Our last road trip found us in Hamilton, MT for some fall fly fishing on the Bitterroot River the last week of September. The weather was beautiful, with fall colors beginning to show in the valley. And we had some good fishing as well!
The Bitterroot Valley this time of year is spectacular.
The fishing is supposed to be good, with hatches of Tricos, Mahogany, and Hecuba mayflies. If you read last week’s post, 2021 Cast One for Hope, you know we caught several fish with Trico imitations and Purple Haze. The days following the event were sporadic, some days fishing was good, while other days found us waiting and watching for rising trout.
At times, we were rewarded with some nice fish. If you wait patiently enough, this is what happens.
Most of the time, we fished the water around Hamilton. I was worried about the low flows. This is Tucker Crossing, a place we normally wouldn’t wade. It’s now a small channel where rafts launch and very shallow. We waded across the channel on our way to the main section of the river. When we arrived, the river gauge at Bell Crossing was at 230 cfs. A few days later when we left the river, it had risen to around 270 cfs.
We were heading to a spot we fished before and luckily would find some rising trout…to size 20 and 22 Tricos.
That evening, we decided to give the West Fork a try. The weather was clouding up and rain was in the forecast, so we hoped to find a few BWOs hatching.
This is a spot we have tried before with success. Notice how low the water is? It was a common theme everywhere on the Bitterroot.
No insects were visible, and a Purple Haze worked on this Cutthroat.
We moved downstream looking for deeper water and found another nice run.
Purple Haze worked here as well.
Late in the evening, I found a few BWO mayflies floating down this nice run with fish rising to them. I tied on an Improved Sparkle Dun BWO and landed a couple smaller trout.
But returning the next morning, we didn’t find any rising fish, so back to the mainstem we went.
Our day was beautiful, but the fish didn’t cooperate.
The following day was different. We went searching for fish!
And returned to water we caught fish in a few days earlier.
Another beautiful Cutthroat.
Our last day on the river…we found a few fish rising to Tricos again.
My wife found this nice Brown less than a foot from shore on the far bank.
And a nice Rainbow in the same run when I was hooking and landing 9 inchers!
As mentioned earlier, the water was very low. Did it affect the fishing? I don’t really know. We didn’t see many hatching insects, but were able to bring fish up with the trusty Purple Haze. A couple of mornings, Trico fly patterns saved us.
I did catch one fish the first afternoon on the river with one of Chuck Stranahan’s Brindle Chute flies to imitate a Hecuba mayfly. I never saw a real one, but a fish eagerly moved to and ate the fly.
See you next time…
Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!