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​                              Monster Rainbow Trout -Missouri River

​For years I have been hearing about the high quality trout fishing below Holter Dam on the Missouri River in Montana but I had never made the trip. Last winter my friend Jim Othrow and I were discussion our fishing plans for this summer and the Missouri came up. Jim’s searching discovered that, being a tailwater, the Missouri fished well in June when most other waters we wanted to fish over the summer were high with runoff. We roped Bob Traver into joining us and plans were made. It could not have worked out better. 

The Missouri is famous for the opportunity to catch 18 inch plus rainbows and browns on dry flies. The dry fly season starts with a caddis hatch, continues through stone flies and yellow sallies, various mayflies and, as summer progresses, terrestials. We should have been in the caddis hatch season. However, dry fly action requires lower flows. The week before our trip flows were quite high but clear as usual so deep nymphing was the ticket. OK, but not what we had hoped for. Then the word came from Headhunters Fly Shop that the flows were coming down and could be ideal for dry fly fishing when we were to fish. We arrived to news of continually dropping flows and the promise of dry fly action in the near future but not much surface action yet. 

The first day Bob and I floated a canyon section with guide, Ben Hardy. The morning was spent nymphing with a scud and a midge. Almost immediately, we were into fish. A 15 inch brown then an 18 inch rainbow took our offering followed by several more in the same range. Interestingly, these fish were not where I expected them to be. They were out in the middle of the stream. We picked fish up in mid-stream current breaks, on flat runs, and what seemed to me to be the middle of nowhere. Still, what we were doing worked so I was content to let Ben do his thing. 

I was completely enthralled with the fishing and the beauty of this river.  Tall bluffs punctuated the scene. Rolling hills covered in green and sprinkled with trees spread before us. A bald eagle flew overhead. It must have looked like this when Lewis and Clark traveled up the Missouri to find a passage west. Just being on the water was a treat. 

Slowly, the bluffs gave way to gentler terrain and the water slowed somewhat. While I had no complaints, I kept eyeing the shore for signs of rising trout. It turned out that Ben was doing the same thing. Shortly before lunch Ben asked if we would like to try dry flies. He had not seen a fish rise yet but he thought they should be looking up. We readily agreed to experiment, so we  changed tactics. 

Ben tied on a #14 black ant. Not what I expected. This was supposed to be the time of caddis hatches, but he was the guide. He must know what he was doing. Now, instead of fishing the middle of the stream we plied the shoreline pockets. Shortly, a 15 inch brown rose slowly from the bottom, opened its mouth, and engulfed my fly. A classic take. And a classic brown battle, as it dogged to bottom before coming to net. A propitious start to our dry fly experiment. 

We caught a number of browns and rainbows on that ant but the one I remember most was one Bob caught. A large rainbow bolted from its shoreline hole, dashed downstream a couple of feet, and smashed the ant. I don’t know if Bob was ready or startled but his rod was up and the fish was on. That was the best take and the best fish of the day, a 20 incher. And a great first day it was. 

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