During the fall of 2010, Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks made major improvements to three different fishing access sights on the Big Hole River. Pumphouse, Salmon Fly, and Glen fishing access sights were the recipients of long-overdue improvements and makeovers.
At the Powerhouse Fishing Access (more commonly referred to as Silver Bridge) crews installed a new single-wide concrete boat ramp, and expanded and improved the parking area. This ramp improvement coincides with the removal of the Pumphouse diversion just downstream from the Silverbridge fishing access.
Down river at Salmon Fly Fishing Access Site in the town of Melrose, crews installed a concrete boat ramp and improved the parking area for one of the busiest fishing access on the Big Hole River. Simple improvements such as these have made the Salmon Fly Fishing Access not only a more functional fishing access, but a more aesthetically pleasing one as well.
Another twelve miles down river from Melrose, at the Glen Fishing Access Site on the Burma Road, crews also installed a new concrete boat ramp and made improvements to the parking and camping areas.
All of the recent improvements to the fishing access on the Big Hole River will help to make accessing the river a safer endeavor, disperse boat and user traffic, and protect fish and wildlife habitat.
The Big Hole diversion dam replacement project is complete. On November 7, 2010 the city and county of Butte-Silver Bow finished the replacement of the 80-year-old diversion dam in the Dewey Canyon of the Big Hole River. This diversion dam is used for pumping water from the Big Hole River to the city of Butte, Montana for a portion of the cities drinking water. After nearly a century of existence, the diversion dam is no longer an impediment to fish and boater passage.
The old diversion dam and intake structure was outdated, and structurally failing, which has a threat to the River, and the ability for Butte to get one of their sources of drinking water. Over the years the dam has been the cause for flipping many boats as floaters tried to navigate over the concrete structure. The new diversion has a rock weir dam, which has a boat and fish passage channel. The spillway is designed for boater safety.
The completion of the diversion dam on the Big Hole River is a great example of a community working together to improve a structure that benefits all uses. Silver Bow County now has a better functioning diversion that ensures a source of their drinking water. Recreationalists now have a safe, unrestricted passage in the river that promotes the health and migration of fish.
Winter has set into southwest Montana with our first significant snowfall last week. After the snow and cold has pushed us off the river we are finally able to take a deep breath after a fabulous season of fly-fishing. A short recap of the 2010 season was water, water and more water. Above average flows and steady hatches made for great fishing this season. The dog days of summer never came this year. We are in a cycle of great water flows in Southwest Montana. This was our third year in a row of above average flows in the Big Hole River. Clark Canyon reservoir above the Beaverhead River will again have above average winter flows, which we saw this summer made a huge difference in the health of the fishery.
We would like to take the time and thank all of the people that made the 2010 season a successful one. We enjoyed giving advice, hearing big fish stories, and guiding clients with smiling faces. Look for consistent blog posts this winter on fly-fishing advice, fly-fishing tactics, and stories about the rivers we fish; the Big Hole River, Beaverhead River, Madison River, and Jefferson River.
Fly Fishing Sections of the Beaverhead River
The upper Beaverhead River, from the Dam to High Bridge, is generally fished with small nymphs. This isn’t to say that at times there isn’t amazing dry fly fishing, it is that most of the fish caught in this section are on nymphs. From High Bridge to Barretts, nymphing is still the most successful style of fishing, but more opportunities exist for catching Beaverhead trout on larger dries such as hoppers and crane flies. Bellow the Barretts’ diversion the number of trout per mile decreases, but that doesn’t mean that opportunities for trophy trout are diminished.
Hoppers and Streamers
Throwing hoppers in the later part of the summer between Dillon, Anderson Lane and Beaverhead Rock frequently produce trout well in excess of 20 inches. Streamer fishing is another style of fly fishing that can produce large fish on the Beaverhead River. Casting streamers under the willow-choked banks in the early hours just after dawn is very successful way to get a trophy Beaverhead Trout to eat.
The Beaverhead River is an impressive fishery with world-class fishing opportunities throughout the entire river. So whether it’s fishing size 22 trico spinners in The Slick, nymphing the Axel Hole with PMDs or throwing hoppers on the lower river, the Beaverhead has something to offer nearly every angler. Click here for more information on fly fishing the Beaverhead River.
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.
The Big Hole River is one of the greatest blue ribbon fly fishing rivers in Southwest Montana. The Big Hole River is a majestic and dynamic freestone river that flows more than 150 miles from its headwaters near Jackson, MT to its confluence with the Beaverhead River and Ruby River to create the Jefferson River. With a watershed that encompasses more than 2800 square miles, a total population of only a few thousand people and fish counts that average over 2000 trout per mile, the Big Hole River exemplifies the Montana fly fishing experience.
The Big Hole River has three distinctly different sections, all having their own unique characteristics. The upper Big Hole River is known for its expansive views of snowcapped mountains, pristine grassy meadows and slower, meandering water. The Canyon section, which runs from roughly Jerry Creek all the way to Melrose, is characterized by its scenic beauty and faster moving water bordered by rugged rock walls. The lower section, best known for its rangeland topography and braided side channels is the quintessential example of Big Sky Country. One characteristic all three sections have in common is their breathtaking scenery combined with phenomenal fly fishing.
The Big Hole River drainage also has a colored history, dating back to its “discovery” by Lewis and Clark, and is rich in Native American history and lore.
As scenic as the Big Hole River is, it is best known for its world-class fly fishing. With browns, rainbows, cutthroats, brook trout and consistent hatches from April to October, fly fishing the Big Hole is an experience not to be missed. In addition to the abundant trout, the Big Hole River is home to the last remaining wild native population of Fluvial Arctic Grayling in the lower 48 states. This special designation just adds to an already exceptional fishery.
Whether you are a streamer fanatic or a dry fly specialist, be prepared to put it all to use when fly fishing on the Big Hole River. Without question or debate, the Big Hole River is one of Montana’s finest fly fishing destinations.
Welcome to the new Sunrise Fly Shop website and Blog. We are excited to share our experiences on the Big Hole River and Southwest Montana fishing. This is the place to get up to date information from Ryan and Eric and the guide staff of the Sunrise Fly Shop. Please share your thoughts and stories with us.