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  • Lucas Young

August 24, 2020 Bitterroot River Update

We’re getting deep into summer now and as a result of many long, warm days we’ve had the fishing is slowing down. The same basic techniques and approaches will help you get into fish across the region now though if you’re diligent. By far the best bet is to fish either early morning or late evening when the temps are cooler. There are a few tricos around if you’re an early riser, or stripping a streamer through riffles and across shelves/drop-offs can be a good bet for moving bigger fish during low light hours. With a few nocturnal stones still around don’t be afraid to fish a bigger dry fly first thing in the morning, too. A big profile will help to convince shallow-sitting fish to rise. 


Mid-morning is a good time to try PMDs and brindle chutes, and possibly some tricos if you see them around. Most of the remaining hatches taper off before noon. As the day warms switch it up to a dry-dropper or hopper-dropper. Hoppers are still all over the place and fishing one before the full heat of the day is on the water can be a solid bet, especially if there’s a good breeze about. Have a good selection of hoppers in a variety of sizes and colors as it sometimes takes trying different patterns to find the one the fish want. These big insects don’t land on the water like a dainty mayfly so feel free to slap them down with a little chutzpah. A little twitch added to your drift can also be the ticket to enticing a fish enough to eat. Most terrestrials don’t just sit on the water motionless so give them some action! Like fishing a streamer and dialing in the retrieve, you might need to play around with how often and how much of a twitch to impart. Bigger general-imitation terrestrials like Chubby Chernobyls and Stimulators are also worth considering. If it’s calmer try smaller terrestrials like ants and beetles. If you can keep your eyeballs on it a small ant can work big wonders. General searching patterns are also worth prospecting with: Think classic western dry flies like Royal Wulffs, parachute Adams, and yellow humpies. And regardless of the time trout in western Montana always seem to love a Purple Haze! Have a handful in sizes 12-18. 


To double your chances and double your fun throughout the middle of the day, drop a nymph off a hopper or terrestrial to pick up some of those fish that are sitting deeper. Jig head nymphs, stonefly nymphs, and San Juan worms are all good places to start. You may need to adjust the depth of your dropper until you find the right zone. Don’t be afraid to go deep, as long as 6’. French nymphs and Perdigons can be consistent producers, especially once you find the right depth. Fish as light of a tippet as you’re comfortable with, anything from 4x-6x. Fluorocarbon is denser and more abrasion resistant than nylon and thus is our recommendation for running your droppers. The thinner diameter of lighter tippet will help smaller flies cut through the water column faster and keep them fishing in the zone longer. 


You should see the surface activity pick up again in the evening as the sun starts to drop in the sky, especially as it gets on towards last light. In some places you might be able to pick up fish on almost every good drift until you can no longer see your fly and are fishing by sound. Caddis patterns, Purple Hazes and anything that will cast a good silhouette should produce fish. Again, streamers fished through the riffles and bubble curtains and across shelves and drop-offs can also produce some of the bigger fish you’ll encounter right now during low-lights hours. 


Feel free to stop by our fly shop for the most up to date river information. We are open 7 days a week!

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