For me, the fall is a time filled with anticipation of that giant bull ripping off bugles at first light as the mist rises…or that girthy 29’’ brown trout smashing my marabou jig right at the boat then taking off like a hound on a hare. Unfortunately, the latter of the two is something I need to do more of in the season of the turning leaf. A guy gets so wrapped up in chasing elk around the mountains he forgets about the ghost town opportunities Montana’s waterways present this time of year. Some of the best fishing days of my life and definitely best of the year is when god’s paintbrush swoops across the land leaving an array of beautiful yellows, oranges and reds for a spectacular scenic show…and fishing of course! I would like to share a couple places that I believe will hold some of Montana’s best fishing opportunities this fall. So cheers to “Jiggin’ the Dream” in fall 2013, baby!!
This glorious beast of a waterway (Land of the Giants) holds a vast piece of my heart and some HUGE fish that will be readily available with the cooler water. This is hands down one of Montana’s most scenic spots to fish and you will see little traffic in the months of October and November. As far as a ripping fun fishing time…this is it. The big crayfish gorged rainbow trout will be cruising the shorelines stuffing themselves with crustaceans. They are bright mint silver this time of year and will fight like a raging king salmon. Not to mention a wonderful fall meal on the BBQ!! The other significant PLUS that makes this trip so wildly worth it is the shot at an enormous brown trout that can surpass fifteen pounds. The browns are fall spawners and will be making the migration up the lake and staging near the entrance of the river near log gulch. **Please note that once the browns enter the river they are in spawning mode and should not be targeted so they can have a successful spawn.** So on top of jigging HOT rainbows on ultra-lights, now is the best time of year to intercept a German brown that could easily stand as a fish of a lifetime. I’m as hardheaded as they come, but anytime the fish become more concentrated, you’re stacking the odds. So if you’re into catching more than fishing, this is the spot for you.
Intel and the gear we use:
-WHERE: Ramp in at the Gates of the Mountains and fish the entire canyon (both sides) all the way to Willow Creek.
-HOW: Create a buffer zone between your boat and the shore (my personal buffer is about 20 yards.) You want to make it a distance where you can accurately cast your jig to the shore without spooking the fish with your boat. Here is a link to a short informative video explaining the jigging application on Holter Lake:
-RODS: 5’-6’ ultra-light jigging rod (ex-fast action.) These big powerful brutes are extremely fun on ultra-light gear.
-REEL: Shimano Stradic 1000 CI4. Although not essential, the feather-light weight of this reel makes the whole experience even better.
-LINE: Stren Magnathin (4 or 6lb test.) Remember the lighter the line the better feel for jigging applications. We prefer monofilament because of the stretch which makes it more forgiving to land big fish on ultra-light tackle.
-Tackle: BART’S ZONKERS, BART’S ZONKERS, BART’S ZONKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is a take of our famous marabou jigs dressed with the extra enticement of a rabbit strip zonker tail that will make even a live crayfish look bad. As our jig guru Pro Staff member Bart Bratlien says “trout hit the Zonkers with RECKLASS ABANDON”. Bart’s Zonkers are available exclusively at Capital Sports and Western in Helena, Montana (406.443.2978) The Kit’s Crayfish and River Sculpin will be promising colors to get crushed by Holters big trout this fall. I would recommend the 1/8 and 1/4 ounce sizes.
The famous Bart’s Zonkers in the ‘Kit’s Crayfish’ and ‘River Sculpin’ flavors
-INFO CONTACT: Myself (Trevor Johnson): (406) 459.2841 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bart Bratlien at Capital Sports and Western: (406) 443.2978
There is honestly, even in the wildest book of vocabularies, no way to describe this immense manmade freshwater ocean of a reservoir. The angling opportunity here is ABSOLUTELY mind blowing and I could finish this paragraph just naming the different species that inhabit its wondrous waters. Just so I don’t go on a fishing tangent, I will focus on Walleye and Northern Pike…ok, and Smallmouth Bass. The bonus here is that all three species will be foraging in unison during the fall months. With the cooler water temps the species will be moving from the deep water basins up onto the shelves and into the shallows. AND THEY WILL BE RAVNEOUS…DEVOURING EVERYTHING IN SIGHT, ESPECIALLY THE FIRE TIGER “GLASS MINNOWS!!” For instance, if you knew you were going to be lost at sea for days on end with no food would you stuff yourself before your push-off?? Fish are genetically inclined to gorge themselves during the fall months to keep healthy through the cold winter months. Fish are cold blooded and don’t eat much in water below forty degrees so now is the time to get jiggy with it!!
I can remember a fall morning now, slowly working my way down a point pitchin’ in a Glass Minnow and feeling that “THUMP” and then setting the hook in a beefy 26” walleye. Then, not ten casts later, I got drilled by a giant northern before my jig even made it to the bottom. Fort Peck my friends, is BIG GAME fishing at its finest!! During the fall months it is not uncommon to have fifty plus fish days on the water…some days approaching a hundred fish of different species is possible. So if big walleyes, smallmouths over five pounds and pike as long as your leg get your jiggin’ arm twitching…eastern Montana is calling your name!!
A fall Walleye fooled by the “Yellow Perch” Glass Minnow
Intel and the gear we use:
-Where: I would recommend Hell Creek for the best fall fishing on Fort Peck. Hell Creek Marina is open year round and has all amenities. Hell Creek is located a short drive from Jordan, Montana. I prefer Hell Creek for fall fishing because its location on the lake. It is mid lake and has the deep water basins needed for the summer holding grounds. With the cooler water temps the fish will slide up into the shallows to forage heavily during the fall months. Hell Creek is very convenient because you won’t have to make big runs to find fish this time of year. After ramping in, head across the lake to Sutherland and work the main lake points towards the east for the best action.
-How: Once again, we are going to create a buffer zone and cast towards the shore and work the jigs back along the bottom. Don’t be afraid to jig aggressively this time of year…fish are fired up and will work hard to get food. I try to get my jig into about five feet of water and fish it back out to fifteen or twenty feet of water. MOST OF THE WALLEYE, PIKE AND BASS WILL BE IN LESS THAN TWENTY FEET OF WATER DURING THE FALL MONTHS.
-Rods: For walleye and bass we like 6’-6’3” medium light jigging rod (fast action.) When casting hardware for northerns, we prefer a 7’ heavy power jigging rod (fast action.)
-Reels: Shimano Stratic 2500 CI4. Once again, rather pitchin’ jigs or casting cranks, the lighter reel will perform better and leave you much less fatigued at the end of the day.
Line: 6 or 8lb Stren Magathin for Bass and Walleye. We like 10lb Berkley Trilene Extra Tough for northerns. Or the superlines in 10lb test (Fireline or Power Pro are both good options.) Don’t forget your steel leaders…or try a product called Toothy Critter.
Tackle: Amongst the 2013 season the Kit’s Tackle “Fire Tiger” Glass Minnow has been crowned the king of the best Fort Peck walleye jigs (kitstackle.com or Bob Wards and most other sporting goods stores across Montana.) If you have a few of these babies in the 1/4 and 3/8 ounce sizes you are in luck!! I like to dress the Glass Minnows with a 3’’ or even 4” Berkley Gulp minnow in the fall. As for the bass, I would recommend the Supercraw Glass Minnow and Rapala’s Shad Rap in a crayfish pattern.
For the northerns I would bump up to the 1/2 ounce Glass Minnows or try a Rapala Husky Jerk. Another deadly bait this time of year for northerns is pitching spoons…check out JDR’s Specialty Tackle (jdrspecialtytackle.com) They have some awesome baits with true life fish images great for big northerns and they’re a local Montana company!
-Info Contact: Clint and Deb Thomas at Hell Creek marina (hellcreekmarina.com) Clint is a fishing machine and keeps a daily tab on the conditions and the bite. They can be reached at (406) 557.2345
Have a wonderful and safe fall season exploring Montana’s fishing opportunities. I look forward to seeing you on the water. And remember, bring a camera…you will need it!! And to keep the broken record spinning, please practice selective harvest and catch and release.
(Written by Trevor Johnson of Kit’s Tackle; Photos: Trevor Johnson)