It is mid-winter here in the Bitterroot Valley and it is living up to the moniker the Banana Belt of Montana. It has been a very mild winter indeed with record warm temperatures approaching 60 degrees F. There was even a small armada of boats as many fishermen and floaters couldn’t resist the beautiful weather. Stream flows are exceptional and have been all fall and winter because of the frequent rain/snow events. Snow pack percentages are over 100% of average. It is a heavy dense snow-pack with many dangerous fracture layers. Avalanche potential has been high most of the winter thus far.
Seasonal fishing synopsis
Although it is early to make too many predictions, I will try starting with the early season. Spring fishing,
with hatches of the famous skwala stoneflies and later “March Brown” Rithrogena Mayflies, is a popular time for anglers. With the current conditions as good as they are, I expect the flows to be good all spring. But, don’t forget that spring is always a bit of a crap shoot as the river flows can drastically change with weather that is too warm and wet. There are always some anglers with riverboat gamblers’ mentality that love this time of year – mid-March through April and either hit it right or get blown off the water. Wapiti Waters has had certain groups of anglers for 20 consecutive years. Spring time in Montana is captivating and addicting!
The most productive and busiest time of year to fish is late June through mid-July. Insect hatches of Salmon Flies, Golden Stones, Green Drakes and PMD Mayflies seem to really get trout to the surface.
After high water and run-off there is a time which I call “hero angling” when every fish in the river is “looking up.” Naturally fishing pressure is greatest during this time but one has to be willing to share the resources with one’s fellow anglers, enjoy the weather, diverse hatches and hopefully catch some hot trout. A good guide can work-around some extremely pressured water and coach their fishermen into great fishing. This is a time of year when there are usually big river flows that can handle the pressure. We can reasonably predict early summer of 2015 to be good angling.
Mid to Late Summer
The hatches of insects seem to change in size from big to small. Attractor type patterns and terrestrials seem to work the best. As water temperatures rise and river flows decrease the fishing certainly can take a nose-dive as trout get dormant or “lazy.” We always look for the coolest, shadiest water to float fish and that sometimes means traveling to the Blackfoot and Big Hole River as well as launching in the early mornings. Wapiti Waters has developed a useful arsenal of fly patterns that can interest the finicky, stubborn trout of the summer dog-days. Mid to late summer is the best time to river camp and Wapiti Waters camping trips seem to get more popular every year. It is a great way to enjoy an overnight fishing and river experience. This time of year is too hard to make any concrete predictions as it is too far away at the time of this writing.
Fall is a time when the waters cool and trout become active again. Surface feeding begins each morning on the trico mayfly. This active surface action seems to condition the trout to eat again. A typical fall day includes a morning trico feed and afternoon fishing with grasshopper and/or fall drake mayfly patterns. Once again, a good guide can coach his anglers into fishing these hatches effectively.
Wapiti Waters spends much of the fall on the lower Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers looking for trout on the rise and an occasional Northern Pike lurking in the slow water or root wads. Some days they can be enticed by large gaudy streamers. By late fall hardwoods, shrubs, cottonwood and aspen colors are brilliant and inspirational. A little snow in the high country and a bugling elk are signs and signals; enjoy the fishing now as winter will soon be upon us.
We will keep our fingers crossed that we will get more snow this winter and frequent rain during the summer. In the meantime, if you are thinking of booking a fishing and or river camping trip in western Montana, feel free to contact us for an honest appraisal of conditions.
|Jack Mauer and Dave Brandt in the Big Hole|
The 2014 Guide Season is officially over having my last personal guide days the last week of October. Despite the slow fishing, the radiant fall colors and memories of fast fishing we had through out the year helped ease in the inevitable – winter coming on!
I want to say many words of thanks to all who fished with Wapiti Waters during this glorious season of good flows and good angling. I would also like to mention a couple of anglers who have passed on to the “Happy Fishing
Ground” namely E. Terrill Nobles (Terry Nobles) and Dave Brandt. These two fishermen were the reasons we love guiding. Their attitudes were upbeat whether the fishing was fast or slow and they genuinely loved the waterways and trout environment. Their desires to share this love will always be with us. We will forever miss yet forever remember them.
Another note: We also had the privilege of fishing with Dave Brandt in Argentina– fantastic time and memories.
|Dave Brandt and daughter KJ in 2009|
Jack Mauer, Wapiti Waters Fly Fishing Montana, Outfitter #867
|Terry Nobles in 2005|
|Jack Mauer and Terry Nobles in 2007|
Jack had his last guide day Oct 29 – thanks Jim and John. I did the shuttle and got a few photos along the way. I am posting one photo and then adding a slideshow of all the photos below.
Here is the slideshow.
Thanks to our good friend John Bolton, both Jack and I were on the Clark Fork River with him in late September. Here is a photo log of our day. Great fish, lunch, scenery, weather and friends. A long and happy list to be thankful for.
Below is a slideshow (wait for it to load) of all the images, click on it to go to our website for more photos.
Clay is friends with and served in the Marine Corp with our good friend Jim Shockley. Bernice and Clay fished four days with Jack, some on the Bitterroot River and some on the Clark Fork. Great weather and pretty darn good fishing. Thank you Clay for sending the photos.