Blog Posts In Salmon Flies

2014 Preview: Your Own Room, Fresh Faces and a Fresh Look!

ImageWith another snowstorm bearing down on Southwest Montana, I thought it would bolster my mental fortitude to write about fly fishing.  I’ve been tying steelhead patterns to use on the Salmon River next month for the early spring run. This has helped abate the extreme cabin fever all of us in the Big Hole Valley seem to contract about this time each winter, although this winter has been different than most. I think that could be an understatement for just about anywhere in the country, but I make the motion with great enthusiasm that its time to start thinking about big brown trout and beautiful rivers like the Big Hole, Beaverhead and Bitterroot.

“I still don’t know why I fish or why other men fish, except that we like it and it makes us think and feel.”
Roderick L. Haig-Brown
A River Never Sleeps (1946)

Tight Lines,
Craig Fellin

Our season starts with an early pre-runoff 4 night/3 day fly fishing package (see rates) from April 29-May 2nd. The water level on the Big Hole is usually ideal at this time and the trout are hungry after a long, cold winter. Expect to fish nymphs and streamers in the morning and skwala stonefly and blue winged olive dry fly patterns in the afternoon. Very few people are on the river at this time and the trout haven’t seen many flies yet. This is also a great time to be on the Missouri River, which is well known for its prolific blue winged olive hatches in April and May and superb dry fly fishing.

Big Hole Lodge will be hosting its 2nd annual Spey Casting Clinic with Larry Aiuppy on May 3-7. Larry is the only certified spey casting instructor in Montana and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the event. For me the spey cast is like watching a well-balanced and well-timed golf swing or even a ballet as some would compare. Granted the cast is meant for large salmon/steelhead rivers but there are also trout applications with the shorter spey or switch rods, fishing streamers or soft hackles in the surface film. This is a 4 night/3 day package for $2,630 per person based on double occupancy and guaranteed to jump-start your fly fishing season.


We have changed our total capacity at the lodge from twelve down to eight guests. We still plan on accommodating larger intact groups of 10-12 by special request, but the norm will be eight guests per week. There are several reasons why we made the change, but primarily it will allow each guest to have their own bedroom.  We heard so many tales of guests not being able to sleep because their roommate kept them awake at night, so now your worries are over and you’ll be able to sleep to your heart’s content. We also feel that we can give more attention to the individual at our lodge with the lower capacity and be able to deliver a quality experience that exceeds all expectations. Your satisfaction has always been our utmost concern and now we’ll be able to give you even more attention than before.

We have also replaced a lot of the furniture around the lodge with plush leather armchairs and sofas that we think you’ll really enjoy. The outdoor furniture has also been replaced with cedar Adirondack chairs that will make your cocktail hour even more enjoyable as you gaze at the majestic Pioneer Mountains surrounding the lodge.  We now have Verizon cell phone service at the lodge limited to the dining room and the deck adjoining the dining room.

We have a new guide in our line-up, Rudy Ketchum, whom I think will be a great addition to our team. Rudy grew up in Butte and has fly fished the Big Hole most of his life. He has an MBA and has installed healthcare software in hospitals for the past 22 years. Rudy has two sons and a daughter and looks forward to spending more time with his family and guiding our clients on the Big Hole. We also have a new guide for the Missouri River, Russ  Dobrzynski, who lives in Craig, MT and fishes and guides on the river year round.  Russ will be our Missouri River expert and loves to hunt those trophy brown trout that the river is known for. This is an overnight trip and requires advance reservations so please call us if you’re interested. The additional fee for the Missouri trip is $200 per person. My son Wade will finish law school and sit for his bar exam in late July. After what will be a much-needed vacation, he’ll return to our guide roster in late August and be with us each summer going forward.


With all the snow we’ve been getting, the Big Hole should have great flows this summer and allow our guides to float their boats with relative ease through September. The snowpack going into March is 145% of normal which is fantastic! We still have some excellent weeks available in July, August and September that should offer some of the best fishing we’ve had in several years with the healthy flows that are predicted for the latter part of the season.

As an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge and being one of the premiere lodges offered by Frontiers Travel, we are proud to have hosted fly fishing trips for our guests for over 30 years.  Please give us a call soon and we can talk Montana trout fishing! This is shaping up to be a very special year and we don’t want you to miss it.

(406) 832-3252

Salmon Flies, Mayflies, and Caddis!


Fishing is great right now.  The river is absolutely gorgeous, with clear water and perfect flows.  The salmon flies are out, along with the goldens, but the most numerous of the stoneflies are currently the yellow sallies.


        All six boats reported good fishing today from the top of the Big Hole down to Jerry Creek.  From what I hear the fishing from Divide down through the lower river has been good as well.  Get out there!

The Hatch is On!

The bugs are out from the bottom of the river all the way up to Dicky Bridge! Reports say fishing is great and fish are smacking dries.  Dad is on the river so i'll have a better report tonight.

Shoulda been here.....tomorrow!

Tommy woke up with a bad case of "I need to be ready for work Monday" after our Saturday on the Bitterroot, and he headed back to Great Falls.  Nick and I ventured out into the mid-40's weather and hoped the salmon flies would start on the Big Hole.

With the cold temps and heavy cloud cover, the bugs remained underwater, but were lined up on the banks awaiting a temperature rise.

Nick threw dries anyway and was able to get fish to eat goldens that he'd been tying diligently back in Brooklyn.

Wouldn't you know it....the day he flew back to NYC the sun came out and the hatch went off.  Get back here next year.....and take more time off!

One of these is alive....

One is Nick's salmon fly nymph, one is Tommy's girdle-bug, and one is about to crawl back into the water.  Tough for a fish to differentiate in the swift waters of the Bitterroot!

Sweetening up the Bitterroot

Nick Scuibba lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan (for Ralph), and fishes in PA whenever he can.  Six years ago he and his father fished the Bitterroot as novices.  Last year, he fished the Big Hole as an accomplished angler, using mostly flies he had tied himself.

He called me back in March and said he needed his Western fix.  As usual, Montana's late spring weather was completely unpredictable as his trip grew near.  However, last week set up to be prime Salmon Fly weather.  Then it snowed.  Then it warmed to 80. And then it snowed again.

Tom and I picked him up on the late flight in Butte and headed to Wise River to plan our weekend.  At one AM, the plan was, "Tomorrow, we float the Big Hole....60 MILES!"
The alarm at 7 am brought clarity, and at the sight of snow in the hills, we decided to go to the Bitterroot where it would hopefully be warmer.

It wasn't.  There was driving snow on the pass, and a plane down in the road.  Luckily, an hour later the clouds lifted and we were on the West Fork catching cutthroat.

At lunch, Tom rolled over a boulder just off the bank and found these guys awaiting the signal to crawl out and hatch into their adult Salmon Fly form.

He put on a heavy Salmon Fly nymph and sure enough:

Between tangled lines and side-arm casts, a reckless display of rowing, a runaway boat ending in a flying leap-and-catch, and a few beautiful cutties, there was no shortage of laughter on that trip.  Couldn't have had a better day if we'd tried.

Just before dark, we headed over the hill to soak in the Elkhorn Hot Springs and plan our next day on the Big Hole.

Training a Guide Dog

Lanette and I rarely get to fish once the season gets going so we figured it was a good idea to train a new guide to row when we did get the opportunity.

Unfortunately, Kali quickly decided she's way more into fishing, and mainly catching (we're still working on teaching the 'release').

The river was on the rise, and we happened to be floating as it peaked.  Fishing is always tough with a rising river because the fish are trying to figure out why their holding water is rapidly changing around them.

We threw salmon flies and golden stones into the channels and back eddies.

We didn't catch anything of any size, but we didn't get skunked either. It was good to be in the sun and on the water.

Birthday Bashes, Boats, and Big Bugs!

This past weekend, our very own Lanette "Lamb-Chop" Evener celebrated another trip around the Sun.  In Montana, a birthday celebration starts early and outdoors.

Down at the Thompson's Corner, we caught up with a few river rats who had found their way out of the U of Mont. Law and Forestry libraries.  Pete has logged more days on the water than Capt. Ahab, and his comrades proved they'd grown up throwing a fly-line.

Pete and I were celebrating the maiden voyages of our rafts on the BH, which added to the elation of the birthday crew.

We forgot the net, but thankfully Kali readily offered her "fetching" services.

Lanette had little faith in the streamers most of the boats have been slinging, and she instead opted for a size 10 salmon fly.
The flies are at least a week away with this cold weather, but tell that to this gal and her brownie.

A celebratory, wild West birthday dinner.......

.....and an even wilder birthday toast:
 Kelli, our former kitchen extraordinaire, raised a few extra toasts and wound up in the river....

That is a true Mountain Girl.  I assure you it was not warm.

We didn't catch anything big, but each boat caught its fill considering the bouncing barometer.

It was one of those days you wished would roll on for ever.

Happy Birthday, Lanette! Glad to have you back for another season at the Big Hole Lodge.