By Montana Grant

Posted: June 3, 2023


Well, the waters will soon become navigable again in Montana. This means that the fleet of drift boats will be launched. For many fly guys, the drift boats are river ready. When you drive through any road in town, you will see 3-4 boats on the curb.

I am a little late getting river ready. The ice season lasted through April and into May. Then the rain came. The ice finally melted and chilled down the rivers. The waters are now off color, high, and more rain is coming.

The High Plains Drifter that I use belongs to my son in law. I bought the oars and kept it river ready in season. The last year has been a recovery from back surgery, so I have neglected my duties a bit. Back in my guide days, I would have had 20 or so guide trips under my vest by now. I figure that the salmon flies will start in a few weeks then Trico love on the Missouri will begin. Then the Yellowstone will become hopper magic. Later the Bighorn will call me.

You haven’t seen Montana until you see it from the bow of a drift boat or on the back of a horse. Drifting down the Yellowstone River is magical. Even if you don’t fish, the float is special. Fishing makes it even better.

The fleet has grown over the years. Back in the 1980-1990’s, you rarely saw much boat traffic. Trout shops had maybe 3-6 guides in their fishing corrals. Usually a couple old guys, young and hungry go getters, and someone good with kids and women. Shops today have 2 dozen guides on hand. Outfitters have even more. There are more boats, fishermen, guides, fly shops, but fewer fish than back in the day.

When I grabbed my SILs boat, it was full of water. I think I saw a couple of trout swimming in the stern. It took me a while to drain the rain. The boat also had some dead leaves, mice, birds, and a beer can or two. I found the oars and managed to knock some rust off the hitch to make it work. The electricity is fine.

There are a bunch of things to fix, clean and repair. The oar locks need new holding pins, the oars need some shellac, the ap box needs to be checked and filled, the preservers and cushions need to be found. The boat net and pole are already in the boat.

The High Plains Drifter is pretty bullet proof. The only thing it needs now is some on the river time. I will have things sorted and ready this week. My first drift will be a dogs and wife float down the lower Madison. I will break a Salmon fly beer on her bow for good luck. The Madison River brewery will be happy.

It’s good to be retired!

Montana Grant

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