Written by Capt. Bob Day
The Orvis Guide Rendezvous was held in Missoula, Montana in April, which gave me a great opportunity to take my first real shot at trout fishing. I talked my best friend, Scott McGaugh, into coming along for two days of fishing.
Scott and I flew into Missoula late Tuesday morning and headed to straight to Blackfoot River Outfitters from the airport. Terri Herzer and Matt met us with a very warm greeting and got us squared away with Montana fishing licenses and some general discussions about the fishing and what John might want to do the next morning.
We met John Herzer at the shop at 8:30 a.m. on the coldest April 17 in 100 years. It was in the low 20s when we headed for Scotty’s Bridge on the Blackfoot River. During the 45-minute drive, we got to know John quite well, and he filled us in on his plans for the day. The plan was to drift a five-mile section of the river, mostly nymphing but there might be a chance for a hatch and some dry-fly action in the afternoon.
Once situated in the boat, John rowed us upstream to fish above and near Scotty’s Bridge. I quickly became “Whitefish Bob” after landing a half dozen right off the bat. . .once I remembered to set the hook properly, that is.
John decided to go another 200 yards upriver. He dropped us off at the bank to walk upriver while he dragged the boat over some shallow rocks to the area he wanted us to fish. Once we reunited with John and got back to the deeper water, the whitefish were hitting me again, and Scott started landing some nice cutthroat trout. We then headed down river past Scotty’s Bridge and continued catching cutties, plus a few whities for good luck.
After lunch, we were quickly into cutthroats and rainbows on nymphs, when John noticed a caddis hatch starting. He soon spotted some rising trout and got out the double-dry-fly set up, featuring a large Skwalla pattern trailing a small caddis dry. Scott and I took turns, as we kept going back and forth over the same area with numerous risers on our fly.
We both landed at least four trout each on the dry flies, with Scott getting a gorgeous, 19-inch brown. We continued downriver and kept finding more fish until we got off the river at 6:00 p.m. It was a great day on the river, with Scott and I landing dozens of fish. We returned to John’s shop for some fun discussions about the day, before Scott and I hit the restaurant in the hotel for our own debriefing over some Wild Turkey.
Thursday morning, we met John and his brother Kurt at the shop, along with Tom Rosenbauer from Orvis. John was taking out Tom and another local guide, so we headed for the Lower Clark Fork with Kurt.
After a short drive, we put the boat in at Kelly Bridge and headed down the river. This time, Scott was quickly into the whitefish, trying to take over my title. He fell a little short, though. We then started getting a number of cutthroats on the nymph before stopping for lunch on a sand bar in the river.
After lunch, we were right in the middle of another caddis hatch, with rising fish all around us. I had a tough time seeing the small fly, but we still landed many very nice fish that afternoon. My biggest was a 19-inch rainbow that put up a great fight for me on a 5-weight rod. Scott and I landed well over 20 fish, and most were on dry flies.
Kurt informed us that this was a new take-out point for them and he was not sure how it was going to work. We landed the boat against a 6-foot high river bank and quickly climbed the bank to move the gear off the boat. Kurt backed his trailer up and over the bank to get it close to the boat before trying to pull it out. I told Kurt, “You Herzers are *&%$#@? crazy,” as he yanked the rope down to the boat and began pulling it onto the trailer while I was cranking up the slack. Once the raft was on the trailer, he put his truck in four-wheel-drive and pulled the boat and trailer up and over the bank. John came in shortly afterwards and did exactly the same thing successfully.
This was one fantastic trip!! I never expected to catch this many fish, and I am sure it won’t happen again. Having enjoyed this so much, I can never again crack on you freshwater guys and call your trout “bait.” I will be trout fishing again soon.
Captain Bob Day runs En La Mosca Adventures in San Diego, California.