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Big Hole River: Still Big, Still Fishing

What a spring we have been having. The river is running hard at 1550 at Maiden Rock. The fishing has been amazing as we are still in the middle of the golden stones and a few salmon flies that are holding on around Jerry Creek. The guides have been having banner days now that the boats have thinned out. Our best fishing has been between fish trap and Maiden Rock. The bugs have been consistent this week with the rainstorms that have been rolling in every afternoon, but look for changes this week as it will be hotter, with less clouds. Below divide has been great on the Grey and Green Drakes, as well as size 16 caddis in the evenings. We have been dropping dark Spanish bullets underneath through this section as well and that has been producing fish of all species (including white!) Droppers off of golden stones have been taking care of business in the middle of the day while the sun is high. Above Divide is still producing big bugs of the golden variety. Fishing has been wonderful in the clouds and decent in the sun. The copper chubby has been the name of the game for several days now, sometimes with a purple haze or copper haze trailing.

I had a chance to take out an old friend/client of mine last Friday. We met at 9 in the morning at the shop, jumped in the truck and headed up the valley. We were planning to put in at Jerry Creek, but I saw that 7 other guides had the same idea. So, I called an audible, and headed up river a little ways. The morning was bright and full of mosquitos as usual, and the fishing was slow. We fished for about 2 hours with a few looks but nothing really crushing it on the surface. I stopped at one of my favorite riffles and the we made a few casts. Smaller fish were trying to eat the golden stone to no avail, so I dropped a nymph off the bottom of it to see if they were keying underneath. The dropper did produce a couple of fish but it was slim pickings. We pulled anchor and decided to go single dry for the rest of the day, golden or die. As we floated up towards one of my favorite seams on this section of the river, I grabbed my client and began setting up the cast well before we got to the seam, where to put it, when to put it there, and how much twitch we would need to get that big fish to come out of his home. As I am pointing over his shoulder, planning out his perfect approach and drift, something caught my eye. As I am lining my guy up, a pink and silver streak slid across the river about 1.5 feet underneath the surface, and made a B-line for the fly (which was just drifting in the middle of the river). The strike came so quickly that I called it late, the set was quick and we got a hook in him, him being one of the largest rainbows I’ve seen eat a dry fly anywhere in Montana. At the hook set, the fish went deep and hard, taking us across the river and back upstream about 40 yards. After the initial run the fish crossed my boat again and went up the other bank. When the fish crossed the second time I knew the hook was making a hole and we had a short window to land him. As we fought him back to the boat I was able to put my eyes on the whole fish, what a beast. My client looked back and said to me “I really would like to land this fish.” You know the rest of the story, he dove one more time and the fly came sailing out of the water and into my lap. I dropped anchor and we both just looked at each other, covered in sweat and mosquitos. We took a couple deep breaths and I pulled anchor in search of another fish that might, maybe, almost, be as glorious as the big boy that slipped us. The client was down and we hashed out the would haves and could haves, but like any seasoned guide I told him “The big one always gets away, thats the golden rule.” Why the hell would we keep coming back anyway?, the scenery?”

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