I just wanted to take the time to thank all of you that assisted me (us) with the Lewis and Harks trip to the Big Hole river and share some of the details and limited photos of our trip with all of you. I want to send out a special thanks to Black Bugger. N, your information and specific details were a great help and hope to meet you on the water some day.
Sorry about the URL links for the photos..........
My buddy (Paul) and I, arrived in Bozeman on Friday the 4th of October around noon. After doing our grocery shopping in Butte, we arrived at our motel in Melrose around 4:00pm. We used Melrose as our base for the week. The motel has regular rooms, two cabins, and kitchenettes to choose from. We elected for the kitchenette. The room had two full size beds with a pull out sofa bed, a full kitchen with utensils, Full size fridge, microwave, and coffee pot. The bathroom was very clean, plenty of towels and we never ran out of hot water. Although the room had some pots and pans for cooking, we decided to buy a nice non-stick frying pan and a crock pot. We were glad that we had bought the frying pan as the pans provided with the room had suffered the abuse of previous visitors that apparently enjoyed the taste of Teflon. The purchase of the 7 quart crock pot also paid off for us. There is nothing better than returning home to a hot meal after a long day of fishing in cold water. (Please feel free to PM me with any questions regarding where we stayed).
After we got settled into the room and unpacking our gear, we took a ride to check out the surroundings. Unfortunately, both fly shops in Melrose were closed by that time and any helpful local advice was going to have to wait until morning.
We decided to take a ride upstream to the Divide Bridge and Maiden Rock fishing access areas. The river flow was about 800cfs (high for October) and the water was really dirty due to the heavy rains and snowfall that the area received in the previous week(s) so there wasn’t much for us to see. We headed back towards our motel and checked out the Salmon Fly Fishing Access Point (FAP) that was right around the corner from the motel. After looking at the water, seeing a few nice trout beneath the bridge, it was decided that we would start there in the morning. We went back to the room and gave our 3rd fishing partner a call. He was scheduled to arrive sometime Saturday afternoon and we just wanted to check in with him. He was familiar with the area and he agreed with our starting location and gave us some great advice as to where and how to fish.
Our first day was great by our standards. We started at the Salmon Fly Fishing Access Point(FAP). We caught quite a few fish within the first hour. We primarily used size 8 or 10 Wooly Buggers. We both used floating lines but caught fish in a few different ways. We caught some on the swing, some on a strip just as the fly hit the water, and some on a retrieving strip after the fly completed the swing. Needles to say, we never keyed in on any specific method that produced more fish over any other method. We fished for 6-7 hours and covered about 2 miles of water. We just couldn’t believe how many fished we lost. So many nice fish and the weather was great.
We headed back to the room around 4:00 and met up with the third member of our party, Dean_MT. We met John last year during our first trip to Montana in the Missoula area. It was great seeing him again and we could tell that he was as excited to see us as we were to see and fish with him.
We got him settled in, had a cold beverage or two, and made plans for Sunday morning. John had done some research on the local area and forum members (Black Bugger and others) confirmed that he was on the right path. Although John had fished some of the waters in the Melrose area previously, the area that we planned to fish Sunday was new to him.
We woke on Sunday to another very cold morning. Paul did a great job ( as always) cooking a big breakfast and preparing the crock pot for the night meal prior to leaving for the day of fishing. The temp was about 24 as the sun came up;
The drive to the fishing area was easy and the views were fantastic. Our first trip didn’t go too well but we could see that there was plenty of good water to fish. The first trip to any new water is always a learning experience and this trip was going to be no exception. The water was high, rather dirty, and access to the river was tough. After giving it a couple hours, the end result was one fish for John. We were fishing streamers exclusively and they didn’t produce as advertised. It would be two days later, after John departed, that Paul and I found much better water and conditions further up river. Regardless, the views were outstanding.
Monday…………We decided to take a drive and check out the Beaverhead river. Unfortunately, The reported flows were so low, that we felt we would be wasting our time. We had never seen the river. We didn’t know where the pools may be, and rather than waste an entire morning, we decided to abandon the trip and fish the Melrose area of the Big Hole. The three of us had some luck but nothing big or any consistent fishing. We had to hunt and peck but I still had a great day with Paul and John. How can you have a bad time when you have a chance to fish water like this with a couple of great guys?
Tuesday>>>>>>>>>>>John’s last day. John and I started early. John had some luck nymphing right off the bat. He has the touch for sure. He saw some nice fish in a shallow riffle and saw some fish starting to make their beds but he never caught the big one that I had hoped he would catch. Given a few more days, I’m sure his talents would have produced a nice big male. (I met a man Wednesday afternoon that caught a 25” male at the very same spot that John fished Tuesday morning. Yes, I saw the photo and passed him on his way out of the river).
Here is a rare action shot of Paul;
and here is the result;
He actually caught this guy on a fly that he bought last year at the Rock Creek Mercantile called the Wonder Bugger. So unfair that such a beautiful fish would fall to such a fly.
Paul and I had similar results for the next few days. The water conditions continued to improve and some of our tactics changed a bit but the fishing was rather steady. What a great place.
Here are some of the typical fish that we caught during the week;
Here is the only Rainbow……..FYI caught via Nymph where John told me to fish after he left on Tuesday
One quick and rather unique thing to mention occurred the morning that we checked out from the motel. I reserved the room (without credit card confirmation) about 8 months in advance. I contacted Chuck (the owner) a few times between February and October just to pose questions and gather general information. He always took the time to speak with me or call me back if I had missed him and left a voicemail. Needless to say, it was a pleasure meeting him. We spoke a few times during our stay, always respectful of privacy, great conversationalist if engaged. Upon checking out, I mentioned to him that we really enjoyed our stay, his staff, and the facilities. I was trying to figure out a way to let him know that we were going to be leaving a new frying pan, crock pot, and cooler behind but didn’t really know how to say it. I didn’t want to sound ungrateful and criticize the amenities in the kitchenette. As I delayed, he caught me off guard. “Hey, it was great having you guys and I have something for you”. He then presented me with two hard cover copies of “ Montana’s Last Best River: The Big Hole and it’s People”, one for me and one for Paul. What a great guy and what a great place to stay. By the way, after telling him that we were leaving the stuff behind, he said that he would tag it with our names and set it aside for next year if we would like.
Yes please Chuck. John, Paul, and I will be back next year.
Imagine the black dots as Buffalo not so long ago:
What a great state.