Area Rivers

The Beaverhead River

Beaverhead River

The main stem of the Beaverhead is a tailwater stream flowing out of Clark Canyon Reservoir before joining the Big Hole near Twin Bridges to create the Jefferson.  Swift flows with densely brushed banks make it a boating and casting adventure for the angler.  A mixture of dry flies and nymphs is used to entice the sizable population of large rainbow that inhabit it's serpentine bends.  the Adams remains the most popular and productive of all trout dry patterns from coast to coast.  A creation of Michigan's Leonard Halliday in 1922, the original featured a hackle fiber tail but the western tie popularized by Dan Bailey used moose or elk hair.  Like most Montana rivers the Beaverhead has healthy midseason hatches of two of the west's predominate mayflies, the Blue Winged Olive and Pale Morning Dun.  These can be matched with a variety of fly styles from the standard to the sidewinder to the comparadun to the emergers with trailing shuck.  The August-September emergence of the Cranefly is a legendary annual ritual on the Beaverhead with skittered variants and skater patterns producing explosive strikes.  This healthy population of craneflies probably accounts for the productivity of such nymphs as the Girdle Bug and the Prince Numph which seem to approximate the larval form. 

The Ruby River

Ruby River

The Ruby is a tributary of the Beaverhead and presents the angler with a smaller version of the main river.  It's best early and late in the season due to the off color water that comes out of the upstream reservoir.  The Ruby's mid season hatch of light brown mayflies recommends patterns like the Ginger Quill or March Brown.  While lacking the large salmonfly the Ruby holds a good population of golden stones and the small yellow stonefly known locally as the Yellow Sally.  Caddis flies, in a variety of colors and sizes, are abundant on most of Montana's freestone rivers and offer consistent midseason action.  Al Troth's Elk Hair Caddis is one of the most popular all around imitations, a descendent of the original Trude patterns.  Nymph fishing is poplular and productive on the Ruby with the Hare's Ear and Pheasant Tail among the most versatile.

The Jefferson River

Jefferson River

The Jefferson joins the Madison and Gallatine at Three Forks to create the Missouri.  Less well known than the Madison, the Jefferson offers excellent western freestone fishing in largely uncrowded conditions.  Western attractor dry flies like the Wulffs, all around traditional ties like the Adams, Parachute Adams and Light Cahill, large weighted stonefly nymphs, bushy adult stones, and varieties of streamer patterns are in common use along with some of the more imitative type flies.  The Humpy is a standard western pattern probably originated by California tyer Jack Horner but popularized by Dan Bailey as the Goofus Bug.  Upright divided wings and multiple hackle is combined with a "hump" of hollow hair pulled over the back and tied down to trap air pockets.  Humpies are tied in a variety of color schemes with the Yellow, Orange, Royal, and Blonde among the most useful.  Grasshoppers become a popular trout food as the late summer moves into early fall on many western trout waters and it is advisable to be well stocked with patterns like this clipped deer hair model in the Dave Whitlock style.  The fore and aft hackled Renegade has been a western standard since its origination by Sun Valley Idaho tyer Taylor Williams in the late 1930's.  

The Big Hole River

Big Hole River

The cool upper reaches of the Big Hole hold one of the last populations of grayling in the lower 48.  Near Twin Bridges the Big Hole joins with the Beaverhead to form the Jefferson.  The Big Hole's famed salmonfly hatch often occurs during the high water of runoff but working shorelines with a plopping imitation like Al Troth's MacSalmonfly can bring the river's fish up with a rush.  Randall Kaufmann's Stimulator is a popular imitation of the golden stonefly that follows the more famous salmonfly hatch.  Angling legend Joe Brooks so favored the old Michigan Hopper for his Montana fishing that it became known as Joe's Hopper.  The downwing Trude Coachman, an early Western hairwing pattern, is an effective representative of the Royal Coachman family of attractor flies.  Large weighted nymphs like the Yuk Bug, Wooly Worm and Bitch Creek are effective throughout the season due to the healthy population of large stonefly numphs.

The Madison River

Madison River

In Yellowstone Park the Firehole and Gibbon combine waters to create the Madison, probably Montana's most famous trout river, providing over 100 miles of outstanding trout fishing down to Three Forks, MT.  It's June/July hatch of large stoneflies (Salmonflies) is legendary and a major fishing event in the west.  Many unusual concoctions have been devised to imitate these large insects including Pat Barnes' Seven Mile Bridge with large trout rising to wulff style patterns like the Royal Wulff and Grizzly Wulff were popularized in Montana by fly shop owner Dan Bailey, a lifelong friend of Lee Wulff.  The Hairwing Variant or House and Lot was President Eisenhower's favorite pattern.  Oversized hackle and white kip wings combine to make it a visible high floating attractor.

River information by Tony P. Hill, Lamplight Fly & Feather

 

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