Rock Creek sits just outside of Missoula and is renowned for its incredible hatches and unbridled access throughout the valley that it runs through. In May the Salmonflies start moving up the river, followed by the Golden Stoneflies, Green Drakes, & Caddisflies just to name a few. We stopped at the Mercantile, where as a boy I remembered the late Doug Persico smoking a cigar on the front porch, pontificating his thoughts to all those who would listen. Doug could tie a hell of a fly pattern, and if you are in the area you should read his rants before you stop by the shop.
My father insisted that I take the helm to start the day and it didn’t take long for a few fish to look up toward our dries. Salmonflies were everywhere, a quick look to the sky and thousands of them were flying through the air, and millions more were hanging from the bushes. With the water clarity at mid summer quality the fish were feverishly attacking our dry fly offerings.
After a few decades of having my father row me down the rivers of Western Montana I was able to repay part of the favor, and row him down the river on one of the best days we have ever had together.
The War Zone is an area of the river that can act as a dividing line on the river during certain years. This year there is a particularly nasty log jam that discouraged many people from passing through it. The strainer appeared to be river wide and the consequences looked to be life threatening. We portaged the boat up and over a few logs and after a brief rest with a beer we could continue on our journey.
We arrived at the takeout and while our vehicle was there, the trailer that was to be attached to it was not. Lying on the ground was the hitch, the ball disconnected and a note on the dashboard.
Turns out years of wear had taken its toll and the unforgiving road of Rock Creek had finally defeated the hardened steel of the hitch. My father left the take out with the note and a few tools to repair the trailer. The journey was nearly 15 miles in each direction on a road that was advisable to approach at speeds less than 10 mph. I sat at the takeout talking with an old timer, a retired guide who told me stories of great fish on the legendary rivers of Montana. Despite his age he recalled days 30 years ago like they were the fresh memories of a young man. We waited together for nearly an hour as his group was running their own shuttle. They arrived just ahead of my dad and loaded their raft on a true Montana fishing vehicle.
I will always come back, but rarely am I fortunate enough to time my arrival with the migration of the bugs. It may be years before it happens again but for now I am glad that I was able to do it this year with my father in tow.