Trip Report Montana in August

I don't post on WFF too often, but it seems that when I do it's highlighting our annual trip to Montana.

This year was a little different than previous years. I haven't fished much (any) this year in WA due to my wife being pregnant and not wanting to be too far away in case something happened. Because of that, the annual trip to Montana was going to be my chance to get some time on the water in as well as get away home a bit.

We packed up the 4Runner and headed off, knowing that the usual 9.5 hour trip will quickly turn into 12+ hours as we have a 2 month old in tow who needs to eat every ~3 hours or so. Took a few stops but we figured out the right system for doing a road trip with an infant. If you had hotel parking lots and camp chair on your bingo card, you're a winner!


While the air quality was starting to get worse West of the Cascades, I had no idea how bad it was East of Ellensburg. Undoubtedly, this isn't a surprise to many of you but for those who haven't seen, this was the view from our trek East.


After 12.5 hours in the car, we made it to the house that my in-laws just purchased. 3bd/3ba and 3k sq feet on 2.5 acres means that we have plenty of space, lots of room for the dog to run around, and easy access to the Madison! Win-win-win!

(above photo is from later in the week when the smoke cleared. Note the snow on the peaks towards Big Sky).

Lastly, the reason you're all here, the fishing! While we were there, it was hot! Hoot owl restrictions were in effect most of the week and because of that we made sure to take extra care in keeping fish wet, not stressing them out more than the absolute minimum, and minimizing our impact on the area. The Madison has great fishing whenever I've been and it's only because of people being good stewards of the watershed and ecosystem that it is in the state that it is. I was able to get 3 days on the water and noticed that it was more difficult this year than prior years. No hopper action at all but plenty of takes on ants, mayflies, and caddisflies. In the 2 days that I fished dries I was able to catch 8 fish, although all were 8-12". Nothing to write home about but not blanked either.

The third day was cooler as rain had moved in and because of that, hoot owl restrictions were no longer in effect where we were fishing. I decided that I caught 8 already and wanted to try for bigger fish and to practice swinging streamers. To give some background, I grew up fly fishing in NorCal and had the luxury of being able to change where I'd fish depending on which hatch was hitting. I've NEVER had success fishing streamers and candidly don't really know what the heck I'm doing save watching YouTube videos trying to figure it out. I needed to commit to it and decided that it was time. Last day there I went and committed to streamers. Sculpzilla early was getting some looks (had one fish seemingly miss it twice) and I missed one take on it, but then all action seemingly stopped. I switched it up to a white zonker, thinking that it would be a little easier for the fish to see as it was cloudy and the water wasn't as clear as it was earlier in the week. After about 30 minutes of swinging the streamer is when it finally happened. I dead drifted down the bank and swing the zonker through a run. Right at the end of the swing, on my second strip is when I feel the tug. I set the hook and connected with a feisty rainbow that was about 14" long. Success! I'm sure some will chuckle at my naivete (which is fair) but after hours of not having success with streamers or swinging flies, it feels amazing to finally hook and land a fish with that method. It's a completely different rush than a big brown taking a dry and I now understand why many advocate swinging over other methods.

Last, I wanted to say thanks to all who contribute on here too. It helps more inexperienced people like me on WFF. I'm not sure if I would have committed like I did without all of the knowledge shared here. I'll leave you all with the closest thing to a fish picture that I took all week.


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