Bitterroot Delivers Again

It’s been a busy week on the rivers of Missoula, with the Blackfoot and Clark Fork looking like a boat parade most days in all the usual hot spots. With a couple of clients willing to take a chance and a little drive down the valley I spent the last couple of days feeding pale morning duns and big mayflies to willing fish without a boat in sight on the Bitterroot. We found fish in the usual places, but the sneaky Bitterroot spots were the ones that paid off big time. Browns feeding in those spots any sane angler would overlook, and a well placed cast made for some giddy clients when things went right. We found some larger browns feeding on PMDs in just enough water to cover their backs in pockets that gave anglers one shot or it was a bust- but lucky for me I had some guys that were willing to work for it and we had tight lines with emergers and spinners and all the other good stuff I tie all winter and rarely get to break out of the box. Great stuff.

When a fish like this sits where it shouldn’t, we gonna get ’em. This skinny water Bitterroot brown trout couldn’t pass up a PMD drifted perfectly.

Longtime Bitterroot anglers know that there are almost too many obvious trout holding spots on a Bitterroot float to even make sense of. Faced with so many choices within casting distance – a downed log here, cutbank there, and a plunge pool there – anglers can spend too much time casting to all of them, willy nilly, knowing one of those spots has to hold that big brown they’ve been dreaming about, only to come up blank. With so many good spots to hang out, and plant of time to watch boats and rods flail their way toward them in the clear water the fish on the Bitterroot get smart and move to spots that are chock full of food and invisible to predators. Longtime Bitterroot anglers know these spots, and it takes some convincing to get a client to listen to you and put a fly there. But when they connect with a big fish for the first time after actually putting it where you’ve been pointing, its like the moment the Rubik’s cube starts to look slightly uniform. The colors haven’t lined all the way up, but the puzzle finally seems to make sense.

Can you spot the fishy spot in this photo? No? Well, stop staring at the clouds!

The guide season rolls on. June has been almost too good, and there are some major hatches still to come. While the Bitterroot delivered this week, I also have that feeling that one more spin of the wheel and the bottom might fall out on that good luck. For sure, the PMDs are there and fish are eating them if you’ve got the drift. But If you’ve been chucking the chubby on the Blackfoot all week and want a change of pace, you better be ready to bring a little more delicate cast and look to those sneaky spots. While loading the boat at the end of a float we chatted with a couple of locals that were hoping to shake what they called, “the stink of the root” off of their boat. They’d been banging it up on the Blackfoot the day before, and were hoping for a change but said they’ve floated the Bitterroot many times with no luck. I gave them some advice on bugs and where to put it, but until they connect on that “weird water” brown, they might be wrestling with the Bitterroot a little longer. I sure hope they found a few of those spots and the puzzle starts unfolding for them.


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