Fly fishing on the Missouri River

Last Friday, I fished on the Missouri River in Montana. I was alone and the waters were high. The rest of the state seemed almost unfishable from the snow runoff. The Missouri waters, though high, were clear and the mountains rolled along to its side with wide meadows between them on both sides of the river.

I was wade fishing. I enjoy wading more than fishing from a boat and wasn’t willing to pay the price of a guided trip in a drift boat. I found a gravel area along the road and parked. It was private property but the ranch owner gave fishing access. You had to lock the gate behind you by wrapping a chain around the wooden fence. After walking a few hundred yards, the meadow dove down and there was overgrowth and high grass along the bank. I introduced myself with a loud call to warn any bear who might be near and startled by my presence.

I fished for an hour at the bend in the river that was sized down by an island. It was full of beauty and slick water in parts and a seam of riffles in the current where the fish tend to gather. I caught nothing, not even a bite. I wore the neoprene waders and felt-bottom wading boots my family gave me for Father’s Day. Neoprene waders are hardly worn by fishermen now because of how heavy and hot they are. Good and bad fishermen tend to wear the light-weight Simms waders that are triple the price. But I’ve always been stubborn about expensive equipment. I have always thought they were more for show than for use. In my baseball years, I opted for rubbing dirt on my hands over batting gloves. But in reality I needed to get over my judgmental posture. My legs were sweating.

Two fishermen, in shorts, passed by on their way to their car and said to me, “The fish are in those riffles over there. I promise you they are there.” I said thanks. He said, “But tell me one thing. Why in the hell are you wearing waders in this damned heat? You must be from the south.”

“Georgia,” I said with my stomach in knots. “I was going to say Tennessee,” he said. They left and I thought about avoiding the area he recommended, but decided I would rather swallow my pride than to catch no fish. But still no fish. I said to myself, “You have caught trout before and you will catch some today.”

There were many boats that passed me with guides and they were out in the middle past the island, away from the bend and moving swiftly. On three occasions I could hear the echoes of excited voices, anchors dropping on the rocks and fly rod reels cranking. The guides were netting big trout. I kept fishing.

Minutes later a boat came my way at the bend. I gave room and they slowed. A woman, in a fishing hat, with a flustered voice asked me, “Are you catching any fish?”

I said, “No. I have caught nothing all day.”

“Me either. And we’ve been out here for hours. I’m almost ready to call it a day.”

I instantly liked her.

Her guide said, “The water is high and it’s midday.”

I felt better.

Then she said, “Put the anchor down. Hurry. I am hung on something.” She twisted her rod and contorted her body.

“You’re not hung. That’s a fish. It’s a big brown.”

She fought the fish and her guide, who seemed to be her husband, netted the trout and they kissed.

Looking at me she said, “You must have been our good luck charm.”

“Glad I could help.” I didn’t like her anymore.

They lifted the anchor, tipped their hat and drifted towards the swift water. But as they moved along, the guide yelled back over the hum of the river, “It was a green PMD. You might try one. Make sure it’s green.” I tied on the closest fly that I had and thought to myself, “People out here aren’t so bad.”

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