Power Hour Trip - MT Float

June 26, 2019

A goal of mine this summer is to get my kids out fishing more.  My 13 year old son, Henry, had football camp at the University of MT this week.  Coincidentally, camp only lasted until noon each day, and the rivers were in perfect condition... so we made the most of the trip and fished a couple of afternoons!  Several of the Griz coaches are avid (and talented) fly anglers, so not only did we get some quality intel, but we talked Coach Rosenbach into coming out with us.  This trip was a great reminder of just how easy it can be to grab some food, hook up the boat, call in a shuttle, and get on the water.  When guiding full time, you tend to take for granted just how special (and productive) a float trip really is.  I had planned to take Henry wading each day after camp, and having guided there for many years myself, I know some places that would have been decent, but adding a boat turns a fishing trip into an adventure!  


We floated about 8 miles on the Bitterroot Day 1, and caught fish on dries, droppers, and streamers.  The lower Bitterroot is a very braided river, that is choked with log structure all the way down.  The fish hold tight to the logs, and the fact that it's pretty shallow lends itself to being a productive dry fly and dry/ dropper river.  I threw streamers for about the first mile and landed 1 pikeminnow.  After Henry and Timm put some nice Cutthroat and Rainbows in the net, I swtiched to the dry fly, too. We did pretty well throwing big dry flies.  At one point, at the junction of a spring creek, we found a couple of nice trout sipping small bugs.  We lengthened and lightened the leader, and Henry landed a nice Rainbow on a size 18 PMD cripple.  Timm also stuck and lost one that was eating on a tough slick. In all, we landed Browns, Rainbows, Cutthroat, Whitefish, and the pikeminnow on a quick 5 hour float.  


Timm brought his raft to camp the next day so we could float the Blackfoot. I had the trailer hooked up, lunch in the cooler, and shuttle arrangements made when they finished camp at noon sharp.  We drove up the Blackfoot and launched the boat just in time to see a few Golden stoneflies taking flight, followed by more and more... A single fish fed 50 yards below the launch, which Timm quickly covered, stuck, netted, and released in about 45 seconds - then took the oars as we were trading on every good fish.  Henry landed a fat 18"er about 3 minutes later, and it never really slowed down for the next 5-6 hours.  It was one of those days that you dream of.


Whether you're with your kids or your buddies, a float trip is an amazing way to experience a river.  Being in the boat is a social experience, as it allows you to strategize about where and what to fish, while joking with each other about the how it's getting done!  It's like car camping, in that all of the creature comforts - snacks, ice cold drinks, boat bags, extra clothes, several rods, etc... can be taken along and remain at your fingertips whenever you may need something.  Contrast that to wade fishing, where you typically fill your pack with everything you might need then split up and head different directions; checking in with each other at lunch or the end of the day.  Don't get me wrong, we all enjoy the solitude that standing in a river by ourselves gives us, as well as the deeper connection of catching fish wading, but a float trip is an adventure that is neat to share with kids or friends, and a great bonding experience.  



Many people are intimidated by floating because they aren't experienced rowers, or aren't familiar with some rivers or certain sections of those rivers. That's understandable, as it's an unsettling feeling to be floating and not knowing exactly where your takeout may be or how long until you get there.  Our advice is to start by asking a local shop or shuttle service about the river.  It helps if you let them know how much time you'd like to be on the river first, then ask questions about flow rates, hazards in the river, landmarks and distances, and how to recognize the takeout.  Drive by the takeout before you launch so you can see it.  This may take an extra half hour, but the peace of mind you get is well worth it.  Fly Shops answer these questions everyday, so don't be afraid to ask.  It's also very helpful to pull up the area you are floating on a GPS program.  You can download many apps that offer maps and track locations.  The app I have been using lately is Basemap - note my shirt in the photo below of my morning hike up the "M".  The pro version of this allows you to turn on layers that show boat launches, land ownership, trails, etc..., and allow you to easily measure distances for river miles.  It's amazing how accurate and effective these can be.

















So make it goal to go to take your kids on a river float this year.  Whether you come to the Yakima or go to the Rockies, get it done!  Not only do we provide great info on the Yakima, but we also offer rowing lessons, and boat rentals (rafts and drift boats), and provide shuttles and Do It Yourself advice to anyone hoping to get over here. Here's our packing list for this trip.  Give us a call or send an email with questions.

Rods:  590 Sage X - great big dry fly rod with or without dropper!

Reels:  Lamson Lite Speed 2

Line:  Rio perception WF5F - perfect taper for big dry game

Flies:  What can we say, the foam and rubber leg revolution continues... Chubby chernobyls: golden, purple, red, royal.  Yeager's YB tungsten bead, PMD cripple


Where is he now?  Many of you WSU fans probably recognize this character!  Cougar alumni quarterback, Timm Rosenbach, is the Offensive Coordinator /QB coach on Bobby Hauk's staff with the University of Montana Grizzlies.  He played pro football for 6 years in the NFL and CFL.  He was the only NFL QB to take every snap during the 1990 season with the Phoenix Cardinals throwing for 3,098 yards with 16 TD's and a 54.2% completion percentage.  Some lesser known trivia facts are that he spent several years working as a full time fly fishing guide on the Yellowstone River near Livingston after he retired from the NFL.  He is now happy to be back in Missoula with his family, where he attended Hellgate High as a freshman and sophomore, setting the state javelin record his sophomore year.  He is a great angler, and the only thing that makes him happier than catching big trout is beating the MSU Bobcats!


  1. Cool! I recognize the location of the selfie looking down on campus. I also took the family to the UM campus for a camp, only it was music. I had the privilege of accompanying my daughter to her cello classes and my wife went to our son’s violin sessions. I managed to fish the Clark Fork in the evenings behind the hotel. Good times!
  2. That was a long time ago, by the way. I still have the UM cap with Fly Fishing sports identifier.