and possibly miserable, before a storm passes. Or if the water turns to mud for some reason, youâ€™re married to the float. When wadefishing, you can change your mind and your location. You can also access all the secret water, the little sloughs and side channels and backwaters that anglers floating past in a boat may never notice, waters that offer some of the biggest fish and the most phenomenal experiences that can be had on a river. Fortunately, there are plenty of rivers that offer just those kinds of options, and some of the best are located in southwest Montana. Here are three of the most promising, all worthy of your time and effort this summer.
Ruby River The Ruby divides the Gravelly and Snowcrest mountain ranges southeast of Dillon. Its upper section runs through national forest lands, which means itâ€™s wide open for fishing and camping. Here, as spring runoff subsides in early July, anglers test deep pools and undercut banks mostly for rainbow trout, along with a smattering of browns, cutthroats and grayling. Most of these fish range between 6 and 11 inches, but giants can be found
here, too. According to former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Dick Oswald, the upper Ruby always holds a few browns that range between 7 and 12 pounds. Look for pale morning dun mayflies coming off most summer days, followed by caddisflies in the late afternoon and evening hours. If you target oversized browns, work Muddler Minnows, Woolly Buggers and other fishy-looking flies under the cutbanks and along the bottoms of the deepest pools. Ruby Reservoir, which provides good summer fishing for browns and rainbows, divides the upper river from the lower sections. Below the dam the Ruby is fertile and grows much larger fish, on average. Here, tiny Pheasant Tail, Prince and Baetis nymphs take lots of brown trout that average 14 inches long and stretch past 20 inches on occasion. During late July and August these fish key in on two large insects: craneflies and grasshoppers. Casting imitations of each may draw great surface strikes, so make sure you carry those patterns with you.
Unfortunately, the lower Ruby flows mostly through private land and is difficult to access, the exceptions being just below the reservoir where a few public sites allow access to great sections of water.
Big Hole Gallatin
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Map by Jonathan Marquis
Montana Headwall Page 40 Summer 2014