Lifelong angling buddies, Ed Weber of Rochester, N.Y., and Gary Giudice from Norman, Okla., are fly fishing their way up the spine of the Rocky Mountains following mayfly hatches. They started in the White Mountains of Arizona and will end on the Bow River of Alberta, Canada. This blog follows their trip.
MISSOULA, Mont. When Robert Redford was scouting locations for Brad Pitt to fly fish in THE movie, he bypassed the Big Blackfoot River in West Central Montana.
Such a pity. That's where the story took place for Pete's sake! What possessed him to shoot the movie down on the Gallatin?
The upper parts of the Blackfoot are beautiful with deep canyons, tall trees and wilderness that young Norman McClane must've felt when he lived the story he latter pinned, "A River Runs Through It."
What a book, what a movie, what a place! You should read it, see it and go there.
Ed Weber, my traveling partner and dear friend, looks nothing like Mr. Pitt, but I'm betting he throws a better line.
We fished the upper Blackfoot and another place, Rock Creek, for two days with plenty of fish, wildlife, beautiful backcountry and another good friend.
Steve Wagner, who lives in Missoula half a year (or until he fills his elk tag) and Norman, Okla., the rest, took Ed and I on a float down the Blackfoot. He knows the water, the history, the flora and the fauna of the area well. And he doesn't throw a bad line himself.
We caught fish but we were force-feeding them dry flies. It was a nymph and streamer situation, but we were sick of casting them. So it was going to be dry flies or nothing.
It was too close to nothing for comfort but we caught enough to keep it interesting. Others we saw on the river caught them a lot better under the water, but that's fine with us. We enjoyed fishing it our way immensely.
Signs where we put in warned of bull trout. Not that we would "need a bigger boat" but that the authorities would kick our butts if we tried to catch them. Big double bunnies would do the trick but we avoided that.
Others we saw fished for and caught some but we didn't, knowing that the trout is rare and should be left alone. Besides we were force-feeding the fish dries and bull trout really don't take dries all that well. Cutthroats and rainbows do, so we were fine with what we were catching.
A wonderful float on an outstanding river, it really can't get much better. Redford really screwed up on this deal. If Norman McClane knew, I'm sure he was saddened. It was a shameful decision. Shame on you, Robert Redford!
We also fished the fabled Rock Creek just east of Missoula. It's said to be the only "Blue Ribbon" trout stream in Montana. I asked around about this designation, but no one I talked to could tell me what it really meant.
It holds the bar high, however. Beauty, plenty of big fish and easily wadeable. It's common to see moose and Rocky Mountain big horns on its banks and most of it is open to the public.
Steve took us up Flint Creek in the next drainage east and we started in the upper end of Rock Creek. Even there the water was high but clear. We could wade but it was often dicey.
My first drift with a yellow sally stone fly imitation nailed a nice brown. So did my second!
This was going to be one of those days. Steve and Ed were downstream about a quarter of a mile just hammering big cuts, rainbows and browns as well. Then it happened. My favorite rod snapped.
I've been fishing a nine foot five weight Orvis Helio for two years now and just love it. It snapped on the cast so I'm sure it was stepped on or something earlier in the day. It's caught hundreds of trout and throws a line like a dream so misuse must've been the culprit.
No matter, I'm now without my favorite rod. I spent the rest of the day with a four weight and it worked out fine. Big golden stones started showing on the water and the fish went nuts. My five weight would've been better but it is what it is and I caught them anyway.
The next day I took my broken rod into the Grizzly Hackle in Missoula. They're an Orvis dealer. The manager, Dan Sheppard, took one look at my rod and sad face and replaced it no questions asked. Great shop if you're in the Missoula area. You owe it to yourself to stop by.
They always know what's going on in the local waters and will be glad to point you in the right direction or set you up with a great guide. They also have everything you could possibly need in the way of fly-fishing. Heck of a place! I bought a T-shirt and a bunch of other stuff as well.
Ed and I have been on the road for over three weeks and have been fighting high, muddy water since we left New Mexico. Reports to the north are bad and getting worse. Reports to the south are getting better. Rivers we leap frogged over are now fishable, down and clear.
We had a meeting to discuss what to do next. It was liked world peace was in the balance. Push on or back up. We really wanted to fish the Bow River up in Alberta. The Kootney and the Flathead had some appeal as well.
But enough of this, we want to fish some clear water with real mayflies hatching. We want to wade out into a stream and not fear for our very lives.
The Bow, the Kootney and the Flathead will just have to wait for another time. We are headed for Depuy's Spring Creek. Ed called, reserved two rods for the next day and off we went.
Nobody told us what the fish are doing there, but I just know the pale morning duns will be hatching with duns on the water. The fish will be smart and technical but not too smart, and Mrs. Mary Jo Smith will meet us with a smile at her beautiful antebellum mansion. It'll be like going home.
I can't wait!