Did a little “Crick” fishing’ with my daughter yesterday. Had to get out and have a walk around. And catch some fish in a boulder filled stream. We found a few, and we also found surprisingly cold and powerful flows for late-summer. Some of that is due to recent Thunderstorms dumping ample rain over the Upper Missouri region, but most of the higher elevation freestones I’ve fished this summer seem to have “normal+” flows, despite the drought conditions many of Montana’s larger lowland rivers are experiencing. I’ve heard this from a handful of anglers from other parts of the state as well (but not everywhere).
I’m always at ease tackling a small mountain stream this time of year, knowing I’ll only need a handful of flies and some 4X. If things get tough, I’ll throw on a BH dropper. Yet I continue to find these “easy” fish doing what all trout in Montana do in August. Eating Tricos. You’d think after so many years of doing this it would no longer be a surprise. Yet it is, and I still rarely have anything close to a Trico in my backcountry box.
And some of the bailout and inside lies these freestone geniuses can set up in are just as tough as the Missouri. Maybe tougher considering the cliffed-out, deep wading, brush busting, knee scraping approaches you need to make. But it’s fun, and most of our local creeks contain some good fish to go along with the smaller trout one expects. Fish that are worth bruises and punctures.
We didn’t catch a ton of fish, mainly because we didn’t fish that much. This kind of trip involves some non-angling activities. Hiking, checking out caves, general exploring and maybe a river nap. But when we fished we caught them, and I don’t think we found a fishless pool. And that’s not always the case.
While these streams can and do suffer from extremely low flows, warm water and a lack of oxygen, they don’t seem to be this summer. At least no where I’ve looked around North-Central Montana. There are some fantastic mid and upper (“side country” and “backcountry”?) elevation freestone opportunities right now that shouldn’t be viewed as a plan B. Excellent fisheries with good numbers of fish and some good ones if you look hard enough and walk long enough. Before you do go, however, take a thermometer and check the temp. If you’re not familiar with the stream try to get some intel on regular flows for this time of year (many of these streams do not have USGS gauges).
Get out there!