Trevor Johnson of Kit’s Tackle on Fall Cast N’ Blast in Montana
I can still remember early September trips to Fort Peck for the annual cast n’ blast trips when I was a child. Even at a young age, the hardest decision we had to make was to head to the field or get out on the water. We would usually fish the early mornings until about noon and then trailer the boat (I always had a shotgun up front in the truck just in case a wily flock of sharp tails would pop out of the stubble on the way to the ramp). In the case that the fishing was great, we would sometimes fish all day and do a quick evening hunt. Fall fishing on Fort Peck is the days of trolling Chinook Salmon and jigging for exploding smallmouths. The fall is such a great time to cast a line because the weather is cooler (keeping my fingers crossed) and the fish are usually starting to get active. When the water temps start to drop, fish sense that the winter months are fast approaching and they better start gorging to store fat for the lethargic months ahead. I had the same thoughts watching the smallmouth bass fillets fry hot alongside the breasts of a couple fresh sharp tailed grouse for supper. A fresh grouse and fish fry campfire dinner is as good as it gets. If you have never had ruffed grouse and brook trout fried hot around a campfire it is a must do on the bucket list. There is something so wild and rewarding about cooking a meal fresh from the field that you harvested yourself, but even I bring freeze dried dinners for the days I starve on humble pie.
If the hot weather keeps haunting us, it can work to your advantage to hunt the early mornings and fish in the heat of the day. In fact, when bow hunting around Lincoln, I like to hunt the mornings and then fish the Big Blackfoot mid-day for Cutthroat and Brown Trout. When I’m hunting around Seely Lake I like to fish out of my float-tube at Clearwater Lake for HUGE Cutthroat and Brook Trout. Usually the heat of the day yields the best fishing in the fall. After chasing elk all morning or following my lab and setter through the woods flushing Ruffed and Blue Grouse, it feels very therapeutic to soak my bones in refreshing fish filled cold water. I must warn you though, when the fishing is good (which is always is) it’s sometimes hard to get the afternoon hunt in when you’re having so much fun. I have to tell you, I feel like the luckiest man alive to be able to hunt the high mountain ridges at dawn and be slaying stream residing trout by the afternoon. We Montanans are very lucky to live under such a big sky filled with endless adventures. For folks like me that love to hunt, but always have a twitching jigging arm, a cast and blast kickoff for Labor Day weekend is a great way to welcome the fall. Wherever your weekend adventure takes you, I hope it’s filled with fish and game. Remember to be safe, have fun and as always, cheers to “Jiggin’ the Dream.”
Here are a few tips for fishing and hunting Labor Day weekend:
1.) If you’re fishing rivers or streams, its peak hopper season!!! For kids, this is dynamite!!! Also, look for the marabou jig fishing to go bonkers!!!
2.) If you’re fishing lakes…think BIG baits. Fish are looking to exert energy on forage worth their while for packing on the pounds for the coming winter months.
3.) With the hot weather, handle the fish gently and return them to the water as fast as possible. Fish you plan to release should be unhooked in the water…if its photo quality be speedyJ The hot weather is very hard on the fish.
4.) Switching gears to upland birds, look for the prairie crew (sharp tails and hungarian partridge) near water and the mountain grouse on the edges of big parks. The hot summer along with little moisture has brought very little grass to the timbered area’s making the hoppers flood the parks. Also, with it being a poor berry year the mountain grouse will be relying heavily on big fat grasshoppers!!! So prairie birds where there is adjacent water and mountain birds in or on the edges of the parks.
5.) Elk and deer…Water=Success!!!