Weekend Warrior: Cold nights Make Fish Happy

After the early heatwave we experienced this summer, the return of cold morning starts comes as a bit of a shocker – but one we’ll take gladly! For long stretches this summer we’ve been seeing smaller fish willing to come up for the dry fly. With the colder nights, we’re seeing bigger fish willing to chase the chubby around in the early hours, and coming up for a smaller hopper in the afternoons. Flows are still uncomfortably low if you’re rocking the hard boat. In a raft, the melodious sound of rubber skimming over rocks is frequent enough to get a good rhythm going. Whatever it takes to get to the fish. Wading the creeks is your best option for all day fishing, and this is the year for finding new water and willing trout. Reports of larger native cutties hanging in the creeks is always welcome, and they’re still willing to come up for the attractor junk like those good old creekin’ fish always do.

First fish of the day, taking the dry fly on top.
We’re still keeping them wet as much as possible, but the water’s running cold and clear this August.

The fishing on the Blackfoot has been consistent with fish taking caddis, spruce moth, and attractors most of the day. The hopper/dropper combination is working, though keeping the hopper small and flush in the film has been the real secret to finding good takes. And as the old guide saying goes, “The only secret fly is a good drift.” Go for the solid drifts and watch for those late pickups. Right when you’re ready to cast, the twitch has moved the bigger fish. Small mayfly droppers and emergers that sit flush in the film have nailed the steady riders in the foam and bubble lines, and those rare foam-covered eddies have hidden some very nice fish that will take that size 20 trico trailed behind your sighter fly. The Bitterroot has been here and there, with the here days being very good ones on the hopper and smaller parachute stuff. I’ve been liking a size 14 purple haze with a size 18 cripple on the back for those inside bend, diamond-water fish, and a short leash dropper with no bead has bent rods all day long when the mayflies are in the riffles. Hoppers tight to structure. Tighter than that. Yep, that’ll do. Good drifts get fish. We’re headed to the lower Clark Fork today to see what’s happening, but word on the street is things are looking up down there, and the tricos have been coming off at their regularly scheduled programming hours. For the weekend, get out early and fish hard. Pick your floats and spots well, and no matter what river you’re on, look for the big buckets and don’t forget the san juan worm wiggle in there! We may be “in between hatches” but that only means the fishing can be tough until you figure out the bug they’re taking. Don’t stay frustrated, drift that fly, twitch it and let it rip. Three flies I wouldn’t head out without this weekend are small low-floating hoppers, elk hair caddis in the 12-14 range, and royal chubby chernobyls. Round it out with some small parachute flies to feed those sippers and you’re only as good as your next drift. Streamer freak?  Things are all good there, with your target waters getting easier to see and smaller by the minute until these rivers bounce back. Toss duller, natural streamers and rip them back quick. Nymphing by the Numbers Nerd? Nymph high in the water column, and tie on a flashy mayfly or caddis emerger and a larger prince nymph. You’ll do just fine.

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