Streams Outside of Yellowstone National Park
.............................Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park


Fly Fishing the Big Hole River - Part One

The Big Hole River lies in Southwestern Montana in the same general area as several
other blue-ribbon trout streams. By the way, "general area" in Montana language
means within a few hundred miles. This river is different in many respects from the
others in this area of Montana, and in some way, different from any river anywhere in
the world. You will see the differences as we go along.

We approached the Big Hole Valley on highway #43 from Interstate 15 leading into
Montana from Idaho. We had been fishing in Sun Valley Idaho the week prior to that.
Coming down the mountain into the valley I noticed Joseph Creek and could not resist
fishing it. I always study maps before any trip and keep a GPS along with me at all
times so I was aware of it and curious about it. Joseph Creek turned out to be the best
part of the two following days. We caught one beautiful brook trout after another in little
small willow lined stream. We spent about four hours there and figured we would arrive
at Wisdom about sunset in time to find a motel and check in for the night.

The Big Hole is a one-hundred fifty-five mile river that starts in the Beaverhead
Mountains at Skinner Lake. The river is the outlet from the lake. It is a small mountain
stream at that point. When it gets to Wisdom, the North Fork River joins it making it a
much larger stream.

My Big Hole River experience begins at Wisdom. We did not fish the headwaters but for
a very short time our second day there. The upper end of the river lies near Jackson.
Above there a gravel road follows the stream. At that point it is a very small stream. We
stopped at a couple of places and a few caught brook trout and one small cutthroat.
The fishing there was not near as good as it had been in Joseph Creek and we wanted
the larger trout and Grayling the Big Hole is known for.

I had read more than once, not to fish the river during the irrigation season during the
summer in the Big Hole Valley because of the mosquitoes. Well, i was not going to let a
few small bugs keep me away from a place I wanted to fish. I say "me" because my wife
Angie, didn't know anything about the mosquitoes. I failed to tell her anything but the
good things I had read about the Big Hole.

We found what was apparently the only motel there. There was not a single vehicle
there except the owner's car who lived there. He had a very strange look on his face
when I checked in. Later, I realized he could not believe anyone was stupid enough to
come there at that time of the year. I had noticed a mega number of mosquitoes when I
walked from the car to the office door but I didn't say anything to him or ask any
questions. I thought that if we got into the room, everything would be fine. Well, I was
wrong about that. They were probably a few dozen mosquitoes in the room. We
unloaded and quickly left to go get something to eat. There was no place open to eat,
so we went into a small store to get some junk food. We darted in the store to get away
from the mosquitoes but that didn't work. The store was full of them. We meet another
person with that strange look on her face.

They more or less flood the entire Big Hole Valley with water from the river during the
summer. The months of June and July are the worst months for the mosquitoes. We
were there in July and the river flows were low and the mosquitoes were horrible.
Repellent would not begin to work or even help it seemed to us. I should mention that
the lower end of the river can be fished during June and July without an abnormal
number of these bugs.
Angie had a bug net that covered her head. I looked under it the first day and she was
crying. I felt sorry for her and bad about the mistake I had made. I felt stupid and was
stupid for even attempting to fish. Check back tomorrow. Things will get much better.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh