Monday, May 23, 2011

Great Expectations

It's not often that the third Saturday in May finds me highly optimistic about fly fishing in Montana, but May 21, 2011 was different. The third Saturday of the month is opening day of the state's general fishing season, it's also a date that typically finds the state's streams and rivers swollen with snowmelt.

My optimism for this year's opening day was twofold: runoff was lagging behind schedule, and a friend and I had plans to fish a mysterious little creek in a high elevation mountain valley. The fishery has intrigued me over the years, it's a stream that piques my curiosity more so than any other in Montana. The location is not well known and is shrouded in secrecy. A combination of hearsay and first hand experiences (failures) have taught me that timing is everything on this stream. Time it right and you might catch the biggest cutthroat of your life, mistime it and you'll be left wondering what could have been.

With a week of cool weather preceding this year's opener, we hoped that stream flows would be dropping and clearing, creating ideal fishing conditions. Above all else, we hoped that the creek's phantom cutthroat would be present.

Opening morning found us with miles of stream all to our lonesome, save for the grizzlies and moose that roamed the dense streamside willows. The creek wasn't gin clear, but it had enough visibility to provide us with a bit of confidence as we worked the water with big streamers.

The cutthroat were there, they were big, they were plentiful and they were not pushovers - everything we could have hoped for. Between the two of us we landed just three cutts, but it was enough - the legend lives on.


  1. Timing looked just about right...great cutty!

  2. Glad things worked out for you. Sounds like a great day on the water.


  3. Yes, we lucked out on the timing. There was just a brief window of time where flows were dropping/stable - and that window coincided with opening weekend. Opportunities to catch cutthroat of that size are somewhat rare. Mix in some native grayling (they were never stocked in this drainage), solitude and amazing scenery and you've got a special place.

  4. Huh, thought I had it figured out, except for the grizzly part. Oh well. Looks like a nice cutt, must have been fun. I'm about 50 miles west of you, over in Butte. Good luck this summer, I'm recently retired, and going to do some exploring this summer, places I haven't been to in my two decades in MT.