Welcome to Montana Trout Fishing!

Bringing you up-to-date information for fishing around Bozeman Montana. Feel free to Email me anytime at Norbaracer13@hotmail.com!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Exceptional Spring Creek Fishing

               Exceptional fishing at spring creeks doesn't always happen. For many, spring creeks are often perceived as challenging. The water is crystal clear and in many areas no deeper than ten inches. Trout see you coming from a mile away and are very skiddish. A fly line carelessly flopped across the surface will cast a shadow that could spook the lunker you're casting to. Hatches become particularly specific many times of the year and the trout are selective during feeding. Its important to understand the fundamentals of entomology before stepping into these demanding waters. There are however some factors that make spring creeks the most desirable of all the fisheries. The predictable flows and temperatures make conditions nearly ideal no matter what the weather is doing. The water is always around forty-five degrees. Life long fish that never leave the creeks grow to huge lengths. Fish migrate to these creeks for ideal spawning conditions and substantial food. Insects thrive in these year-round warm ecosystems as well. Also one of my favorite things about many spring creeks is that they only have a maximum number of rods per day. With the decreased pressure and size of some spring creeks, finding solitude and quality fishing is easy.

                Like mentioned above, some anglers feel a sense of challenge towards spring creeks. I feel the same way. While heading out for my recent trip, and even the night before, I felt extreme anxiety. I felt the pressure to fulfill my moneys worth and anticipated the amount of effort and skill I would have to put forth. I knew that prior trips left me exhausted, some with good results and others with very little success. This time around, however, I knew it would be good, maybe easy. The spring rainbow spawn is underway and for a fact the fish are stacking up at Depuys. The previous night I tied plenty of Blue Midges and WD-40's, both sizes 18-20 along with plenty of orange Eggys, which I had hoped would be all I needed. It was a beautiful drive from Bozeman to Paradise Valley, as it always is. Its a trip I will always remember as Ive made it many times before in the early hours of the day. Giant mountains loom in all directions and wildlife is all but hidden. Every turn and bend in the river is as picturesque as a Montana post card.

Marks first cast fish- gota love those!
               We pulled into Eva's hut which is the warming hut at the bottom section of the property after we paid and said hello to Betty, the property hostess. We met up with a few friends, so there were five of us all together. Someone started up the wood stove as we talked and finished our coffees. Outside a few of us discussed what was good to tie on and rigged our lines with various double nymph setups. We agreed the Eggy was the ticket and that there were plenty of midges on the water. It was 8:15 am, the weather was nice, light fog at the time with a calmness in the air. The surrounding mountain-scape was hidden by low lying clouds, like smoke. It was ideal conditions to start a perfect day in a perfect place! Eva's hut is within a few steps to the river. One at a time as we finished getting ready we all walked to the water.

First cast of the day at Depuy Spring Creek
             Like many other outings to Depuys, the first twenty minutes are almost always guaranteed good fun. Collectively we had pulled in fifteen worthy trout and it had not even been fifteen minutes. Its quiet a sight actually, to see how the fish get spooked by the commotion of reeling in their buddies. Within an hour this whole stretch turned into a normal fishery again. I told Mason how this happens every time I'm here. How the fishing is incredible those first few casts then becomes a lock box allowing no room for error. Mentally I began preparing myself for the tasks ahead. After the slaying slowed down I sat my rod aside and went to see how everyone else was doing. I figured I had my fun and was in no hurry to get serious. Just while sitting on the bank watching everyone I could see trout everywhere. The football sized fish were dancing over their redds, spashing, coming nearly all the way out of the water as they rolled about spawning. The sizes of some of these fish made my heart beat faster. The sight of it all reminded me of salmon migrating upstream.

            After a few hours I was hoping I could find untouched water.  Mason and I decided to head all the way to the bottom of the spring creek, the area that is nearest to where the Yellowstone River comes in to feed it. We walked maybe ten minutes before stopping at the first hole. He went to a spot I had suggested and I went down twenty more yards to a nice spot. It was not a redd but a nice hole maybe four feet deep and ten feet long. I cast my line into the riffle up ahead and let my line drift slowly down. Sure enough, I hooked into a seventeen inch rainbow. Well this was good I thought. I was now catching fish when I knew it wouldn't be easy. I ended up catching three more hefty fish before I hooked something massive. I thought I was snagged until whatever it was sped upstream faster than I could sprint on land. My rod instantly went horizontal and before I could pull it up the fish had caught my drag so fast it broke me off. I knew that if I had kept this fish on the hook, there would be no way I could have landed it. I was using a four weight rod that day which is considered small for moderate sized fish. Each big fish I did catch became an extreme battle. Some fish were so big I could hardly "pull them" from their line in the current. It wasn't unusual to look at me that day with my rod nearly bent in half. That's part of the challenge I enjoy though, as spin fisherman have their ultralights, I had my four weight.

         Mason and I regrouped. He wanted to fish a hole so I kicked around in the water for a few. It wasnt long before I could hear splashing downstream. Closer inspection, ten to fifteen rainbows all having a good time near some redds. I walked even closer and began thinking of ways to approach in a stealthy manner. I ended up waiting for Mason so he could get in on the fun. Besides, this is the exact spot I wrote previously about having learned a life lesson in fly fishing, maybe this could teach him an invaluable lesson as well. I have a short pep talk and let him try first. My novice friend casts and casts again until his flies land above the fish. His casts are great and at first the flies land a little short, behind the rainbows. It wasnt long until his line was rolling right through the sweet spot. Sometimes the indicator goes under, Mason sets the hook. He's either hitting bottom causing the strike indicator to go down or the hook is coming out of the fishes mouth. I couldnt help but noticed the power he was putting into the hook set. Its easy to let adrenaline overcome the finesse needed. I even mentioned that he was going to rip the hook right out and I could tell he was getting impatient. Something wasnt right when he didnt hook up after plenty of perfect casts. The fish were still there clear as day, splashing about. Mason brought his line in to inspect his flies. The look on his face when he realized he was fishing with no hooks, only line, and that he had a fish on but set the hook so hard it broke his line, was priceless. Im sure that he learned something here, as I did last year, that will make him a better fisherman (see A Day at Depuys for my lesson learned). Its critical to "feel" on the hook set when fishing for trout. These were heavy trout and Mason was using 5 and 6X tippet which is only two to three pound test line.

         With so many fish under my belt already I headed back to Eva's hut for some lunch. I met Chris when he offered me a local IPA in a green can. By now everyone else was sitting around the table trading flies and cracking beer tops. We were all hooking into fish and it was only noon. I could see out the window all the trout that were moving back up. More and more were splashing around the creek now. It was nice to warm up next to the fire but I was itching for another tug of war with a beastly trout....to be continued!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Bliss: A Perfect Day With Mykiss, Salmo Trutta and Williamsoni


             On a perfect spring, summer, or fall day, one would usually not hesitate to jump in the car and head towards crystal clear waters full of hungry fish. I cannot imagine sporting a t-shirt or light fleece and trudging through refreshingly cool water in the pursuit of my obsession. To sit down next to a near perfect fishing hole with the pleasant feeling of the sun hitting my back and neck sounded heavenly. It's the sinuous, warm breeze often providing a harmonious rhythm along side the undulating tone of water. The creatures that hide themselves while I make haste begin to reveal themselves as I sit motionless near the bank. Mule deer, whitetails, moose, and otters are a few critters that I share these waters with. Even birds and waterfowl, as meager as they seem, will cause me to stop what I'm doing and stare with appreciation. It's days like these that "fishing" may not be why I am out here at all. I might as well leave the pole in the car, but catching a fish would be a nice bonus on such a perfect day.

         This winter feels especially cold, much colder than last year. Cabin fever has set in. I know that fishing follows the same aspects during the winter as my activity outdoors declines. The fish slow down and the fishing isn't worth writing home about if the temperature is below thirty-two degrees. At the first glimpse of a thirty-eight to forty degree day, you can bet that I will be heading towards my escape.

          This particular mid-winter outing was a blessing for not only my sanity but for my overall quality of life. To some, fishing is as I explained previously, a good reason to enjoy the outdoors. But for others, fishing satisfies the soul. Setting out to accomplish the task of reeling in a beautiful specimen from a beautiful, untainted body of water is something we've tried to express in articles for decades. No longer are we fishing for the survival of our families but for sport. A half day jaunt into their world only to succeed in what we set out to do is a very good feeling. Walking in and out of mother nature's world only to catch, photograph, and release trout; leaving no sign or trace except for the digital files I take is a win in my book. On this mild day in January, I found all of this remains true to me and a very blissful experience followed.

         The middle of winter submitted to a wonderful fifty degree day. I was lucky enough to be off of work on this day and I knew just what I was going to do. I arrived at the river around noon. It was nice to leave the jeep without gloves, a mask, or a hat. I didnt care how the fishing was, the day was too perfect to be indoors. I remember having the feeling that I was the only person fishing or perhaps the first person to fish this river since fall of last year. The woods and stream had a remarkable vibe that day. The instant that I stepped into this world something engulfed me, I started to get that feeling deep inside. This wasn't the picture perfect day like I had been dreaming about but it was its own unique blend of pristine serenity and beauty. I had miles of shimmering river that was mine to fish alone, which I generally enjoy. Not to say I dont enjoy fishing with friends, but fishing alone is what I enjoy most. While I made my way to my honey hole, which is about a mile walk around tight bends and through several crossings, I had spooked several mule deer which in return spooked me. Eagles gazed down at me as I passed under their perches. I thought I could toss them a trout and make some friends out here. On this day I was happy to be outside and with all I've seen I could have left happy. Then I started thinking about why I was here. I had the urge to catch fish.

       As simple as the phrase "catch fish" sounds, its really quiet deep. This was no task of simply putting on a lure and casting for fish. I was in predator mode, trout slayer mode. It was such a perfect day, however I had yet to please my urges. If I had brought a partner with me it would've been hard to hide my excitement. Like a bass angler sizing up his competition during a tournament, I too was sizing up my opponent; the river. Many say when it comes to trout fishing, that slower is better. Its taken me two years to focus on this idea. Fishing slow for trout can mean fifty different things. Today, me being slow means walking and moving slow while near water that holds fish. I also vowed to myself to fish each hole with more patience, allowing nearly four times the length of time I would usually fish one spot. My bad habits include making ten casts and moving on to the next hole or run. My theory today was conjured with the idea of catching the most fish possible (have to catch as many as I can). The ideology behind the fishing slow is good for a few reasons; mostly because the trout were still cold and a bit lethargic. Fishing slow gives the trout more time to see and consume my flies. It paid off very well.

          I fished my honey hole harder than I would have during warmer seasons. This spot was like a control in an experiment. If I couldn't take my time and catch fish here, I wasn't going to have much luck anywhere on this river. Normally I will fish with general flies that I know work; san juan worm, girdle bug, leech, eggy, blue midge etc. but this day I managed to retie a few times until I found something that worked. I managed to slow down, be patient, cast, cast, retie, cast, retie, repeat, repeat repeat and it paid off! I landed six trout once I  had figured out what they were eating. The fly of choice by hungry trout happened to be a number twenty-two olive midge nymph. They were going nuts for it! I finally dialed into exactly what they were feeding on.

        During my walk back to the jeep, a small riffle of water quietly flows into a 15x10x3ft pool and catches my eye. A stealthy approach gets me within viewing distance and I see nothing but cold dark water seemingly void of all life through my polarized glasses. Should I keep moving or gamble wasting time on such a small pool? Maybe they were holding tight against the sides. I plan my assault, observing everything about this deep little pocket of water such as how I imagine the bottom to be, possible depth, current, obstructions, fish flashes. First cast into what seemed like a hopeless, lifeless body of water and I get snagged. The snag suddenly turned into the shape of a golden silver torpedo as he started to fight, reflecting light off his sleek body. I was just stoked! I was amazed at how many trout and whitefish were in this small pool or water. Life was literally thriving everywhere. From there on, every hole I stopped at held many, many fish. They were stacked up in these holes which I had fished so hard on my way to the honey hole. The right fly was the game changer it seemed. I took my time and landed a dozen fish and hooked twice as many on my way back.

       While my trail merged with another, I spoke with a fly fisherman who was just getting back from fishing upstream. We exchanged info. In that I learned he hadn't had the great day that I did. The empty hole in my soul was now stuffed with satisfaction of a day well fished. We walked back to our cars together talking about what a great day we had. I showed him what I had used to catch my trout and he was happy to be informed. We had a lot in common I realized in just those few minutes we chatted. We were the few who yearn for such days, and the only ones taking advantage of this particular day. I knew that despite this older gentlemen being skunked, he had just as great of a day as I did. I took a moment to reflect these thoughts. More often than not we're out there alone. It's either a guide with a client or a couple when I see pairs. I love this place because of fly fishing, if not for fly fishing I wouldn't fully experience it. I feel fortunate to have discovered the world of fly fishing and trout in big sky country. Fly fishing has mended with my spirit just like the connection of a mighty trout through a fly rod.          Tight lines all!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Very 101 Dry Fly Discussion, Part 1

Heavy caddis hatch on the Madison River
           Throughout my trout fishing adventure I've learned many things. Like anyone stepping into a new hobby, I wasn't sure how I would respond to the learning process. I was worried I would invest a good amount of time and money into something I would later end up not enjoying. I had the idea that I could always resort to my spinning reel if all else failed. The first few months into my fly fishing odyssey I had a lot of doubt. I was ever so frustrated and I didnt have the patience it seemed to require. Many aspects brought me down such as not catching as many fish, spending more time retying tangled leaders and learning to cast with so many variables. All of these barriers must be experienced before moving onto the next steps . I've got my casting down, I know the basic flies to use and I can read the water to find the fish. I succeeded in the basics without giving up. The days that the few flies I had would not work, would give me a feeling of loss, all the while I was making two hundred casts each day. Even though I may not have been catching the high numbers of fish I had anticipated, I was still getting a lot of important casting practice. It doesn't matter which fly you use if you cant put your line where you want it.

              Now that I have the hardest part behind me I can look forward to the great world that fly fishing is.  I spent so many hours focusing on the basics in that first year that I hadn't had time to remember all the vast possibilities that are out there; dry fly fishing is one of them. I was re-introduced to dry flies by a friend during the summer of '13, and this particular day we had a grand time. We stood in the East Gallatin around five o'clock pm.. The two of us had rigged the usual double nymph style set up and were ready to fish. We noticed a lot of bugs flying around and the fish were rising every so often. My trout stalking accomplice suggested its time to put on a dry fly, and with his many more years experience, I happily obliged. My first cast landed a twelve inch brownie. I positioned my elk hair caddis just along the inside of a small eddie. Within only five feet and in the blink of an eye the trout took my fly. My fishing partner tied on a #16 yellow stimulator and was catching them every third cast. The fish were turned on as a thunderstorm was off in the distance, swirling towards us. A few hours later my company left. I was having such a good time I stayed a couple hours more. I walked back down river and fished the whole section all over again and had great success. I can thank my friend and a tiny little fly called the elk hair caddis for the excellent fishing that day.
Caddisfly clinging near the Gallatin River

        The next few days I reminisced about the top water action I enjoyed so much. It felt like I had a child pulling at my pant leg each day, always on my mind. I was yearning for the dry fly bite again. I hooked into some good fish one evening and did again the next day on the same stretch. I had set myself up for some serious trial and error, learning along the way. I was avidly keeping mental notes on what and where would and wouldn't produce fish. I had probably caught anywhere between fifteen and twenty fish each day and lost twice as many. It seemed the fish were growing ever so aware of what I was throwing and I had to switch through half a dozen or so colors and patterns. The third day my fly of choice was a # 18 olive adams dry fly. I remember seeing a few mayflies on the surface being taken by trout. The caddis out numbered the mayflies 20:1 but fish were eagerly coming to the surface for my adams.

            You may have heard the phrase "matching the hatch" before. Well how important is it to match the hatch? Since this is a 101 article, I am going to keep it simple for now. When it comes to using dry flies, you need to know what insect it represents. Some flies imitate a broad range of flying bugs while others hone in on one specific insect. So besides the shape of the fly, the right color and the right size are also very important. There are a handful of dry fly patterns that will work well on any given day. Chances are, If you happen to have a few of these flies in your box, and the trout are rising, you wont be displeased.

                  Elk Hair Caddis #'s 20-14 dark/tan
                  Parachute Adams #'s 20-14 dark colors, olive, tan
                  Stimulator #20-16 orange
                  Blue Winged Olive #'s 22-18
                  Royal Wulff #'s 22-14
                  Griffiths Gnat #'s 22-14 dry fly/emerger

Adams dry fly, East Gallatin Cutbow
Elk hair caddis, East Gallatin

          As a beginner, like myself, its difficult to look at an insect and know exactly what species it is. There are so many species of flies that hatch and emerge at certain times of the day, it can be very important to understand what the trout are eating during that hour. Its not completely necessary to know, but this ability will give you more options when you're out on the water or the trout are being picky. My general knowledge of dry flies has taught me a few things. The five major insects groups that trout eat are midges, mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, and salmonflies. Each one has many different species which vary in size and color. It wouldnt hurt for a beginner fly fisherman to do some research on these five groups and be able to identify them while out in the water. This could mean the difference between putting on an elk hair caddis or a parachute adams. Once the you've found out whats flying around, you can start to look for a pattern that imitates not only the shape, but also the right size and color of whats on the menu. The reward will be worth it!

        The more pressure I put on the fish, the harder they were to catch later. They would no longer come up to eat my peacock elk hair caddis like the first day. Many more days I returned for the hot action and it seemed that the fish had simply seen too many elk hair caddis flies. The general shape of the elk hair caddis is good for imitating all sorts of caddis species. The trout were smart and realized this was no longer meeting their requirements. They were more hesitant to take their time looking at the fly before wolfing it down. Not to say this stretch of heavily hit river will be void of all elk hair caddis action, but the older fish become more finicky and more specific patterns need to be presented. I will add that my friend and I were probably the first to heavily fish this section of river since early winter the previous year. The fish, like I said, were becoming more specific in their needs; This occurs day to day throughout the year. What worked one day wouldn't catch any fish the next, etc. The more flies a person can keep in their vest or bag will increase the odds if that person knows how to use them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Word About the Copper John

generic Copper John fly
           This article is going to be all about the Copper John wet nymph fly. The Copper John is one of the most common nymphs out there to date and for good reasons, it catches a ton of fish! The Copper John went through a period of changes during 1993 when it was first tied and the tier, John Barr, was happy with it by 1996. Most importantly, John found a good pattern of materials that worked exceptionally well any time of the year. This particular fly doesn't resemble any one insect, but instead acts as a number of them. I recently started tying the Copper John myself, as they aren't a beginner fly to start tying, and have had a lot of fun adding my own unique bits and pieces to them.

My red and pearl-flash Copper John variation
         The traditional "CJ" comes in one standard color design. Typically, a copper bead is in front of the thorax comprised of peacock hurl, feathers and thin skin. Behind the body of the fly are two biots that sit snugly underneath a layer of copper wire. This is the Copper John! It comes in all sizes from 12 all the way down to a #22 hook, and can be fished as a lead or dropper fly. Some folks incorporate thin lead to help build profile and bring the fly down to the bottom of the river faster. The fun part I must say about tying these, as you see in my photos, is that you can use about any color or type of materials you want to give your CJ a very unique look. I was fiddling around one day and tied a few that look similar but have their small differences. I enjoy using red copper wire along with red biots instead of the standard brown or black biots and copper wire.

       When I fish with these types of nymphs I usually decide between the Copper John, Lightning Bug, or Pheasant Tail. I prefer the Lightning Bug in silver over the other two but all of them are very good choices and catch fish year around. The CJ is best fished in my opinion as the dropper, depending on the size, and drug along with the current right on the bottom of the river or stream. Split shot is probably necessary to get the flies down to the bottom as soon as possible.

       If you are new to fly fishing you may not have purchased or tied a Copper John yet. I recommend every fly fisherman has several of each size in their box. The CJ is a good search pattern to find the fish and will work on the coldest days of winter into the hottest parts of summer. I hope you can learn from this short article and catch a few more trout with this specific fly. If they aren't hitting on the surface, maybe tie on a Copper John and you'll pick off a few trout! Tight lines all!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Depuy Spring Creek Trip Fall 2013

          Depuy Spring Creek is a special place that I previously blogged about before. It has made a deep impression on my soul that will last my entire life. When I tell people that I have fished or am on my way to fish the creek, their eyes light up with envy and excitement. Depuy's is known for its three mile stretch of gin clear spring water that flows right along side of the mighty Yellowstone river and holds some of the biggest fish in the area. A beautiful back drop of the Absaroka mountains poise just a few miles away. Mountain lions wolves and grizzly bears stroll the perimeter with golden and bald eagles overhead. Since this is private land, only sixteen rods per day are aloud on the property. When full, every fisherman can easily find his or her own hole or stretch to fish in solitude. A day at Depuys has this level of prestige over other bodies of water and every angler that fishes it has their game plan likely anticipated days before their visit.

        Being a spring creek, like I mentioned in my previous article, the fish are exceptionally more difficult to catch than the local rivers. The water is so clear that the wiser fish can see you coming from ten meters away and are very weary and decisive before they accept any given fly. My flies of choice for this trip were the very common egg pattern and blue midge nymph. The brown trouts spawn was finishing up, but most resident trout will likely take an egg pattern any time of the year. I fished the creek two consecutive
Saturdays as the first Saturday was so incredible, I had to go back for more! The weather the second day was much cooler but non the less it very beautiful. Within minutes of stepping into the creek one of my friends hooked into the biggest trout of his life; a brilliant and lavish twenty two inch mighty brown trout. This fish had a grand kype and notable colors of browns and orange hues. Its places and days like these that impact the soul so deeply to the passionate fly fisherman. This allure is what will keep us coming back to the rivers edge for as long as we can walk upright.
         The creek has warming huts throughout its property with wood burning stoves to take shelter from the elements. This second particular day was very windy. After Mason hooked into his trophy and a few more fish that we each landed, we retreated to the hut named "Evas" for lunch and discussion. Its important to take a break, whether its on the creek bank, in a car, or in a warming hut to reflect on the days efforts. Theres never a need to rush these waters but to instead let them remain quiet and flow with peace as one is slaying
Eva's Hut
the trout. The fish will remain hungry and need time to, in a sense, forget about the fisherman that are so hastily trying to hook them.

           The first Saturday this fall, and the day that I made the video from, was a phenomenal day. My friend and I caught over thirty fish ranging from fourteen to twenty inches. My hand was cramped and my arm was sore after hauling in fish after fish. The same goes for this second outing. The fish were slamming our flies, sometimes taking off with runs going twenty feet or more in just a few seconds against our drag. The quiet, almost lifeless looking water, would erupt into madness as eighteen inches of trout dances athwart the surface of the water with a life or death attitude. The excitement we had is enough to hoot and holler down to the next guy as he intends to land what could be a personal best. Often times we had two fish being fought
simultaneously and we needed to talk to each other so our trout wouldn't get muddled and twisted together.

          On the second trip the wind was pounding us towards the end of the day. I had caught enough fish, big ones, that I was overly satisfied. We made our way up to the top stretch of the creek near the fly shop. I enjoyed the company of fishing my last few casts with a group of swans. I also enjoyed watching my buddies land their last trout of the day. I'm not sure if we caught more on the second trip or not but it really doesnt matter. I was starting to get spoiled. A lot of hard work was involved so It felt well earned. Catching high numbers of quality fish only fortifies my beliefs that I am getting to be a better fisherman. Everyday we learn something new so when that problem occurs next time we know how to handle it thus landing one more trout.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Upper Madison River at Valley Garden Fishing Access, Ennis MT

      October 19th 2013 is a day I wont forget for a long time. My friends and I had sacrificed sleeping in to get up early and hit the water as soon as the sun came up. We werent even 5 minutes from leaving Bozeman when a one hundred and sixty pound white tail buck ran right in front of us. We hit him, and hit him hard, killing the massive buck instantly. My buddy (along with the rest of us) were so shook up that he wanted to get his truck looked at. This was the first time I've ever been in a car that hit a deer.

US 84 outside of Bozeman, Tobacco Root Mountains
      So now its seven in the morning and the other guy and myself still wanted to fish. The destination was Valley Garden fishing access near Ennis, Montana. It was about a forty-five minute drive from Bozeman and the sun was coming up fast. We drove forward hoping not to hit another deer. The drive on US 84 from Bozeman is gorgeous. Just after Four Corners you cross the Gallatin River. Climbing up a few gradual hills gives way to a spectacular view of the Madison and Tobacco Root mountains as you make your way to the Lower Madison River and Bear Trap Canyon, another great destination I previously blogged about. After meandering through tight corners in the canyon, in which you drive among, show off a stunning view of high mountain peaks to monotonous plains You then climb an imperceptibly steep pass that parallels the historical Bozeman Trail. Reaching the top of the pass gives one an incredible view of the Madison Valley. The amount of space viewable seems endless. Ennis lake lies in the distance to the east below the immense Madisons, and the Tobacco Roots smash right up to the foothills a mile away to the west. Passing the small town of Mcallister there is a short drive to the old town of Ennis. Ennis has a lot of character and some great stores, including a fly shop and Shedhorn Sports, for anyone visiting the town. I recommend stopping at the Ennis Cafe for a pre-fishing breakfast or post fishing lunch.

      After leaving Ennis, you drive towards West Yellowstone for about one mile, driving from the main street which is only a few blocks long . You will see a sign for Valley Garden fishing access and take a left hand turn there. The road follows massive benches and the scenery continues. The huge peaks of the Madisons hang over you to your right. You journey through the small one horse town of Jeffers and five more minutes you've reached Valley Garden fishing access site.

       There is sign with a board full of camping information and hunting restrictions. There is a small parking area there with a trail leading to that part of the river. You can instead keep going to what looks like campsites but there is a bigger parking lot and boat launch there. There is an outhouse at this location.

          I like to walk down river from here about a mile or so. I've seen people walk much further down than I have, possibly to get away from what some solitude hunters would call a crowd. I was surprised to see another person fishing between the islands, then on the way back we saw a few more, but nothing crazy. There was definitely plenty of water for everyone. I like to hike down and fish back up, taking my time fishing and walking to all the islands that are scattered throughout the river. The Upper Madison here seems like half a mile wide sometimes. Its huge!! Much of the water in the fall will be ankle to knee deep so finding the fish means finding the deeper holes, pools, and runs. This involves a lot of walking unless you know the good spots. Ill let you figure those out ;) The scenery in the river itself is absolutely outstanding. I havent fished a prettier place in Montana than at Valley Garden. The fishing the day I was there was spectacular. Easily a twenty fish day. My friend, who had hit the deer, had a fifty fish day the weekend before.

Here you can see several islands scattered through this section of the Upper Madison

           The islands attract a lot of the trout along with the side shoots between the islands and the bank. This particular day I was using a double eggy rig. Thats right, I had two of the same flies on my leader. The fall brown trout spawn was underway and the fish go crazy for eggys. Why not use two I figured? Well it paid off. I managed to hook into a very nice brown trout in a micro hole and he lept, and lept again. I kept looking at my buddy with such excitement every time this football sized trout jumped into the air. He ended up burying himself in some very thick moss. When I went to retrieve I made the mistake of grabbing the leader with my hand and he broke right off. I saw him and so did my friend so I felt a lot better about losing him. The amount of fish in this section is very high. Most are small trout ten to twelve inches, and a lot of them, but there surely are trophies to be caught here.

          I will return to Valley Garden, maybe in the spring next year. Its an easy drive and like I said the view alone is enough to left the skunked angler very satisfied. The long distances between what seems like one shallow ripple requires a lot of leg work but when you do find deep water, the fish are stacked in there. I hope this has encouraged someone who is unfamiliar with the area to give it a try. There are so many great fishing areas in SW Montana that many unknown gems like this will never be fished by some. Happy fishing and tight lines to all!