There are pros and cons to working in a fly shop. The pros are obvious: talking about fishing, facilitating fishing trips, and rigging up fishing equipment all day is any fisherman’s dream. But with that comes the reality that you yourself are not fishing.
The beauty of the West in the summertime is that the sun shines well into what should be nighttime anywhere else. That means that when work is done there’s only one thing to do. Go fish.
“What time you getting off,” Mike asks me after he finishes up ringing up a customer.
“I’m off at 6:00, wanna float?”
“Sure I’ll get the boat rigged up then we can roll out when you get done.”
“Sweet I’ll ask Luke if he wants to join then we’ll get after it.”
The remaining few hours of work drag along as my mind shifts into fishing mode. When 6:00 finally rolls around, I help close up the shop and meet Mike and Luke outside with the boat ready to go.
There’s something special about floating the Missouri River in the evening. The guides have long since trailered their boats and dropped off their clients. The rec floaters have deflated their tubes and are on their way back into town. The river is quiet and the fish have had a break from the constant flow of nymph rigs.
We pulled into the boat ramp parking lot around 6:30 pm and found it mostly empty except a few overnight campers grilling out and relaxing after a long day on the water. We backed the boat down the ramp and pushed off from shore.
As ideal as this all sounds, the Mo is still the Mo. That constant flow of nymph rigs means that these fish are as smart and picky as they come. Big brown and rainbow trout have seen it all and have gotten pretty good at avoiding getting jabbed in the face.
After a few fly changes though, indicators began to drop. Just a couple hundred yards from the put-in we began netting fish. After a quick photo op, we sent them back on their way. We worked our way down the river picking off a few fish as we went along.
Entering the homestretch of the float feeling content as we had each caught a few fish, it was time to let me row. Up to this point, Mike and Luke had been taking turns captaining the drift boat as they had more experience doing so. I jumped on the sticks feeling confident that I would not be able to get the boat into position to catch fish, but there’s only one way to learn.
As I grabbed the oars, Luke said, “let’s head over to the left side and fish that seam coming off the point”. I clumsily rowed us over, and they cast their flies into the seam despite the poor boat positioning. We drifted through the seam without any takers. “I know there are fish in there let’s row back up and try it again”.
As the second drift came to an end, Mike’s indicator shot under and his rod bent nearly down to the water. “This is a good fish,” he said as his rod tip went thump, thump, thump.
The fish stayed deep as it peeled off yards of line. Chaos ensued as Luke got into position with the net and I tried unsuccessfully to keep us away from snags. “It’s a big brown!” Luke said as Mike lifted it to the surface.
Luke apprehended the monstrous fish with a big swoop of the net and turned to give Mike a fist bump.
The Missouri River may be known to produce big fish, but landing a brown trout of this size is no small feat. After a few obligatory pictures, we sent the big brown back down to its lair.
We cracked a few celebratory Budweiser’s and paddled on down to the boat ramp aided by the evening breeze.
As the sun began to set, we trailered the boat and hauled it back up to the shop. After washing the fish slime and spilled beer out of the boat we headed home ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Article by William Tapscott @wtapscottcreative. Other anglers include @lucassettineri and @mmoul11. They all work at @crosscurrents fly shop located in Craig, Montana along the Missouri River.