Writteh by: by John Herzer, Blackfoot River Outfitters
After a serious head start on winter, both in cold temps and snowpack, Western Montana has warmed up. The past couple of weeks of above-average temperatures and atypical high pressure along, with its bright sun, have freed the local rivers from ice. Typically, just a few days of sun on upper Rock Creek or the Bitterroot are all it takes to afford angling opportunities, but this sustained trend has made all the area rivers fishable. The Clark Fork and even the Blackfoot are in great shape and are giving up some great fish.
Its typically a down-and-dirty game. We are rigging double-down rigs about five feet below the indicator, with a tapered 2X leader to the first fly (Double-Bead Stones, Fly Formerly Known As Prince, Sexy Stone or even a smallish Olive Woolly Bugger).A 15-inch dropper of 3x leads to a beadhead worm. Eggs or smaller nymphs will work, but as Tom Rosenbauer recently noted, I embrace the worm every time when the water is cold.
Determined to become a better Spey caster, I’ve personally been pressing my 11-foot 6-weight Helios 2 Switch into service while swinging a “Bunny and a bead” with great success. Thin natural or olive streamers (Orvis’s Meal Ticket or Nutcracker are good bets) trailing any of the nymphs mentioned above on a short 2X leash are go-to setups for me in the winter. Swing everything: riffles, deep chop, slow pools, and of course, finish up on the tailouts.
The great conditions have not gone unnoticed by traveling anglers. I actually am booked to guide an afternoon next week with a client coming to Missoula to check out the University of Montana with his son. He asked if it was worth packing a rod or two. “You bet!” And, I expect to net a few good ones.
The attached pictures are from last couple weekends with my son Dawson and his pal JJ, both ten-year-olds. JJ had never fly fished before, yet he landed four nice trout. Meanwhile, Dawson lit them up, but then again, this is not his first rodeo.
John and Terri Herzer own and operate Blackfoot River Outfitters in Missoula, Montana.