October may just be the best month for outdoorsmen and women in Montana. Basically every species we can hunt or fish has an open season. I recently spent a week fishing rivers like the Big Horn, the Ruby, Bitterroot and Black Foot.
I rarely stray from my routine of using every free minute hunting from September through December but a unique opportunity to travel and fish across Montana for big trout arose when a fly fishing rep from Oregon named Dick Sagara invited me along. Since he was paying for expenses and I like to try new things I decided to go.
Grass on the Big Horn never stops flowing by… in October.
The fishing conditions weren’t ideal, it was bright and sunny and warm most of the week but that didn’t stop us from catching fish. The Big Horn River had so much grass floating down it’s shallow bed that it was tough to cast without tangling up hooks with clumps of weeds and grass. I never landed a fish in the hours we had to fish, but I had an encounter with a monster brown trout that has ensured I’ll be back. I cast a fly close to the river bank and the moment it landed he charged and in a swirl missed my offering. The width of his tail was reminiscent of a steelhead. More browns swiped at streamers but not aggressively enough before it was time to move on to visit more fly shops.
Dick Sagara fighting a big Ruby River trout in October.
When we arrived in Alder, MT conflicting reports of river conditions led us to the Ruby River where I met two bait fisherman who had just got off work and hurried down to the water edge. My efforts to re-spool fly line resulted in a ten minute game of what the %#&*! just happened. Once I remedied the problem I made it to the river myself. During the time it took me to untangle lines and walk to the river the two bait guys had already landed 4 fish and had another one on! I spent my time photographing Dick fishing with gear we were field testing and big trout rolled. The next morning I left my camera in the car and landed a fine brown trout on a nymph, ahhh… I wish we had more time to fish but I know I’ll be back.
The Bitterroot River isn’t known for big trout but good healthy fish willing to bite can keep an angler busy even on a warm October afternoon.
The next day I was on familiar water on the Bitterroot and spent more time fishing and less time photographing. Beaded pheasant tails adorned the end of my fly line and solidly built rainbow trout came to the net. I realized when the biggest of those trout bent my rod that I’ve been missing good river fishing in October for a lot of years. Big streamers, small nymphs and dry flies can all be employed to bring autumn trout to net, and the best part of it all was I didn’t have much company other than the guy I brought along.
Now I’ll have to figure out how to stuff more fishing time into my already full hunting season, and I heard the steelhead fishing is really heating up in states to our west…