Blackfoot Buckets

Late July on the rivers in western Montana means low water, and the Blackfoot turns into a series of deep buckets between runs that take good setup and approach to fish well. We’re seeing some spruce moths hitting the water, which usually make the fish a little giddy, but matching the hatch is still working for the PMDs in the mornings and then big chunky terrestrials in the afternoons. Yes, the fishing shuts down for a bit after lunch, so early and late are always the way to go. How do you fish those big Blackfoot buckets?

Catching a handful of little fish in the same run moved this big bull trout into the skinny water. When Jayme Erickson hooked it with a size 12 PMD, we knew it was going to be a tough fight. Quick shot and back to the depths for this beauty.

I like a longer leader as summer wears on. A little distance from the fish helps those pressured trout to feel comfortable enough to eat, and a longer leader definitely helps. You can start with a 9 foot leader, add a good bit of tippet and be happy, though a 12 foot leader will really change the game. Make sure it is stout enough to turn over your bug, but sizing down the tippet will give you an extra edge. I’m using fluorocarbon from my poly leader to my dry flies, and a dropper below on fluorocarbon as well. we’re seeing fish happy to eat a nymph throughout the day, and the well-drifted dry will get that slow-rolling cutthroat eat in the right places. Modify your technique from the “anything goes” days of June and get into more fish. By now your cast is dialed in, so use it well. Approach holes with a game plan, tie on your confidence flies, and make sure your knots are strong. When you hook into the fish you’re looking for, it will take good knots and lots of work to get them in.


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