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Al Agnew

One spot

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Mary and I have been out here in Montana since mid-September, and I haven't fished more than a couple days.  Why?  Because it's been anything but fishing weather.  Biggest problem has been the wind.  Every day, 20-30 mph with gusts over 40.  Yesterday the gusts in Livingston reached 69 mph!  I tried a couple times to fish at the house, but the wind coming off that 40 something degree water was COLD, and casting was a real pain.  It just wasn't much fun.  I can deal with cold weather, but fly fishing in the wind is something else.

So the forecast for today for Livingston actually didn't have a wind advisory.  For the last week, almost every day there's wind advisory, and the transportation people were routing big trucks off the interstate and through the middle of town because they were getting blown over in the wind.  Still, today the forecast was for 20-25 mph winds with gusts to 40 mph, which didn't sound good, but it was also supposed to be sunny and warm, and the river was calling.

Mary wanted to get on the river, too, but she had stuff to do until 11 AM.  I figured a short float like the "town float" through Livingston would suffice in those conditions.  But then I happened to think of something.  SOMETIMES, up in Paradise Valley upstream from town and separated from town by a short canyon, there is a lot less wind.  So I looked at the forecast for Pray, up in the middle of the Valley, while Mary was doing her stuff.  Wow, 5-10 mph wind forecast!  So I immediately changed our plans, we'd do the Pine to Carter float.  That's Pine Creek to Carter's Bridge, seven miles, a nice distance for an afternoon's float.  We'd use my little two person driftboat.  I called in for the shuttle and we were on our way for the 15 minute drive to Pine Creek.

As we drove into the Valley, we saw smoke.  It appeared to be coming from some kind of building over in the hamlet of Pine Creek, a half mile from our put-in.  Somebody's building was on fire; we could see flashing red lights.  And then, as we drove up to the bridge at Pine Creek where we planned to put in, we saw more flashing lights.  Seems the Park County Volunteer Fire Department was filling up their trucks in the river and had the ramp blocked.  We stopped and talked to them and they said the fire was under control, but it would be a while before they could get their pumps and trucks out of the way.

Well, bummer.  It was already 12:45.  We talked it over and decided to put in up at Mallard's Rest, about three miles upstream, which would lengthen our float to ten miles.  I called the shuttle people and told them of our change of plans.

I knew there wouldn't be much fishing.  The sun goes down now a little after 6 PM, and we weren't going to get on the river before 1:15.  And I knew Mary wouldn't want to be on the water too late, because it would get pretty cool.  But...dang it, there was absolutely NO WIND!  For the first time in ages.  So just floating would be great.

We ate our lunch just around the bend from the put-in, and then Mary wanted to try rowing me for a while so I could fish.  She is an excellent canoe handler, but can't seem to get comfortable with oars.  But she improved quickly on this day, until her shoulder started bothering her.  I was fishing a Royal Wulff dry fly just because it was easy to fish as we drifted and I didn't feel like fooling with nymphs.  I got a couple takes while she was rowing but they were small fish.  Nothing much was rising.  On the Yellowstone, the one kind of place where you ALWAYS look for rising trout is in eddies with foam covering the surface, and I saw the occasional rise is the eddies we passed, but nothing much.  There were a few caddis flying around, a few blue winged olives, and a lot of drifting spiders on long strands of web.  I thought the spiders would have interested the trout as much as anything, but they never seemed to hit the water.

I resumed rowing and stopped fishing.  And then we came to that one spot.  It was a stretch of a pool with strong current, deeper water, and long swirls of scattered foam, and there were trout rising everywhere.  On one long eddy line, there must have been 50 fish rising.  And as is often the case when you see that, it was tough to figure out just what they were rising TO.  There weren't any obvious hatches, no bugs on the water except for the occasional BWO.  But often too, when that happens, the trout are somewhat opportunistic.  They'll take a dry fly that's of a certain size, no matter exactly what kind it is.  I still had on the Wulff, so I pulled the boat over against the bank where I could reach that 20 yard run, and started drifting the Wulff.  First trout was a brown, about 10 inches.  Second was a rainbow, same size.  And then I proceeded to take 3 more rainbows each an inch longer than the last one, so the third one was about 13 inches.  Not big, but FUN.  They leaped like crazy.  Then I hooked something bigger, and snapped off the fly.  I tried my only other Wulff, which was a size bigger.  No dice, just refusals.  So I dug out a Parachute BWO the same size as the orignal Wulff.  Bingo.  Ended up catching a dozen trout, hooked several more, missed several more.  Biggest was about a 16 inch rainbow, and I also caught a beautiful 15 inch cutthroat.

Then I realized I'd spent well over an hour at this one spot, and still had five miles to go and it was getting late.  So we left the trout still rising, and headed on downriver.  The sun was well behind the mountains when we reached the take-out and it was starting to get a little chilly.  But it had been a GREAT day.

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Yes, I've fished the Missouri several times.  It can be spectacular fishing in the spring and fall, but in the middle of the summer it will be weedy and tough to fish.  It's easy floating.  Easy to get shuttles.  Lots of anglers but it's a big river so the other people don't bother you much.

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