The 2021 summer has seen no shortage of bad press for many Montana rivers. Low fish counts, low flows and high temperatures in places like the Upper Clark Fork, Big Hole and Jefferson Rivers have prompted closures. Even the Missouri River has experienced rare hoot owl restrictions below Holter Dam. At Frontier Anglers, we made the preemptive decision to pull guides off the Big Hole ahead of closures.
It’s not all bad news however.
The 13 miles of prime tailwater below Clark Canyon Dam are wide open. No hoot owl restrictions here because the flows are great and the water is plenty cold. The flows have actually been a bit on the high side and will drop this August. Hatches are rocking with PMD’s dominating the mornings and caddis in the evenings. Craneflies, yellow sallies and hoppers are also on the menu. The upper river is fishing great and the trout are healthy and abundant.
Keep in mind, the Beaverhead is also managed under a permit system that limits daily guide launches at each put-in site. Additional restrictions prevent non-residents from floating high bridge to Henneberry on Saturdays and from Henneberry to Pipe Organ on Sundays. This helps with crowd control and disperses pressure throughout the season. While you can always expect a few folks to be fishing the tailwater, boat traffic is limited by these permits and regulations. Here's how to make the most of the remaining summer fishing season:
The lower Beaverhead does have hoot owl restrictions and it’s important to fish early before the water warms. The warming depends on how low you go in the system. Higher is better in terms of temperature. On the tailwater section, no restrictions are in place and you can safely fish throughout the day. The evenings can see phenomenal hatches and fish activity just before dark so don’t underestimate this time period.
Capitalize on the Smoke
It’s a strange phenomenon and while nobody loves western wildfire season, the smoke can actually improve fishing. It acts as an artificial cloud cover of sorts, putting a filter on the sun. Some of the best dry fly days of the year are attributed to smoke that gets the fish looking up. It’s strange and the smoke is by no means welcome, but it does not have a negative impact on fish behavior.
Keep ‘em Wet
We have always been extra cautious when it comes to protecting our fisheries and this season calls for extra diligence. Skip the hero shots and release fish without removing them from water. Use barbless hooks and minimize handling while turning each trout loose. If you must take a photo, keep the trout in the water and make it quick.
Watch the Weather
We are looking at an approaching cooling trend and actually have seen cooler overall temperatures than northwest Montana most weeks. Cooler weather will eventually remove restrictions from many areas and fishing can normalize somewhat. The second half of August and all of September have a great outlook on the Beaverhead River. Give us a call anytime for current reports and updates on conditions.