Blog Posts In Salmon Fly

Big Dark Clouds Bring Big Dark Mayflies

Big Hole River

Flow: 1,400cfs
Vis: clear
Fishing: great!
Weather: Hot with afternoon showers



Fishing was pretty d*** good today! We fished dries through the cloud cover this morning, nymphed through the heat of the day, and  slammed big drakes into the back eddies when the clouds rolled in.  Found a lot of fish looking up between the lightning strikes!

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!

Comin' Down

Warm weather, then snow and rain, then more warm weather has rocketed the river from a scary July level to historical average for June.  This has made for a tough week of fishing, but starting Wednesday the river is leveling out and coming down.

This weekend's cold temps ought to keep the snow in the mountains, so we will be at the mercy of the rainstorms.  The hatch will most likely not come off until we get a warm day, but I wouldn't be afraid to throw a big bug as the water clears up.

Servin' Up a Meal of Salmon-Fly

Our Chef, Lanette, spent her birthday servin' trout.

Big Bugs on The Big Hole River: July Salmon Flies

The Salmon Fly hatch on the Big Hole River creates an annual boat hatch nearly as thick as the bugs.  Luckily, I had the chance to sneak out last week just as the bugs were starting to hatch and before the guides and anglers descended upon the Big Hole Valley.  

The salmon flies, the largest of the three stone flies, lives underwater in its nymph form for three years, doing push-ups on the rocks in the riffles to circulate oxygen through its gills.  At the end of the spring of their third year, the bugs crawl en-masse to the banks where they await the proper conditions.  When the ring-leader yells "charge!", they scuttle onto the bank and into the willows where they will shuck their exoskeleton.  The next couple of days make the Summer of '67 seem tame as these bugs fly high in the sky, coming down only to make love in the bushes.  After the thrill is gone, the males fly away and are picked off in mid-air by western tanagers and robins, and the females must drop their eggs into the river before being devoured by eager trout.

One of the many joys in an angler's life is to mimic the egg laying procedure with carefully crafted dry-fly patterns.  Scott Murray, renowned New Zealand trout hunter and owner of River Haven Lodge, and his lovely wife, Leya, ventured up from the southern hemisphere after a busy and fulfilling season on the South Island to do just that.

The high water didn't bother him one bit, and as soon as I pulled the boat over he jumped into a back eddie and landed seven trout.  We rolled on, toward the raging Dewey Canyon, without much luck fishing from the boat. However, each time I pulled over "The Trout" was out of the boat and into a fish.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing tales from Down Under and sharing laughs with such good-hearted people.  If you find yourself dreaming of lush forests and monstrous browns this winter, and you undoubtedly will, give them a ring at The River Haven Lodge, South Island New Zealand.

High Water and High Hopes

The Big Hole:
 Our season at Big Hole Lodge begins Thursday, and as you may have heard in the news we have a lot of water.  The Big Hole has been running high all week, and has been fishing marginally on big nymphs and streamers.  Last Saturday the river was out of it's banks in many places and the water was off color.

 The weather forecast for the rest of the week calls for slight chances of rain, cool day temps, and cold night temps.  We expect the Big Hole to drop and clear over the next few days.  If this happens, the fabled salmon fly hatch will come off this weekend, or early next week.  This largest member of the stone fly family lives as a nymph for three years before crawling to the banks and into the willows to hatch.  In its adult form, the salmon fly resembles the Red Baron's plane as it flies around the river with its dual wing system, and it is quite a meal for these hungry trout.

 The drought years of the 2000's all but killed the stone fly hatches.  However, the Big Hole has enjoyed three years of healthy water flows and this years crop of bugs ought to resemble the standard of the 80's and 90's.  The fish are healthy and hungry so we all need to hope for cool temperatures and clear water.

The Beaverhead:

The Beaverhead also suffered through the drought years, especially in the winters when flows out of the dam were cut back substantially.  For the past three years, the powers that be have maintained a healthy flow of 200cfs throughout the winter and the fish have shown a lot of improvement.  Currently, the river is running at a mandated 240 cfs even though the reservoir is approaching capacity.  This is because the Missouri is nearing critical flood level and the Corps of Engineers has asked that the Beaverhead be cut back.  This is great news for early summer fishing.  240 cfs is a late July flow, and though the Grasshopper Cr. is dumping in a lot of water and mud, dirtying the river and ruining the fishing, the upper river is in great shape and has been fishing very well.

My father, a long time BHL guide Allen, and I threw the boat in for a few hours on a quick scouting trip to see what the river looked like before we start on Thursday.  Unfortunately, for the first time this week there was not a cloud in the sky and the fish were not looking up.  We did however, catch fish on nymphs when streamers did not produce.  We boated eight fish in our quick 4 hour float, but I am eager to get back out to work the pools we passed up.  The reports from Dillon indicate that the big browns of the 90's are back and the flows will be kept at this level until the runoff is over.

The Wise River:

The Wise is currently a kayaker's paradise....(In fact, when I took these pictures today a kayaker was on his way to the river to throw his boat in)  It is running very high and fast and dumping a lot of water into the Big Hole.  Fishing on the BH is much better above the confluence with the Wise than it is below.

The lodge's home pool, normally wadeable by this time of year:


The bottom line is, Montana finally had the snow year it needed this past winter.  According to the old timers, high water like this used to be the norm and if we continue to have years like this, the entire ecosystem will greatly benefit.  We may have to change our game plan a bit to get into fish over the next few weeks if the weather warms up quickly, but we will get into fish.  And if it stays cool and the snow comes out slowly, fishing will be phenomenal.