Big Hole River
There is no river on Planet Earth that is in the same class as the Big Hole River. There are no dams, over 150 miles of quaility trout fishing riffles and runs, with streamside scenery that will capture the heart and soul of all outdoorsman and women. The Big Hole River is very special indeed and on any given day you just might be fortunate enough to capture Brook, Rainbow, Brown and Cutthroat Trout. And if you are feeling the joy this river brings to your well-being you just might net your first fluvial Arctic Grayling. A river so unique that Lewis and Clark first named it the Wisdom River.
Starting above Jackson, Montana, the Big Hole begins its journey through high mountain pines dropping into the Valley of Ten Thousand Haystacks, then winding its way east through beautiful meadows intermixed with timbered ridges, eventually flowing into a vista of cottonwood trees and lush farm land. There is no section of the Big Hole that fishes better than the other. When we start our day the only question our guides ponder is where the best fishing might be found. But there is one thing for sure that is always present when experiencing a day on the Big Hole, it is very hard not to enjoy a day of fishing on this river. Whether you catch ten or forty, and you truly love the outdoors, you will find the Big Hole River an expression of our past angling history where solitude and pristine waters will be found.
The Big Hole travels through one of the harshest environments found in Montana, and the presence of fluvial Arctic Grayling is a testament to how unique this landscape is in the lower 48. When I was a kid just starting to fly fish we camped along the Big Hole River. In those days (the early 1960's) the river was brim full of grayling, and catching 30 to 50 a day was common. A Royal Coachman on top or underneath, they weren't too selective. Since then the population has taken a downward turn, but in recent years, due to the many folks who are putting forth a huge effort, we are seeing a big comeback. On some of our guided fishing trips into the upper reaches we have seen fish to 16", and recently some of our fishing clients have taken a number of grayling over 13 inches on a single days fishing. Pretty neat stuff! I can remember very vividly a trip I took back in the early eighty's when a fisherman I had in the boat complained about catching too many grayling. "Where are all the big browns?" If only he knew how fortunate he was.
The early season fishing on the Big Hole can be flat good. Towards the end of March we begin to see midges and blue wing olives. Then around the 5th - 10th of April, the ever-elusive Skwala stonefly appears. It can be a fun time to be on the river. Although there are not many days that you will see or find a supply of the big bugs, they are always there and do provide fish and fisherman plenty of excitement. Normally flows will increase gradually through this time, starting in March with 300-400 CFS (cubic feet per second) and eventually increase to around 1500-2500 CFS by the first of April. The ticket to hitting it right....Call us! After more than 35 years on the water we know when and where and can help you plan your early season fishing adventure.
During the first half of May, the water levels begin to rise once again. Only this time mother nature usually plans ahead of time and the water level can get with it. We always expect runoff to last until the first week of June or so. The river can run quite large during this period. On good water years flows can reach 8,000 to 10,000 CFS. Once water levels start to drop, the river clears and that typically marks the beginning of the salmonfly hatch. Although a wild and crazy time to be on the Big Hole, it may just be the best fishing of your life! Tossing a size 4 dry fly to the Big, bank-side trout that await does something to activate predator instincts.
Many anglers that fish the Big Hole are always looking for the right run for the day, but the secret lies in the hands of the patient angler. Observation is key at this time of year and our guides are always on top of the action.
Soon after the big flies are gone comes another smattering of insects - PMD's, little yellow sallies, green drakes, brown drakes, flav's, caddis, craneflies. The river's health is exceptional these days and the insect hatches are as strong now as they were back in earlier times. Excellent dry fly fishing can be found throughout the river system while the insect hatches are in full swing and terrestrials become a bigger factor in the trout's diet as July moves on. If we are blessed with good water flows, the entire month will provide excellent fishing. Even if the fishing does slow a bit in late July, we are always back on the Big Hole in early August and nighttime temperatures in the valley start to drop and spruce moths From here on out, through the end of season sometime in November, the Big Hole River continues to reveal hidden treasures allowing dedicated anglers a special glimpse into our past.
The fish that call the the Big Hole home are as unique as the river itself. Wild rainbow trout have excelled over the last ten years. Our brown trout population is flourishing and we are seeing more cutthroat and grayling now than we have in the past 30 years. There are some very large trout in the Big Hole. Though not ever easy to catch, they always provide that extra little vibe that this just could be the day!
Brookies, big browns, beautiful rainbows, cutthroat, grayling, whitefish and forever wild. The Big Hole does it all.
If you would like to see and fish the Big Hole during prime time you should give us a call. We started guiding there over 35 years ago.