Flow Below Holter Dam: 3,820 c.f.s (Normally 5,430 c.f.s)
Spring is in full swing here in central Montana and as a fly fisherman, nothing signals spring more for me than the arrival in mass of Blue Winged Olives. It’s not hard to pick out these long-tailed, tall winged insect fluttering across the sky and floating the seam lines. Big hatches, hungry fish, warmer temps and lower than average water have made the last few weeks one for the books. Lots of folks hitting the water taking advantage of the great dry-fly action, can’t help but notice more and more 4 & 6 license plates swinging by the brewery after “epic” days on the water, another sign of spring for the MO. As for me, the iron horse is still in the shop so this week the guys from Craig show us what they’re made of while I wait most impatiently to get back onto some big water.
Getting back into waders and back in to the boat after too many abdominal issues over the past few weeks has been awesome! (I had emergency surgery to remove my appendix a few weeks ago [I believe you should have those removed as infants when you get your vaccinations -what the heck is that intestinal appendage for? It’s kind of like this funky button I have in my truck that I can’t figure out what it’s function is? Does anyone else have one of those in their vehicle. It’s like they put it there incase you buy whatever option is needed for that button!] 5 weeks after my appendectomy, I got a bought of bad food and had another round of intestinal rodeo!) Getting out for a little evening of dry fly fishing was just what the doctor ordered! Sipping warm Pepto Bismol instead of a cold beer, Cooley, Towarnicki and I fed some Baetis dries to some sipping trout after work. And the Baetis were plentiful!
It felt good to row my skiff -especially with my sexy new, Sawyer Dyno-X Square Tops! Blake is pretty new to the drift boat gig. He’s mainly in the wade camp of the Row v Wade debate. After the fun and success we had last night, I think he is coming around. It’s pretty nice to just let out five more feet of anchor rope to close the distance on those noses poking near the bank! I think I made him nervous going with the Boss Man, but after a lot of joking around, he settled down and was able to keep his hooks in the fish. (The River Runs Through it soundtrack on my iPhone seemed to help as well. I guess classy, fish music sooth the spaziness and makes you set the hook with a slow, steady lift of the rod.)
Cooley did more filming and photos than fishing when we were in the boat but he did put down his camera to show Blake and I how it’s done. And wouldn’t you know it, the weeds are only a foot long at best this time in April but his trout managed to bury himself it a small clump! Sawyer Square Tops are great for rowing a boat but not so good for digging a trout out of the weeds at 5’ deep. Ben missed the chance on that trout to have the camera turned around for a hero shot. Oh well. Sometimes it’s much better to leave the picture in your head rather that have it in 1’s and 0’s.
We did get out of the boat and all three of us waded to pods of rising fish. We had 1 double hook up (Blake with a Brown, me with a Bow) and were close to a couple of other doubles. What’s not to love about the MO in Spring?
The bugs that worked well for me were the CDC Baetis Dun, the Baetis Para-Wulff and Hi-Vis CDC Baetis Spinner. I’m a 5X guy on my dries but my fishing buddies told me that 4X works just fine and so I took their advise and hooked my fish on a 12’ 4X leader. (I think I would have got another fish or two had I been using my 5X Mirage, but I have to admit, I didn’t loose any flies pulling those feisty trout upstream to the anchored boat.)
It’s been pretty great dry fly fishing for around the past four weeks in the evenings when we get off work. Some evenings we wade fish, some we float. The area between Craig and the Stickney ramp have been treating most of us pretty well and the last two nights were no exception! Be on the lookout for pods of fish with noses up or sometimes just waving their tail at you while they eat, but keep in mind that these fish are eating and they are eating a ton, so if you work a few fish in a pod and they aren’t taking your offering, then ask yourself if you are doing an honest dead drift, if you are, start cycling through your BWO dry flies! My goto rig currently has been a size 18 Cluster Midge trailed by a size 20 BWO parachute, the spacing is around 12” from fly to fly. Blake isn’t quite a fishing from the boat guy, his mojo was absent for a few fish yesterday evening, but finally after ragging on him a bit and playing some River Run’s Through It music on an iPhone, the nerves settled and the fish were getting hooked, his mojo was back!
Wade the side channels have been incredible in the evenings. Pods of anywhere from 5 to 20 fish will willingly take a size 18 parachute with any type of dark, bead head, mayfly dropper underneath. I usually fish a dry-dropper rig about 8 inches apart until I see a lot of risers. Then put on a second dry 3 ft from the first. Lots of sippers! I don’t recommend rowing with Chris and Ben.
The fish are moving into their summer water. I’ve been looking for fish in the riffles and choppy water. Successful flies working for me are very small mayfly nymphs (18-20) and sow bugs. As far as dries go, BWO are very prevalent, and I’ve had success with cdc bwo flies in the 18 size ranges. Also have noticed midge hatch prevalence lower in the canyon so a Griffiths gnat could be great lower.
Local Freestone Report:Despite being stuck in purgatory for the last week, living in a literal triangle of existence (home, work, brewery) I was able to hop over the pass yesterday and get down on some local free-flowing, un-crowded small water. With runoff poking it head out I was expecting some more off-color water but it appears the weather gods are smiling upon us for a few more days before things really kickoff. Working in the shop most days I’ve gotten used to hitting the evening hatches which has usually proved beneficial. Lower sun, more shade, and residual heat from the day can produce crazy big hatches on even the smallest of streams. With daylight getting longer everyday (roughly 8:30 recently) you really have no excuse to not be out there. Big bugs and beautiful weather, what more do you wat? Humble fly suggestions based on 3 hours of fishing in the last week (sorry it’s the best I can do at this point).
Dries: Stimulators, Elk Hair Caddis, B-1 Jrs, Blooms Para-Cricket, Chubbies (small), Flambe Caddis & Purple Para Wulf.
Nymphs: Double Bead Hare’s Ear, Deep Caddis Pupa, TB Super Flash Bug, Pats Rubber Legs, Trout Retriever & Shop Vacs
Streamers: Blooms MRS Bugger, JJ Special, Urchin Buggers, MFC Rubber Buggers, & Sparkle Minnows.