Blog Posts In big sky

The staff has been fishing for a week, back to work today

Big Hole River: 400 cfs

"The Quality Chicks" group leader, Linda, has fished several days on the Big Hole over the years and has never had a really good day.  Her one day of floating this spring was no different, but at my request she returned for a redemption day this fall and it really paid off.   The stars must have lined up the right way because the air never really warmed and a thick cloud layer hung over us all day without producing rain, yet the bugs hatched in incredible numbers.  The tricos were so thick we had to keep our mouths shut and the fish were gulping them by the dozens.  We got a nice blue winged olive hatch in the afternoon and the fish were searching for them as well as spruce moths.  Linda boated over 20 fish and six of them were over 16 inches.  I finally got to bust my rod out and make some casts and landed a few nice rainbows and a grayling.

The day before my dad took Linda to "Mystery Cr." and got into some good hopper fishing.  All in all I think it was well worth the drive from Idaho

Meanwhile, our chef Lanette was in Yellowstone with Chuck Ravetta fishing the Firehole and the Madison in some of the worst late August weather conditions on record.  Temps were in the 20's at night and the 40's during the day with rain and snow flurries and the fish were sluggish.  The fishing was good late in the day on caddis though and Lanette boated a couple of good-sized browns.  Craig was building a new deck on the Beaverhead Cabin, and I was showing two friends from college around the state camping where possible.  We saw four bears, three black and one grizzly but we were a safe distance away.

We're back at it this week though with ten clients, all returnees.  It's supposed to be very cold for the next three days with snow and wind so we'll be bundled up.  The river looks great and fished well today on dries but it got pretty windy in the afternoon and casting was tough.

Late August Fishing Report: Big Hole River

Fishing is good!

The Big Hole River is finally looking like it usually does in August, although it is still almost one hundred cubic feet per second higher than the historical average for this time of year at 412 cfs.

We have had a few spruce moths and a lot of wade fisherman lately, making floating a bit tricky.  The boat has to go where the fish are in order to float and the wade fisherman are often standing there.  Hard bottomed drift boats are pretty well done for the season, I'm still seeing guys use them but the echoing pang the make when the hit every third rock does spook the fish.

The tricos have been out and the fish are looking for them as long as the wind doesn't come up before the spinner fall.  Like I say there have been a few spruce moths in the past week but the wade fisherman are hitting that part of the river pretty hard.  Hoppers are finally jumping in the wind and hitting the water in the afternoon so the big bugs are back on.

Last night we had a major cold front move through bringing heavy rain, sever thunder showers and mid 30's temps overnight.  The peaks above the upper Big Hole were dusted with snow this morning and it was pretty chilly wet wading.   The sudden change definitely affected the fish and the river never really warmed but we picked up some nice fish.

The weather is supposed to warm up to 80 tomorrow so I'll  re-pack the skis for now.

It's raining, it's pouring

Is it really August?  Southwest Montana skipped summer this year to the benefit of the fish.  We were all scared this winter when the Northeast received a higher snowfall average than the Big Hole Valley that this summer would be filled with forest fire smoke and the river would drop so low it would be unfishable.  Then in late May we got a major snow storm and it rained all through the month of June.  July never got hot but the water started to drop quickly over the past two weeks until August arrived.  So far this month we've had nighttime temps in the 40's and daytime highs in the high 60's and low 70's with heavy rain in the afternoons.

My father and I have been on the private waters near Dillon the past two days with these skylines.  We watched as massive black walls streaked with lightning rolled through the Beaverhead Valley one after another.  The fishing was generally good, although the absence of sunlight made sight fishing very tough on the lake and the spring creek.  When our eyes wore out we resolved to rest:

The Big Hole has been rather slow with all of this rain.  The water temperature has dropped quite a bit and the flat light makes it hard to see the little flies that the fish are looking for.  There are a lot of bugs flying around and if you can get your cast through the wind and onto the water with a good drift, and see your fly, the fish are eating them.    Easier said then done in a twenty mile an hour headwind!  No tricos yet and the hoppers are soaked in the grass in the afternoon.   The good news is we should have a great rest of the summer with all of this water.  The fish have needed this break for years.

Hurricane Season Kicks off in Wise River

Not quite but the weather is pretty wild right now.  During dinner last night we watched as a ferocious rainstorm rolled in from the south then suddenly changed direction and started pouring sideways from the north.  The wind cracked several trees, lifted lawn furniture, and broke one of the open cabin windows.

The river is staying cold with the new water but I think the fish are as confused as everyone else with the unusual August weather.  The barometer has been falling before each thunderstorm and the fish go down until it passes or things level out.  The hoppers are staying in the grass trying to stay dry and the tricos are staying quiet.   We were able to pick up some nice fish this morning and later in the afternoon but the fish were definitely a bit spooky after the weekend pressure.  My dad took a wade trip and did very well working the water the boats couldn't reach.  I fell in today after the biggest rain shower and got pretty chilled.  My client was also shivering so we headed for shore and the Dewey bar but the sun came out and it warmed up at least 10 degrees so we pressed on into the evening.  All in all we had to work for em but we were happy with what we got.

In other weather related news:

Last week a group of climbers, some from Bozeman, MT, required rescue from the Grand Teton due to a barrage of lightning strikes.  One 21 year old climber from Iowa was killed after at least seven bolts hit the peak.  The other 16 had to be rescued by helicopter.

This morning in Wise River an old Huey helicopter was forced to land with a damaged rudder at the local airstrip after rescuing an injured hiker from the Beaverhead National Forest.  The hiker was taken to Missoula for treatment and the two pilots were reportedly uninjured.

Crazy Weather

It was chilly last night, hot by midday, and then all hell broke loose around 4:00.  The sky turned black, lightning rained down across the lower Big Hole Valley and it poured for about an hour and a half.

The river has been dropping quickly and the haze in the sky tells of the arrival of annual forest fires around the West so we are all glad to see a good cloud burst.  The wind came up during and after the storm making casting impossible but the fishing was good this morning if you could get a fly to where the fish were.  Bill and Craig from Louisiana have been saltwater fishing for over 40 years and could definitely get the fly where it needed to be.  Despite putting a hole in my boat, drowning a new Cannon camera in a deep riffle, and tangling a fair amount, the three of us laughed all day and caught some great fish.  Mostly browns today with the odd brookie and rainbow.

The weather is supposed to stay dark and wet through the weekend so I don't know when we'll get into hoppers and tricos...everything is late this year but there seems to be plenty of water so we'll be ready for them whenever they happen.

The Bitterroot fished well today, although it seemed like only the little fish were looking up.  We're looking forward to a great week coming up, Craig's longtime Pennsylvania buddies are bringing a group of close friends. I'll keep you updated, should be a lot of laughs.

The Loch Ness Montser?

We were down on the Beav today on a private ranch with the river, a channel, and a small lake.  I had the pleasure of guiding Ed and Patti from Texas, long time friends and loyal clients.  We started on the river with dries and droppers and hooked a few before the water turned muddy and mossy.  It was clear when we started but we watched as our feet disappeared into murky water.  I'm not sure if they released water out of the Clark Canyon Reservoir today or if someone was just doing river maintenance upstream but either way we were blown out and had to head to the other water options.

Ed and Patti fish hard all over the world and Patti has always been one  of our most determined guests.  A few years ago she returned home one brook trout short of the Montana grand slam and though her guide stood by her after hours in the rain for quite a while she finally had to hook, net, and photograph her proof alone.  She arrived as the rest of the clients were finishing dinner with a smile on her face and the camera in her hand.  Today she made Big Hole Lodge history again by landing a spot on the Wall of Fame.

We tried six different flies and worked for over an hour to hook this behemoth.  She fought him for about 15 minutes on a 4 weight rod!   Neither us had any idea how big he actually was until I shoved my long-handled net under him and he didn't fit.   He measured to just under 25" and was so big around the middle I struggled to get my hands around him.

Congratulations Patti!

The OTHER Corps of Discovery

Lewis and Clark took over 40 men and a Great Bernese Mountain Dog on their heroic journey across the uncharted West.  They ventured courageously up the Missouri River in search of a Northwest trade passage and not since their insurmountable attempt have the waters of the Mighty Mo witnessed such a distinguished boatload of  explorers --until last week.   The staff of Big Hole Lodge loaded up the Leisure Van and set out in search of big fish.  On this voyage, the leaders of  "The Other Corps of Discovery" saw fit to whittle down the numbers from forty to a much more manageable group comprised of only the most competent fishermen and skilled individuals--a Chef, a prep-chef/handy-man, an art teacher, a fishing guide, and a trout-hungry  Jack Russell Terrier.

We set out from Wise River, MT and headed north to Butte to gather supplies.  We'd heard tales of caddis so numerous each night they blanket the waters of the Missouri, so we filled our fly boxes with every imitation of every life stage of a caddis.  The van was loaded with gourmet food, beer, and plenty of gear as we set out for the mountains north of Helena.  Upon our arrival in Craig, MT we checked in at The Trout Shop to warn the locals of our intentions and leave word of our origin point and anticipated destination.

We waited until the first signs of nightfall and the birth of the hatch to launch our raft.   Under cloudy skies the slow waters were dark and silent.  As we quietly drifted into the middle of the giant river we were flanked by dozens of stone-faced anglers.  They lined the banks awaiting the first signs of feeding fish, glaring as we slipped past.

After ten minutes we were in the midst of what appeared to be a mid-winter blizzard but instead of freezing temps and stinging snowflakes it was seventy degrees and our faces were being battered by frantic caddis!  The hatch had begun and the feeding frenzy was soon to follow.

Laurie drew first blood.  Her gasp of excitement shattered the silence and all hell broke loose.  Kali, the young terrier, sprang into attack mode clawing and snapping at the edge of the boat.  Since she was a small puppy we have been taking her on fishing trips, thereby engraving into her mind words that trigger such a ferocious reaction: strike, set, there, and fish!  The river which was just a moment ago eerily peaceful was now the stage for battle between woman and beast as Laurie fought a 19" brown on 5x tippet.   Lanette lunged for the dog, Chris wielded the net, Wade kept the  boat near the fish, and Laurie narrowed her gaze at her opponent as it ran left and right, away from the boat then toward it.

When the whooping, hollering, scolding, and shouting had ceased Kali remained convinced that the trout was on board.   She attacked the net as it lay empty on the floor of the raft.

The fish fed in schools, slurping the surface ten, fifteen, thirty at a time.  With all of that food on the water one could only pray for a take.  Not to be outdone by her pupil, Lanette leaned forward in her chair and shot a deliberate cast a foot upstream from a feeding fish.  With a flick of the wrist she planted a size 16 barbless hook into the snout of a 20" brown.  After another ten minute fiasco we managed to subdue the dog and land the fish.

Unable to contain myself, I rowed to the bank and waded up to a small group of feeders.  After several refusals I crossed my arms and contemplated my strategy.  I waited and waited for the fish to slip back into a comfortable feeding pattern then put my fly in its trough.  Sure enough a pair of silvery lips appeared and I raised the rod.  The 21" rainbow ran and jumped three times, showing off its acrobatic ability before admitting defeat.

With smiles on our faces we loaded the boat and headed into old town Helena for a glass of wine and a late meal. Though, not unlike Meriwether Lewis in his post trip melancholy we felt out of place in the  civilized atmosphere of the Mediterranean Grill after such an adventure as this.  We look forward to a return trip this fall.

Sorry for the lapse in posts! Internet woes

Living in the woods has its communication limitations, especially during fishing season.  We have to make hay while the sun shines so we don't have time to watch tv or read the news, instead we rely on the internet.  DSL lines are finicky as it is but when they run through the rocky terrain of the Wise River valley and are controlled by a one room office seventy miles away in Wisdom, we consider our internet to be hit or miss at best.  It has gone out three times in the last week and a half!

Without further ad0:

The Big Hole River has been in the typical late July lull.  The hatches are sparse.  The yellow sallies are basically over and the tricos are here and there but the fish aren't really looking for them yet because of the water level and the weather.  Hoppers haven't quite started to get to the water yet either.  We are catching fish but we are working for them.  The heat over the last week was really bringing the water down quickly and the fish were acting like the water was rising quickly--hiding out and hanging on.  We have had a lot of rain and cold temperatures in the last couple of days and we are glad to see the break in the heat.  At 840 CFS, we should be in good shape in terms of water for the rest of the season.

The Beaverhead is in good shape.  The river is at a good level and because they let a healthy flow out of the dam all winter the fish are looking great.

The Bitterroot was blown out yesterday due to heavy rain the night before.  The East Fork was a dark gray color and the West Fork had a light layer of black due to the charred trees from last year's fire.  This discolored the main stem and packed the boats up into the West Fork.  Chuck and I had to get creative to avoid the boats and find fish in the face of a torrential afternoon downpour and heavy thunder and lightning.  The bigger fish were hiding but we were able to coax up a healthy handful of feisty young cutthroats to save the day.

Two in the hand

Didn't fish today but I went out late last night with my dad for the caddis hatch.  It was pretty good when you could see the fly but after the sun went down it was extremely tough to time the sets.    I had to share these pictures from Thursday. Phyllis of Cheyenne, WY doesn't miss many strikes, in fact when she does strike she seems to catch everything in the vicinity!

Hit 'em high and hit 'em low!

Together they were 16 inches ha ha

Paid our dues today

The Big Hole is in great shape at 4,070 cubic feet per second.  Lots of bugs flying around.

Fly fishing will teach you a lot about yourself and your place in this world if you let it.  Today we tested our patience against very selective trout on the upper Big Hole and learned a lesson in the importance of presentation!  At the start of the Pale Morning Dunn hatch the fish were hungry and eager to snag every yellow bodied may fly that came along, today they were looking for fly lines and leaders.

David and Tina from Arizona worked painstakingly to perfect their casts in breezy conditions this morning and we were able to pick up some brookies and grayling before putting the boat in.  The float fished pretty slow and it sounded like that was the consensus among the boats in our section.  There was a thick caddis hatch coming off just as we were taking out tonight so we decided to float right on past the car and it really paid off.  Dave and Tina fished hard all afternoon to no avail and after waving goodbye to our ride they were rewarded with great fishing through the evening.  Dave made a perfect long cast to the underside of a big rock and sure enough mister brown was there to suck in the dry.  We picked up a healthy handful of nice sized rainbows as well and called it a day.   I hope everyone this week enjoyed their trip, we hope to see you next summer!