Missouri River – Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, Montana

Missouri River – Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, Montana

From the banks of the Missouri River in Craig, Montana – The Headhunters Fly Shop.

Jack fished the Missouri recently and spent a little time in the Headhunters Fly Shop. He enjoyed the owners, Mark Raisler and John Arnold, the staff and all the shop had to offer.

If you get to Craig, be sure to check them out!

Headhunters LLC

145 Bridge Street
Craig, MT 59648
(406) 235-3447

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Missouri River with Phil and Mike (iPhone picture)

Missouri River with Phil and Mike (iPhone picture)

The Bitterroot River was up due to run-off so they fished the Big Hole for a few days and then went over to the Missouri. It pays to be flexible. Beautiful scenery, great food in Wise River at the Wise River Club, nice lodging and food in Craig Montana and they caught fish. Not too many photos were taken but you get the idea.

Jack guided with the raft on the Big Hole and drift boat on the Missouri to optimize where they could catch fish. He hadn’t seen Phil in quite a few years and has always enjoyed fishing and spending time with him. It was a pleasure to see him again and meet his good friend Mike (pictured to the left in a photo from Phil’s iphone).

See a few more photos from Jack’s camera in the slideshow below.

BEYOND HABITAT: Saving trout from the Bighorn to the Flathead in Montana

BEYOND HABITAT: Saving trout from the Bighorn to the Flathead in Montana

The Feb 18 BRTU meeting will feature Montana TU Executive Director Bruce Farling. Bruce will be giving a slide presentaion on the subject of:

BEYOND HABITAT: Saving trout from the Bighorn to the Flathead in Montana.

The meeting begins at 7:00 PM at the Hamilton Elks Lodge, 203 State Street, Hamilton and is open to the public.

Contact BRTU President Bill Bean for additional information call Bitterroot Trout Unlimited President, Bill Bean at (406) 363-6158, or email Bill at fishaus@blackfoot.net

Please feel free to post or forward to anyone you think might be interested.

Elks Lodge

203 State Street
Hamilton, MT 59840-2522
(406) 363-3031

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Wapiti Waters 2010 fishing forecast for western Montana

Wapiti Waters 2010 fishing forecast for western Montana

Wapiti Waters’ 2010 fishing season forecast based on over 30 years experience in western Montana’s trout fisheries.

Jamie and his Bitteroot trout

Jack Mauer, Wapiti Waters outfitter and guide

I have just read they will be shipping snow by truck to the site of the 2010 Olympic Games – Cyprus Mountain. Mother Nature has not cooperated but they have had time to prepare for the lack of snow. Likewise, here in the fishing business where a trout fishery depends a lot on good, cold stream flows, we have time to prepare or plan for what looks to be a lean water year.

I hate drought, everybody and everything suffers during times of water stress. Unfortunately conditions are looking more and more like drought as snowpack in the Bitterroot is around 54% of normal at the time of this writing. We have had three months of below average snow precipitation and we have less than two months of winter to go. So the prognosis is not good. What this actually means for the fishing, however, is not all gloom and doom.

Here are my predictions for the 2010 season.

Insect hatch on the Bitterroot in spring

Insect hatch on the Bitterroot in the spring.
Photo by Merle Ann Loman

March and April – Early Spring fishing

Expect fishable water through-out this time. Because our low elevation snow is meager, we should have better than average fishing with more fishable days. It is the melting low elevation snow that causes the rivers to pulse up too quickly with warm weather and/or rain. So I predict excellent early spring fishing in western Montana and that means Skwala and nemoura stones as well as Ameletus and Rithrogenia mayflies.

May and June – Usual period of high-water conditions

Again, I expect better than average fishing for these two months. Many hatches such as the salmonfly; pteronarcella, larger stoneflies; March Brown; and Hydropsyche caddis will come off in good numbers during this time and have the trout looking up on a more consistent basis. Pulsing high waters in the average snowpack year don’t give the trout a chance to key on these hatches before water levels may become too big. This year under the possible lower than average flows, it is likely that trout will get a chance to really key in on them. As a result, these conditions may bring some remarkable fishing.

No matter how big or small the snowpack there will be a time of peak run-off for a 2-3 week period. When this happens, most area rivers will probably be unfishable because of high, turbid water. Here is where flexibility becomes important. Some rivers will likely be fishable and changing the location/river will allow you to take advantage of good conditions. Wapiti Waters has the knowledge and permits that can put you on the right water.

David with a Bitterroot brown trout
Wapiti Waters photo

July and August – Summer fishing

Early July is usually a time of some of the most consistent fishing. I expect that to be the case given the number and variety of aquatic insects that emerge during this time. However, by mid-July the prognosis is not good. Using a preferred strategy for low, warm water conditions in mid-summer, we will need to fish from early morning to early afternoon. Fishing early is in favor the trout and yourself – beating the heat. It is quite possible that rivers like the Blackfoot and the Big Hole will have some angling restrictions during this time.

September and October – Fall Fishing

It is a little too early to predict eight months in advance. Our fall fishing is usually a fly fishers dream here in western Montana. Low flows in the summer are not the single deciding factor of unfavorable fall fishing conditions. For example, last year we had a huge snowpack but we had very tough fall fishing because of unseasonably warm temperatures and bright, sunny weather.

In the mean time, I hope the weather systems in the Pacific will deliver us some welcome precipitation through-out the year.

For more info: Wapiti Waters welcomes calls and emails for up-dated conditions and angling reports.

Contact information: Toll free 800-254-5311, email wapiti@wapiti-waters.com, website www.wapiti-waters.com.

The western Montana rivers Jack fishes most are the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, Big Hole and Clark Fork rivers. See links to more articles and information below.
  • Fishing and river articles and photos by Merle Ann Loman by key word:

Bitterroot River | Big Hole River | Blackfoot River | Clark Fork River | Missouri River | Argentina

Seasons Greetings from Big Sky Country

Seasons Greetings from Big Sky Country

Merry Christmas
Seasons Greeting from Wapiti Waters in Montana’s Big Sky Country

As we reflect on this past year, we appreciate the gain from our toils and rejoice in the memories of families and angling friends.

Another season has come and gone for Wapiti Waters. Hopefully this winter, we will be partaking in our usual cold month recreational endeavors. Unfortunately the snow hasn’t hit this part of Montana yet. After a reasonably successful hunting season, Merle and I are still hiking around the hills for exercise and “light therapy” rather than skiing. Our immediate focus is keeping the house warm, and sharing our reflections, thanks and hopes with you in this letter. Read on for a recap of our most successful guide season ever.

The 2009 guide season kicked off in mid-March with mild weather, good dry fly fishing and some happy anglers. By the end of March we had icy guides in our rods as an arctic blast descended. Unbelievable as it may seem the Skwalla dry fly fishing was pretty good despite temperatures hovering near 32 degrees. The native cutthroats are incredibly hardy fish. Grilled “brats” and hot soup was the mainstay for lunch.

The rest of spring was fair fishing with flows a little too high at times. 2009 had a huge snow pack and the threat of flooding was imminent.Merle and her trout on the Bitterroot River After one big surge in late May, an orderly run off ensued; this prevented a natural disaster. By June 9th we were fishing the Big Hole and Bitterroot forks. From then on Wapiti Waters was busy throughout the summer and into fall. With Merle on bookkeeping, lunches, website and emails, I could focus on my outfitting and guiding. Without the weekly and late Tuesday nights at the Top Hat, I was still able to play parties and weddings with the band and enjoy my music through the guide season.

Highlights from 2009:

Clark Fork is coming back quickly from the Milltown project. Insect hatches that have been suppressed in previous years are showing up again which has stimulated nice angling in certain sections.

The Big Hole had exceptional flows and terrific fishing throughout the season. What a joy to be on this river in August floating and wading in some of the finest trout water in North America.

A hot, sunny September to remember made for some very technical angling. After a predictably good morning trico spinner fall we would take a little time to do some invasive species management. We searched and found northern pike lairs and were modestly successful at pulling some out. What a thrill to see them pursue the fly, strike it and playing that size of a fish. It is a nice change of pace and 180 degrees from trico fishing. For the Pike, we used a 9 weight fly rod and a 2 “aught” air resistant streamer instead of the 4 and 5 weights with a size 20 dry. Now that is variety.

Jack and his northern pike from the lower Bitterroot
Another arctic freeze-out in early October disrupted an unusually good month of fishing. Fall colors were a gloomy grey green. It was still beautiful to be out but we felt we got cheated without the vibrant yellow and oranges that our stream corridors normally exhibit. We know we can’t always have it the way we want it and we especially appreciated the nice BWO and mahogany dun hatches.

First, we want to thank those who fished with Wapiti Waters in 2009 and wish you all Happy Holiday and a prosperous New Year in 2010 and second (and as important) all the great guides who worked with us.

When is the best time to fish western Montana?

When is the best time to fish western Montana?

Upper Bitterroot with John Hickman in the spring“When is the best time to fish western Montana?” This is the question I am most often asked. In my attempt to answer it, I will take a brief look at our seasons chronologically and try to highlight a few of the more memorable fishing moments in an ‘average’ year.

Naturally we will begin with spring. Fish are coming out of a dormant period by mid-March with milder weather and water temperatures. Spring with its predictably unpredictable weather does have its special moments. The Bitterroot, Big Hole, Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Missouri will ‘come in’ at different times from mid-March through May. Naturally extreme weather (too cold OR too warm) can ruin the angling, yet spring has some wonderful hatches. You will see stoneflies; Skwalla and Nemoura, mayflies; March Brown and Blue-winged Olives (BWO), and lastly caddis that can trigger some unbelievable opportunities. Fishing “underneath” with either nymphs or streamers can also be very productive. One must be somewhat of a gambler to fish in the spring. The rewards can be gratifying for the lucky angler who strikes it rich.

Starting in mid-May, rivers will begin to surge as warm, mild weather begins melting the snowpack. A typical run-off will last over a period of about 5 weeks or so depending on the amount of snowpack. However, the craziest streamer and nymph fishing ever has happened between run-off pulses during this time period.

Early summer is probably the most popular time to fish western Montana, right after main run-off events are over, typically around mid-June, river flows decrease and gain clarity. Hatches of salmonflies, golden stones and green drake mayflies make their annual appearance. This can be an especially productive time for the inexperienced angler as trout are hungry, relatively uneducated, and the water is fast and forgiving. One can get away with a little more drag on the surface fly and use heavier tippets and larger patterns. For many of my fisherman, the last 10 days of June and first 10 days of July are the best time to fish. It is difficult to argue as the good hatches, healthy river flows and early summer weather are hard to beat. It is also the time of year that most people are recreating on our area rivers and is to be expected. Wapiti Waters does its best to avoid getting into a crowded fishing scene and having to “compete.”

Eventually the fishing settles down into mid-summer rhythm, always dependent on weather, the explosive hatches of larger insect species is over and too many days of hot weather really slows down the trout. Mid-summer slides into the so-called ‘dog days’ with morning PMDs spinner falls and the Isoperlid Stoneflies like yellow sallies are about the only aquatic insects out there. However there have been memorable moments in certain river reaches with terrestrial patterns like beetles, ants, grasshoppers and moths. This time period (mid-July through mid-August) is an excellent time to be on the water particularly for the early riser as the morning fishing can be very good. Many Wapiti waters customers prefer this time as area rivers have noticeably less fishing pressure.

Bitterroot in the summer with father and son

At the end of August, longer nights and cooler weather turn on the bugs and the trout. The tiny black curse (trico mayfly) begins to make its appearance and cloud up the morning sky with its mating dance. Once on the water these little bugs give anglers the most challenging as well as rewarding fishing opportunities of the year. The patterns are small; one’s casting must be accurate and soft and hooks sets slow. In other words good technique is usually required. But because the opportunities for finding rising trout are numerous, you can get a lot of practice refining your technique. After a morning of trico fishing, an afternoon of hopper and/or fall drakes is likely to follow. For many dry fly purist, this time period is best as fish can be found rising throughout the day.

Later in September, the above mentioned hatches are followed by BW and mahogany dun mayflies, October caddis and midge swarms that take us right into late-fall. During our fall fishing one can expect to find pretty consistent hatches, sipping trout and fall colors that make this my personal favorite time to fish. This is a quality time particularly for the late riser as afternoon fishing is the norm.

We hope this answers the question about the best time to fish. I don’t like to promise good fishing just because you’re booked, say the first week of July or early September. So much of the fishing depends upon factors we have no control over such as weather and stream flows …but when the fishing is just tough we will always go back to the Robert Traver quote, “I fish because I love to; Because I love the environs where trout are found…” See the entire quote below and Thank you for reading this article.Lower Bitterroot in the fall

No matter what time of year, Wapiti Waters always works hard to find your best fishing.

Robert Traver 1964, (Judge John Voelker 1903-93)

I fish because I love to;
Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly;
Because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape;
Because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion;
Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience;
Because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters;
Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness;
Because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there;
Because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid;
And, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant – and not nearly so much fun.

See photos from early spring through late fall in the slideshow below.

View AlbumClick view album to see in new larger window, choose “slideshow” for full screen mode.


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