Monday, May 26, 2014

Salmonflies by the Bushel

A Memorial Day day dream of dry fly fishing.

The bush-shaking, sun-reddening, neck-crawling plague that is a Salmonfly hatch is a scene which must be experienced by any angler. The biggest of the hatches we see in western Montana, they always get us a little more than rilled up. This year is shaping up to be a big season for these giant bugs with plenty of water and a cool spring on tap. We will be out searching the river for them come June and spreading the word once they pop: It is a hard phenomenon to keep quiet anyway, might as well get to word to streets.

Of our local rivers, the West Fork of the Bitterroot, upper Rock Creek, and most of the Big Hole river have the heaviest hatches of these bugs. Ideal flows for Salmonflies are 800-1300 cfs on the upper Root', though anything below 2000 cfs will do. We check USGS daily to keep tabs on where/when the bugs are going to first show up and then go check out stretches dry fly rods loaded. Waiting to see where the bug bonanza will strike next.. . . .

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why we love High Water

Spring runoff is rolling full-bore on western Montana rivers right now. We all know the season: weather warms up, BBQ's become the weekend norm and the river goes all to haywire. While it is good idea to give the flyrods a rest while high-water is peaking and hazardous, there are plenty of reasons to be loaded and ready to go for that first day of post-runoff fishing.

A few of the best good reasons:
Biggest fish of the year are caught during or directly after runoff. Period. They have tons of water for protection and lots of food coming to them. This is when big fish crush subsurface flies with the least worry. This is when big fish smack bushy dry flies with the least worry. Know this and go get them.

Big water means fewer people on the river. If you like solitude then you already know that the "prime" months are a mixed bag: great flows and hatches and plenty of people to go with them. If you want to see 12-miles of river and not another boat, high-water season is the best season.

Adventure! We guides are out on the river every day and know how and where it is changing better than anyone (including Google). This is paramount to safety. The upshot for anyone visiting MT during high-water is getting to see the river at its absolute full-glory, side-channels spreading in every direction and filled with fish. Summer low flows can lull the fisherman to sleep: Spring fishing is an adventure you will not soon forget.

So mark the calendar up right now and plan on finding some big water, big fish, big stories. Welcome to Montana Spring.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Big Hole Valley Magic

All the talk of high water and blow out rivers had me itchy to get out fishing. It just so happened that a few college buddies were in town, so a quick trip to the Big Hole valley for some camping and streamer chucking was in order. With lower flows than other freestone rivers, and less people than the local tail-waters, the Big Hole was an easy choice for our destination. This valley is one of my favorite places in Montana, so time spent there is always cherished. The first day started with hot and heavy fishing. Brook trout were throwing themselves at our streamers for the first few miles of the float, keeping the beer flowing and smiles wide. This stretch is known for having lower numbers of brown trout, but the ones that are there are usually large. I was lucky enough to run into one towards the end of the day on a big articulated streamer. Life is good.

Trent with the fish, Ricky with the hold
The second day began early, cold, and overcast....perfect for streamer fishing! We found plenty of willing participants as we floated towards the town of Wise River. As the day progressed, and the river swelled with runoff, we bobbered up and went deep with stonefly rigs. Put the bugs in front of them and they would eat. This was enough to keep us happy until a hail storm ran us off the river.

Its always a good time when this group gets together so the solid fishing was only a bonus for us.  I am beginning to get antsy for upcoming guide days that will take me back to the amazing Big Hole valley. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On The Road: The Box Canyon

Driving into Idaho after pillaging the Madison we set up camp at Harriman State Park. Home of the Miracle Mile and its world famous giant Rainbows we had some hope that maybe the Henrys Fork would give us a peek of what its reputation is all about. That was before we checked to graph and saw the waters volumes on a steep climb, and a weather forecast with the dreaded W plastered all over it. Thats the way she blows sometimes.

A checkin with the solid fish hawks down at  Trouthunter  got us going with plan B. "Go check out the Box guys, its running big but pretty clear and theres more fish up there than you know what to do with". Thats music to a wind-whipped fisherman's ears right there. We floated the Box twice and pulled plenty of fish, all rainbows under bobbers and coming out of the water hot. We now have a new favorite spot in Island Park, one which we will sit on until the fabled Henrys Fork stops being such a windy bitch.

Friday, May 9, 2014

On The Road: 100 Mile Riffle

The 100-mile riffle of the Madison River: One of Montana's jems boasting prolific insect hatches and some of the biggest-shouldered fish in the state. Friday we rolled out with the whole crew from the Bitterroot and being greeted in Ennis with a sunny sky and no wind (what? no wind on the Madison?) we allowed ourselves a bit more optimism than usual. Anglers are prone to such thinking. The Madison fished well for us, with browns slashing at streamers on most undercut banks and a few looking for dry flies in slow side channel pockets. This river is beginning to grow on me. I need to try to sneak away from guiding to hit it when in its prime.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

On The Road Pt. 1

The time has come again for the crew to head out on the road for our annual spring trip. Hibala, Outfitter Jed Fitzpatrick of Bitterroot River Guides, and I are heading over the hill to hit the Madison and then down to the Henry's Fork of the Snake in Idaho for a few days of fishing. We will be meeting up with friends and family in Island Park, Idaho, where we will be staying at the famous Harriman Ranch State Park. This is always one of the most fun trips of the year, sort of a last stand for us guides to let loose and fish before a full season of rowing and guiding. Here are a few pictures from last years trip.

Stay tuned early next week for a report on the trip....and hopefully a few pics of a huge brown or two. Cheers