A look inside the "Trout Life" under the Big Sky

Archive for January, 2012

Mo’ River… Mo’ Fish.

Saturday morning before the sun was even up, we trucked it over the mountains and through the woods to the Front Range.

The Missouri river is one of my  favorite rivers to fish. If you are willing to put up with some pretty brutal conditions the “off-seasons” you can have the river to yourself. The wind was awful this weekend and the ice built up on our guides every third drift or so. Regardless it was great to be fishing and even better that we managed to catch a few fish.

We stopped at Headhunters and talked fish, websites and cameras with John, Mark and Ben. As always, it was too easy to spend 2 hours in the shop. They have crafted a great shop with an even better atmosphere. The fact that they were all willing to stay way past closing time and help out these 3 lowly wannabe’s is a testament to their dedication. I can never say enough about them. So please check out the Headhunter and their new and improved Focalfish for some pretty awesome fly fishing photography and video. If you are planning on fishing the Mo hit these fellas up, you wont be disappointed.
 Follow the yellow painted door.

Although Headhunters is a good enough reason to make the drive, we did go fishing.

It was cold and windy. And we even had trouble finding fish in the morning. But as the day warmed up we managed to find a few fish up by the dam and stay out of the wind for the most part.

We had to stand our ground against the john boat loads of camo clad gear fisherman but when they filled their coolers full of hatchery creations we were able to pick out a few risers and nymph them up.


Why Didn’t We Bring A Net? That Water Looks Cold.

Dam Fish

Winston your way through that wind.

Nom Nom.

Zebra Rainbow

Scud Success

Hatchery Nasty.

Mo’ River Command Center.

Thanks to Mark and John for a point in the right direction on the river and online.

If you haven’t seen our write up on the latest Mitchell Slough drama give that a look. A few folks are getting fired up about it and we would love to hear everyone’s opinion. We would also love to get some explanation from the folks who approved the go ahead on this river destruction. We will keep looking into this until we get some answers.

Happy Monday.




Sunshine, New Waders, and Clifford the Big Red Dog?

The sun was shining and I had new pair of waders to test out, we had to go fishing. We have a big trip to the Missouri planned for tomorrow so Stan and I decided to keep it low key and see what we could nymph up in town. Here are some shots of us keeping it “urban”.


Two Heads Are Better Than One

We are changing things up here on FCFT. We are working on making some changes to the site and adding multiple authors so we will all be able to post up content. We are also going to redo the photography page to be more efficient.

We are hoping this will increase the amount and frequency of the posts we put up.

So hang in there with us until we get the “Multi-Author” gig figured out.

Heading over to the Mo in the morning.We are planning on spending some time at Headhunters and maybe we will catch some fish too.


This Won’t Happen Anymore.

The Bitterroot is one our favorite rivers. Its close proximity to Missoula, a strong trout population and the fact that their are still a few hidden gems where you can find some pretty respectable fish.

One of those gems is gone. Yes the Bitterroot is infamous for completely rearranging itself every year after runoff. However runoff cant do what a bulldozer and concrete barriers can.

The Mitchell Slough debate is a hot topic in the valley. The public’s right to legally recreate on public water vs.  landowners protecting their property and the water that runs through it. It’s been a debate that has gone on for years with some pretty, now infamous, celebrities involved on the landowners side. It’s not limited to fishing access but includes waterfowl hunting and a host of water based recreation activities.

Fences across the waterway making it impossible for fisherman to legally access the water to feeding ducks and geese so no one can legally hunt the “baited” birds along the slough.  These are the tactics that keep the public out of Mitchell slough. All of these efforts to keep the public out and for some “Rockstar” who actually sees this water maybe once or twice a year… Fine, you win. Keep the slough.

But keep your greedy hands off OUR river.

I don’t want to get on a soapbox or a moral high horse, but what I saw last week really upset me as a fly fisherman, a recreation management student and as someone who believes we should protect what resources we have left.

The East Side Tucker Crossing fishing access site along the East Side highway just south of Victor in the Bitterroot valley. This was one of our favorite access sites. Little water with plenty of fish willing to eat big streamers and dry flies. It was a great stop on your way back from the Big Hole or a perfect spot to finish out a day on the Bitterroot.

Not any more.

Mitchell Slough “Orginates” out of the East side channel of the Bitterroot right there at Tucker Crossing. Big wooden water diversion gates, metal fences and signs warning fisherman and hunter the the full force of the law will be brought upon them if they step anywhere above the high water mark. ( Metal fences running from the water line to much higher than the high water mark makes it impossible to even get into the slough).

While this prison like gate stood guard in a very unnatural way in a very natural place, it did do one good thing. It turned the flow of water 90 degrees and dug out a very deep and dark hiding spot for some pretty big healthy trout. This was a spot that when approached correctly and fished strategically, would produce one if not two 20+ inch fish most every time we were there. It was great. Not many people would walk much further than the access site so the spot was never occupied when we would go there to fish. And best of all, it held big fish that could be caught.

This was a pretty standard fish for East Side spot. This won’t happen anymore.

But that spot is gone and what’s left is skid steer tracks and a man made gavel bar. The channel was completely diverted to dump all of the water into the slough and virtually no water was left to flow into the natural channel. Concrete barriers were sitting on the bank waiting to reinforce the “improvements”. It looks more like a parking lot than a river now.

An upstream view of the “New and Improved” East Side Channel

What is now left after the water flows into Mitchell Slough.

They were generous enough to let this much water continue to flow down the rivers natural course. Forget the rest of the channel below this, it will dry up and become an empty stream bed.

I will be the first to admit that I am no expert in water law, river reconstruction or public vs. private rights. But what I see here is wrong. Destroying a public resource for the betterment of an already private and over controlled waterway? I just don’t get it.

If someone who gave this project a stamp of approval would be willing to explain why this is the right thing to do, I would love to hear them out and maybe come to terms with what has happened to this once loved fishing spot.

I won’t hold my breath.

I am sure Ed Abby’s, George Hayduke would have a few choice words for the fellas that gave this the go ahead.


And Snow It Begins…

Lots of snow in the Missoula area this past week. The public schools even had a snow day or two. Pretty rare. Naturally with upwards of 50+ inches of powder on the local ski hills we had to check that out. So not much fishing but some skiing.

Waist Deep


Look what we found at Lost Trail.

More snow in the forecasts. In fact it is snowing right now.

School starts this week, so naturally morale is low.

Happy Monday.