Holy smokes it has been an interesting water week in the Flathead Valley. Water flows in the big river were on the drop but Mother Nature decided it wasn’t going to stay that way. She’s the boss…
The big river (Flathead River) can’t make up it’s mind on what it wants to do regarding water levels. Last week, it briefly dropped to under 20,000 CFS but then surged to well over 28,000 CFS in a matter of days. Clarity went out the window with the surge of water but as I am writing this fishing report, the turbidity is subsiding and the river is hovering around 20,000 CFS. I would suspect the lowering trend is going to continue but it’s anyones guess as to what this following week will bring with the big river. With the water levels around the same as this time last week, look for any water that is not moving as fast as the mainstream current. Eddies, seam lines, side channels, and island chains will likely hold trout. If you find one trout, you will probably find more. Several trout are likely to be schooled up in the slower water sections. If the water levels continue to lower, the trout will eventually disperse to other areas of the river.
Stay positive. I know a lot of people want the water to lower quickly so we can get back to the business of railing cutthroat trout on the big river but these larger than average flows will likely have a beneficial impact on the big river. New channels, channel scouring, flushing of woody debris, and the shifting of gravel bars happen in high water events and these changes are generally positive for the fishery. Who know, the big river might look totally different when it does finally lower. That’s a pretty cool thing that other rivers in the state don’t often experience. She’s a wild river!
Be safe out on the big water and make sure you have life jackets in the boat. Water temperatures are cold, the currents are strong, and if you flip a boat out there you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.
There have been several species of bugs popping throughout the Flathead drainage. Several varieties of stoneflies, mayflies, and caddis are hatching. PMD’s, parachute mayflies, Yellow sallies, and chubby Chernobyl’s have all caught the attention of trout this week and as the water levels continue to drop, the dry fly bite will only get better. Some bugs to have in your box are Chubby Chernobyl’s, Jakes’s Trigger bellies, Adams of all colors, yellow sallies, elk hare caddis, caddis X, drakes, Patriots, and Kaufman stimulators.
Under the bobber:
San Juan worms, Stonefly nymphs such as Pat’s rubber legs, batman stones, pysco princes and twenty incheres, as well as larger mayfly nymphs are the way to get trout to pull your bobber down. The use of split shot is a good option to make sure you are getting down to the depth that the trout are hanging out at.
Streamers are a great option this tome of year. Cutthroat are hungry after their annual mating rituals and chucking streamers is a good way to get the attention of larger trout. Sink tips ranging from 150 -350 grains should present the fly to the depth that the trout are holding. Colors to consider are olive, white, yellow, black, or a combination of those colors. Vary your stripping techniques, till you find the cadence that the trout are interested in.
The small water is fishing pretty darn good. There are still lots of different bugs hatching throughout the day. We have seen a few caddis and stoneflies hatching but the mayfly is still king. The drakes are starting to dissipate but there are still lots of mayflies ranging from size 12-16 that are flying around and being devoured by the local trout populations. Fish are dispersed throughout the water column and can be found in a wide variety of water. You can find trout shallow, deep, in the riffles, and in the pools. As the water continues to drop, stealth is becoming more important. Stay low and out of sight if you want a shot at the big ones.
Some dries to consider this week would be PMD’s, mayfly parachutes (blue, gray, purple and yellow), elk hair caddis, Yellow sallies, chubby Chernobyl’s, Terk’s Tarantula, and Ross’s repeat Offender.
Under the bobber:
The bobber has been stowed away and the vast majority of nymphs used have been dangling off the back of dry flies, otherwise known as the dry- dropper technique. Specifically, pheasant tails, hares ears, micro mayflies, batman princes, soft hackles, San Juan worms, yellow sally nymphs, and the split back PMD. Trout have eaten nymph droppers both weighted and unweighted this week.
Look for deep pools and cut banks to fish your streamers in small water. You can probably get away with throwing most streamers on a floating line or a light sink tip (100-150 grains). Consider tossing a sculpzilla, Kreelex, sparkle minnow, muddler minnow, or other smallish type streamers.
With the colder, wetter weather accompanied by lower than normal air temperatures, we have seen an uptick in the stillwater fishing for trout. Mornings seems to be better than afternoons but that is based on the few trips that we had out on stillwaters this week. Our guides have found fish cruising anywhere from 8-12 ft. The most productive flies have been balanced leeches in a variety of sizes and colors. Try using balanced leeches in sizes 10-16 in grey, blacks, olives, purples, and oranges. Chironomids have also gotten a few trout to strike with black and gold being the most productive colors that we have found. The dry fly fishing slowed down this week with the inclement weather but we expect that to change with the sunnier, warmer weather that will be in the valley this week. Get out there, give some stillwater fishing a try, and let us know how you did!
Enjoy it out there folks! Be well and if you have any comments or suggestions feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.