing blog, were camped next to us. Cody and I introduced ourselves and that started the night. We enjoyed talking to the guys for many hours around the campfire. I don't think our conversations ever left the topic of fishing once. It was a great night and cool to meet some more trout bums from U of M.
In the morning I decided that I was going to wade instead of float. Bob, a fly guy from Stevensville that we also met the previous night, was going to wade too and we decided to fish the same section. We started up near the dam and I quickly picked up a nice bow on a black streamer. Bob was nymphing and immediately started nailing fish, one after one.
I went above him and started fishing a slot. I made a cast upstream and began twitching my streamer downstream through the slot. I felt some weight and I set the hook. I had snagged my fly on a rock. At least, that's what I had initially thought....The rock began to move. I was very confused. I saw that I had snagged the fish in the tail. I thought it was a massive brown but as I struggled to bring the fish closer, I could see the big scales.....It was a carp. A really big one. I fought the fish for a while and finally brought the fish in close. It was an ugly carp with only one eye. Bob snapped a few pics as I held the fish, still wondering how the hell I had managed to snag the fish while twitching the streamer through that slot. Just weird.
Not quite the trophy fish I was looking for on this trip, but still a big fish. We left the dam and walked downstream. I went right to my bank where I usually do well and Bob headed across to an island. The fish were stacked up like cord wood. There was a good amount of fish eating midges, but I stuck with streamers. The fish were loving small brown and black woolly buggers. In about an hour and a half I had landed a dozen fish and missed a bunch more. All of the fish were decent with one of them being a beautiful, fat bow that was around 19 inches.
The takes were very subtle and were characterized by a small amount of weight on the line. It almost felt as if the fly is catching on the bottom of the river, which can be misleading at times.
It was a great afternoon and I was pretty tired. Cody had done another float and landed some nice fish on dries. I think everyone had a pretty good day. Back at the campground, the guys from FCFT decided they were going to head back to Missoula. Their influential action and thought of sleeping in and actual bed was not ignored and we also decided against staying another night. We had done well for both days and had gotten our fill. However, something tells me we'll probably be back next weekend for some more. Whether you have a great day, or get your ass kicked, the Mo is an addiction.
Thanks again to Mark and John of Headhunters for your generosity. You guys make our trips to the Mo worth it every time.