The smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) has been called "pound for pound the best fighting game fish alive." Smallmouth are native to eastern central North America but were widely propagated in hatcheries and planted as early as the mid-1800s. They were first transplanted to Horseshoe Lake near Bigfork in 1914 and are still being introduced in selected locations by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Smallmouth bass are primarily a stream fish but are also doing well in reservoirs like Fort Peck and Tongue River where specimens over 5 pounds have been taken. Smallmouth are spring, nest-building spawners. Due to erratic spring weather, nesting failure in Montana is not unusual. Smallmouth bass eat insects, frogs, crayfish, and fish.
Recognized as one of the most renowned trout rivers in the country, this 722 mile river flows northward from Arkansas into Missouri. It starts in the Arkansas Boston Mountains that ... moretower above the Ozark- St. Francis National Forest near Fayetteville. A tributary of the Mississippi, it is the source of several tributaries including the North Fork River, Little Red River, Black River, James River and the Bayou des Arc, and drains over 27,765 square miles of river basin.
Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, there are several dams and reservoirs affecting its character and flow. The river is most famous for the 30 mile tailwater below the man-made, Bull Shoals Lake, although fishing throughout the upper river and Lake Taneycomo are also excellent. What makes the portion below Bull Shoals special is the cold water discharge from the dam, providing ideal trout habitat.
Wild browns are abundant and are supplemented by the State with rainbows, cutthroats, and brook. Fish are usually in the 12 to 16 inch range, although much larger fish are easily found. Some well traveled anglers argue that typical browns here out measure the largest browns found elsewhere. Many Arkansas state trout records have been broken here. Imagine reeling in a 19 pound rainbow or a 30+ pound brown. It’s possible on this section of the White.
Access to the river is excellent. Anglers can fish these waters from the banks or by wading or floating. Since water levels vary according to electric power demands, the river can suddenly become high and swift so a bit of caution is advised. One great feature is that it can be fished during the winter months when other streams may be closed.
Before wading, check the number of turbines running at the power station since it affects conditions on the water.
There are three forks to the Holston River, but if you are into fishing for trout, the South Fork is the one you want. In less than two hours drive from Asheville, you can be fishing ... moreone of the finest tailwater trout waters east of the Mississippi. The 112 mile long South Fork Holston River, referred to as the SoHo, is part of the greater Tennessee River drainage basin, managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Oblivious to borders, the river starts in Virginia and ends at its confluence with the North Fork in Tennessee.
The South Holston Dam, the uppermost of three on the South Fork, created the landmark South Holston Lake. It is the tailwaters below the lake that have made this stretch of water so desirable. Here, the insects are humming, the favorable water temperature is uniform 12 months of the year and the fish are thriving.
Throughout the approximate 15 mile section below the dam, stocked rainbows, wild browns and smallmouth bass can be found. According to a recent Tennessee Wildlife Resource Authority (TVRA) survey, there are 5,000 to 6,000 trout per mile, averaging 12 inches in length; it’s not uncommon to find 20+ inches.
This is a river that is usually floated but can be waded depending on water levels. Because the TVA is constantly adjusting water flows, levels can change without notice and whether floating or wading, obtaining a release schedule and a skilled guide is highly recommended.
Before booking a trip keep in mind that sections of the river are closed to protect spawning browns between November and January, all trout 16-20 inches must be released and only one over 22 inches may be taken home.
As the only official “Blue Ribbon” river in the State of Washington, the Yakima is in a class of it’s own. Being close to the quaint town of Ellensburg adds to its allure. Originating ... morehigh in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain’s Snoqualmie Wilderness and ending at Richland, this 214-mile long Columbia River tributary is a managed flow tailriver, controlled by the US Bureau of Reclamation and fed by three main reservoirs – the Kachess, Keechelus and Cle Elum.
Despite the controls, a mix of both bottom fed and top water releases create water conditions more like a freestone river than one encumbered by dams. Unlike most western waterways, its waters are low during the spring/fall months and high during summer when demand for irrigation is greatest.
The Yakima’s official 75-mile Blue Ribbon stretch starts where the three tailwaters merge near the town of Cle Elum, and continues on until reaching Roza Dam. The upper river down to the confluence of reservoirs tends to be braided and difficult to float. A flat section follows, known for wading and long rifles. At East Cle Elum the river runs 14 miles through its “upper canyon” section, populated with large boulders and an abundance of cutthroats.
From Diversion Dam to Wilson Creek is the farmland section. Known for apple orchards, Cottonwoods and Timothy Hay, the fishing is good but access difficult due to private landholdings. Arid Yakima Canyon that runs from Wilson Creek to Roza Dam is the most fished part of the river, typically by drift boat.
The river is open year round with runoff in May. While anglers come from afar to fish Yakima’s waters, it’s rarely over crowded. There’s a wide variety of fish, including rainbow, cutthroat, browns, brook, kokanee, burbot and smallmouth bass. Fish range in size from 12-14 inches.
Before booking a trip, be sure to check anticipated water levels and remember that this is a catch and release river.
Dworshak Reservoir, found in central Idaho along the North Fork of the Clearwater River, is located in scenic forested and mountainous country. Popular activities include swimming, ... moreboating, fishing, hunting, water-skiing, camping, hiking and lots more. At a height of 717 feet, the dam is the highest straight-axis gravity dam in North America, as well as one of the most dramatic in appearance. The Dworshak National Fish Hatchery is the largest steelhead trout hatchery in the world. Lewis and Clark camped in the area, where they rested from their trip over the Bitterroot Range and built canoes for their trip on to the Pacific Ocean. The reservoir is over 600 feet at its deepest point.
While it may seem nonsensical to think of Marilyn Monroe and fly fishing in the same breath, the Salmon River and the “blonde bombshell” are permanently linked together in American ... morefolklore. Given it’s wild runs and deep canyons, the river acquired the moniker of the “River of No Return, and was made famous when Monroe and Mitchum starred in a 1954 film with the same name. In fact, the Salmon runs unobstructed for 425 miles, making it the longest free-flowing river within one state in the lower 48.
Not only are its rapids wild and untamed, the Salmon also travels through two nationally designated preserves, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Gospel Hump Wilderness areas. Recognized for its scenic importance, Congress declared the 46 miles of the river from North Fork to Corn Creek as a national recreational river and the 79 miles from Corn Creek to Long Tom Bar as a wild river. At points along the Salmon its granite walls are one-fifth deeper than the Grand Canyon and over 180 miles of the river is more than one mile deep.
Fed by several tributaries such as the Yankee Fork, South Fork Salmon and Little Salmon, the river supports both cold and warm water fish including smallmouth bass, bull trout, sockeye salmon, Chinook salmon, squawfish, sucker and catfish. Legend has it that white sturgeon over 12 feet long and over 100 years old also inhabit these waters. The Salmon and Snake rivers provide critical habitat for steelhead trout and Chinook salmon. These fish require both salt and fresh water and use these streams to navigate from the rivers where they spawn, to the ocean where they spend their adult lives. The river offers high quality sport fishing for resident populations of cutthroat and rainbow trout as well as steelhead and mountain whitefish.
Within the Idaho borders, the most recognized section of the Snake River for fly fishing is commonly referred to as the South Fork, a 66-mile stretch that starts below the Palisades ... moreDam and flows through stark canyons, looming valleys and broad flood plains until it reaches Henry’s Fork near Menan Buttes. Ranked as the one of the most productive Blue Ribbon Rivers in the US, its last census counted over 5000 fish per mile. Since 1985, the River has been included in the nation’s Wild and Scenic River System, boding well for its preservation and future.
Home to the largest riparian cottonwood gallery forest in the West, it is considered by naturalists to be among the most diverse ecosystems in Idaho. In addition to the cottonwoods, it is also home to over 120 avian species, including raptors, songbirds, shorebirds and game birds, earning it a distinctive “National Important Bird Area” designation. Outside of Yellowstone National Park, the South Fork corridor also contains the country’s largest native cutthroat fishery and an extensive population of other wildlife including moose, deer, elk, mountain goats, mountain lions, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, river otter, beaver, fox and mink.
Famous for its large summer stoneflies, with Salmon flies often reaching 3 inches in length, the best dry fly fishing is during the months of July and August. The hatches in the first half of July are so prolific that fish readily come to the surface in great numbers to seize the appetizing display. By the first week of August many fish have already been caught and released and become more hesitant to bite. At this point experts suggest employing emerger and cripple patterns, especially if the fish are feeding in the South Fork’s riffles and back channels. Lodging and guided trips are widely available.
Averill Harriman, then Chairman of the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad, returned from Europe in 1935 impressed by the spread of luxurious ski resorts throughout the Austrian, Swiss and ... moreFrench Alps. Anxious to expand markets for his own trains, he set out to build American’s first high-end ski area near an existing UP railhead and hired Count Schaffgotsch, a famed Austrian skier, to scout the ideal location. The Count recommended Sun Valley as the perfect site, but there was a problem – the season was short, running only from December through April. In an effort to create an all year playground, Harriman invited Ernest Hemingway to hunt and fish from his lodge. Hemmingway loved it, wrote about it and encouraged his friends to join him and his son Jack as they hunted and fished along Silver Creek. Harriman’s Introduction of Hemingway to the environs succeeded, firmly establishing the valley’s reputation as a sportsman’s paradise.
In the early 1960’s the property was sold to a developer, and fortunately for fishing enthusiasts, the surrounding area including Silver Creek, was part of the transaction. When the property was again for sale in the mid 1970’s, Jack Hemingway stepped in and helped facilitate the purchase of the land by the Nature Conservancy, permanently insuring its preservation. Silver Creek is an ecological anomaly as it is part of a high-desert, cold spring system formed from underground aquifers and unlike typical freestone rivers, tends to maintain consistent temperature and water levels. These consistent conditions yield rich nutrients and provide model waters for trout to live in and thrive. Browns typically range from 14-16 inches although 17-20 inchers are not uncommon. Rainbows found in backwater sloughs can range from 22-24 inches. The creek is approximately 70% rainbow, 30% brown.
Several smaller feeder creeks with clean, gravel stream bottoms provide the breeding grounds for Silver Creek. Despite the fact that the browns and rainbows found today in Silver Creek are not indigenous, they have flourished and the Creek has not been re-stocked since the 1975. Ironically, native cutthroat trout are no longer present in the Creek, although the river continues to support a variety of other wildlife including songbirds, shorebirds, cranes, bald and golden eagles, mule deer, elk, coyotes and a rare mountain lion.
Melting snowpack from the Wind River Mountains give rise to the Green River, Wyoming’s second longest. After flowing south over 700 miles, the Green enters into the Colorado River ... moreand is considered by many to be this river’s headwater. Supposedly named by 16th century Spanish explorers for its clear color, a mystery since most people say it looks quite the same as the murky Colorado, the river ran basically unimpeded until the early 1960’s when the Fontenelle Dam was completed. One year later another dam was built in Dutch John, Utah, which flooded the scenic, red-rock Flaming Gorge for nearly 90 miles, creating a deep-water fishery famous for its monster lake trout and trophy browns.
Despite man’s effort to tame the Green, over 150 miles of the river still run free. Set between the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Bridger Wilderness area, the remote river basin has retained its rugged, pristine, scenic beauty. Locals joke that there are more elk, bear and deer in residence than people, a fact attractive for those seeking an authentic, fly fishing experience. Fishing is thought to be best during the late summer and fall seasons when there are prolific mayfly and caddis hatches and trout is plentiful, including the native Colorado River cutthroat.
Pinedale, a small resort town on US 191, is the primary hub for the upper Green River, attracting anglers from as far as Jackson. Another small town, Green River located on I-80, services sportsmen along the lower portion of the river. Fly shops are in abundance and guides are widely available at both locations.
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.