Classes ended last week at the University of Montana School of Law and students were expected to lock themselves away in the library cubicles for seven days of “reading week”. The vast majority of these students chose the UMSL because of its location on the Clark Fork river, in the heart of one of the West’s most happening hangouts for outdoor enthusiasts. After sitting inside and furiously taking notes for the past five months, the thought of spending another day inside was unbearable.
Tom Murphy, a Great Falls boy raised on the Missouri River, called me after our last class and said we were going fishing. Most of the state’s rivers were blown out, but we had heard that the midge hatch on the Mo was going off.
I awoke to the sound of rain on Wednesday morning and by the time Tom and our fellow classmate Paul, an avid fisherman from New Mexico, picked me up, the temp had dropped below freezing. We ventured up the Blackfoot through the snow storm with smiles on our faces and long-johns under our rain coats. Thankfully, the storm broke by mid-afternoon and we were all overdressed.
On our way up the Missouri from Craig, we saw fish after fish rising and assumed the campers and guides would be elbow to elbow up at the dam. To our surprise, there was no one on the water! Paul wasted no time tying on a small adams and clambered down the bank below three rising rainbows. He must have landed seven fish before having to move his feet.
While I was snapping shots of Paul’s fish, a victory yell rang out upstream. I turned to see Tom grinning from ear to ear with a big rainbow on.
By the time I reached him, he had released his fish. I asked him about the size and species and he replies, “Put that damn camera down and grab your rod!”
I took his advice and landed 3 fish on a size 18 parachute adams. The dam above us was a gorgeous sight with the massive column of water coming over the top of the spillway.
We couldn’t have been happier to be out on the water and away from the flickering glow of fluorescent classroom lights.
The first day of Reading Week was undoubtedly spent reading, but we were reading the body colors of mayflies, the pockets behind rocks, and the current lines of the Missouri River. We headed down to Great Falls for a famed Mrs. Murphy meal at Tom’s house with plans to hit the river again the next day en route back to Missoula for finals preparation.