A few weeks ago now, I returned to one of my favorite places, Southwest Montana, with none other than Mr. Q. It was wonderful to be back there in September, with the crowds gone and the sky lit up in bright reds and yellows at dusk, enhanced by the ashes of wildfires rising into the sky over Idaho to the West. The days were warm and comfortable, and the nights very cold, with ice on the river's edge and our waders frozen, at dawn.
(Click on photos to enlarge)
We stayed at Kelly Galloup's Slide Inn, right on the banks of the Madison River a short distance below Quake Lake. Here the river is fast and powerful, and the trout that reside in these blue-green rushing waters share those same attributes. We caught many of them, mostly on subsurface patterns, with the brown Serendipity taking 80% or so of the fish. Here's a typical Madison River slide area run - you don't wade the river much throughout this section, you walk the banks and primarily fish the water within a rods length of the water's edge. If you find a large boulder, you fish the water around it hard and deep, and hang on when a fish takes your offering because they don't take it lightly, and before you know it they will be halfway to Ennis if you aren't paying attention.
Here's a big brown I took one evening near dusk just below the run shown above on a #16 brown "dip".
And we fished in Yellowstone Park - here's the Firehole in the canyon a few miles above where it meets the Gibbon to form the Madison. The water here is crystal clear, and deceptively deep. We hit a fairly heavy hatch of white miller caddis that were hatching and egg-laying simultaneously. They are a white #16 caddis that is best imitated with a hackled pattern, as the trout seem to key in on the skittering adults. A dead-drifted pattern would be ignored, yet the instant you twitched or skittered your fly, they would follow.......and sometimes grab it.
And here's the Madison a mile or so below where it is formed by the two aforementioned rivers. It is very much like a spring creek here, and full of rainbows and browns, that also chased the white millers, and sipped the blue-winged olives, that hatched throughout the day. As you can see in the photo, there are a myriad of currents just waiting to drag your fly, and reveal it as the fake it is. The strong, gusty winds that course through the Madison meadows this time of year also make it a real challenge, but if you are patient and wait for a lull in the wind, you can take some of the most beautiful wild fish you'll ever lay eyes on.
And here is the view from one of my favorite stretches of the Madison River, just below Hebgen dam looking down river and up to the sky. The fish here are very strong and torpedo shaped. They take flies off the surface so quickly as they bolt up from the bottom, that if you blink, you will miss the take and the fish, and they'll be back on the bottom out of sight.......and a little smarter for the wear.
Here's a female rainbow I took shortly after I took the photo above. Check out the tiny black spots and pink gills plates and fins - typical of the rainbows "between the lakes".
On the day before we came home, we hit this small creek that sits in the mountains just south of Bozeman. It is loaded with wild rainbows that eagerly took our dry flies - white millers and little blue-winged olives. We took too many fish to count before a cold rain moved in and we decided to call it quits and go visit our transplanted friends in Bozeman, before heading home the next day.
And here is one of those mountain creek rainbows - not very big, but beautiful all the same.
That's our story, and we are sticking to it. I'll share more photos in the weeks to come, but no more fish pics as I only took a few, preferring to get the living gems back in the water as quickly as possible. We had a great time, and look forward to going back as soon as possible.
Sharpen your hooks!