Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Montana Project: Part 4

Day 6: Adrift on the Clarks Fork...

After a long day of slow fishing on the Blackfoot, we regrouped the next morning and put on our happy faces as we headed for Missoula to go float the "town section" of the Clarks Fork. Things were looking up for us already that morning as we were met with overcast skies and cooler temps, which hopefully meant the trout would be looking up. We met up with Zach at the fly shop and then made our way to the boat ramp...

We got the boats launched and started our journey down the mighty Clarks Fork. The Clarks Fork is a big wide river, it reminded me a lot of our own White River in Arkansas. Although, I gotta say, the Clarks Fork is a lot easier on the eyes. We started the day throwing streamers at some nice banks, turning some fish but didnt put any fish in the boat. Things changed as we made a bend to find Zach and Squatch anchored up on a pod of risers in a nice slick. We dropped anchor next to them and watched as Squatch did his best to dissect the pod. He was able to get a couple of eats but couldnt hook up so we moved on downstream. Things were starting to look up for us as all 3 boats found a pod of risers to drop anchor and go to work on. It was totally cool to see each boat posted up on some fish and the guys trying to get a trout to rise to their bug. The fish showed us some love and each boat was able to stick some fish in the boat on the dry fly bug!
After picking apart some pods of risers in the 1st part of our float, our luck kinda went south for a while. The sun decided to poke out and the wind started to blow which, in turn, put all the fish down. We went back to chuckin' streamers for a while with no luck. The day was starting to turn south for us again. Luckily, we came up on a few sweet long run that allowed us to get out of the boats and do some wade fishing. We dug out the bobber rigs and went to work. We had to pluck out a few whitefish to get to the trout but it paid off as we were able to hook up with some rainbows.
Highlight of the day was during our lunch break stop. We were pulled up on a bank with a nice seam flowing through some big boulders right in front of us and on downstream of us. Squatch was posted up in the front of Zachs raft with a "Montana Streamer Rig" (big streamer under a big bobber). He was bouncing the big bug through the rocks in the current when the indicator dove. He set the hook to find he was hooked up with "something" good. The fish put up a nice fight especially in the current but Squatch finally got the fish turned to the boat. As it got closer, we realized we were looking at a HUGE pikeminnow also known as a squawfish or streamer fishermans whitefish. They are a minnow/creek chub on steroids. They are a trash fish in Montana but it was totally cool to catch such a big one! Sadly, before we could get a photo...the fish got away from Squatch's hand but we did get a quick clip of it on the GoPro!
We continued on down the river and picked up fish here and there to keep the day interesting. We chucked the bobber rig somemore along with throwing hoppers at the good banks to catch our fish. Again, the scenery made up for the fishing as it was starting to slow down as the day warmed up. The Clarks Fork just kinda lazily meanders its way through the valley and you have great views no matter which way you look. Mountains, foothills, and farm land...a very diverse landscape!
A few other funny moments from the day was as the float dragged on, what I like to call silly time started up. It started off with a certain someone (me) grabbing a big rock and stashing it in the skiff. Then when the other guys werent looking, I chucked that sucker in the water next to them and soaked them all. They never saw it coming!
 Another funny moment was when Crik and I was fishing a nice looking bank with the foam bugs looking for a good brown that Zach said had been caught there a couple of times over the summer. I had just looked away from my bug for a second when I heard the swirl of water and looked back to see my bug gone. I set the hook on a decent fish and thought, bingo! turned out to be a dang pikeminnow! So I got a piece of one of the ignorant things too!

The next quality moment of the day was right at the end of the float where we came around a bend to find a MASSIVE rock on the opposite bank overlooking a deep hole. Somebody (Zach) turned to us to let us know that we dont have any guts at all if one of us didnt jump off the rock. Luckily, Chris was up to the challenge as was CoreyD so we pulled ashore to watch the shenanigans! We strapped both of them up with the GoPro for each jump and took some pics as well. Hopefully the video will come to light soon and everyone will get to see it all!

What a great day on the water! It was a long day for the crew and we were glad to see the boat ramp. The only bad thing was that meant that our last night in Missoula was upon us. Everyone was hesitant to leave the river it seemed as they knew that this part of our journey was coming to an end. We gave thanks to Zach for showing us around the area and loaded the boats up to head back to the cabin for our last night. We returned to the cabin and had our last dinner in the cabin which consisted of grilled ribeyes and fried potatoes, not a bad way to end the day. We spent the rest of the night packing gear and preparing for the day of travel and fishing tomorrow.
The plan had changed for us as we had a day to burn so we decided to hit up "River X" tomorrow on our way over to Craig to fish the Mighty Mo' on Friday. We spent the rest of the evening discussing the past weeks adventures in the Missoula area. What an awesome place...

The next day, we returned to the back country...stay tuned...

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