Big "Y" Flies

Big "Y" Flies
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Discussing fishing flies, trout flies, salmon flies, fly fishing gear and equipment, Idaho and Montana fishing rivers, NW rivers, fly tying and fly fishing trips. Over 50 years experience in fly fishing, best flies, fly tying, fly fishing techniques, fish stories, directions to rivers and lakes and great fly fishing tall tales with special communications from area guides.

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Here is the scoop. We will also be going on some shorter side trips this summer as well. They will be posted here. If you live in Montana, Idaho or Washington state, you may want to contact IdahoAngler@live.com for details. You'll meet some really great fellow fishers!
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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Clark Fork River, MT/ID

IDFFA member OC with nice Clark Fork River Brown
This article is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers. The headwaters of the Clark Fork River begin at the confluence of Silver Bow Creek and Warm Springs Creek near the Continental Divide and Anaconda, Montana. The mighty Clark Fork flows north and west from there towards and through Missoula, Montana. This river is a main tributary of the Columbia River and was named after the famous explorer William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition fame.
Beginning in the Silver Bow Mountains (aka Highland), the Clark Fork passes south of the Garnet Mountains, through the Bitterroot Mountain range and the Lolo National Forest and eventually ends in the eastern panhandle of Idaho at the southern edge of the Cabinet Mountains and north of the Monarch Mountains. The Cabinet Gorge Dam sits at the intersection of these last two mountain ranges and during the Pleistocene (Ice Age) was the site of a huge glacial ice dam which formed Glacial Lake Missoula. Today the river ends at Clark Fork, ID and empties into Lake Pend Oreille.  At this point, David Thompson established the first fur trading outpost in Idaho on the Hope Peninsula for the North West Company, a company based out of Montreal, Canada, in 1809. Some on Mr. Thompson’s descendents still live in Hope, ID.   
This river, the largest river by water volume in Montana, is approximately 360 miles long and is divided into the upper, middle and lower sections. The history of this river is impressive but basically the upper portion from near Anaconda to Drummond, MT, which includes multiple feeder streams, had its fishery virtually destroyed by early day mining for Arsenic, Cadmium, Copper, Cyanide, Iron, Lead, Selenium, and Zinc. A massive cleanup has significantly improved the aquatic habitat in this portion of the river in recent years and most of this fishery has been restored below Rock Creek and Clinton, Montana.
The middle portion of the Clark Fork, from below Drummond to Paradise, Montana is a beautiful example of classical western trout fishery. At Paradise the Flathead River empties into the Clark Fork from the north and basically becomes a warm water fishery all the way to the eastern Idaho state line. The list of streams and rivers supplying this middle portion is endless but to name just a few of which you may have heard: Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, Dry Creek, Fish Creek, Rattlesnake Creek, St. Regis River, and Trout Creek. St. Regis, MT calls itself as the “Trout Capital of the World”. Yes, there is another one. However, there are several good guide services in or near St. Regis who will show you a good time and help you catch some fish.
As stated, the lower portion is basically a warm water fishery with sun fish and some huge pike. There are however some very good feeder streams and rivers here which provide some good cold water, trout action as well. Just to name a few, there is the Thompson River, Trout Creek and the Bull River which all flow into the Clark Fork and hold some huge fish. Access however can be limited and difficult to each unless you have a raft or drift boat. Few people realize that below the Cabinet Gorge Dam above Clark Fork, ID, the Clark Fork is a cold water fishery most of the year and can provide some good trout fishing as well. Again, access here is limited. However, you can actually navigate a boat up from Lake Pend Oreille if you take your time and are careful.
I find fishing success on the Clark Fork is dependent on the time of year and water flows. Spring is definitely the best time to trout fish, with the fall (October) being a close second. Flies are dependent totally on time of year and conditions, but a good reference is the Orvis fishing report. Their report is predominantly center around the middle portion of the river, but is fairly representative of the entire fishery. The only caution I have for you is that the Clark Fork is a big river! Do not fish it alone unless you know what you are doing. The Bitterroot River in particular has much sunken structure and should not be fished without a properly outfitted guide especially in the springtime.
Have some great fishing on the Clark Fork River. It really is beautiful. 
Idaho Angler (IdahoAngler@live.com

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