Monday, April 17, 2017


I should have taken pictures of my boat and truck on Saturday morning after opening the garage door to greet the day. All was white, in the first light of the morning and my driveway was covered in a ¼” thick sheet of ice. For once, I was glad that I had listened to my wife and opted for a cover for the new drift boat this year. The fact that I had actually put the cover on my boat the night before turned out to be one of the smarter decisions I’ve made so far in 2017. A thick layer of wet snow blanketed the Gallatin Valley late Friday night making for a slow start to the day this past Saturday.

I had a guide trip scheduled with some very experienced anglers – a father and son checking out MSU – that just wanted to get on the water for a day while visiting Bozeman. Easter Sunday would have been great, but I had previous family commitments so they opted to make a go of it on Saturday instead. I knew the weather might make for some challenges, but I also knew that I can usually find some good water somewhere in the area regardless of the weather.

Discussions were made, plans were modified, and the objective was agreed upon. Nothing makes my day start off better than a guide client telling me that they just want to go fish and have a good time, if they catch some fish that’s just a bonus. Comments like those generally make me want to work hard to get them a bunch of fish, while still having a fun time and enjoying the water. We headed out at a snail’s pace, hoping for the sun to show itself and melt the remaining ice sheets covering the roads.

The morning was slow, I mean SLOW. We fished streamers for the first 3 hours without a single hint of life under the water. Around lunch, I started to feel some anxiety that maybe today was one of those days that turn out to be not nearly as fun as they start. I had been here before though, and I knew that we could get a tight line with a nymph rig if needed. I was hoping that once the sun warmed things up, the fish and bugs would all start to perk up later in the day. Still, I wasn’t feeling too confident around 12:30 as we ate a cold lunch in the cold wind. We were having fun though; the surroundings were spectacularly covered in white and stood in dramatic contrast to the deep blue sky.

The bite started around 1:00 on a double nymph rig. Subtle strikes in buckets, along ledges, and deep slots between large boulders perked us all up and got my angler’s “back in the game.” Then we started to see some bugs, despite the lack of clouds. BWO’s at first, then a smattering of March Browns showed along the foamy seams formed when water starts moving in opposite directions. Then the clouds rolled in and the wind settled for just a spell.

It was now maybe 2:30 and we had a good number of fish to hand on nymphs with about 2/3 of the float yet to go. I suggested we give the streamers another shot so that we could cover some water and maybe find a big fish or two as they seemed to now be on the feed. We crushed it for an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Nothing extraordinary in terms of fish size, but the anglers fished well and were rewarded by strike, flashes, grabs, tugs, and a dozen fish or so in the net in that last bit of the day.
Multiple double hook-ups on big yellows streamers with several fish trying to eat the fly 2 or even 3 times before finally becoming tight to the line. It was one of those points in the day when everything was just right and the cold fingers of the morning became an afterthought.

Spring fishing here in Southwest Montana can often be just as it was this past Saturday. Cold nights cool the water well into the low 40’s while warm, sunny days will bring the water temperatures into the low 50’s. Dramatic swings in weather or temperatures affect the feeding behavior of the trout in our waters more than we sometimes think. I like to head out early to beat the crowds, but I usually expect things to start slow, getting better as the sun gets higher.

Once the water starts to warm, the bugs become more active and then the trout follow shortly thereafter. Expect this trend to continue with longer and longer feeding patterns gradually becoming the norm in the next couple of weeks. Mother’s Day Caddis will be here soon enough!

GEAR WE FISHED: Sage Bolt 790 with a Lamson Speedster lined up with a Rio Outbound Short WF7/I and an Orvis Helios 2 8107 one-piece rod with a Sage 6200 Reel lined up with a Rio Streamer Tip WF/S6 (10 ft. tip).

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