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Escaping the Boat Hatch

By Bryce McLean (partner of GUIDE-X) It’s no mystery that during the months of March and April, the Bitterroothas really good dry fly fishing. Well, at least sometimes.What people don’t r...

By Bryce McLean (partner of GUIDE-X)

It’s no mystery that during the months of March and April, the Bitterroot
has really good dry fly fishing. Well, at least sometimes.
What people don’t realize is that some of the fishing across the rest of the
state can be pretty amazing as well.


The Missouri, for example, always seems to have really good fishing during
these same months. The midge hatches can be thick, and with the right
conditions the streamer fishing can be incredible. Legendary days can be
had below the Deerborn as the river bumps and pours thousands of bugs
(especially worms...) into the great Mighty Mo’.
The Big Hole is also a nice wild card option this time of year. As the water
drops the big browns line the banks and eat streamers with reckless
abandon. When the water clears there can be good blue wing hatches, and
even a skwala or two.

Nobody ever fishes these rivers because the Bitterroot’s reputation has
grown to an almost supernatural status. This reputation is probably
deserved, but after a while I find myself wondering if it’s really worth it.

I grew up down in the Bitterroot, and I remember the days when you used
to never see a single boat between Tucker and Bell on a Sunday. Nowadays,
it’s not rare to see between 10 and 20 boats in that section on a Tuesday.

The truth is, we are probably just as much to blame for hyping up ( or over-
hyping) the skwala hatch as much as anybody. So with this in mind, I have

decided that it is time to share one of my favorite “Not-the-Bitterroot”
Number one on my list, without a doubt, is the lower Blackfoot.
I’m not talking Whitaker bridge or Riverbend. I’m talking about Johnsrud to
Weigh Station. In the past, this section of river has received a high amount

of scrutiny due to its large population of little trout, which on certain days,
were a little bit annoying. This is no longer the case.
In the past month, I have seen more big browns and rainbows out of the
lower Blackfoot than I have in the previous four years combined (seriously).
It is common to see a few big fish down low this time of year because the
water is much cooler than it is during the summer months, but not at the
rate we have been seeing them lately.
The most intriguing thing about what we have been seeing is the large
number of big, healthy, hard-fighting rainbows, much like those found in the
Clark Fork.

This could be the result of many things. It could be the result of a few good
years of having plenty of water, or the removal of the dam at Milltown.
To be honest, I don’t care what the reason is. All that really matters is that
the Blackfoot is fishing well, but there is a catch: You have to nymph to get
fish to eat.

If you do go up high on the river you can actually get a few on dries, but
not many. If you’re like me, that really doesn’t matter. All you need to do is
throw on a brown or black rubberlegs in a size six or eight and a split shot
to get it down. We even fished two rubber legs at once. Just make sure your
rig is heavy enough to get down as fast as possible, and fish every inside
corner hard. The fish will stack up in certain spots so once you find them
you will almost certainly catch more than one.

At this point the Blackfoot is a little blown out, but by the time you read
this, it will most likely be back on the drop. When this happens, it will start
to fish very well again, so it could be back in shape during the early days of
this week.

So if you’re getting a little tired of waiting in line to get your boat in, head
to the Blackfoot.
Dry flies are funFree Reprint Articles, but not as fun as having a section of river to yourself. Check out our fishing reports to find your own slice. Make sure you grab a fishing license before you do.

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Bryce is GUIDE-X's outfitter, and has been guiding for 13 years.

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