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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Posts
    1,065

    Default Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    I may have an opportunity to float and fish the South Fork of the Flathead this summer.

    I just assumed I'd be fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout, but my buddy, this will be his third trip on the south fork, mentioned bull trout as well.

    He said you need an 8 wt. rod, sinking lines and large streamers, almost as if fishing for steelhead.

    I was wondering if anyone has experience with this.

    I was planning on using a 5 wt. as my primary rod, but maybe I should bring a 6 wt. as a backup, and use that rod if I want to target bull trout. I can't imagine bringing an 8 wt..

    Anyway, I'm curious to hear what you have to say.

    Cheers, Rick
    -Rick Allen

  2. #2

    Default Re: Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    Per FWP:

    Bull Trout: Hungry Horse Reservoir, Lake Koocanusa and part of the South Fork Flathead
    River are open for a regulated and experimental Bull Trout angling season. When fishing for
    Bull Trout each angler must have in possession a valid Bull Trout Catch Card for the specific
    water he/she is fishing. Anglers may select only one of the following areas: A) Lake Koocanusa,
    or B) Hungry Horse Reservoir and South Fork Flathead River. Swan Lake is open to angling
    for Bull Trout without a special permit but no harvest is allowed. All other waters are closed
    to intentional angling for Bull Trout year around.

    If you are targeting bulls legally on the South Fork, I would definitely have my 8 weight. I think your buddy has a good idea. I would be fishing big articulated junk and swinging for the fences.

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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Posts
    1,065

    Default Re: Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    "If you are targeting bulls legally on the South Fork, I would definitely have my 8 weight. I think your buddy has a good idea. I would be fishing big articulated junk and swinging for the fences."

    Wow! I had no idea.

    So I guess my buddy was also correct when he said bull trout will come out of nowhere and try to eat a 12 inch rainbow you might be reeling in, and losing a finger is a real possibility.

    I think I'll be leaving the 8 wt. at home and hope I don't lose any appendages on this trip.

    Thanks for your response.
    -Rick Allen

  5. #4

    Default Re: Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    Bull trout are an intereting fish, you'll be sorry if you don't try for them. Most guys use heavy gear because of the big flies they use and because bulls are big (4 to 7 pound average where I fish). You could definitely use a 6 weight if you used smaller flies with heavy tippet, and pressed fish hard. If you hook a big one, though, you might be overmatched.
    They're in the river in low numbers, usually only a fish or two in each good pool. They're usually aggressive and they either want your fly on the first swing or they aren't interested, so you don't have to spend a lot of time casting for them and can spend most of your time targeting rainbows or cutthroat.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    Quote Originally Posted by myt1 View Post
    "If you are targeting bulls legally on the South Fork, I would definitely have my 8 weight. I think your buddy has a good idea. I would be fishing big articulated junk and swinging for the fences."

    Wow! I had no idea.

    So I guess my buddy was also correct when he said bull trout will come out of nowhere and try to eat a 12 inch rainbow you might be reeling in, and losing a finger is a real possibility.

    I think I'll be leaving the 8 wt. at home and hope I don't lose any appendages on this trip.

    Thanks for your response.
    Trust me, bring your 8wt if you're targeting bulls. They love to scoot under logjams and back under big rock outcroppings and you want to be able to stop them before the do that. They are in that river and can push 32" to 3 feet in length. When I fish areas like that, I bring two two setups and carry them lined up. I carry an 8wt with a 10' poly sinking leader and 3' of 0x tippet and big streamers. I also carry a 5wt for catching the cutties/rainbows. If you come across a nice hole, throw the 8wt. You will NOT regret having an 8wt with you.

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  9. Default Re: Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    Your buddy is right. I've done that trip. 8 WT and as heavy of sinking line as you can deal with and big articulated flies. There are huge Bulls in there. Huge.

  10. #7

    Default Re: Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    I knew a couple guys in the 1980s who were really into Bull Trout, They fished deep holes using 8 wt or heavier to cast the Teeny 400 grain sinking line. This was in Oregon. They would cast as far into the pool as they could and then stick the rod down in the water and strip the fly back about as fast as they could.

    Their flies were huge. Some were made from the full tails of roadkill cats. That seemed too specialized to me so I never joined them. But I have had bulls take or chase small trout while I was fighting them. Also had one Bull take a brown parachute on the Metolius one day and that didn’t last long on a 5 wt.

    I agree with the others here that you should take the 8 wt.

    Have fun,

    Don

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  12. #8

    Default Re: Targeting Bull Trout South Fork Flathead River?

    Quote Originally Posted by sparsegraystubble View Post
    Their flies were huge. Some were made from the full tails of roadkill cats.

    Don
    Being an avid streamer fisherman, an image of this popped into my mind and it gave me a good laugh. I bet they worked too! And the ideas....haha

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