Trip Report Trip Report – Where Rivers Begin

Left the house about 4AM for the drive southwest close to the Idaho border to visit a remote headwaters. Temps in Bozeman at 4AM were in the 60s but dropped into the 40s as I wound my way through the valleys and passes on the way to the river. It was a bit early in the season for this stream to be in shape, but as we all know 2021 is proving to be a bit different. I would guess everything is just about two weeks earlier than normal. It was going to be a windy day, but that proved to be an understatement. Reaching the river required participation in an early morning cattle drive which delayed my arrival by 15-20 minutes as I literally had to push cows out of the way with the front of the truck.

I was at my destination about 6:30AM and the sun was just clearing the high peaks surrounding the valley. The walk to the river would take about 20 minutes. As the sun cleared the mountains the temps rose fast into the 60s. This was a stream that normally fished well early in the season but that usually started in July. Today, the stream was still cold and a bit tinged from runoff which hadn’t subsided but a few days prior. As I walked to the stream, several pronghorns shadowed me on the benches across the river. It was an insightful walk to the stream as I immediately noticed two things different from previous seasons. As it was still mid-June, the grasses and wild flowers were still short which made the walk easier. Usually you had to trudge through wet grass knee high but not today. Everything was very dry even in the cool morning. Most depressingly though was the lack of moisture in the ground. Normally the walk down the draw to the river was a slog through soggy, boggy seeps hummocked by heavy cattle and moose tracks. Not today, everywhere normally saturated with water was bone dry. Doesn’t bode well for decent flows as we get into July and August.

This is a stream with predominately cut-bows and a few whitefish and grayling. Today the fishing was marginal because of the cold, tinged water. Caught a few on nymphs in the deeper pools but when the fish started attacking the indicator, I switched to a variety of dries, all of which seemed to bring fish to the surface but failed to connect. There were hoppers on the dry benches, but large or small, just about every surface fly I tried got a short strike. I knew I was going to have a difficult time when drifting a small stimulator on a pool tail out, a small trout repeatedly came up but refused to take the fly. While this was happening, a large salmon fly plopped down on the water, fluttering and causing all sorts of commotion but didn’t bring a fish to the surface. It finally regained flight and landed in willow stream side. It was going to be tough when they won’t even eat the real thing.
By 9AM the wind had picked up and by 10AM I couldn’t keep my hat on. Time to head home as the strong wind was forecasted to last well into the evening. Still a beautiful, lonely morning at a place where rivers begin.

Matt B

WFF Premium
Thanks for the report and photos! It can be frustrating when the fish just won't fully commit to anything. Sometimes it's just a matter of waiting until later in the day or closer to evening magic hour. They gotta eat sometime right? Ever experience that?


Active Member
Always fun to get out on streams emerging from their long slumbers regardless of the fishing ...... our streams open up today but it will be a few weeks until they round into form ...... until then lakes will have to do ..... Thanks for the report

Canuck from Kansas

WFF Premium
Beautiful little stream (my kind of fishing) - I would surely want to make a return visit in the very near future, probably will have better luck.


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