Fishing in Montana has been a dream of mine for a few years now and though this trip wasn’t my dream trip, it did let me test the waters. On my way to a friends wedding by Flathead Lake I had to opportunity to stop and fish an incredible river that tumbled out of a wilderness area.
Upon entering Montana about the only thing I could notice was the smoke, it was everywhere. The usually scenic drive was coated in a brownish grey fog that hung in the valleys like a curtain. After winding along some narrow dirt roads I came to a trailhead into the wilderness area. That evening we only had a short time to fish but were not disappointed. To say the water was clear is an understatement, it was like looking through glass, every detail of the bottom was clearly visible with only the deepest pools beginning to turn an electric blue/green color.
Standing on a rock outcropping allowed me to see a line of small cutthroats rising on a seem behind a rock. I began the evening with a small purple haze to a stonefly dropper. It worked.
Before long it grew dark and rainy and the next morning couldn’t come soon enough.
As soon as it became light enough to start we began our 2 mile hike into the wilderness area. If ever there was a reason for a wilderness area, this river and the mountains around it are that reason. Without the designation of a wilderness area this river would surely have a road paralleling it and failed mining claims leaking tailings into it like too many other western rivers. The hike along the pristine stream reminded me to be thankful for the wilderness areas dotting the country and to continue fighting to keep them untouched.
We hiked around two miles up the trail and scrambled down a steep bank to the river. I immediately began fishing the same combination as the day before, but with no luck. There were a few spruce moths flying around the water and I switched up my dry to mimic them. After the first cast I knew these would be the only flies we needed for the day. Aggressive cutthroat trout would leap fully out of the water trying to inhale the moth, often missing it altogether. The visual of these fish coming out of the river and flashing their colors in the air was truly incredible. When these aggressive fish made contact and got into the main current you better hold on tight because they would test your tippet for all it was worth!
Although my first trip to fish Montana was short, it did confirm that I’ll be coming back here someday to explore some more new water!