August 2013 Blackfoot River Report
The Blackfoot is fishing decent, especially in the mornings. More to come later, I have to come back to this.
July 2013 Blackfoot Fly Fishing Report
The Blackfoot, like most of our western freestones have gone from fishing great, too becoming tough and undesirable in just 4 days because of the recent heat wave. But this will not be the case for long, since we are getting cooler nights again. The recent heat wave has affected the river temperatures more dramatically in the first week of July than I have ever seen in over 20 years on the water! The Bonner Gauging Station has the water level, which has dropped a lot in the last week and also has a temperature graph. You can see that the water temperatures went from a high of about 65 degrees 5 days ago to over 70 degrees. The cooler night has already dropped the water temperatures and as long as we can avoid the 90 degree days, the river temperature will drop and the fishing can be good again. It amazes me to see such a high water temperature since the river tributaries are from the cool wilderness waters. The upper river and North Fork will have cooler temperatures just like the Upper Bitterroot, but that also causes more crowded water as anglers try and deal with the heat. I personally try and avoid the crowds so I have not fished the canyon because I have heard about lots of boats on this pretty section. So if you float the Blackfoot, be prepared for traffic and be courteous to others. The fishing was awesome when we had rain and cloud cover and even some of the hot days in the early part of the heat wave. There were lots of Salmon flies and Golden Stones and that fishing has basically disappeared in a week. When I was floating up there the insect hatches were prolific. There were stoneflies of all kinds, caddis flies of all kinds, and numerous different mayflies. The hatches will diminish rapidly with the summer heat, but as long as we can have cool nights and 80 degree days, the fishing can rebound. Scanning the river with attractors and stonefly patterns with 30 inch droppers. Don’t be afraid to try an ant pattern or parachute adams in the right water, sometimes some nice trout can be looking for the smaller meals. Have fun and remember, if you are looking to be by yourself on the Blackfoot, that is not an option at this time of year, but you can beat the crowds by fishing early and getting off early. Good luck!
June 8, 2013
Sorry for letting my reports slip, but I have had some personal challenges that have hindered my ability to focus on my reports. But now I am back. The Blackfoot is exciting at this time of year, but it is hit or miss. One thing I can tell you, is that the other day when I was travelling back from the Missouri there were some serious thunder cells that were producing isolated, heavy amounts of rain. This can seriously affect the Blackfoot at this time of year. The Salmon flies are on the verge and a few early birds are out, but this heat and some heavy rain cells can damper the fishing at this time of year. Over the years there have been many Salmon fly hatches that are unfishable. The mainstem is very silty and the steep terrain adjacent to many sections of the river make the Blackfoot vulnerable to runoff and tough conditions. There is still snowpack coming out during these 80 degree days, but the curve will be on its way down soon. Most of the fishing on the Blackfoot is junk fishing, subsurface. Either with indicators or streamer fishing. But if there is even slight visibility and the big bugs come out, the trout still look for them. So just keep an eye on the rain and the Bonner Graph. The flows are powerful right now so use caution. Light tippet is totally unnecessary right now. Look for the bugs, watch for abrupt changes in water clarity and flow during rain events and use caution on the water. The fun is about to begin for this river, but for now it is an experiment until flows become a little lower and more stable.
May 1, 2013
Spring Fishing in Montana is and adventure. You have to be able to have a sense of adventure and read the water and adapt to the changes in weather and flow on a daily basis. This is evident when you look at the flows and water temperatures on the Bonner river gauge. We had a cold snap a couple weeks ago that dropped the river and shut off the run off, then the warmth last week sends the river up 1000 CFS. An impressive graph to me is the water temperature graph. The river was up to 52 degrees and now with the recent cold snap it is back down to 42 degrees! When water temps reach over 50, the metabolism of trout increases and they can chase more and become more active predators. The spring hatches really get going and trout get happy with the combination of increased metabolism and food supply. Now the temperature drops and the hatch windows shorten and trout become a little less active. The current temperatures are conducive for a good streamer bite and there is a good possibility of hooking big browns and bulls on streamers. Bull trout LOVE 40-45 degree water! They actually end up in many different water columns. They can be deep or they can be hanging out in the shallows near the willows waiting for there next meal to encroach on their domain. The river is in great shape but look for these waters to significantly rise by next week when we get some weather approaching 80 degrees next week with our nest high pressure ridge. As far as tactics go, you will actually have the full triple threat for options. You can nymph with stoneflies and beadheads, you can definitely streamer fish, and there are trout rising and mayfly and caddis hatches have started. Look for the caddis hatches to increase with the warm days and I predict the evening fishing to be good by the end of the week. This river will be reacting to the next heat wave so by this time next week there could be some significant run off, but there is a great week of fishing open with the current cold snap stabilizing the river! Good luck
April 15, 2013
The Blackfoot is cold, but ready for adventures! The Blackfoot Gauge in Bonner is beautiful looking and so is the river! As a mentioned in my early report, watch the water temperature gauge. If you scroll down to the temperature gauge you can see the river reached over 44 degrees a few days ago, but the recent return of winter is dropping the temperatures back down. There have been a few dry fly days up there because these water temperatures indicate that skwalas and some spring may flies have started to come out, but now the hatch will be a little dormant in these cold temperatures. Look for the river flows to continue to drop and as soon as this low pressure cold system moves on, we will have more seasonable mild temperatures, and the fishing will improve. For now the classic spring options on the Blackfoot is nymphing and streamers. But there are some rising trout in the heat of the day. This is the time of year that Bull trout can be found in all water columns and not just holding on the bottom of the river in a big cliff hole. They love 40 degree water. Please crimp your barbs when you streamer fish because big browns and bulls have a tendency to inhale streamers on the Blackfoot, probably because the heavier water causes them to be more ferocious and opportunistic. The classic patterns to use for nymphing besides the stupid worm are stonefly patterns and even buggers. These are fun levels to fish the Blackfoot and the best part of fishing this time of year is that because it is unpredictable and not as popular as the Bitterroot, you can have the river to yourself. When you do hit some magical dry fly spring windows, it is pretty special because you will the only one that knows about it!
March 23, 2013
Well there are not any guide trips on the Blackfoot River at this time of year for a couple reasons. With the skwala dry fly fishing on the Bitterroot picking up, the cold waters of the Blackfoot does not get much attention at this time of year. The river gauge at Bonner has a functioning temperature gauge that reads 35 degrees. This is not a good river temperature for fishing or hatches. The Blackfoot thrust fault created this river in a primarily west flowing canyon that has limited sunshine and cold water tributaries. The flows are up from the early super low spring water levels thanks to a warm up and some rains last week. This is a good thing when the fishing gets going, the flows should be at a healthy spring level. This river is not fishing yet, but keep an eye on the water temperatures as they rise, the fishing will get better. The one thing that can be fun at this time of year is that if you choose to be challenged and fish the Blackfoot at this time of year, you won’t see many people. All of your fishing should be on nymphs and streamers. You might be able to catch some trout using theses tactics and the cold waters are actually what Bull trout love. The removal of Milltown Dam has increased trout migration of all species and here is an informative Bull trout article that is encouraging. If you do catch some Bull trout please make sure you handle them with care and dont use barbs because they are ferocious predators and can take your flies down deep. If they ever do get flies deep, especially in the vital gill area, just cut the line and let them go to give them the best chance to survive. The snowpack is just below average, but we have gained some snowpack this week. I will keep you posted, but the best way to find out how the river is fishing is to keep an eye on the water temperatures and go for an adventure yourself!
September 11, 2012
Well the fall season has arrived and the temps have changed drastically. Sorry about the delay in the report. I did not want to write an official report during the everlasting high pressure ridge and heat days we have had. If you fished the Blackfoot in the month of August, I know there was some decent fishing early, early in the day, but the traffic from recreational floaters and tubers becomes overwhelming and the fishing has not been great. But now I am writing this report to let you know about the emergence of fall fishing! Now that the water temperatures on the lower river are reading 55 degrees, the tubers are back to school and the fall hatches have started. The river is very low and the flow on the lower river is below average. This makes for a skinny river with pools and runs in between pockets and shallows. The hatches at this time of year besides the obvious terrestrials are Tricos, Hecubas, some random assortments of mayflies that are yellow and creamy, and the beginning of the large October Caddis. We have some cold nights and then Indian summer days on tap for the rest of the month. The Tricos like cold nights and hot mornings to really get clouding up. Although the Blackfoot is not the best river to site fish during a Trico hatch there can be some portions of the river that have some nice trout rising on Tricos in the morning, especially in cliff foam holes. There are always many options on tactics when fishing “the Foot.” You can experiment all you want with nymph rigs or streamers and they can be successful, but the most exciting fishing is when the fall dry fly bite is on. The Blackfoot is always the earliest river to start producing the large orange October Caddis. These are awesome flies! They are meaty and emerge from their little homemade homes very erratically. The fishing on the Blackfoot is pretty good right now for the most part. Please fish barbless because one thing you will know whenyou fish the Blackfoot is that there can be a lot of hits from small trout and helping protect these little guys is our future. The Dry fly bite will start off a little slow in the morning when the nights get cold like this and then look for some decent action as the day heats up. The Bull Trout are spawning so please leave these creatures alone if you see them. They are much happier now that the water tems have dropped. I generally use 3x on my hoppers and attractors, 4x on my caddis, mayfly and ant patterns and 5x on tricos. If you are going to run droppers or nymphs 3x and 4x flourocarbon are my choices at this time of year. Good Luck and Be respectful of wade fisherman and other floaters, the water is low so treat it like one of your first lessons in kindergarten, You must share and treat others like you wish you were.
July 27, 2012
The mid-summer challenge is on. How do you catch trout in this heat and how do you know when you should not be fishing for trout? The dog days are challenging and I can tell you that my operation shuts down in some of our western freestones due to high water temperatures and low water. The drought is setting in and the Blackfoot is looking like it will reach some pretty low levels if we don’t get some beneficial rains. Look at the Blackfoot River Conditions. So the gauge for this station is on the lower end. The reading I am looking at right now is taken at 17;45 PM (5:45). The river flow graph is getting low, but the really important graph is the one on the bottom, the temperature graph. As I am writing this on the evening of July 27 and the temperature of the river is 19.4 C (66.9 F). Looking at the temperature graph on the bottom of the page shows me that just a few days ago the temperature was 70. These indicators can tell you a lot, but the basics are that you should not plan on fishing much past 3 PM on the main river. The fishing is not good in the afternoon, unless you are venturing into the headwaters up the North Fork where the water is cold. The fishing is actually pretty good right now, thanks to some cool nights and the appearance of the spruce moth.
There are a lot of these out and about and the trout know it. A moth cannot handle the slightest moisture on their wings, so when the accidentally come in touch with the river water, they become prey on the water. Imitations are simple, you can use a large caddis pattern and fan the wings out. But since there are not really any actual moth patterns in the shop, this is a great time for fly tying innovations. I like to use a creamy dubbing and then use some bleach elk hair for wings. Sometimes I will double the wings so that it can handle riffles and heavy water. You can try and indicator fish and get down when the conditions are tough, but that is definitely not as much fun as seeing a nice cutthroat come up in clear water for your bug! If you have the agility and sense of adventure you can go up to the North Fork and fish but make sure you know you are in bear country. I will not be fishing on the Blackfoot when the river drops a little more. I like to leave this river alone during low water, but you can still have some nice fishing, especially if you understand the conditions and the best time to fish. If you want to be frugal, invest in a thermometer and check it every know and then. If the temperature reaches 70, then it’s time to stop. Good luck and be respectful of others, there are a lot of people that enjoy the Blackfoot at this time of year besides fisherman.
Week of June 20, 2013
Summer has finally arrived and the high pressure days look like they might have finally kicked the remnants of La Nina out of there area. There are still some snow fields in super high elevations and without any rain, the river(s) will be dropping fast. The Lower Blackfoot River Gauge is indicating that it will be dropping about 1000 CFS in a 24 hour period. So here is the deal. If you want to be a proficient fly fisherperson (politically correct), you need to understand the science of entomology. There is a reason why fly fishing in Montana in the beginning of Summer is so popular. This is the time of year when all the Western Rivers produce the most amount of insects of the year. Let me try and sum up the hatches on the Blackfoot. I will cover my bases by telling you that I am educated in entomology, but there is are multiple mayflies, caddis, and even stoneflies hatching. Here is my best list for you: Salmon Flies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, smaller what I call Bitterroot Stones, darker size 10 stones, limestone stones, Green Drakes, Pale Duns (PEDs, and PMDs), Tent Wing Caddis, Black Caddis, huge size 10 Mother’s Day Caddis, other Caddis, and more. Get the idea? I have been fishing the Blackfoot and it is hit or miss. I can tell you that you can have a great day at this time of year, but make no mistake about it, be ready for battle. I fished 18 miles yesterday during a barometric pressure change and there were tons of bugs and not many trout rising. But the river is dropping fast so everyday is a new adventure. Tactics? Well use 2x and 3x to dries and over 24 inch droppers. The Green Drakes can get some big trout looking up that might not hit the big stone dry so pay attention to the clues you get on the water. The flows are over 4000 CFS for now and rowing the big water was challenging, but not as dangerous as it will be in the next couple weeks as boulders start emerging and creating hazards. As the river drops look for cloudy days that can cause a feeding frenzy in bad weather. But we might not have bad weather, so just remember when you look to fish the Blackfoot, it has an attitude and the trout can be fickle on sunny days. Good Luck out there and be safe in the cliff hydraulics!
June 13, 2013
The Blackfoot River has about the most impressive graph I have ever seen for the end of the second week of June. The Salmon flies are out and just starting their shoreline invasion. This is a great time of year to fish the BIG BLACKFOOT! The river has what I call the double black diamond graph. The clarity is good and although you can see a slight bump in the curve from the rain cells that have been moving through Montana, the conditions are looking good. The thing to keep in mind during these exciting times is that the river is very vulnerable to rainfall events and extreme heat will also create another slight pulse. This drainage is steep and the mainstem runs very silty and has a high reaction to heavy rains. The river is about to “pop!” I floated the other day and even though there were 3 Salmon flies sited the trout were not really aware that they are out yet. As soon as the mating cycle heats up and the Golden stones also begin to join the onshore invasion, the fishing will get good. I will warn you that any report on any given day is not particularly valid on the Blackfoot for the following day. This river has attitude and you just have to keep after it and fight through the tough days to catch the day where all the big trout are looking up. The cool thing about this time of year is that it not just about the salmon fly. Entomology graphs depict this time of year yields the most abundant aquatic hatches of the year. I saw a bunch of yellow sallies, caddis of many species (including some huge ones), pmds, and even a few green drakes. The weather will drive different hatches at different times of day. You can definitely find some trout looking for the more abundant sallies and caddis, but the temptation to throw the huge dry looking for the monster is high! You can play with all tactics. For me they include nymphing, streamers, streamer nymphing, dries, dry droppers, and dry dropper streamer fishing. I will not go into detail on how those hybrid techniques work, but it gives you the idea to have fun and be innovative. The Blackfoot River loves to reward anglers sometimes for not just fishing tight to the bank or some other tunnel visioned method. You have to adjust to the every day flow changes along with the weather. The heat and sunshine drive the stonefly hatches and the cloud cover drives the mayfly hatches and usually a great dry fly bite! Do not use anything lighter than 3x and don’t be afraid to strap on some 2x cable so your monster dry fly will not twist your leader. This is a big river this time of year and I have been involved with several river rescues over the years so please do not let the nice weather alter your judgement on the power of the hydraulics and boulders emerging from a dropping river. Have fun out there and hopefully the Blackfoot can maintain nice flows for a while!