Saturday, October 13, 2012

Road Trippin': Craig, Montana and the Mighty Mo

A Missouri River Rainbow vs. a Skiddish Smolt Pattern

It's a bummer when work gets in the way of fishing, but I don't mind so much when my work takes me to Helena; a wee hop south of the fly fishing mecca of Craig, Montana.

Three days of work in Helena this week resulted in three evenings of fishing on the Mo.

As each work day came to close, I zipped up the road to take advantage of the last remaining hours of daylight - fishing between Holter Dam and the town boat ramp.  There were very few people on the water mid-week and the hoots and howls of owls and coyotes dominated the soundscape. 

Other than a brief cloudy window on Wednesday evening, bluebird skies and heavy winds were the dominant weather pattern.  This kept the bugs off the water for the most part and, although this stretch of the river is famous for head hunting with dry flies, the majority of the action on this trip was subsurface.

I was a little disappointed I wasn't able to experience the river's legendary dry fly action, but it's the bugs and fish who determine what is on the menu, right?  Nonetheless, the subsurface action was outstanding.


The river below the dam feels like a very large spring creek, with gin clear water, thick vegetation and lots of aquatic invertebrates.  I noticed a lot of large rainbows coming up into the shallows as dusk approached, apparently to feed on the hordes of crayfish I observed along the banks.

The blue ribbon stretch of river below the Holter Dam holds over 4,000 fish per mile with a "rainbows to browns" ratio of roughly 5:1.  The rainbows in this stretch are without a doubt the feistiest trout I have ever landed.  

Missouri River trout are well-fed, large-shouldered linebackers.

You know what else is cool about Craig?  Cheap motels and diners.  Lots of good local fly shops.  Minimal development.  Nice people.

Heck yeah, it was a darn good time and I can't wait to get back up there again.


  1. Times like those make work so much more enjoyable. It's amazing how good the fishing in MT can be, even in places that seem like everyone is or has, or should be fishing it. Great shots and it looks like you got into some awesome fish.

  2. Great report Brent. The second picture of a Brown, the one where it is in the water, is so cool it looks like it belongs a stamp.