Missouri River, MT - 1994
(Below Holter Dam)
See the map

Sunday, March 6, 1994

One of the first warm days of the year. Nearly all the snow was melted, but a little ice remained. The river was lower than in the fall - more like a year ago now.

First tried the cow chip access, but saw nothing at all. Went further downstream to four different areas and still nothing. Later in the week, I'd find that some guys were having luck going way down deep with woolly buggers, etc. The water is just too cold for the fish to be very active. Although, there were significant numbers of gnats hatching.


Saturday, April 2, 1994

Tried a new spot on this warm, sunny day. On the gravel road leading to Holter Lake, there are several access spots. I fished the one next to the large island. Worked the outer channel that creates the island and saw a few jump, but caught nothing despite the very low water. I used a dropper system for the first time, which worked pretty well - a disco midge at the end and a parachute wulff a foot up. It worked really well as an indicator, but did tend to tangle together.

During lunch, I watched lots of trout start to rise right at the access site. Began using a bead head nymph in place of the midge, but that didn't do anything. It probably made too much of a splash in this very calm water.

Switched to a small caddis on the end and got a strike right way. When I landed the 14" rainbow, I found the hook embedded near its tail. After that, I got no more strikes but saw lots of them surfacing. I don't think they hit again because the two flies kept getting tangled together.


Saturday, April 9, 1994

Took Chris out to the same spot as last time to teach him how to cast. He picked it up quicker than I did, although he whipped four flies of his line and slapped the water a fair number of times. I, too, still do this on occasion. Saw a few rise, but couldn't stay until dusk. A warm, sunny day that was a lot of fun.


Sunday, April 10, 1994

I was already for an afternoon of serious fishing. I pulled off the highway next to the bridge just before the Dearborn exit. Plenty of cars, as well as people, had been here before. Tried several deep pools upstream with little luck under the warm sunny skies.

Took a nice walk along the rails and under the cliffs. This was one of those days where the beauty of this canyon just astounds me. It's not green yet, but you can see the snow receding from the high cliffs, the geese heading home, the grasshoppers appearing - spring is here!

While I had been using muddler minnows down way deep before, I switched to dries as the sun began to set. Still only one or two rises in the pools upstream of the bridge. Just before the sun set I walked to the other side of the bridge and saw lots of trout rising and jumping clear out of the shallow river. I quickly, too quickly, casted to them, got a few strikes and then spooked them. Will have to return here soon as they are eating up all these midges with real hunger.


Saturday, April 16, 1994

Took an early afternoon hike along Oxbow Bend, the downstream boundary of Holter Lake. Began near Departure Point and followed the ridges high above the water to a peak nearly at the end of the peninsula. It was bright, sunny and warm - even got a little sunburn on my neck. Along the hike, which took about 1.5 hours each way, saw three bighorn sheep and soaring osprey/hawk (still can't tell the difference).

The views along the ridge are great, I could see the boats cruising up and down the river as well as far into the Beartooth Wildlife Area and a row of very nice cottages which are only accessible by the river. Some parts of the hike require climbing the rock outcroppings and traversing the steep hillside. Although much of the hillside is loose rock and sand, I never felt I was in danger. Nevertheless, it was a lot of up and down hiking and a good workout.

After hiking, I stopped at the Dearborn pulloff I was at last week. The guide from the new Orvis shop set me up with a dropper system that used an olive parachute dry fly and a palomino midge. He said that the rising trout weren't eating the hovering midges, but actually their subsurface pupa.

I tried this rig in the evening, casting very carefully and getting lots of good drifts, but had no strikes despite lots of rising trout. After a while I used my net to get a better look at these pupas. I could see gazillions of midges, but never did I see one pupa. The only thing I found in the net were dead midges. I swore at that moment I would never fish the midge hatch again.


Sunday, May 1, 1994

Tried the same highway pullout again, but saw no trout. Because the water had risen about a foot, I think they moved elsewhere.

Drove onto the access road and tried a spot opposite of where the Dearborn enters the Missouri. There's a huge eddy here, much like pond. Lots of trout, rising to midges and some mayflies. Used a blue hendrickson, size 12, that got a few hits, but seemed too big for the hatch and the fish. Switched to a very small olive parachute and got several more strikes.

Landed a twelve-inch and eight-inch rainbow around 8:00 when the wind died down. This is a great place for casting and drifting as the flow is even and slow.


Friday, May 6, 1994

After work, headed back to the Dearborn/Missouri confluence. Nothing was surfacing for a while, but at around 7:30 they started. Landed two 13 inchers and a 10 inch rainbow on an adams parachute between 8:00 and 8:30. Also had lots of strikes and a few hook-ups.

Once the sun set, the trout surfaced like crazy. I fished it for a while but I couldn't see the fly and I don't think the trout could either. Should try an all-white fly next time.


Saturday, May 8, 1994

Went fishing with Joe Stein for the afternoon at the Dearborn/Missouri confluence. There were very few rises so we tried an assortment of wet flies and nymphs. Nothing worked. From the road high above, Joe and I could see several large trout circling at the head of the eddy.

Although Joe tried it earlier with no luck, I eased down there to try it. I used a couple of dries but got nothing. Then I snuck behind a large boulder and tied on a bead head nymph with a strike indicator about two feet up the line. With this, the nymph would slowly float two feet below the surface in the eddy.

On the second cast I got a hit and landed a 17 inch rainbow, which I took home. A few casts later I had a second strike on an even bigger trout, but the fly broke off. That was it for this nice sunny day.


Friday, May 13, 1994

Friday the thirteenth was lucky for me. After work I headed to the same spot as last week, armed with a bead head hares ear nymph and strike indicators.

Along the bank at the head of the eddy, I landed three beautiful rainbows. All of them measured about 17-18 inches and fought hard. I was so excited, I had never caught so many big fish at one time. On landing the third rainbow, I lost the hares ear. Probably because the fish were so big I couldn't lift them out of the water. At that moment, I decided if I keep getting big fish, I need a net.

I tied on a black bead head nymph and casted a few times where I usually use dry flies. Landed one more big rainbow and then switched to a parachute adams. On the first cast caught a very strong rainbow that made several spectacular leaps high into the air. Landed this one too, but it was to be the last. Absolutely great success in just two and a half hours.


Saturday, May 14, 1994

Even better than yesterday. Spent the afternoon and evening in the same spot and caught eight rainbows all 16-20 inches and one very large whitefish. Used the bead head set-up and an adams parachute. Both worked well.

Used the fiberglass pole from Grandpa Foley for the first time and caught the whitefish and the 20 inch rainbow on it. It casts differently than my graphite rod, more delicate and not quite as long casts. Took home one of the large rainbows for a tasty supper.


Sunday, June 12, 1994

After have very little luck on Little Prickly Pear, Joe and I headed to the Dearborn spot again. The water was probably a foot lower than before and it changed the whole flow pattern in the eddy. Caddis flies were hatching, but we didn't see many surface. Neither of us caught a thing.


Sunday, June 26, 1994

A very windy day that I had hoped would calm down in the evening. My luck (as it was all day) it did not. There was a hatch of tiny green mayflies. A guy having better luck said the trout were really keyed into Pale Morning Duns. Of course, I did not have these.

The water where I fished &emdash; at the Dearborn confluence and above and below it &emdash; was as low as I had ever seen it. Probably a foot lower than last time and two feet below when I had last done well. Despite the fierce wind, the trout surfaced quite heavily. Should go back to the spot below the confluence this week. (With the right flies, of course.)


Thursday, July 7, 1994

Took Chris and Redwood to the place I had been at last time. The water was crystal clear and low. A few surfaced and I had a few hits, but both of us went home empty handed. A beautiful evening, and Redwood liked hanging out.


Thursday, July 28, 1994

Two days ago I had been mountain biking just north of Malstrom Air Force Base along the Missouri when I saw huge fish surfacing far below the cliff I was on. They were staying close to each other clearing the water with loud splashes.

The next day I went hiking with Redwood below Rainbow Dam. As a bunch of kids jumped off the cliff into the river, the fish were still there. All this time I took them for trout.

The next day, today, I learned I was looking at carp. Huge, giant-size carp. I caught one on a bead head nymph. It took about five minutes to get him in as he was a very tough fight. It probably weighed about seven pounds.

Ugly as hell &emdash; one eye was missing. I tossed it back with the rest of the trash fish. Another guy who had been there yesterday as well as today said he caught a fifteen pound carp earlier in the day. Oh, well. I had nice dreams about lunker trout.


Saturday, August 6, 1994

Tried Pelican Point as it was recommended by Tom Dean. The water was as low and as clear as I'd ever seen it. Hasn't rained much in 3 weeks. Hiked downstream about a half mile and fished around there. It looks to be a good spot &emdash; lots of eddies, ripples and flat water where food gets pushed. Saw a huge beaver slapping the water, telling me to get away. Nothing started rising until just before sunset. Did get one healthy hit on a grasshopper imitation, but my tippet broke. It was a good sized fish. Also used bead-head nymphs and caddis flies, but nothing would go for them.


Wednesday, August 10, 1994

Back to Pelican Point, same result. Even fewer large trout surfacing. Lots of smaller trout surfacing, couldn't tell what they were eating. Did get a few strikes from small trout with a Joe's Grasshopper. Redwood liked running around at any rate &emdash; it's definitely the best way to exercise him.


Sunday, August 28, 1994

Nice afternoon to be fishing. Tried three spots above and below Dearborn River. Not much action, but did get a few hits on a Joe's Hopper. Finally caught one strong 12-inch rainbow on a bead head hare's ear nymph. Took a walk around the house that I almost rented. Saw three large does bounding along the hill behind the house. It's a great view, and there is some fishing holes upstream from the house. Made me wish I could have rented the house.


Sunday, September 11, 1994

Went with Joe and Chris to the dirt road that leads upstream of Craig. I always thought it was private, but there were lots of good access spots.

Warm, clear afternoon, but not much hatching. Perhaps a few large mayflies. Looked like the trout were surfacing for tricos, but they didn't work for me.

I caught one very large rainbow with a bead head hare's ear. It weighed 3-4 pounds and was about 20 inches long. Took it home and made two nice meals out of it. One of the most beautiful fish I ever caught.

Wish we could have stayed into the evening, but the guys had to get back. I will have to get back here before the weather turns bad.


Sunday, September 25, 1994

Went with Redwood back to the bend in the River just above Craig. Didn't see many fish in the afternoon, and I fished quite a ways upstream. An hour before dark the fish started surfacing like before, so I fished the same spots I had before. Caught two nice, healthy rainbows. They were probably as long as the fish I usually catch in the lakes, but these are much stronger and bulkier.

A beautiful evening &emdash; warm, sunny and hardly anyone out fishing.


Saturday, October 1, 1994

Fished downstream from Sheep Creek late in the afternoon. Joe and Chris had been here the past couple weeks and both had done well. Although it was very windy, I caught two 12-inch rainbows on a bead head hares ear.

A few other guys around here, they all thought it was usually real good, but today was a bit off. I stayed until it was dark and fished the end of the water diversion. Saw huge trout slowly eat nymphs just below the surface. It was like watching killer whales expose their top fins in the ocean.


Friday, October 7, 1994

Chris showed me where he had been fishing lately near Sheep Creek. Left right after work and only had about 90 minutes to fish. Neither of us caught anything using bead head hares ear nymphs, but we each got a few hits. Should go back to the spots he showed me because it sounds like lot of people have good luck here. Near the outlet of the diversion, two beavers protected their home by slapping their tales repeatedly at Redwood and me.


Friday, October 14, 1994

For the first time, I played hooky from work to go fishing. The weather wasn't that good &emdash; windy, rainy and about 40 degrees. Back at Sheep Creek, I fished up and down the Missouri in search of big browns and rainbows.

Ended up catching five rainbows, one brown and one whitefish. Two of the rainbows were big, beautiful 18-inchers. Used some different flies. A woolly bomber, a black-nosed dace and a sparrow (like a muddler minnow, but with soft hackles instead of the elk hair). The sparrow did the best, the dace did nothing.

A few guide boats floated by to keep me and Redwood company. Also with us were five muskrats (or small beavers). Tried two spots I hadn't before and caught four fish out of them. One was right where Sheep Creek dumps into a pool at the bridge abutment. The second was at the rocks below where the diversion enters the Missouri.


Saturday, October 29, 1994

Chris and I went back to Sheep Creek. Terribly windy and cold today. Chris caught four rainbows right away on a bead head pheasant tail, while I was getting nothing on a sparrow. I switched to what he was using and caught just one small rainbow.

We packed it in after a few hours since neither of had any luck after Chris' initial success. On the way back we saw Joe at the first access across from Pelican Point battling a large rainbow. We went down as he landed the fish and I took a photo. He had been hunting elk all week and was fishing here when he could. A few days later Joe told me he had filled his creel with five nice rainbows.


Saturday, November 5, 1994

Redwood and I left Great Falls as it was snowing out. Not much wind early and the sun began to shine. Fished the first access across from Pelican Point and caught five rainbows 16-18 inches long. Lots of trout here and it was easy to see them as they surfaced for midges and mayflies. Tried a blue dun for a while but quickly went to a bead head hares ear.

Joe showed up around noon right as I had a rainbow hooked. We both fished here throughout the afternoon. He caught a few (including a good-sized brown) and I had one big 18-inch rainbow that I kept. Will give it to Terbo next time I see him.

Turned colder and windier later in the day and came back before sunset. Saw several hawks and pheasant, plus one bald eagle. Lots of deer, too.


Sunday, November 6, 1994

Went back to the same hole on a whim this afternoon. Windy again, but a bit warmer. I expected to be alone but Joe, Sue and Mark, Vern and Mike were there. They hadn't had much luck in the main area, so I headed further upstream in the middle of this branch. Hooked four rainbows in one spot but didn't land any. They all headed down into the weeds and disappeared, leaving my fly hung up on weeds. Further up along the island, I landed a good-sized rainbow. Lots of fish pooling up here.


Saturday, November 12, 1994

Returned to the Sheep Creek access across from Pelican Point. Joe was there and I talked with him for awhile but he left before I had time to really hang out. Caught two rainbows and a brown in the various holes by the road. Fished the tip of the big island for the most part. Saw lots of rises, but caught nothing there on a bead head hares ear and pheasant tail.

About an hour before sunset moved my strike indicator 10 inches above my nymph. Should have done this before because the fish were mostly around the surface. (Before, I had it two to three feet above my nymph.) Upstream around the bend (across from the tip) caught three big rainbows on this set up.

Also caught one very big trout &emdash; I think it was a brown because it never surfaced and fought like hell &emdash; but it broke my six-pound test line. Fished until it was too dark to see my indicator. Should try this set up again next time I'm out.


Sunday, November 13, 1994

Back to the Sheep Creek access. Much colder and windier today. About 38 degrees, ice formed in my guides. Went far around the bend and half way across the main portion of the river. The current is only strong on the far side. Very choppy water today so I couldn't see many fish surfacing. Still caught five in about two and a half hours. By then, my hands were so numb I couldn't tie another fly on.


Saturday, December 17, 1994

Unseasonably warm today, about 52°. Unfortunately, it was also about as windy as it gets. Fished the same holes as before. The edges of the river were iced over but that didn't hurt the access. Caught one 18-inch rainbow on a black-nosed dace. Tried a woolly bugger for a long time too. Water was very choppy and only saw two fish surface the entire time. A friendly FWP officer checked my license. Three other guys were there. They fished spinners and caught five or more. One of the guys shot two ducks from the island &emdash; his collie retrieved them.

Back to Fly-fishing