BITTERROOT RIVER, MONTANA

Monday, September 1, 1997

At the start of our week-long visit to Montana, Sue and I booked a float trip through the Missoulian Angler. Our day began by putting in the raft at Stevensville. From there we would float along the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge and take out at Florence.

We hit the water around 10 am, and within the first 200 yards I landed a rainbow, a cuttbow, and a 19-inch brown. What a way to start a day! It was good for Sue, too. She caught and landed her first rainbow on a flyrod in this same stretch.

During our float it seemed like we had the river to ourselves. We saw just a few other boaters, but we would go hours without seeing another person. It really was a picture perfect day -- very few clouds, almost no wind, but perhaps a bit hot.

Our guide, John, was great. He tied on all our flies, got our lines untangled, and showed both of us a lot of tips to improve our fishing.

We didn't do much wading. Mostly we were casting from the raft as we floated near the bank that looked most promising. Sue spent a good part of the day just relaxing in the front of the boat.

A couple of my favorite memories are when John pulled over and we got out.

At one place he led me up a small feeder creek that flowed along a working ranch. He pointed to a small eddy across the brisk running river and promised that a big rainbow would hit my hopper -- if I could manage a dead drift for a few seconds. It took a couple casts, and him to show me how to mend the line better -- but I hooked that rainbow! Unfortunately I lost it in the rushing water.

John also led us to a secret spot of his, one that I don't think I'll ever find again. It's a small slough on the western side of the Bitterroot. The shallow, calm water is not visible from the river and it's probably a 50 yard walk. We approached it quietly and John pointed out the big trout cruising the crystal clear water. He thought this would be a good test of my casting ability. He added a few feet to my tippet and tied on a tiny, tiny fly. (I wish I could remember what kind.) I figured I only had a couple of casts before I spooked the fish. On my second cast I laid out the line as far as I could. It wasn't a perfect cast, but it was good enough. A nice rainbow hit it and we landed it. Very gratifying.

Later in the afternoon and evening, John expected the fishing to improve. No such luck. For whatever reason, it got really slow. I landed a couple of whitefish and suckers, but that was it. We got off the river at about 9pm and were really tired. The sun had sapped our energy.

 
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