Adventure is what we all really live for around here. After you’ve thrown a million dry flies to hapless cuttys and river rainbows, it’s time to go check out some other fisheries that Montana provides. These rivers get warm, eventually: somewhere down the system temps become too high for the trout, but perfect for smallmouth bass and pike.
With two days and eighteen miles of enormous river, Chris and I had plenty of time and equipment to seriously check out this piece of water. Two 9 weights, two sevens, four spinning rods and baitcasters combined, we were straight loaded to reek havoc on this river. Sloughs right off the bat held pike and largemouth, while midriver structure supported smallie hangouts: everywhere you fish is a different setup.
Slipping into slackwater sloughs we hunt pike, hanging in the deep mossbeds; way trickier than you think on a fly rod but way worth the effort and the steel leader. Largemouth hang on the edges in the tules and right up into the shoreline, killer fighters and a blast to cast big flashy articulateds to. We fish late into the evening as the bass get going well past dusk.
Miles upon miles we travel on this quest of ours, awed by the size of the river system down here and the variety of structure. We figure out our location to the takeout, finally, and decide keeping a few smallies would be a good idea. Last night we ate one on the weber grill we packed along, and it was clean and fresh like the fish I remember as a kid. Loading up a stringer from just one hole of thirty or so fish cruising around, we stung enough bass to feed the masses and pulled anchor for home.
After months running the big main rivers like the Bitterroot, Big Hole, and the Mo, I’ve been itching to get out into the great wild country of Montana’s national forests and wildernesses to get back to the simple parts of life. With a few days off from guiding, the wife and I loaded up the camper and the kid and off we flew to find some solitude and scenery. The good thing about this state is one never has to look too far to find an untrampled view and clean mountain air.
Being someone else’s secret spot, I won’t disclose our fishing location, but really spots like this are frequent in this country. Take the pavement until it turns to gravel, then another ten or so miles of bumps and washboards, and pretty soon you are fast approaching the base of some killer country wherever you are in Montana. Another bit of sweating up the trail and that’s all it takes to be on some prime fishing with the place all to yourself, not to mention the huckleberry bushes loaded to the gills everywhere you look.
So after a few days of gritting it out in our 22″ camper, sounds rough eh?, we were tickled to pull back into civilization and grab a burger and beer at the first place we passed. Another few hours and the family and I arrived home with an entirely new look on life, happy to have the little things like showers and cell service: OK maybe not the cell service, but it does have its strong points. So if you’re tired of seeing the same old stretch of river day after day, just lace up those beat up Vasques and hit the mountains for your own personal trout stream.
Here finally comes another spring in Montana. We’ve eeked through the long chill, and even though the snow squalls persist to this day, spring is really happening around here. We guides have already logged many days throwing nothing but dry flies, a major benefit to those of us who live in the temperate Bitterroot valley. Skwalas started popping over a month ago and the March Browns came out in full force early to mid April, making for the best and most consistent early season fishing I’ve ever witnessed. The midday mayfly hatches began around two and would cease by 4:30 of so, with pods of heavy fish rising steadily at a voracious pace. Absolutely this was some of the heaviest feeding this river has ever shown, and the big boys were up pushing for the first swipe at a well drifted bug.