This past weekend Minori, Yogi and I headed north to the Paradise Valley just south of Livingston, Montana. We spent a couple of days at Nelson’s Spring Creek Ranch. We stayed at the lodge and fished the creek. I felt it might be one of the last times we would get an opportunity to get away before our season at Trouthunter gets crazy. I highly recommend a visit to the ranch. The lodge accommodations are very comfortable, the fishing on Nelson’s Spring Creek is challenging but rewarding, the scenery surrounding the property is breathtaking and the atmosphere (courtesy of the Nelson family’s genuine Montana rancher’s hospitality) is all that you might expect from such a magical place.
May is a time of transition on all three of the Paradise Valley spring creeks. The spring midge and blue wing olive hatches are winding down so they can be spotty and sparse. And, the summer Mayfly hatches are still a few weeks to a month away. Keeping this in mind I approached my fishing on the creek with the proper expectations. I was not surprised when no midge hatch presented itself during the day. However, just enough baetis hatched to get a decent number of rainbows and browns feeding on the surface to keep this fly-fisherman entertained most of the day.
Now for the rest of the story! It was late in the day and we didn’t have more than maybe an hour left to fish when Minori and I decided to huddle up and map out a plan for the remainder of the evening. As we were sitting on the bank developing a strategy something on the creek caught Minori’s eye. At that moment I decided it would be prudent to embrace one of Yogi Berra’s famous quotes: “you can observe a lot just by watching!”. We both focused our attention on a riffle just upstream of where we were sitting. Yep, there it was. There was a very nice fish aggressively rising to something that was floating down the riffle. A closer observation revealed there were a number of caddis on the water. As it turned out, these caddis were not hatching on the creek. They were making their way over to the spring creek from the Yellowstone River where the famous Mother’s Day caddis hatch was in full swing. Never mind their origin. I immediately selected from my box of caddis imitations one of my friend Henry Ramsey’s expertly tied flies and had a go at it. Well, I wish I could report that this story had a perfectly successful end to it. However, in my excited state I promptly struck to fast when that fish took on the first cast. All I ended up with was a spray of water across my face as the fly line and leader went flying past my face. Oh well! To have cast and lost is better than never having cast at all.
Box Canyon: The “Box” has been fishing very well during the past week. Pretty much a nymphing game with double nymph rigs dead drifted under your favorite strike indicator. The most effective combination has been with two small (sizes #14, 16 and 18) beadheads. There has been a little dry fly fishing with baetis and March Brown imitations from the Cabin Pool down through Last Chance Run. Fishermen have also been taking a few nice fish dead drifting streamers at the top of the float and stripping them through the bottom half of the float.
Last Chance: Fishing on this section of the river has been rather disappointing all spring. There have been a few dry fly opportunities during fairly weak baetis and March Brown hatches on overcast days. There have been a few nice fish taken using Trout Spey tackle swinging small leeches and soft hackles.
The Ranch: This section of the river is closed until June 15th.
Wood Road: The fishing on the Wood Road section is pretty much the same as that on the Last Chance section. The exception has been there have been several very large rainbows caught here mostly on nymphs and small leeches.
Warm River: The Salmon flies are hatching on the Warm River proper and this is producing excellent dry fly and nymph fishing with the appropriate imitations.
Warm River to Ashton: This section of the river is currently producing poor fishing due to inclement weather, high flows and off-color water. If you must go try double nymph rigs with plenty of split shot to get you on or near the bottom. You’ll hook plenty of whitefish but there will be a few trout in the mix.
Ora to Chester: This is where the action is. Name your poison. It’s all available here. Dry fly, nymph and streamer. Oh yea! Should I mention this is also where all the people are. Get in line to launch your boat and enjoy the fishing.
Chester to the Fun Farm and below: Kind of slow down here due to high flows and discolored water from the Falls River.