Early starts are the name of the game right now, with the sunrises and morning bite making it well worth the extra cup of coffee it takes to get going. Catching trout mid-day is possible, however much more skill and effort is required. The large brown trout that would smash a poorly drifted nocturnal stone while the light is low on the water requires a deep dropper rubbing perfectly along a log at noon and a ripping instant hook set. We are in the midst of a transition in our hatch cycle. Spruce moths are beginning to show up along with tricos, while PMD’s are fading quickly. If you are chasing the Spruce Moth hatch look to the Blackfoot, Rock Creek, Clark Fork between Rock Creek and the mouth of the Blackfoot, and the West Fork of the Bitterroot. Hoppers are starting to show up, however the trout are not fully committed to them yet. The true single hopper eats I have seen so far are hesitant and slow, and require large amounts of patience from the angler. Fish may bump the hopper, track it down stream, then inhale it. This may take 7-10 seconds for this sequence to unfold. If you pull the hopper away the minute the trout appears the rest of the drama doesn’t play out.
Memorize your fish this time of year, because we have hit a water level on our area rivers conducive to trout staying in one spot. If you hook a big fish that eludes you, returning to the same spot after resting that fish for a few days will pay you. Approaching carefully, and making the first drift count are keys to capitalizing on your marked fish.
Clark Fork River anglers are catching fish from Deerlodge all the way down past the mouth of the Flathead. Nocturnal stones are the name of the game river wide, with the majority of the fish residing in fast, aerated zones. If you hit a lull mid-day, get dirty and drag the fresh water lobster around. It may save your afternoon.
Blackfoot River had another mystery mud slide yesterday morning, and luckily we noticed from the highway quickly enough to turn around and shift to alternative plans. The color should pass quickly, with the clarity shift giving the trout a nice break. A cagey angler may do well to hit the Foot hard as it drops back into shape. Big fish make poor choices in off color water. Barring any unexpected additional dirt entering the river, fishing should shift from tricky to excellent in the next couple days. Spruce moths should be in your fly box the next couple weeks. If you don’t have any Spruce Moth patterns, head to the Kingfisher Fly Shop and buy some before heading east on Highway 200.
Rock Creek is not as affected by the early rise requirement. Due to the high dissolved oxygen in the creek it has a larger fishing window during the day. That being said, getting away from areas that are fished hard is a key to a successful day. If you see vehicles, keep moving. The path of least resistance has been taken by other anglers, therefore one should try spots you can’t see from the road.
Bitterroot River, in my mind, needs to be broken into three different sections to have an accurate fishing report. The upper river is a straight forward read, stone flies in the fast water. The middle river is more varied with PMD’s still having shining moments depending on the day, with nocturnal stones in the morning being the most consistent fare. The lower Bitterroot is highly spot specific right now, with trout not giving their position away easily.