Before I sent another guy toward that river, I thought I'd better at least fish it once; so I knew what I was talkin about...
Knowing next to nothing about this river or how it came to be called:"Big Hole", I found this sign very informative...(blow it up and read - its pretty interesting)
..Of course also do as I did, and get info from 'the locals' about what's hot and visit this little shop if your ever near Divide, Montana.
"Signs of a recent hatch" were everywhere, but most concentrated below Maiden Rock down to Brownes Bridge.
Once I crossed at the town of Melrose and entered the public access of "Salmon Fly" it didnt disapoint as it bore its name in numbers of bugs and HUGE ones too...!?
I chose this one because it had a nice bright salmon color and matched the bug itself about as good as it gets. It also ended up being the right choice because of its better foam body and while others I tried often sank once they hit the faster current; this one stayed higher and was taken more often.
A brief rainstorm passed through, but it didn't negatively affect the fishing much. In fact things turned better, as the strong winds it brought knocked a bunch of salmon flies out of the bushes and into the drink, and the fish ate them up...
Still, though the access had lots of bugs it didnt have lots of access; so determined to learn the new river, or as much as I could on the first visit; I ventured onward and found a smaller public access and campground and also found it empty of other fishermen (which I understand is rare).
Things were tight however to cast from shore and because of unusually high-flows this year - areas usually wadeable were instead four feet deep.
Here though I did quite well the rest of the evening, using solely fat salmon flies and some odd techniques I made up as I went along and caught 6 nice browns all within a fifty yards of each other and my truck.
I had almost no back-cast possibilites because the overhanging trees were so thight, and even roll-casting was a bummer as I'd often snag a limb; sometimes even on the opposite shore.
What I'd stumbled upon was a channel of sorts and it was loaded with fish looking to get out of the high flows in the mainriver located not twenty feet out on the otherside of the island; and all were keyed-in on slamon flies it seemed.
Because of the limited area, I switched to my 10' 6WT and essentially 'high-sticked em' as they were in deep undercut banks and unusally flooded-runs near shore with little if any wading possible.
..I'll admit it was sort of sloppy fishing, kinda like cane poling in the south, as I'd splash the fly down on the water upstream and sometimes unintentionally skate it on the retrieve. These are all things 'you should definately avoid while fishing dries', but for salmon flies it worked perfect as thats exactly what the clumsy bugs do when blown in. They panic fluttering their wings about and make a poor attempt to swim back to shore; often triggering a viscious strike.
I know this as I threw at least a half-dozen in the river myself and watched how they reacted; some eventually geting back to an overhanging branch and crawling out, and others devoured by huge and hungry trout (the very same I would then fish too).
As an aside: This was sometimes called 'chumming' on the Big Horn, when some guides are known to "take a walk" upstream of their clueless wading clients during a hopper-infestation and whack the bushes with their nets creating a sort of chum-line down river; where of course their fishermen are casting in to.
Being a sucker for percieved 'short-cuts' on a map or Atlas, I unwisely chose to sneak over to Twin Bridges along the Melrose Bench Road and paid dearly for my last minute decision.
In broad daylight this 30+ mile dirt road is probably doable (this is a much brightened pic of 10PM), but being a newbie at hitting its' quick turns, washed out gullies, high ridges, and dodging the occasional black cow; I was at about 20 mls per hour most of the way..
I even stopped at one point at least twenty miles in and contempleted turning back, but using a tooth pick I measured the scale of 1/4 inches-equals-10 miles and determined to forge ahead...
Once I crossed over the Beaverhead and pulling into town around 10:30 the place was a shut-in; and the ride back home just as lonely as the one across the barrens.
..Still, it felt good to have explored new grounds and waters I'd never once fished before; and cant wait to go back again...
Spotted these 3 bulls before I ever entered the park...
They were an entirely different group than the two others I've taken pics of recently, and I'm keen on where these dudes hang now too (though still on private land I'm certain).
Neat encounter none the less..
After this I entered the park through West Yellowstone. I had a new pair of Korkers Chromes to try out as well as a Demo Sage Z-Axis I'd snagged from the shop.
I was all geared up and ready to cast my first fly into the Firehole when I took an errant step and nearlly became the first idiot in history to drown in the silly thing. I mean ass over end I fell into a deep pool and was over my head!
It werent the new boots fault. Instead I'd simply misjudged how shallow it wasn't and had intended to wade out a bit before making my first backcast. Its a miracle I didn't lose the rod and even managed to hold onto my hat.
I cant be certain no one saw me, but I'd be surprised if they didn't given the amount of traffic passing behind me; it being peak season in the park and all. Regardless, no one bothered to stop and help thank God and I just acted like it never happened though had 3 gallons of water in my waders and eventually needed to change.
After no bites, except an unexpected swarm of mosquitos and along with my underwear and socks still soaked, I back-tracked a bit below the Junction and had some luck in a spot I did about the same time last year.
I'd began with a stone fly nymph and indicators and had some luck, but then saw surface action and switched to a salmonfly...
They ate it up.
Even though the hatch was nowhere to be seen, I assumed it was close enough to try ...and a dozen fish later I was glad I made the switch.
As with all the big ones and little dudes too; each was carefully released back to the waters they came..
That little brown spec on the horizon I'm pointing at...(above)
...Is this huge dude and his friends who followed the same exact path of their brotherin who'd passed earlier; and each time I was forced to get back in my truck to avoid a potential disaster if I stayed put.
At one point earlier in the day I'd climbed back onto the foot path leading back to reapply some sunscreen and saw one headed my way not 30 feet up ahead. I wisely crossed the road and gave him a wide birth as dozens of tourists scrambled to take pictures.
I'd learned my lesson after last years' Yellwostone bull elk encounter; these guys mean business (above pics taken from inside cab of my truck).
Had a quick bite to eat in West and then headed home.