One of these years I'm going to put down the fly rod and pick up another hobby during runoff. Getting into whitewater kayaking, mountain biking or tennis might be just the ticket to help pass the time. One of these years...just not this year.
This year the search for fishable water during runoff is on yet again. My usual fishing haunts of the Madison, Gallatin and Yellowstone are out of the question right now. The Missouri is an option, even with flows cranked up to 16,000 cfs, but I'm looking for something a little closer to home. Smaller tributaries such as the Boulder, Shields, The East, and etc. are still blown out. Mid-elevation trout lakes are said to be fishing well, but I have a difficult time getting excited about stillwater fishing below timberline.
My quest for clarity usually begins each morning on the USGS website, pouring over flow charts, looking for some glimmer of hope. The freestones have been dropping pretty significantly over the past few days, but they're still big and muddy, and there's still a lot of snow in the mountains. So the quest continues, and probably will for a couple of weeks to come.
It wasn't long ago that the lower Madison River - a quasi tailwater - was still fishing well. I took advantage of the good conditions, fishing it on a few occasions from Beartrap to Cobblestone and doing very well with dead drifted crayfish patterns. I also visited the only public spring creek in this part of the state: Darlington Spring Creek, which parallels the lower Madison and where I had some success swinging soft hackles in faster water. The lower Madison is no longer much of an option, and considering that Darlington acquires a portion of its water from the river, I'm not sure that this so called spring creek is either.
The highlight of my quest for clarity came last week. I owe it all to an assist from a fishing buddy who showed me a sweet mountain stream. This has been his top secret, go to runoff location for a few years now. I half expected him to break out a blindfold for me to wear on the drive to the trailhead, but he spared me. What keeps this place a secret is the hike in, which is lengthy. This isn't your typical, high gradient, claustrophobic, mountain stream consisting of small trout. Rather it's an interesting blend of a spring creek and a freestone meadow stream that harbors some sizeable cutts and brookies.
The quest continued this weekend when I decided to explore some new water north of Bozeman. This creek drains some relatively low elevation country, giving me hope that it would be fishable. The Sunday drive along the base of the Bridgers was beautiful and I got a look at the old, abandoned railway stop of Maudlow, but the creek was blown out. I didn't even wet a line.
At this rate I'm going to have to start playing tennis. Or maybe I need to suck it up and learn to enjoy lake fishing, I hear that the view from Rat Lake is nice...