Our entire fishery is in shape with the exception of the Clark Fork upstream of the mouth of Rock Creek. Pick your stretch and fish all manner of methods. Daily flow changes will favor the adaptable angler, which means even if you end up on the same stretch of water within a week be ready to fish the river differently. Your favorite spot from last time may lack flow now, and the trout have shifted their attention to new food items.
At times chasing the edge of conditions can pay off big time, with trout that haven’t seen a fly angler’s presentation in a long time. Other days you hit a run before it is ready and the trout leave you scratching you head. Often times the best fishing comes from zones with no fishing report, and as a guide it can be a real gut check. An unflinching poker face may be necessary to stare down the river while putting the pieces of the puzzle together. With a drainage as massive and varied as we are fishing it is a fantastic chess game to hunt the best conditions. For the special day to happen with fish hitting the fly with ferocity and reckless abandon there is a need for a bit of moxie when choosing a float.
Blackfoot River is fishing its entire length. Streamer anglers would be happier with their results starting very early in the morning, while dry fly fishers should shoot for the exact opposite timeline. PMD’s, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, and ants are all making a daily appearance, with the occasional big fish in the upper river still eating the skated Salmon fly in the right spots. For those who like to fish the big meal, stripping baitfish imitations or crayfish patterns are hard to beat for large browns that haunt the fast chutes of the Blackfoot.
Clark Fork River is finally in shape, which opens up a large chunk of water. Stones are always on the menu, with some fish the other day hitting the fly on the strip back to the boat. The mayflies and caddis are not far off and as the flows continue to drop we will see more of the historically productive dry fly flats set up.
Bitterroot River can fish extremely differently depending on your chosen reach. We are currently in a set of flows the set some floats up perfectly and others can be a long ways between spots that are built correctly to hold fish. The side channels are losing their flow, while the main stem is still relatively large for this time of year. Most fish are in the old haunts in the main river, but getting a fly to them can be tricky. Being particular about what time of day you fish certain holes is imperative. The back eddies hold fish, but they may be ten feet down in the water column at noon, while a hatch at four in the afternoon in that same eddy may give you some of the best fishing of the day. A thorough understanding of where you can force feed fish the fly is necessary, because they are not blasting through six feet of water yet to get their meals first thing in the morning. PMD’s are the main staple on the middle and lower river while, the fish upstream of Hamilton have a broader array of bugs in their diet.
Rock Creek is still quite high for this time of year, more than double its normal flow. Use extreme caution when wading, as the substrate in the Creek is slick. A wading staff is advisable given the current conditions. Caddis, PMD’s, Yellow Sallies, Size #14 Goldens.
When hunting big fish this time of year there are two techniques to make the magic happen. Displacement theory which would be going where other anglers are not, to hit uneducated trout when they aren’t selective. The second method, when you find yourself chasing the hatch amongst other anglers is to be more technical with your boat work and fly selection. For example, don’t let the fish feel you when you slide into the back end of the riffle to throw into the top of the run. Stay well away as you go by the top of the run, entering below your eventual target. Fly selection in traffic dictates going well above or well below the size fly you anticipate other anglers throwing. Think of alternative food items that may not occur to other river users. Get creative this year, and you may be surprised by what you catch.