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Kissing SalmonNicole and Jenny have Alaska roots that brought them back to the Kenai for a day of fishing.   The sockeye run is still strong, so we set them up on the fish and let them go at it.

Double Trouble

Double Trouble

So fun you'll want to kiss them!

So fun you'll want to kiss them!

After Stacy and I got done with the party with Nicole and Jenny, we decided to go for an evening bonsai float.  We have not fished together since last November.  It was overdue and a ton of fun.  We loaded the cooler with a growler of Glacier IPA from Anchorage (otherwise known as Guide Slayer IPA or the Green Giant) and the new Williwaw IPA from the St. Elias Brewery in Soldotna.  Both beers rocked and so did the fishing.  Stacy started off hooking a cleaning table troll at the confluence.  We grabbed some fresh sockeye for the smoker and found some rainbow and dollie frenzy action on some spawning kings, landing 23 fish in one small area.  The entire drift to Jim’s was good.  Wish we could do it more often.  Maybe some day when I am not a career guide.

The water is dropping, exceptionally clear and the fish are turning on. The Sockeye are still rolling in chrome and a few bright silvers have been taken.  The fishing is so good, you won’t want to stop till you drop.

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My goal this spring has been to spend a week with my boat (Monday through Friday) fishing on the Missouri.  Up to now, most of my time has been a few hours here and there alone, on a quick trip with friends or a short trip with my family.  The few full days I have fished have usually been solo and without my boat.  I want to learn more about my new home water.  My friend Tom from California was in need of an L.A. escape, so he gave me the excuse and partner I needed.  Tom has fished on the Big Horn a number of times, so we were both interested in his impression of the Missouri.

Warm and happy in the sun.

Warm and happy in the sun.

Monday through Wednesday, we had highs pushing 80 and a strong spring wind.  Fishing was good, but we wanted a few clouds and some cooler temps to kick the bugs in gear.  I complained to Stacy (in Alaska) about the heat and sunburn.  Big mistake.

On Thursday we got our clouds and a temp drop.  It was 34 degrees in the morning and blustery.  The fish were snapping and we were pretty happy until the wind built up to a steady 40 mph and the snow began to drift in the boat.  I managed to do some two handed casts about 20′ crosswind, but it soon became ridiculous. We are both pretty tough, but casting was near impossible and the temp dropped further to 20.  It was pretty clear that our day on the water was going to be short.  We retired to Izaak’s in Craig for some lunch and a beer.  I had the forlorn hope that the weather would settle in and we might get a few more hours on the water.  Shortly after lunch and another beer, we entered the twilight zone of fishing flap.  We were surrounded by guides and fly shop owners and the taps were running and the fishing tales and winter exploits were spinning around.  I will take a moment to give props to the Blackfoot Brewing Company in Helena.  I am an IPA snob and they make a very good beer.  It was my first time at Izaak’s and it has the same vibe as my favorite place in Cooper Landing Alaska, the Kingfisher Roadhouse.  While I don’t know everyone at Izaak’s, I actually was acquainted to about six people and I soon felt at home, maybe too much.  By 10pm, it was clear that we were not getting back on the water.  I beat the ice off the door to get it open and limped back to Great Falls.

Cold but MO better than Thursday

Cold but MO better than Thursday

On Friday morning it was 12 degrees in town.  A frozen popsicle of an anchor rope protruded like a trailing shuck from the mess of dirty snow and ice in the bottom of my boat.  I tried to ignore the thermometer as Tom and I  rallied up to the Holter Dam.  Surprisingly, there was not a boat trailer in sight at 8am.  The sun was shining, the wind had died and it was a balmy 17 degrees.  Without the wind, it was actually comfortable.  The lines were a little frosty, but we managed to keep the guides clear enough to cast.  Tom broke in his new 6wt TCX by throwing a streamer and hooking a rainbow right off the ramp.  Fishing was good and by noon, the air was back into the low 40s.  Then it happened.  The baetis began to appear and the swallows and gulls went nuts.  Little sails covered the river as some clouds rolled in and a few snow flurries sputtered down.  It was perfect but the trout seemed not to care.  We tried nymphs and emergers and had the dry fly rod ready.  I have not caught a MO fish on a dry fly since I drove through on my way to Alaska in May of 2007.  In three hours we saw only three rises and only hooked a couple fish on the drift.  Tom’s back was sore from old football stress and my back was beginning to ache watching him try to stretch.  We were done.

Good Beer for Trout Fishing

Good Beer for Trout Fishing

Tom’s take on the MO.  He felt that the rainbows were good sized and strong.  He only caught one brown, but it was a good one.  He liked the scenery, the fact that the water was uncrowded and was even impressed by the crazy weather. I have also fished the Big Horn a number of times and I must say it is an incredible river.  I have fished the Missouri sporadically the past two late falls to springs.  The Big Horn is possibly more consistent, but when the fish are on in the MO, it is fantastic.  The rainbows are strong and fun to catch.  I have caught browns up to 24″ and love that there is so much water to throw streamers.  The scenery is also great and I like that the river can make you think and second guess.  I know it can get busy, but I have never seen it as busy as the Big Horn or the Green River (UT) in the same seasons.

As I pulled out of Craig, I saw Brian Neilson‘s truck at Izaak’s.  Mike from the Trout Shop was there along with Kirk, a fishing and skiing regular from Great Falls and a fixture of the Missouri River Fly Fishers.  It will take a few more days to get the fish on the baetis was the consensus of the smart guys who were already at the bar and the guides that came in.   Hey Brian, lets go fishing in about a week!

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