Montana Fly Fishing
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Another Day on the River with Tony Reinhardt…
A short but productive week on the rivers around Missoula!
Tuesday I fished with the father/son duo of Andy and Drew. This was their first ever float trip so we covered some basics early and then started our morning on the Blackfoot. Fish were eating the dropper well and we had two big fish break us off in the first two runs. The guys learned quickly that they couldn’t put too much pressure on these wild Montana trout. After that we started getting dialed in with a bunch of smaller cutts and rainbows on both the dry and dropper. 3 or 4 decent 12-14″ trout hit the net too before I started to notice a few spruce moths bouncing around.
At that point I switched Drew over to a spruce moth pattern and the next run produced a gorgeous 17″ cutthroat. With both guys now fishing a single dry fly we had 2.5 hours of great topwater action. There were tons of smaller fish looking up with a good mix of nicer trout too. Andy connected with several fat 14 inch cutts and Drew had a strong fight from a lit up 18″ cuttbow. When the dry fly action started to fade we stopped for lunch in the shade and switched back to hopper/dropper rigs. I expected the fishing to slow down in the afternoon heat and was surprised that a small mayfly dropper kept the guys busy. Andy did really well in the afternoon with a number of healthy 15-16″ cutts and cuttbows.
We even managed a couple of doubles and Drew capped off the day with a bent rod just above the take out. For their first float trip, Andy and Drew fished really well and put a bunch of nice fish in the net today. Thursday I volunteered my time to help on a project that Alec Underwood of the Montana Wildlife Federation is working on. He is putting together a video about the Montana outdoor industry and the affects of climate change and I was honored that he asked for my participation. We wanted to feature the Clark Fork with it’s long history of rehabilitation so we met the videographer, Matt, early and headed to the lower river. Matt flew his drone and got the shots he wanted while we rigged the rods and dropped the boat in the water.
Luck was on our side as Alec hooked up on his very first cast while Matt still had the drone in the air. That was a good start and then Alec picked up a mid-sized cutthroat in the next big back eddy. From there we had to push through a slow section of water until we reached where a small stream joined the Clark Fork. I knew there would be fish holding in that cold water and Alec connected with a big 18″ cuttbow on the hopper. That was the fish were were looking for, and we were all a little more relaxed as that nice trout swam away. We stayed with a single hopper for the next hour and Alec picked up another 6 or so quality cutts and cuttbows. After some stream side interview stuff in the shade it was really starting to warm up so we decided to push off and call it a day. I hope that Alec and Matt got the footage they were looking for and I will keep you posted on the progress of the project. Friday I was on the water with local angler, Jim. With solid cloud cover in the morning we decided to do a long float on the upper Bitterroot.
Jim had a couple fish eat the dry fly right out from the put in and we boated our first fish of the day in the tailout of that run. They were looking up early as Jim picked off another good fish tight to a log jam and a few others in the likely spots. Then there was an awesome visual eat from a fat 17″ cutthroat that drifted back under the fly for what seemed like an eternity before finally sucking it down. The morning produced 3 or 4 solid fish like that one along with a bunch of smaller guys. Right after lunch Jim moved two big fish and we both anticipated a killer afternoon. A couple different weather systems moved through on us and messed with the fishing though. The fishing was spotty for the first hour and a half of the afternoon. Jim would tag a couple in one run and then we wouldn’t raise a fish in the next great spot. We changed fly patterns a few times with no real improvement until those weather fronts had passed. As soon as the weather settled down the fishing kicked back in like flipping a light switch.
Just like that Jim was picking off quality trout in all of the runs. It is amazing how much the weather can impact the fishing. We went from not moving a fish in some of the very best water on the float to sticking 4 nice trout in a run where we normally hope to just get one eat. For the rest of the day it was solid action from healthy 14-17″ cutts, cuttbows, and even a few rainbows in the mix. The fish were fighting hard and Jim and I were having a blast on a rare 70 degree day in August. It was a light week on the river for me as I had some other obligations. Scott was out most every day though and he split his time between the Blackfoot and Bitterroot. He had some great mid-summer days with nice fish to the net! This cold front will certainly help the rivers. Water temps were starting to rise, but 3 days of cool, cloudy river will knock those temps down and with the nights getting longer and colder we are well positioned for the second half of August.
Tight Lines, Tony Reinhardt