Roughly 52 floats within an hour’s drive of Missoula. Something like 350 miles of floatable water, not counting Rock Creek. Anyway Mother Nature deals the cards in this town, we come out with a pretty good hand to play. Variation and angling possibilities are two chief reasons why Missoula is one of the West’s undeniable fishing meccas. For visiting anglers, this diversity affords the luxury of fishing a different* river each day of a four-day trip; for guides, it means “when the going gets tough, the tough go somewhere else,”– ie., like last week when the Clark Fork finally hit its midsummer slump, we slipped up the valley to the Bitterroot and found some stellar hopper fishing on fairly “rested” fish. Just when one river was starting its downturn, another river went trending up. After a few days of rain, though, all Missoula waters are back in play. (*I’m calling the upper Clark a different river than the lower….
Bitterroot River Fishing Report:
These first cool rainy days (I think I just heard a bull elk bugle!) will trigger the first mayfly of fall, and one of our favorite hatches: the Hecuba. We’ve already started to see a few of these big drakes out and about, and the big ‘Root Rainbows have been on them. Coupled with decent Trico fishing and good to grand hopper fishing this week, the ‘Root ruled for a few days. Watch the streamflows up here, and don’t be afraid to throw a fast-moving streamer up here on a rising tide. Some shocking August fish fall prey to a big bunny this time of year.
Clark Fork River Fishing Report:
Above town up to the mouth of Rock Creek and down I-90 a good ways, the Clark has been fishing steadily on dry-dropper, and depending on the afternoon (wind is good) really strong on hoppers. Every guide has his favorite patterns/colors of hopper, but we suggest varying from something gaudy to something natural until you find what they’re looking for on a given day. Most of the naturals are still pretty small right now (about an inch long) but they’re growing and stacking up along the banks. September should be an outstanding hopper month. The fish have already begun to slide out of the heavily oxygenated riffles in the afternoons, staking out the tailouts and the long glides. Look for this trend to continue as the terrestrials and mayflies overtake the nocturnal stones.
Blackfoot River Fishing Report:
While the wet days have put a damper on the Incoming UM Student Tube Hatch, the fish up here are still looking for black rubber and pinky toes with red nail polish–we jest! The Foot has been good this week on smaller hoppers and ants. Bigger fish can be found on nymph rigs or with the default Chubby and dropper (read: short leash nymphing w/ edible indicator). Low sky days will spread the fish out, so don’t be surprised to find the big browns prowling the shallows for hoppers and sculpins. We caught a nice brown the other day in a foot of water that had a 4″ sculpin sticking out of its gullet. Greed kills.