Weekend Warrior: The Heat is On

The cold nights are keeping the water temperatures down, but the days are as hot as… August. Wait, it’s August already? Where did the summer go? Well, if you’ve been on the river regularly here in Missoula in this low water year you’re probably happy to see it move on. It’s not all gone just yet, but the late summer hatches are coming off and the fish have definitely changed their minds on the tried and true bugs you’ve been throwing all summer. Tricos are the name of the game in the mornings, and the hopper is moving big fish in the right places in the afternoon.

Tricos may be small, but for fish they’re like potato chips they just can’t stop eating. Photo via goodpixgallery.com

Trico fishing can be tricky, so it’s a love it or hate it game, but if you can stand lengthening your leader, dropping down the tippet and tying on the size 20s, you’ll find enough willing fish in the riffles to keep your rod bent over and over again. The trick with trico pods is finding the larger fish. Concentrate! Use the Force! Seek out the rises that barely break the surface, and fish around those little splashy risers. But if finding a big fish gets frustrating, it can be a whole lot of fun to knock a half a dozen little guys on tricos in a single spot.
Hoppers, ants, beetles, big attractors all can move fish as the temps get going, but the real trick is finding the deep water and likely spots for the big fish. The only secret fly is a good drift as August burns holes in your retinas, so give it a good pass over drop offs and ledges, and find the big ones that aren’t gonna go for the silly drag drift you got away with in June. Carry some PMDs, some terrestrials, and your go-to nymphs and streamers to toss when they refuse to come up.
Lets talk specific river info. Fishing the Bitterroot has been a great option this week, though if you’re planning on floating choose your float extremely carefully and be ready for tiny channels, walking the boat, and lots of new obstacles from last week’s high winds. Not the place to go if you’re timid on the sticks. The new trees down make for great wade fishing, but moving a boat around them can be a challenge. The Blackfoot has been good as well, though you’re in the same position if you’re moving a boat through some sections- be ready for rocks and low flows that can stop your fishing in a hurry. Great stuff up there, and the water is staying cold, but there sure ain’t much of it. The Clark Fork has stopped it’s algae fest, and the fishing has been strong on some days, and not so much on others. Big buckets are holding fish, and the hopper is doing some damage on the inside chop. But that doesn’t mean easy fishing, so be prepared to work.
Remember, wading this time of year can keep you cool and into fish. Lots of access to great holes with this low water, and there are plenty of feeder streams to choose from as well!

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