Streamside foliage is changing color, bull elk are bugling on river bottom ranches, and the tops of the Bitterroot Mountains carry a fresh dusting of snow. Early fall is here, and with it comes a shift in the fishing. Dawn starts are a thing of the past, with the slow rolling angler finding the warmer air temperatures of the afternoon create more favorable fishing conditions. Tricos, Mahoganies, and some blue wing olives are around on the Bitterroot. Do not overlook backwaters after the spinner fall, there are some great trout cruising the slack water eating spent spinners. Shaded, woody banks with the right speed, held risers with it being worthwhile to hit the softer water on the downstream side of roots. In the afternoon October Caddis play a large role with fish hitting the attractor dry in orange or royal color schemes. Finding new pods of trico risers played a large role in success with the known pods being selective, with lighter tippet required. If you could find singles, or new pods, the fishing with 4x was straight forward. Hanging an emerger off the back of a large parachute adams was also effective. For the still water fish that were difficult, cruising risers stripping a scud or pheasant tail on a long leader past them received a strong reaction from the trout.
Clark Fork River fishers should be prepared for widely varied results based on your chosen zone. Hoppers have finished on the upper Clark Fork leaving the river to hardcore streamer anglers. Floating lines with a six foot leader and a heavy streamer to drive quickly into pocket water presented perpendicular to the bank should be a starting point each day, with a progression building through streamer color, angle from the bank and retrieval speed. Closer to Missoula the Clark is fishing well with a variety of methods, however there is not much hatch activity in that zone. Below Missoula Mahoganies and Tricos rule the day, with an inconsistency to the bugs at the moment on bright sunny days. Be prepared to dropper fish for a while in the morning between Missoula and the Alberton Gorge.
Blackfoot River trout have a varied appetite, with the biggest fish lately falling prey to October Caddis and dead drifted crayfish. If you are wade fishing the upper Blackfoot be sure to bring bear spray. Royal PMX’s with a large jig head prince nymph hung behind is a fantastic fall searching program on the Blackfoot. Cutthroat trout are voracious on the caddis in the afternoon.