What the doctor ordered

25 inch brown trout

Big Hole River 744 cfs—Maidenrock (and rising)
That wide spread rain yesterday was just what we needed big time. It brought the river up 100 cfs. According to the graph it is rising on the upper river also which means it was pretty wide spread.
I still do not have that photo of that 25 inch rainbow Jim caught but how about this 25 inch brown caught last week. I promised not to reveal the location but here are the stats. It was caught on a #16 dry fly on 5x tippet using a 5 wt. rod. That’s quite an accomplishment with a fish that size.
This rising river might put the fish off but for a very short time. Last week the fishing on top water was super.
A few days ago I got a call from a guy back east asking conditions. He said he heard from one of the shops on the Madison that the Big Hole was basically dried up and not worth going. He called me to confirm. The Big Hole is fishing as well or better than any river in the state. The flow is fine and just a bit below normal. If you want the facts, contact me for the true conditions.


  1. Paul Siddoway,M.D.

    The fishing on the Big Hole may be as good as anywhere in the state, however the flows have been below the 25th percentile for the past week. The storms over the past 48 hours have brought levels up temporarily, but it is still well below average for mid-July. The Big Hole is sitting right in the middle of the current Severe Drought zone as released by the National Weather Service. Hopefully, we will see enough precipitation between now and September to avoid critical low flows in August. The river above Melrose has faired well through the previous drought years with great fish counts and angling success. This is not true for the river below Melrose where fish counts are down and average fish size has dropped in the past 4-5 years. Even the fish counts from the last shocking data confirms this observation. It seems to correlate well with the dramatic drop in salmon flies on the Melrose to Browns Bridge stretch. This is believed to be mostly due to sediment deposition in times of low flow. You can’t take out the largest source of protein without having a significant effect on fish production. With continued low flows this section will continue to decline. It is time the FWP made the stretch below Melrose catch and release only to maybe have some positive impact on this great stretch of the river. So in summary , I believe your statements about fishing on the Big Hole are correct for the river above Melrose, but not below. Congratulations on the Beautiful 25incher.

    • The average flow at Maidenrock for this time is 997 cfs and we are at 813 cfs. That’s not bad considering drought years such as 1988.
      As for fish population on the lower river, the biologists are saying the stretch from Glen, Notch Bottom to Pennington has increased in the last two years especially the rainbows. This was very evident late last summer as the hopper fishing down there was excellent. Lots of 14 to 18 inch hot, fat bows.

    • Paul,

      Strict Catch and Release regulations won’t necessarily correlate to a better fishery, FWP biologists might screw up sometimes, but historically one thing that they’ve been far better than any member of the public over the years is in setting regulations to create quality fisheries. The Big Hole is a magnificent river, and although I personally don’t like to keep trout as they mostly taste like shoe leather, letting the locals bonk a few within the slot limits doesn’t hurt the fishery. When you don’t thin out a population you end up with stunted growth and skinny fish, not what I want to go catch in a river like the Big Hole… Just my $.10 and probably worth about as much.

  2. one heckuva fish!

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