It’s spring in Montana, although we’re supposed to get some major snow tomorrow. May hit the Madison anyway because the fishing is too good right now not to be on the water, no matter what’s falling from the sky. In fact, April is a great time to fish Montana’s main rivers, including the Missouri, Bitterroot, Clark Fork, Bighorn, Madison, Big Hole and Jefferson, among others.
Case in point, I hooked up last Friday with Frank Kneeshaw who’s the head guide at Four Rivers Fishing Company in Twin Bridges and Jon Yousko who is the top rep at SIMMS in Bozeman.
We hit the water mid-morning with big fish on our radar. For that reason we didn’t even whip out the nymph sticks, instead lining up the streamer rods for a full-on assault.
I became a believer early on when Yousko missed two fish and then landed a sweet brown, perhaps 21 inches long. I’d missed one fish on an olive articulated streamer with a Tungsten head.
Later, though, the fish turned to the olive and Yousko and I enjoyed some pretty steady streamer action while Kneeshaw spent his time, graciously, on the sticks and shelling out Budweisers to the back seat, where, appropriately, I was sitting. I suppose we hooked 12-to 15 fish that day which, all in all, is a pretty nice run on the streamer sticks. We took two or three fish that stretched twenty or better and I landed a few that ran 14- to 17 inches.
Kneeshaw and Yousko are the types of guys who make a day on the water awesome. Kneeshaw likes to put people on “Montana time” and he has the disposition and the excitement for fishing and his career that allows clients to realize that sensation. Some of his greatest satisfaction arrives when some wound-up, high-stress job, big-city client arrives in Twin Bridges and turns into a laid-back dude by the second or third day of the trip. And you can’t help but feed off of Kneeshaw’s love for fishing. Before he started guiding in Montana he was a commercial crab fishing badass in on Bering Sea. When he’s not fishing these days he’s in the Blue Anchor celebrating the landing of some massive brown or rainbow, or, even after a day on the water with clients he’s casting in the evening with some of his guide disciples.
Kneeshaw knows what it takes to make it as a guide—nothing more than a love of fishing. While we floated down the river the other day he said, “I can tell right away if a guy is going to make it as a guide for us or not. If they guide a day or two and I say, ‘Hey, let’s fish tonight or all day tomorrow on our day off,’ and they say, ‘Oh, I’ve got other things to do’ or ‘I’m tired and don’t want to fish,’ I know they aren’t going to make it.”
Kneeshaw is also one of the most genuine guys I’ve met in Montana and he’s more than willing to help you out. I found that out last summer when I met Kneeshaw and some chronies at the Madison’s 8-Mile access and I leaned out the window and said, “I’ve got PBR’s on ice for you guys if you’ve got a pull or two of that Crown Royal for me.” Couple hours later and I felt like I’d landed in the lap of best friends. Another hour or so I’m proposing that I’ll sleep in the back of my truck, but that’s where Kneeshaw stepped in and took over the reigns. Enough of that story—I took enough ribbing at 4 Rivers Fishing Company the other day to hold me over for a while. Good fun for all.
Fishing is cool, no doubt about it, to Kneeshaw. And Yousko, I’m happy to report, is no different. He’s been tearing it up this spring and he says that the fishing in southwest Montana has been particularly good, which bodes well for summer possibilities, too. Yousko lives what most of would consider the dream life although there are trade-offs to his type of work, which puts him on the road a lot, a lot, a lot.
But I don’t feel too sorry for him. As we floated and fished and laughed and joked on Friday he told tales of giant snook in Mexico, and a big-time, all-in-or-nothing float trip down British Columbia’s Babine River last fall. The things dreams are made of I tell you.
So check out the additional pics here, and try to make it to the river soon. This is one of the best times of the year for large trout they eat streamers well. The rivers are mostly uncrowded right now and there are picture-fish to be had. In southwest Montana try the Madison, lower Gallatin, Jefferson, Ruby, Beaverhead and Big Hole Rivers.