Right smack dab in the heart of the season is when the Bitterroot River sees it’s most consistent days, weather wise. Ha. Fishing is great when and where you can find it, and playing the traffic game can really help this time of year. I like to get out very early right now to avoid the crowds, relative term of course here in Montana, and get a move on the day before things heat up too much. Fortunately, the weather has been very cooperative this summer, with plenty of moisture when we need it most and bearable temperatures.
Bug-wise any little dry fly will do the trick right now, and later in the afternoons we are seeing some crushing takes on hoppers and big uglies. Some days the fishing can get slow, especially if several boats are in front of us pounding away at the water. This is when I will switch tactics, and simply fish an outfit that they are not. On most Montana rivers, this can be one hell of a good play, and the added traffic pressure forces you to fish a rig outside the usual box. Streamers midday in low water? Hell yes! At least give it a roll and you never know, you may find the best fishing on the river.
With all the running around the state this time of season, I always get the jitters when I’m scheduled for the Missouri River. Never knowing what to expect, the Mo can be your best friend or your nemesis, depending which way the weather and conditions go. Cool, cloudy, and calm, chances are we’re going to have a stellar trip hunting heads throughout the day. Bright, high pressure, and breezy, who knows?
This trip went off very well, even though the weather was not ideal. My fishermen were long time friends that have fished many rivers in Montana with me, so we were able to get right to the point on this big river. Right away Elliot set into a good fish with the boat ramp still below us, always a good sign from the gods. Running the nymphs for the first half of the day, we hooked into a good many of the Missouri’s finest rainbows.
With the ice broken, my crew and I switched almost entirely to dry flies for the next two days. Certain banks were alive with rising trout, too random to target specifically, but if one put the right drift out front and left it the hell alone, these big bows would fall for it every time. Sometimes it’s best to just get in the general area with the right offering, and let ‘er ride. Even if you feel like you’ve passed the fish, just keep it riding high and cross your fingers, they’ll find it!
Mid summer is upon us, and on us quickly. Just when I’m getting the hang of rainy days and 2x to my dry flies, the reality of late June and early July is here and it’s back to smaller bugs, shorter floats, and hot afternoons. Fishing is holding up swell, as we’ve been having stellar days out there regardless of the Salmonfly hangover and a few 90 degree afternoons.
The last few weeks have been a blur as we guide throughout the state, covering hundreds of miles in just a few days then off to the next river and a new adventure. We’ve run the Big Hole Tuesday and Wednesday then it’s off to Wolf Creek and the mighty Mo that night to guide Thursday morning. Pick up the drift boat and roll down to the bridge to see what we can stir up, praying for a calm day. Saturday eve the tent comes down, the Adipose goes home, and the big Yeti is hauled back in the rig, a quick stop at Trixi’s in Ovando for a burger and beer, then finally home for a real night’s sleep. Kinda. Because we have another one brewing up the next morning….And so it goes.
From our local Bitterroot, to Rock Creek and beyond, it’s already been a wonderful summer of chasing sunsets and rising trout. Fishing is good anywhere you go if you know how to play your cards, all you can do is give it a whirl and see how she goes. Every river has a different character: some kind and gentle like the Bitterroot, some downright menacing at times like the Missouri. All are absolute gems, and we are lucky to live in a place like Montana that has such abundance.