Trip Report Land of the Giants

#1
First disclaimer is that this area is one of the few areas in the state of Montana that can and does experience combat fishing. Second disclaimer is that this is fishing during the rainbow spawn, generally over reds. It is what it is, however it can be a blast and I personally do as much as I can in the way of handling to ensure minimal stress. This is my second trip out here this month and although I do not have pictures from the first trip (not even worth trying to take a picture with such large fish by ones-self without a GoPro) this second trip was a blast.

First trip summary, got there, hooked a lot more fish than landed. The GPS routed a goat trail of a road down to the access point that did not end up being the road we were supposed to take. Tons of people wading, tons of boats passing pretty close (think Cowlitz River @ Blue Creek). Pretty successful.

Second trip.
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We hiked up towards the dam, checking out the water. This is one of the combat zones.
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No pictures I have show how big this area feels. Cliffs on both sides and the mighty Missouri right in the middle.
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Broke out the spey rod and swung up this nice bow. Shattered my previous size record. 24" on the dot. This was not the only 24"er of the day that our group pulled out. The average fish was about 18" and a handful went over 20"
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The most solid fish of the day I managed to nymph up. These fish are very large and fight hard. The most productive method for nymphing was actually to fish the dropoffs on the outer edge of the redds. Much more effective than fishing directly over reds (which is the main method on this stretch of river)

All in all a great trip with a solid group of friends. Again not for those that want to deal with crowds and not for those who will not fish reds regardless of circumstances. For those that do go, Handle em fast. They are big fish but 90% of the fish were fought, caught, and released in about two and a half minutes. Also watch your step to avoid tromping on reds.

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#4
Totally just curious here, but what are the circumstances that lead people to believe fishing over reds is an acceptable behavior?

Just curious as this is the first I can recall seeing anyone openly discussing it and making reference to the fact that it may be ok.
I guess to start, this specific location is different from the other waterbodies in this state. There is absolutely no way I or anybody I fish with, would fish reds on any of the other rivers. Not the Madison, not the Gallatin, not the Jefferson, Clarks Fork, Bitterroot, or any other part of the Missouri river besides this specific stretch. Nor would I do this in Washington in any of the rivers.

This specific location (PM if you want the exact place, not much of a secret anymore) is very very similar to fishing Alaska, you are not fishing directly for the spawners. You are fishing for bows behind them eating eggs. To target these fish, you are using small pink and/or orange flies and nymphing them. If one wants to avoid this style of fishing, swinging flies through the deeper runs is another method that produces fish. The fish in the second fish picture (not the spey one) was caught well behind a set of reds. Not in them. The water is crystal clear so it is very easy to see where you are placing the fly.

The overwhelming majority of the fish that spawn in this section are hatchery fish that run up from Holter reservoir. You can see the amount of fish they stock into the lake (Holter Reservoir) in the link below
http://fwp.mt.gov/fip/plants/plant_input.action
For example, 264,522 fish were stocked in 2013
in 2015 there were 243,843 rainbows were stocked.
These are not wild fish and there is no threat to wild fish by partaking in this fishery. In fact, we found some fish that were cutbows, indicating that whatever cutthroat were there before are no longer pure or close to pure strains.

I know this justification will not work for some because thats exactly what it is, a justification. If one doesn't want to have any chance at impacting spawning fish, this is one of the places to avoid and as a general rule reds are not to be fished.
 
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#5
Thanks for the explanation. Not a river guy in the least, and never fished Montana, was truly just curious.



I guess to start, this specific location is different from the other waterbodies in this state. There is absolutely no way I or anybody I fish with, would fish reds on any of the other rivers. Not the Madison, not the Gallatin, not the Jefferson, Clarks Fork, Bitterroot, or any other part of the Missouri river besides this specific stretch. Nor would I do this in Washington in any of the rivers.

This specific location ( https://www.google.com/maps/place/46°47'16.7"N+111°54'08.4"W/@46.7879857,-111.9045197,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0 ) (This is also no longer a Montana secret so that is why I am willing to post coordinates) is very very similar to fishing Alaska, you are not fishing directly for the spawners. You are fishing for bows behind them eating eggs. To target these fish, you are using small pink and/or orange flies and nymphing them. If one wants to avoid this style of fishing, swinging flies through the deeper runs is another method that produces fish. The fish in the second fish picture (not the spey one) was caught well behind a set of reds. Not in them. The water is crystal clear so it is very easy to see where you are placing the fly.

The overwhelming majority of the fish that spawn in this section are hatchery fish that run up from Holter reservoir. You can see the amount of fish they stock into the lake (Holter Reservoir) in the link below
http://fwp.mt.gov/fip/plants/plant_input.action
For example, 264,522 fish were stocked in 2013
in 2015 there were 243,843 rainbows were stocked.
These are not wild fish and there is no threat to wild fish by partaking in this fishery. In fact, we found some fish that were cutbows, indicating that whatever cutthroat were there before are no longer pure or close to pure strains.

I know this justification will not work for some because thats exactly what it is, a justification. If one doesn't want to have any chance at impacting spawning fish, this is one of the places to avoid and as a general rule reds are not to be fished.
 

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
#6
That fishery has been thriving for years & as the Op stated. I've never gone up that way, but know folks who have. WA should be so lucky as to manage a fishery producing large trout on a regular basis for so long. Or even to do it once!

Nice fish, Connor. Carry on; you're treating the fishery with the respect it deserves.
 
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DimeBrite

Saltwater Angler
#8
Nice report and photos. The first time I fished that area back in the 90's I didn't realize how big the rainbows and browns are in that area. I tied on a zonker with only 4 lb fluoro and almost immediately hooked a giant chrome rainbow that was pushing 7 pounds. It snapped me off after a few seconds, but I got a good look at it. Whirling disease wiped out those hard fighting rainbows awhile ago. The new breed of rainbows are sluggish fighters in comparison, but still large.

Don't worry Nick, the Missouri is amazingly productive trout water. One evening my brother and I were fishing that spot and the dam alarms went off. They cut-off the river flow for about 30 minutes, leaving a large area of river bed exposed. We saw thousands of fingerling trout flopping in the gravel and weed beds (the water had dropped so fast). Many died I'm sure, but the trout are so dense in that river I doubt it had an impact.
 

walove

Active Member
#9
Fished it in October from a power drift boat, multiple 20"+ fish on size 24 scuds, a couple on streamers too. Lapped the upper section with no bank anglers in sight.

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Sorry for the poor fish handling hero shot, I have learned the proper ways from responsible fishermen now.
 
#10
Fished it in October from a power drift boat, multiple 20"+ fish on size 24 scuds, a couple on streamers too. Lapped the upper section with no bank anglers in sight.

View attachment 114631

Sorry for the poor fish handling hero shot, I have learned the proper ways from responsible fishermen now.
Did you hook into any browns? I was reading some research papers and they have between 150-300 per mile vs as many as 7500 bows per mile in that stretch. I can imagine with so much food for the browns there has got to be some that run 30+".

@DimeBrite I learned on one fish that they need 3-4x at a minimum. First fish there took me pretty close to backing. Based off the stocking reports there should still be two strains swimming around. Which explains why there were basically two different fights, the headshaking runners (very similar to steelhead I've hooked) and then the bulldogging rainbows that don't want to move an inch. I'm curious how the fishing now compares to pre-whirling disease.
 

walove

Active Member
#11
We were throwing streamers for Browns but got nothing but rainbows, I heard stores of 30" Browns.

I was told that the rainbows spawn over a unusual duration of the spring to fall, makes sense that there are more than one strain. My fish took some good runs. A couple broke me off.
 

spadebit

Active Member
#12
I've been fishing for bows over reds i cant see from January til June. There really seems to be a misconception that all rainbows just spawn around the same time during spring, I'm sure with certain strains or waters that could be the case. Sight fishing to actual trout in reds is a different story. The question is what's worse stomping on reds when wading or hooking into a fish that is spawning. Some bass people claim that when you hook a bass on a nest they won't go back to it, I can't believe that's accurate especially with lake run bass.
 

Abomb

Active Member
#15
One of my buddies told me about this tr yesterday while on the river. I will never understand the need to blatantly hotspot.
It's all the rage these days, with the social media "look at me!" Craze. Every one needs to feel special and get that pat on the back/likes. I've fished that area plenty of times and even though it was known by many, no one talked about it openly. If anyone asked, we just said "we fished the Mo".
 

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