Montana DIY float fish trip helps

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by troutpounder, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. troutpounder Active Member

    Posts: 300
    everett
    Ratings: +58 / 0
    My buddies and I are planning a trip in early may for montana. Does anyone have any ideas or starting point for us to plan. what we do know is it will be two boats, 6 people, and 7-9 days. any advise on planning this trip would be greatly appreciated! Thanks
  2. ScottP Active Member

    Posts: 636
    Ratings: +885 / 0
    You're taking a chance on hitting runoff that time of year, in which case you'd be "stuck" fishing the tailwaters. If runoff holds off, you've got lots of options and some decent hatches - March Browns, Mother's Day Caddis, tail end of the skwalas, baetis.

    Regards,
    Scott
  3. triploidjunkie Active Member

    Posts: 2,391
    Grand Coulee, WA
    Ratings: +1,337 / 0
    Might not have runoff this year if something drastic doesn't happen soon. Hopefully the mountains get a little more snowpack in Feb and March. Should be a fun trip regardless. I'm jealous.
  4. ScottP Active Member

    Posts: 636
    Ratings: +885 / 0
    Snowpack is looking pretty good right now and Feb-April usually are when things really pile up. I'd be more worried about an early thaw.

    [IMG]

    Regards,
    Scott
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  5. Kevin J. Burnham Active Member

    Posts: 2,148
    Auburn,Wa.
    Ratings: +141 / 0
    Looks good !! Don't forget the still water !!
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  6. Kyle Smith Active Member

    Posts: 2,008
    Bozeman, MT
    Ratings: +282 / 0
    Probably the worst teams of year to plan such a trip. The Big Horn and MO will be your best bets, but don't count out the smaller tailwaters like the Beaverhead or even the upper Flathead. Stillwater fishing should be real good too.
    Derek Young likes this.
  7. Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    Posts: 465
    Helena, Montana
    Ratings: +610 / 0
    1. As others have pointed out, early May often is the beginning of runoff.
    2. On the Missouri River below Holter Dam, near the town of Craig. If most other streams are blown out, you'll have LOTS of company on this stretch. It's a great fishery and the dam will keep the water clear for the first few miles at least, but as you get further downstream, tributaries will pump off-colored water into the main stem. The Little Prickly Pear comes in just below the Wolf Creek Bridge (Mile 2), but it's not normally a huge mud pumper. The Dearborn comes in at ~ Mile 14 and IS normally a major mud pumper.

    3. The rainbows mostly spawn in the tributaries. They typically begin their spawning migration here around mid-April and typically return to the main stem of the Missouri starting around the first week of May. But, weather and runoff can shift those dates. It might be a good idea to call one of the many shops before you show up.

    What to keep in mind is this simple fact -- even during the peak of run off, the fish don't leave the river of course. They just bunch up next to the banks. I've had banner streamer days by casting heavily hackled AC Delco sparkplug streamers right up next to the banks. But, you'll only find very sporadic dry fly activity during the peak of runoff.

    Trapper
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  8. troutpocket Active Member

    Posts: 1,785
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +335 / 0
    It always pays to have a plan B, and maybe a plan C. Being a stillwater guy, I am super envious of the timing of your trip. I don't get out much in the spring because my busiest time at work is April - June, the heart of spring lake fishing. I've poked around a bit on MT lakes . . . hit me up if you want some options.
  9. troutpounder Active Member

    Posts: 300
    everett
    Ratings: +58 / 0
    Thanks everybody for the advise. I think I might talk to the guys and either push the trip up to hit the salmon fly hatch or push back into summer. Non of us are really still water guys so i doubt there will be much lake fishing done. My goal for the trip is a couple of browns on a dry.
  10. troutdopemagic Active Member

    Posts: 412
    Lake Stevens, Washington
    Ratings: +136 / 0
    April is a better month, in my opinion. You have less chance of hitting runoff and the fishing is....pretty good............
  11. Trustfunder Active Member

    Posts: 177
    rock creek
    Ratings: +71 / 0
    Browns on a dry that time of year I would lean toward upper Jefferson, Missouri, lower big hole, Bitteroot and Madison. The beav will be closed until the 3rd Sat in May from dam area to Barretts. Gives you the option of 2 tailwaters.
  12. Old406Kid Active Member

    Posts: 327
    Spokane, WA
    Ratings: +88 / 0

    April is a great time, just be aware that your blizzard percentage goes up substantially so pack accordingly.
    It could be 70 degrees or snowing like hell. Oh yeah, in certain parts of the state the wind could be 70 as well.
    All that said, April is one of my favorite times.
  13. Craig Pablo Active Member

    Posts: 237
    Ronan, MT
    Ratings: +57 / 0
    If you're planning on hitting the salmonfly hatch I wouldn't push the trip up from early May, I would push it back. The first part of May is a little early for salmonflies. Last year, at least on Rock Creek, I found the best fishing with salmonflies to be the first week of June-despite the cold weather. Unfortunately by late May/early June you run a considerable risk of finding most of the non-tailwater rivers running high and off-color. Not that you can't catch fish in those conditions, many times I've caught plenty of fish on Rock Creek with maybe a foot of visibility, it's just that a float down Rock Creek at 2500cfs is at least a workout on the sticks, and potentially fatal. I would recommend the following:
    1. If you really want to hit the salmonfly hatch on Rock Creek (my favorite place during salmonflies), plan on late May/early June, take the risk of hitting runoff, if the rivers are unfishable, hit the lower Beaverhead, the Missouri or the Bighorn. You could also plan for mid to late June, salmonflies are typically hatching on the Madison then (plan on seeing alot of other boats), they are also later on the Blackfoot, and by that time of year many other streams are shaping up and clearing, Rock Creek has a great golden stone hatch that should be popping by then.

    2. If you really want to ensure that you miss runoff, I would recommend April, as mentioned before the weather can be brutal, or amazing, or both in the same day.

    3. If you want to miss runoff and have dependable weather (well, more dependable weather anyway) you could wait until July, Rock Creek won't be a float option but there might still be some salmonflies on the upper Madison or the Blackfoot as well as golden stones along with various other hatches.

    One more note, if you float the Bitterroot between Victor/Woodside and Bell Crossing, heed the warning signs regarding the low head dam. There was a couple of unfortunate accidents there last year and as a result it is identified much better now with signs, not that an experienced oarsman can't row over it, just be aware...
  14. Trustfunder Active Member

    Posts: 177
    rock creek
    Ratings: +71 / 0
    If you're looking at Rock Creek, I'd pick the 3rd or 4th week in June, Salmon flies will be on the upper end, but golden stones will be everywhere. Last year the best fishing on the creek was the last 2 weeks of June and late April, real early May. We had a 100% snowpack last year and the creek might of bumped over 2000cfs for 3-4 days. Last week of June was running around 700cfs... a guy could fall asleep on the oars... perfect. Size is hard to come buy 18" is a trophy now but if you want action this is the place.

    If you still plan on coming in May and RC is one of your stops but the water is dirt, here's a tip, 90% of the chocolate will be coming out of willow creek (Just below Gilles bridge) the upper upper end will be clear and your put in will be the forks to gillies. It's worth a day out of 9 and if it's semi clear Forks to concrete is a must do, I think the most scenic section of the creek IMO.

    The other place you might want to consider is the West fork of the Bitteroot, similiar to rock creek but bigger fish and if the main stem is dark, this will be clear from lake Como to the forks.

    Your describing what I like to fish for, big browns, if the conditions are right in early May I would park myself in Twin Bridges MT and fish the lower Beaverhead, Big Hole and Jefferson. Your launches on the Beav would be the park outside of Twin to Hells Canyon take out on the Jeff. Next day Pennigton Bridge Big Hole to Hells Canyon on the Jeff. Glen to Pennignton is good too on the Bhole.

    If it doesn't work out the Missouri is the next destination, a fish factory and you'll want to change up your dry fly stuff to streamers for the browns. Big water...Big Fish. My favorite stretch of this river is up from Hardy Creek area to Pelican point, plus can stop and walk over to have a beer n burger @ the (I call it Ostermans)... here's a tip, I've never seen the MO muddy like W. Montana rivers. So if people say it gets muddy, it gets perfect for big streamers.

    The Bighorn is essentially a small version of the Missouri and it's a long drive plus when you see the water in-between Livingston and Big Timber on the Yellowstone you'll start drooling and get a left arm twitch.

    Other than that I'd say the Madison but to tell you the truth it looks too much like Jackson Hole these days and everytime I go up to Varney Bridge I want to puke. Although Ennis is good for a buzz, so is Alder, Sheridan, Melrose, Dillon and Dewey. Have at it and if you're get close to getting thrown in jail, your doing it right.
  15. troutpounder Active Member

    Posts: 300
    everett
    Ratings: +58 / 0
    The one river I really want to fish is the yellowstone. I am almost leaning towards pushing to the last week in august to ensure no run off problems.
  16. kmudgn Member

    Posts: 80
    Manhchester,NH
    Ratings: +33 / 0
    I recommend the Big Horn River in Ft. Smith for your trip. You can float an easy 11 miles on a river with 7500 fish/mile (yes, that is latest count). Very easy flow, only one channel where you can go wrong (stay right) and a number of good places to stay and/or rent a float boat.
  17. ScottP Active Member

    Posts: 636
    Ratings: +885 / 0
    Of course, if it's a hot dry summer, they could implement Hoot Owl restrictions and shut the fishing off from 2 PM - midnight. Certainly hope that doesn't happen, but it's something to be aware of when making trips that far out.

    Regards,
    Scott
  18. troutpounder Active Member

    Posts: 300
    everett
    Ratings: +58 / 0
    Wow did not know they would do that......
  19. troutpounder Active Member

    Posts: 300
    everett
    Ratings: +58 / 0
    Are the fish decent?
  20. Bill Aubrey Active Member

    Posts: 939
    Tacoma, WA
    Ratings: +165 / 0

    Decent? Not really. They are generally bullies and like to brawl a lot, much too aggressive to bring home to meet your mother. Quite a few of them are kinda big, too. Not fit for decent company, but fishermen and other ner do wells seem to enjoy their company.
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