The public always enjoys a good disaster and a crowd had gathered to rubberneck. The canoe was precariously perched on a 40-foot stretch of concrete which once spanned the Clark Fork River, in downtown Missoula. Zelda sat obediently in the canoe while John Crawford and I attempted to stabilize it. We were in only two inches of water, but it was flowing rapidly into a five-foot deep pool-- definitely deep enough to make a spectacle. The weight of the water contained in the bottom of the canoe was the only thing keeping it from flying over the concrete. The crowd loved our predicament. I grabbed my fly rod and began to walk along the length of cement, casting into the swirling water. John sensed my intentions and followed the lead. The crowd, who had at first smelled a catastrophe, was now witness to two guys simply fishing. Their amusement soon waned and they continued on their way. Shortly thereafter, John and I bailed the canoe and maneuvered it to safety.
|I had always heard that big brown
trout could be caught in the Clark Fork where it passed
through Missoula. I convinced John to accompany me on a
45-minute fishing jaunt down the river. John is the son
of Marj and Jay Crawford, whom I met and am regularly
reunited with during the winter months spent in San Jose
del Cabo, Baja Mexico (See the Cabo Shore Fishing report in back issues of the Minnesota
They were my gracious hosts during my stay in Montanas most appealing city. As much fishing as John does, he was unfamiliar with this local stretch of river. It proved to be more than an uneventful float. The Clark Fork flows fast and clear over a series of boulder-induced whitewater as it flows past the University of Montana into the heart of the city. As we drifted, trout were surfacing all around us. We paddled from one side of the river to the other, tossing grasshopper and caddis flies near the banks. Several trout rose to my flies.
John caught and released a ten-inch rainbow. The first set of rapids caught us by surprise, large boulders banging the canoe and water coming in over the bow, setting our beers, wrapped in can coolers, adrift in the sloshing water. A couple other rapids confronted us, lacking protruding boulders but offering serious standing waves.
During our short canoe ride, we took note of the many fine, potential fish-holding pools the river contained along the way. While we caught no more fish, we learned the river. It became more of a scouting mission- appropriate, since the river was named after one of the foremost scouts in all of history, Captain William Clark. Now you know the rest of the story.