Blog Posts In Tom Murphy

Fall Fishing Report: Streamers in the Shallows

Tom Murphy strayed from his beloved Missouri to investigate the state of the browns on the Big Hole.  Using an articulated Christmas ornament, he has determined they are hungry, mean, and preparing to spawn!

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This skinny old brown ate in still water in front of the boat ramp before we had the anchor up!

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Soon after, the below pictured fish hit "harder than a northern pike!"

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We knew it would be nothing short of greedy to continue fishing after landing a hog like that, but after a summer on the oars.....it was just too much fun to stop!

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The sky was dark, the wind was up, and the temps were chilly, but the fishing was HOT!

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Sweetening up the Bitterroot

Nick Scuibba lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan (for Ralph), and fishes in PA whenever he can.  Six years ago he and his father fished the Bitterroot as novices.  Last year, he fished the Big Hole as an accomplished angler, using mostly flies he had tied himself.

He called me back in March and said he needed his Western fix.  As usual, Montana's late spring weather was completely unpredictable as his trip grew near.  However, last week set up to be prime Salmon Fly weather.  Then it snowed.  Then it warmed to 80. And then it snowed again.

Tom and I picked him up on the late flight in Butte and headed to Wise River to plan our weekend.  At one AM, the plan was, "Tomorrow, we float the Big Hole....60 MILES!"
The alarm at 7 am brought clarity, and at the sight of snow in the hills, we decided to go to the Bitterroot where it would hopefully be warmer.

It wasn't.  There was driving snow on the pass, and a plane down in the road.  Luckily, an hour later the clouds lifted and we were on the West Fork catching cutthroat.

At lunch, Tom rolled over a boulder just off the bank and found these guys awaiting the signal to crawl out and hatch into their adult Salmon Fly form.

He put on a heavy Salmon Fly nymph and sure enough:

Between tangled lines and side-arm casts, a reckless display of rowing, a runaway boat ending in a flying leap-and-catch, and a few beautiful cutties, there was no shortage of laughter on that trip.  Couldn't have had a better day if we'd tried.

Just before dark, we headed over the hill to soak in the Elkhorn Hot Springs and plan our next day on the Big Hole.

Running From the Law

 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.