I first fished the Missouri a couple years back. My dad, brother and I had meet a family friend of ours near Craig, Montana. For the next couple days we waded the banks of this large tailwater and experienced some of the best big trout fishing you will find. Before that, I had never experienced an average of 18-21 inch rainbows with some browns of the same size mixed in. So last week while I was looking at fishing reports from up on the river, it was said to be fishing spectacularly.
I am now a freshman at the University of Montana-Missoula, and knowing the potential of how good the Missouri could be, I quickly packed up my car and made the 2 hour drive to Craig. This small town consists of four fly shops, a bar, and a restaurant; life basically revolves around flyfishing here. I stopped in and got a few flies and headed up the river around 2 p.m. A cloudy, dreary sky combined with the classic Montana wind made it feel more like fall then summer. So I threw on my jacket, gear and started walking.
It was a little late in the day to catch the trico hatch that was happening at the time, so I started with a short leash nymph rig. Soon I started casting into the wind, and hooked the first fish of the trip. The rainbows here more resemble steelhead than trout, and was soon palming my reel to prevent the fish getting into my backing. After a resilient fight, I brought the fish to the net. The fish looked to be around twenty inches, and I slipped it back into the clear, cold water. As the afternoon faded into evening, I caught and released a few more fish of similar size, and retreated to the back of my SUV where I would spend the night.
After not much sleep and a lot of anticipation to get back to the river, I arose to a chilly morning. A quick stop into town where I picked up a cinnamon roll and a water and headed back out. I started fishing in the same area I had the day before and the fishing was even better. It seemed a size 18 black zebra midge was perfectly imitating the trico's that were emerging, and the action was fast and furious. After a few hours, I soon got a little tired of nymphing, even though it was keeping the rod bent with often. So I moved downstream into some back channels. I tied on a hopper with a small mayfly imitation on the back and sight fished to trout holding in skinny water. As I looked at some geese flying by, I heard an eruption downstream where my fly was, and instinctively set the hook into an angry rainbow.
One of the things that makes the Missouri so fun to fish is that there are so many fish willing to take so many different flies. Even though while I was fishing, the dry fly action was lacking, this river throughout the summer offers some of the best dry fly fishing anywhere with many different hatches. The area around Craig is generally known to be the best, but it is also good in other stretches. Using a drift boat is the most common method of working the river, but for anglers willing to walk, it is also easily waded. So next time your in flyfishing in Montana, you owe it to yourself to experience the Missouri. You won't regret it.