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Montana Lakes 2016

1854 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  freestoneangler
Just returned from a southwest Montana trip fishing a couple of lakes over 5 days. It's an area I've visited often but each trip throws a new wrinkle in the mix. This year it was some hot weather and an active wild fire about 20 miles away. The heat didn't really affect the fishing but the hatches, and also the best of the bite, were a bit compressed; mid morning to early afternoon was hatch time. On the really hot days there was a lull from around 1-3pm before things started to cool off in the afternoon and early evening. Even with the intense mid day heat, surface water temps remained in the low 60's. For whatever reason, we didn't do well fishing very early and late. On a couple of days we were on the water at first light or kept fishing until dark. No bueno.

Callibaetis hatches were driving the bus throughout the trip. When they were visible and active, so were the fish. Not that it was easy fishing. Each day was a new puzzle with regards to depth, location, and pattern that would get them to eat. But that's what multiple day trips are all about anyway. Outside of active callibaetis hatches, we scratched up a few fish but nothing consistent. It was amazing how tuned in the fish were to one hatch. Shoals that were loaded with fish were seemingly barren outside of hatch periods. Throat samples showed some midges, caddis nymphs, scuds . . .. and lots of callibaetis nymphs.

The night before the trip I spilled a little vinegar pepper sauce as I was preparing some grilled chicken. The shape of the spilled sauce seemed like a good omen.

Insect Arthropod Parasite Invertebrate Moths and butterflies

I was all packed and ready for my flight

Product Bag Luggage and bags Sleeve Textile

But would it all fit in the rental car?

Wheel Car Tire Land vehicle Vehicle

Yes, barely. This little car got me where I needed to go and burned all of $14 worth of gas during the 6 hours of driving required during the week.

The first lake was a private deal lined out by my buddy who lives in the area. A friend of a friend got us access and I'm told this lake sees very few anglers each year.

Cloud Sky Water Mountain Natural landscape

The callibaetis started showing around 10 am and fish were up on the surface.

Water Sky Cloud Ecoregion Lake

It took a little experimentation but soon I got dialed in with a #14 Rickards callibaetis nymph on a long leader and midge tip line. A quiet cast to edge of a pod of working fish and "do nothing" presentation usually resulted in a take. Fish looked to be in good shape.
Food Fish Marine biology Fish products Ray-finned fish

Water Fish Food Fish products Ray-finned fish

We were off the water by late afternoon and headed back to camp. A nice pasta Bolognese and bottle of Chianti seemed appropriate.

Plant Plant community Tree Hat Gas

The next day we were on the big lake. One result of sharing public water with multiple recreation users in good weather is an abundance of motorized watercraft. A hatch of jet skis appeared most days from around 10am - 6pm which required some adjustments to the game plan for fishing. Early in the trip one of the good spots to fish near the launch put us in the position of becoming intriguing targets for some of the jet skiers, who seemed to mostly consist of 12-15 year old boys feeling the power of opportunity of a high powered craft and no adult supervision

Cloud Water Sky Tree Highland

So, we moved further afield and found some relative peace. We didn't pick up any really large fish this trip but lots of these
Liquid Water Fluid Fish Marine biology

Water Fluid Fin Fish Body of water

And some of these

Water Vertebrate Salmon-like fish Fisherman Fish

Water Vertebrate Salmon-like fish Fisherman Outdoor recreation

And don't forget the whitefish!
Water Liquid Fluid Body of water Fin

The second day we saw the beginning of the wild fire

Cloud Water Sky Water resources Lake

Also this day we had a chance encounter with WFF's own @dbk , who was fishing out of his pram and enjoying some of the top water callibaetis action

Water Sky Cloud Plant Bird

The fire grew on days 3-4

Cloud Sky Water Atmosphere Azure

Cloud Water Sky Water resources Atmosphere

They called in air support. These planes were scooping water off the surface of the lake and circling around to douse the flames

Water Sky Aircraft Vehicle Airplane

Water Sky Cloud Vehicle Aircraft

Water Sky Cloud Water resources Daytime

Overall, many fish were caught and some flies were chewed up

Twig Grey Metal Fashion accessory Event

On the last day of the trip it looked like the fire had been tamped down quite a bit. The smoke from the fire produced some cool sunrises, like this one

Water Sky Water resources Plant Tree

As always, I can't wait for the next trip.

Water Sky Mountain Highland Fluid


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Heck yeah, TP - glad you had a great trip! Thanks for sharing.
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NICE!! (& inspirational........)
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Great report and great pictures (have a theory on your first private lake...), thanks for sharing! Oh, and I love the mangled balance leech.
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Love it TP. Those fire pics are pretty cool.

Very nice report.
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Love the pic of the thrashed fly... think you definitely got your money's worth out of that one.
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