Montana Road Trip

JD, Ed, Eric, and Rob go to Montana

Months before the departure

The first question is how to get there from Atlanta, where to fish, then where to stay…

Aug 3 leave Atlanta, stay around Kansas City
Aug 4 stay around ?Wyoming? ? South Dakota?
Aug 5 arrive Big Horn, stay in Cottonwood Campground
Aug 9 depart for Dillion, stay KOA in Dillon
Aug 13th depart for Rock Creek, stay at Ekstrom’s

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This was close enough…

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Part 1-the Big Horn

This August Ed Chamberain, Eric Davies, Rob Kissel, and I headed to Montana. Our first stop was the Big Horn, reported to the the best river in Montana, maybe the West. Our experience with the Big Horn did not damage these reports.

The first day we both had guides on the river. We wanted to have a good dry fly day (like Uncle Miltie and I did last year) but it was not to be. The cool summer had cooled the water and caused the dry fly action to be delayed. The water temps from the dam was around 43. It may have slowed the dry fly action but the nymph action was great. Ed and got numbers in the 40’s and I think Eric and Rob got even more.

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The next day Eric and Rob decided to wade fish and they had a really good day with around 13 each, with several on a dry. Ed and I had a guide trip and unfortunately the guide decided to experiment with us. We went on a jet boat ride on the lower river in search of dry fly action. We saw little dry fly action and in fact, it was pretty slow all day-especially for the Big Horn.

The last day Ed and decided to rent a drift boat. We managed to make it down the river but I do think Ed would have caught more fish with an experienced boatman. We did get 25 or so each with a nice 19 inch bow on a dry and a big 22 inch bow on a nymph. The guys who did really well was Eric and Rob. They caught so many on a nymph they told the guide they wanted to use a hopper. The guide was not too excited about the use of a hopper but he finally agreed. Bam, Rob gets a nice fish. Then double bam, both Eric and Rob get a 20 inch brown on a dry. What a day.

Again, in my opinion, the Big Horn is the best river in the Montana, maybe in the West.

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Seldom seen bear on the Big Horn

Back at Home…
We had to miss our club meetings and unfortunately left a few good friends back at home.  A few of our club members also decided to join us.

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Uncle Miltie missing his friends at a club meeting

Part 2-Dillon
After having a great three days on the Big Horn, we were excited about going to Dillon, Montana. Dillon is in SW Montana and is centrally located to several very good fishing rivers-the Jefferson, the Ruby, the Big Hole, and the Beaverhead. Dillon was also located just outside of Twin Bridges, Mt, the home of Winston fly rods. We stopped in just before closing time and had a great time looking at the historical pictures, items, merchandise, and testing rods. Ed cast a sweet B2t (by the way, that rod is going on close-out) that got him thinking. Rob got a date on one of his rods and Eric, Rob, and I got some Winston hats. All in all, the Winston factory was a great stop.

On the way to Dillon we saw several up-rooted trees. Seems they had a “micro burst” that had did damage to several buildings and trees in the Twin Bridges area. I guess wind does damage to places outside the South.

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Due to the lower water and high water temps we were only able to fish the Beaverhead and the Big Hole. The Beaverhead is reported to hold the biggest brown trout in Montana and probably the West, but you could not have proved it by us. We had a tough time with the Beaverhead. A few fish caught, but mostly frustration and lots of removal of moss from the fly.

We did have a Nascar sighting while in Dillon. “Nascar” Bob Chambliss and Tom Gage had flown to Montana to do some fly fishing. We did hear from Nascar now and then but had little physical contact except for one day we did eat breakfast with Nascar and Tom. We did hear from Nascar that he was chased by an 8 ft. rattlesnake on the Beaverhead, well, make that 6 ft., well, make that 5 ½ ft. Nascar and Tom did pretty good though fishing at the corral.

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Not everything was a loss; We met a couple in the KOA in Dillon. The man’s name was Seth Simpson and he and his wife were on tour to pottery shows and between shows he was getting in some fly fishing. His method was to go out at dust and throw a leech. He had pretty good success and pulled in a 24-25 brown, much bigger than we saw.

Rob liked Seth’s pottery so much that he brought a vase. You can see his work at 707-601-2535 We enjoyed talking with Seth and his wife at the campground, and maybe we felt a little jealous.

The Big Hole

The next river we fished was the Big Hole. The Big Hole is a very beautiful river, but areas of it were shut down at 2pm because of the high temps. The section we fished was open all day and we had a pretty good day. I finished with around 15 with a couple of nice fish on a dry. I even caught a few “whitefish”-more on that later. Rob told me a story about seeing a big fish, making a tough cast, and having the fish hit and be landed. It wasn’t so much about catching the fish, but the excitement of doing several things correctly and winding up with the fish is wonderful.

The next day we headed back to the Big Hole and we caught plenty of fish, but they just happened to be mostly whitefish. For example, Ed found a hole and I thought he was killing them. He was doing great but mostly they were whitefish. For those of you who don’t know about whitefish, they are a native species that are considered a “trash” fish. They do grow large and fight hard but are not as valued as trout.

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Ed catching whitefish on the Big Hole

I think the Big Hole is the whitefish capital of Montana. We had some unusual weather in Dillon. Almost every afternoon a storm would come up with lightning, rain, and in one instance, hail. Although Dillon is a wonderful area, I won’t be going back unless it is a normal water year. This is the 2nd year of a Winter drought in the Dillon area.

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We did have some of Uncle Miltie’s steering wheel sized breakfasts in Dillon.  I high recommend the Long Horn Saloon-if the cook shows up on time. Well, on the last stop of the trip.  Tom recommends a Mexican bus on wheels for lunch.

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We also enjoyed an ice cream parlor near the university, but the recommended steak house was only good for the scenery and not the food.

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Trip Pictures
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