It is turning into fall in the upper Big Hole. The last few weeks have brought cooler temps, shorter days, and thunderstorms. With these changes we have seen new bugs, both terrestrials and water borne. Tricos are still hanging on in the mornings along with a few mahogany duns. The summer stones are giving way to September stones, which are smaller (#14), and the hoppers are full grown (#10, #12).
With the returning of the rains we have seen the river bump up to 700 at Maiden Rock. It has since dropped and begun to level out around 450 cfs. The temps have been below average (66) which in turn has led to some happy, healthy fish.
The GDO crew spent 7 days up on the Middle and North Fork of the Flathead last week. It was a much needed break from the rivers we have been fishing all summer. Despite the smoke and campfire bans we had a very successful trip. The fishing was above average for that area yielding lots of fish in the 15-18 inch range, as well as a few over 20, which is rare in a cutthroat fishery.
Looking forward, we are excited for hunting season to begin. Hunting season tends to take some of the pressure off the river, which has already been light. The bugs should remain steady until we start seeing frost at which time we should start seeing our large fall caddis and a boost in the streamer fishing.
I have had lots of calls from skeptical fisherman all year wondering if the Big Hole is worth fishing. The short answer is yes. This has been the best year we have had in 5 years. It could be from the lack of pressure from the public (almost none), or the lack of accuracy of the fish counts in the spring. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. We are looking forward to the next round of fish counts to show us what the guides already know, the Big Hole is a strong, resilient river, and with a little help from all of us, private and public, this amazing resource will continue to be one of the finest fisheries in the state. As I have always preached, please call your local fly shop for up to date fishing and river conditions.