Weekly Fishing Report: How they're biting out West
Another yearly trip to Montana is in the books! Over the last ten days quite a few readers have emailed me with interest on my fishing trip and requested I write a bit about it. I'll give you the abridged version. I spent five days along the Madison River from West Yellowstone downstream to Belgrade, MT area. My saga began on the Upper Madison between Hegben and Quake Lakes, through Raynolds Pass, Eagles Nest, down to the Hutchins Bridge. In the Eagles Nest area of the river I was treated to the Montana Fishery employees electro-shocking a 50 yard stretch of the river out of a customized drift boat. Within this river stretch they capturing at least 30 wild trout with three brown trout over twenty inches. Needless to say, the Upper Madison is a very productive wild trout fishery and is teeming with large trout. The Upper Madison is a raw powerful river with many breathtaking whitewater areas. The flows were extremely fast and strong, even for what resident Montana anglers consider "low water" flows of late summer. The closest thing in our area that is akin to the look and feel of the Madison would be the brawly flow of our Loyalsock Creek during spring run-off.
The last two days of the trip I fished the Trapper Springs area of the Beartrap Canyon section of the Madison. This Canyon was plagued by forest fires in early summer. The scars of this epic fire were evident by the blackened hillsides surrounding the river. In this Canyon area the river widens with a slow uniform featureless flow. It reminded me of fishing the waist deep runs of the Susquehanna River. The fishing here was superb. I landed fish every day and used only 5 flies the whole trip; a size 18 Shop-Vac, a size 16 Godfather Emerger, a size 14 woven body black and brown "general-pattern" nymph, a size 16 Purple Haze Emerger, and a size 14 Royal Trude dry fly. I caught a good mix of large brown trout, rainbow trout, and the occasional cutthroat trout.
The weird thing about Montana in September is that the ambient temperatures swing madly from the early morning to the afternoon. I awoke every morning to sub-30 degree weather with ground frost. By 11:00am the sun was hot and approaching 70 to 80 degrees. I found these temperature swings maddening since I had to wear sweaters and mittens in the morning and as the sun rose, stripping off my flannel layers and finishing off my fishing in a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals. However, the river water temperatures did not change much from a balmy 58 degrees in the morning topping out at 63 degrees by late afternoon. These temperatures were perfect for trout to feed constantly throughout the day.
I do have to mention that upon my departure day at Gallatin Field, a nice couple commented on my ever-present Penn State ballcap. This cordial couple struck up a nice conversation inquiring on my week-long fishing exploits and then asked me if I hailed from Pennsylvania. I replied that I reside from a small town in the Northern Tier (and that they probably never have heard of it). They chuckled at my reply and informed me that they were formerly from Sayre, PA and that they had also fished the same stretches of water that I had been on all week! Little did I know that I was in the presence of a fellow sportswriter Mr. Piatt and his wife. As some of you may recognize the name, Mr. Piatt used to be a sports writer/editor at the Morning Times and is familiar with my outdoor sports writing. I was amazing that even being 2,000 miles from Bradford Countyâ¦ I still found folks from home! It's truly a small world! (Mr. and Mrs. Piatt, if you happen to read thisâ¦ I'm honored to have met you both.)
I have a few notable bits of information to give out prior to getting to the fishing report. First, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will be conducting fall stocking of trout on a few of our local fisheries: October 1, stocking the Loyalsock and Lycoming Creeks. October 2, stocking the South Branch of Tunkhannock and Bowmans Creeks. October 3, stocking Mountain Lake and Hunters Lake.
Additionally, on October 1, Join Steelheader Adam Cook manager of an Orvis Store in Western NY as he discusses "steelhead alley" from Buffalo to the PA line. Adam will also give insight into the "crown jewel" of Lake Erie tributaries, Cattaraugus Creek. Tips and techniques for locating and catching these great fish will also be explained. This program will be held at the Big Flats Community Center in Big Flats, NY and will start at 7pm.
Currently, the big draw for anglers is the Salmon River along Lake Ontario. The Salmon run is in full swing. The returns are absolutely massive this year with a record amount presently in the river and a pile of Salmonids staging at the mouth as well. One really good slug of rain will jam pack the river full of fresh fish. There is no need to wait until the traditional "Columbus Day weekend" to head up there. The water is quite low making wade fishing excellent and most anglers have been limiting out within an hour or so of fishing. This is quite arguably one of the best early seasons I have seen on the river in at least a decade.
RIVER FISHING: The Rivers have taken on a nice green tint and the big bass are starting to feed heavily. The walleye, muskie, and pike bite has picked up due to the cooler water temperatures. We are not quite in the "feedbag" days of fall, but right on the cusp of it. Now is the time to get out and scout out the deeper areas so when the bite is hot, one will know where to head first! Bass have been feeding in the shallows at first light and at dusk. They can be regularly taken shallow running crankbaits and topwater lures. As the afternoon warms the suspending jerkbaits and swimbaits seems to move fish to strike. Most of the fish seems to be holding on the bottom during the later afternoon. These fish can be tempted to strike by bouncing and pausing jigs such as the JJ's Black Booger Jig or the Baby Bass Brown Booger Jig deep into the strike zone about 4 to 6 inches off the bottom. Fly anglers cannot go wrong with larger sized North Branch Clousers, Anokpeas' Buggers, and Fat Head Minnow Flies. As fall progresses the subtle natural colors such as black, brown, white, and olive work better than bright flashier colors.
LAKE FISHING: Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to fish any of my local lakes. However, fellow angler Chance Miller fished in my stead. Chance reported that large bluegills were the most cooperative on Mountain Lake. They took small white grub tailed jigs but absolutely slammed slate drake dry flies in a size 12. At Stephen Foster Lake mealworms and baby night crawlers have been the best baits. Some nice perch were picked up as well. Bass were taken on shiners, spinnerbaits, and small soft-plastics.
Have a great week! Good luck on the water! Please let me know how you are doing on all of our great fisheries by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Dave Pelachik is an avid angler and master jig & fly tyer of JJ's Jigs located in Towanda, Pa. Visit his website at http://www.jjsjigs.com