Current Big Hole River flows:
VISIBILITY ~ Good at 2-3 feet, but expect to see varying visibility conditions as ice melts off the banks and at higher elevations above the river bottom.
Normal daytime spring temperatures in Southwestern Montana have started to show up and the river ice is receding along most of The Big Hole River. Evening temperature’s below freezing have kept the big run-off from starting and currently flows are fairly stable. There’s quite a bit of ice still clearing in the lower river causing more visibility issues from Notch Bottom Fishing Access Site (FAS) down stream, but further up river from Glen (FAS) and Salmon Fly (FAS) in Melrose, the river is currently clear of ice ( aside from some bank and drifting) and the fishing good. Maiden Rock (FAS) and George Grant (FAS) continue to fish well and are also good choices for some great late winter early spring fishing on the Big Hole River.
TACTICS & PATTERNS ~ Nymphing with two flies, dead drift under an indicator will still be your most productive tactic. My “go to” first fly is a stone fly in brown or black or brown and black…you get it. Try a Pat’s Stone #6-10 . Although stone flies are not always hatching, they gestate for up to four years so trout recognize them as food any time of year. What midges lack in bulk they make up for in numbers. Midge larva pattern’s in black red and purple size #14-18. Try a Copper John in red or wine #14-18, baetis in #16-18. San Juan Worm’s, Bacon and Egg’s or Disco Worm’s in pink, red, burgundy or purple #10-6 are also a good second fly choice.
DRY FLIES ~ Fish are rising sporadically to midges. Look in softer water on inside edges, along foam lines and in back eddy’s. Try a Purple Haze, Griffith Gnat, Parachute Adams or midge cluster #14-18.
STREAMERS ~ The streamer game is a long way from what we would call “Hot!” but the water temps are starting to warm enough in the afternoons to get fish to chase and hit streamers. that’s good news for streamer junkies like me because I prefer quality over quantity any day. So when the water visibility starts to go down start thinking about patterns in yellow or yellow and olive. I recommend a strip twitch and pause technique to get them to come and get it. If that doesn’t work, try dead drifting your streamer or using a classic downstream quartering swing. Old school patterns like Matuka’s, Zonker’s and Wooley Bugger’s in black, brown or olive #8-10 will catch fish but check out my Top Ten Streamer’s for a more thorough list.
TIPS ~ Be aware of winter fishing hazards like rapidly changing weather, shelf ice and drifting ice. Be prepared with appropriate winter fishing gear like a weather proof jacket, hat and gloves. The rainbow’s are starting to spawn so watch your step and stay clear!