Montana in Late May

Monkey Fly, our friend James and I just got back from a nine day trip to Montana. We had hoped to be able to fish the Clark Fork, Lower Mad, Rock Creek and the Mo. But due to the runoff season we were unable to cover a lot of the water we wanted to. The only rivers that were fishable were the Mo, Horn and Beaverhead. Some of the Clark Fork tribs were starting to clear, but we did not want to take our chances.
After a long drive we ended up in Craig Montana with hopes to tackling some fish on the Mo. Last season Monkey Fly and I did really well in the Spring. This year the river was tough. There was a lot more pressure on the water and we did not catch the numbers that we did in the previous year. However the size of the average fish was much bigger than last year. Our average days were about 3-4 fish with at least one around 18-20 inches. That is not to mention at least about a half dozen whities a piece. The water below the Dearborn was chocolate milk and we concentrated our drifts around the upper river. We pissed off a lot of guides because we were fishing prime holding areas hours before they hit the water.
The Mo had plenty of midge and BWO baetis hatches. Pupae, Zebra Midges, Griffith Gnats, RS2 emergers and soft hackles worked. Scuds such as a pink Ray Charles worked in sizes #16-20.
Our next stop was the Bighorn River. I personally love the Bighorn. That river had brought me back four out of the last five years. Each year has been better than the last. Again traffic on the river was bad. The first day out we waiting to hit the water becuase we spotted over 20 boats taking out at the Afterbay. This is the main takeout below Afterbay Dam. Lets just say the fishing was good despite the traffic. A poor day was six fish while my best I stopped counting at fifteen. My largest fish was 24 inches and my smallest four inches. There has been a lot of hype about the Horn fishing poor over the last few years because of bad water flows and fish kills. However we caught a lot of fish in all of the age groups. There was fewer very small bows taken, but there is a 4:1 rainbow to brown ratio in the river anyway. We basically used the same flies that we used on the Mo as well as San Juan Worms. There was also a terrific caddis hatch on the lower river. I have never seen this hatch before as was amazed. Not only amazed that I was seeing a monster hatch, but amazed that the fish did not care about this bite sized morsels. It was kind of like the Metolius, when the fish fixate on one certain bug and do not eat what is all around them.
There were a lot of highlights on the trip. One of them was running into a guide that was from Battleground, Washington. He graduated high school with James. I forget his name off hand, but he not only shared a few beers with us, but a few flies and knowledge as well. :cool:
Here are a few pics from out trip: