I’ll catch you up on a minute. We only spent a couple of days on Rock Creek and didn’t really experience the great fishing we have heard about from others. Fly fishing Rock Creek, MT in 2020 wasn’t on that list. It is not unusual to have a small snow storm bring an inch of so to the valley floor this month. The fishing is never technical up here, but this time of year, after a month where the fish have seen a fair number of offerings, can require reach-casts and longer leaders. The willows were moving like a stiff breeze was blowing, but it was a still morning. On the heels of the salmon fly hatch, an equally prolific golden stone hatch keeps big cutthroat trout and brown trout active through June. Local fly shops sell these patterns and more. Whenever someone says that we turn to each other and smile. Rock Creek, from its headwaters, tends to be a series of riffles, runs, and pools. I didn’t see any rising fish, but tried Beetle Betty, a Morrish Hopper, and finally a Purple Haze. I walked to the river to see if I could see rising fish and returned to the van and took my time gearing up. We didn’t see it again or the bushes move. But then there are the magical days. As September fades into October, the days grow short and the nights are below 32. Author: CS Drexel. Rock Creek, especially its upper end, fishes well throughout the winter. We tried a different spot that looked fishy downstream. We bagged it early the next morning and headed to the Bitterroot River. When we returned, someone else from a driftboat had walked downstream to fish the eddy. It didn’t last too long, but my sleeping was done for the night. Here is an image of the view from our campsite the first night. Disclaimer & Best Practices. CS is an lifelong, obsessive fly fisherman who is forced to work as a fish biologist and conservationist the PNW. While these bugs bring big brown trout and cutthroat to the surface, the real huge fish caught this time of year are migratory pre-spawn brown trout headed up from the Clark Fork. The moose hightailed it through the grass and stopped at some nearby willows. Back to the van again. Fly Fishing Rock Creek. We had never fished the river, but had heard good things about it. A cloudy September or October day spent chucking big streamers on the lower end of Rock Creek can produce the fish of a lifetime. A couple of small fish came to hand after fishing hard for over an hour. I hooked this Brown Trout on my third cast with a hopper. Getting on the water well ahead of the hatch is a good idea. April, pre-runoff, brings good if in consistent hatches of Skwalla stones and March Browns, as well as some great streamer fishing—think YELLOW—during the bumps in water flow. Camping is only allowed in designated sites on most of Rock Creek, which I think is a great idea. From its headwaters in the upper Sapphire range to its confluence with the Clark Fork twenty miles from Missoula, Rock Creek is a wading angler’s paradise. Sure, we caught a few fish with our dry flies. It was open and I decided to give it a try. He didn’t stay long and…here we go again, back to the eddy. It’s then we concentrate our efforts on wade fishing, and have some of our most productive and enjoyable days of the year up here. After leaving the Madison River for the second time, our plan was to retrace our route and fish the Beaverhead and Big Hole rivers. The damsels offer madcap stillwater action for huge lake rainbows, while just over the hill—after a burger and beer in Phillipsburg for lunch—the Creek is teaming with hungry, terrestrial seeking trout. The tea-colored water drops at a heavy pitch through some of the most scenic terrain in the West, and fabled spots such as The Hogback , The Dalles, and The Microburst are as sought after for their views as their proximity to hungry trout. Several more fish came to our flies, but didn’t hook up. In late July and August, when wade fishing on the upper end of the Creek is at its prime, we’re fond of guiding combo days where the morning is spent catching the damselfly hatch on Georgetown Lake, and the afternoon spent fishing hoppers and terrestrials on the clear, snow-fed waters near Ghilles Bridge. (No it’s not really a hatch. The sign says it’s 41 miles from the bridge to I-90. A couple of fish came to the fly and I landed a 7 incher. Keep up with us on social media for all our videos and photos of Rock Creek! We waited out the weather for a few days. Once you see rising fish, think small. But there is some the fall. So what to pack? Rock Creek’s high gradient is never more apparent as you go flying down that river in a boat, looking for wading anglers and keeping the boat in the correct fishing position. Eruption-like trout takes soon to follow! We left the Madison River with a tentative plan of places to fish as we slowly headed home. Perhaps we should have tried a few more spots and stayed another day. A hatch with an unbelievable biomass, the Rock Creek salmonfly event is a spectacle not to be missed—often the alders and willows are so choked with emerged bugs that shaking a single tree branch will send hundreds of three-inch long stoneflies downstream.
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