Early Morning Fly Fishing

Early Morning Fly Fishing

Tuesday I was back out with local angler, Tom, and today we were joined by his wife Lois. We decided to check out a stretch of the lower Blackfoot they had never fished, float behind the old mill site and down into the Clark Fork.

We started off throwing nocturnal stone dry flies and Tom had a few smaller guys slapping at it early but there wasn’t a lot of activity until Lois raised a good fish in the middle of a rock garden. It turned out to be a nice brown trout on the dry.

That was a nice fish, but they still weren’t really into the big dry so I tied a spruce moth on for Tom and he quickly nabbed 3 small fish in one run. I was just about to change the fly to see if we could find bigger fish when he connected with a decent rainbow at the bottom of a rapid.

That was a good sign so I switched Lois over too and we fished moths with decent success. They doubled up once, Tom boated a colorful cutthroat and Lois found a couple more rainbows. Just before lunch it was a bit of a lull. The wind was blowing hard so Tom was the only one fishing and I put him on a dropper for a bit.

He hooked a couple but it wasn’t as productive as I hoped so we took a break for lunch. We tried the dropper in a couple more spots with no luck and changed back to single hoppers. The next run produced a small rainbow for Tom and then I watched a big fish slowly tip up and eat his hopper.

Tom came tight and landed a great 17″ cuttbow. The bottom of the Blackfoot produced a few more nice hopper eaters and then we joined in with the Clark Fork to finish the day. The fishing tapered off as Tom stuck a little rainbow and then a respectable 14″ cuttbow but that was it on the Clark.

It was a nice weather day with temps in the low 80’s and not another boat on the river all day. The fishing wasn’t lights out, but we had a good time on the water.

Beautiful morning on the Blackfoot - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Beautiful morning on the Blackfoot – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Nice brown trout to start the day - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Nice brown trout to start the day – Early Morning Fly Fishing

 

Lois hooked up to a dry fly trout - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Lois hooked up to a dry fly trout – Early Morning Fly Fishing

 

Bright rainbow coming to the net - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Bright rainbow coming to the net – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Healthy cuttbow on a hopper for Tom - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Healthy cuttbow on a hopper for Tom – Early Morning Fly Fishing

Early Morning Fly Fishing

Wednesday long-time angler, Chris, was back in town with family and friends so we took 2 boats up to the canyon of the Blackfoot at daybreak. I had Chris and his son Christopher while fellow guide, David, took first timers Steve and Megan.

Christopher loves to fish streamers so we set him up with the big stuff in the back of the boat while I started Chris with a dry/dropper rig. It was Chris’ second cast when he connected with a heavy fish on the dropper. That trout drug us through most of the run until I finally slid the net under a 23″ bull trout.

Then Christopher picked up a small bull trout on the streamer before sticking a big cutthroat near 20″. After that we had a couple awesome wildlife encounters. The first was a herd of 60 elk that crossed the river right in front of us, and then around the corner from that we floated right by 2 immature bald eagles that were on the bank.

The very next spot produced another solid hook up for Chris on the dropper. This fish ran all over the place before finally hitting the net. It was the biggest brown trout I’ve seen in a while at 20.5″. Christopher bagged another big cutthroat on the streamer just around the corner.

We didn’t spend much time in Munchmore today, but Chris did land a very rare brook trout on the dropper in there. It wasn’t long after that Christopher decided to go dry/dropper too. Chris’ hot streak continued as he hooked up in a fast run and landed a solid rainbow to complete a super grand slam by 9:30 in the morning.

At that point he had landed a bull trout, brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout to give him all 5 trout species in the morning. That is a feat that does not happen very often in Montana. After the slam Christopher went to work with the dropper through the canyon.

He landed a number of nice cutthroat with at least one good fish in each run. At the bottom of the canyon I put Chris on a hopper while Christopher stayed dry/dropper. In the afternoon the hopper produced more action with the dropper yielding fewer fish but a better average size.

A front moved in for the last hour with dark clouds and heavy wind. That put the fishing off a little as Christopher landed the last cutthroat a couple runs above the takeout. Steve and Megan had a great first day on the Blackfoot.

Steve landed a couple bull trout and the duo boated a pair of browns in the 18″ class to go with a bunch of nice cutts and cuttbows. It was an awesome day on the Blackfoot filled with nice trout and lots of wildlife.

Chris hooked up on his second cast - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Chris hooked up on his second cast – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Nice bull trout to start the day - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Nice bull trout to start the day – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Christopher with a fat cutthroat on a streamer - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Christopher with a fat cutthroat on a streamer – Early Morning Fly Fishing
A herd of over 50 elk crossing the Blackfoot in front of us - Early Morning Fly Fishing
A herd of over 50 elk crossing the Blackfoot in front of us – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Just around the corner there were 2 young eagles on the bank - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Just around the corner there were 2 young eagles on the bank – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Then Chris connected with the biggest brown trout I've seen in a while - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Then Chris connected with the biggest brown trout I’ve seen in a while – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Another streamer eater for Christopher - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Another streamer eater for Christopher – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Chris with a gorgeous and rare brook trout out of Munchmore - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Chris with a gorgeous and rare brook trout out of Munchmore – Early Morning Fly Fishing
This chunky rainbow complete the super grand slam for Chris with a bull trout, brown trout, rainbow, cuttrhoat and brook trout all in one morning! - Early Morning Fly Fishing
This chunky rainbow complete the super grand slam for Chris with a bull trout, brown trout, rainbow, cuttrhoat and brook trout all in one morning! – Early Morning Fly Fishing

Early Morning Fly Fishing

Friday I was back on the water with Chris and today we were joined by his 14 year old granddaughter, Autumn. We decided that a half day would be best for her introduction to fly fishing and launched on the lower Blackfoot.

We found a quiet piece of water to go over the basics of casting, mending, and fly fishing from a boat and then started off fishing a single dry fly. Right away she had a small fish eat her dry but we had to get that hook set grooved in. After 3 or 4 eats she connected and landed a small rainbow to start the day.

Chris picked up a couple little guys on the dry too and then we switched to hoppers to see if some better fish were looking up. It was the same story with small trout on the fly so after a few more runs we made the change to droppers. In a big run just below Chris’ house Autumn came tight to a solid fish.

It ran upriver and downriver, and all around the boat but she did a good job of not giving the fish slack and we eventually slid a great rainbow into the net. I hoped that was a sign of things to come, but the fishing turned out to be pretty tough.

Chris picked up a couple more smaller fish on droppers until I eventually put him back on a hopper, and Autumn had some more strikes, but the trout weren’t giving us many chances. I changed flies a bunch and we fished all different water types but I couldn’t figure out a pattern.

Every so often we would get a strike, but they were quick bites and didn’t stick around long. It was tougher fishing than I hoped for, but Autumn did get a really nice rainbow on her first day ever and it was a pleasant morning to be on the Blackfoot.

Autumn on her first float trip - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Autumn on her first float trip – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Ready with the net - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Ready with the net – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Autumn with a nice Blackfoot rainbow - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Autumn with a nice Blackfoot rainbow – Early Morning Fly Fishing

Early Morning Fly Fishing

Saturday I fished with long-time angler, Mark, and his wife Maryke on a sight fishing adventure for carp. Last year we floated the upper Missouri for carp and did much better than expected. This year I wanted to fish the flats of Canyon Ferry reservoir which is my favorite place to target carp.

We had a couple challenges not in our favor. There was a fair bit of cloud cover which makes sight fishing very tough, and the water clarity was not great. I still had hope that we could find a couple fish to play with.

We had to find water less than 2 feet deep to even have a chance, and when we started working that we found a few fish. For the most part the shots were all at super short range. Most of the fish we were seeing were at 10-15 feet. It’s tough make a good presentation at that distance and a lot of those fish would get spooked by the boat.

We did get a handful of more traditional shots at 20+ feet and Mark solicited a few follows from carp but nothing would eat the fly. We worked through a lot of water and while we were seeing fish, it was not in the numbers that I have seen in the past.

We didn’t find schools of carp which are the highest percentage shots because the fish get competitive. It was all singles and doubles. The wind started to pick up after lunch and we ducked up into the river mouth to get away from it for a bit. By 2:00 it was blowing hard with white caps on the lake and we had to head back to the ramp.

It was good timing as the wind really started to rip by the time we made it to the dock. I was disappointed that we didn’t hook a fish today, but we knew the conditions would be challenging and Mark always has a great attitude when we are on the water together.

It was a fun day and I’ll go back to the drawing board to figure out how to more consistently get those carp to eat.

The carp grounds at Canyon Ferry - Early Morning Fly Fishing
The carp grounds at Canyon Ferry – Early Morning Fly Fishing
Mark hunting for the next shot - Early Morning Fly Fishing
Mark hunting for the next shot – Early Morning Fly Fishing

Early Morning Fly Fishing

It was nice to have a cooler week of weather around Missoula.  Longer, colder nights are helping to keep our water temps decent and more and more hoppers are showing up everyday.

Tight Lines,

Tony Reinhardt
Montana Trout Outfitters
406-544-3516