Tag Archives: Big Hole Brown Trout

Big Hole Rising

While the Bitterroot River is up and pretty much unfishable, we took a drive over Lost Trail Pass to search out some fishy water on the upper Big Hole.  Unlike many freestone rivers, when the Big Hole is up it remains quite fishable on its upper reaches.  With meadows and rolling pine hills surrounding the river for the upper forty miles or so, the runoff comes peacefully down the drainage until the eventual canyons at Wise River and Divide.

bitterroot river guides big hole montana-4Pulling up early in the morning after a dawn departure from the flooded Bitterroot, we were pretty stoked to see the river meandering along just like always.  The tea colored waters had risen a foot in the last few days, but we only knew from looking at the USGS hydrograph as the change was almost imperceptible to the eye.

bitterroot river guides big hole montana-2Buggers, streamers, and nymph rigs were the choice of the day; little dry fly activity was expected though March Browns hatched well in the afternoon, bringing up a few little risers.  We found good consistent fishing from noon onward, almost entirely on nymphs.  The streamer game just never played for us even though we gave it our best for the sixteen miles we floated.  Some recent photos have us jonesing for a big brown, and I mean a big boy like the one our Hamilton High School principle just caught.  Fish like this one will keep you coming back to the Big Hole.

bitterroot river guides big hole montana

 

Early Big Hole Run

bitterroot river fly fishing guides hamilton montanaAn early morning phone call sent me packing: Slim wants to go fishing.  One should never pass up an opportunity such as this, especially when the Big Hole is at prime flows for finding big browns on the upper river.  This guy and I go way, way back, and his knowledge of this famous river is second to none: every bank, boulder, inside turn, and mid river riff have a story.  Twenty years of doing this stuff and one can pinpoint a memory to a single orange rock two feet under the tea stained water.  As of today, I have my own rock that is branded into my mind forever.

bitterroot river fly fishing guides hamilton montanaRight off the bat, pulling out from the put in, an absolute toad destroyed my streamer on the third cast of the day behind said rock.  I mean he straight pounded that bug, coming well out of the boiling water tight behind the boulder.   And I missed him miserably.  That one really stung.  Fortunately, the fish were charging hard and giving me plenty of chances.  After landing this nice brown merely one hundred yards later (which was dwarfed by the fish I missed. weep), I switched from fishing to rowing and watched Slim put on one hell of a streamer clinic.  Never missing a bucket or dump in, browns and brookies came from all directions to attack that fly.  Using sneaky streamer techniques rather than sheer power casting and stripping, we coaxed dozens of fish to swipe our bugs down deep as well as exploding on them right at the surface.

bitterroot river fly fishing guides hamilton montanaAnother day and another stretch of water, with the same killer overcast and slight drizzle as the previous outing, Slim and I started finding fish throughout the float.  Keeping the same general streamer setup, those browns came hard at the bug.  Some favorite channels held pockets of fish where we had multiple swipes, then it might slow down for a bit and soon pick back up on a good bank.  Towards dark the bite got intense; what a blast to see so many fish swiping at the fly even though we missed most of them.  A fine two days of fishing, I’d say.

bitterroot river fly fishing guides hamilton montanaA final treat to the trip I forgot to add was that we bonked a few brookies for the pan when we got home.  Actually char, the Big Hole is loaded with these fiesty little buggers, and there is no better ‘trout’ for eating than the brookie.  While passing through Wisdom, I happened to bump into my neighbor and his daughter out on a fishing excursion of their own.  Not bashful in the least, this little Montana girl wanted to check out my days catch, and then left pumped up to go into the mountains with her dad and catch her own.  Gotta love this place.