(all photos courtesy of Scott Anderson)
I had the opportunity to go fly fishing with my club out of Thompson Falls, Montana. One of the members was drawn on the famous Smith River. I could not let the opportunity pass me by. I have been wanting to get out on the Smith River for the past seven years.
We settled in at Camp Baker. This is where all the launches take place for the 60 mile float down the Smith River. You must first draw the permit and then have a safety meeting with the ranger. Ideal flows for the river are anything above 400cfs. We hit the flows perfect on this trip. Although it rained every day on the 4 night journey, but our group still had a great time. The group were all fly fishers.
Salmon flies were on the menu and the trout were ordering them by the numbers. We used a Salmon Fly dry with a San Juan worm as a dropper. This was quite effective. My buddy Ron and I boated about 25 to 30 fish on the first day. The fishing on the Smith River is not that great, but something clicked for us and we ended up doing very well for the entire 60 miles.
The first big fish went to Ron with a nice 20 inch brown that would barely fit in my hand crafted wooden net. The day always started with me on the sticks and Ron in the front of the boat. I enjoyed rowing early in the morning and Ron loved to be the first angler on the water that day. It did not take me long to catch up with my partner in crime.
I know that we would catch bigger fish as the trip went along, but we were very happy to have fish eat on dry flies. It is hard to hit the Salmon Fly hatch on any river. I hit the hatch on the Thompson River, Smith River and the Madison River this year. I got very lucky.
We rarely caught fish under 16 inches. The Salmon fly hatch cut off about the second day of the trip. I switched up to a large rubber leg pattern nymph size 2. We also used Woolley Buggers to get a few fish.
When you are out for a 18 mile float in one day you better use something simple and effective. The brown Woolley Bugger was the fly of the day producing several fish over 18 inches, but the fish of the trip was a 22 inch brown trout. When I hooked into this big boy I thought I had a carp on the end of my line!
The trip was not all about the fishing. We had a group that got along great. No one complained and everybody helped out. If you needed something to get you through a tuff time someone had what you needed. Everyone provided a great meal. We had the fire starter with us so we never had to worry about being cold on the long rainy nights.
The camp sites were the best I had ever seen. Zero trash and you could tell that the public followed the leave no traces educate. You did not see trails every few feet. You could walk into the wilderness and be in some of the most pristine areas in the lower 48.
Camping was great because you always had a wonderful view by the river no matter which camp site you picked. Each camp sight came with its own potty and the best thing was you had a great view and sometimes everybody could see you. You do not want to be shy when you are on the Smith River with friends.
It was very easy to set up camp even if it was raining. Like I said it rained every day. We did not get a break. Sometimes it would let up in the afternoon just enough so we could set up the tents. I kept thinking I was going to see a leprechaun on this trip because everything was so green and lush. And out of the corner of my eye one appeared. She was a bit taller than expected. One thing, you cannot forget the booze if it is going to rain for five days straight on the river!
Fly fishing in Montana is one of the best things you will ever do in your life time. I am fortunate that I get to do what I love for a living. I have been around the world throughout my life, but Montana has to be the best place I have ever lived.
If you are interested in booking a guided fly fishing trip with Montana Fishing Company please give Scott Anderson a call 406-210-0971.
(written by Scott Anderson of Montana Fishing Company)