Monday, April 2, 2012

Middle Ground

F3T in Great Falls.
Central Montana is a region that brings to mind sprawling cattle ranches, Hutterite colonies, isolated mountain ranges, and unpressured trout water. It's big, lonesome country offering a true taste of rural Montana. I don't get up there often enough, but this weekend I was able to sample a bit of it.

On Friday afternoon I met up with the crew from Big R Fly Shop in Great Falls for the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T). It was a fun event, and the crowd enjoyed the collection of short films - particularly "Sipping Dry" featuring the Missouri River.

On the Missouri River.
Saturday I had the pleasure of fishing the Missouri River with Alfonso and Sam from Big R. The fishing was slow, but it was a beautiful day on the river with good company. We managed to get a few small rainbows up on midges mid-day, but opportunities to head hunt were few and far between. When the clouds rolled in that evening streamers began getting more attention, but primarily in the form of short strikes and follows. We did bring a few nice browns to hand, including one that took a Swimmy Jimmy despite already having a six-inch sculpin in its throat!

Since no trip to Great Falls is complete without visiting the Sip 'n Dip, I stopped in Saturday night for a beer and a bit of mermaid watching; if you haven't been I highly recommend it.

Hooked up on Big Spring Creek.
On Sunday morning I motored east through classic, rural-Montana countryside en route to Lewistown. A business meeting was the primary reason for my visit to the charming little town, but I wasn't about to leave without wetting a line in Big Spring Creek. The water was off color due to recent rain and low-elevation snowmelt, but I made do with the two-plus feet of visibility. Baetis were hatching in good numbers, but brutal wind kept dry flies from being a realistic option. I caught fish by nymphing, and by working a black streamer slow and deep.

I cut my time on Big Spring Creek a bit short because I wanted to stop and fish a few spots on my way back to Bozeman. Traveling at excessive speeds along lonely two-lane highways allowed me to sample three more locations before nightfall. The first two stops were a bust, revealing muddy, swollen rivers. The final stop was a shot in the dark, quite literally. By the time I pulled up the sun had already dipped below the horizon, and I considered calling it a day. Instead I fished for a half hour in the fading light, and I'm glad that I did - I managed to land two nice browns to close out the weekend.

Look for a feature on central Montana trout water in the next issue of Montana Sporting Journal.

Fished it.
Closed until May.

Judith Gap and the Crazies.

Last chance brown.


  1. Where did you catch those two browns?

  2. Funny you should ask... I'll fill you in soon over a beer.

  3. Really like the photo on Big Spring. That's a beautiful Brown also!

  4. Thanks, Zack. Big Spring Creek is a cool fishery that gets little pressure... I should get up there more often. The photo doesn't do the brown any justice, it was a beauty and it filled up my big (12x18 hoop) net.

    1. It's really hard to do a fish justice when you are taking photos of it yourself, so I am with you on that one. And I would love to be able to get up to big spring. I have only heard good things about it.