THE BIG ONE THAT DID NOT GET AWAY!
It is no secret to anyone who knows me that my favorite place to go fishing is Montana. This year I decided to go the first week of April, with the hopes of hitting the Skwala hatch on the Clark Fork River near St. Regis. I have caught some large rainbows and cutthroats that time of year. I arrived on a Tuesday afternoon and the Clark Fork River looked rather muddy and high. For the previous month the river had been running below the 83 year median daily flow rate, which was perfect. But we were having a false warm spring just before Old Man Winter hit us again. Well, the rivers of Montana all shot up with the melting lowland snows. Figures! My guide, Brooks Sanford, picked me up on Wednesday morning and we did the float from St. Regis to the 14 Mile Bridge. It was hard fishing. I only managed to boat nine trout; the biggest was 16 inches, a far cry from what I had been anticipating. That night the river shot up another 1,000 cfs.
Brooks picked me up on Thursday morning and suggested we hit the Flathead River for Smallmouth Bass. That sounded good to me. We launched at the Kookoosint boat ramp, southeast of Paradise, MT. The Flathead was running clear and with a beautiful aqua-green color. I caught my first Northern Pike that day, a small 25 incher, yes, small, for a Northern Pike, but big to me. I also caught a 17 inch smallie and a 15 inch smallie plus a few under that. Then the 'Big One' hit. You can always tell when you have an exceptional fish. The guides get really excited and their voices go up a couple notches. I brought in a beautiful, fat female smallmouth bass of 20 inches. The Montana state record smallie is 21+ inches but they judge by weight. We figured mine to be a little over 5 pounds. The state record was a little over 6 pounds. We took a couple pictures, did a quick length measurement and released her back into her home where she will be able to spawn many future generations of large smallmouth bass.
To finish my fishing report, I also fished the Flathead on Friday, cold wet rain and lots of wind blowing upstream. I caught some more nice smallies, but nothing to compare to the 'Big One'. That is ok. She is still there, waiting for me or someone else. Looks like in the future I will have to include a day on the Flathead River along with my days on the Clark Fork.