Fly Fishing, Insider, Perfect Fishing Days
Friday, 26 Aug, 2016
I went out to my car yesterday morning and what did I find? Just imagine. Ice! Only three weeks into August and I already have ice on my windshield. My first thought was "oh no there goes my garden." But it was my second thought that really got me fired up – brown trout.
I went out to my car yesterday morning and what did I find? Just imagine. Ice! Only three weeks into August and I already have ice on my windshield. My first thought was "oh no there goes my garden." But it was my second thought that really got me fired up – brown trout. I look forward to seeing geese flock to the skies and get a thrill watching green poison ivy turn neon red and orange. Why you may wonder? Because it means fall is just around the corner and the Browns will get aggressive
. No more sipping mayflies gently off the surface. It’s action time, when Browns rush to crush streamers off the bank.
Typically, summer starts out easy with the “all you can eat” salmonfly hatch
, followed by torrents of caddis and mayflies
. August brings in midnight stones
and finally, the last hurrah - a succession of hoppers. As September slowly leaks into October the nights start getting cold and the hoppers start freezing out. The Browns are forced to switch menus and they’re not happy about it. Now their true, piscatorial character emerges. They become aggressive and visibly angry.
This year the big Browns came out of hiding early and began to hunt. It’s only the last week in August and they are already on the move. Their prey consists of sculpins, small whitefish and black nose dace. Fueled by hunger and frustration, the Brown’s predatory run usually peaks in the middle of October and finally ends mid-November
. I use the term "run" loosely since it’s not like a steelhead run where hundreds of big fish suddenly appear from downstream. It’s more like a gentle wake-up call. Even though you know they’ve been lurking right under your nose all summer, their increased ire suddenly grabs your attention. The result? Browns unexpectedly start showing up on the end of your line.
We do have a "run" of fish that come up out of Ennis Lake
, so the brown population does increase in the fall. But it is the big river fish I'm after. In the summer months the brown trout are shy. You have to fish them early and late, with low light conditions. In the fall they get more aligned with my schedule. As the waters warm up, the fish move to Banker’s hours – 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
They shine to the warmest part of the day both in the water and out. Needless to say streamers become the name of the game. I like a Black K Buggar with a little nymph on the back. My suggestion is the bigger the streamer the smaller the nymph. I like to fish 2 inches from the bank and stripped fast. What I find fun is using white streamers. You can see the whites in the water and watch the browns go for them, their anger and hunger apparent in every move they make. Angry and hungry – just how we like them!
Another reason we like brown trout fishing in the fall is because cooler water opens up new areas that don’t fish well in the dog days of summer. For instance, the Jefferson
, Lower Madison
and Upper Missouri
all have high water temps during the summer. Unfortunately, the fish have to spend most of their time and energy just getting enough oxygen to survive. As the cooler water of fall arrives, dissolved oxygen levels rise and the fish can get serious about putting on some weight for winter.
Since feeding opportunities for fish are limited, both brown and rainbows have to make up for lost time. Fishing in the fall can be awesome on many of the lesser-known rivers and less frequented stretches. This is great for anglers like you and me. Imagine. What could be better than more rivers, bigger fish and fewer people? I’m a fan. You should be too.
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.
Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.
Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Given its association with transport, commerce and business development, it’s easy to forget that there remain parts of the Missouri set aside for fishing, boating and enjoying nature’s ... morebounty. From source to mouth, it is the longest river in North America, over 2, 341 miles. The river’s watershed consists of over a million square miles and includes parts of 10 American states and 2 Canadian provinces. When combined with the lower Mississippi, it is the 4th longest river in the world. Whew! That’s a lot to take in. But, if you’re a fly fisher in Montana, the only section of the Missouri you really need to know about is a tiny, 40 mile, stretch downstream of Holter Dam, near the towns of Wolf Creek, Craig and Cascade and not far from the city of Helena. This is the “Blue Ribbon” trout section of the Missouri.
Water released from Holter Dam keep this section the river at a fairly consistent level, helping to maintain cool temperatures year round. Some guides describe the river here as a gigantic spring creek surrounded by weed beds with long riffles, great banks and undercuts that provide ideal habitat for the river’s substantial trout population. By substantial, we’re talking 3,500 to 5,500 fish per mile on a yearly basis – and many of these exceed 16 inches! The first ten miles of the river from Holter Dam to Craig tend to have the largest number of hatches resulting in the highest concentration of fish.
In this “gigantic spring” part of the river, rainbow trout outnumber browns by a ratio of 6:1. In addition, stable populations of burbot and stonecats live below the dam. As a bonus, the reservoir is surrounded by the Beartooth Wildlife Management Area as well as three other designated nature preserves and wilderness set-asides. Look up and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a bald eagle, various types of falcon, red-tail hawks, osprey and golden eagles – you may even get a chance to see them snatch a fish from the water. Shore side it’s not unusual to sight bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats. This may be an area small in size but its large in its grandeur and many offerings.
The Jefferson River is an important part of a system of rivers that combine to form the majestic Missouri. Starting at the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers near Twin ... moreBridges, Montana, it winds 77 miles in a northeasterly fashion to Three Forks. Here, it meets with the Madison and Gallatin rivers that together converge into the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park. Like so many other rivers in Montana, the Jefferson, named by Clark in honor of the U.S. President, runs deep with history. In fact, the Jefferson River is a segment of the larger Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, administered by our National Park Service.
When thinking about the Jefferson, a Class 1 river for recreational enjoyment, most observers view the river in three distinct sections. Characterized by slow, meandering flows, the upper third works its way through a broad, arid valley. Along this braided, 44 mile long floodplain, you will encounter working farms, dense cottonwood stands, flowered meadows and a variety of wildlife until you reach the town of Cardwell. Throughout the next 15 miles, its waters flow through a narrow, steep canyon where the water can be deep, slow and contained. As a result, the stretch from Cardwell to the Sappington Bridge has comparatively fewer trees, swamps, meadows and wildlife.
At Sappington Bridge the river once again becomes a circuitous, rambling river, rich in swamp life, colorful fields, large cottonwood groves and productive agricultural land. The presence of significant agriculture has resulted in competition for water use. During dry years, the river was tapped generously for irrigation, dropping water levels to the point where fish populations were adversely affected. Recent improvement in riparian management has tended to alleviate these issues. Primarily known as a brown trout river, rainbows, mountain whitefish, burbot and northern pike can also be found here. Less well known and less discovered, the Jefferson offers the opportunity to catch large fish in a scenic, un-crowded environment.
If fly wranglers were gossips, the “Blue Ribbon” Madison River would likely be their primary object of attention. Arguably it’s the most talked over, written up and frequented river ... morein the entire state of Montana – and that’s saying something. What’s more, no one has anything bad to say about it and that’s for a good reason. There’s nothing bad to say. Its scenic journey begins in Yellowstone National Park at the convergence of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers and continues for 19 miles through parkland. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and sorry to disappoint, but it’s catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters the Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.
Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hegman releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.
Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintain relatively low water levels and provide wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
The “Mighty Missouri” is a “must fish” river for experienced anglers where stealth and delicate, accurate casts with tiny match-the-hatch dry-flies that compete with thousands of the ... morereal bugs, and a drag free drift are required to catch the huge, wary and finicky Rainbows and Browns rising to Caddis, BWO’s, PMD’s, Trico’s, midge, and a wide array of terrestrials.
When there are few, or no fish rising, nymph or streamer fishing is hot from a drift boat or raft. When flows are low-moderate, there are lots of wade fishing opportunities. We fish the Missouri from Holter Dam to Cascade, a 30-mile stretch of river designated a “Blue Ribbon” tail water fishery.
Formed in Twin Bridges by the confluence of the Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Ruby Rivers, the Jefferson flows northbound over eighty miles to the confluence of the Madison and Gallatin ... moreRivers to form the Missouri. Receiving less pressure than any of the others, this is one of those fisheries that you have to see to believe.
What the Jefferson offers:
80 miles of floatable water, with good wading opportunities
Early stonefly hatches
Great streamer fishing
Unparallelled wildlife and scenery
Larger than average trout
Low angler pressure
Did we mention BIG brown trout?
A full day float trip on Ennis Lake is a great experience. Ennis Lake offers very diverse opportunities for great trout fishing. Countless tactics and approaches work for wade and ... morefloat fishing Ennis Lake. Montana Fish Man can help unlock the Ennis Lake secrets and give you the angling tools for future success. This is a great summer season option for beginners and expert anglers alike. Fly fishing and light tackle spin fishing. For one or two people.