It’s been a great week on the Big Hole for the mid June happenings: Salmonflies and Goldens rushed through the river and belted off tremendous hatches, making for excellent fishing throughout the week. Some days were pretty slammed with boats-I must have seen 60 last Saturday on Divide to Melrose-but there’s plenty of good fishing for those in the know. Most boats are playing Hank Williams Jr. on a D battery boom box and chucking Rapalas and spoons so really no threat there. Just smile and wave and hope they chuck you a beer while we get down to business with the sneaky dry flies.
I ran this week for the Complete Fly Fisher in Wise River, guiding new guests to the lodge and showing them the best of the river. We fished approximately 60 miles of the Big Hole: from the upper water at East Bank to the lower end at the Notch Bottom, the river entirely different at each end. The week started strong on Salmonflies and Goldens, but eventually I had to resort to the sneaky stuff to really find the fish.
Sometimes our hatches get a bit played out, to say the least. Guides start hucking Salmon bugs weeks before the hatch-I am guilty-and the fish are pretty much hook shy by the time the ol’ hatch comes around. Well, throw it while you can, and when it’s not working, go smaller. Then smaller again. Until you start finding bugs the fish will take vigorously, as well as searching out water not being hit heavily. There’s a bit of guide knowledge not to be taken lightly! Look where people are NOT fishing, or at least not fishing well. Heavy water, strong insides, deep under willows, and back channels are all places not overfished. Keep searching; the fish are feeding somewhere on something you have in your flybox!
Long distance runner, what you standin’ there for? Get up get out, get out of the door. Your playin’ cold music on the barroom floor. Drowned in your laughter and dead to the core. There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town, Takes a whole pail of water just to cool him down. Fire! Fire on the mountain! Fly fishing and the Dead go hand in hand. Nothing to fire up the browns, or especially the Steel, with a little Jerry and Bob. Fishing the Big Hole recently with the “Boys”-Chris, Stu, Greg, and the legendary Gartho- we found some inspiration through Jerry’s music to power onward through the cold and stick with the plan to find some good fish.
With a predicted high temp of 48 degrees, and that weatherman was spot on, our crew of five ran about eight miles of the most famous stretches on the Big Hole. Tough fishing in the morning was inevitable with the temp so low, so we just kept on plugging away in the likely runs until things started to turn our way. Sometime around one o’clock, ol’ Jerry started smiling our way and the Big Hole went from a desolate wasteland to a lights out fishery with Baetis and March Browns exploding off the water. The trout began to rise, making for solid dry fly takes, and our nymphs were inhaled just as quickly, bringing up multiple browns in the 18 inch class. Greg, our newbie guest on this excursion, showed us veterans how it is done by hanging fish on every turn. When the river was on a lull, Greg just kept plugging away patiently, pulling big browns from seemingly endless lies.
The Big Hole is on right now. Our Bitterroot is fluctuating quite a bit with runoff, making for tricky fishing, while the Big Hole remains unfazed. The higher elevation of that river keeps runoff at bay much longer than the Bitterroot, keeping water flows to a minimum. Any of you fishing with us during the months of May and early June have quite a good shot at hitting the Big Hole for early season prime time. Big browns are on the prowl, and the water is perfect. Hatch times are around one o’clock and wrap up around four for chasing the dry fly. Nymphs are always a good option, just ask Greg. See you all again on the water.