Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Quest for Clarity

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...


  1. You can't lose at Rat Lake. You get skunked - no big deal cuz everyone does. You catch a fish and you're a hero.
    Too bad that creek was blown out. I did just hear that salmonflies have started in Bear Trap...

  2. The high flows have delayed my departure from Flagstaff to the Big Hole. Thanks for the post; misery loves company!


  3. You had a moment of clarity there- mtb is where's it at in June: the high country is just open for biking, gets you in shape for summer bushwhacking, proves a great way to have fun while waiting for runoff to subside. Win-win!

  4. Josh - Rat Lake may have to wait...between the report of salmonflies and the river having dropped 2500cfs over the past 48 hours, I think you know where to find me tomorrow evening!

    Stoneflynut - I'm sure you're watching the river flows as much, if not more than I am. The Big Hole is definitely on the drop and fishable. I haven't heard any reports of salmonflies on the Big Hole yet, and with this weather who knows when they'll show this year. Nice that you have the flexibility to wait for good conditions. Best of luck!

    RW - I was pretty into mtb back in the day, it's a lot of fun...I may have to get back into that singletrack frame of mind. Of course I'd inevitably end up biking to fishing holes, which may defeat the purpose of picking up a new hobby.


  5. Will, in regards to an earlier season small stream you may want to take a look around the Georgetown Lake area at watershed called Flint Creek. Below the lake, in the ranchland area lies some quality fish to be had.

    I lived in the area in college for a summer, about 6 years ago and this was one of my favorites.


  6. Westy,

    Thanks for the tip! Flint Creek is a location I've heard little about and have yet to fish, but I've been curious about it. How is access? There must be a few bridge crossings.

    Hope you're having a great summer of fishing in AZ!