Blog Posts In Fishing

Big Hole River Update: July 24, 2013

The winter was mild, the spring was wet, and now the summer is hot.  The river is closed from 2pm-12am at the very top and very bottom of the river.  The middle three sections, where all of the best fishing is, remains at a flow well above closure status.

Please play your fish in to the net quickly, keep them underwater when unhooking, and revive the fish in moving water before releasing.  An improperly handled fish may swim away, but due to buildup of lactic acid it will die soon after swimming off. 

Save this river for years to come!  The Drought Management Plan is detailed below.

Big Hole River Drought Management Plan
Actions & Restrictions Through 7/24/13
As predicted, flows are low and temperatures are high this season. The Big Hole Watershed Committee Drought Management Plan (DMP) has been implemented on several occasions. We would like to let you know the actions surrounding the DMP so far this summer:

Flows Triggers:
Section I: Headwaters to North Fork Big Hole (measured at Wisdom Bridge) dropped below 40cfs in early July. DMP notice went out July 3 and landowner plans under the CCAA program were implemented. Flows rose by July 5 and remain above 40cfs, the first flow trigger in the DMP.

Section V: Notch Bottom to Mouth (measured at Hamilton Ditch near Twin Bridges) flows are low in this section. DMP is implemented in an effort to raise flows and implement conservation measures. As of today, flows remain at 127cfs and 27cfs above a river closure.

Temperature Triggers:
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks determined that the following sections warrant a "Hoot Owl" fishing restriction due to high water temperatures:

Section I & II (Headwaters to Dickie Bridge) "Hoot Owl" fishing restriction beginning 7/22/13
Section V (Notch Bottom to Mouth) "Hoot Owl" fishing restriction beginning7/25/13

BHWC and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will continue to watch Big Hole River flows and water temperatures and implement DMP actions accordingly.

Details of actions, reports, results and the DMP 2013 are posted on our website:

The middle portion of the river continues to maintain flows with Sections II, III, and IV well above the first flow triggers.

Thank you for your role in supporting the river this year.

High Water and High Hopes

The Big Hole:
 Our season at Big Hole Lodge begins Thursday, and as you may have heard in the news we have a lot of water.  The Big Hole has been running high all week, and has been fishing marginally on big nymphs and streamers.  Last Saturday the river was out of it's banks in many places and the water was off color.

 The weather forecast for the rest of the week calls for slight chances of rain, cool day temps, and cold night temps.  We expect the Big Hole to drop and clear over the next few days.  If this happens, the fabled salmon fly hatch will come off this weekend, or early next week.  This largest member of the stone fly family lives as a nymph for three years before crawling to the banks and into the willows to hatch.  In its adult form, the salmon fly resembles the Red Baron's plane as it flies around the river with its dual wing system, and it is quite a meal for these hungry trout.

 The drought years of the 2000's all but killed the stone fly hatches.  However, the Big Hole has enjoyed three years of healthy water flows and this years crop of bugs ought to resemble the standard of the 80's and 90's.  The fish are healthy and hungry so we all need to hope for cool temperatures and clear water.

The Beaverhead:

The Beaverhead also suffered through the drought years, especially in the winters when flows out of the dam were cut back substantially.  For the past three years, the powers that be have maintained a healthy flow of 200cfs throughout the winter and the fish have shown a lot of improvement.  Currently, the river is running at a mandated 240 cfs even though the reservoir is approaching capacity.  This is because the Missouri is nearing critical flood level and the Corps of Engineers has asked that the Beaverhead be cut back.  This is great news for early summer fishing.  240 cfs is a late July flow, and though the Grasshopper Cr. is dumping in a lot of water and mud, dirtying the river and ruining the fishing, the upper river is in great shape and has been fishing very well.

My father, a long time BHL guide Allen, and I threw the boat in for a few hours on a quick scouting trip to see what the river looked like before we start on Thursday.  Unfortunately, for the first time this week there was not a cloud in the sky and the fish were not looking up.  We did however, catch fish on nymphs when streamers did not produce.  We boated eight fish in our quick 4 hour float, but I am eager to get back out to work the pools we passed up.  The reports from Dillon indicate that the big browns of the 90's are back and the flows will be kept at this level until the runoff is over.

The Wise River:

The Wise is currently a kayaker's paradise....(In fact, when I took these pictures today a kayaker was on his way to the river to throw his boat in)  It is running very high and fast and dumping a lot of water into the Big Hole.  Fishing on the BH is much better above the confluence with the Wise than it is below.

The lodge's home pool, normally wadeable by this time of year:


The bottom line is, Montana finally had the snow year it needed this past winter.  According to the old timers, high water like this used to be the norm and if we continue to have years like this, the entire ecosystem will greatly benefit.  We may have to change our game plan a bit to get into fish over the next few weeks if the weather warms up quickly, but we will get into fish.  And if it stays cool and the snow comes out slowly, fishing will be phenomenal.

Bring On the Sunshine!

Big Hole River Fishing Report: 6/3/11 Weekend Outlook

  • Water Flow: 4,750 cfs
  • Water Temp: 46 degrees
  • Visibility: 10-12 inches
  • Fishing: good with streamers
  • Weather: snow today, sunny and 70's through the weekend

The new rain has brought the water level up, but fishing has still been good underneath. Early yesterday morning we had high winds, a furious hail storm, and then heavy rain on the upper Big Hole.  The rain showers continued through the day and into last night.  This morning it is snowing at the lodge!   The weather forecast is calling for sunny skies and temps in the 70's through Monday...bring it on!  The warm weather will definitely bring snow down and the river will most likely rise significantly by the beginning of next week.

The sunshine ought to bring on the caddis hatch and top water fishing could be very good this weekend.  Streamers have been working well in this nasty weather and should continue to do so in the mornings before you tie on a dry.  Good luck!

Happy Birthday to our chef, Lanette!  She is over in West Yellowstone celebrating with our trusty guide, Chuck Ravetta.  They plan to get out on the Madison today to bring in her new year.  Enjoy your next trip around the sun, Netter!

T.G.I.F. Big Hole River is clearing up

Friday Fishing Outlook: Big Hole River

  • Water Flow: 3,630 cfs
  • Water Temp: 49 degrees
  • Visibility: 18 inches
  • Weather: high 50's and chance of showers through the weekend
  • Fishing: Good
  • Flies:  streamers, march browns, caddis, stone fly nymphs

The Big Hole has been dropping steadily for the past three days and clearing as it falls.  The clouds and cool temps throughout the weekend will keep the river clear and fishing should be great.

Time to buy a Kayak, the Wise River is rockin' and rollin'

Big Hole Fishing Report 5/16/11

  • Water Flow: 4,540 cfs
  • Water Temp: 47 degrees
  • Visibility: muddy
  • Fishing: Streamer fishing has been cumbersome, but successful until today.  The water came up a lot last night and the Big Hole is very turbid today.
The spring weather that we have been missing out on will start this week and hopefully the weather will warm up enough to bring the mid-level snow out, essentially blowing out, and cleaning out, the watershed.  The weather predictions for the next two months indicate cooler days and cold nights which will bring the high snow out slowly and steadily throughout July and into August.    The Big Hole is going to be substantially bigger going into summer this year, but when the water clears fishing will be very good and fish will have more river to work with.

Big Hole Runoff, by the numbers

Big Hole River Fishing Report

  • Water Flow: 2,580 cfs
  • Water Temp: 53 degrees mid-day
  • visibility: 6 inches
  •  fishing: big shiny streamers

When I woke up this morning, NOAA was preaching doom and gloom and predicting an 8ft flood stage at Melrose by Saturday.  This would be a disaster for our Kid's Day on the Big Hole, but luckily the weather patterns have changed and so has the flood prediction.
Big Hole River Flood Prediction

Big Hole River weather report through the weekend

The weather will warm up, but not quite enough to bring the snow down with any consequence.  It looks like we are going to have high water for quite some time this year.  As I have been saying though, as long as it peaks and clears by mid June, fishing is going to be great regardless of the water level.

Big Hole River flow chart, cfs

Winter Weather Advisory: 1-2 feet of snow in the mountains

Better get the skis back out. Alex Ralston, former BHL guide, on Lost Trail Pass

Big Hole River Fishing Report 4/10/11

  • Water Flow: 2,830 cfs and rising
  • Water Temp: 42 degrees
  • Visibility: 6-8 inches
  • Fishing: Catch up on housework for a few days

Big Hole River Fishing Report 4/9/11

  • Water Flow: 2,330 cfs and rising
  • Water Temp: 45 degrees
  • Visibility: 6-8 inches
  • Fishing: Catch up on housework for a few days
  • Weather:

A couple of links you ought to check out:

Big Hole River:

  • Water Flow: 1,210 cfs
  • Water temp: 40 degrees
  • Visibility: 2 feet
  • Fishing: Good!  The temps are supposed to reach the mid-sixties today which may bring down some meadow snow in the upper valley, the water may discolor over the weekend, but I wouldn't be afraid of fishing big stone fly nymphs.

And now a couple of links you might enjoy:

A man catches a fish of a lifetime on the Missouri River yesterday:  Monster Rainbow interviewed me for Trout Bum of the Week:  Orvis Trout Bum

May 2-8 Fishing Outlook, Big Hole & Beaverhead

Big Hole Fishing Report

  • Water Flow: 909 cfs
  • Water Temp: 46
  • Visibility: clear
  • Fishing:  Good, on nymphs and streamers in the morning.  Skwala's and small dries in the slower water when the water warms up

Beaverhead Fishing Report

  • Water Flow: 424 cfs
  • Visibility: clear
  • Fishing: excellent on blue winged olives in the afternoon.  Nymphs in the AM, streamers in the cloudy weather.

Weather report:  Mostly sunny and in the high 40's to low 50's throughout the week.

Keep your eye out for the Mother's Day Caddis Hatch.......