Missoula - Week Two

Trip Start May 03, 2010
Trip End Oct 21, 2010

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Where I stayed
Jim & Mary's RV Park

Flag of United States  , Montana
Sunday, August 22, 2010

08/16/2010 - 08/22/2010
When we arrived in Missoula we only intended to stay for three days, but we had such a good time during those first few days that we decided to stay for another week. Missoula is a nice town, about 70,000 people in town and 100,000 in the county. The University of Montana is here with its student population of 14,000 which adds to the young, vibrant feel of the community.  Mountains border the city on three sides and the views in every direction are amazing.  Some of the local attractions include The Smoke Jumper Center, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Fort Missoula.

The big draw for us is the fishing. The Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers and Rock Creek all drain into the Clark Fork River giving the area four of the best trout fishing streams in the western United States.  Lolo Creek, Fish Creek, Nine Mile Creek, and lots of other smaller creeks and streams feed into the four rivers giving anglers an almost unlimited variety of fishing options.  The Clark Fork drains one of the largest regions of the US.

It was hot on Monday and we waited until late in the day to drive 40 miles west of Missoula to fish Fish Creek in Montana's newest state park. It is a medium sized creek that has a good population of cutthroat trout. We only fished for about an hour and caught a nice westslope cutthroat before heading off to do some exploring.  Not too far further up the road we discovered a point of interest site where the tallest tree in Montana is – a Ponderosa Pine that stands over 200 feet tall. According to the information plaque it is more than 350 years old and is still growing. It was an incredible site to see and quite awe inspiring.  Probably the most amazing thing about the tree is that is has survived right in the middle of some very large lumber operations.

Tuesday was another hot day so we didn’t fish. We toured around town and checked out the University. The campus sits right up next to the mountains and is beautiful. School doesn’t start until August 30 so the students weren’t there and we spent a peaceful hour driving around and viewing the different buildings and facilities.  It is a very nice campus. 

On Wednesday we drove the long way to Rock Creek to fish it for a second time.  The long way gets you to the upper section of the creek, but is 100 miles from Missoula.  On the way we passed through Philipsburg which is a small, historic mining town that has been well kept and has some nice shops and good restaurants.  We were apprehensive about driving so far to fish the same creek we had fished last week at the lower section (only 23 miles from town) but everyone told us that the upper section was the place to go. Once we got there we immediately knew why.  We started at Delles Bridge, which is where the road meets the river, and headed down stream looking for good spots. There are good spots everywhere!  We finally stopped at the old concrete bridge and found a long, deep run just below the bridge.  We rigged up and hit the river and were catching fish within a few minutes.  The wading here was much easier then down stream making the access much easier and safer.  We fished the 100 yard run for almost five hours without moving to another place and had good success all afternoon.  We caught cutthroats of good size and I landed an 18 inch white fish which is the largest I have ever landed.  For the drive home we decided to take Rock Creek Road, which follows the river all the way down, instead of going back the way we came.  The entire road is 41 miles long, and it is rough and bumpy for all but the last 12 miles.  It took us the same amount of time to drive the remaining 35 miles that it would have taken us to go back  the way we came (about 80 miles).  It was worth it though (once) as we discovered even more good fishing spots further down from where we had fished. 

On Thursday we toured the Rattlesnake area of town and Goodnough Park. Rattlesnake Creek runs through the park and supposedly has decent fishing. We explored a little and decided it was pretty small and would maybe try it another day. We saw a bunch, and I mean a bunch, of deer in the area. They were on the road, in the yards, and pretty much everywhere that we looked. Nice, healthy looking with several fawns included.  After passing on Rattlesnake Creek we again headed west of town past Frenchtown to a little creed called Nine Mile Creek. There is good, but not a lot, of access along the road and we fished a nice section that was full of little trout. I even caught a 12 inch cutthroat, which was a monster for this size of stream and quite unexpected. We both landed several fish and then moved up further to the junction of the roads and fished under the bridge. Janice caught some nice fish here as well. We drove up the road a ways before turning for home. It was one of those streams where you could have some fun for a while on occasion, but you wouldn’t want to fish it very often.

Friday we returned to Rock Creek for one last time (on this trip).  We again took the long route and arrived at Delles Bridge around noon.  I tied some Spruce Moth flies before we left since there had been a lot of them on the water the last time we were here so we were anxious to try them out. We drove south to the old concrete bridge again and no one was there. We rigged up and tied on the Spruce Moth patterns and fished the run just upstream from the bridge. There weren’t as many moths on the water today as there were a couple of days ago but I landed a nice 13 inch cutthroat and then a smaller one before we headed to find some new spots

We stopped at each of the next two bridges and had success at each one. At the first one I landed a 16 inch cutthroat but we couldn’t get anything else to work even though we covered the water thoroughly with several different flies and rigs.  It was mid-afternoon and the sun was high and hot which always makes the fishing challenging. So we took a break and enjoyed a nice lunch along the river before we proceeded downstream again.

The next spot we found was another bridge that had some real nice rocks, runs, and pools downstream from it.  We hiked down to the good spots and started working our way upstream.  Up until this time Janice was having a tough day, but here she broke out of her slump and really got into the fish.  Her first fish was a 13 inch cutthroat on a #14 Elk Hair Caddis. She quickly followed that one with a 16 inch brown trout and then several more browns in the 14 inch range. All were really nice, healthy fish with great colors.  By the time we had worked our way up to the bridge it was 6:30 and with over 100 miles to drive we decided to pack it in for the day.  It was a fun day with some challenging fishing, and some nice success.  As an added bonus we caught all of our fish on dry flies - we did not have a single fish hit a nymph all day.

Saturday was another nice sunny day. After a leisurely breakfast and a stop at Starbucks we headed downtown to check out the local Farmer’s Market. What we found was three separate events and a really busy, fun downtown area.  There were two farmers markets, and one downtown market that was more of an art, crafts, and miscellaneous fair.  There was also a large pet event going on. There were lots of people, musicians, food, and beverages.  We visited each event (except the pet event) and walked the entire length of downtown.  For lunch we stopped at Docs for a sandwich – great food, very fresh, lots of variety in the sandwiches which are all named after famous doctors such as Dr Who, Dr Kildare, Dr Demento and many others.  It was a nice relaxing day around town.

Sunday was our last day in town and we decided that we wanted to make sure that we got to fish all of the major trout streams around Missoula before we left so we did a tour of the three that we hadn’t already fished.  We waited until the temperature cooled a little by mid afternoon and then started by heading east of town to Bonner to fish the Blackfoot River. We were surprised how beautiful this river is.  We drove out of Bonner and stopped at the Angelvine FAS to give it a try.  The water looked like classic trout water with big rocks, runs, and deep current.  We saw one fish during the hour or so that we fished but didn’t have any activity. This is a river we want to explore more the next time we are here, there are 100 or more miles accessible to the public.

Next we headed back into Missoula to the Bitterroot River and the Kelley Island FAS which is just west of town.  This wasn’t as pristine as the Blackfoot (duh, we were basically in a residential area and the FAS gets lots of use), but the water was still nice. We didn’t want to do much hiking so we just fished by the parking lot (another duh) and didn’t see or hook any fish there.  The Bitterroot also offers almost 100 miles of river and as with the Blackfoot we will definitely explore it more the next time we visit the area.

For our last stop we drove to the Kona Bridge FAS on the Clark Fork. This was about five miles further west from Kelley Island and was a very nice FAS.  The Clark Fork is the biggest of all the rivers in the area, the others all drain into it upstream of where we were so this is a pretty sizable river.  We walked a little ways up river from the parking lot and were just casting along the bank when I unexpectedly hooked a pretty nice whitefish. It was a bonus and nice way to finish the day.  Janice also had a bunch of fish after her Royal Trude – too bad they were all about the same size as the fly!  We did see a couple of other fish hit that were a little bigger, but with the sun getting low in the sky and our stomachs growling for some dinner we called it another successful day and headed back into town.

We had seen a restaurant in town that we wanted to try so on our way back we drove by to see if it was still open since it was Sunday night.  We were in luck and the Mustard Seed was still open and quite busy. We ordered our food – Beef with Broccoli and Teriyaki Chicken – and were pleasantly surprised when they arrived. Both were excellent!  We would usually eat about half of the meal at a Chinese restaurant but we both ate the entire dish and were left wanting more.  It was some of the best Chinese food we have ever had, not doubt. 

With our fishing done and our appetites satisfied we headed back to the campground to get ready to leave in the morning.  We loved Missoula and plan to return to the area as soon as we can.
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