Still Alive

Beaverhead Brown

Big Hole River 280 cfs—Maidenrock I got a phone call yesterday asking if I was still alive and kicking. Something about not seeing a report for some time. Just getting lazy I guess. There is still some top water action in the afternoon. Rusty spinners, small purple haze and chubby’s have been getting fish. I’m afraid that all will change starting Wednesday as the high temp. is forecast to be only 45 and 40 percent chance of snow. Rain or snow, bring it on.

Read this article written by Dr. Paul Siddoway in last weeks Montana Standard. I totally agree with him to store some of the runoff water in tributaries in the upper valley. This would benefit everybody from water users, fisherman, recreationists. There are several places on public land where these impoundments could be built.  Unfortunately I don’t think it will ever happen. These days just to speak the word dam is a capital offense. Wouldn’t it be nice though to be able to maintain a flow in the Big Hole of around 500 cfs. It’s a great fishery now and with that flow it would be a fabulous fishery. Perhaps with enough pressure from all of us it is a possibility.
The flow is rising slowly with water users turning water back in the river. There are still several guides on the lower river using drift boats. You can hear these guys rattling through the riffles half mile away. Raft is the way to go now, nice and quiet.
Colors  now on the river are prime with all the yellow’s, reds and gold.


  1. Paul Siddoway,M.D.

    Al, Thanks for the comments about the article. With so many people’s lives impacted by the river, I believe we can apply enough pressure to proceed with one or two of these high mountain dams. Please spread the word and push the elected officials who need a good cause to work on that actually could make a big difference. The fishery takes care of itself with higher flows. This is not rocket science. Have a great fall. Paul S.

  2. Leave the Big Hole alone. Mankind’s attempts at improving it have failed. Part of the river’s charm is the differing flows during the year and over the years. If you want to fish where the flows are always the same, go fish the Beaverhead.

  3. Luke - Butte

    Before I state my opinion let me just say I am not a full blown environmentalist. I am an avid sportsman who loves Montana and grew up here. I have flyfished the Big Hole for more than 30 years and definitely agree with “Dave”. As humans, we always try to improve upon the way nature intended instead of living with it and enjoying it the way it is supposed to be. If the Big Hole needed a dam, nature would earthquake one into place. We always want, want, want. So the big hole flows drop during drought years. It is what it is. Where is most of the water going? So, we can’t fish the river the same all the time. If we could, how lame would that really be!? Leave things alone and love it for what it is. Lets not try to change it. A dam on the Big Hole would be a gateway to further development and would be the ultimate beginning of the end. The snakes would find a loophole to use it for that and we all know it. As the years go by, the development that has occurred diminsh the experience of a day on the river more and more. My life’s experiences have taught me one thing about the river; it is already not what it used to be. In the last 20 years this river has taken a downward spiral in terms of the majestic place it once was. Only one thing has caused that – the only real virus to ever inhabit planet earth – Humans.

    • I agree with Dave and Luke 100%! Leave the Big Hole alone. Rip out every wing dam, cement every headgate, and let the river flow free without sucking all the water out….. it would be just fine!!

      Dams suck; bottom release dams, tailwater dams, reservoir dams, wing dams, irrgations dams, etc…..

  4. I think, as a massive generalization, that humans need to learn to live within and accept the natural boundaries rather than always engineering a change to circumvent said boundaries.
    If you don’t want your house flooded or threatened by the river, don’t build in the flood plain.
    If you don’t want the river to run dry, don’t take all the water.
    I remember seeing the Jeff drop below 20cfs at Parsons during the drought years.
    This year it got as low as somewheres around 150.
    Obviously ALL the available water in the system was being used for irrigation. Claims on the water are, at times, exceeding the capacity of the whole system.
    It’s more than a little ridiculous. The market or demand for that water is completely saturated. It never should have been allowed to happen in the first place. Yes, regulation. After all water rights laws are basically regulations as well.
    We are the most adaptable factor involved with how much water runs in the rivers. Although realistically, I hold no hope that water rights laws going back to the 1800s will ever be addressed or changed.
    I have no interest in seeing more dams built in Montana.

  5. Richard Rust

    What a local will do to enrich his pockets. Leave the river and Mountains alone.

  6. If it weren’t for people pulling water in the first place, we wouldn’t need this conversation. Too many people pulling too much water to feed too much hay, to feed too many animals to feed too many people….ect…
    The Big Hole’s biggest problem is people.

    I floated Melrose to Browns on Saturday in my cataraft. Saw a hell of a lot of paint on the rocks from hardboats. I dragged my raft four or five times, can’t imagine a hardboat this time of year. Caught a bunch of 16-17 inch fish, even found a few geese for the old dog to fetch.
    Regardless, long live the Big Hole….

  7. By all means, let’s build a dam for water storage. The water can be used ONLY for augmenting river flows, with an in-stream flow right that protects it all the way to Twin. How to pay for it? With a carbon tax that provides money to mitigate problems caused by global warming. Or, instead of building that dam, pay ranchers not to take water. Yes, I am an environmentalist (whatever that means) — but I also live in the real world and like to fish.

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