#40: A Mountain Trout for Montana
The drive from Oregon to Montana took all day. Like many travelors before me, visting Montana was to have a big impact on me. I texted my father telling him that one day I would live here, and 2 years later I would.
We arrived in Missoula late that night and slept in the parking lot of the local Cabela’s. The next morning we went around to several fly fishing shops in the town, and found that the season for Westslope Cutthroats, the Montana state fish, had only opened the day before. Luck! While we were a little early for really good fishing, we should be able to find some. We had gotten a recommendation to try fishing Monture Creek, a tributary of the Blackfoot river about fifty minutes outside of town. We made the drive, and got down to the water, and we realized that we had a big problem. The banks were overflowing with water, as the snowmelt was in full effect. We had managed to dodge this in the lower states due to warmer weather. It quickly became obvious that the Monture was not going to be an easy spot to catch this fish.
One of the guys from the fly shops we stopped at had mentioned Rock Creek, and I had heard good things about this place already through several other sources, so we found the closest fly shop to it and set out. We found similar issues there with the amount of water in the river. Thankfully, a helpful employee at the shop showed us a back way that would allow us to access the very top headwaters of the creek if necessary, and so we set off around some mountains in search of fishable water, with some new flies in tow.
We took a road out of Philipsburg, and drove until we hit the creek. It was still flowing pretty fast, but looked more fishable. Unfortunately, much of the bank was private property and was fenced off, so we only had access to smaller sections on the side. We saw a few fish, but only in isolated pockets and they were not biting. We decided after a while to just go as far up the creek as the road would take us, so we drove about an hour into the mountains and above the snow line, and found the creek running through a forest destroyed by wildfire. The stream was full of very hungry and aggressive Westlope Cutthroats, and before long we had managed to land two, after both missing too many bites.
We drove back out towards the town, nearly running into a few massive elk along the way. We decided to drive towards Idaho that night in an attempt to catch our fish there the next day before heading back to Washington for steelhead. We spent that night right inside the Idaho border, ready to go in the morning. We had done 8 Western stats in 14 day and were feeling very pleased with our progress.