Floating the Mightly Mo

Just back from our whirlwind trip to Craig, Montana fishing with the ladies of United Women on the Fly and I am still trying to recover! With over 1500 miles driven, while pulling a boat mind you, our journey had everything a good “Trout Bum” road trip should have. A police escort, multiple brushes with death, big horn sheep falling from the sky, boat launch brawls, holographic bison, the Missoula River, Yellowstone, and of course the endearing babbling bar fly wearing a box on his head are just a few from the highlight reel.

While I would love to delve into more details of the road trip (1) Joel wanted brief (2) what happens on the road should probably stay on the road and (3) many things you just need to get out there and experience for yourself. I’m also confident my now literal partner in crime Shandy (aka Thelma aka Lucky Day) will cover those in detail in her photographic essay she is working on. I in turn have decided to focus on my trip floating the Missouri River.

I had been ecstatic about this float trip for 6 months. We called Head Hunters Fly Shop early and were able to reserve Whitney Gould as our guide. While I was new to the PNW and trout fishing I was well aware of Whitney Gould! You know, six time Spey O’Rama champ, yep, same gal. I was super stoked as they say out here.

Laura McGuill of PDX Women on the Fly and I met Whitney and Willa, her 9 year-old yellow lab, early Friday morning and headed to Holter Dam in Wolf Creek, the headwaters of the Mighty Mo. Embarking on an 11.5-mile float on a river boasting 4,000 fish per mile the possibilities of the day were endless! Indicator fishing was the plan for the morning running two split shot and two nymphs. Starting with sow bug nymphs we hooked-up immediately. These fish were BIG, the biggest trout I had ever connected with on a fly rod and it showed as I broke off the first three in record time. Whitney was patient even though our sow bugs were limited and we were quickly running through them. She explained the feeling I would need to develop and painted the imagery of what happens to a string tied to a doorknob when you slam shut the door. That made sense. She elaborated on when to let them run, when to reel down and when they were just messing with me. Most importantly she wanted us to “show em the elbow”. From that moment onward everything was clicking. We caught fish, we lost fish and we missed fish but for the first time in my life I lost count or rather stopped counting how many we were bringing to the boat!

Around lunchtime the cloud cover disappeared and the fishing slowed. Mayflies began to slowly come off and we switched our bottom nymph to the Little Green Machine and then the Two Bit Hooker. We managed to pick up a few more fish. Laura caught a small rainbow that produced several aerial tricks before dipping below the surface. When her fish resurfaced like a submarine breaching it had transformed into a BEAST of a brown trout! In the time it took to register what had transpired to the poor rainbow the brown had snapped off the line. What a moment and one even Whitney confessed she had never witnessed. By 5pm we were spent and reached our take out point at Stickney Creek.

The Mighty Mo is a BIG river with HUGE trout averaging 16 to 22 inches. It was amazing to look down in the water and see these monsters cruising the eddies. Fish were certainly caught wading but those were few and far between. I would highly recommend floating this river. Whitney worked her tale end off to get us fish and put us back on good runs. I was amazed at her work ethic and intensity. She is also an excellent instructor. It was clear to me that her reputation is well deserved and Shandy and I have booked her for 2020! Who knows? Perhaps we will have some epic Trout-Spey stories if Josh (aka Fly Czar) can get us ready!

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