The good news is that area rivers were dropping fast and clearing early this week.
The bad news is that area rivers were dropping fast and clearing early this week.
There's still some snow left in the mountains, which should produce another spurt of runoff, with the hot weather this week. But after last week's blowout, all the area streams have nosedived well below the long-term median flow levels. So it appears that high water has peaked.
That's good news for anglers in the short term. But it's also a scary sign for trout and anglers later this summer. Without some substantial June rains, drastically low stream flows loom on the horizon.
In the meantime, two major angling events could raise spirits in western Montana this week: the salmonfly hatch on Rock Creek, and the perch feeding frenzy on Flathead Lake.
Doug Persico at the Rock Creek Fisherman's Mercantile says he expects to see big orange bugs buzzing around the stream any day now. Flows on Lower Rock Creek dipped from almost 1,600 cubic feet per second last Wednesday to 860 cfs Tuesday morning.
The Flathead perch extravaganza is even more imminent.
"There are schools of ravenous perch in East Bay," says Pablo fishing tackle manufacturer Dick Zimmer.
In three hours last Sunday, Zimmer and a companion hauled in more than 200 perch. Every fifth or sixth one was filleting size, he said, with some "jumbos" up to 14 inches.
Zimmer was jigging for the perch toward the east side of the bay, about midway north and south, in seven feet of water, according to his weekly fishing report. In the cool of the morning, he said, mackinaws were also hitting.
Here are some other angling options in western Montana:
Flathead Lake - Zimmer also tried jigging off Rocky Point last weekend after his perch-fishing excursion, and filled up the rest of his cooler with lake trout. He caught them in 150 to 170 feet of water on his Leadagator and Trilobite jigs. The largest was a 33-inch, 12-pounder. Zimmer reports that Matthew Knight continues to catch monster macs at the north end of the lake and on the river delta. Knight uses large, whole bait fish, nine to 12 inches long, fished on the bottom, according to Zimmer.
Pablo, Kicking Horse reservoirs - Twister Tails, plastic worms and grubs are taking good catches of bass at both Flathead Indian Reservation reservoirs, Zimmer said.
Crow Reservoir - Smallmouth bass are schooled up near points and islands in 60 feet of water in this reservoir west of Ronan, Zimmer reports. Anglers are tying into them with yellow or green chartreuse Twister Tails cast toward shore and fished back toward the boat.
Lake Mary Ronan - Anglers had a good opening weekend trolling for kokanee salmon last week, according to Gene Garrison, owner of Mountain Meadows Resort. Most anglers caught fish, he said, with some limits being taken. Trolling LMR special flies baited with maggots behind three to five colors of leaded line was the hot ticket in the early season. Water temperatures aren't warm enough yet for good perch fishing.
Georgetown Lake - Poor weather conditions - high wind and rain - spoiled the opening weekend at Georgetown, according to Betty Stuart and Stuart's Georgetown Landing. "The weather was so icky we haven't had many people out," said Stuart.
Seeley, Salmon lakes - Pike fishing remains good at both lakes, for anglers using smelt or large spoons, according to Chris Gehrke at High Basin Sports in Seeley Lake. One woman caught a 10-pound pike at the Seeley outlet Tuesday, he said.
Harpers Lake - Anglers are taking nice catches of rainbows in the 1-to-2-pound range, using marshmallow-and-nightcrawler combinations from shore, Gehrke said.
Browns Lake - Anglers fishing from shore with bait had fair success catching rainbows up to 6 pounds last weekend at this Ovando-area lake. Fly-fishing, using leech patterns, and trolling was slow, according to several angler reports.
Lake Alva - Stripping nymph pattern flies from float tubes has been effective for nice-sized cutthroats, according to Gehrke.
Noxon Reservoir - At an invitational bass tournament last weekend, competitors caught 800 pounds of bass, averaging 4 pounds apiece, according to Ernie Franke at Krazy Ernie's in Thompson Falls. Most anglers were using rubber worms and grubs for largemouths, and spinners for the smallmouths, Franke said. Bass fishing is catch-and-release until July 1 at Noxon. Pike fishing also has been excellent this spring, with anglers using both hardware and smelt with success, he added. "We had a pike in the store (Tuesday) morning that was 35 inches long and 13 inches from top to bottom, a big old spawner," said Franke.
Thompson River - The salmon fly hatch has been "full blown" the full length of the river for the past week, and providing some very good fly-fishing action, according to Franke. The water is just slightly off color, he said.
Bitterroot River - The river has dropped and cleared dramatically during the past week, said Bill Bean at Fishaus Fly Fishing in Hamilton. Some hatches are taking place, including some blue-winged olives and caddis. The East and West forks are providing the best fishing, both wading and floating. Patterns to use are blue-winged olives, tent-win caddis, parachute madam X and royal wulff. On the lower river, throwing skwalas is still productive, according to the Web site of Grizzly Hackle fly shop in Missoula (www.grizzlyhackle.com). Extended body march browns, in size 12 and 14, also are effective. If fish aren't rising, try nymphing with bead-head princes and pheasant tails, or streamers.
Rock Creek - While waiting for the salmon fly hatch, fly-casters can find some action on any dark-bodied caddis in size 14, said Doug Persico at the Rock Creek Fisherman's Mercantile. His Web site is (www.rcmerc.com).
Clark Fork River - It's still pretty big, but not as ugly, according to the Web site of the Missoulian Angler fly shop in Missoula (www.missoulianangler.com). "Always the last to get very fishable, it will come into shape soon."
Blackfoot River - With a flow of 2,640 cfs Tuesday, and much improved clarity, the Blackfoot should "flat out swing" on big streamers and stonefly nymphs, according to the Web site of The Kingfisher fly shop in Missoula (www.kingfisherflyshop.com). "We think the warmer weather this week will send another push of water into the river by the end of the week, so if you're wanting to hit the Blackfoot, do it soon."
Missouri River - Tuesday's flow below Holter Dam was 3,130 cfs, which is ideal for wading, according to The Kingfisher's Web site. The water is still pretty cold, but the warm daytime temperatures this week will go a long way to warming things up a bit. Nymphs and streamers are still the name of the game, but toward evening on these sunny days, dries should provide some very good action on top from about 6 p.m. until dark.
Rogers Lake - This pretty little Flathead Valley lake has been producing some good fly-fishing action for cutthroats, according to Bill Kamps at the Sportsman and Ski Haus in Kalispell.
Stillwater, Whitefish rivers - Both are producing the occasional pike, said Kamps, but fishing has been slow.
Swan Lake - Pike fishing, using smelt as bait, has been fair lately, according to Kamps.
McGregor Lake - Trolling for chunky rainbows ranging from 1 1/2 pounds up has been picking up recently, Kamps said. Try trolling small Rapalas, Flatfish and small spinners.
Bitterroot Lake - The big Kamloops rainbows are cruising the shoreline now, according to Kamps, giving fly-casters a chance to tie into them with streamers or nymphs. But, he added, it's demanding fishing. "It's like stalking a big buck," he said.
Echo Lake - The water level is extremely low, said Kamps, making it difficult to get a boat in the water. Bass are staging off the shallows preparing to spawn and have provided some action for those anglers who manage to get out to them.
Canyon Ferry - rainbow fishing has been very good on the north end of the reservoir between Kim's Marina and Shannon, according to Troy Humphrey of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Helena Resource Office. Shore anglers continue to have better success than the boat anglers, although both have had good action. An assortment of bait and lures seem to be working, including gold and black Rapalas, green Rock & Rollers, chartreuse or black jigs and nightcrawlers. Walleye fishing continues to be slow.
Hauser - Black Sandy continues to be good for rainbows, according to Humphrey. Trollers using black and copper Rapalas are doing well around Black Sandy and in the Causeway. A few walleye are being picked up in the Causeway on green or chartreuse jigs.
Holter - Rainbow fishing from shore at the ramps has slowed down, but anglers trolling Rapalas are starting to have good success, Humphrey said. For rainbows, try trolling between Log Gulch and Split Rock. As water temperatures rise, walleye action is picking up. Walleye anglers are having good luck in the Cottonwood Creek area using green jigs or trolling Rapalas.
Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir - Kokanee action continues to be hot in the early morning hours. The best bet is trolling cowbells with a Wedding Ring tipped with maggots.