When people think about a fishing vacation in Southwest Montana, their thoughts usually gravitate to fly fishing the Beaverhead River. The Beaverhead is one of the more prolific and challenging blue ribbon trout rivers that people come from all over the world to fly fish.
This tailwater flows out of Clark Canyon Reservoir and is a small river in size but an enormous river in stature. With thousands of trout per mile and rarely more than 70 feet from bank to bank, the Beaverhead River is literally stacked with trout. Big Trout. The Beaverhead is known for its population of very large Browns and Rainbows, attracting fly fishers from all over. The Beaverhead’s constant cold-water provided by the reservoir’s outflow, coupled with the generally silt-free nature of the water and stable summertime flows create an ideal habitat for aquatic insects. This phenomenal insect habitat produces millions of bugs, which translates to prolific hatches throughout the summer.
When fly fishing the Beaverhead, you encounter a meandering river that creates countless holes and buckets, which provide ideal holding-water for trout. A fly fishing angler should have no difficulty in finding trout on the Beaverhead–the challenge comes in hooking and landing these strong and energetic trout. First, you must pick the right fly to imitate the hatch. With so many natural insects in the water column, it is essential that you pick a pattern that closely matches what the tout are keyed in on. Second, you need to have great presentation with your fly. Whether you are nymphing or throwing dries, a good drift dramatically improves your chances of hooking one of these fish. Finally, once you have hooked a trout, fighting them in the fast water and tight quarters is no easy task. A fish landed on the Beaverhead is a well earned fish.
August is a wonderful time to be in Southwest Montana. Everyone who has been chasing the Salmon Fly Hatches from river to river are now gone. Evenings are getting cold and day time highs are warm. Besides the hoppers, and ants the one terrestrial hatch I look forward to every year is the Spruce Moth hatch on the Big Hole River.
The moth lives inside Douglas Fir Trees and Lodge Pole Pine trees. Once the forests have dried out from the summer heat and lack of moisture they fly from the trees they dwell in, and flock to the river for a dip and become a meal for trout. This hatch on the Big Hole is in my mind the best and most consistent hatch of the year, low clear water, with fish looking up crushing spruce moths on the banks. The spruce moth hatch does not occur on the entire Big Hole River. It is concentrated in the section where we have the most pine trees. From Jerry Creek fishing access to Maiden Rock Fishing Access is where you will find the Spruce Moth hatch. Size #14 and #12 tan elk hair caddis are the best imitations for the Spruce Moth. We tie them at the Sunrise Fly Shop with extra bushy elk hair. You will only find the Spruce Moths on or near banks. Rarely do the moths flutter in the middle of the river.
This hatch is one that every angler should fish. You will be amazed how many trout are looking up to eat when the moths are on the water. Since this is a terrestrial hatch, you do not have to fish a nymphal stage. Slamming the water with a fluttering Spruce Moth pattern is a blast. You have not missed the hatch. Due to a later summer start, all of our hatches are about two weeks behind this year. We predict the hatch will occur around the 10th of August. Get out to the Big Hole for some great terrestrial fishing. Click here for more information on fishing the Big Hole River.