In life we all find ourselves chasing something. A perfect job, a perfect spouse and a perfect vacation come to mind easily. Chasing big fish captivates many fishermen and it has captivated me in the past. The Bitterroot produces some good fish but when it comes to big fish they aren’t there to be caught. Big fish hang out in big rivers and in lakes where they can grow to larger than average size due to the food sources and habitat. Trout don’t get very big in smaller rivers and the Bitterroot is considered to be one of the smaller rivers in Montana. Several years ago there was a large dead brown trout found floating in the river above Anglers Roost. This fish probably died of old age and was not caught by a fisherman prior to its death. It may have been caught as a smaller fish but to obtain this large size it had to have a large area to live and plenty of smaller fish to eat. Brown trout become predators when they get larger and their primary food source is smaller fish.
I have not caught a trout over twenty six inches anywhere except in a private lake in British Columbia where the fish have plenty of food and a large area to live. One of my fishing partners tagged a trout over thirty inches but we never got it to the net. It was so big that it broke off my partner’s 0X tippet and politely swam away. We both knew that it was over thirty inches because we had landed plenty of fish near that size in the previous couple of days. I have become a little obsessed with catching some of these large fish again some day but I would like to find a lake in Montana that would produce some of these larger fish.
Cooler weather has slowed the run-off on the Bitterroot. We peaked out at a little less than 9,000 cfs a week ago and this may be the peak of the spring season. Higher flows were predicted again once the weather warmed up but our cooler days have brought the flows to around 6,000 cfs at the Darby measuring station. If the temperatures stay about normal or cooler we will probably have an extended run-off season and not be floating or wading the main river until the second week in July.
The general fishing season opens Sunday, May 20, when the tributaries of the Bitterroot and lake open for the first time this year. The general fishing season is when fish can be kept along certain stretches of the river and the tributaries. Be sure to pick up a new fishing license and a copy of the new regulations for this year. There have been some changes regarding the number of fish and the types of fish than can be harvested.
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We lost another friend and fisherman this past week. Doug Duff has been a local fisherman and member of our local fishing clubs for quite some time. We will miss him.